About the size of France or Texas, Zambia is a sparsely populated, landlocked country whose vast plateau of deciduous savannah and grassy plains contains some of the continent’s best wildlife parks. It is often referred to as the “real Africa” and is also regarded as the birthplace of the walking safari. The country’s most striking geographical features are spectacular Victoria Falls (along the border with Zimbabwe) and the headwaters of the mighty Zambezi, Africa’s fourth-longest river.
Known in colonial days as Northern Rhodesia, Zambia gained its independence from Great Britain in 1964. National politics in subsequent years have been marked by long periods of one-party rule and frequent allegations of electoral improprieties, but the country has maintained its status as a democratic republic, ruled by an elected president and a unicameral national assembly. The capital city is Lusaka.
The official language of Zambia is English. Dozens of Bantu languages and dialects are also in common use; chief among these is Bembe, spoken by one third of the population.
Zambia’s predominantly rural population of 15 million includes more than 70 tribal groups, each with its unique traditions and customs. The majority group is the Bemba, making up 21 percent of the population. Religious affiliation is about 95 percent Christian.
The staple of traditional Zambian cuisine is maize (locally known as nshima), which is served porridge-style and, for lunch and dinner, rolled into a ball and dipped in a savory vegetable, meat, or fish stew. However, on safari, guests enjoy a wide diversity of locally grown salads, vegetables, fruits, local fish, poultry, and beef . African lager-style beers are widely enjoyed along with fine wines from South Africa.
The best time to visit is from May through October. Zambia has three distinct seasons: from December to April it is warm and wet; from May to August it is cool and dry with temperatures in the mid-70s F; and from September to November, it is hot and dry, with temperatures reaching the high 90s F.
U.S. citizens: Passports and visas are required and must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the dates of travel; importantly, passports must contain at least two clean (unstamped) visa pages at the time entry is sought. A single-entry visa only may be obtained at the port of entry for $50. For the most up-to-date visa information, and for non-U.S. citizens, see the Embassy of Zambia website:
Zambia uses the kwacha (abbreviated as ZMW). For the most up-to-date exchange rates, see www.oanda.com.
Foreign currency (preferably USD) can be exchanged at banks, exchange offices, and authorized hotels. ATM machines and credit cards can be used only in larger towns, cities, and some lodgings. If using USD, be sure to carry only bills issued 2006 or later; older bills will not be accepted. Departure taxes can be paid in USD or local currency.
No immunizations are required to enter Zambia, with the important exception that proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for all travelers traveling from, or transiting through, a country with YFV transmission. Be sure to check the requirements of any countries you may be traveling to or through after your time in Zambia. This may be especially important if traveling to or through South Africa.
Malaria medication, hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations are also generally recommended for all travelers. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: www.cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.
Alternating current of 220V/230V and 50Hz is used in Zambia. The typical plug is the UK 3-pin.
Zambia country code: +260
International access code calling out of Zambia: 00
- Cell-phone coverage throughout Zambia is growing but cannot be guaranteed at all times, especially in remote areas.
- Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages, but less reliable elsewhere, especially in parks and reserves.
For more information about Zambia, see the national tourism board website: www.zambiatourism.com.