- 1 Visas
- 2 Advantages of hitchhiking in Zambia
- 3 Disadvantages of hitchhiking in Zambia
- 4 Food & Drink
- 5 Accommodation
- 6 Weather
- 7 Culture & traditions
- 8 Money & Costs
- 9 Health & Safety
- 10 Political Problems
- 11 Types of roads
- 12 Road map of Zambia
- 13 Handy Hitch-hikers Phrases
- 14 Zambia Border Crossings
- 15 MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE
A little tricky unless you are exempt
Depending where you’re from, a visa will cost you $50 USD for 90 days. The only catch is that you have to extend it a day before it expires if you want to stay for the entire duration. For instance, you’ll get stamped for 30 days upon entry. A day or two before the expiration date you’ll have to visit an immigration office and get it extended at no cost.
I have heard that sometimes they’ll refuse for whatever reason or only give you what they feel like giving (if you ask for a further 30 days they might only grant you 14) but I didn’t have any issues.
You’ll find immigration offices in most towns across Zambia.
ⓐ No visa – 90 days
Citizens of the following countries do not requite a visa to enter for up to 90 days:
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji, Grenada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Zimbabwe, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu
ⓑ Visa on arrival (but only if you fly) – 90 days
Citizens of the following countries can apply for a Zambian visa upon arrival at the following airports – Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, Harry Mwanga International Airport in Livingstone and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport in Ndola.
Albania, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Burma, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Saint Lucia, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Western Sahara, Venezuela, Vietnam
ⓒ Visa in advance
Citizens of the countries listed above (if crossing the border by land) and all other countries have to apply for and obtain a visa in advance before entering the country. A list of Zambian embassies can be found here and information on what you’ll need here.
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.
Food & Drink
What food to expect
Like everywhere else I’ve been in Africa, the staple local cuisine is nshima (pap in South Africa, shima in Malawi) which they eat three times a day. I can only tolerate it once a day as it sits like a brick in your stomach. It has no protein and is 100% carbohydrates. And very hot (temperature wise) so let it cool down a bit.
It’s the cheapest feed you can get with a side of chicken/pork/goat/beef/fish and some steamed vegetable called rape (don’t ask). It’s traditionally eaten with your right hand. A dish will cost you about 9 Kwacha (about $1.80 AUD) and it’s eaten everywhere (to compare, western food – pizza, burger – ranges from 30 to 60 Kwacha, about $8 – $15).
Caterpillars and worms are also served (best grilled).
There is street food but since refrigeration is an issue I didn’t take the risk with the barbecued meat on offer. Grilled corn, grilled cassava roots with salt are great.
Zambians cook with a lot of salt and oil and love sugar. A lot of the times I was tempted to ask for some food with my salt.
What to drink?
Zambians drink mostly soft drinks (locally known as softies) such as Coke or Fanta. A lot of them will drink a cheap local beer that is sold in cartons and they start that from early in the morning. You can tell these guys from their yellow eyes.
Tea is more popular than coffee and they like it with a lot of sugar and strong.
The local beer is called Mosi (pronounced: Mozie) and is best served ice-cold. Usually sells for 7 kwacha.
Where to sleep?
You’ll be surprised where you can find couchsurfers in Africa. From the smaller, lesser known towns to the big cities. Hostels and lodges are abundant (I’m not sure about prices) everywhere – even by truck stops.
If you’re stuck for a place to stay (arrived late in the evening or every place is booked) go to the local police station. They’ll be happy to accommodate you or find you somewhere safe to pitch a tent.
Wild camping is possible, just always ask someone local if it’s cool to pitch up.
The weather of extremes
The climate of Zambia can be divided into three seasons. May – August is cool and dry with average temperature highs of 21-26 C and lows of 6-12 C. September & October are hot and dry with average highs of 28-35 C and lows of 17-22 C. November – April is the rainy season with average highs of 25-30 C and lows 14-19 C.
It’s scorching hot in the day. October is the hottest time of year in Zambia with temperatures reaching mid-40’s. From the crack of dawn it can already be in the late 20’s, cracking the 30° by 8 am. Depending on the season, the nights can either be stifling hot or cold enough that you’ll need a warm blanket.
I found that sleeping outside was much more cooler than sleeping indoors.
The wet season usually starts around November and lasts until April. And when it rains it fuckin’ rains. It can rain for a whole week non-stop and then you’ll get a break for 2 weeks before it starts up again.
Daylight only lasts for about 13 hours. The sun begins its rise from about 04:30 (the coldest time of day) and it sets anywhere from 17:30 to 18:00, getting completely dark by 19:00.
Culture & traditions
Any cultural customs to remember?
Zambia is the most religious country I’ve been to. It’s Christian (although there are pockets of Muslims) and everyone believes in Jesus and God (or Allah). The radio blasts gospel music and evangelical announcers. A lot of folk carry the Bible around and will even have a copy in their cars and grace is said at every meal.
It’s inappropriate for women to wear short-shorts and revealing skirts in the day (go to a club/bar and it’s a whole different world) but you don’t need a head scarf.
Men can wear shorts.
You’ll always be asked if you’re married and if you have kids. In Zambian culture (as is with most African traditions) marriage is from a young age and the more kids you have, the wealthier you are regarded (although most families can’t afford to have more than two kids, the average is six).
Attitude towards LGBT is, I guess, hidden under social coverings. No one speaks openly about homosexuality and even though it’s common for men to walk hand-in-hand, it doesn’t mean that they’re in a homosexual relationship. It’s just part of the culture.
They love the English Premier league. The majority support either Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United.
Men and women don’t sit together at the table in most homes. The women will sit with the children on the floor in a separate room for meals while the men sit comfortably on seats and chow down.
When you say ‘thanks’, it’s respectable to clap your hands together or tap with an open palm on your chest.
When greeting elders, bend slightly at the knees as though bowing, shake hands with your right hand and place your left under your right elbow.
Handshakes are in the 3-form variety – from the usual stance, to the switch back to the usual.
They’ll ask if you are safe which means, ‘Are you all right?’
They’ll say ‘sorry’ (pronounced: Soh-ri) if anything happens to you: If you trip, rip your bag, swallow a fly, spill a drink all over yourself.
Money & Costs
What are the costs?
The currency is the Zambian kwacha (Kw), which comes in standard denominations of: 1, 10, 100, 1000. The kwacha is however, very weak and has been devaluing steadily, in line with the country’s inflation rate, for a while now although there have been recent signs of improvement. You will find that prices are given in both US dollars and kwacha. The exchange rate is roughly 1 – 5000.
Zambia is not a cheap country to visit, especially if you plan to see some of the national parks. This isn’t because of high park fees US$15–20/£8–11 a day but the safari camps cost an arm and a leg. Money can be saved by cooking as eating out can be quite expensive.
Barclay’s Bank is the best bank to pull money from. You’ll get a lot of money exchangers on the streets of Livingstone and at border crossings. Don’t deal with them no matter what they offer you’ll get screwed.
Health & Safety
Health issues to keep in mind
Zambia has a high rate of HIV so if you’re going out and getting it on, always – ALWAYS – use a condom (most police stations give them out for free). You should always use a condom anyway but if in doubt, there are free clinics about to get tested.
Zambia is also well known for malaria so travel with a mosquito net, use repellent and don’t camp by water ways. I don’t use any anti-malarial medicine and talking about it with some doctor friends they recommended not to take any. They are very expensive and when you get malaria, it’s quite easy to treat and within a few days to maybe two weeks you’ll be back on your feet (symptoms are flu-like).
Animals to be aware of
Although wild animals are contained to national parks in the Livingstone area, elephants are known to enter the town too munch on the abundant mango trees that are everywhere (elephants, although vegetarians, are highly unpredictable and have poor eye-sight. Can startle easy, run faster than you and toss you about like a rag doll. Should you encounter one, they may or may not mock charge you before they actually do charge. Should they charge, run. Run faster than Usian Bolt and zig and zag. But please, just run) and snakes are abundant. Zambia is home to a few deadly species including the infamous Black Mamba and the Puff Adder.
The Black Mamba is notorious for its aggressive attitude and has been known to chase people. It just also happens to be the fastest snake with speeds of 25 km an hour on flat surface and is the most venomous in Africa. It can reach up to 9 feet in length and sometimes hides in trees and may drop on you.
The Puff Adder is much smaller, rarely reaching over a meter. It’s fat and lazy and won’t budge as is customary when encountering a snake. But when they strike they are blinding fast.
Crime and other things to ruin your time
I always felt safe in Zambia although, like with most big cities, it’s not recommended to walk the streets on your own late at night. Zambians love to drink and everyone is affected differently when it comes to alcohol.
I have a large beard and walking with local friends in Lusaka in the evening I was approached by 4 drunks, asking why I looked like Jesus proceeding to tug on my hair and beard, holding me by the arm. I had to resort to pushing them back and telling them to politely ‘Fuck off.’
Police are corrupt and most truck drivers worry about taking a tourist as the police will demand a bribe but this is easily negotiable (although I don’t use money and the only driver I rode with lucked out but that was because he was lacking in the proper ways of driving).
Note that it is highly recommended NOT to walk to Victoria Falls from Livingstone even though it’s only a 4 km hike for two reasons: wild elephants and thieves that will hold you up and rob you of everything.
With crime, I had one negative experience at the Oktoberfest weekend where my small backpack was stolen from my tent along with my sandals. Although I had no issues leaving my bags by the road to go and talk with drivers who stopped a ways down, you never know who might have a sudden urge to take ownership over your belongings.
Current political problems
During my time in Zambia their beloved President passed away. After his death some riots issued in Lusaka, the nation’s capital, where fires were set (I still went out to a club and had no issues regarding safety).
In general, Zambia is one of the most peaceful countries having obtained its independence from British Colonial rule in 1964. It’s held peaceful, democratic elections ever since.
There aren’t any breakaway regions and it’s at peace with all its bordering neighbours.
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
MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE
Zambians love to drink and party harder than you think.They are a proud nation and the people are always smiling and willing to help.The food and drinks are cheap and the scenery ever changing and breath-taking.
You don’t really need signs as most people don’t read them. They’ll stop and ask where you’re headed.
Be open, friendly and greet everyone on the street. You’ll be surprised at the adventures you’ll end up having.
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