Moving to Zambia

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

Zambia is 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. 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. Expat parents should note that government schooling is generally not up to international standards. There are private and international schools located in the country, but these are very expensive. Expats living in rural areas may also consider homeschooling as an option for their children.

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, expats in Zambia have far more opportunity to break free of the segregated world of the expat compound and mingle with the locals to enjoy their friendly and warm spirit.


Fast facts

Population: 17 million

Capital city: Lusaka (also largest city)

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

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

Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

Major religions: Christianity

Main languages: English (official) as well as Bemba and Nyanja.

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: 230V, 50Hz. Typically, square three-pin plugs and two-and three pin round plugs are in use.

Internet domain: .zm

International dialling code: +260

Emergency contacts: 999 (police), 991 (ambulance), 993 (fire)

Transport and driving: Driving is on the left-hand side of the road. Public transport is not comprehensive and expats will likely need their own vehicle.