Zambia Basics

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The Basics


Time: Local time in Zambia is GMT +2.

Electricity: Electrical current in Zambia is 230 volts, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs, as well as two- and three-pin round plugs are in use.

Money: 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.

Currency Exchange Rates

ZMW1.00 = USD 0.08GBP 0.06CAD 0.10AUD 0.11ZAR 1.10EUR 0.07NZD 0.12
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: 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.

Entry requirements for Americans: 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.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: 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.

Entry requirements for Canadians: 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.

Entry requirements for Australians: 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.

Entry requirements for South Africans: 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.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: 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.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: 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.

Passport/Visa Note: A return ticket or proof of onward travel, all documents for next destination and proof of sufficient funds is required for all travellers. Visas issued on arrival vary in fee according to amount of entries and nationality. Passports must have at least three blank visa pages. 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.

Travel Health: Typhoid, polio, rabies and hepatitis A vaccinations should be considered for travel to Zambia. Malaria is endemic in Zambia (prophylaxis is essential), and outbreaks of cholera and dysentery are common especially during the rainy season. Yellow fever is a risk in the northwest and western provinces. 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. The country also has one of the highest rates of HIV/Aids infection worldwide. Visitors should avoid swimming or wading in bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, ponds, streams, or rivers due to the presence of bilharzia. 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 therefore 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.

Tipping: Tipping in Zambia is usually about 10 percent. A 10 percent service charge is usually included in bills.

Safety Information: Though package tours in Zambia are generally safe and most visits are trouble-free, visitors should be aware that car hijackings and armed robberies are increasing. Mugging, bag-snatching and theft from parked cars is common in urban areas. Political rallies, demonstrations, and large gatherings have the potential for violence and should be avoided. Travellers should be vigilant and avoid displaying valuables. They should also avoid the border areas where Zambia meets Angola and the DRC; cross-border raids are frequent and landmines are a potential danger. Many roads can become impassable in the rainy season (November to April). Travellers should be aware that overstaying a visa is a serious offence and may result in arrest and imprisonment.

Local Customs: 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 practise of 'getting to the point' is not practised 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.

Business: According to the World Bank, doing business in Zambia is less difficult than in many other African countries, but it is a very poor country and the lack of infrastructure can be a challenge. Bribery and corruption can also be a problem. Business meetings are formal but seldom punctual; a suit and tie are appropriate attire despite the heat. Office hours in Zambia 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 making these office hours a mere guideline.

Communications: 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). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)1 for Lusaka. Connections tend to be bad, particularly outside of Lusaka. Wifi is limited to top hotels and restaurants, and free international calls can be made using the internet.

Duty Free: 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 US$ 1,000. Prohibited items include narcotics, pornography and explosive materials, and restrictions are applied to live animals, medication and hunting weapons.