Tourists have two options when visiting Victoria Falls, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World: Zimbabwe or Zambia. The Falls straddle the border between the two countries, and the famous border is marked but the photogenic Victoria Falls Bridge!
Zimbabwe has historically been the tourist favorite, offering the best views of the Falls and the closest accommodations. In recent years, however, political turmoil and crazy-inflated currency have lead many tourists to visit the Falls from Zambia, rather than Zimbabwe. Dan and I decided to visit both sides and started our tour in Zimbabwe, and I much preferred to Zambia!
Old and new Zimbabwe ads! I just love travel ads!
The good news is that Zimbabwe is steadily returning as a tourist destination. The politics largely avoided Victoria Falls in an effort to keep tourist dollars flowing into the country, and Dan and I really saw no sign of it on our trip. The people were very friendly and we felt totally safe. The only lingering effect of the past troubles is Zimbabwe’s lack of currency. As of April 2015, Zimbabwe uses the US dollar.
Per my previous post, Dan and I visited the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of Iguazu Falls – in the same day – last November. Long day, but totally doable with a bit of planning. We organized our day by having our hotel arrange a cab (or really their friend who had a minivan and was willing to drive…) to pick us up in Puerto Iguzaú at 8:00 a.m., take us to the Brazilian falls (including through the border crossing), pick us back up at 1:00 p.m. and then drive us to the Argentinian Falls (border crossing again included), where we would explore until 5 p.m., when we would be driven back to our hotel. We arranged this for $75 US (tip not included), including waiting at the border crossing (which only took 5 minutes and we did not get out of the car). If you are short on time and have money to spare, I recommend this option. We booked it on arrival through the front desk. We had JUST enough time to fit this in and you may be rushed if you do not have the necessary VISAs pre-arrival.
Cataratas de Iguaçu in Portugese or Cataratas del Iguazú in Spanish, Iguazu Falls are incredible waterfalls on the Iguazu River, straddling the border between Brazil and Argentina, and also very close to Paraguay. You can visit from either Brazil or Argentina. We did both, and I much preferred the Brazilian side (although I am sure many would disagree!). Note – if you plan to visit the Brazilian side, US citizens need a Brazilian VISA (see end of post for details).
For some unknown reason, I expected the Argentinian side to be far superior to the Brazilian side. SO WRONG.
The Brazilian side was clean, gorgeous and reminded me of a Disney World-like attraction. I liked this, a lot, especially after spending the night in the worst hostel/hotel in which I have ever stayed in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina. Those who fancy themselves “hard-core” explorers may not like the fact that the Brazilian side is this way. Regardless, I found the Brazilian side to be the easiest experience and have the best view of the falls as a whole. Per my next post, I found the Argentinian side to be the best for exploring the forest and river surrounding the falls and getting off the beaten path.
The Brazilian experience starts with a big, colorful entrance about 10 minutes from the Argentinian/Brazilian border. We took a cab from Puerto Iguazú and pre-arranged for cab to come back and pick us up a few hours later (and then take us to the Argentinian side). We purchased tickets using our credit card and promptly got in line for the bus to take us to the falls. If you have time to kill, the entrance area has a nice-looking cafe and a gift shop.
The bus is double-decker and has four stops; you want to get off at the third stop, at the hotel.
Walk opposite the hotel to get the first view of the falls. SO GORGEOUS!!
From the first view, there is a wall-marked and well-kept trail taking you closer to the falls, culminating right at the falls. The trail is sprinkled with views of the falls and contains wildlife – we saw a toucan!
When we finally reached the falls, there is a walkway leading right out to them. Read: super close! This was a great experience, and a wet one. We brought our own ponchos and used them here. People were selling ponchos, too. Whatever you do, be sure to keep your passport and camera dry.
After taking a number of pictures at the falls, we walked up to restaurant/visitor center area, which is also stop # 4 (the final stop and turnaround point) on the bus route. This center has a few fast-food spots, a small gift shop and a sit-down buffet restaurant. Even though it was a little pricey for lunch (about $25 USD/person), we opted for the sit-down buffet lunch. The food was good for a tourist-buffet and we got some fancy Brazilian drinks! When in Brazil, right?!
The best part of this restaurant is its location, literally on the Iguzau River. If you’re eating here, try to go at an off time (we went at 11:15 – before the lunch rush) and ask to sit right on the river. SO SO PRETTY!!
After lunch, we caught the double-decker back to the visitor center and found our pre-arranged cab driver to take us back to Argentina. We spent about 4 hours actually in the Brazilian park (including lunch) and could have stayed a bit longer had time allowed.
The bus route has two other stops – a safari and some sort of nature walk. Neither of these are included in the entrance cost. The helicopter tours of the falls also leave from Brazilian side, just up the road from the main entrance.
To get into Brazil from Argentina, US citizens need a Brazilian tourist VISA. Brazilian tourist VISAs cost $150+ a person, but are good for 10 years. We already had a Brazilian tourist VISA, so we did not have to worry with this requirement. Our cab driver took us right through the border crossing, with the Brazilian official only quickly looking at our VISA. If you do not have a VISA, there appeared to be agencies (or more so locals with “connections”) able to obtain Brazilian tourist VISAs on short notice. This seemed to be quite the process to say the least and somewhat shady. If you are planning to see the Brazilian side of the falls, I recommend getting the VISA before you leave the US and re-use it within the next ten years to cut down on the cost.
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