Lusaka, the capital of Zambia is an attractive city about 1280 metres above sea level. For many years it was a small agricultural and trading centre. In 1935 the capital was moved from Livingstone to Lusaka as it is a more central location along the rail line. It is now located at the junction of the main highways to the north, east, south and west. Currently, there are around 2 million inhabitants in Lusaka and it is one of the fastest growing cities in Southern Africa.
The city still retains much of its colonial-era lay-out with three distinct areas. The main street is Cairo Road, a broad tree-lined double roadway, which is the main business centre; the industrial area is at the northwest end of Cairo Road, and the Government administration centre is about 5km from Cairo road. The city is now quite spread out. There are 3 main affluent residential areas, Kabulonga/Woodlands, Roma, and Lilayi.
Approximately 80% of Lusaka’s residents live in shantytowns, known as compounds, on the outskirts of the city.
The unit of currency is the Kwacha (approx 18 ZK = 1 $). The Kwacha is a convertible currency, though cash dollars can sometimes be scarce. The rate of exchange has remained stable for the past few years, though in previous years it has moved considerably over short periods of time. There are bureau de changes available for converting currency which generally give a better rate than the banks.
Credit Cards and Debit Cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, travel agents and in some of the larger shops.
Provided that necessary precautions are taken, health is not generally a concern in Zambia. However, the standard of the local health care is poor and caution must be taken when travelling around Zambia. Although there are pharmacies in Lusaka, it is recommended to bring a supply of any special medications taken. It is advisable to take out private medical health insurance.
The following immunization/vaccinations are recommended, though please consult your medical practitioner for further details:
Yellow Fever – some neighbouring countries require this for travel.
Hepatitis A and B
MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
Rabies (For outdoor people, who may come into contact with stray dogs.)
Malaria is one of the most common and serious of the tropical diseases endemic in Zambia. Prophylaxis are recommended and bed netting, window screens and insect repellent are encouraged. Malaria is rarely caught in the affluent residential areas of Lusaka, but care must be taken when travelling out of the city. Antimalarial tablets are available in Lusaka. The most common prophylaxis used in Zambia are Proguanil (Paludrine), Fansidar, Halfen and Mefloquine (Lariam).
Zambia has a very high incidence of HIV infection and AIDS. However, there is no risk of acquiring HIV infection from casual contact in the workplace and there is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects spread HIV. Occasionally HIV can be spread through blood transfusions, and for this reasons, the main clinics maintain a “walking blood bank” of persons who have tested negative for HIV antibodies.
While petty crime is a factor of life in Zambia, these are generally not violent incidents, and can be avoided by practicing certain basic rules of self-protection, such as avoiding certain areas at night; keeping car doors locked and windows up; and not leaving money or jewellery lying around.
The international airport at Lusaka has scheduled flights daily to Johannesburg, South Africa; Dubai, UAE; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Nairobi, Kenya; Kigali, Rwanda. Flights are also available internally to Livingstone, the Copper belt and various game parks.
Taxis and buses are available in Lusaka, but the cars and buses are old and of questionable reliability and safety. Most people own their own car and many have 4 wheel drive vehicles.
New cars are available for purchase though they tend to be expensive due to the high import duty. Many people prefer to purchase second hand. There are a considerable number of second hand vehicles which are imported directly from Japan which are cheaper than other locally purchased cars. The quality of these cars is generally good.Most second hand cars are either advertised in shops or local publications. There are also companies which specialize in selling imported second hand vehicles.
The roads in Lusaka are generally good, but there are some with large potholes. The city council is in the process of renovating the major roads in Lusaka, but the heavy rainfall Lusaka receives in the rainy season means that the roads do disintegrate rapidly. The major roads outside of Lusaka are also in the process of being renovated, but some are still very poor and 4 wheel drive vehicles are needed, particularly for driving to game parks.
Motor vehicle accidents are probably the greatest health risk in Lusaka as the standard of driving is not good and many vehicles are in poor repair. Seat belts are recommended and it is not advisable to drive outside the city at night as many vehicles have no lights.
Driving in Zambia is on the left and requires an International Driving Licence. Fuel is usually plentiful in Lusaka, and there are fuel stations in most towns outside Lusaka.
The quality of shopping has improved dramatically in the past few years with the building of many malls including Arcades Mall, Manda Hill, East Park Mall, Cosmopolitan Mall, Makeni Mall, Embassy Shopping Mall, Levy Junction Mall, Crossroads Mall, Kabulonga Mall, Waterfalls Mall, Green Park Mall, all of which which offer large supermarkets, a large all purpose store which sells everything from camping equipment to jewellery, and various small specialist shops, fashion stores, restaurants and coffee shops. There is also a cinema at Manda Hill mall and Levy Mall.
Food – Cost of living – Prices
Most foodstuffs are available in Lusaka. The majority of foodstuffs come from South Africa and these imported goods are expensive. However, meat and vegetables are available from Zambia, and are quite inexpensive.
There are quite a few supermarkets in Lusaka, but the ones frequented the most are Shoprite, Food Lovers, Spar and Pick and Pay, which are large supermarket chains from South Africa. There are also a few co-operatives where less common fruit and vegetables and home- made items can be purchased. Open-air markets are available for fruit and vegetables, but it is advisable to have a rough idea of the price of the goods you would like to purchase, as the price given will always be an inflated one and you will need to bargain.
Handicrafts / Clothes / etc
Clothes and shoes are available to purchase in Lusaka, but generally the prices are high and the quality is generally not good, and most people purchase their clothes and shoes overseas. There are a considerable number of shops selling material and tailors are available, reliable and cheap.
There are a wide range of handicraft items for sale, mainly to tourists. These include carved wooden items from spoons and bowls, to ornaments; malachite items, copperware, silver jewellery and gemstones. Chitenge cloth, a locally produced brightly coloured cloth, and baskets are particularly popular. These are sold in all the tourist areas, but the best place is the popular monthly market at the Dutch Reformed Church. The market also offers various stalls selling a wide variety of goods from food, to plants, to animals.
Books are available, though there are only a couple of good bookshops. Many people buy books online and have them sent out. There are libraries at the American Centre, British Council and Alliance Francaise.
The electricity in Zambia is 220 volts, 50 cycle and outlets require British-style square pin plugs. Transformers may be needed for some appliances .
The supply of electricity can be erratic and surge protectors are advisable, particularly for TV and computer equipment. Power failures are common in the rainy season, as there are frequent thunder and electrical storms.
There are several internet service providers in Zambia including MTN, HAI, Airtel, Vodafone.There are also internet cafes in the shopping malls. Prices vary from provider to provider but on average a 5gb monthly bundle will cost approximately K200.
There are 3 main daily newspapers, TheTimes of Zambia, The Post and the Zambia Daily Mail. These papers provide economic, political and social analysis of Zambia. There is a monthly magazine called The Lowdown which has interesting articles on Zambia and gives details of events taking place in Lusaka and elsewhere. For a more international view of events, imported English language newspapers and magazines are sold in the supermarkets.
Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) is the official government controlled broadcasting agency which transmits approximately 7 hours of programs nightly. The quality of these programs is poor, and out of date. Many people opt for DSTV, a South African pay for Satellite TV service which offers a variety of channels, including CNN, BBC and Discovery Channel, as well as 3 movie channels. The price for Satellite TV depends on the package you choose and can range from K400 – K1200 monthly.