HEALTH AND MEDICAL
HEALTH AND MEDICAL ADVICE FOR TRAVELLING IN ZAMBIA
- Always consult your own doctor or travel clinic before travelling.
- Be sure to check what entry requirements Zambia and your home country might have in place with regard to diseases like yellow fever or coronavirus.
Prescription medications are allowed into the country with the following provisions:
- Ensure you have sufficient stock of any prescription medications you need while travelling.
- Keep them in their original packaging (this is also useful in case you need to arrange a generic or similar medication while in Zambia so the chemist or pharmacist can see the active ingredients).
- The packaging must be labelled with your name and the dosage.
- A copy of the original prescription is available.
- You do not bring in more prescription medication than you need for the duration of your visit.
Certain ingredients are banned in Zambia: check that your medication does not contain the following as you may not be allowed to bring it into the country by downloading the PDF:
Packing your toiletry bag or first-aid kit
It’s best to bring small amounts of over-the-counter medications so you can quickly take care of any minor ailments yourself. If you have special requirements – like needing an asthma pump – consider bringing a spare in case of loss or damage.
- Anti-histamine medication
- Anti-diarrhoea medication
- Organic insect repellent
- Sun protection lotion
- Antiseptic lotion
- Spare contact lenses and cleaning solution
- Anti-nausea medication
- Motion sickness medication
Always take out full medical insurance that includes emergency evacuation. There are several air evacuation services in Zambia that service rural or wildlife areas.
Weight Limits for Light Aircraft
- Many safari destinations are best reached by light fixed-wing aircraft. You may be asked to supply your weight so that the pilot can ensure the plane is balanced.
- Seats are small with very limited head- and legroom.
- If you weigh more than 120kg / 264lb you may have a higher seat rate.
If you have sleep apnoea and use a CPAP machine, check that your accommodation has an uninterrupted 24-hour power supply. Many camps and lodges switch off their generators from 10pm onwards to save fuel and reduce noise while others run on solar power. Even city hotels connected to the main electricity grid can experience occasional blackouts. True bush camps, fly-camps and mobile safaris are unlikely to have sufficient power supplies.
Always travel with fully charged batteries. Be mindful that luggage limits on chartered and light aircraft flights to wildlife areas are very strict and small (generally about 15-20kg / 33-44lb).
The northern areas of Zambia (especially the Northern, North-western, Muchinga and Luapula provinces) are the riskiest as they receive the highest rainfall. Malaria depends on the presence of a female Anopheles mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person, which is why malaria rates are highest in villages.
Your risk is low in Lusaka and safari lodges and increases in more rural places. The following measures will reduce your chances of contracting malaria:
- Travel in high or dry season from about July to October.
- Use an organic insect repellent.
- Before sunset, put on socks and shoes, long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt. Even lightweight cotton clothes help keep mozzies off bare skin.
- If possible, sleep with a fan on. The slight breeze keeps mosquitoes away.
- Always use a mosquito net if one is provided.
- Ask your doctor or travel clinic about anti-malaria medication (be sure to mention if you are or will be pregnant or if you are going scuba diving around the same time). You must start the prophylactics two weeks before you travel.
- Don’t camp near stagnant waterholes or dams.
- Anecdotally, Peaceful Sleep insect repellent works more effectively against Zambian mosquitoes than Tabard repellent.
- Carry a malaria test kit with you and check your results if you start feeling flu-like symptoms. Seek treatment immediately.
Treat every animal as dangerous and respect their presence. Never approach, stress or interact with animals in any way – even small, cute or wounded wildlife can inflict painful scratches and bites that can quickly become infected. You may be a long way from medical help and animal bites in particular are major sources of harmful bacteria that can quickly lead to infections like tetanus or gangrene or even amputations.
- Ensure your tetanus vaccinations are up to date before you travel.
- Always remain in your vehicle around animals.
- Listen to and obey your guide at all times.
- Do not walk across ‘hippo highways’: hippos are notoriously territorial and can easily kill a person.
- Do not swim in rivers or dams unless officially allowed to do so: crocodiles can remain submerged and strike without warning.
- Do not approach breeding herds of elephants: the adults will do all they can to protect the babies including flipping over cars.
- At night, always be escorted by your guide. Do not wander around camp.
- On walking safaris, wear long socks, gaiters and long trousers as the grass and ground are home to termites, ants, snakes etc.
- Tsetse fly are still present in some areas. They leave a painful bite. Avoid blue and black clothing as they seem to be attracted to these colours.
Food and Drink
In general, almost all food and drink are safe to consume as long as you apply common-sense measures. Standards in city hotels and safari camps and lodges are generally very high, and water is safe to drink. The more upmarket accommodation will even cater for dietary requirements if you are vegan, for example.
If you are catering for your own holiday, stock up in major towns that have international supermarkets. Buying from villagers is also possible: just be sure to thoroughly rinse fruit and vegetables, and cook meat or fish at a high temperature. Carry water purification tablets or boil water before drinking it.
Check with your travel clinic which vaccinations are mandatory as these can change.
Vaccinations generally recommended by the World Health Organisation and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include:
- Hepatitis A
The most modern clinics and hospitals are in big centres such as Lusaka, Livingstone and Ndola.
In other areas, rural clinics have basic facilities and supplies. Always have comprehensive medical or travel insurance that includes evacuation in case of emergency.