General Money Entry Requirements Health & safety Weather Embassies Etiquette Public Holidays Attractions Map
Sunset at Victoria Falls ©Mario Micklisch
The big, beautiful country of Zambia is situated in the heart of the African sub-continent, largely untainted by commercial tourist development, but nevertheless well-equipped to allow visitors to experience the warmth, excitement, challenges and adventures of Africa. Zambia beckons with an abundance of natural attractions and extreme sports, which has earned it the reputation of being the 'adventure centre' of the continent.
The country's prime attraction is the spectacular, breathtaking Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Not only do the falls provide unmatched scenery as the water plunges into the depths of the gorge, but they are also the setting for a multitude of adrenaline pumping activities, like whitewater rafting, bungee jumping from the 364 foot (111m) high bridge, canoeing, abseiling, micro-lighting over the falls, elephant-back safaris, jet-boating through the rapids and much more.
If dry land is more to your taste, Zambia offers dozens of superb game parks stocked with a profusion of birds and wildlife. Chief among the parks is South Luangwa National Park, centred on the most intact major river system in Africa, which hosts a huge concentration of game. The legendary 'Zambian walking safari' originated in this park and still offers one of the finest ways to experience the African wilderness.
Visitors to Zambia seldom linger in the towns, being bent on safaris or destined for game lodges and adventure camps, but those who choose to explore the somewhat dishevelled capital, Lusaka, will find it has an interesting charm. More than half of the inhabitants of this over-populated city are unemployed, yet the atmosphere is far from despondent as the people hustle and bustle, determined to survive. Thousands of stalls line the streets offering a fascinating array of services and goods.
Lovers of the outdoors cannot fail to find everything and more to satisfy them in the varied wilderness of Zambia.
The international dialling code for Zambia is +260. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)1 for Lusaka. Public telephones are widely available, most requiring tokens, but card phones are now available from where international calls can be made. Connections tend to be bad, particularly outside of Lusaka. There are GSM 900 cell phone networks in operation, but coverage is limited mainly to urban areas. There are several internet cafes in Livingstone and Lusaka. Postal services are often reliable.
999 (General Emergency); 991 (Police)
There are many dialects spoken in Zambia, but the official language is English. Most business is conducted in English and most Zambians speak it fairly well.
Travellers to Zambia over 18 years do not have to pay duty on the following items: 400 cigarettes or 500g tobacco or 500g of cigars; 1.5 litres of spirits, 2.5 litres of wine and 2.5 litres of beer, and goods to the value of US$ 1,000. Prohibited items include narcotics, pornography and explosive materials, and restrictions are applied to live animals, medication and hunting weapons.
Electrical current in Zambia is 230 volts, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs, as well as two- and three-pin round plugs are in use.
Zambia is warm all year round, but has three distinct seasons. Between December and April the weather is hot and wet; from May to August it is cooler and dry; between September and November conditions are hot and dry. The rains come earlier and last longer the further north in Zambia one ventures, and the east generally receives more rainfall than the western lowlands. The Zambian summer, between November and March, can get swelteringly hot, with the average temperatures ranging between 77°F and 95°F (25°C and 35°C), while in winter, between May and August, the temperature range becomes far greater with temperatures measuring anywhere between 43°F and 75°F (6°C and 24°C). Autumn and spring are short in Zambia; there aren't really four distinct seasons. During the rainy season roads often become impassable due to mud and potholes, and many attractions are unreachable; as a result many camps close during this time and it is not an easy time to visit. The best time to visit Zambia is between June and September, when the nights are cold but the days are usually sunny and pleasant, and game viewing is at its best.
A return ticket or proof of onward travel, all documents for next destination and proof of sufficient funds is required for all travellers. Visas issued on arrival vary in fee according to amount of entries and nationality. Passports must have at least one blank visa page. It is also possible to obtain an e-visa online prior to departure for Zambia; passengers must have printed confirmation of the e-visa with them upon arrival. There is a special provision for day visitors coming across the border from Zimbabwe into Livingstone. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
United States citizens require a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is required: single and multiple-entry visas can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 90 days (tourists) or 30 days (business travellers).
British citizens require a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is required: a 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained on arrival by holders of British passports.
Canadians require a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is required: single and multiple-entry visas can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 90 days (tourists) or 30 days (business travellers).
Australians require a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is required: an arrival a 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained.
South Africans need a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is required: visas are issued on arrival to South Africans for up to 90 days (tourists) or up to 30 days (business travellers). Note that temporary or emergency South African travel documents are not accepted.
Irish nationals require a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is required: 90-day tourist visas and 30-day business visas can be issued on arrival in Zambia.
New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is required: a 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained on arrival in Zambia.
Typhoid, polio, rabies and hepatitis A vaccinations should be considered for travel to Zambia. Malaria is endemic in Zambia (prophylaxis is essential), and outbreaks of cholera and dysentery are common especially during the rainy season. Yellow fever is a risk in the northwest and western provinces. Visitors to game parks are at risk of African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), which is carried by tsetse flies; insect repellent is ineffective against tsetse flies. The country also has one of the highest rates of HIV/Aids infection worldwide. Avoid swimming or wading in bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, ponds, streams, or rivers due to the presence of bilharzia.
Medical facilities in the country are under-developed and limited to the point that basic drugs and even clean needles are often not available. The small clinics in Lusaka are regarded as superior to the general hospitals, but clinics in rural areas are rarely stocked with anything more than aspirin or plasters. Full travel insurance, including cover for medical evacuation by air, is therefore essential and it is vital to bring a good first aid kit. Avoid food bought from local street vendors and ensure drinking water is filtered and boiled, or bought in sealed, branded bottles.
Package tours in Zambia are generally safe and most visits to Zambia are trouble-free, but visitors should be aware that car hijackings and armed robberies are increasing, and mugging, bag-snatching and theft from parked cars is common in urban areas. Political rallies, demonstrations, and large gatherings have the potential for violence and should be avoided. Visitors should avoid the Cairo Road in Lusaka, which is dangerous due to violent robberies. Be vigilant and do not display tempting valuables. Avoid the border areas where Zambia meets Angola and the DRC; cross-border raids are frequent and landmines are a potential danger. Many roads can become impassable in the rainy season (November to April). Travellers should be aware that overstaying a visa is a serious offence and may result in arrest and imprisonment.
Emergency Phone Number
999 (General Emergency); 991 (Police)
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
The Zambian currency is the Kwacha (ZMK), recently divided into 1,000 ngwee (instead of 100), and coins have become largely obsolete. It is best to bring US Dollars or Pounds Sterling which can be exchanged at the many bureaux de change found in the main towns; avoid exchanging money outside of banks or respected hotels. While most of the tourist hotels, restaurants, travel agents and larger shops, especially in Lusaka and Livingstone, accept credit cards, many outlets in the rural areas do not and deal only in local currency. ATMs are available in Lusaka and some of the major towns. Banking hours vary but are usually 8.30am to 3.30pm on weekdays and mornings on Saturdays.
Exchange RateNot available.
Embassies of Zambia
Zambian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 265 9717.
Zambian High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 2075812124.
Zambian High Commission, Tokyo, Japan (also responsible for Australia and New Zealand): +81 (0)3 3491 0121.
Zambian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 326 1854.
Foreign Embassies in Zambia
United States Embassy, Lusaka: +260 (0) 211 357 000.
British High Commission, Lusaka: +260 211 423 200.
Canadian High Commission, Lusaka: +260 (0)1 250 833.
Australian Embassy, Harare, Zimbabwe (also responsible for Zambia): +263 4 853 235 55.
South African High Commission, Lusaka: +260 211 26 0497.
Irish Embassy, Lusaka: +260 211 290650.
New Zealand Honorary Consulate, Lusaka, Zambia: (+260) 211 252 402 / 5 / 6.
Zambia's culture is largely patriarchal; however, white visitors tend to be treated respectfully regardless of gender. Zambians are curious, and visitors should not be offended by stares and questions. Women should refrain from wearing short skirts and low-cut tops, and beachwear should be worn only on the beach; even when dressed conservatively women may find the stares from locals disconcerting. The Western practise of 'getting to the point' is not practised in Zambian culture, and it is polite to say hello and exchange pleasantries before asking a question or requesting assistance. Shaking hands is a common greeting, and many Zambians will continue to hold hands throughout the conversation. It is traditional to eat with the right hand, and utensils are not used in many areas.
Homosexuality is condemned by the general population and is considered illegal. Gay travellers should be discreet and avoid public displays of affection.
According to the World Bank, doing business in Zambia is less difficult than in many other African countries, but it is a very poor country and the lack of infrastructure can be a challenge. Bribery and corruption can also be a problem. Business meetings are formal but seldom punctual; a suit and tie are appropriate attire despite the heat. Office hours in Zambia are 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, with a one hour lunch break between 1pm and 2pm; however, in practice workers often arrive late or leave early making these office hours a mere guideline.
Tipping in Zambia is discouraged, but still practised on occasion and is usually about 10 percent. A 10 percent service charge is usually included in bills. Tipping in hotels is actually against the law.
Public Holidays in Zambia
Zambia is a really exciting tourist destination which introduces foreigners to some of the best natural attractions and adventurous activities that Africa has to offer. Tourism is concentrated around a few major attractions in the country: Lake Kariba attracts many visitors and is a hub for fishing, boating, wildlife safaris and watersports, and Livingstone is the gateway to the wonders of Victoria Falls and the mighty Zambezi River. Zambia also has some good wildlife reserves, including the vast Kafue National Park, which is the second largest nature reserve in Africa and contains a wealth of wildlife. The lack of infrastructure in the country can be problematic for travellers as the poor roads make accessing parts of the country difficult, but Livingstone and the capital city, Lusaka, are both fairly well developed. Lusaka is not a popular tourist destination in itself but many travellers pass through the sprawling city and it is quite an experience: the markets and nightlife can be exciting and fun, and there are a number of small museums to visit. Zambia is accessible to both budget travellers and those in search of luxury which is a big bonus, with Livingstone in particular boasting both great backpacker hostels and incredible luxury hotels.
Map of Zambia
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