Moving to Zambia

Expats moving to Zambia with the right attitude are in for a real treat. Zambia is a beautiful country with varied wildlife and abundant natural wonders, including the magnificent Victoria Falls and Zambezi River.

It's sparsely populated, with most of the country’s population living in the capital of Lusaka, the mineral-rich Copperbelt region or in Livingstone, the second largest city and a popular tourist hub.

Those who are unwilling to give up some of their modern luxuries and necessities may struggle to adjust to living in Zambia. Poor infrastructure, poverty, a limited selection of goods, poor healthcare and local diseases are some of the real, but largely manageable, challenges faced by the Zambia expat. 

Government schooling is generally not up to international standards. There are private and international schools located in the country, however these are very expensive. Expats living in rural areas may also consider homeschooling as an option for their children.

Many Zambians still struggle below the poverty line, and while the Zambian government is attempting to diversify its economy, most of its income is still generated through copper mining and tourism. Agriculture is another major sector. As a result, few expats move to Zambia for casual or services-based work, with most having been placed by international companies and organisations. Expats of mostly British, Indian and South African origins are present in the country. Increased Chinese investment in Zambia over recent years has also seen Chinese expats migrate to Zambia. 

Western expats are unlikely to struggle with a language barrier as English is the lingua franca of business and schooling, and most Zambians, particularly in the major urban centres, will speak English.

According to local expat lore, there are two kinds of expats in Zambia: those that make a hasty exit within three months, and those who never want to leave. Unlike other African expat postings, such as Nigeria and Angola, expats in Zambia have far more opportunity to break free of the segregated world of the expat compound and mingle with the local people to enjoy their friendly and warm spirit.

Fast facts

Population: Almost 16 million

Capital city: Lusaka (also largest city)

Other major cities: Ndola, Kitwe, Kabwe, Livingstone

Neighbouring countries: Zambia is a landlocked country bordered by Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Namibia.

Geography: Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa, consisting mostly of high plateaus with some hills and mountains, dissected by river valleys. 

Political system: Presidential republic. Zambia is a politically stable multi-party democracy.

Major religions: Christianity is the official religion, although other religions are tolerated.

Main languages: English (official), 73 regional languages.

Money: The Zambian currency is the Zambian Kwacha (ZMK), which is divided into 100 ngwee. Although expats are able to open a bank account in Zambia, many opt to maintain an account with their international bank. While there are plenty of ATMs in Lusaka, expats may struggle to find an ATM in more rural areas.

Time: GMT +2

Electricity: 220 volts, 50Hz. Typically, square three-pin plugs and two-and three pin round plugs are in use.

Internet domain: .zm

International dialling code: +260. City/area codes are in use, e.g. 1 for Lusaka.

Emergency contacts: In case of emergency dial 999 (police), 991 (ambulance) or 993 (fire). Although emergency services are available in Lusaka, emergency assistance outside the city is inadequate. Serious medical emergencies may require medical evacuation abroad or to South Africa. It's essential that expats have comprehensive medical insurance.

Transport and driving: Drive on the left-hand side. Public transport is not comprehensive and expats will likely need their own vehicle. A 4x4 vehicle may be needed for driving on rural roads due to the poor conditions, especially during the rainy season from October to March.

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