All the facts you need to know about the country itself.
Full Country Name Republic of Zambia
Area 752,614 sq km
Population 16.452 million (UN 2015)
Capital and largest City Lusaka
Borders Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe
Religion Around 30% of the population is Christian (Protestant and Roman Catholic), a smaller number are Muslim and Hindu, and a small minority have traditional animist beliefs
Time Zone Standard time is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time Languages English is the official language, but there are over 73 local dialects. The main languages are Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja and Tonga
Country Dialling Code +260
Zambia is the land of the legendary African walking safari, big game, abundant birdlife and raw, pulsating wilderness are all what visitors can expect to find in Zambia.
Zambia has a lot to offer. It is blessed with 17 waterfalls including the spectacular Victoria Falls – the country is a fine destination for nature lovers and thrill seekers. Massive lakes, rich wetlands and breathtaking African sunsets contribute to the country’s scenic splendour. The wild Zambezi River is perfect for adrenaline rush activities such as white water rafting, canoeing safaris, river surfing and tiger fishing.
The Zambian safari and tourism infrastructure are still relatively undeveloped; however, there is a small but sophisticated safari industry with excellent safari lodges and seasonal bush camps and some of the best African safari guides. African safaris in Zambia are ideally suited for “old Africa hands” or those seeking a remote and more exclusive African safari.
The Zambian government has long recognised the economic importance of its wildernesses and is acutely aware of environmental concerns: almost one-third of the country is given over to national parks and game reserves.
When to Travel
When to Travel
There is no right time to travel to Zambia, just the right time for you! Here we go through the benefits and downsides of each season.
- The optimum time to witness Victoria Falls in full flood is between the months of June to September when visibility is at its best.
- If you are looking for an exhilarating experience then you may want to swim in the Devil’s Pool. The Devil’s Pool sits on the edge of Victoria Falls and can only be accessed when the water is at its very lowest level, between late August and early January. Here tourists can swim on the very edge of the falls and look down on the 100m-drop – a truly exhilarating experience.
Dry season: June to October
This is the country’s dry season and can be seen as the optimum time to safari in Zambia as Wildlife can be found in abundance in and around water sources.
Benefits to visiting Zambia in the dry season:
- This is when temperature is most pleasant although it is important to note that June evenings can be chilly and towards the end of the season it can be hot and humid.
- Although visitor numbers are higher at this time of year Zambia doesn’t ever get too busy, even in the peak/dry season.
- In June the grass can be longer so it can be more difficult to spot game. This is not an issue for the rest of the dry season however.
- There are fewer mosquitos at this time of year.
- Conditions are ideal for a walking safari.
Downsides of visiting Zambia in the dry season:
- Prices are higher in the dry season, as it’s peak season so the budget conscious may wish to visit during the green season.
- This is not the best time to witness the mighty Victoria Falls and in the months of October and November the water may dry up altogether.
Green season: November to May
You can expect heavy rainfall over these months. Plains are covered with tall grass and the land blossoms with spectacular foliage. The temperature is warm and in between rainfall the days are clear of dust. Much of the rainfall takes place in the afternoons or at night.
November to February is a very enjoyable time to visit, as tourist numbers are lower in this time and the weather is not disruptive. The heavier and longer rains are in March-May. June can also be very pleasant, although often with some rainfall.
Benefits to visiting Zambia in the green season:
- This can be a great time for photographers to travel to Zambia. Landscapes are lush and picturesque.
- Baby animals are plentiful at this time of year.
- Prices are considerably reduced at this time of year so it is excellent value for money.
- Tourist numbers are lower in the green season so it makes for a much more exclusive safari experience.
- The days are longer so there is more time to enjoy your safari experience.
- In the green season the Luangwa River bursts its banks and floods the lagoons you need to navigate the park by boat, which is a very unique and impressive experience.
- Last, but certainly not least Victoria Falls is at its most impressive at this time of year.
- There is an abundance of birdlife.
Downsides of visiting Zambia in the green season:
- In December through to February you can expect constant rainfall.
- Some of the dirt roads can be hard to navigate when waterlogged.
- The grass is longer during the green season and this can make it more difficult to spot wildlife.
Here is the “need to know” information about visas for Zambia.
DO I NEED A VISA TO TRAVEL TO Zambia?
- At the time of writing, a visa for Zambia is required for travellers on Australian Passports.
WHAT IS THE COST OF A Zambian VISA?
- Single Entry Visa: USD 50 per person on an Australian Passport (subject to change).
- Double Entry Visa: USD 80 per person on an Australian Passport (subject to change).
- The visa can be obtained on arrival at the airport or at the border post.
- It is important to have two blank pages side by side in your passport for the entry and exit stamps to be issued. If there is insufficient space, entry into the country may be denied.
- Visitors must also be in possession of onward travel documents and have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay.
- A Yellow Fever vaccination is required. All travellers must carry proof that the Yellow Fever vaccine has been administered at least 10 days prior to travel.
Please double check this with Bench Africa or your travel agent as this may change at any time
What you need to know about your finances for your holiday in Zambia.
- The unit of currency is the Zambian Kwacha (ZMK), which is divided into 100 ngwee.
You should know...
- The US Dollar is the favoured currency.
- American Express and MasterCard credit cards are not accepted everywhere.
Is Zambia the right choice for you and your family? Here’s what you need to know about travelling with children.
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN
- We would not recommend travelling to Zambia with children under the age of 6 as it is not malaria-free.
WHY CHOOSE ZAMBIA FOR YOUR FAMILY HOLIDAY?
- Although Zambia is not an ideal destination for young families it is perfect for children over 12 who can take part in a plethora of game viewing activities, including walks, canoeing, boating and fishing.
- In Livingstone there are even more activities, suitable for the more adventurous teenagers out there. Activities here include white water rafting, helicopter flights, bungee jumping, micro lighting and horse riding, to name a few. And of course, (at certain times of the year) is there anything more thrilling than swimming in the Devils Pool?
- Otherwise, the thrill of seeing the falls is enough for some and younger families may want to experience this from the comfort of a river cruise.
Although electricity in Africa is a lot more reliable than it used to be, here’s what you need to be aware of.
Voltage & Frequency
- The general voltage in Zambia is 230 and frequency is 50 Hz.
- Some hotels have the new system round pin plugs or an adaptor for square and round.
- Some lodges and camps only have power in the early mornings and evenings.
- Some video charging facilities are centralised.
- As the sockets can vary a ‘Travellers Adaptor Set’ is recommended.
- Voltage sometimes fluctuates and whilst power cuts are rare, they are not unknown. It is useful to carry a torch.
Travelling by road in Africa may seem daunting to some so we have put together some information so that you know what you can expect.
- Please note that road surfaces vary from tarmac, gravel, sand and occasionally vehicles may travel “off road”.
- Additionally, if visiting remote areas or National Parks and Reserves, the roads may well be rough, bumpy and in a poor condition and may be affected by adverse weather conditions
- Road travel in Africa can be a risky business. We cannot stress enough how important it is that you travel with a reputable ground operator, who has strictly enforced guidelines regarding speed and road safety.
- We have spent the best part of 50 years assessing the ground operators in each country that we sell.
- In booking through Bench you know that you will be the safest that you can be!
Here are our recommendations to thumb through either before you leave for your trip to Zambia, or whilst on safari.
- The Africa House: Christina Lamb
- Return to the Wild – A Story of Two Lions: Norman Carr
- The Eye of the Elephant: Mark James Owens & Cordelia Dykes Owens
- Just Off the Great North Road: Hugh Chare
- 101 Things to Know When You Go on Safari in Africa: Patrick Brakspear
Tipping is a delicate and sensitive issue and many people ask us for tipping guidelines, here is all the information you should require.
Tipping is usually considered customary in Africa although not as widespread as the United States or Europe. It is always at your discretion. If you feel that someone has gone the extra mile to make your stay more enjoyable, a tip would be considered a nice way of saying thank you.
To help you budget for your trip, the following is given as a guideline only (shown in US Dollars):
Driver (per person per full day): $5.00
Guide (per person per full day): $10.00
Camp Staff (per person per full day): $5.00
Hotel Porter (per bag): $1.00
Restaurant (per person per meal): $1.00
A la Carte dining (% of the bill): 10%
- Useful Numbers
You should be aware of the following additional costs that may affect your holiday in Zambia.
- The National Heritage entry fee to the Victoria Falls is USD 20 per person – payable locally (subject to change).
- The National Airports Corporation introduced an additional airport tax that must be paid by all departing passengers on domestic flights. Fees can be paid on departure in US dollars and Zambian Kwacha. The fee is USD 8 per person for domestic flights. These fees may change without notice.
Here are some guidelines for travelling by light aircraft in Africa.
- Please ask the local operator at your hotel/lodge to reconfirm all onward flights prior to departure to ensure the flight timings are still correct.
- Most departure taxes (domestic and international) are included on tickets, however some regional and private airports have taxes to be paid for locally.
General Luggage Restrictions on Light Aircraft
- Only soft bags will be accepted – no wheels, frames or rigid structures can be transported, as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft.
At Bench Africa we carefully select the properties that we use, and one size certainly does not fit all. Here is a list of all the different types of accommodation awaiting you in Africa.
We recommend this for the more intrepid travellers who want to get their hands dirty! Guests will put up their own tents and may be required to help around the campsite. The basics are catered for, as well as two-man tents and sleeping mats and campsites preselected to stay at along the journey. The amenities at these campsites can vary quite drastically depending where you are in Africa and what you pay. For example in the Serengeti there is no running water at the campsites, however in other parts of Africa the campsite may have a swimming pool.
Fully Serviced Camping
For those that want to experience a traditional safari, under canvas but would still like the chance to relax and take time to enjoy their environment we would recommend fully serviced camping. On arrival the mobile camp is set up and ready to go. The tents are spacious and can be really quite luxurious, often with camp beds and en-suite bathrooms, as well as a full staff of chefs, waiters and other helping hands. Here you will have lighting, hot water and cold drinks but you still have that amazing feeling of being at one with nature!
Luxury Tented Camping
Luxury tented camps are a very popular choice on safari because these camps are very intimate, usually with no more than 20 tents on site. These luxury tents offer spacious rooms with electricity, proper beds, as well as en-suite bathrooms with running hot and cold water. The cuisine and service is of a very high standard and you will eat like a king, with 3 decadent meals a day, as well as snacks. All luxury tented camps offer an all-inclusive package to incorporate meals, local drinks and game viewing activities. At night you can still go to sleep, under canvas with the sounds of the African wilderness around you. This is how you do safari in style!
Safari Lodges vary considerably in size and architectural design but essentially these are much more permanent structures, often with many more rooms than luxury tented camps. They will often have a swimming pool and conferencing facilities. A lodge will celebrate the nature surrounding it and will usually blend in with its surrounds and built making natural, locally sourced materials.
This would commonly be the largest of all the accommodation types but again can vary quite dramatically in style, size and the amenities that it offers. There is typically a reception area, with rooms opening directly onto a hallway. They would be less exclusive that the aforementioned accommodation types, with restaurants and other facilities open to the public.
A boutique hotel is a 5-star establishment providing all the features and facilities of a standard hotel but is always unique and very stylish. These properties are usually smaller and more intimate than a hotel and offer a very high-end service.
Hotels, lodges and tented camps in Africa range from good tourist standard to award- winning deluxe properties. On occasions it may be necessary to change a hotel, lodge or camp due to various reasons, which would be out of the control of Bench Africa. In this situation we will make every effort to give you as much advance warning as possible. In the event of this happening we may not be able to send out up-to-date information on this substitute property.
For more information on the individual hotels, lodges or tented camps where you will be staying please refer to your itinerary or speak to one of our Africa experts.
What to Pack
What to Pack
Here we have listed our recommendations of what you should pack for your Africa travels.
- Formal clothing is generally not needed throughout most of Africa. We recommend that you limit your luggage to the basics. More formal attire is usually only required when staying in the more prestigious city hotel establishments and on luxury rail journeys such as Rovos Rail or the Blue Train, in South Africa.
- On a wildlife safari, casual cotton clothing is the most practical. Calm neutral colours such as tan or khaki are a good idea although a bush outfit is not essential. Some form of headgear is recommended, and sunglasses are essential. A warm fleece or jacket is advisable for colder evenings and early mornings. A lightweight raincoat may be useful as some seasonal rains can occur.
- Heavy footwear is not required, but sturdy, comfortable walking shoes or boots are recommended for nature walks, with a change of shoes (such as trainers) for the camp.
- The dress code is informal at all of the camps and it is advisable to bring long sleeved shirts and trousers for the evenings to minimise insect bites.
- Good laundry facilities are readily available at many hotels, game lodges and camps, and often on a complimentary service where the amount of luggage is restricted. However, on a busy itinerary it is advisable to check that your clothes will be ready before your departure. If your trip contains any light aircraft flights, then you may be subject to some very strict baggage restrictions. You will be limited to a certain weight, often between 15–20 KG. Bags also have to be soft-sided cases so that they can fit in the hold. These restrictions cannot be avoided, as there simply is not the capacity on these small planes so bear this in mind when you are packing for your Africa trip.
- It is always a good idea to dress in layers on activities to accommodate the early morning and late afternoon change of temperature. Winter months will definitely require a warm jacket and perhaps a beanie, gloves and a scarf.
- Hat for protection from the sun
- Good quality sunglasses preferably polarized
- Camera, charger and adaptor
- If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case of dust irritation.
- Good walking shoes, trainers as well as sandals
- Socks (long socks, if you are doing a gorilla trek)
- Long trousers/slacks
- T-shirts/long-sleeved cotton shirt for cooler evenings
- Sweater/fleece/raincoat. These may be required for early morning and late afternoon game activities throughout the year.
- Lip balm
- Sports bra – ladies, you may need this for bumpy game drive
- Swimming costume
- Basic medical kit (aspirins, elastoplasts, Imodium, antiseptic cream etc
- Malaria tablets AND anti-histamine cream
- Insect repellent (many lodges do supply sprays)
- Protective suntan lotion particularly for pale and sensitive skins
- Tissues or ‘wet wipes’
Food & Drink
Food & Drink
What you can expect from food and drink in Zambia.
- Most lodges and safari camps have restaurants and licensed bars, and the food offered ranges from good basic meals to gourmet style. The standard of food in lodges and camps is generally very good.
- Bottled water is available in all tourist centres. It is advisable to drink at least 2-3 litres of water per day whilst on safari as dehydration can occur quickly, especially in the summer months.
- It is best to assume that water is NOT safe to drink unless it has been boiled. It is always wise to double check locally if in any doubt.
- Wine tends to be imported and may be expensive; however, local beer and local spirits are reasonably priced and easily available as are soft drinks (Pepsi, Coca Cola etc) and bottled water.
It is vital that you visit your doctor at least 6 weeks prior to travel.
- We are not health professionals and as such we recommend you speak to your GP or local Travel Doctor for up-to-date information and advice.
- Malaria: It is recommended that precautions against malaria be taken for travel to most regions in Zambia. We suggest you contact your doctor for advice on which prophylactic is recommended.
Make sure that you are covered from the moment you place your booking with us!
Our Tips for Choosing Insurance
- We strongly recommend you take out Comprehensive Travel Insurance at the time of booking your trip.
- Note, it is essential that you are fully aware of the Terms and Conditions of your travel insurance policy therefore we recommend that you read your policy wording carefully and contact your insurer should you have any questions.
Here is some “need-to-know” information about taking photos in Africa.
- Photographing of airports, Government buildings, etc is prohibited.
- Some local people strongly object to photographs being taken without permission, but will sometimes agree upon payment of a small tip. Please check with your guide.
- Film and memory cards are generally available, but stocks can be limited and could be expensive, so we suggest you carry with you adequate supplies.
- Telephoto lenses for game viewing, lens hood and ultra violet filters will be useful – bring your dust cover.
- Batteries can be recharged at most lodges and hotels, but it is advisable to bring spares.7 Easy-to-Follow-Tips to take Mesmerising Wildlife Photos
Safety and Security
Safety and Security
Although Africa is now safer to travel than it ever has been it is important to take note of the following information.
- Doors should be locked when driving after dark.
- Don’t walk alone at night in city streets, isolated beaches or remote areas.
- Travellers should not display unnecessary signs of wealth (e.g. mobile phones, money, and expensive jewellery) on the streets.
- Leave all your valuables including passports locked in the room safe where available.
Safety on Safari
- The wild animals are not like those found in theme parks – they aren’t tame.
- Most of the safari camps are unfenced and dangerous animals can (and do!) wander through the camps. Many of the animals and reptiles you will see are potentially dangerous. Attacks by wild animals are rare, however, there are no guarantees that such incidents will not occur. Bench Africa, our staff members, associates, agents, or their suppliers cannot be held liable for any injuries caused during an incident involving the behavior of wild animals.
- Please listen to the camp staff and guides. The safety precautions need to be taken seriously, and strictly adhered to.
- Do not go wandering off on your own without a guide – even to your rooms. After retiring to your rooms at night, do not leave them.
- Observe animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives can frighten the animals away.
- Never attempt to attract an animal’s attention. Do not imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound the vehicle or throw objects.
- Please respect your driver/guide’s judgment about proximity to lions, cheetahs and leopards. Don’t insist that he/she takes the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal.
- Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds and is unsightly.
- Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors.
- Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill animals.
A little handy advice to get the best out of your shopping in Africa!
- There is an abundance of wonderful souvenirs and crafts to buy. Look for colourful materials, sisal bags, wood or stone carvings, unusual artwork, handcrafted jewellery, woven goods and attractive basketry are recommended.
- Bargaining is expected at markets and roadside stalls, but not in shops. The locals may start off with highly inflated “tourist prices” and you will need to bargain until you feel you are paying what the product is worth.
- Cash in local currency is accepted, as well as US Dollars, while credit cards may only be accepted in larger shops.
- Do not purchase ivory, rhino horn, animal furs/hides, tortoise shell, coral, game skin, trophies or elephant hair bracelets. These items are prohibited as hunting was banned in 1976.