While for the most part prices are fixed in Zambia, there are a few instances where prices are negotiable.
- When shopping for handicrafts at local markets, you'll definitely need to haggle.
- Taxis don't have meters, so you should definitely bargain on the price quoted to you.
- For those staying in locally owned guesthouses, you can also aim for a discounted price, particularly if you're staying for a few nights.
Dangers & Annoyances
Zambia is generally very safe, but in the cities and tourist areas there's always a chance of being targeted by muggers or con artists. As always, you can reduce the risk considerably by being sensible.
- While civil strife continues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, avoid areas along the Zambia–Congo border, especially around Lake Mweru.
- Due to electricity shortages, load-shedding is now a reality of daily life across the country; however, most tourist lodges will have a back-up generator.
- Tsteste flies are an incessant nuisance when driving in many national parks; where problematic, wind the windows up and apply DEET-containing insect repellent.
Supply is 220V to 240V/50Hz and plugs are of the British three-prong variety.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|National Telephone Operator||100|
Embassies & Consulates
Most embassies or high commissions are located in Lusaka. The British High Commission looks after the interests of Aussies and Kiwis, as the nearest diplomatic missions for Australia and New Zealand are in Harare (Zimbabwe). Most consulates are open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Thursday and from 8.30am to 12.30pm Friday; visas are usually only dealt with in the mornings.
Entry & Exit Formalities
Amounts exceeding more than US$5000 bringing in or taking out of Zambia must be declared. Import or export of Zambian kwacha, however, is technically forbidden; but if you bring in/out a small amount, it’s unlikely to be a problem. Tourists can bring through customs 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars, and 1.5L of spirits or 2.5L of lighter alcoholic beverages.
Visas are generally issued upon arrival.
Tourist visas are available at major borders, airports and ports, but it’s important to note that you should have a Zambian visa before arrival if travelling by train or boat from Tanzania. A yellow fever certificate is not required, but it is often requested by immigration officials if you've come from a country with yellow fever.
All foreign visitors – other than Southern African Development Community (SADC) passport holders who are issued visas free of charge – pay US$50 for single entry (up to one month) and US$80 for double entry (up to three months; which is good if you plan on venturing into one of the bordering countries). Applications for multiple-entry visas (US$80) must be made in advance at a Zambian embassy or high commission. If staying less than 24 hours, for example if you are visiting Livingstone from Zimbabwe, you pay only US$20.
In December 2016 the KAZA visa was reintroduced, which allows most visitors to acquire a single 30-day visa (US$50) for both Zambia and Zimbabwe. As long as you remain within these two countries, you can cross the border multiple times (day trips to Botswana at Kazungula will not invalidate the visa). These visas are available at Livingstone and Lusaka airports, as well as at the Victoria Falls and Kazungula crossings.
Payment can be made in US dollars, and sometimes UK pounds. Other currencies such as euros, South African rand, Botswanan pula or Namibian dollars may be accepted at borders, but don’t count on it.
Business visas can be obtained from Zambian diplomatic missions abroad, and application forms can be downloaded at www.zambiaimmigration.gov.zm.
- Extensions for all types of tourist visas are possible at any Department of Immigration office in any main town in Zambia. You’re likely to be most successful in Lusaka and Livingstone.
- There's generally no queue and no fee for an additional 30 days. It's possible to seek an extension twice for a total of 90 days a year. Be aware of the expiration date of the visa; if it's a Saturday or Sunday, it's best to go in on a weekday beforehand.
- If for some reason you overstay your visa, humility and politeness go a long way in dealing with Zambian authorities.
Visas for Onward Travel
Most visas these days are available at border crossings. However, your chances of obtaining a visa for the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Angola are extremely remote at borders or in Lusaka, so get it before you arrive in Zambia.
Botswana Visas on arrival valid for 30 days (and possibly up to 90 days if requested) free to passport holders from most Commonwealth countries, all EU countries, the US and countries in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).
Malawi Most nationalities do not require a visa and are granted 30 days upon arrival. Citizens of some countries (mostly Asia, Africa and Middle Eastern nations) must apply in advance for a single-entry visa, which costs US$150.
Mozambique Single-entry visas (around US$68) are available from most land and air entry points, though given there's talk of some tourists being denied entry, it's highly recommended to arrange a visa at the embassy beforehand.
Namibia Most nationalities do not require a visa and are granted 90 days upon arrival. Others need to prearrange a visa in advance.
Tanzania Visas cost US$50; bring two passport photos.
Zimbabwe If you didn't acquire the KAZA visa (US$50), which covers travel in both Zambia and Zimbabwe for 30 days, single/double entry visas are US$30/45 for most nationalities, but British and Irish pay a bit extra US$55/75 (single/double). Meanwhile, Canadians pay US$75 for single visa, with no option for double entry.
Good manners and politeness are key to all social interactions in Zambia. Whether dealing with police officers at road blocks, a bus conductor or hotel staff, you should always begin by asking how they are and how their day is going.
- Greetings There are a few regional handshakes you'll encounter across Zambia. Probably the most common form is the 'African handshake', which involves a traditional handshake, before sliding into an upwards clasping of the thumbs, before returning to the original handshake.
- Affection Public display of affection isn't an aspect of daily life in Zambia and it's best to avoid this.
- Eating In Zambia locals forgo utensils when eating nshima; always use your right hand to scoop it up with the fingers before dipping it in gravy, vegetables etc and popping it into your mouth. At meal's end, someone will usually come round with a bucket for handwashing, or otherwise just head to the washroom.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Male homosexual activity is illegal in Zambia. Lesbian activity is not illegal but that’s only due to it not being recognised. In traditional African society, same-sex relationships are a cultural taboo, so most Zambians are very conservative in their attitudes towards gays and lesbians, and homosexuality is rarely discussed sensibly in public. In Zambia, public displays of affection, while possibly not being illegal, are insensitive to local attitudes and are very much frowned upon, whatever your orientation.
Wi-fi is available in many lodges across the country, sometimes for a small fee. You can also get online through inexpensive pre-paid sim card internet data bundles; either MTN or Airtel are recommended. For 1GB expect to pay around US$10, which is valid for 30 days. You'll need to bring along your passport to the store to get it activated. Coverage for the most part is fast, but is poor to non-existent within the national parks.
Otherwise there are internet cafes in most large towns.
Zambia’s legal code is based on Victorian England’s and is therefore very conservative, outlawing things such as male homosexuality. The buying, selling, possession and use of all recreational drugs is illegal.
Note that it is illegal to wear camouflage clothing. Also avoid taking photography of government buildings, bridges, train stations, Kariba Dam and other landmarks that suspicious officials may deem to be a security risk.
The German Zambia Road Map by Ilona Hupe Verlag is currently the best available map for touring around Zambia – it shows petrol stations and important wildlife areas. It's available online or at bookshops in Lusaka. Self-drivers should check out Tracks4Africa (www.tracks4africa.com), a highly detailed downloadable GPS system.
The country's official currency is the Zambian kwacha (ZMW), but US dollars are also widely accepted. Most sizeable towns have ATMs that accept foreign cards.
Cash & ATMs
You can obtain cash (kwacha) at ATMs accepting Visa or MasterCard such as Barclays Bank, Stanbic and Standard Chartered banks in the cities and larger towns. Be aware, however, that it's not unheard of for them to be down, so it's always wise to carry an emegerency wad of back-up cash.
In the cities and larger towns, you can also easily change cash (no commission; photo ID required) at branches of Barclays Bank, FNB, Standard Chartered Bank and Zanaco. We’ve received reports that many banks, including at least one at the airport, won’t accept US dollars issued before 2006.
As of 1 January 2013 three zeros were removed from every bank note denomination and the unit of currency changed from ZK to ZMW; eg ZK90,000 is now ZMW90. Note the old currency is no longer accepted as legal tender.
Some shops, restaurants and better hotels/lodges accept major credit cards. Visa is the most readily recognised, Mastercard less so and Amex even less again. A surcharge of 4% to 7% may be added to your bill if you pay with a credit card.
It's also worth noting that payment by credit card requires a PIN to authorise the transaction.
The best currencies to take to Zambia (in order of preference) are US dollars, UK pounds, South African rands and Euros; the currencies of most neighbouring countries are worthless in Zambia, except at the relevant borders. The exception is Botswanan pula, which can also be exchanged in Lusaka.
Foreign-exchange offices – almost always called bureau de change – are easy to find in all cities and larger towns. Rates aren't significantly better than banks.
There is no black market. You might get a few kwacha more by changing money on the street, but it’s illegal and there is a chance that you’ll be ripped off, robbed or set up for some sort of scam. Moneychangers at the borders are more or less legitimate, but may take (slight) advantage of your ignorance about the current exchange rates. If you can’t change cash at a bank or bureau de change, try a hotel or a shop.
- Hotels The top-end lodges and camps often provide separate envelopes for staff and guides if guests should wish to tip.
- Restaurants A 10% tip is hugely appreciated for good service, though if restaurants include a 10% service charge, an additional tip isn’t required.
- Safari Guides & Drivers Around US$5 to US$10 to the driver and guide per day is appropriate, with a higher amount if you’re happy with their service, knowledge and guiding skills.
|South African Rand||R1||ZMW 0.73|
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Banks Weekdays from 8am to 3.30pm (or 5pm), and 8am to 11am (or noon) on Saturday.
- Government offices From 8am or 9am to 4pm or 5pm weekdays, with a one-hour lunch break between noon and 2pm.
- Post offices From 8am or 9am to 4pm or 4.30pm weekdays.
- Restaurants Normally open for lunch between 11.30am and 2.30pm and dinner between 6pm and 10.30pm.
- Shops Keep the same hours as government offices but also open Saturday.
- Supermarkets Normally open from 8am to 8pm weekdays, and 8am to 6pm weekends; some open later at Lusaka's big shopping centres.
- Bar-restaurants While officially bars can only sell alcohol until 11pm, many stay open later, particularly in Lusaka and Livingstone.
Zambia's postal service is generally a reliable means for sending letters and postcards to all international destinations. A registered mail service is available to track your mail for an additional fee, as is poste-restante. For packages or valuables, there are also international courier companies such as DHL and FedEx.
During public holidays, most businesses and government offices are closed.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Youth Day 2nd Monday in March
Labour/Workers’ Day 1 May
Africa (Freedom) Day 25 May
Heroes’ Day 1st Monday in July
Unity Day 1st Tuesday in July
Farmers’ Day 1st Monday in August
Independence Day 24 October
Christmas Day 25 December
- Smoking A ban on smoking in public places was introduced in 2008. In 2014 another law was passed to allow police to prosecute offenders.
Taxes & Refunds
- A 16% value-added tax (VAT) applies to all tourism activities and packages and is mostly included in the quoted price.
- In major national parks an additional ‘bed levy’ is charged to tourists, which is also usually (but not always) included in the rates for the upmarket lodges. For self-catering options, a levy (around US$5) is often added to the bill.
- Some more upmarket restaurants will add in a 10% service charge.
Every landline in Zambia uses the area code system; you only have to dial it if you are calling outside of your area code.
The international access code for dialling outside of Zambia is 00, followed by the relevant country code. If you’re calling Zambia from another country, the country code is +260, but drop the initial zero of the area code.
MTN and Airtel are the most reliable mobile (cell) phone networks. If you own a GSM phone, you can buy a cheap SIM card without a problem (including at the Lusaka or Livingstone Airport). You'll need to bring along your passport to have it activated. You can then purchase credit in whatever denominations you need from the same company as your SIM; scratch cards range from ZMW1 to ZMW100. In Lusaka the best place to buy a cheap mobile phone is around Kalima Towers (corner of Chachacha and Katunjila Rds); a basic model will cost around ZMW80.
Numbers starting with 09 plus another two numbers, eg 0977, are mobile-phone numbers. Mobile-phone reception is getting better all the time; generally, it’s very good in urban areas and surprisingly good in some rural parts of the country and patchy or non-existent in others. Don't count on any coverage inside the national parks.
Zambia is in the Central Africa time zone, which is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT/UTC). There is no daylight saving.
- The toilets in Zambia are all Western-style and perfectly fine. The only issue may be in some of the cheaper, more local-style guesthouses, where the toilet seat is often missing.
- In many of the campsites in national parks, you'll get non-flush long-drop toilets.
The regional tourist office in Livingstone is worth visiting for specific enquiries, but the main office in Lusaka is generally of little use.
The official website of Zambia Tourism Agency (www.zambiatourism.com) is pretty useful, though be aware a lot of information is out of date.
Travel with Children
Zambia is becoming increasingly more popular as a destination for families heading on safari. Destinations such as Livingstone, Lusaka and South Luangwa National Park are the best equipped for those with kids in tow.
For those travelling with a baby or toddler, it's essential to visit a doctor prior to travel to advise on the best course of action regarding vacinnatons and general precautions. Only in the big hotels will you be able to arrange cots, high chairs, baby car seats etc, but you'll need to confirm this before booking. Disposable nappies are available in the major supermarkets, however everything else you're best advised to bring with you. Due to the lack of even surfaced footpaths, prams genererally aren't a practical form of transport.
Though a lot of high-end lodges in the parks do not allow children under 12 years, these days many will specifically accommodate them with activities and facilities set up for kids, and offer lower rates for them. A lot of places offer family rooms or cottages, which are the best option. While it's permissible for children to go on wildlife drives, those aged under 12 aren't allowed on safari walks or canoe trips.
In Lusaka many upmarket cafes and restaurants have play areas for kids, either outside on the grass with swings, slides etc or inside, set up as a soft-play area with toys, such as Kilimanjaro. In some of the larger resort-style lodges you'll also find play equipment, swimming pools and grassy areas for kids to play.
Livingstone has a bunch of outdoor activities for kids, from flying foxes, family-friendly white-water rafting, sunset cruises, scenic flights and steam-train rides.
Travellers with Disabilities
Although wildlife safaris are ideal for those in wheelchairs or on crutches, you’ll need to be intrepid in Zambia, as there are very few facilities for the disabled – even though there are more disabled people per head of population here than in the West. It has to be said that most travellers with disabilities find travel in Zambia much easier with the assistance of a companion.
Part of the whole safari ethos in Zambia is being adaptable and flexible, so most camps and lodges in national parks have no problem catering for travellers with disabilities – with notice. Safari lodges are single storey, and getting around is fairly easy, although gaps in slatted wooden decking can easily trap a wheel or walking stick. Another great advantage at upmarket lodges is the roomy outdoor bathrooms.
Hemingways in Livingstone can offer wheelchair-accessible vehicles to get about.
In cities and towns, midrange and upmarket hotels have lifts, ramps and private bathrooms attached to the room. A few of the smart hotels in Lusaka and Livingstone have rooms with specific disabled facilities. Getting around urban areas is much harder for people with wheelchairs or walking difficulties. Footpaths (where they exist at all) are often in bad condition with cracks or damaged sections, and crossing the road can be hard because curbs don’t have ramps and traffic rarely stops for pedestrians anyway.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
There's a number of opportunities for those looking to volunteer in Zambia. While various international agencies offer roles in a number of fields, you can try the following places based in Zambia:
Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Offers several roles managing day-to-day affairs at this chimpanzee refuge; get in touch with African Impact (www.africanimpact.com) which coordinates affairs here, as well as other volunteering options in Zambia.
Game Rangers International This wildlife NGO offers a range of different opportunities through its volunteer program; check its website for upcoming placements.
Habitat for Humanity Helps to build houses for the nation’s poor; over 2700 houses have been built since 1984.
Tikondane Community Centre A wonderful grassroots organisation assisting with local communities; it accepts volunteers to help out with anything from teaching, agriculture and permaculture to health care. There's a minimum of two weeks and it costs ZMW2000 per week, inclusive of meals and accommodation. It's based in Katate in eastern Zambia, located between Lusaka and South Luangwa National Park.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used in Zambia.
Female travellers in Zambia will generally not encounter gender-related problems any more than they might in other parts of the world. In fact, women travellers say that compared with North Africa, South America and many Western countries, Zambia is relatively safe and unthreatening; friendliness and generosity are encountered far more often than hostility.
Due to Zambia having a small population of European origin, women travellers can meet and communicate with local men – of any race – usually without being misconstrued. That's not to say that sexual harassment never happens, but it's certainly not the prevailing attitude.
Be aware, though, that when it comes to evening entertainment, Zambia is a conservative, male-dominated society. Even in bars where women are ‘allowed’, cultural conventions often dictate that you don’t go in without a male companion.
The vast majority of expats working in Zambia are involved in the tourism sector in one way or another. To gain employment in Zambia, you'll need to obtain a work visa; visit www.zambiaimmigration.gov.zm for details.