Zambia

From Eco Friendly Travels


Eco-friendly travel guide to Zambia advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to travel in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Zambia, Africa.

Zambezi river in Zambia


  • Air quality:2 / 5
  • Bus connections: 4 / 5
  • Train connections: 1 / 5
  • Hitchhiking: 3.5 / 5
  • National parks: 4.5 / 5
  • Outdoor activities: 4.5 / 5
  • Locals' English level: 4 / 5
  • Safety: 3 / 5
  • Accommodation: US$10 - $ 700
  • Budget per day: US$ 50- US$ 1000

Responsible Travel

Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa. Its border with Zimbabwe is separated by the Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. The country has borders to nine other countries, namely the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Botswana to the south, Namibia to the southwest, and Angola to the west. The largest and capital city is Lusaka, which is in the south-central part of Zambia. Besides the magnificent Victoria Falls, the country has a magnificent rugged terrain and diverse wildlife, many parks and safari areas, all of which make it an excellent tourist destination. As the country is home to a multitude of wildlife, it is essential to be eco-friendly and travel responsibly. Some ways to ensure responsible travel include:

  • Choosing to stay in an eco-friendly hotel
  • Ensure that you support local businesses. There are several local souvenir shops, restaurants where the locals eat, and many other shops that sell local goods. By supporting these shops, you ensure that your money goes a long way in the country.
  • You can also use public transport to make sure that you reduce your carbon emissions footprint. Instead of taking a taxi, grab a bus ticket, and travel with the locals, this is a great and cheap way to see the city. You can also stick to bicycles.
  • Respect the local culture. Before traveling to a country that you are unfamiliar with, you can read up on their culture and beliefs to ensure that you do not offend the locals.
  • Avoid overly packaged goods. Most vendors and open markets tend to cover goods with too many plastics. You can refuse these plastics to reduce the amount of waste or litter in the environment.


Air Quality and Pollution

The air quality in Zambia is considered as being relatively low. The air is polluted by several things such as a mix of chemicals, particulate matter, and biological materials that react with each other to form tiny hazardous particles. The polluted air contributes to breathing problems, chronic diseases, increased hospitalization, and premature mortality.

Zambia has a high level of water pollution. Most of the water sources are in danger due to the discharges of industrial waste and sewage and agricultural run-off of pesticides, fertilizers, and sediment. Also, some river waters are acidic from acid geology and pedology. The water needs to be treated to make it suitable for drinking, domestic and agricultural uses. Also, the fluoride levels in Zambian waters are inadequate, and this contributes to dental disorders.


Respect the Culture

Zambia is home to many different cultures, but there are few things that can be expected across the board. The most common one is that greeting is essential, and it is rude to go straight to the point in a conversation without first enquiring about a person's day and their family. It is considered rude to speak when elders are speaking and also to greet or accept anything with the left hand, even if left-handed. Respecting elders is another important aspect of Zambian culture.

Religion is also important in the country: both Christianity and the African Traditional religion. Besides churches, places like waterfalls are considered as sacred as it is believed that there are spirits that live there. Traditional healers often go into the woods or bush to contact spirits.


Top 10 Places to Visit

Zambia is a country in Southern Africa that is still receiving very few visitors in comparison to its neighboring countries. But tourism is on the rise, and many travelers are beginning to see Zambia as a more authentic and off-the-beaten-track alternative. After years of poaching and low maintenance, the country's 19 national parks and reserves have been well rehabilitated. The game viewing now ranks among the best in Africa, but without the crowds of tourists. Below are the top 10 places to visit in the country:

  • Victoria Falls: It is a waterfall on the Zambezi River in southern Africa, located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. This waterfall is considered to be one of the world's largest waterfalls due to its width of 1,708 m. The Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders and is home to several unique species of plants and animals. The Falls offer a fantastic experience when there is a lot of water as you can see the thunderous smoke from a distance. The mighty Victoria Falls is a great spectacle to see as there is lovely vegetation, and the waters are lovely. The best time of the year to visit is between March and June when the water level is high.
  • The Kariba Dam: A double curvature concrete arch dam in the Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi river basin between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The dam is 128 meters tall and 579 meters long and forms Lake Kariba, a man-made lake, which extends for 280 kilometers and holds 185 cubic kilometers of water. The dam is a display of engineering expertise. There is a valley below the dam wall, which has a spectacular view. Kariba is home to the famous tigerfish and Kariba bream, and there is a lot of wildlife. There are several boat cruises available across the lake. The dam is also the primary source of power in the country.
  • Niamkolo Church: In Mpungulu is a grand masterpiece that has been well conserved, and that tells the stories of Christianity and slavery in the country. The church was erected to bring an end to the slave trade. The church has an information section that includes a rich history of the missionaries who came to Zambia and later died due to the illnesses such as sleeping sicknesses caused by tsetse flies.
  • The Livingstone Museum: Formerly the David Livingstone Memorial Museum, is the largest and the oldest museum in Zambia, located in Livingstone near Victoria Falls. The museum collection includes artifacts related to local history and prehistory. There are also photographs, musical instruments, and also holds possessions of David Livingstone, including letters and journals. There are many other sections, including wildlife, colonialism, and human life. I was especially interested in the village life exhibition and old crafts such as pottery, beadwork, fabrics, and woodwork, which all give insight into the rich Zambian history. However, photography is not allowed inside the museum. Entry is affordable.
  • The Kalambo Falls: On the Kalambo River is a 772-foot single-drop waterfall on the border of Zambia and Tanzania at the southeast end of Lake Tanganyika, and they are some of the tallest uninterrupted falls in Africa. Downstream of the falls is the Kalambo Gorge, which has a width of about 1 km and a depth of up to 300 m, running for about 5 km before opening out into the Lake Tanganyika rift valley. Kalambo Falls is also considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Africa; and the waterfall roars over the cliffs, and when a breeze comes, you can feel the mist. The road to the falls is uneven, and you need four-wheel drive to travel comfortably. The climb to the falls is quite steep, and there are stairs that go up to the falls.
  • The Bangweulu Wetlands: It is a wetland ecosystem adjacent to Lake Bangweulu in north-eastern Zambia. The area was designated to be one of the world's most important wetlands and an important bird area. The area is managed by African Parks together with Zambia's Department of National Parks and Wildlife. The wetlands are basically heaven on earth, a vast wetland with a lot of streams with water lilies. People can also go fishing in the area. In the morning and certain times of the year, the wetlands are filled with different species of birds.
  • Freedom Statue: It is a historical landmark that is located right near the National Museum. This Statue signifies the Independence History of Zambia. The Statue was built in commemoration of the fight for freedom and Independence from being ruled by the British colonial masters. The Statue is easily accessible as there are local buses that drop you off right in front of the Statue, and it's also very near to the long-distance bus terminal, so you could drop by the Statue on your way out of town to Vic Falls or anywhere else you're traveling.
  • Maramba Market: It is a huge local market that sells everything, from vegetables to clothes, shoes, stationery at a reasonable. The market tends to get very busy in the morning. The market is an excellent place to get to know more about local life. The environment is friendly, and the sellers often give their customers extra gifts. If you are looking for African print material, then this is the place to be.
  • Kasungu National Park: It is a national park that extends along the Zambia and Malawi border. The National park is huge and home to a variety of birds and animals. The park is usually closed during the wet season, and the best time to visit is from the months of September to May when it is warm. A large variety of birds migrate to the park, and bird watching is common between June and September. There is also a cotton plantation in the boundary.
  • The Choma Museum and Crafts Centre: It is a cultural center in Choma with small but informative exhibits. The exhibits are rich in both modern and historical culture, and it is a great place to visit if you want to know more about Choma and the surrounding areas. The tour is very educative as the cultural, linguistic, customs, and historical records of the Tonga people are well preserved. There is also a beautiful garden that is well maintained and evergreen where people can sit and relax. There is also a gift shop that sells well-priced treats and memorabilia, including handwoven baskets.
View of the Victoria Falls of the Zambezi River, border between Zambia (left side) and Zimbabwe (right side). The Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of falling water in the world based on its combined width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and height of 108 metres (354 ft)


Explore

Zambia is an excellent tourist destination for those whose dream vacation includes spending a more significant part of their time exploring the outdoors. Zambia is home to many animals, including all of Africa's Big Five. There are many National parks across the country, and these are home to many animals, birds, and protected trees. There are also many lakes and waterfalls that can be seen and others where you can swim and go rafting. For the history fanatics, there are also many historical sites and museums where people can learn about the history of the country and see how far it has come since before Independence.


City Parks

Munda Wanga Botanical gardens is a beautiful park that makes for an excellent day trip as it is about 15 km south of downtown Lusaka. The park has gorgeous patterned gardens and a wildlife rehabilitation area. The garden manages the park so sometimes funding is a bit of a problem. The park is green most of the time, and there are benches for picnics. It is a great place to hang out with the family.


National Parks

  • Lusenga Plain National Park: It is a national park in the Kawambwa District that was originally a hunting ground that was later converted into one of Zambia's national parks. The National park is in an area with Zambia's highest amount of rainfall, and as such, it is home to the Kalungwishi River, which flows through the park and includes Zambia's second-highest waterfall, Lumangwe Falls. Some of the animals found in the park include the zebra, puku, and impala. Lusenga Plain National Park also has a cultural significance, and there are rock paintings which attest to its history.
  • Mweru Wantipa National Park: It is named after Lake Mweru Wantipa in the Northern Province of Zambia. The park was once home to a multitude of wildlife, including lion, elephant, and black rhinoceros. The wildlife population has reduced over time, and the black rhinoceros is now extinct in the area, although all other wildlife is still there in smaller numbers. The park is home to a rare and endangered Eco region or vegetation type known as Itigi-Sumbu thicket, an almost impenetrable bush consisting of about a hundred plant species woven together densely that it is virtually impossible to walk through.
  • The Lochinvar National Park: It lies southwest of Lusaka in Zambia, on the south side of the Kafue River. The national park crosses over two of Zambia's ecoregions, namely the Zambezian and Mopane woodlands in the south and Zambezian flooded grasslands over most of the park. The Kafue River marks the northern boundary of the park, and in the south, there are wooded hills. The park is known not only for its vast size but also for Kafue lechwe and over 400 species of birdlife. Other animals found in the park include the blue wildebeest, kudu, and oribi. The antelope and birds thrive as they live in an area that doesn't have larger predators. There are also many hot springs in the area.
  • Liuwa National Park: It is a National Park in the Western Province of Zambia. "Liuwa" means "plain" in the local Lozi language, and the plains originally served as a hunting ground. The area is made up of vast grasslands that are home to a variety of large mammals, including thousands of blue wildebeest. There are also many other animals such as the zebra, giraffe, cheetah, spotted hyena, and lion. There are also many bird species in the park. The park offers game views and a game drive as well as on-site accommodation.
A lion at the Liuwa National Park


Beaches

Zambia is a land-locked country, and as such, there are no official beaches. Some lakes have gorgeous lakesides with seating areas, and that is as close to a beach as there is in the country.


Landmarks

  • The Dag Hammarskj√∂ld Memorial Crash Site: It marks the place of the plane crash that killed Dag Hammarskj√∂ld, the second and then-sitting United Nations Secretary-General was killed on 17 September 1961. The site is located 10 km from Ndola, in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia, and is an excellent Heritage place to visit. There are posters around the site with posters that explain everything about the place. The monument is well maintained. The history of the site is very interesting, and the guides are well informed of the facts and theories of the crash.
  • Freedom Statue: It is a historical landmark that is located right near the National Museum This Statue signifies the Independence History of Zambia. The Statue was built in commemoration of the fight for freedom and Independence from being ruled by the British colonial masters. The Statue is easily accessible as there are local buses that drop you off right in front of the Statue, and it's also very near to the long-distance bus terminal, so you could drop by the Statue on your way out of town to Vic Falls or anywhere else you're traveling.


Museums

  • The Livingstone Museum: Formerly the David Livingstone Memorial Museum, is the largest and the oldest museum in Zambia, located in Livingstone near Victoria Falls. The museum collection includes artifacts related to local history and prehistory. There are also photographs, musical instruments, and also holds possessions of David Livingstone, including letters and journals. There are many other sections, including wildlife, colonialism, and human life. I was especially interested in the village life exhibition and old crafts such as pottery, beadwork, fabrics, and woodwork, which all give insight into the rich Zambian history. However, photography is not allowed inside the museum. Entry is affordable.
  • The Lusaka National Museum: It is a museum located in Lusaka that covers the history and culture of the nation. The museum is in the district of Lusaka, making it easily accessible by public or private transport. The museum is small but charming and has many impressive exhibits. One of the most famous exhibits is that on the TAZARA railroad, which shows the railroad system's fascinating history. The second floor has a detailed exhibit on Zambia's recent and ancient history. The museum was initially intended to focus on the history of Zambian Independence, but the focus has changed to cultural history over time. There is also a student art gallery in the museum. There is also a fabulous cafe on the ground floor which sells many local dishes.
The Livingstone Museum


Eat

Food is an integral part of Zambian culture, and when you are a guest at someone's house and offered food, it is rude to say no, even if you ate before going there. It is also considered rude not to finish a meal. In most areas, traditional meals are served buffet style so you can dish what you will be able to finish.

The staple food of Zambia is nshima, which is made of maize (corn) cooked to a consistency of thickened mashed potatoes and is served in large bowls. Different types of relish usually accompany this, usually meat; goat, fish, or chicken; and a vegetable, usually rape (collard greens) and tomatoes, onions, or cabbage. In rural areas, most people cannot afford to eat meat regularly and so their relish is beans, vegetables, or dried fish.

There are many restaurants that serve both Western and traditional food, especially in the cities. The prices are higher in the more tourist-centered areas. And the deeper in the rural areas you are, the lower your chances of coming across Western food.


Drink

Zambia is a generally hot area, and so it is important for people to stay hydrated. Water is the go-to beverage in most scenarios. After water, there are other common beverages. Soft drinks come a close second after water as they are available everywhere, from supermarkets to vendors, at affordable prices. Diet sodas are available in cities but not in the rural areas.

The drinking of beer is an everyday activity in Zambia as it is a form of relaxation. There are two local beer types: clear and opaque. The clear beers are preferred by most visitors and the more prosperous Zambians. The most common beers in the country include. Mosi, Castle, and Rhino


Tap-water

Tap water in the major towns is purified and perfectly safe to drink. In the more remote areas, always boil it first, except if you're staying at a lodge or hotel where drinking water is boiled already. Bottled water is readily available in the bigger towns.

Some campsites will let you know if their borehole water is safe to drink, and just in case they don't, then you should enquire before drinking it.


Activities

There are several activities that you can enjoy while in Zambia. The activities are tailored to ensure that tourists get the most out of their vacation experience. The fact that there are many different activities ensures that people of different characters and preferences enjoy the activity that is most suited to them. Some of the most sought after activities include white water rafting down the Zambezi, canoeing through national parks for a closer look at the wildlife, gorge swinging, hiking, game drives, etc.


Accommodation

There is a huge range of accommodation options available in Zambia. The different types of accommodation range from charming little bush camps in most of the National park areas to world-class luxury hotels. There is accommodation to suit every taste and budget.


Green Hotels

Green hotels or Eco hotels are certified green hotels that follow and practice green living in every sphere and activity. There are many green hotels in the major tourist cities of Zambia, but it might not be easy to find an eco-hotel in the small villages. In such cases, tourists can opt for the hotels that have at least some eco-friendly credentials. The main aim of eco-friendly hotels is to sustain the environment. These hotels tend to offer safe, non-toxic, and energy-efficient accommodation. Other characteristics include using renewable energy, organic soaps, energy-efficient light fixtures, and recycling programs. Also, the furniture in green hotels is usually made from eco-friendly or sustainably sourced materials. It is vital to confirm if the hotel you are booking is genuinely green as some hotels may practice false advertising.


Hostels and Guest Houses

Hostels in Zambia are quite common as they are there in almost every city. They offer some of the best accommodation in the country, especially for those who are traveling alone. Dormitories are few, and most hotels only rent double rooms, so you should be comfortable with the idea of sharing a room with a stranger. Most of the hostels charge similar prices and have similar amenities. Generally, the rental of linen and towels are not included in the price of a room or bed; and in most cases, breakfast is provided surcharge.


Apartments

Apartments are available for rent to people who want to stay in Zambia for extended periods. Some several flats and apartments are available for rent for at least two month lease. These are more affordable as they charge a flat rate and buy your food, which lowers costs. Those traveling as a group will find these most convenient as it is possible to share the flat rate cost instead of paying per head or room in hotels and motels. Rent prices differ according to which part of the country you are in; it gets cheaper as you go deeper into the small towns.


Couchsurfing

Some families rent out a part of their home to tourists, known as couch surfing. This trend is very rare in Zambia as many people are not comfortable with the idea of opening their home up to a stranger. It offers the host family an opportunity to make extra money and the tourist a chance to experience Zambian culture through family life. Several websites connect tourists with people who are willing to open up their homes. It is important to note that couch surfing was not designed to provide long term housing, and most people tend to stay between three and four days; a week maximum. Also, when couch surfing, you need to take responsibility for your safety.


Camping

There are numerous campsites for those tourists who want to rough it, which offers a sense of adventure by giving people the full outdoor experience, including the fresh night air and the magnificent night skies. There is at least one campsite in every town or village, and they are generally of a high standard. Most National Parks have glorious campsites which offer visitors the fantastic experience of sleeping under the stars and hearing the lively sounds of animals as they go about their activities at night. Many campsites also have cabins for those who are not comfortable with sleeping in a tent surrounded by wildlife. These cabins can either be self-catering or catered.

It is important to note that most areas in Zambia are infested with mosquitoes and tsetse flies, which can cause adverse reactions to you if they bite you. So, if you want to go camping, you should invest in insect repellent.


Regions

Cities

Getting There and Moving Around

Traveling to and moving around Zambia is relatively easy. Several modes of transport can be used to travel to the country, with the most convenient for you being dictated by where you are coming from, be it a local or international area. People from surrounding nearby areas usually travel to Zambia by bus or other forms of public transport. While those coming from further away commonly use aeroplanes. Locals tend to prefer minibusses or their personal cars.


Air

The main and biggest airport in Zambia is in Lusaka. This airport is served by a number of international airlines, with many flights coming in straight from Johannesburg, South Africa, Nairobi Kenya, or Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. There are daily flights that move between Johannesburg Airport and Livingstone Airport, and the flight takes about 90 minutes one-way.

The airport is about 30km from the city center, and there are several transport options that can then be used to get into the city center. There are meter taxis, commuter omnibuses, and airport shuttles that you can choose from. Also, some hotels and lodges are able to organize airport transfers for their guests to make moving from the airport to their area of accommodation easier.

Lusaka Kenneth Kaunda International Airport


Bus

Intercountry buses are standard and actually the most preferred mode of transport for those coming from nearby cities as it is way less cheap than flying. There are buses from Dar es Salaam and Mbeya in Tanzania to the border, where Zambian buses can be caught to the Copperbelt and Lusaka. There is a private bus company in Malawi that focuses mainly on the route between the capitals of both countries. There are also luxury coaches that come into Zambia from South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In the case of luxury coaches, they are comfortable, with on board toilets and entertainment. They are also reliable as they stick to a stick timetable and pickup schedule. Also, they do not stop at every stop, which reduces the duration compared to ordinary buses.

Local Bus


Train

Tanzania is the only country that still has a scheduled trip to Zambia. This train leaves Tanzania on Tuesdays and Fridays and arrives in Zambia after a two day trip. The railway lines in Zambia are in poor condition, so train journeys are usually unavailable.


Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is a common practice in Zambia. The people of Zambia are lovely, friendly, and incredibly curious about foreigners. Hitchhiking is relatively easy in most parts of the country, and it is generally safe to hitchhike in Zambia. Most drivers expect you to pay for the ride, especially if you are a white foreigner.

In most cases, touts are standing around truck lay-bys, finding passengers for passing trucks and cars. They consider this their job and can get rather aggressive as they will be competing to get passengers so as to get money since they are paid per customer. In areas where there are no touts, you can stop cars and trucks yourself by using an up-and-down waving of the arm. It is wise to avoid hitchhiking on your own as you never know what could happen.


Others

Other forms of transport used to get to Zambia are the ferry across lake Tanganyika and comes into Zambia from Tanzania twice a month. There is also a ferry from Botswana, although this one is unreliable as it does not have a strict departure schedule. Also, you can drive yourself to Zambia, by personal car or rented car. The most straightforward driving route is that from Zimbabwe. In some cases, walking across the border and into Zambia is possible, especially from the Zimbabwe side.


Sustainable Shopping

Sustainable shopping is a type of shopping that recognizes that everything we buy has health, environmental, and social impact. Therefore, this type of shopping is your chance to support what is important to you and avoid products and services that do not align with your beliefs. There are many shopping centers in Zambia whereby tourists and locals alike can go shopping. It is more sustainable to shop in local shops and ensure that you stick to one shop and spread the wealth by visiting different shops.


Recycling

Zambia's recycling sector is substandard as it is struggling, mainly with insufficient facilities for the collection and recycling of various types of waste streams such as plastics. Also, the general public is not really interested in taking strides toward proper recycling.


Waste

The waste disposal in Zambia is relatively unreliable as the country is facing challenges in managing waste due to several reasons. Some of these reasons include things such as people dumping their waste in illegal areas as well as littering, which is quite a problem. The general public also seems to be unbothered by the amount of rubbish and waste around them, so they are not self-motivated to follow waste management regulations. Also, the municipalities across the country are unable to manage all the waste as they have insufficient funds and equipment to collect, transport, and dispose of all the available waste.


Work and Study Abroad

The unemployment rates in Zambia are high, and almost all unskilled work is done by locals, meaning they are very few opportunities in this sector for foreigners. The service sector has very few employment opportunities, and most job opportunities are in the mining and tourism industry. Foreigners that are granted an employment permit have the right to work and reside in Zambia for the duration of the validity of the permit.

There are sixteen universities in the country, and they are open to applications from international students. The language of instruction in all institutions is English.


Exchange Student

There are several exchange student programs in Zambia. These are open to all students who are interested in studying in a different country and have the necessary qualifications. Some of these programs are affiliated with partner schools. More information about these is found on the different University websites.


Au Pair

An au pair is a young foreign person who helps with housework or childcare in exchange for food, a room, and pocket money. The concept of Au pairs is rising in popularity. There are several vacancies across the city with requirements that vary according to the family. Several agencies and websites connect potential Au pairs with families that need them. One of these websites is "great au pair." Being an au pair can be a great way to learn about the Swedish language and culture. The concept of au pairs is more dominant in cities and not villages and small towns.


Volunteering

Zambia is open to the assistance of volunteers as there are many volunteer opportunities in the country, particularly in the big cities like Livingstone and Lusaka. These opportunities are open to international volunteers and offer them the opportunity to contribute to the empowerment of the local community. There are also volunteer opportunities deep in the country where there are many wildlife reserves, where people can work with endangered animals or the environment.

Besides the obvious volunteering to work with animals and in the agricultural sector, some of the other most popular volunteer programs include girl empowerment and teaching, and community development.


See Also