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Moving to Zambia

Located in Southern Africa, Zambia is a landlocked country of high plateaus, rugged mountain ranges and gorgeous grasslands teeming with diverse wildlife. It boasts a host of world-class game parks, nature reserves and abundant natural wonders, including the magnificent Victoria Falls and Zambezi River. Expats moving to Zambia with the right attitude and a spirit for adventure are in for a unique experience.

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 country's 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 working expats having been placed by international companies and organisations. The low cost of living means most expat salaries allow for a good quality of life in Zambia.

Expats of mostly British, Indian and South African origin 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: Around 19 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.

Weather in Zambia

The weather in Zambia is not unbearable, despite the country's close proximity to the equator. With the exception of the lowlands, Zambia's high altitude makes for more of a moderate climate than most expats might expect.

The majority of the country sits at an elevation that enjoys a warm temperate climate. Sunshine is abundant, humidity is low and temperatures are less extreme than in the lowlands. These areas experience a rainy season from October to February, marked by heavy rains and flooding.

On the other hand, the Zambia's low-slung river valleys experience a typical tropical climate characterised by high temperatures and a lack of a true cold season. The rainy period between October and February can feel oppressive, and the sub-standard medical care means that malaria and sleeping sickness are a constant threat. Expats living in these parts of Zambia should take preventative measures against these diseases.

The cool season in Zambia is from May to mid-August; temperatures range from 50°F (10°C) to 81°F (27°C). Between November and February, the weather in Zambia ranges from 64°F (18°C) to 95°F (35°C).

 

Embassy Contacts for Zambia


Zambian embassies

  • Zambian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 234 4009

  • Zambian High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7589 6655 

  • Zambian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 232 4400

  • Zambian High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 261 994 900

  • Zambian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 326 1847


Foreign embassies in Zambia

  • United States Embassy, Lusaka, Zambia: +260 211 357 000

  • British High Commission, Lusaka, Zambia: +260 211 423 200

  • Canadian High Commission, Lusaka, Zambia: +260 211 250 833

  • Australian Consulate, Lusaka, Zambia: +260 211 840 578

  • South African High Commission, Lusaka, Zambia: +260 211 265 571

  • Irish Embassy, Lusaka, Zambia: +260 211 426 900

  • New Zealand Consulate, Lusaka, Zambia +260 211 252 402

Public Holidays in Zambia

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Women's Day

8 March

8 March

Youth Day

12 March

12 March

Good Friday

2 April

15 April

Easter Monday

5 April

18 April

Labour Day

1 May

2 May

Africa Freedom Day

25 May

25 May

Heroes' Day

9 June

4 July

Unity Day

6 July

5 July

Farmers' Day

2 August

1 August

Independence Day

24 October

24 October

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

*If a public holiday in Zambia falls on a Sunday it is observed the following Monday.

Safety in Zambia

Zambia has largely been spared the violence and political upheaval that many of its regional neighbours have experienced in years gone by. With low crime rates, a stable political system and little threat from terrorism or ethnic strife, most expats report feeling quite safe in Zambia. However, as in every country, there are certain things expats can do to minimise risk.


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. 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.


Crime in Zambia

Most expats living in Zambia report feeling safe in their homes. Nevertheless, home burglaries do occur. 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 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.


Political unrest in Zambia

Zambia enjoys a stable political system and civil unrest is not common. Nevertheless, protests do occasionally take place. Although the majority of protests are peaceful, some 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. Outside of major cities, water is less likely to be safe to drink. In these areas it's best to boil water before using it.

Working in Zambia

Most expats working in Zambia have been transferred there to work within their organisation’s local branch, such as larger banks, mining corporations and some telecommunications giants. Others find employment in the tourism or healthcare sector, at NGOs, or as volunteers or missionary workers. 


Job market in Zambia

Agriculture plays a central role in Zambia’s economy, accounting for the vast majority of employment in both the formal and informal sectors. There are few service jobs in Zambia, and industry is largely focused around copper mining, which means expats with expertise in the mining sector are often able to find lucrative employment. Tourism is also a major industry in Zambia.

Unemployment rates are high and a large percentage of the country's population continues to live below the poverty line. Almost all unskilled and service work is done by locals and there is little opportunity for foreigners without valuable skills. 


Finding a job in Zambia

Expats working in Zambia require a valid work permit. While there are no major restrictions for expats seeking work opportunities in Zambia, foreigners are not permitted to work in human resources positions. Expats can utilise online job portals to find jobs, make use of social-networking sites such as LinkedIn, or get in touch with a recruitment company to help with the process. 


Work culture in Zambia

Although Zambians are known for formality in conducting business, they are also friendly and welcoming to expats. A relaxed attitude to time may be something expats will need to adjust to in the workplace. Zambians are never really in a hurry and deadlines are somewhat of a vague concept, while meetings and appointments rarely begin at the designated time.

Expats from countries with flat hierarchical structures in the workplace will find that businesses in Zambia are run from the top down. It is crucial to show respect towards one's seniors. Titles are important – always refer to someone by their title unless instructed otherwise. 

Doing Business in Zambia

Expats doing business in Zambia will find themselves in a politically stable country that has seen positive economic growth in recent years. The capital, Lusaka, the tourist hub of Livingstone, and the mineral-rich Copperbelt are the most important commercial centres and where the majority of Zambia’s population live.

Much of Zambia’s economic growth has been attributed to the privatisation of the mining sector, which has managed to attract much foreign investment in recent years. Zambia is rich in natural resources and is the world’s largest producer of copper. Agriculture is another important sector.

Despite positive growth, challenges remain with doing business in Zambia: corruption and nepotism are pervasive, while other obstacles to economic growth include widespread poverty, poor service delivery and infrastructure, as well as rising AIDS/HIV infection rates.

In the World Bank's 2020 Ease of Doing Business Survey, Zambia achieved a middling rank of 85th out of 190 countries evaluated. However, Zambia did well in a few categories, including ease of getting credit (4th) and paying taxes (17th). According to the survey, the most prominent barriers to doing business in the country are registering property (149th) and trading across borders (155th).


Fast facts

Business hours

Working hours are generally between 8am and 5pm, which includes an hour lunch break.

Business language

English is the official language of Zambia and the most widely spoken in business circles. Expats working in more rural areas and in mining communities will do well to learn key phrases and greetings in the relevant local dialects.

Dress

Business attire is usually smart, although men are not expected to wear a suit and tie. This can vary depending on the company and industry though. Smart trousers and a shirt are usually acceptable. Women should dress conservatively and avoid exposing their shoulders and legs.

Gifts

Gift-giving is not common in business circles. With the prevalence of corruption, such gifts may be misconstrued as a bribe. 

Gender equality

Women have equal rights in Zambia, although men still occupy most senior roles in Zambian business.

Greeting

A firm handshake is the norm when greeting in Zambian business circles. If greeting a woman, it's best to wait for her to extend her hand first.


Business culture in Zambia

Communication

Titles are important in Zambia and should be used when greeting associates, especially in official government circles. The most senior individuals in a room should be greeted first. Associates should be addressed formally using their title and surname.

Culture

Expats doing business in Zambia will need to learn patience when it comes to dealing with local associates and the bureaucratic procedures that accompany business dealings; meetings are never rushed and contract negotiations can take time. In line with this, Zambians are friendly and genuinely interested in other people; a proper greeting and small talk are common at the beginning of meetings, with conversation covering topics such as family, one’s health and sport. 

Management

Business structures in Zambia are hierarchical and decisions are made from the top. Unfortunately, corruption remains an ongoing concern in Zambian government and business circles and it’s not unusual to be faced with the expectation of extracting a bribe in order to make connections and win contracts. Networking and making important connections within the business and political sphere may go a long way to opening up opportunities to doing business in Zambia.


Dos and don’ts of business in Zambia

  • Do always greet Zambian associates politely

  • Don't address a Zambian colleague by their first name unless invited to do so first

  • Do be prepared to start meetings with small talk about personal matters

  • Don't rush Zambian counterparts. Business dealings take time in Zambia and it’s important to always be polite and respectful. 

  • Do dress smartly for business meetings. First impressions are important, as are appearances.

  • Do be prepared to network and make important connections within Zambian business and political circles in order to facilitate commercial opportunities

Visas for Zambia

All foreigners entering Zambia require a passport valid for at least six months. Depending on the purpose and duration of stay, some travellers require a visa for Zambia, which is usually available at the point of entry into the country.


Tourist visas for Zambia

Visa requirements for Zambia vary according to one's nationality. Nationals of certain countries are allowed visa-free entry while others can obtain a visa on arrival in Zambia.

It’s possible to obtain a single-entry or double-entry tourist visa for Zambia at the port of entry. Those wanting to obtain a multiple-entry visa should apply online using Zambia's e-Visa system or in person at a Zambian embassy or consulate before arriving in the country. Tourist visas allow holders to be in Zambia for up to 90 days within one calendar year.


Business visas for Zambia

Foreigners entering Zambia for business purposes are required to have a valid business visa. These can be obtained at the point of entry into Zambia and businesspeople may be asked to produce a letter from their intended business partner in Zambia stating the nature of the intended visit. Business visas are usually valid for 30 days and do not qualify a person to work for pay while in the country. 

Foreigners arriving in Zambia for volunteer purposes are required to enter the country on a business visa.


Work permits for Zambia

Foreigners wishing to work in Zambia for longer than six months will need a work permit. Work permits for Zambia are issued by the Department of Immigration and should be applied for before entering the country.

Zambian employers wanting to recruit foreign workers will generally have to prove to authorities that there are no Zambians suitably qualified or experienced enough to fill the position.

Depending on the nature of the employment, work permits are usually issued for an initial period of up to two years. Subsequent extensions of the work permit are permitted for a maximum of 10 years.

*Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to contact their nearest Zambian embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Zambia

The cost of living in Zambia is remarkably low for those paid in a strong currency. In the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2020, which compares expat cities around the world, Lusaka was ranked 201st out of 209 cities.

As Zambia is a landlocked country, it is heavily dependent on its neighbours. Transport costs are high, and much of the country’s consumer goods are imported and therefore expensive. 

Expats should remember that the cost of living in Zambia is relative. For those wanting to maintain the life of comfort that they may be used to back home, the cost can be exorbitant; but it’s worth noting that the majority of Zambia’s population still live well below the poverty line.


Cost of accommodation in Zambia

Accommodation costs in Zambia can be high, particularly in Lusaka, and are likely to be an expat’s most significant monthly expense. Many companies secure and finance housing for their senior expat executives. Expats looking for work in Zambia should factor the housing costs into any contract negotiations.


Cost of food and groceries in Zambia

The cost of basic goods such as fresh fruit and vegetables varies significantly according to season. Informal markets in Zambia are a good place to pick up bargains as polite bartering is acceptable at street cafes and vendors in a way that it is not in more formal stores. 


Cost of schooling and education in Zambia

Expats with children will most likely have to fork out a hefty sum of money on education. Many feel that the public school system is inadequate and prefer to send their children to international schools in Zambia. However, the privilege of attending these schools does not come cheap. Expat parents moving to Zambia for work purposes should keep this in mind when negotiating their relocation package.


Cost of healthcare in Zambia

Another essential expense for expats in Zambia is health insurance. Zambia’s public healthcare system is subpar, and although there are some good private hospitals in the major centres, any serious medical emergencies are likely to require evacuation to South Africa or elsewhere. Expats, therefore, need to ensure that they have a full health insurance policy that covers this.


Cost of living in Zambia

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Lusaka in February 2021. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

ZMW 2,230

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

ZMW 2,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre 

ZMW 8,200

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

ZMW 4,900 

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

ZMW 15

Milk (1 litre)

ZMW 12

Rice (1 kg)

ZMW 25

Loaf of white bread

ZMW 8.50

Chicken breasts (1kg)

ZMW 47

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

ZMW 36

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

ZMW 32

Coca-Cola (330ml)

ZMW 8

Cappuccino 

ZMW 25

Bottle of beer

ZMW 14

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

ZMW 280

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

ZMW 1.17

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

ZMW 550

Basic utilities (per month for a standard household)

ZMW 1,280

Hourly rate for domestic help

ZMW 60

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

ZMW 14

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

ZMW 11

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

ZMW 12.40

Culture Shock in Zambia

Zambia is sparsely populated and most of the population lives in the capital Lusaka and the mineral-rich Copperbelt region. Home to more than 70 different ethnic groups, Zambia is a multicultural society.

Expats coming from more developed countries are likely to experience a fair amount of culture shock in Zambia. For an inexperienced expat, in particular, the most profound adjustment will be to the poverty endemic to the country. 


Poverty in Zambia

Although the country’s economy has improved in recent years, much of Zambia’s infrastructure remains underdeveloped and expats may have to adjust to life without many of the luxuries they have back home. Many roads are not paved and power and water supplies can be unpredictable, even in Lusaka, where it is not uncommon to experience power blackouts; a generator is therefore essential for any expat's home.

The sharp contradictions between the haves and the have-nots are highly noticeable in Zambia. Within a few miles, one can see the transition from rural mud huts and poor shantytowns to sprawling mansions and glitzy shopping malls, with a swathe of luxury vehicles lined up outside. 


Time in Zambia

Expats living in Zambia will need to learn some patience when it comes to making arrangements and attending meetings or social engagements. Time is sometimes a vague concept in Zambia and Zambians often have a very relaxed attitude to punctuality. Meetings and social functions often start late and expats should not expect any apologies for tardiness.


Communicating in Zambia

English is the official language in Zambia and most expats will therefore not struggle with a language barrier. Nevertheless, those living in more rural areas of Zambia will likely encounter those who do not speak or understand English and they should take the time to learn some key phrases of the local dialect.

Zambians are quite formal and prefer to be addressed formally; greetings are extremely important and will be reciprocated. Politeness is highly respected in Zambian culture, and requests after a person’s wellbeing are the typical start to a conversation.

Accommodation in Zambia

Due to the often short-term nature of expat assignments in Zambia, the vast majority of expats will rent property rather than buy. Both furnished and unfurnished housing is available in the main cities and new arrivals will find a variety of different options when it comes to accommodation in Zambia. 

Those living in more rural areas or in mining communities will most likely find themselves accommodation within compounds or housing developments built by their employers. Expat employees are often provided housing with full amenities and utilities included and paid for by their organisation.

Those paying for their own accommodation in Zambia will find housing relatively expensive, although high expat salaries often offset this cost.


Types of accommodation in Zambia

There is a variety of housing in Zambia and expats will find that they often have access to large properties with open spaces and gardens. Many of the houses are old and may be in need of repair, but there have been a number of new developments in Lusaka in recent years.

Standalone houses, often on large properties surrounded by gardens, are available in Lusaka’s more upmarket areas. These are ideal for families with children.

Cluster developments, consisting of a number of rowhouses or townhouses enclosed within a high-perimeter wall, have sprung up in Lusaka in recent years. These developments often have controlled access and offer more security for expats. They are in high demand and expats will often find many employees of one company occupying housing in the same cluster development. These complexes offer a feeling of community with residents having access to common amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and entertainment areas. 

Apartments are also available in Lusaka. These buildings often come fully furnished and fully serviced. Security is usually high in popular apartment buildings and there may be communal facilities such as a garden, swimming pool or gym.


Finding accommodation in Zambia

Those transferred to Zambia through their company are likely to have assistance from their organisation, which will most likely shortlist potential options or have readily available housing for their staff.

Online is always a good starting point, and local newspapers also list rental properties. There are also a number of rental agents in Lusaka who are able to assist expats, although it’s best to be cautious when using such services, as prices can often be inflated by unscrupulous agents.

A good way of finding accommodation in Zambia is also via word of mouth. The transient nature of expat life in Zambia means that expats come and go regularly so accommodation becomes available with their departure and news travels quickly about vacancies.


Factors to consider when house hunting in Zambia

Many properties in Zambia are old and in need of repairs. It’s best to visit a home in person to assess its condition before signing a lease or moving in. Ensure that the accommodation has sufficient utilities such as water and electricity supply. Also check what appliances are included with the house or apartment. Ensure there is air conditioning, as this may be essential in the hot summer months.

Safety is a factor for expats in Zambia, especially in Lusaka, where home burglaries do occur. Expats should ensure that their homes have sufficient security, such as burglar bars on the windows.


Renting accommodation in Zambia

Leases are usually signed for a minimum of one year, but short-term leases are sometimes available.

When signing a lease, establish upfront who is responsible for maintenance and repairs, if these are needed, and whether the cost of utilities such as water and electricity are included in the rental.

A security deposit will have to be paid, which will be returned if the apartment is left in an acceptable condition and rent is paid up to date at the termination of the lease.

Healthcare in Zambia

The general state of healthcare in Zambia is poor. Although there are adequate private health facilities in Lusaka, the public health system remains heavily underfunded, and many expats requiring serious medical attention will find themselves evacuated to another country, such as South Africa, where there are better medical facilities. It’s therefore essential that expats have a comprehensive health insurance policy before moving to Zambia.


Public healthcare in Zambia

Zambia offers universal healthcare to all its citizens. By Western standards this healthcare is very basic and Zambia’s public healthcare system is chronically underfunded. Many Zambian doctors leave the country or work only for the private health system, meaning that public health is subject to a skills drain.


Private healthcare in Zambia

There are good private hospitals in Zambia’s larger cities, particularly Lusaka. These cater not only to foreigners but also to affluent Zambians. Expats living in mining communities and compounds owned by their organisation are likely to find company-sponsored clinics on site that are able to cater for their basic medical needs. However, most expats are evacuated to South Africa or elsewhere in the case of long-term serious medical care being required.


Pharmacies in Zambia

Although pharmacies are available in major towns and cities, they are not always well stocked and may not carry many of the usual drugs that expats may need. Pharmacies may be closed after hours or on Sundays. In the case of an emergency, expats should try pharmacies attached to hospitals or clinics. 


Health insurance in Zambia

It's essential that expats either ensure that any medical insurance cover from outside Zambia covers them in the country, or that medical insurance is taken out immediately upon arrival. It is important that this medical plan is comprehensive, and includes cover for medical evacuations. This should be an essential part of contract negotiations when moving to Zambia.


Health hazards in Zambia

Malaria is a major health concern in Zambia and expats should consult a doctor for the latest advice prior to leaving for Zambia. A mosquito net is therefore an important purchase. These nets cover the bed at night and have a significant effect in reducing mosquito bites. Cholera and dysentery are also common, particularly during the rainy season. Zambia also has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. 

The water in Zambian cities is drinkable, but best avoided. Bottled water is widely available and the best option for new arrivals.


Emergency services in Zambia

Emergency services are inadequate, especially outside of Lusaka. In the case of an emergency, expats can dial 991. For serious emergencies, airlifting to a nearby country with better facilities might be the best course of action. Expats should therefore choose an insurance policy that includes this service.

Education and Schools in Zambia

The standard of education and schools in Zambia varies. The public schooling system remains poorly funded and lacks resources. But there are a number of good private and international schools in the country, offering a superior quality of education. 

The majority of expats living in Zambia choose to send their children to international schools. These schools mostly follow the American or British curricula and are often located in Lusaka. Expats living outside the main cities or towns in Zambia may struggle to find suitable schools for their children, and may consider homeschooling as an option.


Public schools in Zambia

In Zambia, public schooling is free and compulsory from age seven to 14 (Grades 1 to 9). However, parents are still expected to cover additional costs such as uniforms, stationery and books. 

English is the primary language of instruction in Zambian public schools; children are also required to learn an additional local language, depending on their provincial district.

Though public schools in Zambia's large cities are better off than those in rural areas, education is still underfunded and under-resourced. Many expats find that these schools don't meet expected standards and opt for private or international schools instead.


Private schools in Zambia

Private schools operate independently of the Zambian government and have more flexibility in terms of their admissions procedures, curricula and language of instruction. Private schools often teach through a religious lens.

The standard of education at the more affluent private schools generally exceeds that of public schools, and these schools, particularly those in Lusaka, offer better facilities and opportunities for students. However, they do not come cheap; fees can be high and therefore far out of the reach of many ordinary Zambians.


International schools in Zambia

There are a number of international schools in Zambia, mostly based in Lusaka. Most of these follow American and British curricula, while some offer the International Baccalaureate programme. 

Unlike public and private schools, international schools in Zambia often have their school year running according to their country of origin’s academic year. For example, some American schools follow the typical US school year beginning in August rather than Zambia's school year which begins in January.


Homeschooling in Zambia

Expats living in the more rural areas of Zambia with no access to quality education for their children may consider homeschooling as an option. There are a number of support groups and plenty of resources online for parents in Zambia who choose this path.


Special-needs education in Zambia

Ministry of Education policy in Zambia and the government’s Inclusive Schooling Programme (INSPRO) aim, as far as possible, to allow children with special educational needs to remain in regular schools. That said, special-needs education is still somewhat limited in Zambia. While the need for integrated classes is recognised, few schools can afford the resources and staff to support this, particularly in public schools.

There are a few special schools scattered across Zambia that cater specifically for learners with disabilities and special needs, but private and international schools are more likely to offer learning support programmes to a greater diversity of learning needs. We recommend that expat parents contact the schools directly to find out what support services they offer.


Tutors in Zambia

There are tutors available in Zambia, but mainly in the bigger cities and other expat enclaves. Whether students don't want to feel left behind academically, would like to learn a local language, or need extra support close to exam time, private tutors can help prepare and support children. The best way to find a tutor is by making inquiries from the child's school, networking, and getting info from other expat families. A number of private tutoring companies can also be found online.

Transport and Driving in Zambia

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 of 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 of 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 at night should be avoided as much as possible 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 driver's licences that are recognised in Zambia are those from other SADC countries. New residents from outside of 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 to Zambia.


Public transport in Zambia

Public transport in Lusaka is cheap and generally accessible, but outside of major cities getting around may be more challenging. Nevertheless, there are a number of transport options available for getting around Zambia.

Minibus taxis

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 generally 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.

Trains

Zambia has an established railway system, with daily services operating from Lusaka to 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.

Buses

City buses operating from Lusaka can be confusing and unreliable. Buses generally won’t leave until they are full and therefore aren’t the best option for those wanting to stick to a specific timetable. There are a number of 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 usually metered.


Air travel in Zambia

Although road and rail travel offers a more adventurous way of getting around Zambia, flying is often 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.

Shipping and Removals in Zambia

Shipping in Zambia can be unreliable, therefore it's worth paying extra for an international firm. As Zambia is a landlocked country, it is also worth paying the premium for air freight as shipping entails transporting one's goods from the nearest port. The subsequent land journey to Zambia is seldom without incident.

In case of any incidents, it's best to arrange insurance ahead of time, preferably with a company different to the one doing the shipping. This allows maximum transparency and accountability.

To ship one's items, extensive documentation is required. Certain items may be subject to import duty.

For those who don't want to leave their pets behind, it is possible to bring animals into Zambia. Provided that certain conditions are met, there will be no quarantine period. A health certificate from a licensed vet must be obtained in order to show that vaccinations are up to date and that the animal is free of diseases such as rabies. In addition, any pets entering Zambia must be microchipped.

Frequently Asked Questions about Zambia

Expats moving to a new country are sure to have many queries and concerns. To help ease the transition, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about moving to Zambia.

Do I need a car in Zambia? 

Yes. A four-wheel-drive vehicle, in particular, is very useful in Zambia. The roads are not in good order and vehicles take a lot of punishment. There is a public transport system but it's not really up to scratch and most expats own their own cars. It also makes exploring the country a lot easier.

Will I be safe in Zambia?

Unlike some of its neighbours, Zambia has not experienced the same level of violence or ethnic strife and is a relatively safe destination. Most expats report feeling safe in their homes, although vigilance goes a long way and it does not hurt to invest in good home security. Road safety will likely be a concern for expats living in Zambia and defensive driving is recommended.

Are there decent schools for my children?

There are good private schools in Zambia, but the country’s public schooling system is inadequate. The majority of expats living in Zambia send their children to an international school. There are a number of international schools in Lusaka for expats to choose from, most of which follow British or American curricula.

What about healthcare in Zambia?

Zambia’s public healthcare system is not up to the standards that most Western expats would be used to and should be avoided if possible. There are some good private clinics in the main cities, but the majority of serious medical emergencies will see expats evacuated to South Africa or another nearby country with far superior healthcare facilities.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Zambia

Zambia’s banking system has become more competitive in recent years, with both local and international banks offering a range of services to Zambians and expats alike.


Money in Zambia

The national currency is the Zambian Kwacha (ZMW) which is subdivided into 100 ngwee. The kwacha is available in the following denominations:

  • Notes: 2 ZMW, 5 ZMW, 10 ZMW, 20 ZMW, 50 ZMW and 100 ZMW

  • Coins: 5, 10 and 50 ngwee and 1 ZMW


Banking in Zambia

There are a number of banks in Zambia for expats to choose from, including both local and international options. Mobile and online banking services are available at most banks in Zambia.

Opening a bank account in Zambia

While it is possible to open a bank account in Zambia, many expats maintain an account in their own country. If opening a local account, it may be safer and easier to use an international bank which has a branch in the country.

Exchanging money

Foreign currency exchange can be expensive in Zambian bureaux de change. It's important not to change money on the streets, as many of these operations are part of a scam and unsuspecting expats risk being ripped off.

ATMS and credit cards

There are plenty of ATMs in the main cities such as Lusaka and Livingstone, but very few in rural areas. It’s worth planning expenditure ahead of time due to the unreliability of some ATMs.

While Zambia remains a largely cash-based society, credit cards are accepted at most large establishments in Zambian cities.


Taxes in Zambia

Income taxes in Zambia are implemented along a progressive scale from 0 to 37.5 percent, depending on income and resident status. Corporate tax is higher, and there is a specialised mining tax.

Tax regulations in Zambia are subject to change and expats should enlist the services of a registered tax consultant to assist them with their Zambian taxes. 

Expat Experiences in Zambia

When considering a move to a new country, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Zambia and would like to share your story.


Jacques Boonen moved to Lusaka in Zambia in 2013 because he felt like he needed a change in his life. Two years later, he says there is very little he misses about his home country of Belgium and he has embraced his new life in Africa. Read more about his expat experiences in Zambia.

Jacques is a Belgian expat in Zambia

Tima is a Canadian expat living in Lusaka with her husband and son. They moved to Zambia when her husband was transferred there for his job. Tima shares her insights about life in Zambia, offering some first-hand advice for those contemplating a move there. Read more about her expat experiences in Zambia.

Time - a Canadian expat living in Zambia

Norman is a South African expat living in Zambia. He moved to Lusaka with his wife and family to head up a new contract in 2008. Five years down the line, they are enjoying life in Zambia. Although the cost of living is high, they feel safe and find the locals friendly and welcoming. Read more about his expat experiences in Zambia.