Trip Report British Airways JNB-LIV & Crossing the Border Zambia to Zimbabwe

The flight on BA from Jo’burg to Zambia was easy enough, but the real adventure was crossing the border from Zambia to Zimbabwe. This is part seven of a ten part trip report from my travels to South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and covers my British Airways flight from Johannesburg (JNB) to Livingstone, Zambia (LVI) as well as the border crossing from Zambia into Zimbabwe.

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There are two airports that serve Victoria Falls, Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) in Zimbabwe and Livingstone (LVI) in Zambia. The flight to VFA was ZAR 3369 or $331 while the flight to Livingstone was only ZAR 1969 or $193. The final option was redeeming Avios at a cost of 4,500 points and $44.00. I went with the points option given my surplus of orphan Avios. The redemption was only available for LVI in Zambia, even-though my hotel was in Zimbabwe. No worries though, the hotel arranged a pick-up for me at the airport in Zambia, a transfer at the border, and another lift from the Zimbabwe border to the hotel…all for $10 USD! It also made for quite the experience and great blog material.

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The flight was scheduled for 1 hour and 45 minutes, but it was actually only about 1 hour and 20 minutes of flying time . The flight is marketed as British Airways, but is actually operated by Comair. It’s on a Comair B737-400 painted in British Airways colors.

The seats were all leather in a 3-3 configuration in economy. The flight to Livingstone was quite empty, most of us had our own rows, while the gate next to us for Victoria Falls seemed almost completely full. I was able to board early using my Oneworld Ruby status from American Airlines.

We had a few snacks on the short morning flight to Zambia.

There was no in-flight entertainment besides the British Airways High Life magazine.

Overall, an easy, safe, and on-time flight for 4,500 Avios and $45.00.

OK, once I landed the real adventure began. As I mentioned above, I arrived in Zambia but my hotel was located in Zimbabwe. The line to obtain a visa at the airport was about 20 minutes long and only $ USD were accepted for payment. There were a few options including $50 for a single entry visa or $20 for a day-trip visa (visiting Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe only). I had been told that the day trip visa was sufficient, even if I intended to go back and forth multiple times between Zambia and Zimbabwe. I chanced it and paid the $20 for the day-trip visa. Next, I was loaded into a van with other passengers who were crossing the border into Zimbabwe. It was a short 20 minute ride when we arrived at the Zimbabwe checkpoint. Our driver told us that he could not cross over but that there would be a separate driver on the other side. Now, when we are talking “borders”, it’s actually just a small house in the middle of a semi-empty road that looks like a post office from the early 1900s (our driver walked behind the building to point us to the new van on the other side…without clearing customs, very tight security ;-)). Inside the border house it’s chaos. Tons of locals and tourists trying to work their way to one of a few “tellers” or agents. Being from New York, I was able to navigate my way to the front pretty quickly, but I could see why it might take some people forever to get out of there. I purchased a $30 USD single-entry visa which was good for up to 30 days. Again, I had been told not to worry about simply crossing the border to see the Falls or do the bungee jump, even though the visa was “single-entry” these would not account against me. I walked out the same door I walked in and over to the other side of the house, showing one of the guards my new passport stamp. From there, we waited for everyone else to obtain their visas and then we were off to the Zimbabwe drop off points.

Now, besides the chaos of obtaining the visa, crossing via a car was no big deal. However, crossing each day on foot to visit the falls or do the bungee jump was an entirely different experience. In “no man’s land” between the two, there are multiple trucks parked awaiting inspection, barbed wire fences, trees, stray pedestrians, and monkeys. Tons of monkeys, especially on the tops of trucks who are waiting to jump down in front of you for some fun. The monkeys were harmless enough on most of my walks across the border, though on one trip a gang of them was following me for quite a while until I reached the bridge. Very strange feeling being between the two countries with silence and no one else around and a gang of monkeys following behind!

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It was totally worth it though for pictures like this (double and triple rainbow falls), experiencing the falls, and doing the Jump.

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Thanks to PlaneHunter on Airliners for additional BA Comair pics!

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Comments

  1. Boy you went the hard way! Much easier on the Zim. side (I came in from Harare).
    I was there in early Nov. stayed at the Victoria Falls Hotel – the grand old lady of Vic. Falls.
    Sounds like you had fun. Got to remember, though, this is not New York, which is where I’m from too.
    Zimbabwe is an absolutely amazing place!
    PS in your photo those are not Wildebeest; they are Warthogs, sort of like the local pigs

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