Distances are long, buses are often slow and some (but not many these days) roads are badly potholed, so travelling around Zambia by bus and minibus can exhaust even the hardiest of travellers.
All main routes are served by ordinary public buses, which either 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, but cost about 15% more. In addition, several private companies run comfortable European-style express buses along the major routes, eg between Lusaka and Livingstone, Lusaka and Chipata, and Lusaka and the Copperbelt region. These fares cost about 25% more than the ordinary bus fares and are well worth the extra kwacha. Tickets for these buses can often be bought the day before. There are also express buses zipping around the country.
A few general tips to keep in mind. Even on buses with air-conditioning – and it very often doesn't work – try to sit on the side of the bus opposite to the sun. Also avoid seats near the speakers, which can be turned up to unbearably high volume. Try to find a seat with a working seatbelt, and avoid bus travel at night.
Many routes are also served by minibuses, which only leave when full – so full that you might lose all feeling in one butt cheek. Fares can be more or less the same as ordinary buses. In remote areas the only public transport is often a truck or pickup.