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 Hakainde Hichilema since 2021.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Zambia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Zambian High Commission in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Zambia.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Zambia, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive. It must have at least 2 blank pages for entry stamping.
Make sure you get your passport stamped.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
Zambia recognises dual nationality. However, to avoid delays at the airport you should leave Zambia on the same passport you used to enter.
You must have a visa to enter Zambia. If you’re a visitor, and your visit is less than 90 days, you can get a visa on arrival. You must be able to show:
- valid return or onward tickets
- enough money for your stay
You can also get visas in advance using Zambia’s e-visa service.
If you’re a business traveller, you can get a free 30-day visa on arrival by showing a letter of invitation from the sponsoring organisation. After 30 days you must apply for a temporary employment permit at a Zambia immigration office. This will allow you to stay in Zambia for the duration of the permit.
The KAZA UNIVISA, for use in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, is valid for unlimited travel between Zambia and Zimbabwe and for day trips to Botswana. It costs 50 US dollars and is valid for 30 days.
You can apply online in advance, or get the visa on arrival if you are arriving at:
- Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, Lusaka
- Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport, Livingstone
- by land at Livingstone, Victoria Falls (Zambia-Zimbabwe border)
- by land at Kazungula (Zambia-Botswana border)
On leaving Zambia, all air passengers must pay the equivalent to 25 US dollars and a security charge of 3 US dollars. Both charges are normally included in the cost of an air ticket, but you will have to pay in cash with Zambian kwacha if they are not.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Zambia guide.
Depending on your circumstances, this may include a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Zambia. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
This guide also has safety advice for regions of Zambia.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Zambia
Terrorist attacks in Zambia cannot be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There are occasionally demonstrations and protests in Lusaka and other urban areas. They can disrupt local transport and become violent. Avoid them and leave the scene as soon as possible if a crowd develops. Do not cross protester roadblocks as this is likely to provoke a violent reaction from demonstrators.
Travel in larger cities and the major game parks is generally safe during daylight hours. However, serious crimes can happen. Pre-arrange transport to avoid walking at night and stay aware of your surroundings, especially after dark. Stay alert and take precautions against vehicle crime by:
- keeping windows closed and doors locked when travelling
- ignoring hitchhikers or anyone trying to flag you down
- watching out for potential carjackers when approaching locked gateways at night, or if an object has been placed to block the road
- only using cars arranged for you by a hotel or tour operator
Keep valuables and originals of important documents in a safe place and carry a copy of your passport’s photo page and entry stamp.
Laws and cultural differences
It is illegal to possess pornographic material in Zambia, and offenders may be jailed or deported.
It is illegal to possess or use drugs, including marijuana. Drug use and smuggling are serious offences.
Using cameras in secure areas
It’s illegal to take pictures of sensitive sites such as army barracks or government buildings, and you could be arrested. If in doubt, do not take pictures.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Zambia, and anyone convicted can get a long prison sentence.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs
It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a licence. Anyone caught purchasing or trafficking such goods will be prosecuted and get a fine or a prison sentence.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
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. There have been serious accidents and deaths. The quality of medical care varies greatly. Follow safety instructions closely. Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment or potential repatriation.
If you are planning to drive in Zambia, see information on driving abroad.
You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Zambia for up to 90 days. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence. If you plan to stay in Zambia for more than 90 days, you’ll need to have the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) or a Zambian driving licence.
Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience, a higher minimum age and holding an IDP.
Road conditions and driving standards
Many roads are severely potholed. During the rainy season from November to April, sudden floods can wash away bridges and roads.
Vehicles in Zambia are often inadequately maintained and badly driven. There are frequent fatal crashes. Drink-driving and driving while on a mobile are illegal but commonplace. Zambia’s Road Traffic and Safety Agency prosecutes traffic offenders through a fast-track court system.
It is dangerous to drive outside the main towns after dark due to abandoned vehicles, pedestrians and stray animals on the road, and vehicles being driven without lights.
Buses and minibuses
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 in urban areas are usually severely overcrowded, poorly maintained and badly driven.
This section has safety advice for regions of Zambia. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice.
Take care when travelling in rural parts of Zambia, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The border is not demarcated and there is a risk of inadvertently illegally entering DRC.
Legitimate border crossings in these areas are generally safe.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccination recommendations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Zambia guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Cholera is present in Zambia. You should take measures to reduce the risk of cholera infection.
There is currently an outbreak of anthrax in Zambia, affecting rural and urban areas. Do not touch dead animals or carcases. Buy meat only from reputable butchers and ensure that meat is thoroughly cooked. Avoid animal products that could have been sourced from animals that may have died of natural causes. If you suspect that you have come into contact with anthrax, seek urgent medical advice.
The UNAIDS Zambia country progress report of 2020 estimated the overall HIV prevalence in the adult population is 11%, compared to a prevalence of 0.2% in adults in the UK. Take normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Zambia
FCDO has a list of medical providers in Zambia.
Medical facilities throughout Zambia are of a lower standard than in the UK. Facilities in rural areas are basic and emergency services are limited. 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.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Zambia
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding lawyers and funeral directors in Zambia
- dealing with a death in Zambia
- being arrested or imprisoned in Zambia
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you’re in Zambia and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Lusaka.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.