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Lusaka is the capital and largest city in Zambia. It has a population of about 1.2 million and the city is located in the south central part of the country, on a plateau at an elevation of roughly 1,300 metres above sea level. It is the commercial and administrative centre of the country and functions as a major transport hub for other places in the country. Lusaka is not one of the prettiest, but it does have some some sights interesting enough for travellers, including a lively and colourful market scene.
Roughly, the good neighbourhoods are in the east, and poor ones in the west. Lusaka city centre is purely the administrative capital, and becomes a ghost town after 6:00pm. It is not recommended to walk around alone after that. The main road, Cairo Road, is lined with banks, offices and shops. Lusaka's 3 main bus stations are right in the centre of town- Kulima Tower, City Market and Millennium station. The upmarket areas of Kabulonga, Rhodes Park and Thorn Park have some nice restaurants, and Northmead is famous for bars and nightclubs. The poor areas, compounds, in the west include Matero, Kanyama and John Laing. The area south is called Chawama, a large, sprawling compound.
Lusaka has 2 western-style shopping centres, Manda Hill and Arcades, right next to each other on Great East Road on the way to the airport. Both have South African chain restaurants, such as Rhapsodys and Ocean Basket, and a popular Irish Pub. Arcades also has a bowling alley as well as Zambia's only cinema complex, showing pretty much only American blockbuster films.
Because of its elevation, Lusaka is less hot than the lower areas of Zambia. In general though it is warm and still relatively humid. Rainy season is from November to March, with a peak in February with over 250 mm of rain. The warmest month is October with average day temperatures of 28 °C, but some temperatures close to 40 °C are possible. In July, nights can be chilly or even cold, but it rarely really freezes.
|Avg Max||26.4 °C||26.3 °C||26.6 °C||26.2 °C||24.7 °C||22.9 °C||22.7 °C||25.4 °C||29.1 °C||30.5 °C||29.6 °C||26.8 °C|
|Avg Min||17.1 °C||16.9 °C||16.6 °C||15 °C||12.8 °C||10.2 °C||10 °C||12.1 °C||15.3 °C||17.3 °C||17.9 °C||17.3 °C|
|Rainfall||218.9 mm||185.9 mm||110.9 mm||39.7 mm||2.5 mm||0.3 mm||0 mm||0 mm||1 mm||14.1 mm||79.6 mm||189.8 mm|
Lusaka International Airport (LUN) is located near the capital and Zambian Airways flies from here to and from Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg and Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of Congo). Other airlines are mainly flying to neighbouring countries, but British Airways flies to and from London.
Centrally located in Zambia, north of the capital Lusaka, Kapiri Mposhi is the starting point of a two nights trainride to Dar es Salaam on the Tanzanian coast. From here you can travel further by boat or plane to the tropical island of spices, Zanzibar. This so called TAZARA Railway (Tanzania-Zambia Railway) operates scheduled services twice a week, leaving in both ends of the line on Tuesdays and Fridays around 4:00pm, arriving on Thursdays and Sundays at 9.30am in Zambia, but after noon in the other direction in Dar es Salaam.
Since it is the commercial center and governmental seat of Zambia, all the arterial roads lead to Lusaka.
Buses and minibuses depart to/from Lusaka every day from all corners of the country. Lusaka intercity bus station is about 500 metres off the main road, Cairo Road. If you arrive by bus, come out of the bus terminal, turn right, and take the first right again on Freedom way to reach the South End roundabout, the start of Cairo Road. If you arrive late, taxi is advisable- there are plenty available (they're practically a nuisance) and a taxi to Kuomboka and Chachacha backpackers should not cost more than 15,000 kwatcha. Bargain right, and you will get it for 10,000.
Lusaka's traffic is often girdlocked and can stand still for up to an hour during rush hour. It is not possible to cross from west to south etc. in Lusaka, which means the centre is always crammed. Streets and neighbourhoods are usually well-marked.
Minibuses are frequent and depart when they are full; usually, they fill up in a matter of minutes. The conductor will shout out the destination as there are no signs/numbers on buses. Conductors will usually happily direct you to the right bus, as the stations can be very confusing! Lusaka has 3 bus stations in the centre: City Market, Kulima Tower and Millennium. Buses only go from the centre to east, west, north or south, which means you might need to pass through one of the stations and change. Prices change all the time according to how the kwatcha fluctuates, so it might be an idea to check with a fellow passanger. Conductors do not always have change so try to have small notes. It is polite to move further down in the bus as people leave, so more can fill up at the front. Let the conductor know you want to be dropped off by knocking on the bus window, or by telling him you are "dropping".
Lusaka city centre is easy enough to walk around, if you don't mind the hawkers. Distances between neighbourhoods are big, but some of the suburbs are nice and leafy to wander through.
Whilst not a gourmet destination there is some good eating to be had in Lusaka. The gradual shopping mall-isation of the city sadly means that uninspiring South African chain restaurants are multiplying - but there is still a good selection of independent places scattered around. Lusaka seems to specialise in Indian cuisine. Chindo Road is the closest thing that Lusaka has to a restaurant strip.
If you fancy a change in your maize-filled diet, try an Indian restaurant, which there are plenty of. One of the nicest ones is Mahak, on Great East road, between Lusaka city centre and Manda Hill shopping centre. An all you can eat vegetable thali is about US$2-3.
Lusaka has many Western-styled bars (e.g., Brown's and McGinty's, mainly used by tourists, and ex-pats). Zambians love to drink; there are, therefore, a number of bars frequented by locals, as well. Unfortunately, these change often.
|Lusaka Backpackers||161 Mulombwa Close 31300||Hostel||82|
|Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel||Cnr. Church Road and Independence Ave., PO Box 306||Hotel||-|
|Kalulu Backpackers Hostel||20 Broads Road Fairview||HOSTEL||58|
|Bongwe Barn||305 Ngwezi Road Roma||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Kariba Bush Club||Siansowa Lake Kariba||Apartment||-|
|Liberty Boarding Hostel||5559/A Kaleya Road Kalundu||HOSTEL||-|
|Flintstones Backpackers||9965 Makanta Close Rhodes Park||HOSTEL||-|
|Konzani Gardens||Plot 7053/m, New Mumbwa Road P.O. Box 36244||GUESTHOUSE||-|
Internet connections are available even in the smallest towns - they don't always work, and are sometimes slow, but there are, usually, plenty. Uploading photos and files is always slow. Internet usually costs about 100 kwatcha a minute, and in more touristy places 150/200 a minute. Ask for a discount, if you plan to stay online for long, and make sure the time is recorded correctly.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country code for Zambia is "260." Phone service both within Zambia and into Zambia is very hit-or-miss. In large cities, you are more likely to get regular, dependable phone service, but it is by no means a guarantee. The farther you travel from Lusaka, the less likely you are to maintain a good connection. International calling rates can be as high as $3 per minute.
Cell phones have been booming in recent years, and Zambia has a highly competitive market with three main operators: Airtel, Cell Z and MTN. Generally speaking, Airtel has the largest network, while Cell Z is the cheapest. You can pick up a local SIM card for as little as 5,000K ($1). Prepaid time is sold in "units" corresponding to dollars: figure on 0.4 units for an SMS or up to 1 unit/minute for calls, although as always the precise tariffs are complex.
Avoid using internet on your cellphone (especially if you don't have a local SIM card), except if you have wifi. Switch off data roaming to avoid high costs.
Booths labeled "public telephone" these days consist, more often than not, of a guy renting out his cellphone. Typical rates are 5K/min ($1) for domestic and 15K/min ($3) for international calls
Post in Zambia is slow and not always reliable. A post card to Europe can take between four days and two weeks, and costs about US$0.30. Parcels take longer, and are quite expensive - make sure you only seal your box at the post office, so you can show what's inside. It also works in your advance - if the personnel sees you only have boring soapstone carvings and nothing of value, your parcel is much more likely to arrive. Leave your cards and letters in the biggest post office; it therefore passes through less hands and is more likely to get to its destination. If you want to send a package internationally, use a company like TNT, UPS, DHL or FedEx, as they are fast, reliable and just a little more expensive than the local post.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Lusaka searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Lusaka and areas nearby.
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