Safety in Zambia
Zambia has largely been spared the violence and political upheaval that many of its regional neighbours have experienced in recent years and the country is known to be very safe.
With low crime rates, a stable political system and little threat from terrorism or ethnic strife, most expats report feeling quite safe in Zambia.
Road safety in Zambia
Road safety is likely the most significant safety concern for expats living in Zambia. The majority of expats own or rent a vehicle for getting around. However, driving in Zambia can be an exercise in patience and stamina. Local drivers often disobey the rules of the road and drive recklessly, and many vehicles are in a poor state of repair. Added to this, many roads are unpaved and may become impassable without a four-wheel drive vehicle, especially during the rainy season.
Some companies may provide a driver for their senior executives, so this is something worth noting during contract negotiations when considering employment opportunities in Zambia.
Road travel at night should be avoided as much as possible. Hazards of driving in the dark include wild and domestic animals wandering on the roads, pedestrians, stationary vehicles and unlit moving vehicles. Criminals are also more active at night and the risk of carjacking increases.
Crime in Zambia
Most expats living in Zambia report feeling safe in their homes. Nevertheless, home burglaries do occur, particularly in the more affluent areas of Lusaka and other Zambian cities and towns. Expats should ensure that they have adequate home security, such as burglar bars on their windows. Hiring a security guard or contributing to a neighbourhood security fund can also add significantly to peace of mind.
Crimes of opportunity such as pickpocketing and smash-and-grab thefts from stationary vehicles in traffic do occasionally occur. Car doors and windows should be locked when driving on congested roads. Walking around at night is not advisable, nor is driving at night.
Zambia is a very conservative society and expats should note that homosexuality is illegal in the country. The penalties can be severe. It’s best to be discreet and public displays of affection with people of the same sex should be avoided.
Political unrest in Zambia
Zambia enjoys a stable political system and civil unrest is not common. Nevertheless, protests do occasionally take place. Recent protests have involved miners demanding higher wages and students demanding better conditions. Although the majority of protests are peaceful, some protests have resulted in violent clashes between protesters and the police. Expats should avoid protests and political gatherings, particularly around election times.
Food and water safety
Although tap water in Lusaka may be potable, the quality of the water is not always consistent and is best avoided as a precaution. Tap water in mining areas has also sometimes been found to be contaminated. Outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as typhoid and cholera are also common in Zambia.
Wildlife in Zambia
Expats should remember that most animals in Zambia are wild and can be dangerous. Expats should not swim in any rivers in Zambia due to the risk of attack by hippos, crocodiles and other animals. When visiting game parks, always stay in the vehicle and keep windows closed. Walks in game parks should only be undertaken with qualified game rangers and park staff.
Adventure activities in Zambia
Bungee jumping, zip-lining and white water rafting are just some of the popular adventure activities that expats can enjoy in Zambia, particularly along the Zambezi River and at Victoria Falls. However, the safety standards of some of the tour operators who manage these activities have been questionable and expats wanting to partake in any of these sports should only do so with a reputable operator. Ask around, get local recommendations and investigate the safety records of any company one may be dealing with.