Located in Southern Africa, Zambia is a landlocked country of high plateaus, rugged mountain ranges and gorgeous grasslands teeming with diverse wildlife. It boasts a host of world-class game parks, nature reserves and abundant natural wonders, including the magnificent Victoria Falls and Zambezi River. Expats moving to Zambia with the right attitude and a spirit for adventure are in for a unique experience.
Living in Zambia as an expat
Zambia is sparsely populated, with most of the country’s population living in the capital of Lusaka, the mineral-rich Copperbelt region, or in Livingstone, the country's second-largest city and a popular tourist hub.
Those who are unwilling to give up some of their modern luxuries and necessities may struggle to adjust to living in Zambia. Many Zambians still struggle below the poverty line, and while the Zambian government is attempting to diversify its economy, most of its income is still generated through copper mining and agriculture. Tourism is another major sector. As a result, few expats move to Zambia for casual or services-based work, with most working expats having been placed by international companies and organisations.
Expats of mostly British, Indian and South African origin are present in the country. Increased Chinese investment in Zambia over recent years has also seen Chinese expats migrate to Zambia. Western expats are unlikely to struggle with a language barrier as English is the lingua franca of business and schooling, and most Zambians, particularly in the major urban centres, will speak English.
Cost of living in Zambia
The low cost of living means most expat salaries allow for a good quality of life in Zambia. Still, accommodation in Zambia is quite pricey if expats are not being sponsored by their employers. The country also experiences frequent power shortages and water outages, so expats will need to purchase and maintain generators.
Expats will also need to budget for the cost of running and maintaining a vehicle, as Zambia's public transport network is usually not up to the standards Western expats may be used to. Owning a car is also much more convenient for getting around daily.
Expat families and children in Zambia
Expat parents should note that government education is generally not up to international standards. There are private and international schools located in the country, but these are quite exorbitant. Expats living in rural areas may also consider homeschooling as an option for their children.
Climate in Zambia
The climate in Zambia is a far cry from the sweltering conditions expats may expect. Despite Zambia's proximity to the equator, the weather in the country is fairly temperate thanks to its high altitudes. Zambia's river valleys experience a typical tropical climate, which often comes with an oppressive rainy season between October and February, while low humidity and moderate temperatures are common in its elevated areas.
According to local expat lore, there are two kinds of expats in Zambia: those that make a hasty exit within three months, and those who never want to leave. Unlike other African expat postings, expats in Zambia have far more opportunity to break free of the segregated world of the expat compound and mingle with the locals to enjoy their friendly and warm spirit.
Population: Around 19.6 million
Capital city: Lusaka (also the largest city)
Neighbouring countries: Zambia is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Angola
Geography: Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, consisting mostly of high plateaus with some hills and mountains.
Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic
Major religions: Christianity
Main languages: English (official) as well as Bemba and Nyanja.
Money: The Zambian currency is the Zambian Kwacha (ZMK), which is divided into 100 ngwee. Although expats can open a bank account in Zambia, many opt to maintain an account with their international bank. While there are plenty of ATMs in Lusaka, expats may struggle to find an ATM in the rural areas.
Time: GMT +2
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Typically, square three-pin plugs and two-and three pin round plugs are in use.
Internet domain: .zm
International dialling code: +260
Emergency contacts: 999 (police), 991 (ambulance), 993 (fire)
Transport and driving: Driving is on the left-hand side of the road. Public transport is not comprehensive and expats will likely need to own a vehicle.
►Check out Expat Experiences in Zambia to read personal experiences about life in the country
"I love the weather. It’s peaceful here. There are great malls, supermarkets and movie theatres." Canadian expat Tima shares her experiences of living in Zambia.
"Zambians and those working here tend to be easy to engage if you want to." South African expat Norman has lived in Zambia for a number of years. Here he shares his thoughts on living in Zambia.
"Meeting people is pretty easy, even when you are travelling in Zambia and there are lots of possibilities through sports like golf and in bars and cafes – or even just making an enquiry in the supermarket. Zambians are very friendly." Read more about Belgian expat Jacques's experiences in Zambia.
Are you an expat living in Zambia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Zambia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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