Zambia is positioned on a vast central plateau, and boasts the Zambezi, Kafue and Luangwa Rivers – as well as one of the largest waterfalls in the world, Victoria Falls, which it shares with neighbouring Zimbabwe. Most of the country has a mild, pleasant climate, while the river valleys are hotter and more humid; the extreme north becomes tropical on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, one of Zambia’s ten large lakes.
Offering some of the wildest and most remote game areas, Zambia is a friendly and peaceful country. It has a remarkably low population, 15 million (reported figures as of 2015) in a deceptively massive country, 752 614 square kilometres, giving off an impression of an Africa undiscovered. While Lusaka is the country’s capital, Livingstone, just ten kilometres from the Falls, is more well known to adventurous travellers.
Travel to and from Zambia:
- Scheduled daily charter flights depart from the Lusaka and Livingstone and link the major tourist destinations of South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi.
- International and regional flights service Livingstone and Lusaka.
- Recognized transfer and touring companies are available at Lusaka and Livingstone
The official currency of Zambia is the Kwacha (KR). US Dollars are accepted for transactions in most instances, including departure taxes and entry visas, in addition to Euros and other major currencies. Cash can be withdrawn from ATMs, while larger retail outlets and lodges/hotels accept major credit cards.
Over 72 African dialects are spoken in Zambia; however, the official language is English.
Zambia is in the same time zone as all other southern African countries – Greenwich Mean Time – (GMT) + 2 hours.
There are surprisingly good medical facilities, doctors and emergency evacuation services in Zambia as long as you have proper medical insurance which covers private facilities and services.
Certain over-the-counter medications contain ingredients that are on Zambia’s list of controlled substances. As a precaution we recommend that you do not take unnecessary non-prescription medication with you when travelling to Zambia. For prescription medication, please carry a medical practitioner’s prescription with you and ensure that the medication is in its original bottle. A list of these controlled substances is available from your travel consultant on request.
Medical & Travel Insurance
All travellers to Zambia are advised to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy that will cover medical emergencies and evacuation to a hospital in South Africa, should critical care be required, plus insurance to cover repatriation back home. However, it is also important to have a pre-hospital emergency policy to cover evacuation to the nearest hospital from remote areas by road or air ambulance. Botswana has an efficient private Medical Air Rescue Service, which will assist with ambulance or air rescue even in remote areas of the country, and can sell short term policies to cover your stay.
Water and food
It is always advisable to drink only bottled or boiled water when travelling, and to wash all fruits and vegetables in clean water. All hotels, restaurants, camps and lodges maintain the strictest hygiene codes. Ice and salads are generally perfectly safe and visitors have no reason to be worried. Self-caterers are simply advised to take sensible precautions about hygiene. It is very important that you drink plenty of water especially during the warmer months.
Take sensible precautions. Please contact your doctor for advice.
Our recommendation is to make sure mosquitoes don’t bite you by covering up with long-sleeves, trousers or skirts at sundown and early morning; make use of insect repellant spray or cream, burn mosquito coils at night and sleep under a net.
Swimming in rivers and lakes
It is risky to swim due to a water-borne parasite called bilharzia, which is prevalent in water sources in Africa, along with crocodiles and hippos, which are a serious threat.
Snakes, bugs, spiders, scorpions, crickets, bees, flies and ants
Don’t be paranoid about these. It is very unlikely that you will encounter a snake and if you come across one, simply freeze and then retreat slowly backwards to a safe distance. Insects are a feature of the African bush. None will kill you, some can bite. Give them a wide berth and carry antihistamine and antiseptic cream. A simple precaution is to check your bedding before you go to sleep and shake out your shoes and clothes in the morning before you dress!
CLIMATE, SEASONS AND DRESS CODE
The weather in southern Africa is generally pleasant throughout the year – warm to hot days, and cool to warm nights. During our winter months, however (May to September), the nights and early mornings can become really cold, particularly when on safari, so we would like to suggest that you pack accordingly – very warm clothing including an anorak/winter jacket, a beanie, scarf and gloves are recommended.
Be aware that revealing tops or very short shorts or skirts are culturally provocative or even offensive to some in this part of Africa. Camouflage clothing is totally against the law and can only be worn by military personal.
Summer: October to April
Days are hot with daily temperatures averaging 25°C – 35°C, evening temperatures can drop to below 20°C.
Rainy season: November to March
Winter: May to September
Days are dry, sunny with daily temperatures averaging 20°C – 25°C, while evening temperatures drop sharply to 5°C – 10°C.
The dates of certain public holidays change from year to year – refer below. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, then the Monday is also declared a public holiday.
1st January New Year’s Day
8th March Women’s Day
12th March Youth Day
Varies Good Friday
Varies Easter Sunday
Varies Easter Monday
1st May Labour Day
25th May Africa Freedom Day
3rd July Heroes Day
4th July Unity Day
7th August Farmers Day
24th October Independence Day
25th December Christmas Day
- Good quality sunglasses – preferably polarized.
- Sun hat
- Golf-shirts, T-shirts and long-sleeved cotton shirts
- Shorts or skirts
- Long trousers, comfortable slacks and short pants
- Tracksuit for the cooler evenings
- Underwear (sports bra recommended on game drives as the roads can be bumpy and uneven)
- Good walking shoes and a few pairs of socks
- Swimming costume
- Warm soft hat to keep your head warm on early morning activities
- Warm Anorak or parka, scarf and gloves for the colder months
- Light rain gear for summer months
- Camera equipment and plenty of memory cards. Don’t forget your batteries and chargers!
- If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case you get irritation from the dust
- Binoculars are essential
- Newman’s bird book if you are a keen birder
- Personal toiletries
- Malaria tablets (if applicable)
- High SPF suntan lotion
- Insect repellent
- Basic 1st Aid medical kit
- Wet wipes
- Visas, tickets, passports and money
- Waterproof, dustproof bags to cover your cameras and electricals
BANKING, TAXES AND SHOPPING
MasterCard and Visa are accepted; however, Diners Club and American Express are often not.
Please note most camps/lodges are unable to accept American Express and Diners Club cards, however, a credit card surcharge will apply for MasterCard and Visa.
Some camps/lodges in very remote parts of Zambia do not accept credit cards at all so it is advisable to travel with small denominations of USD cash.
There are ATM’s outside Barclays, Standard Chartered, ZANACO and Stanbic banks in all the major towns which accept Visa cards only. You cannot change your US Dollars in a bank in Zambia, unless you are an account holder so foreign exchange needs to be obtained from Bureaux de Change offices.
Zambia sells a wide range of locally made products:
- wooden furniture
- candle holders
- lamps shades
- hand-dyed cloths
Please be advised that souvenirs may be exported without restriction but game trophies such as tooth, bone, horn, shell, claw, skin, hair, feather or other durable items are subject to export permits.
All goods and services in Zambia are priced to include value added tax (VAT) of 16%.
All taxes are paid in Kwacha (KR), the local currency, or may be converted to US Dollars.
Taxes must be paid direct at the airport when guests depart from Livingstone Airport, Lusaka Airport or Mfuwe Airport. Small denominations of US Dollars are encouraged for easier and quicker transactions and it helps to have the exact amount to hand as change is sometimes not provided. Note that credit cards and Travellers Cheques are not accepted forms of payment for this purpose.
For passengers flying out of Zambia, an International Airport Departure Tax applies. This is included by most airlines in the cost of your air ticket. If there is an exception, then the equivalent in Kwacha, the local currency, must be paid by guests direct at the airport when departing on an international flight from Zambia (unless in transit). In addition, there is a Domestic Departure Tax payable direct when departing internally on a flight out of Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (Lusaka), Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport (Livingstone) and Mfuwe airports.
In addition to Departure Taxes, a Security Tax, an Airport Infrastructure and Development Tax, as well as a Passenger Safety Charge is levied at the airports.
Currently, and subject to change, these costs are:
- International Departure Tax: US$ 30.00 per person
- International Security Tax: US$ 5.00 per person
- International Airport Infrastructure & Development Tax: US$ 10.00 per person
- International Passenger Safety Charge: US$ 10.00 per person
- Domestic Departure Tax: US$ 8.00 per person
- Domestic Security Tax: US$ 3.00 per person
- Domestic Airport Infrastructure & Development Tax: US$ 5.00 per person
- Domestic Passenger Safety Charge: US$ 5.00 per person
Note that on all light aircraft transfers in Zambia, additional taxes do apply and these will need to settle the necessary amounts directly at the airport.
The bush camps/lodges in Zambia are all powered by a combination of solar power, diesel generators and large batteries with invertors and chargers. No hairdryers or electric shavers can be used at these camps.
Round 3-pin, 2-pin plugs and square 3-pin, 2-pin plugs are connected to 220V/240V 13-amp alternating current (AC).
All electrical equipment needs to be compatible with 220V/240V power or have an adaptor to convert the 220V to 110V. You are advised to bring a spare battery for use while the other one is being charged, a power converter/adaptor if applicable, cables for computers or cameras and additional flash cards.
3 of our highly recommended Zambian travel itineraries
Victoria, Jan and Gwen from Safaris 4 Africa give you their recommendations for an unforgettable Zambian adventure.
The Ultimate Zambia Safari
Victoria Recommends: For those who want to experience a less frenetic safari being jostled in game drive vehicles I recommend this safari which gives you countless opportunities to sit and enjoy the wildlife coming to you in a uniquely positioned hide. Zambia is also well known for their walking safaris, so these camps and lodges I am recommending, will offer the best of Zambia’s best National Parks offering Hide sits, game drives and walking Safaris.
I feel that a combination of these camps will provide the photographer or pure safari enthusiast an incredible and memorable trip.
The Best of Zambia Safari and Victoria Falls
Jan Recommends: Zambia is a country that offers a truly diverse safari experience, with national parks that include the Kafue, South Luangwa, the Lower Zambezi and the mighty Victoria Falls. If you are looking for adventure then there are walking trails in the South Luangwa, ballooning over the Kafue, or white water rafting down the Zambezi River, just to name a few. For any naturalist there is diverse and beautiful scenery with a wonderful array of animal and birdlife.
In my experience, I think this itinerary encapsulates some of Zambia’s iconic national parks and will give you a truly wonderful wildlife experience. These are some of my favourite national parks and ones that I have personally been lucky enough to visit many times.
An Adventurous Walking safari in Zambia and Zimbabwe
Gwen Recommends: One of my favourite wildlife activities is walking in the wild areas. You become immersed in the heartbeat of the bush. Your senses becoming acutely aware, to sounds, smells and visual clues in this natural wonderland. It will give you a totally different perspective to a game drive or boat trip.
You will be led on this safari by an experienced professional guide and with his guidance you will learn about tracking, spoor, signs of the bush, birds, whilst experiencing intimate wildlife encounters.
To finish off here is some recommended reading material to ensure you get the best out of your trip to Southern Africa.
- Africa’s Top Wildlife Countries – Mark Nolting
- Behavior Guide to African Mammals – Richard Estes
- Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa – Ken Newman
- Birds of Prey of Southern, Central, and East Africa – David Allan
- Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa – Chris & Tilde Stuart
- Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa – Bill Branch
- The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals – Jonathan Kingdon
- African Safaris – From Budget to Big Spending – David Bristow and Julian Harrison
- Wildlife of southern Africa, A Field Guide – Vincent Carruthers
- Photographic Guide to the Trees of southern Africa – Braam van Wyk
- National Parks and Other Wild Places of southern Africa – Nigel Dennis
- Pocket Guide to the Night Skies of southern Africa – Peter Mack