Zambia

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Zambia is a state in Southern Africa. Roughly the size of Texas or France, Zambia is a landlocked country, bordered by Tanzania to the northeast, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the south, a narrow strip of Namibia known as the Caprivi Strip to the southwest, Angola to the west, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the northwest.

Population: 14,222,233 people
Area: 752,618 km2
Highest point: 2,301 m
Coastline: 0 km
Life expectancy: 51.51 years
GDP per capita: $1,700
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  • Winery Winery

About Zambia

History

The territory of Northern Rhodesia was administered by the South Africa Company from 1891 until it was taken over by the UK in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964. In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, declining copper prices, one party democracy and a prolonged drought hurt the economy. Elections in 1991 brought an end to one-party rule, but the subsequent vote in 1996 saw blatant harassment of opposition parties. The election in 2001 was marked by administrative problems with at least two parties filing legal petitions challenging the results. Opposition parties currently hold a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

Climate

If you look at a map, Zambia appears to be squarely in the tropics, but thanks to its landlocked and elevated position it does have distinct seasons that run as follows:

  • Dry season — May to August. The coolest time of the year, with temperatures 24-28°C during the day, can drop as low as 7°C at night. Probably the best time of year to visit Zambia: come early in the dry season for birdwatching or to see Vic Falls at their biggest, or later when the bush has dried up for good game-spotting on safari.
  • Hot season — September to November. Temperatures rocket up to a scorching 38-42°C and clouds of swirling dust make driving on dirt roads an asthmatic's nightmare. If you can take the heat, though, it's a good time for safaris as wildlife clusters around the few remaining watering holes.
  • Wet season — December to April. Temperatures cool down to 32°C or so and, true to the name, there is a lot of rain — sometimes just an hour or two, sometimes for days on end. Unsealed roads become impassable muddy nightmares, and many safari lodges close.

Temperatures do fluctuate based on the altitude, if you are in a valley (such as the Zambezi) it will be warmer and if you are higher up (Kasama) it will be cooler.

Food

Traditional Zambian food revolves around one staple, maize, served in one form, nsima (n'SHEE-ma). Nsima is basically a type of thick porridge, rolled into balls with your right hand and dipped into a variety of stews known as relishes (ndiwo, umunani). Those who can afford them eat relishes of beef, chicken or fish, but the many who can't make do with beans, tiny dried fish (kapenta), peanuts, pumpkin leaves (chibwabwa) and other vegetables such as okra (ndelele), cabbage and rape. At breakfast, nsima can be served watered down into a soup, maybe with a little sugar. Local restaurants will serve nsima and relish for less than 5K ($1).

Western food has also made major inroads, particularly in major cities, and in Lusaka or Livingstone you can find almost any food you like. Fast food — including burgers, pizza, and fried chicken — is very popular in Zambia. Bakeries making cheap fresh bread are a common sight in towns, and rice from Chama provides an alternative staple if all the maize starts to get to you.

For sit-down meals, ethnic eateries are popular. In Lusaka, especially noteworthy is the Sunday brunch at The Intercontinental; and if you like Indian food, be sure to hit The Dil. Of course, game parks often cater to wealthy — usually foreign — visitors; therefore, high-quality Western meals can be found easily. Along the major roadways, you will find "tuck shops" featuring packaged cookies or take-away meals — meat pies or sausage rolls, for instance — which may or may not satisfy you.

Finally, in terms of hygiene outside the major cities, you are unlikely to find a proper washroom with running water. You will probably be given a bowl of water, a piece of soap, and a (damp) towel. Therefore, some travelers bring small bottles of anti-bacterial hand soap with them.

Drinks

Tap water in Zambia is generally not drinkable, at least unless boiled. Bottled water is widely available in cities, but not necessarily in rural areas. It is advisable to carry chlorine pills to purify water, in case of emergency.

Soft drinks

A traditional local drink worth trying is maheu, a somewhat gritty and vaguely yogurty but refreshing beverage made from maize meal. Factory-produced maheu is sweet, comes in plastic bottles and is available in a variety of flavors including banana, chocolate and orange, while homemade versions are usually unflavored and less sweet.

Coke products are accessible and cheap at less than a quarter a bottle, but beware of the deposit system: in rural areas, you may have to return an empty bottle before they'll sell you a new one!

Beer

Zambia's best-known brew is Mosi, a clear 4% lager available everywhere. Eagle has more taste and more kick at 5.5%, while Zambezi Lager is a microbrew worth sampling if you run into it. The South African brand Castle is also bottled locally, and all of the above run around $1 in a store or $1-2 in a bar.

If you are near the borders, you are likely to find Carlsberg (good, from Malawi), Simba (excellent, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Kilimanjaro (nice lager, from Tanzania), and Tusker (strong, from Kenya). Other imports can be found in larger markets but will also cost more.

Local alcohol

The locals' drink of choice is masese (muh-SE-say) or ucwala (uch-WALA), also known as Chibuku after the biggest brand, made from maize, millet, or cassava and resembling sour porridge in texture and taste. If you want to try this, it's best to look out for the factory-made kind in milk-carton-like containers.

In rural areas, there are opportunities to drink local "homebrews." A wide variety of homebrews exist in Zambia, from beers made from honey (in the Southern province of the country), to wine made from tea leaves (in the Eastern portion of the country).

Finally, there is kachasu (cuh-CHA-suh) a spirit distilled from anything Zambians can get their hands on — including battery acid and fertilizer. For obvious reasons, therefore, it is better to avoid this moonshine.

On a final note, most men at bars are relaxing, while many women at bars are working. Therefore, if you are a single woman in a Zambian bar, be aware that you might be approached and offered the opportunity to do something you did not intend to do.

Shopping

Originally, the Kwacha — meaning "sunrise," so-named to celebrate Zambia's independence — was tied to the US dollar, so conversion was simple. However, in the late-90's, the kwacha was floated and devalued rapidly. Since mid 2005 the Kwacha re-appreciated strongly, due to the international debt-relief and the boost of the copper prices. As of January 2013, the Kwacha is hovering around $1 = 3.22ZMK, €1 = 4.317MK. As the currency is being re-based (dropping the last three zeros) between January 2013 and June 2013, you can still expect change in both the new re-based currency and the old currency, but ATM's and banks will only issue the new currency (there are helpful posters every where with the new and old notes).

U.S. dollars are still commonly used for larger purchases (although it's illegal) and will be accepted by anybody dealing with tourists. It is not unusual to see all printed prices at a hotel restaurant in local currency, and then receive a bill in U.S. dollars. If you bring US$, in Zambia only the "big heads" (new notes) are accepted in banks and bureaux de change, small heads are not accepted (if you are lucky you can change them in Livingstone). U.S. $50 and U.S. $100 notes are the best to bring, for smaller nominations you will get a poorer rate at the bureaux (5-10% less).

Changing Euros is a difficult thing to do especially up country, bureaux are giving a very poor rate (25% less than the market rate!). International banks will accept, but with commission charge. Finance Bank, Arcades shopping Centre Lusaka, is known to accept Euro's at a good rate and without commission charge. Bureaux and Banks will only change a maximum of 1000 US$ (or equivalent) per person per day! Watch the rates as they can change overnight, fluctuations of 3-5% per day are common.

South African Rand are exchanged relatively easily in major centers. Other second tier currencies like the Australian dollar are not worth bothering with. Expect blank looks from the locals, and a mocking laugh from those in the tourist trade.

If you want to sound like a local, refer to 1000 kwacha as a pin, so for example 10,000K is "ten pin". In the '90's, the kwacha devalued so rapidly that the government didn't have time to produce new, larger bank notes. To pay for things, Zambians often had to bundle — or "pin" together — large numbers of small bills. Notes are now available in denominations of up to 50,000K (Till June 2013, as they are being re-based to 50K), but hang on to small change if you can because there are occasional shortages.

ATMs may be found in major cities, but you should not depend on them to be functional. Most of the ATM's accept only VISA. Other international credit cards (like MASTERCARD and AMEX) are generally a problem. Maestro is definitely a problem in Zambia and very few ATM's accept Maestro. Some shops and restaurants might accept debit or credit cards, as do practically all high-end hotels and safari lodges, but surcharges of 5-10% are common. ATMs only dispense local currency.

Although using forms of payment other than cash is growing in popularity, you should not depend on credit to get around the country. Traveler's cheques are almost impossible to process in Zambia, most chance you will have in the Lusaka international banks (Stanbic, Standard Chartered), but even then you will get a very poor rate, a high commission charge and it will take you a couple of hours, if you are lucky. If you prefer to take the risk and use Traveller's cheques, the only ones who will be accepted (if you are lucky) are the ones from American Express (Thomas Cook's are currently not accepted!).

Most shopkeepers advertise fixed prices and are unwilling to negotiate, but this is not a given. On the other hand, most "freelance" salesmen — vendors selling curios; taxi drivers; etc. — who do not post their prices are usually willing to negotiate. As a (very) general rule of thumb, assume the first price they mention is at least double the amount they will accept. You should not be afraid to barter — after all, Zambians bargain among themselves — but try not to get carried away with saving a few pennies.

Tipping is not required — indeed, it was at one point illegal — but often expected. Porters expect US$0.50 or so per bag, and better restaurants typically add in a 10% service charge or expect an equivalent tip.

Finally, keep in mind the Zambian custom of mbasela (em-buh-SAY-la) — giving a freebie when more than one item is purchased. If you buy a few small items, do not be shy about asking for your mbasela.

Costs

Zambia is comparatively expensive compared to its neighbors. A bare-bones budget traveler will be looking at a minimum of US$40/day just for a bed and three meals, and transport is (again, comparatively) expensive, in part due to the great distances involved. Foreign currencies just don't go as far as in other developing countries, and often prices in Zambia are the same as what one would be paying in America. At the other end of the spectrum, all-inclusive safari lodges or Lusaka/Livingstone's five-star hotels will take care of all your needs but charge US$200/day and up for the privilege. Finding a middle ground between these two extremes can be difficult but there are safari operators who will offer 'DIY' camping for around US$5 to $95 and above - it pays to look around (see below).

Zambian safaris are amongst the best available in Africa; they offer top quality viewing experiences with the continent's top guides. Zambia's national parks are not 'commercialised' as in other countries (e.g. Kenya and South Africa) and one will not see the ridiculous zebra striped game viewing buses, Land Cruisers etc.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Zambia on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Zambia

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Lusaka, in Lusaka Province, is the capital of Zambia. It is a cosmopolitan city that is home to approximately one in ten Zambians.

Interesting places:

  • Freedom Statue
  • Lusaka National Museum
  • National Assembly of Zambia
  • Independence Stadium
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Livingstone is to Zambia what the town of Victoria Falls is to Zimbabwe. Also known as Maramba, it was once the capital of Zambia before it was moved to Lusaka. Livingstone is in the Southern Province of Zambia.

Interesting places:

  • Victoria Falls Bridge
  • Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park
  • Victoria Falls Field Museum
  • Livingstone Museum
  • Railway Museum
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South Luangwa National Park is in eastern Zambia.

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Siavonga is a city in Zambia, probably best known for being a place to refuel and getting some connection on your cellphone. This is the closest most Zambians will ever get to a seaside town or resort

Interesting places:

  • Kariba Dam
  • Kaliolio Crocodile Farm
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Chipata is a small and dusty crossroads in Eastern Zambia, and is a popular refueling station for overlanders on their way east to Malawi, west to South Luangwa National Park, or north to Lundazi.

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Chingola is a city of 157,000 in Zambia. It lies in the Copperbelt region, the country's main copper mining area and its economy relies heavily on mining activities. In fact, the town was established in 1943, when the large copper mines of nearby Nchanga were opened.

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Kazungula marks the border of four african countries - Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The town supports the huge road transit point that is the ferry terminal here. Many trucks wait for between 7 and 14 days to cross the river (approx 20 trucks cross the river per day), and Kazangula's population ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Sioma Ngwezi National Park
panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Zambia

  • There are national parks scattered across the country.
  • Victoria Falls in southern Zambia is one of the greatest waterfalls in the world, and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Victoria Falls Bridge - Livingstone

Freedom Statue - Lusaka

Kariba Dam - Siavonga

Kalambo Falls - Mbala

Lower Zambezi National Park - Chiawa

Kasanka National Park - Serenje

Lukusuzi National Park - Mfuwe

Nyika National Park - Malabi

Luambe National Park - Kazembe

Liuwa Plain National Park - Kalabo

Lochinvar National Park - Muchabe

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park - Livingstone

Victoria Falls Field Museum - Livingstone

Livingstone Museum - Livingstone

Lusaka National Museum - Lusaka

Railway Museum - Livingstone

National Assembly of Zambia - Lusaka

Independence Stadium - Lusaka

Blue Lagoon National Park - Muchabe

North Luangwa National Park - Kazembe

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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