Area:752,618 sq. km Capital:Lusaka Largest towns: Lusaka, Ndola, Livingstone, Kabwe, Kitwe Population:est. 12,935,000 Official language:English Currency: Zambian Kwacha Head of state: President Rupiah Banda Life expectancy:42 years Literacy:68 %
The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west.
The capital city is Lusaka, located in the southeast of the country. Zambia is one of the most highly urbanised countries in sub-Saharan Africa with 44% of the population concentrated in a few urban areas along the major transport corridors, while rural areas are sparsely populated.
The population is concentrated mainly around the capital Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt to the northwest. Zambia has been inhabited for thousands of years by hunter-gatherers and migrating tribes. After sporadic visits by European explorers starting in the 18th century, Zambia was gradually claimed and occupied by the British as protectorate of Northern Rhodesia towards the end of the nineteenth century.
On 24 October 1964, the protectorate gained independence with the new name of Zambia, derived from the Zambezi river which flows through the country. After independence the country moved towards a system of one party rule with Kenneth Kaunda as president. Kaunda dominated Zambian politics until multiparty elections were held in 1991.
The official language of Zambia is English, which is used to conduct official business and is the medium of instruction in schools. However, Bemba and Nyanja are spoken in the urban areas in addition to other indigenous languages which are commonly-spoken. Estimates of the total number of languages spoken in Zambia add up to 72, thirteen (13) dialects are counted as languages in their own right which brings this number to 85.
Climate Zambia appears to be squarely in the tropics in the world map, but thanks to its landlocked and elevated position it does have distinct seasons that run as follows:
Dry season — May to August. The coolest time of the year, with temperatures 24-28°C during the day, can drop as low as 7°C at night. Probably the best time of year to visit Zambia: come early in the dry season for bird-watching or to see Vic Falls at their biggest, or later when the bush has dried up for good game-spotting on safari.
Hot season — September to November. Temperatures rocket up to a scorching 38-42°C and clouds of swirling dust make driving on dirt roads an asthmatic's nightmare. If you can take the heat, though, it's a good time for safaris as wildlife clusters around the few remaining watering holes.
Wet season — December to April. Temperatures cool down to 32°C or so and, true to the name, there is a lot of rain — sometimes just an hour or two, sometimes for days on end. Unsealed roads become impassable muddy nightmares, and many safari lodges close.
All temperatures above are given for the lowland valleys that house most of Zambia's population and national parks. If you're heading up to the plateaus, temperatures will be around 5°C lower.
Currency The kwacha is the currency of Zambia. It is subdivided into 100 ngwee. Denominations of 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10 000, 20 000 and 50 000 kwacha notes.
Currency regulations There is no limit to the importation of foreign currency, provided it is declared on arrival through a currency declaration form.
Business hours Government offices are open from 08h00 to 17h00, Monday to Friday. Closed from 13h00 to 14h00. Bank hours vary from bank to bank but most are open from 08h30 - 15h30 Monday to Friday. Some are open on Saturdays. Shops are generally open from 08h00 to 17h00, Monday to Friday although some stay open until 19h00 and on Saturdays from 08h00 to 13h00 although some stay open til 17h00.
Credit Cards Most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take credit cards. Most of the bigger banks will advance local currency against a credit card. Most banks have ATM's which accept Visa cards for cash.
Chemists / pharmacies Travellers should carry an adequate supply of their prescribed medicines with them although chemists in the major centres carry a wide range of medicines and first aid accessories. There are some emergency chemists open after hours or Sundays in Lusaka.
Postal services are fairly well organised in Zambia and you should have no problem sending or receiving letters. Telegrams are less certain. There are two commercial Internet servers in Lusaka and another on the Copperbelt.
E-mail: There are several Internet Cafes in Livingstone and Lusaka and time on line is very reasonable. Arcades shopping centre also has a large Internet Centre and there are several in Cairo Rd.
Public telephones are available in most public buildings, ie. post offices, and most use tokens. International calls can also be made from a private home or large hotel. (Note the surcharge at hotels is quite high). Direct dialling to neighbouring countries requires 4 sets of numbers: first the international prefix 00, then the country code, the city code, then the number. Incoming calls usually cost less than outgoing calls from Zambia. To book an operator assisted international call, dial 090 or 093. Local directory assistance is 103. There are secretarial services along Cairo Rd in Lusaka that offer telephone, fax and telex and email facilities for a fee.
Visas Zambian visa policy is best summarized as confusing: there is a bewildering thicket of rules on who needs visas, whether they can get them on arrival and how much they pay, and local border posts also apply their own interpretations. Due to recent political turbulence in Zimbabwe, Zambia has been cashing in on its unexpected boon in the tourism industry, with visa fees hiked and the previous visa waiver program canceled: you're now expected to pay in cash on arrival at the immigration kiosks. The upside is that once they've figured out what category you're in, actually obtaining the visa is rarely a problem and a rule of thumb is that most Western visitors could get visas on arrival. Visa-free entry is possible for some nationalities including Ireland, Zimbabwe and South Africa. See the www.zambiaimmigration.gov.zm for the full list of visa-exempt nationalities. Current visa prices are US$50 for a single-entry and US$80 for a multiple-entry visa for all nationalities and is valid for 3 months; US passport holders can only apply for a multiple-entry visa, but it is then valid for 3 years. Multiple Entry Visas shall be issued at Immigration Headquarters and Zambian Missions abroad.
A day entry visa is available to all nationalities at US$10, valid 24 hours
Transit visas carry the same cost as a single entry visa, valid 7 days
Do check with the nearest Zambian embassy for the latest information; the Zambian Embassy to the US has some information on their homepage, and getting the visa before arrival will reduce the uncertainty factor.
Customs Souvenirs may be exported without restriction but game trophies such as tooth, bone, horn, shell, claw, skin, hair, feather or other durable items are subject to export permits.
Respect Zambians follow a strict patriarchal society — men are afforded more respect than women, and older men are respected more than younger men. You might find, however, that a white person is afforded the most respect of all. A holdover from colonial times, this might make a traveler uncomfortable, but this is largely a Zambian's way of being courteous. Accept their hospitality. Zambians are a curious people. To a Western mindset, this might be interpreted as unnecessarily staring at you or talking about you in front of you. Be prepared to be greeted by kids yelling mazungu, mazungu! (litterally, white man) and answer lots of questions about yourself. Zambians love to shake hands, and you should oblige them. However, Zambians often like to hold hands for the duration of a conversation. This should not be interpreted as anything sexual; they are merely trying to "connect" with you. If you feel uncomfortable, simply pull your hand away. Women should not wear shorts or mini-skirts, especially as they travel away from Lusaka. (Thighs, to Zambian men, are huge turn-ons.) Low-cut tops, however, while discouraged, are not nearly as provocative.
Finally, when meeting a Zambian — even to ask a question — you should always say hello and ask how they are. Properly greeting a Zambian is very important. They are uncomfortable with the Western notion of simply "getting to the point."