Money Matters

The Zambian government is curbing the use of U.S. dollars, and increasingly, places accept only Zambian kwacha (ZMW). The kwacha comes in denominations of ZMW2, ZMW5, ZMW10, ZMW20, ZMW50, and ZMW100 bills. Coins start at 5 ngwee (the local equivalent of cents) and work up to ZMW1. At the time of this writing, the conversion rate was about ZMW5.2 to US$1.

Tipping is less common in Zambia because 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% V.A.T. 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). Many bank ATMs accept only Visa. It’s also worth noting that queues for ATMs can get very long during working hours.

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.

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