Guest Post: Zambia hitchhiking essentials
Advantages of hitchhiking in Zambia
Zambia is one of the friendliest places I’ve encountered. The folks on the road are more than willing to help you and even go out of their way to drop you off at a better hitchhiking place. They’ll give you tips on what to look out for or even ask someone local at where they drop you off to help you out.
Reaching hitchhiking spots is relatively easy once you get out of the cities or large towns. At all truck stops there are security guards that you can always ask about where it’ll be safe to pitch a tent. They’ll even help you find a ride to your next destination as they know which truck is going where (even if there are a hundred vehicles parked in the truck stop).
The police are very friendly and there are many roadblocks. If you approach them and ask them to help you get a ride to your next destination, they are more than willing to do so (some might ask you to buy them food and drink, most are just happy to help).
I reached Lusaka, the capital, at one in the morning at a police roadblock. I asked if I could pitch a tent under their porch for fear of rain and they were happy to comply.
And as an added bonus the official language is English!
Disadvantages of hitchhiking in Zambia
Zambia is a vast country, shaped like a crumbled biscuit. There are about 4 main highways that travel north, north-east and east. Distances vary, depending on where you want to go.
Almost all drivers ask for money so either you’ll have to negotiate or convince them to take you without money.
If you do get a ride, you might be crammed in a car that is overloaded with baggage and people. And it’s not uncommon to sit in the back of a pick-up truck (just have something warm cause the wind is cold).
In most hitching areas you’ll be approached by a few drunks (sometimes they are sober) who claim to be Transport Officers where they’ll flag down vehicles and, according to where people are going, get them lifts. Sometimes, even though you’re the one stopping the vehicle, they’ll ask for money. They don’t hassle too much but they can be annoying.
A lot taxis and buses will stop beside you, mostly all are already overloaded with people and cargo and take up valuable hitching time to talk with you as potential rides zip by.
Most hitching places are packed with local people waiting for rides who’ll pounce on a vehicle even if it’s obvious it stopped for you. Manners go out the window and they’ll talk with the driver as though you don’t even exist.
Types of roads
There road system in Zambia consists of 91,440 kilometres of roads, of which 20,117 km is paved. Most of the roads are pot-holed and resemble mortar target ranges. Drivers have to zig and zag to avoid them. Some roads are non-existent and you may find yourself bouncing all over the place. Even the main highways (like the T-4 which heads east to Malawi) aren’t finished.
The principal routes in Zambia are the Great North Road (809 km/503 mi), which heads diagonally south-east from the north-eastern edge of the country and its border with Tanzania, through the capital Lusaka and onto the south-western city of Livingstone. The Great East Road (586 km/364 mi), strikes out from Lusaka to Chipata and onto to the Malawi border, the road also extends west beyond the capital with a connecting road (M9) to Mongu (583 km/362 mi). The Zaire Border Road, connects to the Great North Road at Kapiri Mposhi and travels north-west through the Copperbelt region. On this road are connections to the border crossings with Angola & the Republic of Congo.
Within populated areas the speed limit is generally 50 or 60 km/h (31 /37 mph) and on open roads 100km/h (62 mph).
Road map of Zambia
Handy Hitch-hikers Phrases
There are 73 provinces in Zambia which means there are 73 different dialects. The most populous are Bemba (northern provinces) and Nyanja (western provinces). English is the official language and 99% of the population speak it. Nyanja is the main dialect used across Zambia.
Uli Bwanji? – How are you?
Bwino Bwanji – I’m good.
Wa Uka Bwanji? – Good morning
Zikhomo – Thank you
Bemba – is
Moolishani? – How are you?
Wino – fine
Mkwai (pronounced: Em-kwhy) – can be answered to almost anything.
Twatotella – Thank you.
Zambia Border Crossings
Zambia neighbours 8 different countries: Democratic Republic of Congo (to the north), Tanzania (north-east), Malawi (east), Mozambique (east), Zimbabwe (south-east), Botswana (south), Namibia (south) and Angola (west). Road borders all open at 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. except at Victoria falls which closes at 8 p.m.
Zambia – Democratic Republic of Congo
There is one border crossings between Zambia & Democratic Republic of Congo
- The Chililabornbwe (Zambia) – Kasumbalesa (Democratic Republic of Congo) crossing marks the end of the Zaire Border Road in Zambia.
Zambia – Tanzania
There are two border crossings between Zambia & Tanzania
- The most important border crossing can be found at Nakonde (Zambia) – Tundumo (Tanzania) which lies at the end of the Zambian Great East Road.
Zambia – Malawi
There are three border crossings between Zambia & Malawi
- The most accessible and busiest crossing is the southernmost and can be found at Chipata (Zambia) – Mchinji (Malawi). It is the best crossing between the two capitals of Lusaka & Lilongwe and is also the recommended route if travelling between Zambia and Mozambique due to higher quality of roads.
Zambia – Mozambique
There are two border crossings between Zambia & Mozambique
- The main crossing is at Katete (Zambia) – Cassacatiza (Mozambique) and although it is in good condition, you can expect long waits as the traffic is extremely light. The best way to travel from Mozambique to Zambia is to go via Malawi.
Zambia – Zimbabwe
There are three border crossings between Zambia & Zimbabwe
- The busiest border crossing is Livingstone (Zambia) – Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) but those wishing to hitch-hike longer distances should try the crossing at Chirundu because there are many lorries driving the Harare – Lushka trade route.
Zambia – Botswana
There is one border crossings between Zambia & Botswana
- The only border crossing between the two countries is the ferry service at Kazungula. Tickets should cost around 30$ per car.
Zambia – Namibia
There is one border crossings between Zambia & Namibia
- The one and only border crossing between the two countries is on the north and south banks of the Zambezi river at Sesheke (Zambia) – Wenela (Namibia).
Zambia – Angola
There are numerous border crossings across the wild Zambia-Angola border but there is perhaps one official one.
- In theory the main crossing is at Chavuma (Zambia) – Cazombo (Angola) but seeing as there is no road access to the Angolan side, we strongly urge you to have access to 4×4 before even attempting the cross.
Zambia border crossings map
written by: Simon (The Nomadic Diaries)
Tired of society’s rinse ‘n’ repeat lifestyle, Simon has decided to dedicate the rest of his life to hitch-hiking the globe without flying or using money. Instead, he barters for food and board and adventures. Life is one shot. Go live it.
Check out his blog at: thenomadicdiaries.wordpress.com