MONEY AND BANKS
The official currency of Zambia is the Zambian Kwacha (ZMK). One kwacha is divided into 100 ngwee.
Kwacha note denominations are K100, K50, K20, K10, K5 and K2.
Coins are in denominations of K1 and 50, 10 and 5 ngwee.
By law all payments within Zambia can only be made in kwachas but many shops, hotels, lodges and restaurants that cater to travellers or foreigners will accept US dollars and pounds sterling (you may receive your change in kwachas so keep the exchange rate in mind so ensure you get the correct value). Some may even accept South African rands or euros.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE / FOREX
Preferably use only the services of a designated bureaux de change and keep up-to-date with the most recent exchange rate. If you do choose to use the services of an informal money changer, be aware that you likely won’t get a favourable exchange rate and be cautious of scams, fake bills and paper fillers (ie blank sheets of paper in the middle of a bundle of notes).
Any amount over USD5 000 has to be declared at immigration or border control when you arrive in Zambia. There is also a USD5 000 limit on bank withdrawals. This is subject to change without notice so please check the latest regulations before you travel.
Always travel with a range of denominations and try to avoid K50 and K100 notes unless you are paying large amounts as vendors may not be able to give you change (they may suggest you buy more instead).
BANKS AND ATMS IN ZAMBIA
Banks’ operating hours are generally Monday to Friday from 08:15 to 15:30 and Saturdays from 08:15 to 11:30, excluding public holidays.
ATMs or cash points are available in Lusaka, Livingstone and other major towns. Visa and MasterCard cards are more readily accepted for cash withdrawals than American Express. There are very few if any ATMs outside major centres so ensure you withdraw or bring sufficient cash.
The following banks operate in Zambia:
- Absa Bank Zambia Plc
- Access Bank Zambia Limited
- Atlas Mara Bank Zambia Limited
- Bank of China Zambia Limited
- Citibank Zambia Limited
- Ecobank Zambia Limited
- First Alliance Bank Zambia Limited
- First Capital Bank Zambia Limited
- First National Bank of Zambia Limited
- Indo-Zambia Bank Limited
- Investrust Bank Zambia Limited
- Stanbic Bank Zambia Limited
- Standard Chartered Bank Zambia Plc
- United Bank for Africa Zambia Limited
- Zambia Industrial Commercial Bank Limited
- Zambia National Commercial Bank Plc
Most upscale hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and the bigger shops in major centres will take credit cards, and major banks will usually advance local currency against a credit card. Take note that American Express may attract extra charges or not be accepted at all.
ONLINE AND MOBILE PHONE PAYMENTS
Payments by cellular phone are popular in Zambia and are an easy way to pay informal vendors or those who aren’t part of formal companies (such as an independent driver or local artisan). Airtel Money is endorsed by the Bank of Zambia and allows payments across multiple mobile networks. MTN Mobile Money Zambia is another popular option but relies on payer and receiver having MTN accounts.
If you are in a good hotel or lodge, staff may be able to give recommendations for cell phone or online payments.
No longer widely accepted or commonly used. If you do elect to use traveller’s cheques, avoid additional exchange rate charges by having them issued in US dollars, euros or pounds sterling.