Zambia, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, has emerged as an alluring destination for American tourists due to its breathtaking safari opportunities and awe-inspiring Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders. However, for travelers planning a visit, safety is always a top priority. That is why many American tourists are asking, is it even safe to go to Zambia for tourism?
Zambia is a safe country for American tourists as long as you abide by the travel advisory of the U.S. State Department. Zambia has a low crime rate compared to other African nations. But you need to be vigilant regarding common scams and other safety tips during your trip.
Is Zambia Safe For American Tourists?
The country is generally considered safe for American tourists until or unless advised otherwise. Here are the reasons why Zambia is safe and how you can make your experience even better.
Less Crime in Zambia Makes it Safe
Though Zambia is one of the safer countries in Africa, it isn’t immune to crime. Cases of bag snatching and theft from parked cars have been reported in urban areas. American travelers are therefore advised to stay vigilant, secure their belongings, and avoid traveling after dark due to poor road conditions and the heightened risk of accidents.
As Zambia is generally not a dangerous country regarding crimes, the most worrying areas of concern in the country are wildlife crimes (particularly stock theft), drugs, and human and firearm trafficking, according to Interpol.
Scams to Avoid for American Travelers in Zambia
There are some common scams prevalent in Zambia which American travelers should worry about. These scams include money-changing scams and unofficial government fees scams.
Money-changing scams are common, with unsuspecting tourists being short-changed or given counterfeit notes. To avoid such scams, only exchange money at official banks or hotels and always count your money before leaving the counter.
Similarly, bogus government fees can be another scam. Always insist on official receipts for any fines or fees paid to the Zambian government.
The local laws in Zambia are strict concerning drugs, pornography, and photography of certain areas and the possession or transport of animal trophies. Ignorance of these laws can lead to hefty fines, imprisonment, or even deportation. So, American travelers should remain vigilant about all the local laws and taboos while traveling to Zambia.
Advice for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Homosexuality is illegal in Zambia, and those found guilty can face long prison sentences. Thus, LGBTQ+ travelers are advised to exercise discretion during their stay.
Risk of Terrorism is Low in Zambia
Terrorism risk is low, though remnants of war near the borders with Angola, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo could pose a threat.
Transportation, though generally safe, comes with its own set of risks. It’s recommended to lock car doors and keep windows up and valuables out of sight while traveling. Pickpocketing is common, so travelers must remain vigilant at all times.
Road conditions in Zambia vary from well-maintained highways to dirt tracks, and drivers should be cautious of pedestrians and cyclists, especially in rural areas. Nighttime driving should be avoided due to poor lighting, unpredictable road conditions, and the risk of encountering intoxicated drivers.
If you’re traveling by car, ensure it’s in good condition to cope with long journeys on potentially uneven terrain. Always keep your doors locked and windows up, especially in urban areas, to prevent thefts from your vehicle at traffic lights or road junctions.
Public transportation, such as minibusses and taxis, is prevalent. However, they can often be overcrowded and may not meet international safety standards. Licensed taxis are safer options for tourists. Always agree on the fare before commencing your journey to avoid being overcharged.
Safety For Pedestrians
Walking in Zambia is generally safe, but due to the potential of petty crimes, it is advisable to remain vigilant of your surroundings, avoid isolated areas, especially after dark, and refrain from displaying wealth openly.
Understanding Local Laws in Zambia
Zambian laws strictly forbid the use and possession of drugs, and the country has severe penalties, including imprisonment, for those found guilty. Pornography is also illegal and attracts hefty fines or imprisonment.
Things to Avoid During Zambia Tour
Photography of military installations, government buildings, or airports is prohibited and could lead to arrest. If in doubt, always ask for permission before taking photographs.
In terms of wildlife, the possession or transport of animal trophies without the appropriate licenses can result in fines and legal consequences. It’s essential to respect Zambia’s rich biodiversity and follow all conservation laws and regulations.
Safety Tips for American Tourists While Going to Zambia
- Research and Prepare: Before arriving in Zambia, familiarize yourself with local customs, laws, and the current political and social climate. Understanding local etiquette and norms can help you avoid offending locals or inadvertently breaking laws.
- Health Precautions: Ensure you’re up-to-date on routine vaccines, and consider additional ones like Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Malaria, based on advice from a travel health professional. Always drink bottled or boiled water and eat thoroughly cooked food.
- Safety in Numbers: When possible, travel with a group, especially at night. There is safety in numbers and less chance of being targeted by criminals.
- Dress Appropriately: Zambia is culturally conservative. Dress modestly, especially in rural areas, to avoid unwanted attention.
- Avoid Public Displays of Wealth: Do not openly display valuable items such as jewelry, expensive electronics, or large amounts of cash. This can make you a target for theft.
- Stay Alert: Be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially in crowded public places and tourist areas where pickpockets may be more prevalent.
- Choose Transportation Wisely: If traveling by car, ensure it is well-maintained and secure. If using public transportation, opt for licensed taxis and agree on the fare before starting the journey.
- Use Reputable Tour Operators: When booking excursions or safaris, use reputable operators. This will help ensure your safety and the sustainability of the places you visit.
- Respect Wildlife: When on safari, maintain a safe distance from wild animals, and never feed or provoke them. Always follow the guidance of your guide or ranger.
- Follow Local Laws: Respect Zambian laws, including those related to drug use, photography, and wildlife conservation.
- Avoid Political Discussions: It’s often best to avoid engaging in local political discussions or events, as these can sometimes become volatile.
- Keep Emergency Numbers: Always have the contact details of your country’s embassy or consulate, local emergency services, and your travel insurance provider.
- Secure Your Accommodation: Always ensure your accommodation is secure. Use hotel safes for valuables, and always lock doors and windows when leaving your room or at night.
- Trust Your Instincts: If something feels wrong or unsafe, trust your instincts and remove yourself from the situation.
- Stay Connected: Regularly update your family and friends about your whereabouts and condition. This helps ensure someone is aware if something seems amiss.
- Enroll in STEP: Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) with the U.S. Department of State. This program provides safety updates and makes it easier for the embassy or nearest consulate to contact you in an emergency.
- Listen to US State Department: Always check the latest travel advisory of the US State Department about Zambia, as it will help you make a more informed decision.
Remember, the vast majority of visits to Zambia are trouble-free and enjoyable. These tips are just guidelines to help you stay alert and safe.
Tips for Solo Female American Travellers to Zambia
While Zambia is generally considered safe for solo female travelers, there are certain precautions to take to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are some tips:
- Respect Cultural Norms: Zambia is traditionally a conservative country. Dress modestly, especially in rural areas. It is often recommended to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees.
- Travel During the Day: Avoid traveling alone at night, particularly in isolated areas or on public transport. It’s safer to travel during the day and to stay in well-populated areas after dark.
- Avoid Unwanted Attention: Avoid unwanted attention by dressing modestly, not displaying wealth, and behaving in a respectful manner. In case of any unwelcome advances, assertively communicate your disinterest.
- Choose Accommodation Wisely: Stay in reputable hotels or guesthouses. Make sure that your chosen accommodation has good security measures in place. Check the reviews from other solo female travelers before booking.
- Stay Sober: Avoid excessive drinking, which can make you more vulnerable and less aware of your surroundings. Always watch your drink being made, and never leave it unattended.
- Use Reputable Transport: Use only reputable taxi companies or ride-sharing services. Whenever possible, share your trip details with someone you trust.
- Keep Valuables Hidden: Keep your valuables hidden and secure. Use a money belt or similar accessory to keep your money, credit cards, and passport safe.
- Be Cautious of Strangers: Be friendly but cautious when meeting new people. Avoid sharing too much personal information, and trust your instincts.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Always be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded places and popular tourist areas. These can sometimes be hotspots for pickpocketing or scams.
- Stay Connected: Regularly update family or friends about your whereabouts. Share your travel plans with them and check in regularly.
- Emergency Contacts: Keep local emergency numbers as well as contact details for the American embassy handy. Also, have the contact information for your accommodation and a reputable taxi service.
- Take Local Advice: Listen to local advice about the safety of different areas, and be open to changing your plans if you learn that certain areas are unsafe.
- Join Group Tours: When exploring remote areas or going on adventures like safaris, it’s safer to join a group tour.
Bariki was born and raised in Tanzania, the land of the magnificent Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Manyara wildlife parks. He grew up surrounded by Africa’s natural beauty. Visiting his grandpa in Moshi Kilimanjaro, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, provided him with early exposure to wildlife and the natural world.
As a technology and human rights blogger, he has always been passionate about writing. With many relatives working in the tourism industry, he has stayed abreast of the industry’s successes and challenges, which led him to write about African safaris.
Now residing in the USA, Bariki is using his firsthand knowledge to help foreigners plan their dream safari in Africa. At Posire, he shares his expertise on everything you need to know about planning a safari, from choosing the right destination to the best time to go and what to expect during your adventure.