Zambia, like a rough diamond in a row of perfectly cut diamonds, is the real, rough, wild, animal Africa.
Here are not only some of the best national parks on the whole continent – unique wildlife sanctuaries, but also the main attractions of this region: Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba, Zambezi Park.
This country is also every fisherman’s dream: thousands of fishing enthusiasts from all over the world flock to the mighty Zambezi River every year to try their luck in search of the toothy African tiger fish or the rare giant wundu catfish.
Vigorous bird watchers also flock to Zambia to catch an incredible variety of birds in their camera sights, the most coveted prey being the African warthog.
For independent travelers, Zambia can be a problematic country: the distances between the main cities and attractions are quite long, and to get around by car, or (even more so) by public transport, you will have to be patient.
A must-see is Lusaka (because you will 99% fly there) and Livingstone – the real Africa, so rare among the increasingly developing and Western-oriented countries of the continent.
The capital is Lusaka.
Visa to Zambia
To visit the country tourists need a visa to Zambia, which can be obtained at the consulate or at the border crossing. Medical insurance to Africa is not obligatory when applying for a visa, but going to the country without it is at least unwise.
Zambia's main borders are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., except for the border post near Victoria Falls, which closes at 8 p.m., and Chirundu, which closes at 7 p.m.
The importation of foreign currency is not restricted, but a declaration is obligatory. Export of imported foreign currency is not limited. The following items may be brought duty free: 200 cigarettes or 450g of tobacco, 1 uncorked bottle of spirits, and foodstuffs within the limits of personal needs.
Firearms and narcotics may not be brought in.
You may not take out raw gems and ornamental stones (emerald, aquamarine, tourmaline, malachite, amethyst), ivory items (maximum – 1 item, which requires a permit from the authorities), wild animal skins, souvenir coins (only with a bill from specially authorized stores).
In general Zambia is a very safe country, although in cities and tourist areas there is always a chance of becoming a victim of robbers or crooks. To reduce the risk you can not forget about reasonable precautions: leave your passport and large sums of money in the hotel safe, for example.
In addition, you should not drink tap water, have sex without a condom, wear sleeveless shirts under the blazing sun, or leave windows open at night – there is a risk of being bitten by a malarial mosquito. It is worth taking anti-malarial pills and getting a yellow fever vaccination.
Hotels in Zambia
There is no official certification of hotels in the country, all stars were assigned personally by hoteliers or tour operators. So it is worthwhile to read hotel reviews before you book. There are 4-5* hotels only in Lusaka and Livingstone, as well as in the national parks. But outside the big cities or popular tourist areas tourists have little to choose from, so the price per night compared to the capital may increase several times.
Banks, exchange offices and tips
The country’s currency unit is the Zambian Kwacha (ZMK). 1 Zambian Kwacha has 100 NgV. Current exchange rate: 1 USD = 22.62 ZMW, 1 EUR = 26.8 ZMW
The country has a high inflation rate; some prices are quoted in kwacha and U.S. dollars. In major cities, cash and travellers cheques can be exchanged at Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered Bank branches. Large branches have ATMs that accept Visa cards. Currency exchange offices-often called bureau de changex-are easy to find in all major cities.
Zambia has three seasons: the dry season (from mid-April to August), when the temperature drops a lot at night, but the landscape is very green and lush; the hot season (from September to mid-November), the best time to enjoy the wildlife, as the flora is stunted and not impeded by the naked eye; and the rainy season (from mid-November to mid-April), the ideal period for bird watching in natural habitat. See also the current 10-day weather forecast for Zambia’s capital city.
The main domestic airports are in Lusaka, Livingstone, Ndola, Kitwe, Mfuwe, Kasama, and Kasaba Bay, with dozens more minor airstrips scattered throughout the country and serving charter flights. Regular domestic flights are operated by Proflight Air Services and the occasional South African Airlink. Tickets can be ordered through any travel agent in Zambia.
Trains run between Lusaka and Kitwe via Kapiri Mposhi and Ndola, and there are “express trains” between Lusaka and Livingstone. On the “express” there are different classes: compartment for two people; 1st class (compartment for four passengers), 2nd (or standard) class – compartment for six people, 3rd class (economy) – sitting car. On a normal train between Lusaka and Kitwe, standard class is the only class – meaning only seating.
The distances in the country are long, buses are often late, and roads are potholed, so traveling around Zambia by bus or minibus can exhaust even the most hardy traveler.
All major routes around the country are served by regular buses that pick up passengers on the road, “fill and go,” or depart at precisely specified times. Express buses are faster, stop less frequently, but cost about 15% more.
In addition, there are private companies operating comfortable European-class express buses on the most popular routes. For many destinations, there are minibuses that leave only when full of passengers. In remote areas the only public transportation is often a truck or pickup.
You can rent a car from both international and Zambian companies in Lusaka, Livingstone, Kitwe, and Ndola, but rentals are expensive. For example, Voyagers/Imperial Car Rental offers from 51 USD the smallest car, plus 0.38 USD per kilometer (slightly cheaper if renting for a long time).
Other companies, such as 4×4 Hire Africa offer an older LandRover Discovery, fully equipped, from 120 USD per day. A car with a driver will cost an additional 100 USD per day. Prices on the page are for November 2019.
Most companies insist that drivers must be at least 23 years old and have at least 5 years of driving experience.
Road quality is generally not bad, the main sections of the tracks are comfortable, but impressive potholes can be encountered there as well. Gravel roads are also of acceptable quality, but they also suffer from potholes. It is best to travel around the country in 4WD jeeps.
Tanzania: The Tazara Railway Company sends several trains a week from Kapiri Mposhi (207 km north of Lusaka) to Dar es Salaam. The express train (42-45 hours in transit) leaves Kapiri-Mposhi at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday, while the “interstate train” (50-52 hours in transit) leaves town at noon on Friday.
The fare on both trains is 64/52/33 USD in 1st/2nd/3rd class (1st and 2nd classes are compartments). A 50% discount is available with your student card. There is also a bus to Dar es Salaam from Lusaka (35 USD, 24 hours) several times a week, but the schedule is very unreliable.
Vigorous bird-lovers tend to go to Zambia to catch the incredible diversity of birds in the camera scope, but the laws of this country strictly prohibit photographing members of the Pygmy tribe.
Botswana: You can get from Livingstone to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where you can catch a bus to Kasane. From the Lusaka bus station (address: Dedan Kimathi Rd) there are Sibelo express buses to Gaborone (70 USD, 22 hours), via Kasane and Francistown, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Namibia: One bus and several shuttles leave from Livingston to Sesheke (7 USD, six hours) every day. Some flights go farther to the pontoon (5 km, car ferry).
Ferries depart from the pontoon with motorcycles, cars or four-wheel-drive jeeps for 10, 20 or 30 USD respectively, passengers travel free. If the pontoon is out of service, passengers pay approximately 2 USD to get to the other shore by canoe.
Shopping and Shops in Zambia
Owners of stores say that they have fixed prices and bargaining is not appropriate, which, however, does not always correspond to reality (trying – not torture). Haggling is safe in souvenir shops, with cab drivers.
In addition, Zambians have a nice custom of “embaseila” – a small gift to anyone who buys a few products in one shop.
Cuisine and restaurants
Traditional Zambian cuisine revolves around a single staple, corn, served in one form, nsima (nshi-i-imah). Nsima is like thick oatmeal rolled into balls and added to the stew, relishes. Relishes come in the form of beef, chicken, or fish.
Beans, tiny dried fish (kapenta), peanuts, pumpkin leaves (chibwabwa), and other vegetables such as okra (ndelele), cabbage are also added to nshima. Local restaurants offer nshima and relishes less.
Of course, in Zambia you can also taste Western cuisine, especially in the main cities, Lusaka or Livingstone. This includes fast food, pizza, chicken. Ethnic eateries are also popular, for example in Lusaka.
A few words about hygiene: outside of the main cities it is unlikely to find a cafe with a normal toilet with running water.
As a rule, tourists there are served a bowl of water, a bar of soap and a wet towel. Some prefer to carry small bottles of water and antibacterial gel with them.
A peculiar attraction is the Kuombok ceremony: the chief of the Lozi tribe solemnly crosses the Zambezi with his entourage and follows them to his summer palace.
The action takes place in April, in Mongu.
Drinks are traditional: juices, mineral water, Coca-Cola, but the latter is sold mostly in glass containers, which must be returned.
The most popular beer in Zambia is Mosi, a light 4% lager available everywhere. Eagle (5.5%), Zambezi Lager, and Castle from South Africa are also known. All of these can be found for about 1 USD in a store or 1-2 USD in a bar.
Close to the border you can find good Carlsberg from Malawi, Simba (excellent, from the Democratic Republic of Congo), Kilimanjaro (lager from Tanzania) and Tusker (Kenya).
Zambia’s attractions and attractions
The best thing to see in Zambia is of course the legendary Victoria Falls: huge, frightening, noisy, 120 m high and almost 2 km wide. It is located near the border with Zimbabwe, so you can enjoy the views of falling water equally from the two countries.
However, Zimbabwe, as well as Zambia, offers amazing views and crowds of people with cameras at their heels.
The best place to watch is Knife Edge Point, accessed by a thin but safe footbridge. Other popular activities include helicopter rides, paragliding, rafting, canoeing and even bungee-jumping from the Victoria Falls Bridge. (111 m high).
There is another noteworthy waterfall in Zambia, which for some reason everyone forgets, despite the assurance of the experienced that the views there are just as good. These are Ngonje Falls, located 300 km downstream of the Zambezi River. Nearby is the Sioma Ngwezi National Park.
It is also worth visiting the popular resort of Siavonga, which is located on Lake Kariba (100 km from the capital). In addition, when flying to Lusaka, it’s a sin not to go to the wonderful forest of fossils Chirundu located under the nose (40 km to the north). Here you can see the rarest prints of 150 million-year-old trees.
A few words about the capital itself. Lusaka is not the most interesting city on the African continent, but you can easily spend a couple of days here. Strolling through the bustling bazaars, browsing the cute art galleries, and enjoying the measured and colorful life of Zambians.
But, of course, the country’s riches are hidden in its sweltering national parks.
Zambia’s National Parks
There are about 20 national parks in Zambia, the most popular being Kafue, Sioma Ngwezi, North and South Luangwa. One of the most visited is South Luangwa, which is relatively close to the capital, only 250 km to the northeast.
The diverse local flora consists of dense woodlands, grassy plains, and water lagoons. Lions, buffalo, zebras and giraffes of Tornycroft are found, as well as elephants, because this park is home to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa. You can also see leopards and birds.
The park is closed during the rainy season, from December to April.
In Kafue National Park, 200 km west of the capital, on hundreds of square kilometers of forest, shoals and sandbanks of the river of the same name with the park, you can see lions, leopards, elephants, antelopes, zebras and even the rarest yellow duiker (South African antelope).
From March to May, the land of the reserve floods, and then Kafue turns into a giant swamp, a breeding ground for thousands of hippos and millions of birds.
Finally, it is worth highlighting another reserve, popular among bird lovers, is Lake Itezhi-Tezhi (Itezhi-Tezhi). There are herons, ducks, and other waterfowl, which stand here nesting and raising their chicks.