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.

Credit Cards

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.

Moneychangers

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.

Tipping

  • 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.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1ZMW7.30
CanadaC$1ZMW7.52
Euro zone€1ZMW10.54
Japan¥100ZMW8.60
NZNZ$1ZMW6.98
South African RandR1ZMW 0.73
UK£1ZMW12.36
USUS$1ZMW9.95

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.