Safety and security
Travel in major cities, as well as the major game parks is generally safe during daylight hours. However, serious crimes can and do occur, like armed robberies, home invasions and sexual assault. Vehicle hijackings happen across the country from time to time. Take particular care when approaching locked gateways at night. Don’t stop to give lifts to people at the roadside. Watch out for objects that have been placed to block the road.
Be vigilant, keep all vehicle doors locked and windows closed when driving, and remain aware of your surroundings, especially after dark.
Bag snatching, pick pocketing and theft from parked cars are common at some restaurants and internet cafes in downtown areas, particularly near bus and railway stations and in some shopping areas. Keep large amounts of money, expensive jewellery, cameras and phones out of sight. Don’t change large sums of money in busy public areas. Thieves have followed people after they have withdrawn money from banks and later robbed them at gunpoint.
Security risks increase after dark, especially in tourist areas and city centres. In April 2016, a series of ‘ritual’ murders in some of the poorer neighborhoods of Lusaka resulted in riots and looting of mainly foreign-owned shops and businesses.
Keep valuables and originals of important documents in a safe place and carry a copy of your passport and immigration permit.
Use reputable banks, bureaux de change or ATMs to exchange money.
A general election took place in August 2016. The presidential result was disputed by the main opposition party, leading to large-scale protests. In April 2017, the main opposition leader was charged with treason, which heightened political tensions and increased the risk of civil unrest. This charge has since been dropped. Small gatherings of opposition supporters can still take place outside the main courthouse compound in Lusaka to coincide with court judgements. You should exercise caution, avoid any political rallies and demonstrations and monitor local media.
In July 2017 the Zambian parliament approved a presidential declaration in relation to a threatened state of emergency. This widened the powers of government and the police to preserve public security for a period of 90 days. This lapsed on 11 October, but you should continue to follow the guidance and instructions of the local authorities and avoid any political rallies, demonstrations or large gatherings.
There are also occasional student demonstrations, which can turn violent, at the University of Zambia on the Great East Road (the main route to and from Lusaka International Airport), and around Copperbelt University. There are also occasional demonstrations in the central business district along Cairo Road. Don’t attempt to cross protester roadblocks as this commonly provokes a violent reaction from demonstrators. Monitor local and international media and keep up to date with this travel advice by subscribing to email alerts.
Take care when travelling in rural parts of North Western, Copperbelt, Central and Luapula provinces close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly after dark. Using legitimate border crossings in these areas is generally safe, although Congolese officials may ask for payment to cross the border. Avoid travelling in the bush along this border for hunting or prospecting.
There is a risk of explosive remnants of war in remote areas near the borders with Angola, Mozambique and DRC. Take care if you venture off road in these areas.
Wild animals in the bush, including venomous snakes, are unpredictable and do kill. Whether you are travelling on land or water, you are at risk of potentially fatal animal attacks. Always observe local regulations and follow your tour or safari guide’s instructions.
Adventure sports, including in the Victoria Falls area, carry risks. Serious accidents and deaths sometimes occur. The quality of medical care varies greatly. Follow safety instructions closely and make sure your insurance policy covers you.
You can drive using a UK driving licence for up to 90 days. If you intend to stay longer you will need to get an International Driving Permit or a Zambian driving licence.
Take care when driving. Vehicles are often poorly lit, inadequately maintained and badly driven. Drink driving and driving while talking on a mobile telephone is illegal.
Road travel at night in rural areas can be hazardous. Abandoned vehicles, pedestrians and stray animals are a danger. Many roads are severely pot-holed or otherwise unsafe, especially during the rainy season (November-April) when bridges and roads risk being washed away by sudden floods. There are frequent fatal crashes. Don’t drive at night outside the main towns.
Travel by long-distance public transport can be dangerous due to poor standards of driving, lack of rest periods for drivers, the poor quality of vehicles and poor road conditions. Minibuses used in urban areas are usually severely overcrowded, poorly maintained and badly driven.
The Road Traffic and Safety Agency has recently started to more vigorously enforce an existing law to prosecute traffic offenders: drink driving; speeding; careless driving, etc through a fast track court system. Penalties include fines and/or imprisonment.
The European Union lifted a ban on Zambian air carriers in June 2016. Previously Zambian airlines were refused permission to operate services to the EU because of the inability of Zambian civil aviation authorities to ensure the safe operation of airlines.