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What You Need To Know about Lusaka

Lusaka is the capital and largest city of Zambia. One of the fastest-developing cities in Southern Africa, Lusaka is located in the southern part of the central plateau at an elevation of about 1,279 metres.

Lusaka is the best shopping destination in Zambia, with traditional goods and handcrafted souvenirs on sale next to Western shops like Woolworth’s and Shoprite. There are a variety of restaurants ranging from pizza and sandwich shops to Korean barbecue and Pakistani kormas, and enough bars and clubs to keep both locals and visitors entertained.

Lusaka is home to a number of sights and attractions, including museums like the Lusaka National Museum, the Political Museum and the Zintu Community Museum; monuments and statues dedicated to freedom fighters; and cultural attractions like a theatre, cinema, zoo, golf club and the Munda Wanga Environmental Park.
Area: 360 km²
Population: 1.743 million (2009)

Currency

  • The Zambian currency is the Kwacha (ZMK), recently divided into 1,000 ngwee (instead of 100), and coins have become largely obsolete.
  • Avoid exchanging money outside of banks or respected hotels.
  • While most of the tourist hotels, restaurants, travel agents and larger shops, especially in Lusaka and Livingstone, accept credit cards, many outlets in the rural areas do not and deal only in local currency.
  • ATMs are available in Lusaka and some of the major towns. Banking hours vary but are usually 8.30am to 3.30pm on weekdays and mornings on Saturdays.

Climate

  • Lusaka features a humid subtropical climate (Cwa). Its coolest month, July, has a monthly mean temperature of 14.9 °C (58.8 °F).
  • Lusaka features hot summers and warm winters, with cold conditions mainly restricted to nights in June and July.
  • The hottest month is October, which sees daily average high temperatures at around 32 °C (90 °F).
  • There are two main seasons: a wet season and a dry season with the dry season lasting around half the year, lasting from April to October.

Language

English is the official language of the city, but Nyanja and Bemba are also common.

Getting around

Mini bussesMinibuses are ubiquitous, cheap, and fast. For a few kwacha, you can get into or out of town easily – though travel around the edges of the city or away from main roads is difficult by bus. Bus routes are not posted, and a novice may get lost. Do not be afraid to ask a conductor where he’s headed. Minibuses do run into the evenings, but become decreasingly frequent at the evening wears on. Fares are theoretically standardised and depend on the route, but in practice, pleading locals may get away with less than the official fare on short routes, while visitors are occasionally overcharged. The conductor may give you change, but it’s sensible not to hand over more than what you think the fare should be / what you see your fellow passengers paying. At busy times passengers are jammed in tightly, particularly in the smaller buses: larger buses are less uncomfortable but slightly more expensive (though to most visitors the price difference is trivial).

By Taxitaxi might be a better option, at least initially. Taxis come in two colours – sky blue, and a light grey, and are usually Toyota Corollas. There are no meters in Zambia’s taxis, so prices are somewhat negotiable but always on the high side for Africa. Be sure to set a price before getting in the cab.

WalkingWalking is an option as distances are not that large, and there are a fair number of street names to help orientate yourself. However walking at night does have its hazards – manhole covers are not Lusaka’s strong point and there are many uncovered drains that could swallow you whole, hence a torch is a good idea – and drivers seem allergic to moving over for pedestrians walking on the road – so best to stick to the dirt paths at the side of the roads.

Stay safe

Lusaka seems to have obtained a bad reputation for being a city plagued by crime, but in reality, this is exaggerated. However, travellers should appreciate that walking around the city at night is foolish and that you will become a target for pickpockets if you make your valuables visible. Remember that the Zambian GDP is extremely low; with unemployment reaching 14{c00a5df2a7e5e2f05112e6b5f6f5e118ff8b256f098888ab562cd564c4cb35f1}, many Zambians live in abject poverty. Pickpocketing for some is the easiest and most practical way to stay well-fed.