Transportation - Get In

By plane

Zambia's main international gateway is Lusaka airport, which has flights to

  • Addis Ababa and Harare with Ethiopia airlines.
  • Dubai with Emirates Airlines.
  • Nairobi and Harare with Kenya airways.
  • Johannesburg with South Africa airways.
  • Dar es Salaam with Fastjet,.
  • Kigali with RwandAir.
  • Gaborone with Air Botswana.
  • Windhoek and Harare with Air Nambia.
  • Luanda with TAAG Angola airlines.
  • Lilongwe and Blantyre with Malawi airlines.

For flights within Zambia ProFlight airlines goes to Livingstone, near spectacular Victoria Falls, and Mfuwe, near South Luangwa National Park, Kasama, Ndola, Kitwe, Solwezi, and Kufue National park,

Livingstone International Airport has direct flights to

  • Johannesburg with South African Airways, and British Airways.
  • Nairobi and Cape Town with Kenya airways.
  • Addis Ababa with Ethiopia airlines.

Ndola International Airport has direct flights to

  • Johannesburg with South African Airways.
  • Nairobi with Kenya airways,.
  • Addis Ababa with Ethiopian airlines.

Note that all Zambian airlines are banned from operating in EU airspace due to poor safety standards.

By train

TAZARA trains run between Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Tuesdays and fridays. According to the schedule, the trip takes 38 hours. a train ride between Dar es Salaam and Zambia is a beautiful way to see the countryside at a reasonable price ($30 for a first class sleeper and $25 for second).

Several important things to note about this trip, however:

  • Bring water.
  • Immigration officials stamp passports as soon as the train crosses the border — probably in the middle of the night. Naturally, this is also when thieves work. If you are riding in a first- or second-class cabin, be very careful when opening your door.
  • If you miss the immigration official, they will either: turn you around and send you back to the border; or, arrange for a stamp, pending payment of a "special tax."
  • Immediately upon crossing the border, the crew no longer accepts the currency of the country you just exited. In other words, if you are traveling from Lusaka to Dar es Salaam, the moment you cross the border, your Kwacha is no longer legal tender; you must use Shillings. It is, therefore, a good idea to exchange money before the journey — blackmarketeers along the railroad offer poor exchange rates.
  • Do not leave valuables near windows, especially at stops.
  • Normally the trains have restaurant cars in the middle of the train and in the end or a train saloon car with a bar. However, some stages of the journey, the restaurant and bar may have run out of stock.
  • Reservations are not always honoured; someone may be sleeping on your bed already if you came onboard in the middle of the journey.
  • In first class cabins, women and men can stay in same compartment, but in 2nd class they are female and male only.
  • Tazara (Tanzania Zambia railways) were built with Chinese help and labour in the 1970s. Wagons were brought from China, therefore they are of a high standard, however. maintenance has been lacking somewhat in the last couple of decades.
  • The last stop in Zambia is in the middle of nowhere, a small town named Kapiri Mposhi. Plenty of minibuses are eager to carry you to Lusaka, it's about a 2-3 hour trip. The first town that deserves that name on the way to Lusaka from Kapiri is Kabwe (it is rated among 5 most polluted place on earth due to mining!)

The 2nd class sleeper train fare from Kapiri Mposhi to the Tanzanian Border at Tunduma is 135 Kwacha. The journey is 883 km (549 miles).

Via Zimbabwe/Victoria Falls: trains in Zimbabwe run from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls. You can take a taxi or hike 13 km across the border at the Victoria Falls Bridge to Livingstone station in Zambia and catch a Zambia Railways train to Lusaka and the Copperbelt connecting with the Tazara railway in Kapiri Mposhi.

By car

Vehicles drive on the left side of the road in Zambia.

There are many ways to get into Zambia by car, but the most popular include:

  • through Livingstone (in the south) from Zimbabwe
  • via the Chirundu Bridge (in the south) from Zimbabwe
  • via the Kariba Dam (in the south) from Zimbabwe
  • through Chipata (in the east) from Malawi
  • through Chingola (in the Copperbelt) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • via the Katima Mulilo Bridge from Namibia
  • via the Kazungula Ferry from Botswana
  • through Tunduma and Nakonde from Tanzania

Crossing international borders by car will incur a tax, depending on the size of the vehicle. The process can also take awhile as you will have to pay at different booths or offices, often not conveniently located. For a standard sedan, you can expect to pay the following:

  • Carbon tax at K50, payable in kwachas only
  • Third Party Insurance at approximately US$46, payable in rands, US dollars, or kwachas
  • You will also pay a toll fee of US$10, payable in dollars as there are no Toll Gates on the road in Zambia. You can get a $5 road pass if you are only going to certain locations with in the country e.g. Kazungula to Livingstone
  • Kazungula Ferry charges based on vehicular size approximately $10, payable in Kwacha. There are black market traders on the ferries but their rates are bad.

Border crossings are not without corruption and you are particularly vulnerable when travelling by car. Try to avoid arriving early in the day to avoid having to choose between paying a bribe or spending the night in the car at the border post.

By International bus

there are many International bus routes from zambia. You can take a bus across the border into Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia. Immigration might be painstaking, considering the large number of people requiring simultaneous processing .

By boat

Zambia is landlocked but borders on Tanzania's Lake Tanganyika, and there are regular international ferry services across the lake a few times a week. The ship, M/S Liemba was built in Germany in 1914, cut in pieces, shipped to Tanzania, carried by train to Kigoma (Tanzania)and reassembled there again. It is a ship of Titanic era, sunk twice, charming ship with reasonable services. This trip should be taken if you are not short of time. Also, if you enter Zambia through Namibia's Caprivi Strip, you will have to cross the Zambezi River. You will have 2 options:

  1. You may ride on a ferry (for a dollar); or,
  2. You may hire a local boy with a dugout canoe to carry you across (for 50 cents).

Transportation - Get Around

Zambia is large and distances long, so budget plenty of time for getting around.

By plane

Domestic flights on Proflight connect Zambia's major cities and tourist destinations. While undoubtedly the fastest and most comfortable way of getting around, they are quite expensive with an hour-long flight (say, Lusaka-Mfuwe) typically costing around US$150 one-way. Also note that planes are small and schedules sparse, but if you can rustle up enough people you can also charter planes for not much more.

By minibus

Minibuses — meaning vans outfitted with seats — are popular, but they are often irregular, dangerous, and uncomfortable. To maximize profits, a "conductor" will squeeze as many paying customers — and their luggage, or katundu (ka-TOON-doo) — into the bus as possible; whether or not the customers are comfortable is irrelevant. In terms of meeting locals, however, this method is among the best, and it can provide a traveler with a truly "authentic" experience. Payment is made during the journey — banknotes are passed down the bus to the conductor at the front, and change comes back via the same route.

By bus

Larger, more sophisticated "luxury coaches" exist, too. These tend to be more reliable and safer; they depart on-time; they have dedicated space for guests and luggage; and tickets may be purchased in advance. Luxury coaches are much more comfortable and are virtually guaranteed to arrive, but they might seem "generic" to a seasoned traveler.

By car

Vehicles drive on the left side of the road in Zambia — at least most of the time.

Car rental agencies exist in Zambia, but the costs are potentially great. Not only are rental rates high ($100/day), but some of the main roads in Zambia are in very poorcondition. Potholes often take up the entire road, and during the rainy season, large sections of the roads wash away. As you move away from city centers (possibly only a kilometer or so away) you will encounter dirt roads. Although they might look solid, the dirt is often loose, and the chances of an accident are huge if you do not keep to a reasonable speed. Although you are not likely to get lost driving in Zambia (there are only a few roads), you are likely to underestimate the destructive power of these roads and damage a rental vehicle, or worse, yourself! 4WD vehicles are recommended at any time and necessary on dirt roads in the rainy season, although some roads will become completely impassable then.

Remember: there are no Roadside Assistance Packages, and very few ambulances, tow-trucks, or emergency vehicles of any kind in Zambia. Given the circumstances, bush mechanics can do an amazingly good job of patching up your vehicle, but patching up humans isn't so easy!

A nice 4x4 route in Zambia

For Adventurous Campers:

The South Luangwa tour:

Lusaka-Petauke-Malama-Mfuwe-Nsefu-Chipata-Lilongwe or Mpika

Very adventurous en scenic routes and campsites. Recommendable and for sure unforgettable.

Zambia is a big country (as big as France) and the public roads are pretty fair for a normal car. Sometimes there are deep potholes (holes in the road), but they are avoidable if you do not drive too fast. Most Zambians drive in a controlled way, sometimes a little too fast. Be especially aware for buses and trucks. They are wide and very long and drive far too fast. If you see a truck or bus approaching, then drive slower and keep left as left as you can. They tend to use your half of the road, pushing you off the road. If you want to see more of Zambia, you will need a good 4x4 four wheel drive car. Especially from December until early April at times rain falls and the roads are wet and muddy. Zambia is a wonderful country, lovely people, full of stunning nature and wildlife. The most well known parks in Zambia are Kafue (West of Lusaka) and South Luangwa (East of Lusaka). South Luangwa is known and acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful wildlife parks in all Africa. Most National Parks in Zambia, like South Luangwa National Parl (SLNP), can be visited with your private car. However, to enjoy this to the full, you will need a 4x4 car.

The South Luangwa National Park is surrounded by the so-called GMA’s (Game Management Areas). You will find only limited habitation and you will be able to see an abundance of wildlife, like, lions, leopards, elephants, girafs, etc. A recommendable tour is from Petauke to Malama, on to Mfuwe and to the Nsefu sector (or the other way around). This route can only be done with a well equipped 4x4 car. You will see and enjouy to the full, the true rural Africa, the local people and their villages and wildlife. From Lusaka you take the road to Chipata (Great Eastern Road) and from that road (well before Chipata) take the junction to Petauke. Once you drove through Petauke you will go off the tarred road on a very fair gravel road. After 60km on this road, you turn left followed by a 120km local rural road to Malama Chiefdom and Mfuwe. The road is really not too bad. On the way you will have to go over some steep hills, but you will manage. When you go under the electricity network cables (ZESCO Main Power Lines), you enter the Malama Chiefdom and will be only 15km away from the junction. This junction will lead (via the Malama Chief’s Palace) you either to the Lusangazi Gate of the National Park (left) or onwards direction Mfuwe (right). The junction is at a little village. If you are able and willing to do so: The people here and in the villages around the Chief’s Palace, are very friendly and helpful. Leave something for them. It will be highly appreciated because the local people are poor.

If you head for Mfuwe, you will find a campsite after 9km along the Luangwa River, called Malama Umoyo Camp. It is near (1,5km after) the scouts training center. This (basic) campsite is located at a stunning location overlooking the Luangwa River and a dry lagoon, most of the time filled with wildlife. Your hosts here are Menno en Virginie. From here it is also possible to make a daytrip to the National Park.

From Malama Umoyo Camp it is 42km (2,5 hours drive) to Mfuwe. Mfuwe is a local but bigger than normal village. In the Mfuwe area you will find a lot of lodges, but also a good campsite. Recommendable is Croc Valley Camp. If you arrive from Malama and hit the tarred road, you turn left after 3km and after a few hundred meters right off the tarred road on to a gravelled road. Signposts will lead you further to Croc Valley Camp. Your hosts at Croc Valley Camp are Shaun and Milly. From here it is only a 5 minute drive to the main gate of the South Luangwa National Park (SLNP). Entree fee for the SLNP is USD 25 per person per 24 hours and USD 35 for a private car entering the park. At 06:00 the park is open and for private cars it is open until 18:00 hours. From Mfuwe/Croc Valley Camp you can proceed to the Nsefu sector. Do not forget to fill your fuel tank in Mfuwe. You follow the tarred road to Chipata and the local airport and after about 12km from Mfuwe (the cropping it is called) you turn left (you will see a signpost and two palm trees). After about 12km you will reach the gate of the National Park. If you are going to camp, then tell at the gate that you are on your way to Zikomo camp. Zikomo Camp is just outside the borders of the park. Right after the gate you turn left and follow the road (about 4 to 5 km) to Zikomo Camp. Your host at the camp is Demian Wallace. The Nsefu sector is part of the SNLP and considered by many as the most beautiful part of the park. After visiting Mfuwe, you can then return to Chipata (about 2 hours drive). Chipata is the capital of the Eastern Province and a good place to buy supplies and refuel. There are two supermarkets and lots of shops. Opposite Total fuel station you can find Afroc. Here you can refill camping gaz. From Chipata it is a 20 minutes drive to the Malawi border. Crossing the border will take about half an hour. When entering Malawi, you have to fill in a TIP form for your car and pay Malawi Kwacha 5,000. This will allow your car in Malwai for 30 days. Do not forget to insure your car for Malawi, because they check on it frequently. Just after the border there is an insurance company. Try to get Malawi Kwachas before you enter the border post because they only accept Malawi Kwachas and not US dollars or any other currency. At the border there are many money changers. Tip: Take one US 100 note in your hand, put away your wallet, and change this for 100 x 180 Malawi kwacha. Be careful. These guys are quick and often give you less than they say. So you get MKW 18,000 for USD 100. You should a least get a 15% better rate than the official bank rate. If you passed the border it will be another 125km over a good tarred road to Lilongwe. Watch your speed, especially where it says you have to drive 50km.

Alternative route:

From Mfuwe there is the possibility to go right through the park to the North. This is a really adventurous road. Do NOT drive this road when it is wet/raining! When you passed the northern gate, you will reach the escarpment and you have to drive up a very steep road. It can be done by good 4x4 drivers, but do it slowly. Once out of the Luangwa valley you will have a stunning view over the valley. You then can proceed to Mpika. In Mpika you can camp and get new supplies and fuel. From Mpika you can visit Kasanka NP (in November you will be able to see the daily migrations of millions of bats) or you can go up north. Recommended is to visit Shiwa Ngandu. A beautiful mansion built by an eccentric British gentleman (Stewart Gore Brown) a 100 years ago in the middle of nowhere. Camping you can near the hot water springs. The water is lovely and relaxing for at least a half hour dip. Mark Harvey and his wife are your hosts here. From here you can proceed for example to Tanzania (to Ruaha NP, also a place not to miss).

PS. When visiting Mfuwe, and you prefer a lodge for a good sleep, dinner and a warm shower: Thornicroft Lodge en Croc Valley are both recommendable (good value for money).

By train

You can catch TAZARA line trains between New Kapiri Mposhi and Nakonde Tanzania border. The separate Zambia Railways line Livingstone and Kitwe via Lusaka and Kapiri Mposhi (2 km from the TAZARA station). They are relatively reliable and safe, but slow. You might still consider them for the views and sense of adventure they provide, though.

By thumb

Hitchhiking in Zambia is popular, although it can be extremely hit-or-miss as traffic density is low. Also note that, if picked up by a local, you will be expected to pay for the ride. Nevertheless, hitchhiking does not carry with it the same stigma in Zambia as it does in the States; you are unlikely to be harmed, and you might make a great connection.

In Zambia, travelers do not "thumb" a ride. The proper method for flagging transportation is:

  1. Pile your luggage near the road.
  2. Sit in the shade.
  3. When you see/hear a vehicle, jump up.
  4. Rush to your luggage.
  5. From your shoulder, wave your entire arm up and down, palm open and facing the ground, as though you are fanning someone in front of you.
  6. Hope the vehicle stops.

By taxi

In the south the use of private taxi's or cabs is easy enough. Cabs are a distinctive light blue, though not all have a taxi sign on top. Most drivers will negotiate a rate and are quite happy to drive between cities and often cross in Zimbabwe from Livingstone.

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Zambia - Travel guide