- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Zambia. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
- Zambia’s Presidential and National elections are scheduled for 11 August. Opposition and Governement rallies will likely take place across Zambia in the lead-up to the elections. Associated protests may also occur. You should avoid large crowds, political rallies and demonstrations as they may turn violent.
- We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the border areas with the Democratic Republic of the Congo because of armed criminal gangs, and the border areas with Angola and Mozambique because of landmines near these borders.
- The level of HIV/AIDS infection in Zambia is high.
- See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
- register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
- subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued
- follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Zambia for the most up-to-date information. Further information on visa requirements is available from the Zambian Department of Immigration. Foreigners are allowed a maximum of two, 30 day extensions (for a total of 90 days) on entry visas. To stay longer than 90 days, foreigners must apply for a National Registration Card.
The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Zambia, Travellers from Ebola-affected areas may be checked at Zambia’s borders, as deemed appropriate by relevant officials, (previously authorities had refused entry to travellers from affected west African countries). For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa bulletin.
The National Airports Corporation levy is an airport tax that must be paid by all departing passengers on both domestic and international flights. The airport tax is not included in airline tickets at present. Fees can be paid on departure in US dollars and Zambian Kwacha. These fees may change without notice.
Travellers may be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccinations to enter Zambia if they have visited a country where yellow fever is present.
Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. It is a requirement of the Zambian government that your passport has two blank pages.
You could be arrested, imprisoned or detained if you fail to adhere to immigration requirements, such as not renewing a residence permit or working (including volunteer work) without a permit. Exercise caution if using an immigration agent to obtain visas or permits. Some immigration agents operating in Zambia have been known to issue documents that are not authentic.
Travelling to or transiting in South Africa
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Zambia to be free from Yellow Fever in February 2015. South African authorities no longer require passengers travelling to South Africa from Zambia to present a Yellow Fever certificate.
Provisional travel documents are no longer accepted for travelling or transiting through South Africa.
Safety and security
Armed robbery, carjacking, petty crime and residential break-ins occur throughout the country. Tourists may be targeted by pickpockets and bag snatchers. You should avoid changing money in busy public areas.
Security risks increase after dark, especially in tourist areas and city centres. Avoid walking alone or travelling after dark.
When travelling by car, you should keep the doors locked and the windows up at all times. Valuables should be kept out of sight. Thieves particularly target luxury 4WD vehicles, travellers in bus and railway stations and shopping areas. There have been violent robberies (some involving fatalities) along the Cairo Road area of Lusaka, including Chachacha, Freedom Way and Lumumba Roads.
Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.
The use of date rape drugs has been reported at bars and restaurants in Lusaka.
Commercial fraud scams are common in Zambia. Individuals have been the victims of extortion after being persuaded to travel to Zambia on business. See our International scams page.
Civil unrest/political tension
Zambia’s Presidential and National elections are now scheduled to take place on 11 August 2016. Zambia has a history of electoral rallies, and there are likely to be a number of opposition and government rallies across Zambia in the lead up to the election. Associated political protests may also occur. There were small disturbances associated with the January 2015 elections. You should avoid large crowds, political rallies and demonstrations as they may turn violent. You should monitor local media for information about possible safety and security risks.
There is a low threat of terrorism in Zambia.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.
Money and valuables
Credit cards are accepted at some hotels, restaurants and shops in major urban centres. Many companies charge a 5% fee for the use of credit cards. ATMs which accept international cards are only available in the capital, Lusaka. Use only reputable banks and Bureaux de Change to exchange money or use ATMs, as counterfeit US$100 and Kwacha notes are in circulation. Credit card fraud does occur in Zambia. Be sure to keep your card in sight at all times while payments are being processed, that credit cards are swiped no more than necessary and that all carbons are destroyed.
All domestic transactions in Zambia must be conducted in the local currency, kwacha. While foreign currency can still be changed in Zambia, it is against the law to quote, pay or demand to be paid or receive foreign currency as legal tender for goods, services or any other domestic transaction. Doing so can result in a fine or a 10 year prison sentence.
Zambian banks and foreign exchange agents will not accept United States bank notes issued before 2000.
On 1 January 2013, Zambia rebased its currency – with several noughts removed from the value of the note, In effect, 1,000 Kwacha was rebased as one Kwacha. New notes were introduced and old notes (including 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 Kwacha notes) are no longer legal tender. Travellers should ensure they receive the correct and legal notes.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
Driving in Zambia can be dangerous as many roads in rural areas are in disrepair. Bad driving habits, poorly maintained vehicles, pedestrians, animals wandering onto roads and inadequate road lighting also pose safety risks when driving. Traffic accidents occur regularly along the Great East Road in Lusaka. Police road blocks are common and identity documents may be requested. For further advice, see our Road travel page.
When hiring a motor vehicle, you should ensure it is equipped with two metallic emergency triangles with white reflective stickers on the front and red reflective stickers on the back. Drivers face heavy fines for non-compliance.
When taking a vehicle into Zambia, you must obtain a temporary import permit (TIP) and purchase third-party insurance at the border. If you are not the owner of the vehicle you must have a letter from the owner authorising the use of the vehicle in Zambia.
The safety standards Australians might expect of tour operators are not always met especially for activities such as adventure sports. Sufficient life jackets and adequate safety equipment may not be provided. Recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others do not. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider. Particular care should be taken when rafting near Victoria Falls.
When visiting Livingstone and the Victoria Falls, you should take care to protect your passport from exposure to water. You may face difficulties if you attempt to use a damaged passport, and you may have to pay for a replacement.
Border areas with Angola, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the border areas with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angola and Mozambique because of the presence of landmines near these borders. Landmines may not be marked, and make off-road travel dangerous in these areas. Local authorities can provide advice on affected areas. There are armed criminal groups in the area near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Zambia.
Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws of Zambia, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
Zambian authorities do not always advise the Australian Embassy when an Australian citizen is detained or arrested. If you are detained you have the right to contact an Australian Embassy consular official.
Police and immigration officials can request to see your passport and immigration stamp/visa at any time. Failure to produce these documents may result in detention. We recommend you carry your passport and visa or immigration permit at all times or obtain certified copies from the immigration office where the permit was issued.
Penalties for drug offences can be severe and include lengthy prison sentences and heavy fines. See our Drugs page.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Zambia and penalties include up to 14 years imprisonment. See our LGBTI travellers page.
Possession of pornographic material is illegal in Zambia. Penalties include a jail sentence and/or deportation.
It is illegal to photograph around military zones, military assets and/or military personnel.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
Information for dual nationals
Zambia does not recognise dual nationality. Australian citizens holding Zambian citizenship will be regarded solely as Zambian citizens by the Zambian authorities. This may limit the ability of Australian officials to provide consular services to Australians who have retained their Zambian citizenship, particularly if they are detained or arrested.
Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
The standard of medical facilities in Zambia is poor, especially in rural areas. Most doctors and hospitals will require up-front cash payment regardless of whether you have travel health insurance. Medical supplies are limited and some prescription medicines may not be available. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the required facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs could be considerable. Make sure you know your blood type and carry a sterile medical kit including needles, dressing etc.
You may be asked by Zambian Customs to produce prescriptions for any medication brought into the country. Failure to do so may result in arrest and imprisonment. Some medications that do not require a prescription in Australia may be controlled in Zambia, including those containing diphenhydramine. We recommend you carry either a letter from your doctor or your prescription with you. For more information see the Zambian Drug Enforcement Commission website, or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Zambia for more information.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Zambia is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
Malaria occurs widely throughout the year in Zambia. Other insect-borne diseases (including plague and African sleeping sickness) also occur. We encourage you to consider taking medication against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, hepatitis, measles, haemorrhagic fevers, and rabies) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. Although there are no known cases in Zambia, authorities had restricted the entry of travellers from Ebola-affected countries and prohibited Zambians from travelling there. Zambian authorities have since advised that travellers from Ebola-affected areas may be checked at Zambia’s borders, as deemed appropriate by relevant officials. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa bulletin.
Where to get help
Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.
If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. The national emergency number is 999. Be aware that police response, particularly outside major cities, may be delayed due to a lack of vehicles and other resources.
If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.
The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:
The Australian Consulate in Lusaka is closed until further notice. Please direct enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance with consular and passport matters. The Australian Embassy in Harare will make arrangements to visit Zambia to assist with these matters when possible. Relevant dates for Embassy visits will be advised to registered Australians by email when confirmed.
You can obtain full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Harare:
Australian Embassy, Harare
See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
If you are travelling to Zambia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
The rainy season is November to April when flooding may occur and roads may become impassable. You should monitor local media for information, follow the advice of authorities and consider leaving an area for higher ground if flooding worsens and if it is safe to do so.
Swimming in lakes and rivers is unsafe because of the possibility of being attacked by wildlife and the risk of catching water-borne diseases.