South Luangwe National Park is one of the top tourist attractions info Zambia

Zambia Travel Guide

This travel guide is designed to help you plan your trip to Zambia with an overview of the top attractions, safety, scams to avoid, what not to do, money matters, visa information, best time to visit, and more. From sightseeing and adrenaline adventures, at the amazing Victoria Falls, to spotting wildlife at some of its top national parks, you will feel at ease in Zambia as it is one of Africa’s safer countries. It’s also uncrowded, allowing you to fully appreciate and enjoy its natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and wildlife.

Note: The information in this travel guide and the linked post on Zambia are updated as of May 2022.

Travel Guide Top Attractions In Zambia

Victoria Falls

Zambia is home to Victoria Falls, one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World and an UNESCO World Heritage site. During the rainy season, the world’s largest sheet of water crashes over its edges.

Victoria Falls in Zambia Tracel Guide, a top tourist attractions of Zambia

Situated in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, it straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Here, you can sightsee, swim in Devils Pools, at the precipice of the falls (at low water levels), or join one of many adrenaline-charged activities, like white-water rafting on the Zambezi, considered some of the best in the world, bungee jumping over the Zambezi (off Victoria Falls bridge), a helicopter ride overhead to soak it all in, and more.

You can visit the falls from either Zambia or Zimbabwe, with pros and cons to each, or opt to get a dual visa and soak in its beauty from both sides. See my detailed posts on Zambia and Zimbabwe to read more about each.

Devils Pools Zambia | Royal Mayhem

You can also visit the small game park nearby and track rare, protected, white rhino by foot. As this is one of the few parks with rhino in Zambia, visiting is recommended if you’re completing a checklist of the Big Five. And although you can also see many other animals here, like zebra, giraffe, buffalo, hippos, and more, if wildlife is your priority, make sure to add a visit to one of its top national parks (below) as this is Zambia’s smallest park.

Safaris In Zambia

With 30% of country set aside for protecting wildlife in 20 national parks and 38 game reserves, Zambia is the perfect place for a safari. Plus, it’s not as crowded as some of the famous named parks. Zambia’s top three national parks are the Lower Zambezi, Kafue, and South Luangwa National Park. Known for sightings of the Big Four (less the rhino, which has been sadly poached into non-existence at all three), they are notoriously uncrowded, unspoiled, and rich with wildlife.

South Luangwe National Park in the Zambia Travel Guide, one of the top tourist attractions
Elephant in Our Camp At South Luangwe

South Luangwe is its most popular park, and full of wildlife, especially elephants and hippos, but we also saw lion, as well as many antelope, and other animals. We visited and camped right across from the river from South Luangwe. As the river was low, the animals sometimes wandered over to our camp giving us an amazing show!

The lower Zambezi, a large sanctuary filled with game, sits opposite Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe about 60 miles (100 km) downstream of Victoria Falls.

Kafue is the largest park in Zambia, and one of the largest in the world, almost the size of Massachusetts. It’s known more for its variety of wildlife than its abundance. Plus game can be a little hard to find due to its size.

You can find four if the Big five in each, but sadly, no rhino as it’s been poached out of existence. There is black rhino in North Luangwa Conservation Project at North Lunagwe National Park, and white rhino in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (Victoria Falls). North Luangwe is the only place in Zambia to see the Big Five in one place, as well as many other amazing animals of course, although this park is open to only a few specially liscenced tour companies. Most people visit North Luangwe as an add on walking safari to South Luangwe Park, flying between the two parks.

Best Time To Visit Zambia

Victoria Falls in Zambia

Although the best time to visit is based on annual rainfall and conditions, there are some general guidelines.

Peak Flow: March to June. Mist is also at its peak, often hindering visibility (think goggles and ponchos). A good time for helicopter viewing!

Transition Flow: June through August and January to February. Decent water flow and good visibility. Also good for pairing with game viewing.

Lowest Flow: September to December. Not good for viewing the falls.

Devils Pools: Open when the falls are low, mid-August to mid-January.

Best Time For Safaris

July to October is the best time for a Safari in Zambia. This is the dry season, so animals congregate around water pools and rivers making it an ideal time. As temperatures can be hot (especially closer to October), there is also minimal foliage, making game easier to spot.

Languages In Zambia

Although there are seven official languages in Zambia, English is the official language for Government. Most Zambians speak some English, especially in larger cities. Bemba, Tonga, Nyanja, and Lozi are other top languages.

Zambian Money Matters

Currency: The Zambian Current is the Kwacha (ZMW). It means ‘sunrise’, symbolizing it’s independence. If you need to exchange money, do so only at official changing stations, never with roadside moneychangers. Bring large, crisp notes, like $50 and $100, for the best rate. And know the rate in advance to make sure you get the best one. Conversion rates as of January, 2, 2023:

  • USD (1)=25.81 ZMW
  • Euro (1)=28.44 ZMW
  • CNY (1)=3.62 ZMW

Credit Cards & ATMs: Credit cards are sometimes accepted in major cities (Visa is more readily accepted). It’s best to ask your hotel or others in advance. ATMs dispensing Kwacha (only) are widely available in bigger cities and tourist areas, however, they have limits (2000-4000 Kwacha) and sometimes they go down. It’s best to have cash, but not too much, as you cannot convert back outside the country. Use a debit card that does not charge a fee, like Charles Schwab, but know that the local banks may charge one also.

Tipping: Tipping is voluntary but appreciated (and expected). 10% is a good rule for restaurants. Make sure, however, that it’s not already on your bill. Most travel guides suggest tips for your safari guide, game ranger and tracker of $5 – 10 USD/day.

Safety In Zambia

Zambia is one of the safest counties in Africa and is politically stable, however, muggings and robberies do occur. Especially in larger cities and tourist areas. Therefore, it’s best not to wear flashy clothes, or jewelry, or leave valuables in your car.

Take normal precautions, always be aware of your surroundings, and avoid walking at night. Don’t carry too much cash and keep your purse or wallet very close. Trust your instincts. If things don’t feel right, look for alternative options.

The US Department of State offers a program called the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is always a good idea (or similar in your country). You can register in advance and will be advised if a dangerous situation arises.

Scams In Zambia

Although Zambia is considered safe, there are always a few people trying to take advantage of tourists. Watch out for the following.

Street Money Changers

Beware of money changers in the street or people approaching you to exchange money. You will likely be scammed or given a very poor rate.

Photo Scams

If someone asks you to take a picture of them, they may ‘accidentally’ drop the camera as you return it, blaming you and asking for you to pay.

Animal Trophies

It is illegal to buy or transport things like tortoise shells, tusks or horns, or ivory from any animals. As these are sometimes sold in stores, they may seem legal, but are not. Plus, it’s terrible from an animal rights perspective.

Overcharging Taxis

Make sure that your taxi driver turns on the meter before your journey. It’s also best to know about how much your route will cost or which route is best. Ask in advance at your hotel, or ask a local on the street if you’re not sure.

What Not To Do In Zambia

Zambia is a conservative country, so be aware that certian things that may be acceptable at home can get you in a lot of trouble here. For example:

  • It is illegal to use, posses, or sell, even the smallest amount of drugs, including marijuana. Don’t even consider this here.
  • Pornographic material is also illegal, including materials that are common in other countries, like girly magazines.
  • Homosexuality is also illegal here.
  • Remember to never photograph around military sites or buildings, military people, or transportation hubs.
South Luangwe National Park is a top attraction in the Zambia Travel Guide
Elephant In Our Camp At South Luangwe

Getting Around Zambia

Self Drive: Although you can self drive in Zambia there are some challenges. First, a fully equipped 4 x 4 is recommended, which can be expensive to rent. If you do, make sure you know how to change the tires by yourself. Driving is on the left, so you also need to be comfortable with that. Also, distances between parks are long and can take quite a long time.

Fly In Safari: You can also arrange transport into most National Parks via chartered plane. This is also expensive, but a common option. Especially if you’re strapped for time.

Overland Tour: If self-driving is not right for you and you don’t have the budget for private flights, consider an overland tour. Intrepid and G Adventures have great itineraries. They often combine Zambia with nearby countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, and Tanzania. I chose Intrepid for a 49 day camping tour from Cape Town to Nairobi and it was truly unforgettable!

Victoria Falls is one of the top attractions in the Zambia Travel a guide
Victoria Falls From Helicopter

Visa Information For Zambia

Visas are required for citizens of the USA, most of Europe, China, and Hong Kong. Although you can generally obtain a visa in advance, or upon arrival, Chinese citizens must apply in advance. Multiple entry visas are also only available in advance. A 24 hour visa is also available if you only plan to stay one day.

If you want to visit both Zambia and Zimbabwe together, get the KAZA UNIVISA (in advance). Just make sure whichever country you purchase it from is your first point of entry.

See the Visa Policy of Zambia for more details and information on other countries.

Note: You must carry your passport and visa with you in Zambia and can be asked to show it to officials at any time. If you do not have it, you can be detained and possibly arrested.

Other Important Planning Details

You need a return, or forwarding airline ticket if arriving in Zambia by air. Alternatives include buying a cancelable ticket (and cancelling after showing details, or renting a ticket. there are several companies that offer this service. you can find them trough a google search.

Zambia Travel Guide: Top Destinations

Click on the image or text below for more details on Zambia’s top destinations.

If you’ve been to Zambia, are dreaming about it, or have have any comments on my travel guide, please add a note below.

Safe Travels!

Julie

Note: All efforts have been made to provide accurate information in this Travel Guide for Zambia, but from time to time things change. If you see something that is not right, please contact me below.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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