It was now time to leave Namibia behind, the last week spent on the narrow strip of land in the extreme north of the country known as the Caprivi Strip. We had pretty much based ourselves out of the eastern most points biggest town, Katima Mulilo, due to the fact that a kilometer north of town was the Zambian border town of Sesheke and seventy kilometers to the southeast was Botswana’s Ngoma crossing – we had options. Either way we were aiming for the small Zimbabwe town of Victoria Falls where we planned on spending a few days; visiting the falls, maybe some rafting on the Zambezi, and some relaxation.
We were learning to do lots of research on cell phone coverage, accommodation, and travel options, the latter causing us all sorts of concerns on this leg of our trip. Prior to arriving in Katima we could find nothing on options for getting to Botswana other than an adventure company wanting to charge us the equivalent of $120 per person, an outrageous amount for a couple hour journey. Then hearing of extremely bad road conditions directly into Zambia made us doubt that route as an option.
The ancient two truck ferry crossing the Zambezi between Botswana and Zambia
The plan was to try to make it all the way to Zimbabwe before Andrea needed to start work at 2pm, a challenge for sure, requiring either two or three border crossings dependent on which way we decide. An option was to stay a night in Livingstone, Zambia, and have one less in Zimbabwe.
We had planned to return our shoe-box car around 7am on the Tuesday morning to the Bidvest rental agents house located somewhere behind a police station – I didn’t pay much attention when I collected it and had no documentation with an address! From there our decision was to scrounge a ride to the Namibia Zambia border post and take a shuttle we had arranged the day before with Emmanuel, some random Zambian plying his trade. Probably not the smartest idea! This was going to cost us around $33 plus a quick taxi ride across Victoria Falls Bridge, far cheaper than we had anticipated. If it didn’t materialize we had the number of a Namibian shuttle driver who would take us to the Botswana Zambia border for a little over $40.
Things started to go pear shaped as soon as we awoke at 6am to get ready – we still hadn’t received an email or SMS response asking for the address of the car rental guy. We were stuck until we received this as even if I could find the house we couldn’t just abandon the car. The clock was ticking! Our 7am departure turned into 8am when we finally got the email we had been waiting for. After decrypting what felt like clues with the address and driving around wasting paid kilometers we were eventually dropped off at the border – now all we needed to do was find Emmanuel.
Seems like taxi drivers, shuttle drivers, and anyone else trying to screw tourists out of a bit of cash are working together as when we arrived at the border we were accosted by everyone except Emmanuel, the head honcho claiming that he was elsewhere and that such and such would now be taking us. We made our excuses, declined the offer and sent an SMS to our alternate driver. We would now be taking the three border crossing option!
Samaata turned up in no time, eager to take our 500 Namibian Dollars in exchange for the two hour drive through the Ngoma border into Botswana, finally dropping us at the ferry that would whisk us across the Zambezi River and into Zambia. The immigration staff for both exiting Namibia and entering Botswana were extremely efficient and polite, officials that the TSA could learn a lot from! One border crossing down, two to go.
Now talk about going back in time, but the Kazungula border separating Botswana from Zambia was probably the most inefficient setup possible with endless lines of trucks parked along the dirt roads, all waiting to take one of the three 2 truck ferries across the river – now throw in border opening times of 6am-6pm and the backlog was huge. Almost all the truckers were waiting for over a week to get across! The only exceptions being tankers carrying flammable and toxic liquids, and refrigeration trailers; drivers who all got instant departures. With the help of one such female truck driver who had already been in line for four days we exited out of Botswana as easy as we had entered less than an hour previous – our new friend was heading across the Zambezi just to kill time and wanted to ensure that we didn’t get fleeced by taxi drivers.
Both of us needed to get a Visa for entry into Zambia, and with our upcoming travel plans we had decided to get the multiple entry type. Unfortunately for some reason I had read that UK passport holders can only do this in advance so allowing myself plenty of time, the evening before I went online to complete the necessary application – as usual I made some crap up and submitted the requested documents. The feedback was a 3-5 day turnaround time. Ooops, I had around eighteen hours!
We coughed up $80 of our valuable US Dollar cash and the immigration guy processed Andrea’s Visa without a problem. I explained that mine was still pending, but after providing my payment receipt number the officer changed his tune from me not being allowed to enter the country to, oh look it’s showing approved in my system. Worked out even better as I paid by Visa and didn’t waste the cash. In return for the $160 we both also lost a full page in our rapidly filling passports!
With onward transport negotiations complete we were en route with Oscar in his rickety old car, no idea as to whether he was a legit taxi or not – we had opted not to wait for a third person and took a hit on the entire car, plus he was going to take us ten kilometers beyond Livingstone to the Zambia Zimbabwe border. Total for the hour and a quarter ride was 200 Zambian Kwacha, around $20 USD. Not a bad deal for us and using illegal Botswanan petrol probably not too bad a deal for our driver either! After a quick ATM detour in Livingstone we arrived at border checkpoint number three, neither sure what to expect.
A very small percentage of what was sitting in line waiting
An easy exit from Zambia was followed by a long walk taking us across the Victoria Falls bridge, our backpacks and the sweltering afternoon heat forcing us to accept a ride halfway by a pushy rickshaw cyclist. We didn’t care what we paid anymore; Andrea had been robbed by a baboon, we were soaked with sweat, tired, and could have both eaten an entire zebra. Even with the ride the walk went on and on, probably almost a mile from the Zambia exit gate to the Zimbabwe entry – the best part being the refreshing cooldown we got on the bridge with spray from the falls. The worst part was now knowing that there was no chance we would get to see the beauty of Victoria Falls running with such high water levels!
One thing we were ‘almost’ certain of was being able to obtain a Visa on arrival, although as with all things in Africa situations can change in an instant! We already knew that for a Brit the single entry Visa was $55 and for Andrea only $30 – this was the first time in over five years of travel that traveling on a British passport was more expensive. Maybe time to go dual citizenship! ..and they accepted Visa for both payments if we had the time to wait for the terminals to boot.
Stepping out of the immigration building once again we were harassed in a fun kind of way; do you have Dollars, come take my car to town, buy this buy that, what activities do you like to do, etc.. All we wanted was a ride to the Shearwater Cafe, the only place I’d heard of where we could hopefully pig out. The final leg of our journey was a short one mile drive costing an exorbitant $5 – ouch!
Lunch was amazing and Andrea only logged in to work twenty minutes late.
- After crossing into Botswana we saw a dead zebra at the roadside with a bunch of lionesses lounging in the bushes close by
- Andrea was robbed of a bag of peanuts after stepping outside the Zambia immigration office, by a baboon!
- Total cost for the 2 of us to get from Namibia to Zimbabwe through Botswana and Zambia: $65 USD
- It is totally possible to get to and from pretty much any of the areas border crossings without using exorbitant transfer services
- Trust your instinct – we have no idea whether we used official taxis or not but with a little assistance and commonsense had some fun locals drive us to and from the borders
- We since found out that we didn’t need to go through Zambia to get from Botswana to Zimbabwe
- The Zambia/ Zimbabwe KAZA Visa is a two in one visa option that works out cheaper for the two countries, also allowing for day trips to Botswana – didn’t work for us as we visited Botswana for a week invalidating the KAZA Visa
April 17th 2018
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