Road Conditions and Safety: Vehicle travel is extremely hazardous under normal conditions but particularly at night and in inclement weather.
When traveling in Zambia, please be aware:
- Secondary roads are not well maintained; use major roads whenever possible.
- Most roads do not have shoulders or sidewalks and are poorly lit.
- Pedestrians and livestock use the roadways.
- Passing another vehicle is dangerous given the general condition of roads.
- Lookout for tree branches or other debris which local drivers often place behind their cars to indicate a breakdown or trouble.
- Cars with non-functioning headlights and taillights are a common hazard.
- Night driving is discouraged.
- There are no emergency services for stranded or injured drivers.
- Auto accident victims are vulnerable to theft by those pretending to be helpful.
- Vehicles drive on the left side of the road.
- Vehicles in traffic circles travel clockwise.
- It is illegal to turn left on a red light.
- Splashing a pedestrian as you drive through water is a traffic violation.
- You should come to a stop and pull to the side of the road if you hear sirens indicating an emergency vehicle or official motorcade.
- Use of seat belts is mandatory, as are helmets for motorcyclists.
- A child’s seat is not mandatory by law but is recommended.
- It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving and the minimum fine if caught is equivalent to $60.
- The speed limit in Lusaka is 30 mph/50 km and 60 mph/100 km outside of city limits, unless otherwise indicated.
- If you are stopped by police and asked to pay a fine, you should obtain an official receipt or be directed to the nearest police station where you can make payment.
- Drivers under the influence of alcohol who are involved in accidents are tested at Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital (UTH) and then taken to court.
Public Transportation: City traffic is comprised mostly of cars and privately operated minibuses; motorcycles are rare. Some relatively nice buses travel between Lusaka and Livingstone and the Copperbelt. Minibuses serve as the primary means of intra-city travel in Zambia but are often overcrowded, poorly maintained, and seldom punctual.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Zambia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of the Republic of Zambia?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
Private medical clinics in major cities provide reasonable care, but major medical emergencies usually require medical evacuation to South Africa, Europe, or the United States. The nearest air ambulances are based in South Africa. Government hospitals and clinics are often understaffed and lack supplies. Basic medical care outside of major cities is extremely limited. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Zambian government to ensure the medication is legal in Zambia.
The following diseases are prevalent:
- African trypanosomiasis
- Hepatitis A
- African Tick-Bite Fever
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled or arrested.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Drugs: Possession of more than 0.5 grams of an illegal substance can constitute drug trafficking in Zambia. The Zambian Drug Enforcement Commission has detained a number of U.S. citizens for possession of antihistamines, such as Benadryl and other over-the-counter medications, containing small quantities of diphenhydramine which is on Zambia?s controlled substance list. Travelers in possession of such medications have been charged with drug trafficking, had their passports confiscated, and have been fined or jailed. When visiting Zambia, you should consider leaving such medications behind and carry prescribed medications in their original bottles with a doctor?s prescription.
Wild Animal Products: It is illegal to purchase tortoise shells, rhino horns, elephant ivory, or any items made out of these materials. Other wildlife products, such as hippo teeth, crocodile teeth or skins, flat skins, horns, or animal bones, should only be purchased from animal product vendors licensed with Zambia?s Department of National Parks and Wildlife, which provide certification of purchase. Travelers must present the items and certification of purchase in person to Department of National Parks and Wildlife officials within 45 days of departure to obtain an export permit. Permits for items derived from CITES regulated species, such as hippo or crocodile, may take a number of days to obtain, may include additional fees, and may require an import permit from a destination country. Wildlife products with no export permit will be confiscated upon departure and the Government of Zambia will prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law with penalties ranging from large fines to minimum five year prison sentences. It is illegal to export game meat in any form: dried, processed, or raw.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: Zambian law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity and penalties for conviction of engaging in ?acts against the order of nature? are 15 years to life imprisonment. The lesser charge of ?gross indecency? carries penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment.
LGBTI persons in particular are at risk of societal violence due to prevailing prejudices, misperceptions of the law, lack of legal protections, and inability to access health services.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Zambian law prohibits discrimination in general, but no law specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The Zambian government has not mandated accessibility to public buildings and services for persons with disabilities; public buildings, schools, and hospitals generally do not accommodate persons with disabilities.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
Zambia is rated Level 1 for security (exercise normal precautions) and has few major security concerns. Visitors can avoid criminal activity by utilizing common sense measures provided below.
Political activity, especially during national and local elections, can lead to civil unrest and low-level violence. Spontaneous demonstrations occasionally occur and are often exacerbated by police action. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can quickly turn confrontational and escalate into violence. To stay safe you should:
- avoid large crowds, demonstrations, and political gatherings
- follow media coverage of local events
- be aware of your surroundings at all times
- exercise caution when traveling throughout the country
- avoid walking alone in the downtown areas, high-density residential compounds, public parks, and poorly lit areas?especially at night.
Border Areas: Travelers should not drive off-road or in remote areas near the borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Angola because of the danger of undetected land mines and unexploded ordnance. If you must travel to these areas, you should drive in convoys and carry satellite telephones. Parts of the DRC border area can be plagued with unrest and/or armed criminal elements. See the Country Information pages for the DRC and Angola for additional information.
Crime: The most commonly reported crimes committed against Westerners in Lusaka are non-violent confrontations characterized as crimes of opportunity (theft of unattended possessions in public places or hotel rooms, confidence scams). Pickpockets operate in crowded markets and on public transportation, and visitors have reported snatch attacks of bags and smartphones on busy city streets as well as smash-and-grabs of valuables from vehicles idling in slow traffic and from parked cars. Other crimes, including thefts, violent attacks, including home invasions/robberies, and sexual assaults have occurred on many occasions. Victims are, on occasion, followed from banks, nightclubs, and ATMs and robbed at gunpoint, on the street, or upon arrival at their residence. Walking alone is not advisable in the downtown areas, high-density residential neighborhoods referred to locally as a ?compound?, public parks, and other poorly illuminated areas, especially at night.
Be aware of:
- Pick-pockets operating in crowded markets and on public transportation;
- Snatch attacks of bags and smart phones on busy city streets;
- ?Smash and grab? of valuables from vehicles idled in traffic and from parked cars;
- Thefts, violent attacks, home invasions/robberies; and
- Recent incidents involving sexual assaults.
Victims of Crime:
Report crime to the local police at 991 or 112 and contact the U.S. Embassy at + (260) 011-357-000 or + (260) 966-050-123.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities and there are no trauma facilities in the country. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are advised to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
A passport and visa are required to enter Zambia. Passports must be valid for at least six months upon arrival and have at least three blank pages upon each entry. Travelers transiting other countries on the way to Zambia, particularly South Africa, should refer to their Country Information pages for additional blank page requirements.
Zambian entry visas can be obtained online through the Department of Immigration?s e-Services website or upon arrival at any port of entry. Visit the Embassy of Zambia?s website or the Department of Immigration?s website for information on all types of visas and their costs, as well as the most current visa information.
You must carry the original or a certified copy of your passport and immigration permit at all times. Certified copies must be obtained from the office that issued the permit. If your passport is lost or stolen, visit the Zambian Department of Immigration to obtain a replacement entry permit at no cost before attempting to depart the country.
Departure Tax/Security Charge: U.S. citizens must pay an airport departure tax in local currency. This tax is included in the cost of international flight tickets. For domestic flights, passengers pay a nominal charge in Zambian kwacha prior to entering the departure hall, only for chartered flights.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Zambia.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Zambia for information on U.S. – Zambia relations.