Zambia Travel Guide: Essential Facts and Information

Zambia Travel Guide Essential Facts and Information
Juergen Ritterbach/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images

A land-locked country on the northern edge of Southern Africa, Zambia is a nature lover's playground. It's famous for back-to-the-wild walking safaris in South Luangwa National Park, and as an alternative destination for those wishing to explore Lake Kariba and Victoria Falls (two world wonders otherwise only accessible from politically less-stable Zimbabwe). The country's main draw is its comparative lack of tourism, which results in safaris that are significantly cheaper and less crowded than elsewhere in Southern and East Africa.

 

Location:

Surrounded by Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa, Zambia shares borders with no fewer than eight other countries. These include Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. 

Geography: 

Zambia has a total area of 290,587 square miles/ 752,618 square kilometers, making it slightly larger in size than the U.S. state of Texas. 

Capital City: 

The capital of Zambia is Lusaka, located in the south-central region of the country. 

Population:

July 2017 estimates published by the CIA World Factbook put Zambia's population at almost 16 million people. Almost half of the population (just over 46%) falls into the 0 - 14 age bracket, giving Zambians an average life expectancy of just 52.5 years. 

Languages:

The official language of Zambia is English, but it is spoken as a mother tongue by only 2% of the population. It is thought that there are over 70 indigenous languages and dialects, of which the most widely spoken is Bemba. 

Religion:

Over 95% of Zambians identify as Christian, with Protestant being the most popular denomination. Only 1.8% describe themselves as atheist. 

Currency: 

The official currency of Zambia is the Zambian kwacha. For up-to-date exchange rates, use this online currency converter

Climate:

Zambia has a tropical climate with geographical changes in temperature largely dictated by altitude. In general, the country's weather can be divided into two seasons - the rainy season or summer, which lasts from November to April; and the dry season or winter, which lasts from May to October. The hottest months of the year are September and October, when temperatures frequently rise to 95ºF/ 35ºC. 

When to Go:

The best time to go on safari is during the dry season (late May to early October), when the weather is at its most pleasant and animals are likely to congregate around waterholes, making them easier to spot. However, the rainy season brings the best sightings for birders, and Victoria Falls is at its most impressive in March and May, when the volume of water plunging over the precipice is at its highest.  

Key Attractions:

Arguably one of the most impressive sights in all of Africa, Victoria Falls straddles the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Known locally as The Smoke That Thunders, it's the world's largest sheet of falling water, with more than five hundred million cubic meters of water flowing over its edge during peak season. Visitors on the Zambian side can get a close-up perspective from Devil's Pool

Life in this world-famous national park revolves around the Luangwa River, which provides an invaluable source of water for countless wildlife species. In particular, the park is known for its large numbers of elephant, lion and hippo. It's also a birder's paradise, with over 400 species recorded within its boundaries including a pantheon of water-loving storks, herons and cranes.

Kafue National Park occupies 8,650 square miles in the centre of western Zambia, making it the country's largest game reserve. It is relatively unexplored and boasts an incredible density of wildlife - including 158 recorded mammal species. It is one of the best places on the continent to see leopard, and is also known for wild dogs and rare antelope species like the sable and sitatunga.

Located on the banks of the Zambezi River, the colonial town of Livingstone was established in 1905 and named after the famous explorer. Today, visitors come to admire the Edwardian buildings left over from the town's time as the capital of Northern Rhodesia, and to take part in a variety of adventure activities. These range from whitewater rafting to boat cruises, horse riding and elephant safaris.

Getting There

The main point of entry for overseas visitors to Zambia is Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (LUN), located on the outskirts of Lusaka. Major airlines that fly to the airport include Emirates, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines. From there, you can arrange onwards flights to other destinations within Zambia (although the country no longer has a national carrier). Visitors from many countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia) require a visa to enter Zambia.

This can be purchased on arrival, or online ahead of your departure. Check the official government website for the most up-to-date information. 

Medical Requirements

As well as ensuring that your routine vaccinations are up to date, CDC recommends that all visitors to Zambia be inoculated for Hepatitis A and typhoid. Malaria prophylactics are also highly advisable. Depending on which region you're traveling to and what you're planing on doing there, other vaccines may be required - including cholera, rabies, Hepatitis B and yellow fever. If you have recently spent time in a yellow fever-endemic country, you will need to provide proof of vaccination before being allowed to enter Zambia.