Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.
Business law is based mostly on British law, and business customs are similar to those in the United States and Europe. Zambians are generally polite and mild-mannered, and a direct or confrontational style is not well received in the local cultural context. Business dress code is formal for both men and women. For women, if the attire is a skirt suit, the length should be knee-length. Business travelers are advised to bring ample business cards. Zambians will often use formal titles (including Mr. and Ms.) when meeting business partners and colleagues.
Travelers should consult travel.state.gov for the latest on COVID-19 travel advisories. Apart from COVID-19 travel advisories, the State Department typically classifies Zambia as a Level 1 destination (the lowest level) in its travel advisory, suggesting travelers exercise normal safety and security precautions. Copperbelt towns along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo have seen periodic surges in crime due to political instability across the border. There are no internal travel restrictions in Zambia, although areas around Zambian military bases have restricted access and should be avoided. Please visit the State Department’s Zambia International Travel Information Page for the most current status, as the Travel Levels have fluctuated worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, as have the Zambian government entry and travel requirements.
Visitors should exercise caution when purchasing curios and souvenirs to avoid items that contain materials that are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
In the past, the Zambian Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) has detained a number of travelers for possession of Benadryl and other over-the-counter medications, which have contained small quantities of diphenhydramine, an active ingredient that is on Zambia’s list of controlled substances. Although unaware of these restrictions, U.S. citizens have been charged with drug trafficking offenses, had their passports confiscated, and been jailed. As a result, any U.S. citizen visiting Zambia is strongly advised to leave all non-prescription medications behind. When traveling with prescription medications, U.S. citizens should carry a doctor’s prescription and ensure that the medication is in its original bottle. Any U.S. citizen stopped by the DEC for possession of over-the-counter medications should contact the U.S. Embassy at +260-211-357-000 as soon as possible.
A passport and visa are required to enter Zambia. The passport must be valid for at least six months after the intended date of departure from Zambia and have at least three blank, unstamped pages. Foreigners coming to Zambia for business are entitled to a free thirty-day visa. Business visas may be obtained by presenting a letter of invitation from the organization that is sponsoring the traveler that specifies the nature of the intended business. Business visitors intending to stay longer than thirty days must apply for a temporary employment permit at Zambia immigration offices. This will allow them to reside, enter and re-enter Zambia while on assignment for the validity of the permit. A single-entry tourist visa may be obtained for $25, a double-entry for $40, and a multiple-entry (valid for up to three-years) for $75. Each entry is valid for a maximum of ninety days. Single-entry visas may be obtained at the port of entry. Double or multiple-entry visas must be obtained through Zambia Immigration Department’s e-services website or from the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia, 2419 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008; +1(202)265-9717; https://www.zambiaembassy.org/.
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link(s): State Department Visa Website.
As of June 2022, the Zambian Kwacha is valued at ZMW16.70 to the U.S. one-dollar. Payments within Zambia are by law made in kwacha only, even if the price is quoted in U.S. dollars. Foreign currency is only accepted by immigration officials for the purchase of visas at international airports. Most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, and retail outlets take credit cards. Commercial banks will advance local currency against a credit card. Most banks have ATMs that accept Visa and MasterCard, but rarely American Express for cash. Although traveler’s checks are accepted in some locations, they are no longer commonly used. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, the traveler’s checks must be in U.S. dollars, euros, or British pounds. Foreign currency exchange is done in banks or Bureaus de Change, which are located in most towns in shopping areas, gas stations, and supermarkets.
The Global System for Mobile (GSM) standard is the only cellular phone technology used in Zambia. Cellular service is currently offered in all provinces of Zambia, but coverage is uneven. Major private firms that offer mobile phone access include MTN Zambia and Airtel Zambia, as well as the state-run operator Zamtel. MTN typically has faster data speeds and is more reliable within most major cities and surrounding areas. Airtel is the largest mobile operator and has more widespread connections throughout the country. The three mobile networks operate on following frequencies: 2G/GSM up to EDGE on 900 MHz, 3G/UMTS up to DC-HSPA on 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE on 800/1800 MHz (B3) and 2600 MHz (B7).
There are a number of callback service companies operating in Zambia. AT&T’s USADirect, T-Mobile’s Magenta Max and Google Fi services are supported, as well as similar services to Britain, Sweden, and some other European countries.
There are 23 internet service providers offering dial-up connections, broadband wireless, and VSAT services. Typical broadband speeds range between 5-25mpbs. The GRZ has liberalized the International Voice Gateway, which now falls under ZICTA.
Obtaining a local SIM card should only be done through authorized dealer locations. If one does not have a residency card, a passport is required for registration – a driver’s license will not suffice. Rates for mobile phone and data are relatively affordable, and credit can be added via top-up cards sold in street-side kiosks, intersection vendors and retail store locations.
There are regular airline connections to Lusaka, Ndola, and/or Livingstone from Dubai, Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Gaborone, Windhoek, Harare, Addis Ababa, Lilongwe, Luanda, Istanbul, Doha, and Nairobi; consult your travel provider for the latest, as the COVID-19 global pandemic has disrupted flight routes and availability. Domestic flights are available between Lusaka, Ndola (Copperbelt Province), Mfuwe (Eastern Province), Livingstone (Southern Province), Kasama (Northern Province), Mansa (Luapula Province), and Solwezi (Northwestern Province). The Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia can be reached via connections in Johannesburg, Dubai, Doha, Nairobi, and Addis Ababa.
The government has recently constructed an international airport terminal at Lusaka’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, and completely new Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport in Ndola – both were commissioned in August 2021. The government intends to upgrade the international airport in Mfuwe, but the project timeline is unclear and not expected for several more years. There are several private intercity bus lines. Passenger train travel is unreliable, slow, and uncomfortable, as the railway system is run down and undergoing refurbishment in some areas. The GRZ announced its intention to construct new railway lines from Chingola in the Copperbelt to Solwezi in Northwestern Province, and a railway line connecting Solwezi to the Benguela railway line in Angola in order to access Lobito Bay. Two other greenfield projects include construction of the 760-kilometer railway from Chipata to Serenje on the TAZARA rail line connecting Zambia to Tanzania and from Nseluka to Mpulungu at a total cost of $3 billion. Timelines and financing for these projects remain unclear.
Road transportation is the preferred means of transport for most goods. The core network infrastructure consists of a network of bituminous and gravel roads maintained by the Road Development Agency (RDA), but have been in poor condition for many years. The GRZ initiated Link Zambia 8000, a national roads construction program in 2012, to overhaul its road network maintained by the RDA, but lack of funding and mismanagement has resulted in little progress. The new administration that took office in August 2021 is currently looking at new projects to assist in accelerating repairs and enhancements to the roads. A number of roads within Lusaka and connecting to other provincial cities are announced or under construction at different stages of development in an effort to improve accessibility and reduce congestion. Zambia is landlocked, and most goods come in and out through five ports: Mpulungu, on Lake Tanganyika; Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Beira, Mozambique; Durban, South Africa; and Walvis Bay, Namibia or via air freight
Although there are 73 local languages spoken in Zambia, English is the official language. Government business and commercial transactions are normally conducted in English. Other dominant languages include Bemba, Kaonde, Lunda, Lozi, Luvale, Nyanja, and Tonga.
Health: Basic medical care outside of major cities is extremely limited. Private medical clinics in major cities can provide reasonable care in many cases, but major medical emergencies usually require medical evacuation to South Africa, India, Europe, or the United States. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment for health care services. Medical insurance covering air ambulance evacuation is highly advisable. For the most current travel information on Zambia, please the State Department’s Travel Advisory Page for Zambia.
Malaria is endemic in Zambia. Prophylaxis use is strongly recommended. HIV prevalence is very high in Zambia, with approximately 14 percent of the adult population HIV positive nationwide, but with higher rates in urban areas. Drinking water should always be treated if bottled water is not available.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Zambia does not participate in Daylight Saving Time. All of Zambia is located within the Central Africa Time Zone (CAT). It is located two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2)/Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+2).
Observed Business Hours
Government Offices are open from 8:00am to 5:00pm, but are closed from 1:00pm to 2:00pm for lunch, Monday to Friday. Bank hours vary, but most banks are open from 8:00am to 3:30pm Monday to Friday. Some banks are open every Saturday, while most only open the first and last Saturday of the month from 8:15am to 11:00am. Shops are generally open from 8:15am to 6:00pm Monday to Sunday, while grocery stores, international retail chains, restaurants, and malls stay open later into the night.
Observed Zambian Holidays in 2022
Saturday, January 01 New Year’s Day
Tuesday, March 08 International Women’s Day
Saturday, March 12 Youth Day
Friday, March 18 Funeral of President Rupiah Banda
Friday, April 15 Good Friday
Saturday, April 16 Holy Saturday
Sunday, April 17 Easter Sunday
Monday, April 18 Easter Monday
Thursday, April 28 Kenneth Kaunda Day
Monday, May 02 Labor Day (observed)
Wednesday, May 25 Africa Freedom Day
Monday, July 04 Heroes’ Day
Tuesday, July 05 Unity Day
Monday, August 01 Farmer’s Day
Tuesday, October 18 National Day of Prayer
Monday, October 24 Independence Day
Sunday, December 25 Christmas Day
Monday, December 26 Christmas Day (Observed)
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings: Tourist/visitors declare their goods to customs at point of entry and declare and produce them for inspection at the point of departure.