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Zambia - Getting there & away, getting around

Zambia - Getting there & away

Europe has the best air connections with Zambia. British Airways, KLM and Air France all have regular services to Lusaka. African carriers flying to the capital include Air Zimbabwe, Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways and South African Airways. Many tourists fly directly to Victoria Falls. Lusaka Airport is 20km (12mi) east of the centre. There's no airport bus, but taxis and hotel courtesy vans meet international flights. The airport departure tax is US$20.

The most fabulous way of entering Zambia by road is over the Victoria Falls Bridge from Zimbabwe. The main route between Lusaka and Bulawayo, from where you can reach Harare, crosses the border here. The other main border points with Zimbabwe are Chirundu and Kariba, where you cross between Zambia and Zimbawe over the massive Kariba Dam.

From Malawi, the main crossing point is east of Chipata, on the main road between Lusaka and Lilongwe. The only crossing point between Zambia and Botswana is the ferry across the Zambezi River at Kazungula, about 60km (37mi) west of Victoria Falls. From Namibia, buses run from Windhoek to the Namibian outpost town of Katima Mulilo. From here you can cross the border into Zambia, go over the Zambezi on a ferry, then go via Sesheke to Livingstone. An easier option from Katima Mulilo is the bus which runs through Botswana to Victoria Falls in Zimbawe, from where you can easily cross the border to Zambia.

Getting around Zambia

For backpackers and independent travellers, crowded conditions and long hauls over potholed roads make travelling by bus wearisome. All the bus companies are privately owned, but prices are relatively standardised and most services run fairly regularly. Minibuses are available for shorter runs and tend to be faster and slightly more expensive than regular buses. The train is a good alternative if you don't plan on going far from the Livingstone-Lusaka-Nakonde corridor, and you're not in a hurry. There's a train that goes from Lusaka to Kitwe, which is very slow. The Lusaka-Livingstone route has an express three times a week and a local daily - but services have been suspended for refurbishment.

The best way of getting around is undeniably by vehicle, preferably a 4WD. There are several rental agencies in Lusaka and a few in Ndola, north of Lusaka on the Congo (Zaïre) border. With Lusaka at the hub, main roads radiate out to Chitapa (in the east), Livingstone (in the south), Mongu (in the west), Nakonde (on the Tanzanian border in the northeast) and to Mpulungu (on Lake Tanganika in the north). Conditions vary, and range from new smooth tar to appalling potholes. Dirt roads range from bad to impassable, especially after the rains. If you haven't driven in Africa before, this is no place to start. All drivers need an International Driver's Licence. Driving is officially on the left, but you wouldn't always know it. Drive defensively and be prepared for anything. Domestic flights and charter planes serve Lusaka, Livingstone, the Copperbelt towns of Ndola and Kitwe, and various national parks. For visitors short on time these can be the most efficient way of getting around.

Your final option for getting around is by organised safari. Using air, boat and road transport, safaris can take the trouble out of travel, and be ideal for visitors new to Africa or who have little time. Travel agents in Lusaka can arrange things, and there are several Zambia specialists in Europe (notably Britain) and North America who can set up packages and tailor-made trips. Safaris can also be organised within Zambia.

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