The Zambian government is curbing the use of U.S dollars, and increasingly, places accept only Zambian kwacha. The kwacha comes in denominations of ZK50, ZK100, ZK500, ZK1,000, ZK5,000, ZK10,000, ZK20,000, and ZK50,000 bills, necessitating carrying huge wads of notes. The kwacha is theoretically divided into 100 ngwees, but as you can buy nothing for one kwacha, an ngwee exists in name only, and any bill including ngwees will simply be rounded off. At the time of writing, the conversion rate was about ZK4,900 to US$1.
Tipping is less common in Zambia since service charges are included, but it's appreciated. Small notes or 10% is appropriate. Gas-station attendants can be tipped, but tip a taxi driver only on the last day if you've used the same driver for a number of days.
Zambia has a 17.5% VAT and a 10% service charge, which is included in the cost or itemized on your bill.
International banks along Mosi-oa-Tunya Road in Livingstone have ATMs and exchange services. Banking hours are generally weekdays 8-2 (although some do open the last Saturday of the month). Bank ATMs accept only Visa.
You may be invited to do a little informal foreign exchange by persuasive street financiers. Resist the temptation—it's not worth the risk of being ripped off or arrested. There are many reputable exchange bureaus throughout town, though they're sometimes flooded with dollars and low on kwacha, generally toward the end of the month. MasterCard and Visa are preferred by business owners and banks to American Express or Diners Club. Business owners always prefer cash to credit cards, and some smaller hotels levy fees up to 10% to use a credit card.
Passports and Visas
You'll need a valid passport and visa to enter Zambia. Nationals of any country not on the Zambian Immigration Referred Visa list can simply purchase a visa upon entering the country. At press time a standard U.S. single-entry visa costs US$50, and a single-entry and transit visa cost the same. Day-trip visas cost US$20 (often included in the cost of prebooked activities, so check with your booking agent). If you plan to return to Zambia in the near future, you'll need a multiple-entry visa, or you'll have to buy another visa upon your return. Multiple-entry visas and visas for nationals from countries on the referred visa list (www.zambiaimmigration.gov.zm) can be purchased only at Zambian Missions abroad and not on arrival.
Safety and Precautions
For minor injuries, a test for malaria, or the treatment of non-life-threatening ailments, you can go to the Rainbow Trust Mwenda Medical Centre, Southern Medical Centre, or Dr. Shafik Hospital. For serious emergencies, contact SES (Specialty Emergency Services). There are a number of pharmacies in town including Health and Glow Pharmacy, Link Pharmacy, and HK Pharmacy. Pharmacies are generally open weekdays 8-8, Saturday 8-6, and Sunday 8-1.
It's always a good idea to leave ample space in your luggage for common sense when traveling to Victoria Falls. Wild animals abound throughout this area (even in the center of town) and must be given a lot of physical space and respect. You must also remember that Zambia is relatively poor. There are tourism police, but opportunistic thieving still happens occasionally. Although crime in this area is generally nonviolent, losing your money, belongings, or passport will result in spending the remainder of your trip with various officials in stuffy, badly decorated offices instead of sitting back on the deck of your sunset cruise with drink in hand.
As for the water, it's always advisable to drink bottled water, although the tap water in Zambia is generally considered safe. Should you develop any stomach upset, be sure to contact a physician, especially if you're running a fever, in order to rule out malaria or a communicable disease. Do remember to mention your visit to a malaria area to your doctor in the event of illness within a year of leaving Africa.
Telephone rates in Zambia are much cheaper and more stable than those in Zimbabwe. Check numbers very carefully, as some are Zimbabwean mobile phones. Zambia and Zimbabwe now both have cell coverage, and there are certain areas where the networks overlap and mobile telephones work in both countries. If you have any trouble dialing a number, check with a hotel or restaurant owner, who should be able to advise you of the best and cheapest alternative. International roaming on your standard mobile phone is also an option, as coverage is quite extensive. Alternatively, you could purchase a local SIM card with pay-as-you-go fill-ups. Pay phones aren't an option, and the costs of all telephone calls out of the country can be exorbitant.
The country code for Zambia is 260.When dialing from abroad, drop the initial 0 from local area codes and cell-phone numbers. Note that all telephone numbers are listed as they're dialed from the country that they're in. Although the number for operator assistance is 100, you'll be much better off asking your local lodge or restaurant manager for help.
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