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How to Navigate Transport in Zambia

Picture of Mazuba Kapambwe
Freelance Writer
Updated: 27 April 2018
There are plenty of ways to traverse Zambia. Whether by minibus, local taxi or train, here’s our guide to navigating the various transport systems available in the Southern African nation.

Minibus

Main roads in commercial and residential areas such as Great East Road are where you’ll find what are locally called ‘minibuses’. There are dedicated bus shelters, although buses sometimes stop before or after a bus stop, so the best bet is to look out for groups of people lined up. Bus conductors will shout out the name of the destination they are heading to when approaching customers, but be sure to confirm before getting on board. All local buses in Lusaka have orange stripes and are almost always blue. This is the cheapest mode of transport, with routes costing less than USD$3.

Local tip: Be sure to give the bus conductor (assistant to the bus driver) exact change or lower denomination notes, as sometimes they may claim not to have change. To get off, signal the conductor or say “ni seluka” which is Nyanja for “I’m getting off”. In busier places like the town center area, conductors may get aggressive and compete with other conductors for customers, so they may try to urge you to get on their bus. Be firm and stand your ground.

Bus

Larger buses depart Lusaka from Intercity Bus station to towns such as Kapiri Mposhi, Livingstone, Ndola and to neighboring countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania and more. Schedules can be obtained and bus tickets can be reserved from sites like busticketszambia or by going to Intercity bus stop in advance. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of travel.

Local tip: Arrive at least an hour in advance if purchasing tickets on the day of travel.

Private taxi

Legally operating taxis are characterized by the ‘taxi’ sign on top of the car and two stripes. These can be booked at the major malls such as Manda Hill, East Park, Arcades and the airport. They usually have a designated spot marked ‘taxis’ at the malls.

Local tip: Taxis are not metered, so prices should be negotiated in advance. Find out the average rate of a taxi ride of a certain distance by consulting a local to have an idea of fares, as cab drivers can overcharge foreigners.

Train

The Tazara (Tanzania – Zambia Railway) is an option to travel from Central Zambia to Northern Zambia and on to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. There are express and ordinary trains which depart from New Kapiri Mposhi in Central Province on Tuesdays and Fridays respectively. There are several options for types of tickets, with the cheapest one on the express train costing approximately USD$24. Tickets on the ordinary train are 15% cheaper.

Local tip: The Tazara tickets get booked quickly, so it is advised to book them at least a month in advance. Sleeper compartments are same sex, so travelers of opposite sexes who would like to stay together must book out a whole compartment. Travelers have to travel from Lusaka to Kapiri Mposhi by a bus from Intercity which takes about two hours. Tazara can be delayed for up to an entire day, so travelers should only use this option if they have time and lots of patience.

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The Tazara runs from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam | © Richard Stupart / Flickr

Domestic flights

Mahogany Air and Proflight are the two domestic airlines serving Zambia. Mahogany Air flies from Lusaka to Livingstone (the home of Victoria Falls), Solwezi, Mfuwe (South Luangwa) and Ndola, while Proflight covers the same routes with the exception of Solwezi and Ndola and the addition of Kalabo (Liuwa Plains) , Jeki (Lower Zambezi) and Lufupa (Kafue)

Local tip: Some flights are seasonal such as the ones to Jeki, Lufupa, Mfuwe and Kalabo, so be sure to visit airline sites in advance.

Private car hire

Hiring a car is an option for independent travelers who would like to visit places that are far apart or too remote to be serviced by public transport. There are several car hire operators in the country. Some may ask to see an international driver’s licence, and some may accept national licences. Shop around before making a decision and stick to road rules. There may be checkpoints along the way, so make sure all relevant documents are on hand. Drivers can be hired as well, although this will cost significantly higher.

Local tip: Visit a Road Transport and Safety Authority office for the highway code for clarification on road signs. Carry cash for the tolls which are situated when entering a different province. Tolls cost about USD$2 for small vehicles and USD$3 for larger vehicles.

Transportation apps

There is a new taxi app called Ulendo that is similar to Uber and can be downloaded for IOS or Android phones. Payment options can be done via cash, debit or credit card. There is also a R and G ride app which works the same way, and payment can be made via cash, debit and credit card and mobile money (i.e. an account connected to your phone via a mobile service provider).

Local tip: Check reviews to decide which app would work for you.