Zambia has a fast growing economy. Consequently, it is far ahead of its African friends. Plus, this country claims to be the real taste of Africa. People from around the world travel here, just to have a once in a lifetime Safari ride. Rivals surround the country on every side.
The country is most heavily populated around the Copperbelt region. This region includes the capital, Lusaka, and south central Zambia. A jump from one of the highest waterfalls on the planet might sound scary, but the experience will be etched into your memory forever. Victoria Falls is one of the World Heritage sites of UNESCO and is often considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world.
Places to See in Zambia
Kasanka National Park
After an intense period of hunting and poaching, the area is currently recovering. Nowadays, it is best known for antelopes, birds, and bats. Every year, its population of bats migrates to Kasanka. At sunset, they cover the whole skyline and return at dawn.
The booming capital of Lusaka, including the Kabwata Cultural Village, will excite you. Enjoy watching carvers at work, indigenous arts, crafts for sale, and traditional dancers. Numerous bustling markets, good restaurants, vivid nightlife, and the Lusaka National Museum – that is all available in Lusaka!
The former Zambian capital is now an adventure sports capital of Africa. Among all other adventures, you can go bungee jumping off the bridge, which links Zambia and Zimbabwe, and is 111m (3,64ft.) high.
South Luangwa National Park
The woodlands and grasslands by the Luangwa River are one of the best game-viewing regions of southern Africa. It is also the perfect destination for the walking safari, a particularly unique way of exploring Africa.
The original name of this natural wonder is Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders.” The distance from its highest point, the basalt lip, to the Batoka Gorge is 108m (345ft.). It is almost twice the height of Niagara Falls. The falls are most impressive from December until July. In March and April, you can see the spray from miles away.
The Zambezi River is a great destination for a guided canoe safari, particularly in Lower Zambezi National Park. You may see elephants, birds, and hippos on the banks, while you pass by. The Zambezi is also a great spot for tiger fishing.
The world’s largest water reservoir, Lake Kariba, offers some luxury relaxation in houseboats. You can drift along the banks, explore the islands, or just enjoy the fabulous sunset with a drink in your hand.
Kafue National Park
The world’s second largest national park, Kafue National Park, is known for its beauty and scenic variety. You can explore the place on game drives, guided bush walks, or riverboat trips.
When to Go
The best season to visit Zambia for a safari ride is the summer. During the months of October and November, the wild animals flock to the water. You will enjoy the calm atmosphere of the wildlife.
What to Wear
You will need lightweight and tropical clothing, with some rainwear.
There are eight official languages in Zambia: English, Nyanja, Bemba, Tonga, Lunda, Lozi, Luvale, and Kaonde. Also, there are over 70 local dialects.
One USD is equal to 9.9 Zambian Kwacha. The currency exchange is available at banks and bureaux de change. Most hotels, restaurants, travel agents and bigger shops accept credit cards, Visa being most preferred. ATMs are available within Lusaka and some of the major towns in Zambia.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
Mobile phone usage is rising since 2012. If you have a GSM phone, you will have no problem buying a local SIM card. MTN and Airtel provide the most reliable service. They have numerous outlets throughout the country, including the Lusaka and Livingstone airports. However, you will have to provide your passport to activate a SIM card.
After that, you can buy any amount of credit for your phone from the same mobile company. Scratch cards range from ZMW1 to ZMW100. However, mobile coverage is bad in some rural areas. And don’t expect to get any phone connection in the national parks. Also, if you want to buy a cheap mobile phone, the best place for it is near Kalima Towers in Lusaka. The basic model will cost you approximately ZMW80.
As for the Internet, many hotels and safari lodges provide Wi-Fi for their guests. Usually, it is free, although sometimes small charges may apply. Or you can access the Internet using your mobile data. The usual fare is US$10 per 1GB. There are also internet cafes in Lusaka, Livingstone and other big towns and cities. However, slow connection speed and occasional power cuts may be a problem.
Zambian culture is filled with tribal customs and crafts, traditions and folklore, particularly in the rural areas. Most Zambian festivals include traditional music, drumming and dancing, and are held to commemorate the ancestors or celebrate the changing of seasons.
Shaking hands is the usual form of greeting. As a sign of gratitude, friendship or honor, people usually give gifts to each other, and you should never refuse to accept one. Just remember to do it with both hands.
LGBT activity is illegal in the country, and social attitude towards same-sex relationships is mostly negative.
Around 30% of the population is Christian (mainly Protestant and Roman Catholics). A smaller number of people are Muslim and Hindu. Also, a small minority follow the traditional animist beliefs.
Zambia is not particularly known for its cuisine. Livingstone and Lusaka have rather good Western style restaurants. Also, the country’s lakes and rivers provide plentiful fresh fish. However, the typical Zambian diet is heavy on starch and full of such foods as soups, stews, and beans. Special dishes include Nshima, Ndiwo, Ifisashi, Biltong, Kapenta, Munkoyo, Mosi, and Chibuku. The drinking age is 18. A 10% tip is expected in the restaurants, if not added to your check.
You can move around the important cities of the country by air. However, it can be very expensive to travel this way. If you prefer to be a budget traveler, hitchhiking is for you. Locals are friendly and safe. Also, if you want a bit more space, you can always book a ticket on luxury coaches. In general, the rail network is poorly maintained, and service is not the best. Trains are often late. Also, local ferries operate on all waterways.
It’s easy to hire a taxi in Lusaka, Livingstone, and other major cities by booking over the phone, either directly or via the hotel. It’s also possible to hail a cab in the street. There are no meters, so you should negotiate the price beforehand.
Zambian roads are not reliable. Thus, it is better if you do not rent a car. If you still want to do it, there are several companies in main cities. Specialist firms offer 4-wheel drive hire as well. The minimum age to rent a car is 18 years old. Some companies also provide chauffeur-driven cars.
Zambia Trip Cost
Zambia is one of the most expensive African countries. The hotels will not cost you much. A campsite or a dorm bed can be found for a price of $8/night. Although, a double room in a nice hotel will cost a minimum of $80 and go up to $400. The local meal will also cost around $4-$5. Beer is $2. But the Safaris and travel expenses will take a big chunk of your money. National park entrance will cost from $5 to $25. A wildlife drive or a walk in the national park will cost you $35-$45. A Safari package with meals and activities is going to be around $250 minimum.
Right or Left Driving
Cars drive on the left side of the road here.
Electricity & Plug Type
As for electricity, Zambia uses type C, D and G sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 220 V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
How to Arrive
The quickest way to get to Zambia from the USA is via Johannesburg. Fares are usually the lowest during the rainy season, which is from December until March, excluding the holiday season.
There are trains from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. They leave from Tanzania on Tuesdays and Fridays, and it takes them two days to arrive in Zambia. There are first, second and third class berths, with a dining car on board. You should book tickets in advance though.
If you want to drive to Zambia, the easiest routes are from Zimbabwe, which is also well connected to South Africa. Border crossings are usually open 6am until 6pm. Keep in mind, border crossings with Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique can be rather slow. There is a risk of landmines on the Angola side of the Zambia/Angola border and the Zambia/DRC and Zambia/Mozambique borders. So, beware.
There is a ferry service to Mpulungu from Kigoma in Tanzania, which operates twice a month. There is no strict departure schedule. The ferry usually leaves when it’s full.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Zambia are aimed mainly at either business travelers or tourists on safari. Top hotels are situated in Lusaka and the Copperbelt region. Livingstone also has some high rate hotels, as well as Safari lodges. Smaller cities also have some facilities to offer. It is advised, though, to book in advance and obtain a written confirmation.
Bed and Breakfast
B&B facilities and guesthouses can be found in both urban and rural areas. They usually have simpler services, lower prices, and informal, family-run atmosphere.
Camping sites are available in most tourist centers, including several national parks. You will need to make reservations well in advance. However, if you book more than four weeks in advance, some companies will charge you a 15% deposit, so keep that in mind.
Backpacker hostels are located mainly in Lusaka and Livingstone. Government-run rest houses and hostels are also available in many centers, but they offer very basic services.
How Safe is Zambia
In major cities, traveling is relatively safe during the daytime. Most common crimes are armed robberies, home invasions, and sexual assaults. Also, vehicle hijackings happen across the country occasionally. Don’t stop to give lifts to people at the roadside and watch out for objects placed to block the road. Be careful, keep all car doors locked and windows closed, when driving.
Bag snatching, pickpocketing, and theft from cars are also common crimes at restaurants and internet cafes in downtown areas, particularly near railway stations and in shopping areas. Keep you valuable stuff out of sight and don’t change large sums of money in crowded areas. Use banks with a good reputation, official bureaus de change or ATMs to exchange money.
To go to Zambia, you need to have the following vaccinations: diphtheria, hepatitis A, malaria, tetanus, typhoid, yellow fever, and sometimes rabies. You should also carry a basic medical supply kit because adequate health care is usually unavailable outside of main towns. Also, it is not free, so get medical insurance.
If you need water for drinking, brushing your teeth or making ice, you should boil it first or sterilize it some other way. However, the filtered water, available in hotels and Safari lodges, is safe to use. Also, you can buy bottled water in a shop. Vegetables should be cooked, as well as meat and fish. You should also peel fruit. On the other hand, milk is rather safe, when pasteurized.
Other risks include the very hot sun, even if it’s cloudy, and swimming/paddling in fresh water.
If you are averse to dirt roads, you better think twice before visiting. The dry climate and high temperatures make it a tough place to stay. Winter is the time when you can visit without the scorching heats. However, with colder weather, the animals won’t come out of their homes. Therefore, if you visit in the winter, your Safari might not be that interesting after all.
May 10, 2016 12:00 am Leave your thoughts