ZAMBIA. Tips for independent travellers.

We visited Zambia in January 2015, during a complete trip,
8 months, around Southern and Eastern Africa.

    ZAMBIA  AT  A  GLANCE    

Zambia is a big country. People are nice. Travelling there is safe

Don´t worry, even if your are travelling through Zambia on a budget or like independent and low-cost traveller, the country is OK, you will manage. But it´s not the easiest and cheapest country we visited. What a shame!

Easy to move around towns, there are good buses for long distances but quite expensive (3 €/h). The problem is that local short transport is limited and taxis are not that cheap.
You will also find quite cheap (5-6 €/pp camping, double for a dorm, more for a room) and nice accommodation, but limited to a few places. And quite often spread out, in the "wild", not always very central or near a bus station (you will need a taxi).
All this will probably limit your destinations choice in Zambia, specially if you are on a long route across Africa.

Election period in Zambia. Relaxing on the river, the Vic falls behind

Zambia is still not very developped as a tourist destination (except Vic Falls area), and it´s a good place to see everyday´s Africa life, still quite rural.
As we visited Zambia in a complete southern and eastern Africa trip, we just visited a few places on route between Zimbabwe and Malawi. And after seeing wild life in southern Africa, we didn´t visit any game parks in Zambia. So our trip was quite limited.


   WEATHER IN ZAMBIA   

November to April is the rainy season. Specially heavy in January-february. It´s the low season, few travellers, some camps can be closed if visiting the parks. Maybe not the best time if going to remote places.
Keep in mind that Victoria Falls are quite dry November and December and with too much water from March to May.
In January, we had some rain but also sunny days.


   MOVING AROUND ZAMBIA   

ROADS IN ZAMBIA

Main roads in Zambia are tarred and in quite good conditions. 

The Great East Road is being renew (Harare-Chipata).

We saw advertisements with “toll roads” coming soon.

Petrol prices: 6.6 K/l (0.85 €) diesel and 7.6 K/l (1 €) for unleaded. Cheaper than in Zimbabwe.


Entering Zambia by car you have to pay a tax fee (quite expensive, depending of country, vehicle).
You don´t really need a 4WD to cross Zambia, except if going to the national parks.

Rent a car in Zambia:
Quite limited to Lusaka and Livinsgtone and expensive. Expect to pay around 100 €/day for a small car. Not popular in Zambia for travellers, but you can try with RENTALCARS to check the prices.


PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN ZAMBIA

  • Buses in Zambia:
Long distance buses:
Different companies on the main roads (north, northwest, south, east), departures are usually in the morning (mainly from 5:00 til 10:00), Lusaka being the central transport hub. 

Big coaches in Zambia, quite modern. They drive quite speedy (in average, expect 80 km/h or more, but stops on the way).

Bus prices are quite expensive (3€/h in average). Around 20 € for example Lusaka - Livingstone (480 km)!


Post buses (a bit cheaper) connect Lusaka and the northwest and north, but booking in advance and early departure only and not everyday. So not so convenient for the travellers.


Also international buses: South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe.
 This for example the Intercape company route (one of the biggest companies from South Africa), there are many more:





Local transport: very limited in the big towns, not too many minibuses or vans routes. Around 4 K (0.5 €) for a short distance. That´s why many people walk, even in Lusaka.
Bicycle - taxis in Chipata
Many taxis, quite expensive. You find them everywhere, everyone who has a car is a potential “taxi”. Minimum 15 K (2 €) for a short ride, 30-40-50 K (5 €) for 4-5 km! Many times, it´s the only option to reach the camps and lodges.

We saw bicycle-taxis in Zambia, more around rural towns. You just seat on the back of the bicycle! Hard job. There are cheap but just for short distances! 

No moto-taxis or tuc-tucs yet. Maybe soon.

  • Trains in Zambia:
Livingstone - Lusaka - Kilwe line: it´s working, yes and there´s a new train, Golden Jubilee Express
Read Livingstone chapter for more information. 

Economy and sleeper class,Golden Jubilee train

Tazara train (Tanzania - Zambia): Not always in service. In January 2015 it was not working, at least during a few days, when we asked.Then back in operation quite quick.
Almost 1.900 km and a 2 days trip, from Dar Es Salam to Kapiri Mposhi (200 km north of Lusaka, on the Kilwe line, buses connect with the capital city).
Good news: now complete information, with schedules, prices, in the website: www.tazarasite.com
Express and ordinary trains (cheaper but more stops). From 1st to 3rd class. Sleeper is the best for that long trip. Prices in Tanzania shillings or Zambia Kwachas (now much cheaper to travel from Zambia cause currency is down). Around 30-50 $ trip.
Departure Express from Dar Es Salaam tuesday 15:50, arrival at Kapiri Moshi thursday 14:00.
Same in the other direction.
Ordinary trains leave Dar and Kapiri on fridays.
 Note: if sleeping class, usually 4 beds in 1st class and 6 beds in 2nd class. If 2 travellers man-woman travel together it´s not possible to share with other people and you will have to book and pay all the compartiment.

Note: Kapiri Moshi is on this Livingstone-Lusaka-Kilwe line and from there you can connect via Tazara with Dar Es Salaam, but not very convenient as not daily trains... Better to get to Kapiri Moshi to connect with Tazara by bus from Lusaka.
  • Flights in Zambia:
There are 2 international airports, Livingstone and Lusaka.  
Some low-cost companies from South Africa have started flights to Zambia, so check their websites (you can find the companies in our South Africa transport post).
Usually convenient connections with Middle East. 
Check with Skyscanner.
   HOW TO FIND AFFORDABLE ACCOMODATION IN ZAMBIA   

There are a few places or towns where you find backpackers lodges and camps in Zambia, quite affordable.  
Lusaka and Livingstone is where the offer is bigger, a few options too outside South Luanga National Park. In other tourist spots like Chipata or Lower Zambezi area, Kariba Lake (Siavonga)  or Tanganika Lake (Mpulungu) you still find some cheap camps/lodges, but the options will be fewer.

With "Pablo" in Livingstone Backpackers
Tip for planning a budget trip in Zambia:  
BRING A TENT and CAMP!
You will save money, it´s half price than a bed in a dormitory (5-10 $/pp/camp).
Most of the lodges have a small campsite. Inside the national parks it´s very commun.

The quality of accommodation is fine. 
Usually they have hot shower, toilet paper, kitchen, even pool.
In Livingstone and Lusaka, free wifi. More limited in other places.
The owners are often foreigners.


Not so many tourists in Zambia, except Livingstone, and high season (june-august).
In low season, you can get good discounts (maybe get a room for the price of camping... this happened to us in Chipata).
It´s hard to find local and popular guesthouses, and if they exist (we saw a few just in Chipata) they are not always the best places for travellers, many are "love hotels". Not recommended.

Prices for a budget accommodation in Zambia:
- Camping : 5 - 10 $ (double price inside or around some game parks).
- Dorm: 10 - 15 $/pp , depending on how many beds/room.
- Double Room : from 40 $

Couchsurfing in Zambia:

In Lusaka, the capital city, and maybe around the Copper Belt (mines... big towns with expats... but not really a tourist destination) is where you find a limited active community. Not too many people in other places.
Many foreigners.
We did couchsurfing in Lusaka with a indian guy and it was nice. Thanks!


   MONEY IN ZAMBIA   

Zambia adopted the “new” Kwacha like currency in 2013 (now, 000 less).
Only supermarkets use cents coins.
You will find banks and ATMs in the main towns. Easy! No extra commission.
Payment by card is not always avalaible, but in some supermarkets and lodges it´s maybe possible. Bring always cash.
In January 2015, the exchange rate was 1 €: 7.69 Kwachas


   TELECOMS IN ZAMBIA   

Buying a SIM card is easy in Zambia and cheap (5 K, less than 1 €), 3 G net in the main towns. Airtel and MTN are the main companies. You have to register but an id document is enough to do it. Easy to find airtime everywhere (2 K minimum).
Not to many wifi spots, out of Lusaka and Livingstone. A few internet shops, quite expensive.

   FOOD IN ZAMBIA   

Similar to the other southern Africa countries. The main dish is always “nshima” (pap in South Africa, “sadza” in Zimbabwe), a maize dish.
There are big supermarkets, most are South African brands (Shoprite, Spar and Pick´n Pay mainly), in the main towns.
In the main rural towns, there a small supermarkets and shops.
You always find cheap street markets, with fruits, vegetables and small snacks. Hard to find "street food". And not many restaurants, just a few franchises around the supermarkets and same small stalls near the bus stations.

 Big difference between Lusaka and the towns


Everything is more expensive than in South Africa: 10 R in South Africa is here 10 K, and the rate is 1:2!
Most of the important supermarkets and many small shops sell “prepared take away food” ( in average, 15-20 K for a dish). 
We usually cooked, just by your own food, supermarkets are well supplied. Most of the backpackers have kitchen or BBQ facilities.


Water is safe to drink in same places, but always ask, specially during the rainy season.
Wines come from South Africa (much more expensive). Mosi is the local beer, sold in the supermarkets, quite expensive, around 7 K/33cl (1 € for a small bottle).
Also local alcoholic drinks, Chibuku (2 l bottle) and shake shake, cheap.


   NATIONAL PARKS IN ZAMBIA   

Game parks fees are quite cheap in Zambia, not as cheap than in other Southern Africa countries (Botswana, Namibia, even South Africa) but cheaper than in Eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania). And not so many visitors, good point, and wildlife is important.

Entrance fees are usually 25 $/pp (tours) and 30 $/pp if independent self-drive + a car fee (15 $ for a foreign car).
If booking a complete safari (transport, accommodation, food, fees, etc.) the price is usually around 150 $/pp/day.
A game drive (transport, 3 h inside a park) should be around 40-50 $
Walking safaris: Zambia was famous and pionner for this kind of safaris. But now, offered in many countries (we saw them in Kruger, Etosha, Imfolozi, etc.). Expect similar prices than joining a drive, around 40-50 $.

Zambia Wildlife Authority has the managment but they don´t have a website. You can find some information on: www.zambiatourism.com and the complete list of fees are here.
We didn´t visited any. See more information on the website www.wildlifezambia.com


South Luangwa is the most famous game park in Zambia and the good thing is that there´s public transport to get close, from Chipata. Then you will need a game drive inside. Famous for its wildlife.
Also Lower Zambezi is popular. It´s easy to get to Chirundu from Lusaka and reach a few camps by taxi but the park itself is still quite far... and you will need a tour (drive, kayak outside).
Also Kafue, North Luangwa. But access will be harder and the camps offer is more limited (maybe hard to find cheap).
Mosi Oa Tunya (near Livingstone and Victoria Falls) has limited wild life.


   LANGUAGES IN ZAMBIA    

English is widely spoken, but not everyone can speak a good English or has a good understanding, but usually communication is not a problem.
The main languages are tonga, bemba, lozi and nyanja. Diverse Africa!

   SAFETY AND HEALTH IN ZAMBIA   

We always felt safe in Zambia
Towns get empty when dark, so avoid going out at that time.
Always be careful around crowded bus stations.

Most of Zambia is getting safer with malaria free zones. No problems in higher places like Lusaka, Chipata, etc. and Livingstone. Take more preventions if going to low places, remote areas, like Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa, etc.. Just ask the local people around about the situation.

Repellents a sold at the supermarkets, South African brands, like “Sleep Well” or “Tabard”, double price than in South Africa but still cheap (around 30-50 K, 2-3 €). Also mosquito coils.
Usually mosquito nets in the rooms.

Malaria controls are quickly done at the health centers, easy to get the medicine.
We didn´t see big hospitals, just private clinics and community health centers.
Water is most of the times safe to drink, but ask, specially during rainy season.
Supermarkets are modern and clean.
Big AIDS rate.

2 comentarios :

The MataMoskas dijo...

fotos muy guapas que me traen grandes recuerdos. Echale un vistazo tb a mi blog http://www.blogmatamoskas.wordpress.com

Sonia y Ainara dijo...

Gran viajero Matamoskas... Nos gusta compartir!

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