Zambia travel guide
Vast lakes and wetlands, long and life-giving rivers, breathtaking African sunsets and a rich tradition of guiding all contribute to Zambia’s immense appeal as a safari destination.
Its most famous landmark, Victoria Falls, which it shares with Zimbabwe, attracts nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike. Visit in March or April, when the falls are in full spate, and you’ll be bowled over by the rainbows, the roar of the cascading water and the dense, drenching clouds of spray.
Livingstone, the closest urban hub to the falls and once Zambia’s colonial capital, has a number of accommodation options, colourful markets and a busy restaurant and nightlife scene. The mighty Zambezi River itself is glassy-smooth above the falls and wild below. It’s perfect for booze cruises, canoe safaris and adrenaline activities such as white-water rafting and river surfing. There are a plethora of beautiful riverside lodges dotted along its banks.
Beyond the falls, Zambia is not as high-profile a safari destination as Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa, but it’s a favourite with those in the know. Packed with untamed wilderness and fascinating wildlife, minus the crowds, Zambia is the African bush at its most raw and romantic.
The country’s excellent safari lodges and camps will put you fully in touch with your wild surroundings. You’ll fall asleep to the hooting of owls, the whooping of hyenas, the distant roar of lions, and the loud munching of hippos grazing nearby.
Almost a third of Zambia’s landmass is given over to national parks and game reserves, but South Luangwa National Park is the cream of the crop for sheer density of big game. It’s also the home of the legendary African walking safari.
Another of Zambia’s drawcards is the people. The country is home to a staggering 72 different ethnic groups, each of whom have their own distinctive cultural traits and traditions, but all of whom are unfailingly warm and welcoming.
752,614 sq km (290,586 sq miles).
16,717,332 (UN estimate 2016).
20 per sq km.
President Edgar Lungu since 2015.
President Edgar Lungu since 2015.
Last updated: 22 January 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Around 60,000 British tourists visit Zambia every year.
Anyone caught violating Zambian immigration rules risks arrest, imprisonment and deportation. A number of British nationals have been arrested and charged with immigration offences.
You should avoid all political rallies and demonstrations.
Don’t drive after dark outside the main towns.
Take care if you travel in the rural parts of North Western, Copperbelt, Central and Luapula provinces close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) particularly after dark.
There is a risk of explosive remnants of war in remote areas near the borders with Angola, Mozambique and DRC.
Terrorist attacks in Zambia can’t be ruled out.
If you need to contact the emergency services, call 00260 211-253161 / 00260 950180007 (police), or 00260 211 228265 (fire). For ambulance services, staff at the British High Commission use SES (private ambulance service - 00260 962 740300 / 740302), but you can also check with your insurance provider on further recommendations.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Travel in major cities, as well as the major game parks is generally safe during daylight hours. However, serious crimes can and do occur, like armed robberies, home invasions and sexual assault. It is important to remain vigilant at all times. Vehicle hijackings happen across the country from time to time. Take particular care when approaching locked gateways at night. Don’t stop to give lifts to people at the roadside. Watch out for objects that have been placed to block the road.
Be vigilant, keep all vehicle doors locked and windows closed when driving, and remain aware of your surroundings, especially after dark.
Bag snatching, pick pocketing and theft from parked cars are common at some restaurants and internet cafes in downtown areas, particularly near bus and railway stations and in some shopping areas. Keep large amounts of money, expensive jewellery, cameras and phones out of sight. Don’t change large sums of money in busy public areas. Thieves have followed people after they have withdrawn money from banks and later robbed them at gunpoint.
Security risks increase after dark, especially in tourist areas and city centres. Over the last 2 years, a small number of ‘ritual’ murders have taken place in some of the poorer areas of Lusaka. British citizens have not been targeted during these murders.
Keep valuables and originals of important documents in a safe place and carry a copy of your passport and immigration permit.
Use reputable banks, bureaux de change or ATMs to exchange money.
A general election took place in August 2016. The presidential result was disputed by the main opposition party, leading to large-scale protests. In April 2017, the main opposition leader was charged with treason, which heightened political tensions and increased the risk of civil unrest. This charge has since been dropped. Small gatherings of opposition supporters can still take place outside the main courthouse compound in Lusaka to coincide with court judgements. You should exercise caution, avoid any political rallies and demonstrations and monitor local media.
In July 2017 the Zambian parliament approved a presidential declaration in relation to a threatened state of emergency. This widened the powers of government and the police to preserve public security for a period of 90 days. This lapsed on 11 October, but you should continue to follow the guidance and instructions of the local authorities and avoid any political rallies, demonstrations or large gatherings.
There are also occasional student demonstrations, which can turn violent, at the University of Zambia on the Great East Road (the main route to and from Lusaka International Airport), and around Copperbelt University. There are also occasional demonstrations in the central business district along Cairo Road. Don’t attempt to cross protester roadblocks as this commonly provokes a violent reaction from demonstrators. Monitor local and international media and keep up to date with this travel advice by subscribing to email alerts.
Take care when travelling in rural parts of North Western, Copperbelt, Central and Luapula provinces close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly after dark. Using legitimate border crossings in these areas is generally safe, although Congolese officials may ask for payment to cross the border. Avoid travelling in the bush along this border for hunting or prospecting.
There is a risk of explosive remnants of war in remote areas near the borders with Angola, Mozambique and DRC. Take care if you venture off road in these areas.
Wild animals in the bush, including venomous snakes, are unpredictable and do kill. Whether you are travelling on land or water, you are at risk of potentially fatal animal attacks. Always observe local regulations and follow your tour or safari guide’s instructions.
Adventure sports, including in the Victoria Falls area, carry risks. Serious accidents and deaths sometimes occur. The quality of medical care varies greatly. Follow safety instructions closely and make sure your insurance policy covers you.
You can drive using a UK driving licence for up to 90 days. If you intend to stay longer you will need to get an International Driving Permit or a Zambian driving licence.
Take care when driving. Vehicles are often poorly lit, inadequately maintained and badly driven. Drink driving and driving while talking on a mobile telephone is illegal but commonplace.
Road travel at night in rural areas can be hazardous. Abandoned vehicles, pedestrians and stray animals are a danger. Many roads are severely pot-holed or otherwise unsafe, especially during the rainy season (November-April) when bridges and roads risk being washed away by sudden floods. There are frequent fatal crashes. Don’t drive at night outside the main towns.
Travel by long-distance public transport can be dangerous due to poor standards of driving, lack of rest periods for drivers, the poor quality of vehicles and poor road conditions. Minibuses used in urban areas are usually severely overcrowded, poorly maintained and badly driven.
The Road Traffic and Safety Agency has recently started to more vigorously enforce an existing law to prosecute traffic offenders: drink driving; speeding; careless driving, etc through a fast track court system. Penalties include fines and/or imprisonment.
The European Union lifted a ban on Zambian air carriers in June 2016. Previously Zambian airlines were refused permission to operate services to the EU because of the inability of Zambian civil aviation authorities to ensure the safe operation of airlines.
Terrorist attacks in Zambia can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British passport holders need a visa to enter Zambia. You can get a visa from the Zambian High Commission in London before you travel. Single and double entry visit visas are available on arrival at all ports of entry, but multi-entry visas are not. If you plan to get a visa on arrival, make sure you have the correct amount of cash (US dollars) with you as change may not be available. If you enter through Kenneth Kaunda International Airport you can now make payment for single and double entry visas via credit or debit card at the Zambian Immigration desks.
You should check your visa endorsement for the period of your stay in Zambia. Although you are allowed 90 days per calendar year the immigration officer will not normally endorse the full length of time upon entry and you will be required to extend the stay at the nearest immigration office.
On leaving Zambia, all air passengers must pay a departure tax of US$25. Although this is normally included in the cost of an air ticket you will be asked to pay separately in Zambian Kwacha if it is not. With effect from 1 January 2011 the National Airports Corporation has added a Security Charge to all departing passengers payable at all NACL airports. The cost is US $3 per person per sector for domestic flights and US $5 per person for international flights. Fees must be paid in Kwacha but is also included in the ticket price.
Volunteer workers should get a business visa from the Zambian High Commission in London before departure. Anyone violating the immigration rules risks arrest, imprisonment and deportation. Agents claiming to be able to arrange residence and work permits from the Immigration Department may be bogus and the documents they provide may be forged.
The KAZA visa is valid for travel between Zambia and Zimbabwe and day trips into Botswana. It’s available at the international airports in Lusaka and Livingstone and at the land borders at Livingstone (Zimbabwe border) and Kazungula (Botswana border). It costs US $50 and it is valid for 30 days.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Zambia and have 2 blank pages.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit, and exit from Zambia. ETDs must be valid for 6 months for entry into Zambia if the holder is not a returning resident.
On 6 January 2016 a Constitution Amendment Bill was signed into Zambian law. This recognizes dual nationality. However if you enter Zambia on one passport you should depart using the same passport to avoid possible delays.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Travelling with children via a South African airport
If you’re transiting through a South African airport with children (under 18), see our South Africa travel advice page for information and advice about the documents you’ll need to carry.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist are available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. On arrival in Zambia, customs officials may ask to see prescriptions for any medication you bring into the country. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
Over 2000 cases of cholera were reported in Lusaka during the 2017-18 rainy season (November to April). You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and take measures to reduce the risk of infection.
Medical facilities and communications in Zambia are poor, especially in rural areas. Even basic drugs and clean needles may not be available. Emergency services are limited. Make sure you know your blood group and carry a sterile medical kit including needles, dressings etc. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
On arrival in Zambia, customs officials may ask to see prescriptions for any medication you bring into the country.
Food bought from local street vendors may not meet adequate hygiene standards. Health officials are concerned about poor hygiene in markets and other food outlets which are prone to cholera.
The Zambia HIV Impact Assessment report of 2016 estimated that 980,000 people were living with HIV in Zambia. The overall HIV prevalence in the adult population is 12.3%, compared to a prevalence of 0.2% in adults in the UK. You should take normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, staff at the British High Commission use the SES private ambulance service (00260 962 740300 / 740302). You should check with your insurer before travelling that your cover will be sufficient for this service. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Local laws and customs
Some over the counter drugs available in the UK are not legal in Zambia. Check ingredients carefully and contact the Government of Zambia’s Pharmaceutical Authority for further advice if you are in any doubt (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) or write to: Director General Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority, Box 31890, Lusaka. Customs officers may ask to see prescriptions for any medication you bring into the country.
The possession or use of narcotics, including soft drugs like marijuana, is strictly prohibited. Drug taking and smuggling are offences. Punishments can be severe and prison conditions are very poor.
It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a license. Those caught purchasing or trafficking such goods will be prosecuted and receive prison sentences or fines.
The possession of pornographic material is illegal in Zambia and offenders may be jailed and/or deported.
Homosexuality is illegal in Zambia and those caught engaging in homosexual acts can be sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Prison conditions in Zambia are very poor.
The Zambian authorities don’t always inform the British High Commission when British Nationals have been arrested. If you are detained, you can insist on your right to contact a British consular officer.
Avoid taking pictures of sensitive sites including power stations, explosives factories, pumping stations, army barracks, government buildings, river junctions, road and rail bridges, the Ndola Oil refinery, mining areas and airports. If in doubt, don’t take pictures.
Zambia’s currency is the Kwacha and is available at airports, hotels, ATMs and exchange offices. Major credit cards are increasingly accepted by larger shops, hotels, restaurants and tour operators. Many companies charge a 5% fee for the use of credit cards. Make sure credit cards are swiped no more than necessary and that all carbons are destroyed. Only use reputable banks and bureaux de change to exchange money or use ATMs.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.