Livingstone Zambia may well be the heart of tourism for all of Africa. Whether people travel Southern Africa or East Africa, they almost always end up here in Livingstone just above the roar of the always impressive Victoria Falls. The town of Livingstone looks more like a bit of an old Wild West town from the old stories at first glance. However, make no mistake, the business in town is tourism and tourism alone. There are as many hotels and restaurants as there are local houses and there are more tourists than locals. But somehow, unlike other major tourism destinations, it works in Livingstone. Most tourists are scattered about enough that you wont be fighting with them for space on the sidewalk, and in many cases, you won’t really see them at all.
Livingstone turned into home away from home for me and it was one of the most difficult places in all of Africa for me to leave. Though the town itself has little to offer tourists, it’s a jumping off point for dozens of amazing and diverse adventures. So do yourself a favour and check into Jollyboys Backpackers, and stay a while.
Time Needed: 4-7 days
Backpacker’s Budget: 50-90 USD per day
Things to Do and See in Livingstone
There is no shortage of things to do in Livingstone, it’s just a matter of trying to squeeze it all in to the couple days you’ve allotted yourself. I spent about 3 weeks in town and even I wasn’t able to do everything. Of course, your budget is also going to greatly determine what you’re able to do. Activities in Livingstone aren’t exactly cheap and will likely run your wallet out of town before you find yourself bored. As for booking, you can arrange just about all the activities right behind the desk of Jollyboys Backpackers.
- Victoria Falls: There are four ways to see Victoria falls. The most expensive way is via helicopter. The chopper flights, are either 15 or 30 minutes depending on your budget and give an amazing overview of the waterfalls. You might even manage to see some elephants from overhead at one of the adjoining nature parks. Alternatively, microflights are a bit cheaper but you can’t take your camera with you on the flight. The obvious option is to visit up close and personal in the park itself. Be sure to bring light clothing if you intend on getting soaked by the falls, or a waterproof bag to stash your clothes and valuables in. The final option is the monthly lunar rainbow which makes seeing the falls at night an impressive sight!
- Zambezi River Cruise: I love how this cruise is billed two different ways for two different crowds. Over at the luxury lodges in Livingstone, this is called the sunset cruise; at the hostels it’s called the booze cruise. In the end, it is what you make of it. The sunset booze cruise includes all-you-can-drink and all-you-can-eat buffets along with some stunning scenery. I did the sunset booze cruise twice. On each trip we saw hippos. On one occasion we saw giraffe and the other a couple elephants. On every trip you’ll see the beautiful sunset down on the Zambezi River.
- Jet Boating: A company called Jet Boat Extreme does exhilarating trips down on a section of the Zambezi River. If you want some heart pounding, adrenaline flexing, adventure, this is for you.
- Game Drive: Though the nearest national park Mosi-oa-Tunya is fairly small, there is a good selection of wildlife in the park including buffalo, elephants, giraffe, and even a couple Rhinos. It’s an extremely accessible national park, though and can be visited in a half day from Livingstone.
- River Canoeing: A nice way to spend a morning is by going on a canoe trip down the Zambezi River. You’ll definitely see hippos and crocs in the water, and if you’re lucky you may even see elephants on the shores.
- Rafting: One of the wildest rivers in the world, rafting the Zambezi River is an intense experience. It’s also one of the top attractions for backpackers in Livingstone.
- Livingstone Island: Take a night to yourself and go spend it in peace on Livingstone Island. This natural spot is right in the heart of the Zambezi River, and though you’ll find plenty of other tourists, you’ll also find a bit of solitude if that’s what you’re looking for.
- Bungee Jumping: Not to be missed in Livingstone, the Bungee Jumping over the Zambezi River at the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia is amazing. You can buy a package that includes a bungee, a bridge swing and a zipline across the canyon and border. It’s not cheap, but I’ve never met a person who said it wasn’t worth it.
- Elephant Back Safari: Out of curiosity I participated. However, I don’t think I can recommend this adventure. Though the elephants are rescued, I believe they should be rehabilitating them to go back into the wild, not be ridden around by tourists.
- Up Close Wildlife Encounters: There are a number of wildlife encounters in Livingstone that allow you to get close to lions, rhinos, cheetahs, etc.. However, most of these experiences are pretty canned and having close contact with humans means these animals will never be able to be wild.
- Chobe Nation Park Tours: Though Chobe is actually across the border in Botswana, it’s possible to do trips from Livingstone there. The best thing to do is a 2 day and 1 night tour which has you sleeping in tents among the wildlife for your one night in the park. Chobe is not to be missed, it is absolutely incredible.
Where to Eat in Livingstone
There are more food choices in Livingstone than one would ever need. Every hotel, hostel, and lodge serves grub and you definitely wont go hungry here. Below are just a few of my recommendations.
- Fez Bar: Bar by night, burger and pizza joint by day, this place serves some interesting burger choices including crocodile, ostrich, and antelope. The burgers are massive, and worth the price. The pizzas are also tasty.
- Olga’s: Famous for working alongside a positive NGO in Livingstone, Olga’s is everyone’s choice for Italian cuisine in Livingstone. The pasta dishes are delicious, and the pizzas are good too.
- Jollyboys: The backpacker’s joint in Livingstone has good food throughout the day. In my opinion though, the best time of day to hang out is breakfast where the perfect Full English Breakfast is served at great value.
Where to Stay in Livingstone
- Jollyboys Backpackers: This is the prime location for backpackers and mid-range travellers alike. Jollyboys has nice dorms, and really well done private rooms; there is also camping spaces available. And well one would expect Jollyboys to be incredibly noisy, the staff does a good job controlling the volume to allow those with early wake up times to sleep.
- Livingstone Backpackers: Set around a big pool, Livingstone Backpackers is the alternative to Jollyboys. The rooms are nice, but the atmosphere is better over at Jollyboys if you have a choice.
Getting out of Town
- Air: There are flights from Livingstone airport to Lusaka as well as several international destinations. If you have a visa for Zimbabwe, there is also the airport on that side of the border which serves several destinations as well.
- Bus: From the central bus terminal there are buses and mini-buses to Lusaka, the Namibian, Botswana and Zimbabwean borders. You can also arrange bus tickets with the big companies at Livingstone Backpackers.