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A Quick Guide to… Living and Working in Lusaka, Zambia

Posted by: Chloe Jordan

If you've been offered an expat position in Zambia, you really are in for a treat – Zambia's a beautiful, wild country, which is mostly gorgeous countryside; plus there's the phenomenal Victoria Falls!

Most Zambians live below the poverty line, and infrastructure is poor – plus it's difficult to get hold of a lot of things you might have previously considered essential... so this move isn't for the fainthearted.

Most people live in Lusaka, the capital, or the Copperbelt region. All of Zambia's roughly 70 tribes are represented, and get along well both with each other and foreigners.

Emergency Services: 999

Language: Bemba is the most widely-spoken language in Zambia, although Nyanja is more prevalent in Lusaka. Zambia is a former British Colony (Northern Rhodesia), so English is the Lingua Franca of business and most Zambians in Lusaka will speak English.

Currency: Zambian kwacha (ZK), subdivided into 100 Ngwee.

You won't really struggle to find whatever sort of home you're looking for in Lusaka – and large properties are available with gardens and outdoor space, although older properties are likely to be in need of some repair. If you're looking for something more upmarket, you should be able to find a home on grounds with swimming pools, tennis courts, and staff quarters. You might need to stay in a hotel for the first week or two while you search for your new home.

If it's more suited to you, newer homes tend to be on expat estates or gated communities. There will likely be lots of people from South Africa and Zimbabwe, but also some Europeans, Americans, and native Zambians. A good way to hear about housing is word of mouth; if you try to make contact with other expats before you go, you might be able to hear about properties becoming vacant – and it's always best to see a home in person before you sign any contracts.

Security is quite important, since break ins do occur.

You might find that you are subject to planned power cuts at certain times of the week, which you'll get used to – just make sure your laptop is fully charged! And if you're renting, you might find that your landlord's attitude towards getting any issues ironed out is at rather a slower pace than you're used to in the west. Nice areas to live in include Estate Lodge, Ibex Hill, Roma and Leopard's Hill.

Schooling and Healthcare
Government schools are not of a particularly good standard in comparison with western schools. It is possible to access good international schooling, but they can be very expensive (particularly the American School) so it's best if your employer can provide for this. International schools do teach local geography and history.

Private clinics are only available in major cities and tend to be quite basic but adequate for any day-to-day issues; however, for any serious problems it might be necessary to fly to South Africa for treatment, so evacuation cover on your insurance is essential. Vaccinations aren't necessarily the same ones available back home, so it might be wise to vaccinate your children while visiting family. If you wear glasses, bring extra pairs (or extra contacts) and a copy of your prescription.

Healthcare for most locals is very poor, with 14% of the country's inhabitants HIV positive, and life expectancy at just 46. Malaria is present in Zambia, so it's very important to take antimalarials and other precautions, and to get tested regularly – malaria is very uncomfortable, but is quite easily treated if caught early.

Lusaka has a surprisingly wide array of good restaurants, with many global cuisines covered – restaurants tend either to be within hotels or converted homes. One of our favourites is Eviva, a Greek restaurant out in the quiet area of Rhodes Park, and another is Pizzaz on Tikatane Rd, which serves fantastic pizzas alongside local art.

If you want to try the local food, consider visiting the market stalls. Most Zambian food is centred around nshima, which is maize or corn that is ground and boiled to make mash. Zambians also eat a lot of cassava, rice, yam, and potato and lots of Zambian food is dried. Ifisashi is delicious – it is ground nuts mixed with any food.

Getting There and Getting Around
As of 2009, all Zambian airlines have been refused permission to operate services to the EU because they were found to have safety shortcomings, so most flights tend to change either in neighbouring African countries or the Middle East.

The roads are quite poor, so you will probably need a 4x4 if you want to leave Lusaka. Buying a 4x4 is expensive, even a secondhand one can come in at around $18,000. Driving can be somewhat haphazard so you’ll need to be very cautious while doing so, and your employer might even offer a chauffeur.

Traffic can be bad, and taxis vary wildly, from chauffeur-driven right down to small, dilapidated cars – but the most ubiquitous transport options are the minibuses, which are very cheap. Taxis do not have meters, so you'll have to negotiate – make sure you set a price before you get in, and if you're unsure ask a friend how much it should be before you set out.

Wildlife and Nature
With the weather being typically subtropical (hottest month is October; coolest is July) you'll most likely spend a lot of time outdoors, and you'll have the opportunity to really enjoy the great outdoors – with game reserves in easy access of the city.

15 minutes' drive from Lusaka is the Lilayi Elephant Nursery, where orphaned elephants are treated and released back into the wild. Kids will love going to meet the calves.

The Lusaka Lowdown is a good magazine to try to get hold of, because it is full of useful adverts for products and services and is a good way to keep abreast of what's going on.

Lusaka doesn't really have a huge number of sights to speak of, so much of the expat family's entertainment tends to centre around the shopping malls and the nightlife. There are some good galleries and churches to see, and of course you can always explore wider Zambia and the game lodges.

Parties and celebrations tend to centre around a barbecue (Braai), but Lusaka also has a great bar scene. There are plenty of Western bars, which are frequented both by locals and tourists – including the Araces, Times Café and Rhapsody's, Vegas in North Mead, Kalahari (which has live Congolese music on weekends), and the Xenon Nightclub in North Mead, which is popular with younger people.

Lusaka has been growing quickly in recent years, and malls have sprung up around the city, but you might struggle to find lots of items, including clothing – it's probably best to bring plenty with you, and ask family and friends to bring more when visiting.

The markets are very interesting, and do sell clothing – but the vast majority of this is secondhand western clothing, saluala. The markets are the best places to buy fresh food such as fruit, vegetables, and fish.

Law, Order, & Etiquette
The pace of life is somewhat slower than in the west; for example, the buses do not follow a timetable, but wait until they are full, and business meetings might take place an hour later than agreed. The culture is a little conservative, so women tend to wear skirts below the knee, and public displays of affection are generally avoided. It's also best to address someone by their title and surname rather than their first name, until invited to do so.

Making Friends
Joining the Hash House Harriers is a great way to meet people – it's a social running and walking club whose members also enjoy a beer afterwards. They tend to meet on a Saturday afternoon.

Staying Safe
Unemployment and poverty are very high, so understandably petty crime is also an issue in Lusaka. Many pickpockets are highly skilled, so perhaps try to avoid carrying anything valuable around, and don't leave your vehicle unlocked. Violent crime is not as much of an issue as it is elsewhere in Africa. Women can be subject to harassment, especially if out alone – and they might also experience a lot more sexism than they are used to in the west!

Price Guide

3 course meal for 2, mid-range 145 ZK $5.68
Draught beer 12 ZK $1.24
Loaf of bread 8.38 ZK $0.86
Mid range bottle of wine 200 ZK $10.32
Gas/Petrol (1 litre) 10.54 ZK $1.09
Taxi (1 km) 20 ZK $2.06
Rent - 1 bed, city centre* 6,400 ZK $660
Recent Comments
Bevan Matabula, 11 July 2017
hello i am intresting i am already register in your wrs website thank you for replying to me
Toufik bouchakour, 12 July 2017
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