Public transport in Zambia is not extensive, and most expats living there have their own vehicle. Due to the poor condition of many roads, particularly outside the main cities, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is the best option for getting around Zambia. Nevertheless, there are bus and rail services available for travel between Zambia’s main towns and cities for those who prefer not to drive.
Driving in Zambia
The majority of expats own or rent a vehicle for getting around Zambia. But driving in Zambia can be a hair-raising activity for the inexperienced. Defensive driving is recommended due to erratic local drivers and poor road conditions. Adequate signage is also often lacking.
Many roads are unpaved, particularly in rural areas, and may become impassable without a four-wheel-drive vehicle, especially during the rainy season. Expats driving outside the main centres should note that supplies and petrol stations are few and far between; it’s a good idea to carry sufficient supplies and tools, including fuel, water and spare tyres. Road travel should be avoided as much as possible at night due to 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.
Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road in Zambia. Foreigners wanting to drive in Zambia need to hold an international driving permit; the only foreign driving licences that are recognised in Zambia are those from other SADC countries. New residents from outside these countries are required to pass a local driving test.
Some companies may provide a driver for their senior executives, so this is something worth considering during contract negotiations for a posting in Zambia.
Public transport in Zambia
Public transport in Lusaka is cheap and generally accessible, but outside major cities getting around may be more challenging. Nevertheless, there are several transport options available for getting around Zambia.
Minibus taxis operate in Zambian towns and cities and are normally the cheapest and fastest mode of transport. They don’t have set timetables, but typically run along set routes; the price depends on the distance travelled.
Travelling in a minibus taxi may take some getting used to for the inexperienced expat; drivers can be erratic and drive at fast speeds to get to their destination quickly, and these taxis are often overcrowded, making for a sometimes uncomfortable journey squashed between fellow passengers.
Zambia has an established railway system, with daily services operating from Lusaka to the Copperbelt and Livingstone, as well as between Kapiri Mposhi and the northern border with Tanzania. Options include ‘ordinary trains’, which stop at every station along the way, and ‘express trains’ which operate direct trips between Lusaka and Livingstone.
City buses operating from Lusaka can be confusing and unreliable. Buses generally won’t leave until they are full and are therefore not the best option for those wanting to stick to a specific timetable. There are several daily bus services running from Lusaka to other major centres.
Taxis in Zambia
Taxi cabs are available in Lusaka and usually wait at the entrance to most major centres. These can be ordered by phoning ahead, or hailed from the street. Taxis can be expensive; it’s best to agree on a fare before getting in the taxi, as they are not often metered.
Air travel in Zambia
Although road and rail travel offers a more adventurous way of travelling around Zambia, flying is typically the most convenient way to travel the country’s vast distances. The main international airports are in Lusaka and Livingstone, with a number of other smaller airports operating in and around popular national parks to cater for charter services.
►Learn more about the hazards of driving in Zambia in Safety in Zambia
"I would say the best option is having your own car or a company car. I do not use public transport."
Read more about Belgian expat Jacques's experiences in Zambia.
Are you an expat living in Zambia?
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