Quick Facts About Zambia
Republic of Zambia
Capital - Lusaka
Government - Republic
Currency - Zambian kwacha (ZMK)
Area total: 752,614 km2
water: 11,890 km2
land: 740,724 km2
Population - 11,668,000 (2005 est.)
Language - English (official), major vernaculars - Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga, and about 70 other indigenous languages
Religion - Christian (+75%), Muslim and Hindu (24% or less), indigenous beliefs (1%)
Calling Code +260
Zambia, republic in south central Africa, bounded on the north by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) and Tanzania; on the east by Malawi; on the southeast by Mozambique; on the south by Zimbabwe, Botswana, and the Caprivi Strip of Namibia; and on the west by Angola. The area is 752,614 sq km (290,586 sq mi). Zambia’s capital and largest city is Lusaka.
Like in many other African countries, ethnic diversity is a striking feature in Zambia. The relatively small population of just over 11 million people comprises of over 70 different languages, also referred to as tribes. Almost all share the same historical origin of belonging to the Bantu-speaking group. The Bantu-speaking group has over 500 languages spoken in central, eastern, and southern Africa.
Scholars estimate that the number of distinctive native languages spoken in Africa totals at least 2,000 - more languages than are spoken on any other continent. Among these 2,000 languages only about 50 have 500,000 or more speakers. In Zambia the major ones include Bemba, Nyanja, and Tonga.
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Zambian Weather and Climate
Although lying within the Tropic Zone, much of Zambia enjoys a pleasant subtropical climate because of the high altitude. The average temperature in Lusaka during July, the coldest month of the year, is 16°C (61°F); the hottest month, January, has an average temperature of 21°C (70°F). Annual rainfall ranges from 750 mm (30 in) in the south to 1,300 mm (51 in) in the north. Nearly all of the rain falls between November and April.
Zambia’s distinct seasons run as follows:
Cold and 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 birdwatching or to see Victoria Falls at their best levels, 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 or Rainy Season - December to April. Temperatures cool down to 32°C or so and 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.
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Major Travel and Tourism Info (Country Travel Guide)
Zambia 101 (Basics) - Major travel and tour destinations
Zambia offers travelers some of the world's best safari opportunities, a glimpse into the “real Africa,” and Victoria Falls, one of the World's Seven Natural Wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Victoria Falls — one of the world’s largest waterfalls
Blue Lagoon National Park
Isangano National Park
Kafue National Park
Kasanga National Park
Lavushi Manda National Park
Liuwa Plains National Park
Lochinvar National Park
Lower Zambesi National Park
Luambe National Park
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park
North Luangwa National Park
Nsumbu National Park
Nyika National Park
South Luangwa National Park - one of Africa’s great safari destinations
Sioma Ngwezi National Park
West Lunga National Park .
Much of Zambia remains desperately poor, with GNP per capita on the order of US$400/year, and the bulk of Zambia's population lives on subsistence agriculture. The economy continues to revolve around copper, but after decades of mismanagement the industry is now doing better thanks to higher commodity prices and investments made after privatization. Another recent success story has been tourism, with the misfortunes of its neighbor Zimbabwe driving tourists to the northern side of the Victoria Falls and Zambia's safaris, but the fast growth has come from a low base.
As can be seen even from the strange squashed-peanut shape of the country, Zambia is one of the stranger legacies of colonialism, agglomerating a large number of different tribes (73, according to the official count) and languages (20, plus dialects). Fortunately, with a long history of coexistence, intermarriages, significant migration around the country and similar Bantu-family languages, they all seem to get along pretty well. Zambia has been spared the violent ethnic strife that some countries have experienced.
The Bemba are the largest group in Zambia, but they still form only about 20% of the population. The Bemba came from the Congo in the 16th century, and while their homelands are in the north and center of the country, many have immigrated to Lusaka and the Copperbelt.
The Chewa, Ngoni and Nsenga tribes, all found in the east of the country, share the Nyanja language and form Zambia's second largest grouping with about 15%.
The Tonga, Ila and Lenje, known together as the Bantu Botatwe (Three Peoples), are a close runner-up with 15% of the population, concentrated in the South and Central regions of the country.
The Lozi in the far west (6%) are known for their craftwork and rich cultural traditions.
Other tribes in Zambia’s patchwork include the Lala and Bisa (5%), the Kaonde (3%), the Mambwe and Lungu (3%), the Lunda (3%), the Tumbuka (3%), the Lamba (2.5%) and the Luvale (2%), and 57 more. Despair not: the differences are not crucial for travelers, and locals will be happy to explain their traditions when needed.
Non-indigenous ethnic groups include white Africans of English or Afrikaner descent, Indian Zambians and more recently other Asian immigrants, particularly from East Asia.
A highlight of any trip to Zambia is a visit to any of the many traditional festivals held throughout the country. Planning ahead can be tough though, as schedules are variable and not all are held yearly. Also, if you do manage to attend, bring along tolerance for heat, dust and crowds (increasingly drunk as the evening wears on) and patience for endless speeches by local functionaries. On the plus side, any foreigners attending can usually sneak into the VIP stands, although you may get hassled for photo permits. Ask for permission in advance.
Kazanga, Kaoma [Central Western Zambia] (June - August). The Kazanga ceremony is considered Zambia's oldest traditional ceremony having been celebrated by the Nkoya people for over 500 years. The ceremony celebrates and maintains Nkoya traditions of music, dance and many other ancient practices.
Kuomboka, Lealui/Limulunga (Western Province, around Easter (March-April). The most famous of Zambia's festivals, this is the ceremonial migration of the Lozi king (litunga) from his dry season abode at Lealui to his wet season palace at Limulunga. Wearing an elaborate victorian ambassador’s costume, the litunga is taken by a flotilla of barges down the river, with musical accompaniment and, of course, much feasting at the destination.
Ncwala, near Chipata, 24 February. A Ngoni festival to celebrate the first fruit of the season, where the Ngoni chief ceremonially tastes the fruit of the land, then spears a bull and drinks its blood.
Kulamba, near Chipata, August. A Chewa thanksgiving festival known for its Nyau secret society dancers.
Livingstone Cultural & Arts Festival. This was first held in 1994, this festival brings traditional rulers from all the provinces of Zambia and visitors are also allowed with the knowledge of their culture in their tribe. This festival capture musicians, artist, poets, and dramatist.
Shimunenga is a ceremony to show devotion to ancestors. The ceremony takes place on a full moon on weekends in September and October. The Ba-ila (Ila) tribe celebrate this ceremony at Malla on the Kafue Flats.
Zambian visas can be acquired from a Zambian embassy in your country of residence or country nearest to you with a Zambian embassy. The good news is that visas are also obtainable upon arrival for a fee of US$25. Most visitors who are citizens from regional African countries do not require visas. Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months. For the latest information please check with the nearest Zambian embassy (in your country of residence or country nearest to you with a Zambian embassy).
You can also apply for visa exemption via your travel agency if you’ve booked a package tour. 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 that most Western visitors can get visas on arrival for US$25 (bring along a copy of your passport’s main page and two photos).
Traveling to Zambia by Plane
Zambia’s main international gateway is Lusaka International Airport. It has direct flights to and from London through British Airways, Kenya Airways and KLM to and from Amsterdam and South African Airways from Zurich and Frankfurt. Those traveling from USA and Asia would need to make connections through Kenya, South Africa or through Europe. Those traveling from withing the continent have 101 ways of getting to Zambia, including direct flights from most regional countries.
Some airports within Zambia other than Lusaka International Airport also serve regional countries. For instance, Livingstone, near spectacular Victoria Falls, and Mfuwe, near South Luangwa National Park, have small international airports serving regional destinations.
For access to the eastern parts of the country (eg. Chipata), it will be faster to fly into Lilongwe in neighboring Malawi, and cross the border (which is quite straightforward by African standards). Mfuwe, near South Luangwa National Park, has a small international airport serving regional destinations.
Domestic flights on Zambian Airways - formerly Roan Air, and unrelated to now liquidated state operator Zambia Airways - and tourist-geared Airwaves connect Zambia’s major cities and tourist destinations. While undoubtedly the fastest and most comfortable way of getting around, they are quite expensive with an hourlong flight (say, Lusaka-Mfuwe) typically costing around US$150 one-way. Also note that planes are small and schedules sparse, but if you can rustle up enough people you can also charter planes for not much more.
Traveling to Zambia by Train
TAZARA (Tanzania-Zambia) trains run between Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. According to the schedule the trip takes 38 hours, but these trains break down sometimes. If you are on a tight schedule, a train might not be your best option. On the other hand, a train ride between Dar es Salaam and Zambia is a beautiful way to see the countryside and is very economical (under $10).
Several important things to note about this trip, however:
* Bring water.
* Immigration officials stamp passports as soon as the train crosses the border — probably in the middle of the night. Naturally, this is also when thieves work. If you are riding in a first- or second-class cabin, be very careful when opening your door.
* If you miss the immigration official, they will either: turn you around and send you back to the border; or, arrange for a stamp, pending payment of a "special tax."
* Immediately upon crossing the border, the crew no longer accepts the currency of the country you just exited. In other words, if you are traveling from Lusaka to Dar es Salaam, the moment you cross the border, your Kwacha is no longer legal tender; you must use Shillings. It is, therefore, a good idea to exchange money before the journey — blackmarketeers along the railroad offer poor exchange rates.
* Do not leave valuables near windows, especially at train stops.
Within Zambia is Zambia Railways, Zambia’s train network. Separate from the TAZARA network, local trains run in the South, Central, Copperbelt and Northern parts of the country, with the main line running from Livingstone through Lusaka to Kitwe. They are relatively reliable and safe, but slow.
Vehicles drive on the left side of the road in Zambia.
There are many ways to get into Zambia by car, but the most popular include:
entering through Livingstone (in the south) from Zimbabwe
through Chipata or Lundazi (in the southeast) from Malawi
through Ndola (in the north-central region) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo
through Katima Mulilo/Sesheke from Namibia
through Kazungula from Botswana
Crossing international borders by car will incur a tax.
International bus routes exist. You can take a bus across the border into Malawi, Zimbabwe, or Tanzania. Immigration might be painstaking, considering the large number of people requiring simultaneous processing .
Zambia is landlocked but borders on Tanzania's Lake Tanganyika, and there are regular international ferry services across the lake a few times a week. Also, if you enter Zambia through Namibia's Caprivi Strip, you will have to cross the Zambezi River. You will have 2 options:
* You may ride on a ferry (for a dollar); or,
* You may hire a local boy with a dug-out canoe to carry you across (for 50 cents).
Zambia is quite a large country with longs distances between many cities and towns around the country. Budget plenty of time for getting around. Lots of breathtaking sightseeing however.
Minibuses, meaning small buses, are popular, but they are often irregular, dangerous due to over speeding. They can also be uncomfortable particularly during rush hour when overloading is common. To maximize profits, a bus conductor will squeeze as many paying customers - and their luggage (referred to as katundu) into the bus as possible. Whether or not the customers are comfortable is irrelevant. In terms of meeting locals, however, this method is among the best, and it can provide a traveler with a truly “authentic” experience of Zambia. Payment is made during the journey - cash is passed down the bus to the conductor at the front, and change comes back via the same route.
Larger, more sophisticated "luxury coaches" exist, too. These tend to be more reliable and safer. They depart on-time and have dedicated space for guests and luggage. Tickets may be purchased in advance or when traveling if not fully booked. More expensive luxury coaches are much more comfortable, more punctual and are virtually guaranteed to arrive, but at an extra cost.
Vehicles drive on the left side of the road in Zambia — at least most of the time.
Car rental agencies exist in Zambia, but the costs are potentially great. Not only are rental rates high ($100/day), but many of the roads in Zambia are in poor condition. Potholes often take up the entire road, and during the rainy season, large sections of the roads wash away.
As you move away from city centers, you will probably encounter dirt roads. Although they might look solid, the dirt is often loose, and the chances of an accident are huge. Although you are not likely to get lost driving in Zambia (there are only a few roads), you are likely to underestimate the destructive power of these roads and damage a rental vehicle, or worse, yourself! 4WD vehicles are recommended at any time and necessary on dirt roads in the rainy season, although some roads will become completely impassable then.
Remember: there are no Roadside Assistance Packages, and very few ambulances, tow-trucks, or emergency vehicles of any kind in Zambia. Given the circumstances, bush mechanics can do an amazingly good job of patching up your vehicle.
Hitchhiking in Zambia is popular, although it can be extremely hit-or-miss as traffic density is low. Also note that, if picked up by a local, you will be expected to pay for the ride. Nevertheless, hitchhiking does not carry with it the same stigma in Zambia as it does in the States; you are unlikely to be harmed, and you might make a great connection.
In Zambia, travelers do not "thumb" a ride. The proper method for flagging transportation is:
Pile your luggage near the road.
Sit in the shade.
When you see/hear a vehicle, jump up.
Rush to your luggage.
From your shoulder, wave your entire arm up and down, palm open and facing the ground, as though you are fanning someone in front of you.
Then hope the vehicle stops.
Language and Communication
English is one of Zambia’s main official languages. It is the language of instruction in schools. It’s also the country’s national language together with official Zambian languages in their respective ethnic and provincial regions. Englsih is therefore used in government offices, on the radio, televison, etc.
Many urban Zambians will speak at least passable English. As you move into the rural areas, though, expect communication to become more difficult. Nevertheless, do not be surprised to find a rural Zambian that speaks flawless English! There is almost always likely to be one so communication should not be a problem - if you speak English.
The most important thing to remember when speaking to Zambians is to greet them. When you first approach a Zambian, always begin by asking, "How are you?" even if you do not care. They will consider you very respectful.
Originally, the Kwacha, meaning “sunrise,” so-named to celebrate Zambia's independence — was tied to the US dollar, so conversion was simple. However, in the late-90's, the kwacha was floated and devalued rapidly. Over the past few years, though, the kwacha has remained relatively stable, thanks to the stabilizing economy enjoying higher export earnings from copper sales. Dollars are still commonly used for larger purchases and will be accepted by anybody in a pinch.
If you want to sound like a local, refer to 1000 kwacha as a “pin,” so for example 10,000K is "ten pin". In the '90's, the kwacha devalued so rapidly that the government didn't have time to produce new, larger bank notes. To pay for things, Zambians often had to bundle or "pin" together large numbers of small bills. Notes are now available in denominations of up to 50,000K, but hang on to small change if you can because there are occasional shortages.
ATMs may be found in major cities, but you should not depend on them to be functional. Some shops and restaurants might accept debit or credit cards, as do practically all high-end hotels and safari lodges, but surcharges of 5-10% are common.
Although using forms of payment other than cash is growing in popularity, you should not depend on credit to get around the country. Instead, the most promising way to obtain cash is by Traveler’s Cheque (TCs). Although many hotels and banks will process Traveler’s Cheques, keep in mind the laws of supply and demand - the more remote you are, the poorer the exchange rate will be. Plan carefully, and try to get an adequate cash supply when passing through larger cities.
Most shopkeepers advertise fixed prices and are unwilling to negotiate, but this is not a given. On the other hand, most "freelance" salesmen - vendors selling curios; taxi drivers; etc. who do not post their prices are usually willing to negotiate. As a (very) general rule of thumb, assume the first price they mention is at least double the amount they will accept. You should not be afraid to barter - after all, Zambians bargain among themselves - but try not to get carried away with saving a few pennies.
Tipping for assistance given is not required but it’s expected from someone with better means - like you. Very little normally goes a long way. Porters expect US$0.50 or so per bag, and better restaurants typically add in a 10% service charge or expect an equivalent tip.
Finally, keep in mind the Zambian custom of mbasela - giving a freebie when more than one item is purchased. If you buy a few small items, do not be shy about asking for your mbasela. But if you have enough to do some good you can be the one going the extra mile - by giving the seller more than expected.
Zambia is a little expensive compared to its neighbors. A bare-bones budget traveler will be looking at a minimum of US$20/day just for a bed and three meals, and transport is (again, comparatively) expensive, in part due to the great distances involved. At the other end of the spectrum, all-inclusive safari lodges or Lusaka/Livingstone's five-star hotels will take care of all your needs but charge US$200/day and up for the privilege. Finding a middle ground between these two extremes is difficult.
Zambian food and diet
Traditional Zambian food revolves around one staple, maize, served in one form, nsima (n'SHEE-ma). Nsima is basically a type of thick porridge, rolled into balls with your right hand and dipped into a variety of relishes. Those who can afford them eat relishes of beef, chicken or fish, but the many who can't make do with beans, tiny dried fish (kapenta), pumpkin leaves (chibwabwa) and other vegetables. At breakfast, nsima can be served in form of porridge, usually with a little sugar. Local restaurants will serve nsima and relish for less than 5000K ($1).
Western food has also made major inroads, particularly in major cities. In Lusaka, Livingstone and the Copperbelt you can find almost any food you like. Fast food, including burgers, pizza, and fried chicken is very popular in Zambia. Bakeries making cheap fresh bread are a common sight in towns, and rice from Chama provides an alternative staple if all the maize starts to get to you.
For sit-down meals, ethnic eateries are popular. In Lusaka, especially noteworthy is the Sunday brunch at The Intercontinental; and if you like Indian food, be sure to hit The Dil. Of course, game parks often cater to wealthy, usually foreign, visitors; therefore, high-quality Western meals can be found easily. Along the major roadways, you will find "tuck shops" featuring packaged cookies or take-away meals, meat pies or sausage rolls, for instance which may or may not satisfy you.
Finally, in terms of hygiene outside the major cities, you are unlikely to find a proper washroom with running water. You will probably be given a bowl of water, a piece of soap, and a (damp) towel to wash your hands. Therefore, some travelers bring small bottles of anti-bacterial hand soap with them.
Water, Fluids and Beverages
Tap water in Zambia is generally not drinkable, at least unless boiled. Bottled water is widely available in cities, but not necessarily in rural areas.
A traditional local drink worth trying is maheu, a somewhat gritty and vaguely yogurty but refreshing beverage made from maize meal. Factory-produced maheu is sweet, comes in plastic bottles and is available in a variety of flavors including banana, chocolate and orange, while homemade versions are usually unflavored and less sweet.
Coke products are accessible and cheap at less than a quarter a bottle, but beware of the deposit system: in rural areas, you may have to return an empty bottle before they'll sell you a new one!
Zambia's best-known brew is Mosi, a clear 4% lager available everywhere. Eagle has more taste and more kick at 5.5%, while Zambezi Lager is a microbrew worth sampling if you run into it. The South African brand Castle is also bottled locally, and all of the above run around $0.35 in a store or $1-2 in a bar.
If you are near the borders, you are likely to find Tuskers (strong, from Kenya), Carlsberg (from Malawi), Simbas (from the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Other imports can be found in larger markets but will also cost more.
The locals' drink of choice is masese (muh-SE-say) or ucwala (uch-WALA), also known as Chibuku after the biggest brand, made from maize, millet, or cassava and resembling sour porridge in texture and taste. If you want to try this, it's best to look out for the factory-made kind in milk-carton-like containers.
In rural areas, there are opportunities to drink local "homebrews." A wide variety of homebrews exist in Zambia, from beers made from honey (in the Southern province of the country), to wine made from tea leaves (in the Eastern portion of the country).
Finally, there is cachasu (cuh-CHA-suh) a spirit distilled from anything Zambians can get their hands on, including battery acid and fertilizer. For obvious reasons, therefore, it is better to avoid this suicide moonshine.
On a final note, most men at bars come single, while many women come with a partner. If go as a single woman in a Zambian bar, be aware that you might be approached and given many offers, some of which may be undesirable. It’s worth going with an acquaintance, male or female , in order to deal with any uncomfortable situations.
Accommodation in Zambia runs the gamut. In Zambia, you can sleep in an top-notch hotel for a few hundred dollars (such as The Intercontinental); you can stay in an independent hotel (like the The Ndeke), for about $50; or you can opt for a budget experience, and spend $5 to $10 (at ChaChaCha Backpackers) for a highly adequate space. These are only a few of the options. Of course, choosing accommodation off the beaten path might be more exciting but unsafe.
Outside the big cities or tourist areas, however, you might be hard-pressed to find quality accommodation. If your tastes run to the elegant or even if you demand constant electricity you might want to reconsider venturing too deep into the bush. However, if you seek an enjoyable, memorable, and authentic night at a local hotel, you might be pleasantly surprised (e.g. rural Lundazi’s Castle Hotel is like no other in the world). Not to forget the friendliness of Zambians.
Studying in Zambia
The University of Zambia is the official university. However, it is not affordable for most Zambians. There are also Technical Schools throughout Zambia, and Teacher's Training Colleges are found in each Provincial Capital, providing two year’s coursework for about $300.
For tourists, the biggest educational experiences would likely be:
* Visit a game park and learn as much as possible about the area's animals from the guides. Guides can be an incredible source of information. Remember to tip them.
* Arrange for an overnight stay in a "Traditional African Village" (Wade, owner of ChaChaCha Backpackers in Lusaka, can do this). Of course, because the locals have prepared for you, it is no longer 100% authentic, but you will get an idea of the hardships Zambians face.
Working in Zambia
Unemployment in Zambia is rampant. The government has never passed any minimum wage legislation. Nevertheless, Zambians accept low-paying jobs, because there are few other options.
As for tourists, temporary work is likely to be difficult to secure. Although there is a substantial expatriate community in Zambia, most of these individuals are contracted by international agencies; by and large, they did not come to Zambia and then find work. Persistence and connections might pay off, but outside of the few hostels or Western-oriented bars, a tourist should not expect to find ready employment.
Women should avoid going to bars alone. Furthermore, men should avoid purchasing drinks for Zambian women they meet casually in bars. This is an invitation to spend the night.
As the Kwacha has been declining, it often takes fistfuls of cash to purchase items. Be careful about flashing money.
If you can, and it’s very possible, find a trusted Zambian acquaintance to share your experience in Zambia - male if you’re male or a female if you’re a female. That’s not to say it’s dangerous to be alone but it just drastically reduces risk levels of theft, petty crime or any undesirable incident. Two are better than one, even the Bible says it.
It’s very easy finding an acquaintance. Families have many relatives doing nothing unable to find employment - most who understand and speak English. You can also walk into an orphanage, church or a school and ask any one in authority to find you someone to help you out. They’ll likely ask for their relative to assist.
Agree with your acquaintance beforehand on what you’re be willing to pay whether pay day or per agreed period. It’ll be very cheap, like $100.00 for a month but try not to take advantage of the cheap labour. Go the extra mile. He/she doesn’t have to be with you all the time - only when going to places that’d be worthwhile with extra company.
Another safety precaution is dealing with money-changers on the street. While it's possible to get a good exchange rate from an individual money-changer on the street, you should avoid changing money with groups of men. They are likely running a scam. You really should use banks if you can.
Generally, Zambians are friendly people. However as with any location be careful about walking at night, especially if you've been drinking. There are few streetlights, and many of the locals are very poor.
Carjacking is also a potential risk while driving after dark.
Many places of accommodation, such as Pioneer Camp outside Lusaka, now sport electric fences and gates for added security.
Drinking tap water in the cities is potentially risky, unless either (a) you have a strong stomach, or (b) you are at a luxurious restaurant or hotel. If neither of these conditions apply to you, you should ensure tap water has been boiled (and cooled) or stick with the bottled water.
The HIV infection rate among adults was estimated to be 16.5% in 2003. Avoid having unprotected sex.
Zambia is a highly malarial country. Especially at dusk, you should make every effort to cover exposed skin with clothing or insect repellent. Alternatively, effective malarial prophylaxis exists.
In practice, yellow fever is not a problem in Zambia anymore, except perhaps in the extreme north-west along the Congolese borders. However, many countries will insist on a yellow fever vaccination certificate if they find out you've been to Zambia, so it's best to get a jab.
Zambians still follow a lot of cultural norms that respect social hierarchies. Older men and women are afforded more respect than younger men and women. You might find, however, that a white person may be afforded cultural norms and behave however he/she pleases. A holdover from colonial times, this might make a traveler uncomfortable, but this is largely a Zambians’ way of being friendly to foreigners. 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! (white person, white person), if you’re one, and answer lots of questions about yourself.
Zambians love to shake hands, and you should oblige them. However, Zambians sometimes 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 say that is uncomfortable where you come from.
Women should not wear short 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 just 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."
The Zambian mail service is slow and a little flaky (especially outside Lusaka), but not completely hopeless. Using a private courier service like DHL is still recommended if sending something important.
The country code for Zambia is "260." The city code for Lusaka is "1." The city code for most other towns is "2."
However, phone service both within Zambia and into Zambia is very hit-or-miss. In large cities, you are more likely to get regular, dependable phone service, but it is by no means a guarantee. The farther you travel from Lusaka, the less likely you are to maintain a good connection. International calling rates can be as high as $3 per minute.
Cell phones have been booming in recent years, and Zambia has a highly competitive market with three main operators: Cell Z (095), Telecel (096) and Celtel (097). Generally speaking, Celtel has the largest network, while Telecel is the cheapest.
You can pick up a local SIM card for as little as 15,000K ($3). Prepaid time is sold in "units" corresponding to dollars: figure on 0.4 units for an SMS or up to 1 unit/minute for calls, although as always the precise tariffs are bewilderingly complex. If you plan on roaming with your non-Zambian SIM, check first to see if your home operator has made any roaming agreements - Zambia is usually not on the top of their list. Also note that coverage in rural areas can be spotty.
Booths labeled "public telephone" these days consist, more often than not, of a guy renting out his cellphone. They’re still handy. Typical rates are 5000K/min ($1) for domestic and 15000K/min ($3) for international calls.
Internet cafes are springing up in Zambia, but again, connections can be sporadic and very slow. Moreover, because constant electricity is not a guarantee, some Internet cafes operate backup generators, which can be extremely costly. Be prepared to see Internet cafe charges as high as 25 cents per minute. Some hotels might offer Internet connections to their guests.
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History in Brief: Summary
The territory of Northern Rhodesia was administered by the [British] South Africa Company from 1891 until it was taken over by the UK in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964. In the 1980s and 1990s, declining copper prices and a prolonged drought hurt the economy.
Elections in 1991 brought an end to one-party rule. However the subsequent vote in 1996 saw harassment of opposition parties. The election in 2001 was marked by administrative problems with three parties filing a legal petition challenging the election of ruling party candidate Levy Mwanawasa.
Zambia enjoys extensive press freedom compared to many developing nations.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003 and Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003
The World Factbook 2006
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc