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Zambia travel guide

About Zambia

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.

Key facts

Area:

752,614 sq km (290,586 sq miles).

Population:

16,717,332 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

20 per sq km.

Capital:

Lusaka.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Hakainde Hichilema since 2021.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Zambia on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

There are no direct flights between Zambia and the UK. Check FCDO travel advice for the latest guidance on transiting through third countries.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Zambia.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government requirements.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Zambia

Regional airports are open, though airlines may be operating limited services.

Accommodation

There are no restrictions on hotels and safari lodges. You should contact your accommodation provider for further information before travelling.

Public places and services

The wearing of a mask is mandatory in all public places.

Healthcare in Zambia

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Zambia.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Zambia

Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. As further information is available about the national vaccination programme, this page will be updated. Sign up to get email notifications.

The Zambian national vaccination programme started in April 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson and Sinopharm vaccines. British nationals resident in Zambia are eligible for vaccination.

A list of vaccination sites is available on the Zambian Ministry of Health website.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad page.

If you’re a British national living in Zambia, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Political situation

Demonstrations and protests occasionally take place in Zambia, more commonly in Lusaka and other urban areas. They can disrupt local transport, and have the potential to escalate into violence. Don’t attempt to cross protester roadblocks as this commonly provokes a violent reaction from demonstrators.

Protests and large gatherings can happen without warning and occasionally result in disorder. You should avoid them and leave the scene as soon as possible if a crowd develops. You should exercise caution and follow the guidance and instructions of local authorities. Monitor local and international media and keep up to date with this travel advice by subscribing to email alerts.

Crime

Travel in major cities, as well as the major game parks is generally safe during daylight hours. However, serious crimes can and do occur. It is important to remain vigilant at all times and take sensible precautions.

Be vigilant, keep all vehicle doors locked and windows closed when driving, and remain aware of your surroundings, especially after dark.

Keep valuables and originals of important documents in a safe place and carry a copy of your passport and immigration permit.

Local travel

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.
 
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.

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.

Road travel

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 phone is illegal but commonplace. The Road Traffic and Safety Agency will prosecute traffic offenders through a fast track court system.

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. You should avoid driving at night outside the main towns.

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.

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.

Air Travel

The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

The European Union ban on Zambian air carriers was lifted in June 2016.

Terrorist attacks in Zambia can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

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.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Zambia set and enforce entry rules. For further information 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.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Zambia

Zambia’s borders are open, but under health screening.

Tourist and business visit visas are available in advance and on arrival in Zambia.

All travellers to Zambia must produce evidence of a PCR COVID-19 negative test taken in the 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin. Visitors are responsible for monitoring their condition for 14 days after arrival, and should report any occurrence of COVID-19 symptoms to medical authorities.

You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

All airports are open to flights, though availability of international flights remains limited. Please check before booking.

Testing on arrival

All travellers coming from a country designated ‘high risk’ (see below) by the Government of Zambia must take a COVID-19 test (at their expense) on arrival or within 48 hours of their arrival even if they have a negative PCR test. Travelers who transit through high risk countries are not considered high risk if the transit time is less than 24 hours.

The current list of “high risk” countries is Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, Chile, India, Iran, Iraq, Netherlands, Peru, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey. This list is liable to change at short notice and with minimal publication.

Anyone entering Zambia with a body temperature equal to, or above 38.0 C will be tested for COVID-19 on arrival, as will anyone with COVID-19 related symptoms. Any other arrivals may be randomly selected for testing. These tests are in addition to the requirement for visitors to show proof that they have tested negative for COVID-19 in the 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.

Data collection

Traveller Health Questionnaires are provided on incoming flights for passengers to complete before disembarkation. These should be completed in English and handed in on arrival.

Point of Entry screening

The following screening measures are now in place at Zambian Points of Entry (PoE).

  • Port Health officers will conduct general observations of passengers to detect those with signs of illness.
  • Port Health officers to collect and review health declaration forms, noting country of origin.
  • Port Health officers to review the SARS-CoV-2 negative certificates being presented by travelers to determine authenticity and validity.
  • All passengers to undergo thermo-scanning and temperature to be recorded on the health declaration forms.

Quarantine requirements

If your body temperature is equal to, or above 38.0, or you have a COVID-19 related symptom (a cough, shortness of breath, a headache, loss of taste or smell, or a sore throat), you will be tested and taken to either your home or a government facility for treatment and quarantine until your tests results are known.

Arrivals from countries that are not classified as high risk and have a negative PCR test result do not need to quarantine. A mandatory 14 day self- isolation will be instituted for all arrivals from countries classified as high risk. However, this self-isolation will be discontinued once a negative PCR test result taken on arrival in Zambia is produced. Arrivals from countries classified as high risk who test positive will be managed in accordance with the prescribed Zambian COVID-19 management guidelines.

Exit requirements

All travellers wishing to leave Zambia to travel to a country that requires a negative COVID-19 test are required to produce a medical certificate stating that they have tested negative for COVID-19 in the previous 14 days.

This requirement does not apply to travellers to a destination that does not require a negative test but travellers are advised to check with their airline on their requirements prior to travel.

Most testing centres will provide a travel certificate if requested or travellers must take their negative test result to UTH Hospital, the Zambia National Health Public Institute, the District Health Office or the Public Health Office and pay a 200 Kwacha fee. COVID-19 tests must have been taken in Zambia.

Holders of tests taken outside Zambia are not exempt from this requirement, even if the test was taken within the previous 14 days.

There are no direct flights between Zambia and the UK.

Check FCDO travel advice for the latest guidance on transiting through third countries.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

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) as change may not be available. If you enter through Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, you can 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.

For further information about entry requirements contact the Zambian High Commission in London at info@zambiahc.org.uk or visit Zambia Department of Immigration.

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.

On leaving Zambia, all air passengers must pay a departure tax of US$25. 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.

There is also a Security Charge payable by all departing air passengers. The cost is US$3 per person for domestic flights and US$5 per person for international flights. As above, this is normally included in the cost of an air ticket but you will be asked to pay separately in Zambian Kwacha if it is not.

Passport validity

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.

Dual nationals

Zambia recognizes dual nationality. However to avoid delays you should leave Zambia on the same passport you used to enter.

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 Travel Advice for South Africa for information and advice about the documents you’ll need to carry.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Zambia on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Zambia.

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. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Health Risks

Cholera is present in Lusaka. You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and take measures to reduce the risk of infection.

Food bought from local street vendors may not meet adequate hygiene standards. See Food and water hygiene.

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.

Local medical facilities

General medical facilities throughout Zambia are unable to provide the same standard of healthcare as in the UK. Facilities in rural areas are basic and emergency services are limited. You should carry basic medical supplies. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

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.

Some over the counter drugs available in the UK are not legal in Zambia. Check ingredients carefully and contact the Zambian Medical Regulatory Authority for further advice. 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 prohibited. Drug taking and smuggling are offences.

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.

Avoid taking pictures of sensitive sites such as army barracks, and government buildings. If in doubt, don’t take pictures.

Consular Assistance

The Zambian authorities don’t always inform the British High Commission when British Nationals have been arrested. If you are arrested or detained, ask the police officers or prison officials to contact the British High Commission.

Zambia’s currency is the Kwacha and is available at airports, hotels, ATMs and exchange offices. Larger shops, hotels, restaurants and tour operators increasingly accept major credit cards. Use ATMs or banks and bureaux de change to exchange money. It may not be possible to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes.

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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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.

Travel safety

The FCDO 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 FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

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.

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