Getting around Zambia
If you want to fly internally in Zambia then there are a few possibilities. There are several local companies who provide very reliable charters, but only one or two who operate any kind of scheduled service. None are featured on any of the global flight reservations systems. You are strongly advised to book your internal flights through an experienced tour operator, who uses them regularly. (As an aside, this means that if the airline goes bust the tour operator loses money; you don't.)
The services that I have encountered are high-quality operations, so you need have few worries about safety. On the whole, the smaller charter operations are very reliable, and more flexible for individual passengers, than the larger airlines.
However, if you book an internal flight a long time in advance, be aware that its timings (and indeed existence) may change. Cancellation at short notice is unlikely, though taking a philosophical attitude towards this possibility would be wise. A good operator will always be able to make a back-up plan for you.Air companiesAir Malawi
Pamodzi Hotel; tel: 254455. Flights linking Lusaka and Lilongwe (on Thurs, Fri and Sun) now sometimes stop at MfuweAirwaves & Airlink Air Charters
Tel: 01 224334; cell: 752304; fax: 223504Avocet Air Charters
Tel (cell): 097 770502 or 783106; fax: 229262Stabo Air Charters
Tel: 01 235976 (24-hour); cell: 771822; fax: 233481Staravia
PO Box 34273, Lusaka; tel: 01 291962; airport tel: 01 271332/3Zambian Airways
PO Box 310277, Lusaka International Airport; tel: 01 225151 or 271230 or 271054; tlx: ZA 40410. The original Zambian Airways went into liquidation in December 1994, but in the last few years Roan Air have changed their name to Zambian Airways. Using shiny new 19-seater Beechcraft planes, they run regular hops to and from the Copperbelt, with flights up to Mfuwe, Livingstone and even occasionally Kasempa.
If you want to fly into, or out of, mfuwe international airport, then you can normally find a scheduled way. However, getting anywhere else is often a matter of chartering your own plane. This isn't for the backpacker's budget, but if you plan to stay at private safari camps then short charters may be within your price range.
If you decide to charter planes, then expect a cost of us$1.40–1.50 per kilometre for a single-engined plane seating 3–5 passengers; us$ 1.60–1.70/km for a 4-5 twin-engined plane for 3–5; us$2.00–2.15/km for a twin-engine plane seating 6–7; us$2.30–2.50/km for a twin-engined plane seating 7–9; at least us$3.00/km for a pressurised, twin-engined turbine plane which seats 8–9; and about us$2.00/km for an unpressurised single-engined turbine plane which will seat 9–12 passengers (typically a Cessna Grand Caravan). Use these figures as a rough guide only, as the rates fluctuate with the price of fuel, remember to include any mileage to/from the aircraft's base, and when booking remember that tour operators who book these trips every day will be given much better rates that individuals interested in a one-off charter.
There are two totally separate rail systems in Zambia: ordinary trains and TAZARA trains. Zambia's ordinary trains have a limited network and are slow and uninteresting, so few travellers use them as a means of transport.
In contrast the TAZARA service is very popular with backpackers and runs from Kapiri Mposhi to the Indian Ocean, at Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. This is a reliable international transport link which normally runs to time and is by far the fastest way between Zambia and Tanzania with the exception of flying.
Zambia's local buses are cheap, frequent and a great way to meet local people, although they can also be crowded, uncomfortable and noisy. In other words they are similar to any other local buses in Africa, and travel on them has both its joys and its frustrations.
In the main bus stations, there are two different kinds: the smaller minibuses, and the longer, larger 'normal' buses. Both will serve the same destinations, but the smaller ones go faster and stop less. They may also be a little more comfortable. Their larger relatives will take longer to fill up before they leave the bus station (because few buses ever leave before they are full), and then go slower and stop at more places. For the smaller, faster buses there is a premium of about 20% on top of the price.
Then there are a few 'postbuses' which operate between the post offices in the main towns, taking both mailbags and passengers as they go. These conform to a more fixed schedule, and tickets are booked in advance – thus restricting passenger numbers. They can be booked in advance from the post offices involved, or by telephoning Ndola 02 615864, Kitwe 02 223396, or Lusaka 01 225795.
There are always one or two luxury coach services that connect Lusaka to Livingstone, often one service to Harare and usually one to Johannesburg. However, they seem to open and close with alarming regularity, so ask locally for the latest news on what's operating.
Taxis are common and very convenient in Lusaka, Livingstone and the main towns of the Copperbelt. (Elsewhere they are uncommon or don't formally exist.) They can be hailed down in the street, and never have meters. They all have typed sheets of the 'minimum' rates to and from various local places, though charges can be higher if their customers appear affluent. Rates should always be agreed before getting into the vehicle. If you are unsure of the route then rates per kilometre, or per hour, are easy to negotiate.
Rather like the postbuses, postboats operate on the Upper Zambezi and the waters of Lake Bangweulu during the rainy season, transporting cargo, passengers and even vehicles. Contact them by telephoning Samfya (02) 830254, Ndola (02) 617740, or Mongu (07) 221175.