Mongu is the obvious place in the Western Provinces to buy supplies and get organised. There are three main fuel stations in town: Caltex just 400m north of the crossroads; BP another kilometre further on, past the old market; and Total just 700m east of the crossroads.
There's a ZNC bank beside the crossroads with an ATM machine where, in theory, you can withdraw amounts up to Kw1 million on a Visa credit card. On the other side of the road is a Standard Chartered Bank, where Roger Marston reported (in the late 1990s) that he was charged US$25 to cash travellers' cheques. This may seem high but is typical for this part of the country.
The post office (GPS:POMONG) is west of the banks, high on the hill above the harbour; it also houses the Western Union money transfer office. For sending anything apart from money, there's a DHL office just north of the BP station.
, the obvious place to head is the large and well-stocked Shoprite Supermarket (GPS:SHOPRT; tel: 07 221050 or 221244). A member of the South African chain this is by far the biggest and best store in town. It is reached by heading about 3km south of town towards Senanga, and then taking the signposted turning left. It is open Monday–Friday: 08:00–18:00, Saturdays: 08:00–17:00, Sundays and public holidays: 09:00–13:00. (Note that Shoprite only accepts kwacha cash – they don't take travellers' cheques or credit cards.)
Also remember that the busy Old Market in town is a good place to buy locally-produced fresh fruit and vegetables (and, I'm told, bread also). Between this and the BP garage (GPS:BP), you'll find the taxi rank and bus station.
, take the main road to Lusaka from the crossroads, and on the south side, just before the Total garage (GPS:TOTAL), you will find the Mumwa Craft Association (PO Box 98, Mongu; tel/fax: 07 221827/221379). This non-profit-making society was established in 1990 to represent a network of several hundred local producers spread throughout the Western Provinces. They concentrate on wood carvings, weaving, pottery and metalwork – and aim to improve the economic, social and cultural well-being of the local communities.
For the visitor they produce some of the very best basket-weaving in Africa, and here it is available at amazingly reasonable prices – like large and very beautiful linen baskets 60cm tall for US$32/Kw160,000. This stands to reason as the Lozi people have woven fishing traps for centuries, and it's these skills that they're using to produce such amazing baskets. You won't find better baskets supporting a more worthy cause, or at lower prices – so this is the place to buy them!
Where to eat
The hotels will sometimes serve food if requested but for the town's best food try the Oasis Restaurant
(PO Box 90430; tel 07 221931; (GPS:OASISR) on the road behind the old market (turn off opposite the Total garage and head directly to the BP garage). Here you'll find a very tasty pepper steak, chips and salad for US$3/Kw15,000, a simpler T-bone steak for US$1.50/Kw6,000, and a bowl of chips for US$0.80/Kw4,000. The Oasis doesn't have a licence for alcohol – but ask nicely and they'll send someone out to buy drinks for you, at US$0.80/Kw4,000 per bottle of Mosi (beer)!
Otherwise the Bisiku Restaurant, in the centre of town near the main market, has been recommended – or you could just go to Shoprite, below, and put together your own picnic.