Country guides Africa
Electrical current in Zambia is 230 volts, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs, as well as two- and three-pin round plugs are in use.
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.
The Zambian currency is the Kwacha (ZMW), and is divided into 100 ngwee. 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; visitors should 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.
Tipping in Zambia is about 10 percent and a 10 percent service charge is usually included in bills.
Typhoid, polio, rabies and hepatitis A vaccinations should be considered for travel to Zambia. Malaria is endemic in the country (prophylaxis is essential), and outbreaks of cholera are common, especially during the rainy season. There is low potential for yellow fever exposure, though proof of vaccination is required if travellers are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs. 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.
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 essential and it is vital to bring a good first-aid kit. Visitors should 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 are trouble-free, but visitors should be aware that car hijackings and armed robberies are increasing. Mugging, bag snatching and theft from parked cars are common in urban areas, and travellers should avoid displaying valuables on their person. Travellers should also steer clear political rallies, demonstrations, and large gatherings, as they have the potential to turn violent. Cross-border raids are frequent and landmines are a potential danger in the border areas where Zambia meets Angola and the DRC, so travellers should stay away. Many roads can become impassable in the rainy season (November to April), and roads are severely potholed in general. Poorly maintained vehicles, dangerous local driving habits and the presence of stray animals make driving even more risky.
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 practice of 'getting to the point' is not practiced 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.
Although doing business in Zambia is less complicated than in many parts of Africa, it is still a very poor country where bribery, corruption and the lack of infrastructure present problems. Business meetings are formal but seldom punctual; a suit and tie are appropriate attire despite the heat. Office hours 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, so these office hours a mere guideline.
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 USD 1,000.
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). WiFi is limited to top hotels and restaurants, though it's best not to rely on it being offered at all; visitors can purchase local prepaid SIM cards for unlocked phones and rely on a big data bundle or unlimited data.
Passport & Visa
All travellers require a return ticket or proof of onward travel, documents for their next destination and proof of sufficient funds. Passport requirements around the necessary number of blank pages vary from country to country, and visas can be issued on arrival, though the conditions will vary according to nationality. 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 travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their 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). E-visas can be obtained before departure.
British citizens require a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay, but a visa is not necessary for a touristic stay of up to 90 days.
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). E-visas can be obtained before departure.
Australians require a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is required. On arrival a 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained. E-visas can be obtained before departure.
South Africans need a passport valid for four months beyond period of intended stay. South African nationals do not need a visa for stays 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. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
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. Passengers with a New Zealand passport issued to residents of Niue, Tokelau or nationals of Cook Islands traveling as tourists do not require a visa for a maximum stay of 30 days.
Zambia National Tourist Board, Lusaka: www.zambiatourism.com999 (fire, medical emergencies and police).
Embassies / consulates in other countries
Zambian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 234 4009.
Zambian High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 207 589 6655.
Zambian High Commission, Ottawa, Cananda: + 613 232 4400.
High Commission of the Republic of Zambia, Canberra, Australia: +61 261 994 900.
Zambian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 326 1854.
Embassies / consulates in Zambia
United States Embassy, Lusaka: +260 211 357 000.
British High Commission, Lusaka: +260 211 423 200.
Canadian High Commission, Lusaka: +260 1 250 833.
Australian Embassy, Harare, Zimbabwe (also responsible for Zambia): +263 242 853 235 55.
South African High Commission, Lusaka: +260 211 26 0497.
Irish Embassy, Lusaka: +260 211 290 650.
New Zealand Honorary Consulate, Lusaka, Zambia: (+260) 211 252 402 / 5 / 6.