Getting Around in Zambia
Travel by Air
Proflight flies from Lusaka to Mfuwe (South Luangwa), to Livingstone and the Copperbelt and also does charters.Various air charter companies will fly to any of the many airstrips around the country and most of the areas worth visiting are accessible by air. Domestic departure tax from airports is $8 per person.
There are many taxis available. Prices are negotiable. There is a good bus service to Chipata, Livingstone, the Copperbelt and Harare, but they don’t always follow strict schedules. The main bus terminus is in Dedan Kimathi Road in Lusaka where one can inquire about timetables. Other private bus companies offer more reliable services to Livingstone, Harare and Johannesburg.
Travel by Bus
Long range buses frequently leave from Lusaka to all the main towns. The intercity bus terminal can be found one road up from Cairo Road at the station.
Minibuses and taxis, local transport – all painted blue – can be jumped on at pretty much any juncture. They’re not expensive and you can always find a minibus that won’t cost too much to buy all the seats in it to get your own private minibus to wherever you want to go but you’ll have to negotiate so be sharp about the value of money.
Travel by Road
Zambia has 38,763 kilometres of roads, about 10,000 kms of which are tarred and another 8000 kms all weather gravel road. The rest range from reasonable to bad dirt roads.
If you’re doing a vehicle trip through Zambia it is a good idea to carry a range of tools and essential spares with you. Two spare wheels and a couple of spare tubes are a must due to the condition of the roads, although most have improved vastly in recent years. Spare jerry cans of fuel and water, a tow rope, compressor, winch and a spotlight are useful items to have. Many of the villages along the main routes offer tyre mending services at a very reasonable fee. Road maps are available in Lusaka from the Map Centre in Nationalist Road or the Tourist Board in Lusaka Square, Cairo Road.
Be really careful, especially if travelling at night for road markings are usually non existent. There is much road rehabilitation finally being done so perhaps this won’t be as bad in the near future. Do watch out for animals in the road, vehicles without lights, pedestrians, unannounced roadworks, bad drivers and broken down trucks with no warning triangles. If you see a tree branch in the road, slow down immediately – these are improvised warning triangles and there’s bound to be a truck or car in the middle of the road up ahead. Never leave a car with anything visible in it in Lusaka, if possible make sure you have an alarm system or steering wheel locking device. Car theft happens, but avoidable if you’re careful.
The gravel roads on the minor routes are fine to drive without a four by four, but if you’re doing a long trip around the country there are wonderful remote places to go to that would require four wheel drive vehicles.
Be sure to have all your vehicle papers on hand as you’re bound to encounter a few roadblocks and if you ever need to stop, pull well off the road.
Visiting drivers must hold an International Drivers Licence. Drivers licences from other countries are not valid except SADC countries. New residents are required to pass a driving test. A person driving into the country on business can have their car admitted without having to pay duty, provided they will not use it for hire or commercial purposes. They will also have to show that the car is owned by themselves or by their company.
In Zambia, one drives on the left hand side of the road. The general speed limit on national highways is 100km/h, secondary roads 100km/h and in urban built up areas 65 km/h unless otherwise indicated.
To bring a vehicle into Zambia one must obtain a temporary import permit (TIP) or, depending on the country of origin of the vehicle, a carnet de passage. If the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, they must have a letter of authorisation from the owner for use of the vehicle in Zambia. Your local AA office should be consulted before leaving for Zambia to check whether any of these conditions have changed. Otherwise, write to the Controller of Customs and Excise Headquarters, Box 60500, Livingstone, Zambia.
There are many car hire companies in Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe and Livingstone, offering a range of vehicles. Some offer a flat weekly rate, but most charge a daily rate plus mileage, insurance and petrol. You can also hire a chauffeur. See Car Hire Companies for Rates.
Petrol and diesel can be readily obtained in all major towns, but shortages can happen in the very remote areas so make sure you have spare fuel for emergencies. Both petrol and diesel get more expensive the further away you are from the line of rail. Unleaded petrol is available at most stations. If travelling in the more remote areas be sure to take extra supplies as availability is not always guaranteed. If it’s an emergency, try the local markets. They sometime have cans of petrol for sale.
Travel by Train
Zambia has three main internal train lines,
- Livingstone / Lusaka
- Lusaka / Copperbelt
- Kapiri Mposhi to the Northern border with Tanzania.
The main train station is in Dedan Kamathi Rd in central Lusaka, one road east of Cairo Rd.
The Kitwe-Lusaka-Livingstone (The Day Train ) line runs daily, leaving Kitwe at 20h00 arriving in Lusaka at 7h35, leaving for Livingstone at 8h05 and arriving there 18h00. This is called the ordinary train and stops at every station along the way. It leaves Livingstone everyday at 09h00, arriving in Lusaka at 20h10, leaves Lusaka at 21h10 and arrives in Kitwe and 8h50.
There is also an express train (The Zambezi Express) leaving Livingstone on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 14h30, arriving in Lusaka at 11h00 the next morning! Yes, 18 hours to travel 570kms – but although this sounds like wasted time – it’s actually a great option because everyone else will be catching the bus so you’ll probably have the whole of first class to yourself and for around $10 you have a bed for the night and can see a bit of the real Zambia along the way. It leaves Lusaka on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 19h30 and arrives in Livingstone at 6h10. Fares are very reasonable and although the trains are a little shabby and unkept, the linen is clean and they are and reliable give or take an hour. Make sure you book a family compartment, first class, although they’re not much better than second class, and bring all your own food as well as drinking and washing water. Seats can be prebooked at the station or by phoning 228023 in Lusaka, 321001 in Livingstone and 224027 in Kabwe.
The Tazara Line from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania leaves every Tuesday and Friday at 16:00 and takes 2 days. On Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, a train leaves from Kapiri Mposhi to the border town of Nakonde and back, stopping at all main towns along the way. Bookings for the Tazara line must be done a week in advance at Tazara House, opposite the market in Independence Ave on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tel: +260 1 220646. To be safe, ask the station police to escort you to a taxi.
Zambia Distance Chart
Click to Enlarge