Zambia Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
The research for this website was carried out mainly in 2011 and 2012. Therefore there is a good chance that much of the information may now be out of date. This is particularly true of countries in the developing world, especially Asia, Africa and parts of South America where conditions can change often. Also, the political climate in many countries has changed a lot in recent years. Therefore the information on this website should be treated with caution. You should always check with your Government’s website or the UK Foreign office travel advice website before finalising plans to drive abroad.
Driving in Zambia
Zambia drives on the left side of the road, and you should be able to drive on the photo licence of most countries for up to 90 days after which time you need an International Driving permit.
For Africa, Zambia has quite a good road system. However, while the main roads in Lusaka as well as the highways linking Lusaka with other major towns are generally in good condition, many secondary roads are in poor repair. During the rainy season (end of November to mid-March), you will probably need a 4WD to drive on small rural roads. The main road from Lusaka to Livingstone is in very good condition and is relatively traffic free until it passes south of Kafue and then can become congested with slow moving lorries. The stretch of road towards Chirundu had a few large pot holes when I travelled it in Nov 2012, though the road from Chirundu to Siavonga and Lake Kariba has been resurfaced and is long, straight and smooth. Chirundu itself is on the border with Zimbabwe and is like a huge truck stop- usually clogged up with lorries heading to and from Zambia’s neighbour. The road from Chirundu to Lower Zambezi NP, is rough gravel but can be travelled in a high clearance non 4X4 in the dry season up to Chiawa Village. After that 4X4 is needed.
There are no streetlights in rural areas and few even in Lusaka so driving at night can be hazardous. Drivers usually place branches in the road behind the car if they break down, but they are hardly visible at night. As a result, many drivers use full beam lights at night to detect stopped vehicles and pedestrians and many drivers fail to dim their high beams when approaching other cars, and many cars have a non-functioning headlight. Traffic in towns is comprised mostly of cars and minibuses, and minibuses and coaches are the main means of inter-city travel in Zambia.
In my experience, driving standards are actually pretty good for Africa. Drivers aren’t overly aggressive, and even bus and lorry drivers tend to drive pretty sensibly. The speed limit is 50 km/30 mph in Lusaka and 100 km/60 mph outside of city limits; however, speed limits are rarely respected, and most cars drive 80 km/50 mph in the city and 120 km/75 mph outside towns where traffic is generally light except on routes used by lorries.
You should exercise caution when travelling in the rural parts of North Western, Copperbelt, Central and Luapula provinces close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and not drive in these areas after dark. Carjacking occasionally happens, especially in Lusaka and Livingstone. Carjackers often stroke by pulling up close behind your vehicle as you pull up to a security gate therefore blocking your exit. You should also be on your guard if you break down. Try and get to a public building such as a hotel if the car is driveable.
Zambia Car Rental –
Europcar use local company Imperial Car Rental as their local Franchise and have branches in Lusaka, Kitwe, Chingola,Ndola and Livingstone.
Zambia also features on Car Rental broker sites such as Argus Car Hire.
These are some more local companies –
These companies can arrange rental through the country and can arrange campers and vehicles with roof tents for safaris
This company arrange safari vehicles in South Luanga NP
This company can arrange self drive safaris throughout Southern African countries including South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland & Lesotho
Zambia Self Drive Rules
Europcar allow cars to be taken into some neighbouring countries (they don’t specify which but they allow vehicles to be taken into Zambia from their Victoria Falls outlet) but this must be requested at the time of reservation. Actual car rental in Zambia tends not to be too expensive but most companies apply a charge per KM which can soon rack up the costs. You should plan your mileage before setting off so you have an idea of costs. Livingstone to Lusaka is around 480 KM.