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Hippos, Hitch-hiking and Halloumi: A Travel Itinerary for Zambia

Updated: Jun 13


In this travel guide for Zambia, we will go over everything you need to know to travel to one of Africa's most underrated countries, including a suggested 10-day itinerary, featuring hippos, hitch-hiking, and believe it or not, Halloumi!



CONTENTS




TAZARA Train and Zambian Villagers
The TAZARA connects Zambia and Tanzania by Rail

 


Getting to Zambia


After an amazing 3 weeks travelling around Malawi - we passed by land into Zambia via the Mchinji Border Post. I normally write an article about my land border crossings (like via Songwe or Lunga Lunga) in Africa, but for this particular one, I didn't bother, as it was so unbelievably smooth.

UK citizens do not need a visa to enter Zambia for stays up to 90 days, but you may be asked for your Yellow Fever Book.


The immigration officers will also ask you how long you are planning to stay. If you say 10 days, you will be allocated a 10-day visa, therefore I would just ask for the maximum allowed to give you more flexibility. As we know by now, TIA, and anything can happen to delay your plans.



A circular rainbow due to extreme humidity in South Luangwa NP
A circular rainbow due to extreme humidity in South Luangwa NP

 

About Zambia

Zambia is a former British colony, previously known as Northern Rhodesia. Even though they have escaped the dictatorships and conflicts that have plagued so many ex-European-occupied African countries, many Zambians are still very poor.


Some places, like Lusaka and Livingstone, feel modern and developed, and there you can find plenty of South African Ex-pats and things like cinemas, spas, and international supermarkets.


On the other hand, the villages are very basic and sparse, where for many people the only way to earn a few Kwacha is to cut down trees and sell charcoal on the side of the road (and you can imagine how that affects the environment).

The currency is Zambian Kwacha - and at the time of writing £1 is equal to 35 Kwacha. In the East, the language is Chichewa (same as Malawi), but that begins to vary as you leave this region, and in fact, Zambia has 74 languages! Most people do speak English though.


Airtel is a great option when buying a SIM card, we found the coverage to be good throughout our entire route.

We happened to be in Zambia for Independence Day, and even though they celebrate independence from the British, we felt no hostility. Much like Malawi, everyone we met in Zambia was kind and welcoming - and aside from the odd case of people trying to overcharge us, we did not encounter any issues. We were well aware of how rife pick-pocketing is in Lusaka, so we were super careful here.



A very dry Victoria Falls
A very dry Victoria Falls

 


A 10-Day Travel Itinerary Through Zambia


Our 10-day Zambia itinerary took us across the southern part of the country from East to West, although if you have longer, I have heard great things about the Kasanka Bat Migration a little further north if you have time!


Days 1 - 3: South Luangwa

Days 4–5: Tikondane Community Centre

Day 6: Lusaka

Days 7–10: Livingstone



Not sure what to pack for your adventure in Zambia? Check out my article:




 


Days 1 - 3: South Luangwa


GETTING TO SOUTH LUANGWA

For the first stop on this Zambia itinerary, we will be hitting South Luangwa NP, one of the best National parks in Africa for wildlife spotting!


To get there from the Mchinji Border post, we hitch-hiked with two Zambian missionaries to the town of Chipata. They were very kind and helped us buy a SIM card and even chased down our bus when we realised we had missed it!


If you don't have the same luck as we did with hitch-hiking, you can grab a shared taxi from the border to Chipata, and then hop on the Jonda bus for the 4-hour journey to South Luangwa National Park. A ticket is 150 Kwacha.

This Jonda bus only leaves once a day, and this timing changes regularly but in Oct 2023 it was 12:30pm. The bus drops you off at a small village past Mfuwe, which is about 1km from our chosen lodge: Croc Valley.


If you are not in time for the Jonda bus you can ask around for shared taxis, or hire a private taxi as a last resort. People are generally friendly in Zambia but you WILL need to haggle for a fair price.


From Mfuwem you can technically walk to the 1km to Croc Valley, or you can jump in a taxi for 70 Kwacha. We were told walking is not possible due to wildlife dangers, so it depends on how rebellious you are. I have heard too many elephant-goring stories to risk walking in the bush, so we took a taxi.


 


WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH LUANGWA

Croc Valley has an amazing location, right by the river. We chose to camp with our own tent, which was $15 per person, per night (this seemed to be the cheapest price in the area.) There is a kitchen for you to prepare your own food (it's filthy), and most importantly, a big, beautiful swimming pool.

The monkeys are an absolute pain in this area and will scratch your eyes out for a mango - so you need to keep all food locked in the rank guest kitchen, and eat under big, netted domes, weighed down by heavy chains. Leopards, elephants and hippos wander through the camp most nights, so be careful!



The tent pitches at Croc Valley are right by the river
The tent pitches at Croc Valley are right by the river

 


THINGS TO DO IN SOUTH LUANGWA

Croc Valley also has a sports bar with a great atmosphere, and they offer walking safaris and game drives. South Luangwa NP is a beautiful park so it's worth getting out there, just be aware that Croc Valley charges quite a bit more to join a safari than if you were to find your own guide. They know this, which is why if you do a safari with another business they fine you, so if you want to save pennies, be stealthy!

The pool was a sweet relief in the 40-degree heat of October, and while this is a great month for wildlife viewing it is called 'suicide month' for a reason – it is SCORCHING. We spent two days watching countless Hippos and Crocs from the riverside restaurant and drinking cold beers, also managing to catch the epic SA-UK Rugby World Cup semi-final in the sports bar!



 


MOVING ON FROM SOUTH LUANGWA

To head towards Lusaka, we were told the most efficient way is to double-back to Chipata, due to poorer road quality inland.


We did this by shared taxi arranged with Croc Valley, which picked us up directly from the lodge for 150 Kwacha per person, this is actually cheaper than taking the big bus. The taxi dropped us off at the mini-bus lay-by in Chipata, where we squished in a combi to travel 1 hour to Katete.



 


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Days 4 & 5: Tikondane Community Centre


GETTING TO TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE

The mini-bus from Chipata to Katete was 70 Kwacha per person, although I am sure that we paid too much with this price! After a lot of fannying about and a 90-minute drive, it dropped us at the main bus station in Katete - where we walked 10 minutes to Tikondane Community Centre, but if you like you can pay 20 Kwacha for a moto-taxi.



Tiko Community Centre
Tiko Community Centre

 

WHERE TO STAY & ACTIVITIES

Tikondane Community Centre is a beautiful project run by and for the people of Katete, initially set up to support community members with HIV, but through necessity, their reach has expanded to women who are victims of gender-based violence (very common in east Zambian villages) and a myriad of other causes.


The facilities are fairly basic but this is not a business, no one you see working gets paid here, and all of your dollars go directly towards the adult education program and community support initiatives. This is the real Zambia.

If given enough notice, Tikondane can set up some really cool local activities for you, including observing tribal dances in nearby villages. These are not tourist shows, they are a rite of passage for local people and guests of Tikondane have special permission to observe from the local Chief.

We paid $20 per night to stay at Tikondane Community Centre, but they do have cheaper options including camping.



 


Day 6: Lusaka



GETTING TO LUSAKA

These next few days are going to be a bit lengthy my friends, so if you have time to spare I would suggest breaking up this next journey by stopping at Lower Zambezi NP. If you're headed straight to Lusaka, you have a few options: Taxi, bus, or hitch-hike.

As it is one straight road from Katete to Lusaka we decided to try our luck at hitch-hiking, having heard truckers in southern Africa often pick people up to supplement their income. This turned out to be true and after about 10 minutes of standing awkwardly with our thumbs out, we were picked up.

We agreed to pay 200 Kwacha per person for the 7-hour ride to Lusaka. This is about 50% of the bus fare, and the poor truck driver had a broken-floppy hand that needed to be X-rayed in Lusaka, so hopefully the extra income from us helped with that (it was his left hand, so he had a friend doing the gears for him). We were transporting Soya beans, and with four of us in the front, we regularly picked up locals who paid a few bob to hitch a ride in the back with the beans.

All was well until the heat of the middle of the day when the truck started overheating and slowed down to such a slow crawl, I could have walked faster.


We ended up taking 13 hours to reach Lusaka, including a quick Nshima break.


A classy and delicious Nshima meal at a gas station in Zambia
A classy and delicious Nshima meal at a gas station in Zambia

 


WHERE TO STAY IN LUSAKA

We treated ourselves to a bit of luxury with some Air Con at Pebble View Apartments, which I found on Booking.com. It was £30 for the night and SO worth it. We really enjoyed our RnR here and didn't venture into Lusaka town at all, although I heard good things about the crafts market if you are looking for something to do.


When in Lusaka you can download Yango - which is very similar to Uber. We used it to get to the bus station the next day, and the driver looked after us and helped us choose a good bus operator.



 


MOVING ON FROM LUSAKA

Lusaka bus station is very overwhelming, I am used to being swarmed at transport hubs by now, but these hustlers are aggressive. It helps to choose your bus operator first, and then you can spot a uniform and follow one guy to the safety of a waiting room.

We chose 'Power Tools' which is a super weird name but they have a big office at the bus station. We paid 300 Kwacha (this was a negotiated price) for the journey from Lusaka to Livingstone, which takes 7 hours. The bus left at 12 (Africa time: 12:50 pm) so we grabbed a Hungry Lion before. This is kind of like Maccy D's but way better.

Negotiation is the African way - and it really irks me when people assume Backpackers are 'cheap' and 'harass for discounts'. As a service provider if you're not able to negotiate on your prices just say it, no big deal, don't go and then have a moan. More often than not the people who are complaining are foreign lodge owners charging crazy prices and then paying their local staff $2 a day -Rant over!


 


Days 7 – 10: Livingstone


GETTING TO LIVINGSTONE


The last stop on our 10-day Zambia itinerary is the well-known town of Livingstone!

The journey with Power Tools was kind of fine, the bus didn't have AC and actually took 9 hours but it was smooth – Zambia does not have the police checks every 15 minutes like you will find in Malawi.



 


WHERE TO STAY IN LIVINGSTONE

So in Livingstone, there is plenty of accommodation, the most friendly and chill place seemed to be Jollyboys.


We actually did what you call 'offline couch-surfing' where we met a fantastic person named Bridget who owns Chipigo Artisan Cheesemakers (yes, quality cheese in Africa WTF)...

We contacted her to arrange a tour of her cheesery and as the conversation progressed she ended up offering to put us up for the weekend, free of charge. I have said it before and I'll keep saying it: the generosity and warmth we have received along our travels through Africa have been astounding, and in fact, very touching.

On our first morning with Bridget, she served us Chipigo's legendary Halloumi and bacon skewers, which were flipping delicious and a rare treat!



The Cheddar ageing cellar of Chipigo Cheese in Livingstone!
The Cheddar ageing cellar of Chipigo Cheese in Livingstone!

 


THINGS TO DO IN LIVINGSTONE

There is so much to do in Livingstone! But here's the catch, most of it costs a bomb!

Activities above $100:


  • Devil's Pools

  • White water rafting

  • Scenic Flights

  • Royal Livingstone Express fine-dining steam train experience

  • Gorge swing

  • Horse-back riding


More affordable activities:


  • Mosi-oa Tunya National Park (viewpoints for Vic Falls and a hiking trail to boiling pot.

  • Bring-a-Braai social every Tuesday at Jollyboys Backpackers.

  • Sundowners at Maramba Lodge where you can watch the elephants cooling off in the river.

  • Cheese sampling at Chipigo.

  • Join the locals at The Old Farm House where sports games are projected on big screens in the garden.

  • Catch a sunset at the Waterfront Restaurant.

  • Visit the Pure Skills workshop and learn about the projects they have to upskill the community.



Watching the Springboks win the Rugby World Cup Final at The Old Farm House in Livingstone
Watching the Springboks win the Rugby World Cup Final at The Old Farm House in Livingstone


 


MOVING ON FROM LIVINGSTONE

We had a wonderful 10 days in Zambia, and for sure felt like we could have spent longer there. Something that is on my bucket list for next time is the Kasanka Bat Migration which happens every October-December – where millions of bats leave the Congo and head into the evergreen swamps of Kasanka NP in Zambia.



 

Thank you for taking the time to read Hippos, Hitch-hiking and Halloumi: A 10-day itinerary through Zambia. If you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I publish articles once per week about mine and Joe's current travels around the world.


For more Africa inspiration, check out my posts: My 3-week itinerary around Kenya, or A sleepy 10 days in the Lowveld.


Happy Travels

xx



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Disclosure:
I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.

1 Comment


Candida Bristow
Candida Bristow
Nov 23, 2023

Brilliant! Sounds so and really interesting...you and Joe really are living the dream. Xxx

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