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Information on Zambia

Zambia's Languages

The official language of Zambia is English. The local languages are predominantly Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, Luvale, Lunda, Kaonde and Lozi. In Livingstone near the border with Zimbabwe, the main language spoken there is Tonga, but in Lusaka, the main one is Nyanja and then Bemba. There are over 70 languages spoken in Zambia.

Communication and Power Supply

Most hotels and lodges in Zambia do provide internet service for their clients, and although the speed is not up to international standards, it is very much workable. There are internet cafes and wireless hotspots scattered around towns and cities. Mobile phone service tends to be expensive (most especially if you are roaming), but there are cheaper alternatives such as text messaging which is reliable even in some remote areas of the country. Zambia's international calling code is +260.

Plugs in Zambia have a 220 V supply, and they use 3 pin square (Type G) and round ( Type D), as well as 2 pin adapters (Type C).

Weather and Climate

For a tropical region, Zambia's climate is generally quite comfortable, with the exception of the Zambezi and Luangwa valleys which tend to get excessively hot.

The cool and dry season is between the months of May and August. During this time, temperatures are at their lowest, some places even get night frost. Average maximum temperatures vary between 15°C and 27°C (59°F and 80.6°F).

Between September and November, the hot and dry season occurs. This is when temperatures reach their highest, and October tends to be the hottest month. The maximum temperatures range from 27°C to 35°C (80.6°F to 95°C).

The warm and wet/rainy season is between November/December and April. In the Zambezi and Luangwa valleys, the humidity is highest during this season. Thundershowers and storms are the norm in this season, followed by bright sunny skies. Rain falls the most in the northern regions - about 1250mm per year. As we move south, annual rainfall decreases to about 750mm per year. Further south of Lusaka, rainfall averages 500 to 750mm per year.

The table below shows annual rainfall in different parts of Zambia, as well as minimum and maximum temperatures:

    Livingstone Lusaka Mbala
Altitude m 981 1271 1633
ft 3236 4198 5488
Annual Rainfall mm 740 880 1240
inches 29.1 35 48.8
Mean Max Temperature (October) °C 34 31.7 27.7
°F 93.2 89 81.9
Mean Min Temperature (June) °C 6.7 7.8 10.8
°F 44 46 51.4

Information on Zambia's Currency

The Zambian Kwacha (ZMK) is the currency used in Zambia. While some places will accept foreign currency, services like taxi's will need you to use Kwachas instead. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) can be found around cities and towns. Some will accept Visa, MasterCard and Maestro cards, and will dispense Kwachas, and not foreign currency. It is advisable to travel with a bit of cash in case the ATMs are not working. You can use the registered foreign exchange bureau's to change your money into local currency.

How to Get to Zambia

Entry Requirements
At the different ports of entry, each visitor is required to have a passport wit at least 2 blank pages, and one that is valid for at least 6 months. Depending on the country of origin, you may  be required to get a visa upon entry, or before arriving to Zambia. See our visa page for more information on Zambia's visa requirements. There are additional entry requirements for those who wish to drive into Zambia (more information below).

By Air
Zambia does not have a national airline, but there are several international and local airlines that fly to the international airports of Lusaka, Livingstone and Ndola.

Airlines that fly to Lusaka include Emirates (from Dubai and Harare), South African Airways (from Durban and Johannesburg), Kenya Airways (from Nairobi and Harare), Air Botswana (from Gaborone), Air Namibia (from Windhoek), Air Malawi and Proflight (from Lilongwe), Egypt Air (from Cairo), Ethiopian Airlines (from Addis Ababa), and TAAG Angola Airlines (from Luanda). Some airlines service the region of southern and eastern Africa, while others like Emirates fly to and from Dubai.

Airlines that fly into Livingstone include South African Airlines (from Johannesburg and Nelspruit), Kenya Airways (from Nairobi) and Proflight (from Lusaka).

By Road
The best overland driving routes by which to enter Zambia are through Zimbabwe and Botswana. The border crossings between Zambia and its neighbouring countries are numerous and generally open between 6am and 6pm, with the exception of the Victoria Falls Border which closes at 10pm. See the table below for information on Zambia's border openings and closings:

Border Opens Closes
Jimbe (Angola) 06h00 18h00
Caripande/Chavunna (Angola) 06h00 18h00
Kazungula Ferry (Botswana) 06h00 18h00
Kasumbalesa (DRC) 06h00 18h00
Chipata (Malawi) 06h00 18h00*
Mchinji (Malawi) 06h00 18h00*
Luangwa (Mozambique) 06h00 18h00
Sesheke/Wenela (Namibia) 06h00 18h00
Mbala (Tanzania) 06h00 18h00
Nakonde (Tanzania) 06h00 18h00
Chirundu (Zimbabwe) 06h00 18h00
Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) 06h00 22h00
Kariba (Zimbabwe) 06h00 18h00
Kazungula Road (Zimbabwe) 06h00 18h00

*Open 24 hours for light motor vehicles

Driving into Zambia
When travelling by road to Zambia, you will need:
• Your passport - valid for the next 6 months at least, and with at least 2 empty pages.
• Your vehicle registration documents - with the driver's name on them. If you are not the owner of the vehicle, you will need to carry a letter of authority from the registered owner of the vehicle.
• Third party insurance, valid for 1 month, which you can get at the border post.
• You will need to obtain a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) at the border.
• Carbon tax certificate which you will need to purchase at the border.

There are a few buses that link Zambia to neighbouring countries. From Windhoek (Namibia), Intercape goes twice a week into Livingstone (Zambia), through Katima Mulilo (Sesheke border). From Zimbabwe, Intercape goes from Victoria Falls into Livingstone twice a week, and then on to Johannesburg. Between Lilongwe (Malawi) and Lusaka, Kobs Coach Service travels twice a week.

By Rail
The Tazara (Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority) offers a passenger train service that operates between Tanzania and Zambia. The Mukuba Express leaves every Tuesday New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia at 16h00 and the Kilimanjaro Express leaves Dar es Salaam at 15h50 on the same day. The complete journey takes about 2 days (46 hours), and costs about US$50. The ordinary trains leave every Friday afternoon at 13h50 and 14h00 from Dar es Salaam and New Kapiri Mposhi (about 200 kilometres from Lusaka), respectively. These trains take a much longer time (about 50 hours), and costs about US$40.

The trains are on high demand, so it is important to book your tickets at least 2 weeks in advance to avoid disappointment. Visit Tazara's website for detailed information, schedules and rates.

To complete a journey by rail onto Lusaka or Livingstone, there are local train services (information in the next section). However, be aware that the total journey could take 3 days at the most, and would involve waiting a few hours between train journeys.

Getting Around in Zambia

Road
Driving in Zambia is done on the left hand side of the road. About 10,000 kilometres of Zambia's roads are tarred, while gravel road makes up another 8,000 kilometres. When driving in Zambia, you must carry your drivers' license and vehicle documents with you at all times - it is very possible to encounter police road blocks along the way, and they will need to see your documents. Drivers' licenses from other SADC countries can be used, otherwise licenses from other countries are not valid for driving in Zambia - for this an International Drivers License is required.

Distance chart between Zambia's towns and cities

Distances between Zambia's towns and cities
Click to download the full chart

Mazhandu Bus Company offers daily service between Lusaka and Livingstone on luxury vehicles. Intercape also services this route twice a week.

Air
Between Livingstone and Lusaka, Proflight has affordable scheduled flights which run daily. Proflight also offers scheduled services between Mfuwe, Ndola, Solwezi, Chipata and Lower Zambezi. Chartered flights are usually expensive, but larger group bookings may end up giving you good value for your money. They can be arranged through Proflight's ProCharter Service.  There are other air charter companies such as Sky Trails, Corporate Air, Royal Air Charters, Staravia Air Charters, Ngwazi Air Charters.

Rail
The rail service in Zambia is, unfortunately, not well maintained. It is quite cheap, but expect the very basic of facilities, very long journeys, and make sure that you travel with your own food and water.

The table below shows the train service between Livingstone, Lusaka and Kitwe which is in the Copperbelt Province:

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
               

Zambezi Express

L'stone - Lusaka              
Departs L'stone   14h30   14h30     14h30
Arrives Lusaka 11h00   11h00   11h00    
               
Lusaka - L'stone              
Departs Lusaka 19h30   19h30   19h30    
Arrives L'stone   06h10   06h10   06h10  
               

Day Train

Kitwe-Lusaka-L'stone              
Departs Kitwe 20h00 20h00 20h00 20h00 20h00 20h00 20h00
Arrives Lusaka 07h35 07h35 07h35 07h35 07h35 07h35 07h35
Departs Lusaka 08h05 08h05 08h05 08h05 08h05 08h05 08h05
Arrives L'stone 18h00 18h00 18h00 18h00 18h00 18h00 18h00
               
L'stone-Lusaka-Kitwe              
Departs L'stone 09h00 09h00 09h00 09h00 09h00 09h00 09h00
Arrives Lusaka 20h10 20h10 20h10 20h10 20h10 20h10 20h10
Departs Lusaka 21h10 21h10 21h10 21h10 21h10 21h10 21h10
Arrives Kitwe 08h50 08h50 08h50 08h50 08h50 08h50 08h50
*L'stone = Livingstone

To find out more and make your bookings, contact the head office for Zambia Railways on +260 (0) 215223074.

If you want to travel overland but don't want the long wait, it is better to use the bus service, or better yet, self drive. Otherwise, for leisurely travel on a very tight budget, the train will do alright.


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