Zambia

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Far more stable than most of the countries surrounding it, Zambia has been described as a ‘diamond in the rough’. This landlocked nation in south-central Africa is known for its copper exports, adventure, safari tourism and the Victoria Falls.

Background

Known as Northern Rhodesia under British rule, Zambia was formed after the country gained independence in 1964. A drought, economic mismanagement and a drop in copper prices brought economic woes to the country during the 1980s and 1990s. The late ’90s saw economic improvement as a newly privatised mining sector started attracting foreign investment, and industries such as agriculture and tourism received greater governmental support. Michael Sata, known as something of a firebrand, won the presidential elections in September 2011.

Important Cities

Lusaka is the capital and largest city, located on the southern part of the central plateau.  It’s also the commercial centre and seat of government. The mining centres of Ndola and Kitwe are also significant business centres, with their own airports, whilst Livingstone is a tourist hub and an access point to the Victoria Falls.

Climate

Zambia has three distinct seasons. December to April is hot and wet, mid-April to August is cool and dry, and September to mid-November is hot and dry.

Visas

Passport holders from the following African countries do not require visas to enter Zambia – Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Business travellers can obtain a visa at the port of entry, but must produce an invitation letter from the inviting party in Zambia. Business visits by a single individual cannot exceed 30 days in a 12-month period.

Connectivity

Zambia’s cell phone network coverage is expanding, but can be unreliable in rural areas. Internet connectivity is still relatively expensive, and while Internet cafes are easily found in Lusaka and Livingstone, access is often limited outside the main urban centres.

Travel Tips

Visitors are advised to purchase full travel insurance, including cover for medical evacuation by air. Zambia is relatively safe and its people friendly, but visitors should be vigilant and avoid walking around in urban areas at night. Travelling at night can be hazardous due to unmarked roads and wild animals. Use only reputable banks and bureaux de change to exchange forex, as counterfeit notes are a problem.

Getting Around

The vast majority of Zambia’s roads are not tarred, and gravel or dirt roads are often in poor condition. After rain, these roads are only passable with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Car rental is available in Lusaka and Ndola, but most cars come with a chauffeur – making rental fairly expensive. Driving is on the left-hand side. Local traffic conditions are often chaotic and short-term visitors are advised to make use of taxis. The Zambezi Express is a reliable train that runs from Livingstone to Lusaka several times weekly.

Health

Vaccinations for polio, typhoid, rabies and Hepatitis A are recommended, as are Malaria prophylaxis. Insect repellent is also important to prevent being bitten by tsetse flies, which spread African sleeping sickness. Zambia has a high rate of HIV infection. Don’t swim or wade in bodies of fresh water, due to bilharzia. Avoid food from street vendors and ensure drinking water is bought in sealed bottles.

Contacts

Websites – zambiatourism.com and zambia-travel-guide.com.

Fact File

Population: 14 million
Time zone: GMT+2
Plugs: Two and three-prong round, as well as three-prong rectangular
Dialling code: +260 + area code + number required
Currency: Zambian kwacha and US dollars – $1=5088ZMK
GDP growth rate (2010): 7.6 %
Language: English, as well as over 70 local dialects – Bemba, Lozi, Tonga and Nyanja are the most widely spoken.

Jacqueline Cochrane

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