A yellow fever certificate is mandatory if you are travelling from an infected area. Malaria is virulent in the low lying areas of the country which include most of the good wildlife destinations. Doctors advise taking prophylactics two weeks before arrival and continuing two weeks after leaving. Your chemist or doctor can advise you of the most suitable drug available as certain drugs lose their effectiveness.
Tap water in the major towns is purified and perfectly safe to drink. In the more remote areas always boil it first, except if you’re staying at a lodge or hotel where drinking water is boiled already. Bottled water is readily available in the bigger towns.
Chemists / Pharmacies
Travellers should carry an adequate supply of their prescribed medicines with them although chemists in the major centres carry a wide range of medicines and first aid accessories. There are some emergency chemists open after hours on Sundays in Lusaka.
Medical services are underdeveloped and only in Lusaka, Ndola and Livingstone can you find anything resembling western standards. There are a number of small clinics in Lusaka which are better than the general hospitals, but the clinics in the rural areas usually only have the basics.
Medical insurance should be purchased before you leave your own country and should include emergency air evacuation coverage if you’re spending any time in remote parts of the country. There are two medical rescue organisations.
2. Money and Banks
- Operational hours are 08:15 to 15:30 hours Mondays through to Fridays and 08:15 to 11:30 hours on Saturdays.
- Most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take credit cards. Most of the bigger banks will advance local currency against a credit card. Most banks have ATM’s which accept Visa cards for cash. Visa is more readily accepted than MasterCard or American Express.
- It’s best to come into the country with either travellers cheques or Dollars or Pounds which can be exchanged at any of the many Bureaux de Change in the main towns. If you are offered an exchange on the black market at the borders, exercise extreme caution as they are notorious for cheating you without you even realizing it. Travellers cheques attract a commission when changing to other currencies.
- The Zambian currency is the Kwacha and it fluctuates quite regularly. As of Jan 2013, Zambia rebased the currency dividing by 1000.
As of June 2013, K100 = $18.7, GBP12.3, ZAR188.45, EUR 14.40
Kwacha note denominations are K100, K50, K20, K10, and K2
Coins are in denominations of K1 and 50, 10 and 5 Ngwee.
- Payments within Zambia can be made in Kwachas only, by law, even if the price is quoted in USD. Foreign currency will not be accepted once you have cleared immigration at the airport.
- There is no limit to the importation of foreign currency, provided it is declared on arrival through a currency declaration form.
- To find out more about the current exchange rate please visit www.xe.com
- ATMs are available within Lusaka, Livingstone and other major towns in Zambia. The bigger banks have ATMs which accept Visa but not MasterCard.
- Travellers cheques are widely accepted, though no longer commonly used. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in US dollars, Euros or Pounds.
- Exchange of foreign currency is carried out at authorised banks and bureaux de change. There are many bureaux at the central shopping areas in the main towns.
3. Safety and Security
Petty theft is as common as any major city where unemployment is high. Be very awake when walking around carrying anything of value, there are master pickpockets here and there. Never leave your vehicle unlocked and never change money on the streets. For the most part, however, Zambians are very friendly and helpful.
As far as personal safety is concerned, one could easily hitchhike alone throughout the country without a problem. Theft however is possible in the bigger towns and cities as it is the world over. Don’t walk around with things you can’t do without, like your passport or airline tickets. Carry minimum amounts of cash and keep it hidden or in a money belt and if possible, don’t leave your car unattended. This is less of a problem in the rural areas.
- Emergency – 999
- Police – 991
- Lusaka, Central Police Station – 0211 220006
- Lusaka, Central Fire Station – 0211 220180
- Lusaka, Ambulance Service – 0211 220180
- National Telephone Operator – 100
- National Directory – 102
- International Operator – 090
- Ambulance – 991
- Fire Brigade – 993
- Hospital UTH – Lusaka
- General Line – 0211 251200
- Casualty Direct Line – 0211 254115
- Livingstone Central Police – 0213 3 323575/320116
- Livingstone Fire Station – 0213 324043
4.Travel by Road
Zambia has 38,763 kilometres of roads, about 10,000 kms of which are tarred and another 8000 kms all weather gravel road. The rest range from reasonable to bad dirt roads.
If you’re doing a vehicle trip through Zambia it is a good idea to carry a range of tools and essential spares with you. Two spare wheels and a couple of spare tubes are a must due to the condition of the roads, although most have improved vastly in recent years. Spare jerry cans of fuel and water, a tow rope, compressor, winch and a spotlight are useful items to have. Many of the villages along the main routes offer tyre mending services at a very reasonable fee. Road maps are available in Lusaka from the Map Centre in Nationalist Road or the Tourist Board in Lusaka Square, Cairo Road.
Be really careful, especially if travelling at night for road markings are usually non existent. There is much road rehabilitation finally being done so perhaps this won’t be as bad in the near future. Do watch out for animals in the road, vehicles without lights, pedestrians, unannounced roadworks, bad drivers and broken down trucks with no warning triangles. If you see a branch in the road, slow down immediately – these are improvised warning triangles and there’s bound to be a truck or car in the middle of the road up ahead. Never leave a car with anything visible in it in Lusaka, if possible make sure you have an alarm system or steering wheel locking device. Car theft happens, but avoidable if you’re careful.
The gravel roads on the minor routes are fine to drive without a four by four, but if you’re doing a long trip around the country there are wonderful remote places to go to that would require four wheel drive vehicles.
Be sure to have all your vehicle papers on hand as you’re bound to encounter a few roadblocks and if you ever need to stop, pull well off the road.
- Visiting drivers must hold an International Drivers Licence. Drivers licences from other countries are not valid except SADC countries. New residents are required to pass a driving test. A person driving into the country on business can have their car admitted without having to pay duty, provided they will not use it for hire or commercial purposes. They will also have to show that the car is owned by themselves or by their company.
- In Zambia, one drives on the left hand side of the road. The general speed limit on national highways is 100km/h, secondary roads 100km/h and in urban built up areas 65 km/h unless otherwise indicated.
- To bring a vehicle into Zambia one must obtain a temporary import permit (TIP) or, depending on the country of origin of the vehicle, a carnet de passage. If the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, they must have a letter of authorisation from the owner for use of the vehicle in Zambia. Your local AA office should be consulted before leaving for Zambia to check whether any of these conditions have changed. Otherwise, write to the Controller of Customs and Excise Headquarters, Box 60500, Livingstone, Zambia.
- There are many car hire companies in Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe and Livingstone, offering a range of vehicles. Some offer a flat weekly rate, but most charge a daily rate plus mileage, insurance and petrol. You can also hire a chauffeur. See Car Hire Companies for Rates.
- Petrol and diesel can be readily obtained in all major towns, but shortages can happen in the very remote areas so make sure you have spare fuel for emergencies. Both petrol and diesel get more expensive the further away you are from the line of rail. Unleaded petrol is available at most stations. If travelling in the more remote areas be sure to take extra supplies as availability is not always guaranteed. If it’s an emergency, try the local markets. They sometime have cans of petrol for sale.