Communications in Zambia
The post is neither cheap nor fast, though it is fairly reliable for letters and postcards. The charges are increased to keep pace with devaluations of the kwacha, but currently it costs around Kw700 to send a postcard and Kw900 for a letter. It's worth noting that Zambia has some lovely stamps for sale, a favourite of stamp collectors.
Couriers are a very reliable way of sending things safely, but they are expensive. A more affordable alternative is Mercury Mail, below.Mercury Mail
Mercury is an international courier company, like DHL or UPS. As well as offering a normal courier service, they offer a much cheaper international mail service. It works by couriering post along with their normal courier shipments to 'hubs' in other countries. From there they are posted by reliable first-class mail. Thus they avoid the Zambian postal service, but do use the (normally reliable) post in the UK, for example.
So far, this is set up to send mail from anywhere via London to Zambia, and from Zambia to Johannesburg, Harare or anywhere in the world (via the London hub). Note that there is no track-and-trace facility, and so valuable or urgent documents are better couriered using their full, more expensive service, which is proving generally fast and reliable. In Zambia, their posting/collection points are:Lusaka Mercury Couriers
Head Office PO Box 33333, 47 Joseph Mwilwa Rd, Rhodes Park; tel: 01 231137 or 239872; fax: 01 239872; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.zambiz.co.zm/mercuryNdola NEI Building
Lufunsa Av tel/fax: 02 620187Kitwe
Foyer of Hotel Edinburgh; tel: 02 230173Livingstone
John Hunt Way (beside Living Inn); tel: 03 321571Mfuwe c/o Moondogs Café at the airport
tel: 062 450068Kasama c/o Kasama Service Station
tel: 04 221344Sending Mercury Mail from the UK to Zambia
From the UK (or anywhere else in the world), you address your letter clearly to the recipient, including the name of the closest Mercury office. Then you write their phone number on the outside of the envelope. Eg: Mr A Zambian, c/o Mercury Mail (Lusaka), Mr A's address, Lusaka. Mr A's telephone at work: 01 123456; at home 01 234567.
Then you place this inside another envelope addressed to Mercury Couriers – Lusaka (or whichever Mercury office), Trans-Africa Air Express, Unit 15, Britannia Industrial Estate, Poyle Road, Colnbrook, Slough SL3 0ER. (Note there is no 'trace' facility here, so there's no point in asking them about mail you have sent.)
You pay for just the stamp to send the envelope to Mercury's UK office. When the package arrives at the relevant Zambian office, the recipient is called and told about the package. S/he then pays the freight costs from London to Zambia (which are a lot less than courier fees) when collecting it from the office.
Because of this, don't send unsolicited mail through the system without first checking with the Zambian companies that they are prepared to pay to receive it. Also note that if the recipient isn't on the phone, then this system won't work unless they are prepared to regularly drop into the Mercury office.Sending Mercury Mail from Zambia
You can send mail outward to basically anywhere. It'll be sent out of Zambia with the normal courier shipments, and then put in the hands of the local postal service at the destination country. Simply take it to one of the Mercury offices. A 100g letter currently costs US$2.20 to the UK, South Africa or Zimbabwe, US$2.80 to the rest of Europe, and US$4.20 to anywhere else in the world. The maximum weight that you can send is 2kg, which would cost US$21.10 to the UK, South Africa or Zimbabwe, US$27.70 to the rest of Europe, or US$40.30 to anywhere else.
The Zambian telephone system is overloaded and has difficulty coping. Getting through to anywhere can be hard, and this difficulty generally increases in proportion to the remoteness of the place that you are trying to contact. If you must use the phone, then persistence is the key – just keep on trying and eventually you should get a line that works.
To dial into the country from abroad, the international access code for Zambia is 260. From inside Zambia, you dial 00 to get an international line, then the country's access code (eg: 44 for the UK, or 1 for the USA).
New lines are difficult to acquire from the state-owned company that has a monopoly over the phone system, and old ones can take time to repair. Thus for local people or companies to have four or five different numbers is very common. Just try them all until one works for you.
The old payphones used to be always out of order, but recently cardphones have been springing up. You can dial internationally from these, and you buy cards containing credits for various different amounts.
Mobile phones, or 'cells' as they're often called in Zambia, are widely used in the larger cities, where there is often a choice of networks. Coverage is slowly widening to encompass some of Zambia's medium-sized towns, but expect coverage outside Lusaka and Livingstone to be patchy. Be careful of picking up Zimbabwean networks in Livingstone, as the prices maybe based on official Zimbabwean exchange rates, and hence be much more expensive than their Zambian equivalents.
Regional codes in Zambia
There are only 12 regional codes in Zambia, most of which cover large regions of the country. The main towns associated with these codes are:01
Chilanga; Chirundu; Chisamba; Chongwe; Kafue; Luangwa; Lusaka; Mumbwa; Namalundu Gorge; Nampundwe; Siavonga02
Chambishi; Chililabombwe; Chingola; Itimpi; Kalulushi; Kawambwa; Kitwe; Luanshya; Mansa; Masaiti; Mufulira; Mwense; Nchelenge; Ndola; Samfya03
Choma; Gwembe; Itezhi-Tezhi; Kalomo; Maamba; Mazabuka; Monze; Namwala; Pemba04
Chinsali; Isoka; Kasama; Luwingu; Mbala; Mpika; Mporokoso; Mpulungu; Mungwi; Nakonde05
Chibombo; Kabwe; Kapiri Mposhi; Mkushi; Serenje 062
Chadiza; Chipata; Katete; Mfuwe; Sinda063
Kalabo; Kaoma; Lukulu; Mongu; Senanga08
Kabompo; Kasempa; Mufumbwe; Mwinilunga; Solwezi; Zambezi
If you are trying to send a fax to, or within, Zambia then always use a manual setting to dial (and redial, and redial...) the number. Listen for a fax tone on the line yourself. Only when you finally hear one should you press the 'start' button on your machine to send the fax.
Telex machines are becoming less and less common in Zambia, but where they do exist they provide communication which you can instantly verify. You need not worry if your message has arrived, as the answer-back code will confirm that for you.
Email and the internet
Contrary to what you may have expected, the email community in Zambia is quite large. Initially, virtually all websites and addresses were accessed through the Zamnet Server, which was associated with the University of Zambia. This has split from the university to become a separate company, but not before users encountered numerous problems using it, earning it a wide variety of nicknames. 'Damnet' was one of the less offensive.
Now Zamnet is located near the south end of Cairo Road, by the roundabout, in the USIS Building (which used to be the Meridian Bank). Short-term users can drop in and use the computers and email for about US$3.50 per half-hour.
Because of the problems with Zamnet, many email subscribers are in the process of changing their addresses, some to alternative service providers within Zambia and others to providers outside (usually linked by satellite telephone systems, in order to avoid the telephone problems).
Note that although increasing numbers of people and businesses in Zambia are getting email, far fewer have access to the internet.
For information on travel to/in Zambia, there are two obvious sites on the web. Firstly this book, and later updates to it, will be appearing on Sunvil Africa's website – www.sunvil.co.uk/africa/ – along with my other guidebooks and considerable information on Sunvil Africa's trips to southern Africa.
Secondly, there is an extensive site produced by African Insites – www.zambiatourism.com – which has a lot of pictures and advertising from Zambian companies, as well as general descriptions of areas and travel information.