Zambia Travel Advice
Best Time to Visit Zambia
Zambia’s weather can be divided into three seasons– cool and dry from May to August, hot and dry from September to November, and warm and wet from December to April (Green Season). Only in the Valleys of the Zambezi and Luangwa is there excessive heat and humidity, particularly in October. Frequent heavy showers and thunderstorms can be expected in the warm, wet season, followed by spells of bright sunshine. It is during this Green Season that the bush is lush, green and thick, making game viewing less easy. Some lodges may also close during the rainy season due to flooding.
The Victoria Falls however are at their best during the wet season (March – May) as the water is at its highest and the falls look spectacular. It is good to keep in mind that certain activities are only on offer when the water level is low.
Expect summer temperatures to range between 17°C and 31°C, while winter temperatures can be anything from 9°C to 23°C. Rainy season falls between November to April.
Flights & Getting Around
Zambia consists of two major airports:
Kenneth Kaunda International Airport is located 14km from Lusaka and transfer to charter flights for South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue National Parks are available from here.
Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone is approximately half an hour’s drive from the Victoria Falls while visitors to the Zambian side of the falls arrive via Lusaka or Johannesburg.
Due to the distances between the country’s parks, flying is the preferred option and there are various charter companies who fly to the many airstrips in the safari areas.
There is a wide variety of public transport within the major towns such as taxi’s and buses which are very reasonable.
Visa & Passport Requirements
All visitors to Zambia need to be in possession of a passport valid for at least six months from their date of departure. Citizens of South Africa and Zimbabwe can obtain Zambian visas upon arrival for free. For all other nationalities, tourist visas are available at all major borders, airports and sea ports or through the Zambia Department of Immigration. The Visa’s available are 7-day transit visa; single-entry visa; double-entry visa or multiple-entry visa.
If you are travelling from an area that falls within the Yellow Fever belt, a yellow fever certificate is mandatory when travelling to Zambia. Malaria is prevalent in the low lying areas of the country which is where most safaris take place so malaria prophylaxis are necessary. Doctors advise taking prophylaxis two weeks before arrival and continuing two weeks after leaving. If in doubt about the water, rather stick to bottled water and take along some water purification tablets in case. It is advised to visit your local travel clinic or doctor 6 weeks before travel date.
The Zambian currency is the Kwacha, but Dollars, Pounds and travellers cheques can be easily exchanged at one of the many Bureuax de Changes situated in the main towns and cities. Be aware of exchanging monies at the black market at the borders as they are known to cheat you with exchange rates.
ATMs are available in most major towns in Zambia. The bigger banks have ATMs which accept Visa but not MasterCard.
If you plan on paying by credit card, be advised that high commissions are sometimes charged around Victoria Falls, and the more remote lodges may have difficulty in processing credit card payments. Most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take credit cards.
Tipping in Zambia is not compulsory, but is appreciated by the guides, trackers and lodge staff. The average tip for your ranger or tracker is US $10 per person per day, while US $25 is normal to be divided amongst the rest of the lodge staff. This is only a guideline and will be dependent on the service provided.
Some restaurants and establishments will add 10% service charge to your bill, but should it not be added already, a 10% gratuity is the standard.
What to Pack
Due to Zambia’s warm climate the most comfortable option for clothing would be lightweight, loose-fitting clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton or linen that will keep you cool, as well as a fleece or jacket for the evenings and early mornings. Comfortable, worn in hiking boots or walking shoes are a must as Zambia is known for its excellent walking safaris. Don’t forget your sun hat, sunscreen and binoculars.
When travelling in Zambia, bear in mind that the dress code is conservative so women should pack knee-length or longer skirts to wear when in the towns.