Distances are long, buses are often slow and many roads are badly potholed, so travelling around Zambia by bus and minibus can exhaust even the hardiest of travellers, even those who do like a good butt massage.
All main routes are served by ordinary public buses, which run on a fill-up-and-go basis or have fixed departures (these are called ‘time buses’). ‘Express buses’ are faster – often terrifyingly so – and stop less often, but cost about 15% more. In addition, several private companies run comfortable European-style express buses along the major routes. Many routes are also served by minibuses, which only leave when full. In remote areas the only public transport is often a truck or pick-up.
Cars can be rented from international and Zambian-owned companies in Lusaka, Livingstone, Kitwe and Ndola, but renting is expensive. For example, Voyagers/Imperial Car Rental (www.voyagerszambia.com/imperialrates.htm) charges from US$51 per day for the smallest vehicle, plus US$0.38 per kilometre (less per day for longer rental periods). Other companies, such as 4x4 Hire Africa (www.4x4hireafrica.com), rent old-school LandRover Discovery vehicles, fully decked out with everything you’d need for trip to the bush, with prices starting at US$120 per day, though hiring a private driver will cost US$100 extra per day.
Most companies insist that drivers are at least 23 years old and have held a licence for at least five years; you can drive in Zambia using your driving licence from home as long as it’s in English.
While most main stretches of sealed road are excellent, beware of the occasional pothole. Most gravel roads are pretty good, though they also suffer from potholes. It is best to travel by 4WD if using a private vehicle.
The Tazara trains between Kapiri Mposhi and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania can also be used for travel to/from Northern Zambia. While the Lusaka–Kitwe service does stop at Kapiri Mposhi, the Lusaka–Kitwe and Tazara trains are not timed to connect with each other, and the domestic and international train terminals are 2km apart.
Zambia’s only other railway services are the ‘ordinary trains’ between Lusaka and Kitwe, via Kapiri Mposhi and Ndola, and the ‘express trains’ between Lusaka and Livingstone. Refer to the relevant sections for schedules and costs.
On the ‘express train’ between Lusaka and Livingstone, a ‘sleeper’ is a compartment for two people; 1st class is a sleeper for four; 2nd (or ‘standard’) class is a sleeper for six; and 3rd class (economy) is a seat only. On the ‘ordinary train’ between Lusaka and Kitwe, ‘standard’ class – the only class – is also just a seat.
The main domestic airports are at Lusaka, Livingstone, Ndola, Kitwe, Mfuwe, Kasama and Kasaba Bay, though dozens of minor airstrips cater for chartered planes.
Scheduled internal flights are offered by Proflight Air Services (271139; www.proflight-zambia.com) and occasionally, South African Airlink (www.saairlink.co.za). Tickets can be booked through any travel agent in Zambia.