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Zambia for the first timer

Winston-Salem...
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Zambia for the first timer

We are from the US. We plan to visit Zambia this summer. We want to concentrate in the southern part of the country. We have two weeks. We know we want to see Victoria Falls. We'd like to go on a safari.

Questions:

1.We are flying into Lusaka. What is the best way to get to Livingstone? (Bus, train, etc.)

2. We do not plan to rent a car. What other transportation options are there? (Is there good public transportation - or must we rent to be able to travel?)

3. Should we plan to see Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe as well? Are there other sites we should take in while in Zimbabwe?

4. Are there other "don't miss" sites in Zambia (from Lusaka southward)?

London, United...
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1. Re: Zambia for the first timer

Zambia is a great country. Have you travelled/ driven independently in other countries in Africa? Are you back packer types or are you looking for more comfort than that? That information may help people give you good advice.

When you say 'best' do you mean cheapest, quickest, easiest, most comfortable ?

I have visited the falls twice and seen them on foot ( Zambian side) by helicopter and from the island. I've never been disappointed.

Winston-Salem...
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2. Re: Zambia for the first timer

I don't want to drive.

Online info about train service is confusing. There apparently used to be several classes, now just one - was under an operator now under another one.

We are flying into Lusaka. My son lives in Mocha - the nearest town in Choma.

We are in mid-50's, and more interested in comfort than roughing it - but we do not need luxury.

I have ordered a guide book on Zambia so I can study about things to see/do. We like nature, art, religion and history.

Mfuwe
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3. Re: Zambia for the first timer

Hire a 4x4 and driver.

Brisbane, Australia
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4. Re: Zambia for the first timer

We are a family of 4 adults and 2 kids just finished 3 weeks in zambia. We hired a car/ driver to take us to livingstone from lusaka ( Limo hire zambia- google it. His name is Hans ). Very reliable and safe transfer. Roads are frightening with trucks and terrible surfaces for much of the trip. These guys were excellent. We stayed at jollyboys backpackers in private ensuite rooms. Was great but kitchen facilities light on. There are restaurants ( cheap) around but ask before you set out. Also heard Golden Leaf lodge was great price, nice food too and good location. We did falls from zambia side only and regret not getting multi entry visa to do sim side. Did a day trip to chobe too which a com sorted and was great and well organised. Don't do the train. Very unreliable. Car took 8 hours although they will tell you 6. A few decent toilet stops along the way but pack some snacks. Long drive but really interesting the entire way!

Wayzata, Minnesota
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5. Re: Zambia for the first timer

Hi Rick J, Zambia is a stunning country and I am delighted to see more and more Americans making their way! It’s a superb destination and extremely productive for safari. Herewith are my comments to your questions posed in your post.

First, budget permitting, I don’t recommend train, bus or private vehicle transfer to Livingstone if your budget allows you to fly. PROFLIGHT services all the major safari/tourist destinations and is relatively good value considering the time saved versus rail/road. I am particularly adverse to taking a bus or hiring a private driver for safety reasons. Did you know that the biggest danger to tourists in Africa is not wild animal attacks, disease, political instability etc. In fact, its road accidents, especially on major trucking routes. Many countries in Africa, including Zambia, don’t have the strict regulations as American trucking companies do in regards to how many hours in a day a driver can drive – they often get paid per load. Meaning, you have truckers in Zambia, in poor road conditions, driving fast and often tired/sleepy. Further, when you travel to Zambia, you will notice that locals don’t have corrective eyewear – no glasses and certainly no contact lenses. If you consider the % of the US population that require some sort of vision correction, it’s a large %. In Zambia, this isn’t the case – so the truckers are often speeding, driving tired on poor roads and driving with less than perfect vision. It’s a perfect recipe for disaster. Having guided in Southern Africa for several years, I have seen my fair share of bad accidents, almost always involving a semi/lori. In short, flying is more efficient and much safer.

If you are going over our summer months in the northern hemisphere (as in June – August), the viewing of the falls from the Zambia side should be fine. If water levels are low, you may want to consider a visit to Livingstone Island where you get a good view of the falls over the Zimbabwean side without leaving Zambia. Zimbabwe is lower in elevation than Zambia, meaning that during the dry months, Zimbabwe collects more water Zambia. If it’s a particularly dry year or you are going towards the mid-tail end of August onwards, I recommend viewing from the Zimbabwe side.

Finally, if you wish to go on safari south of Lusaka, Lower Zambezi National Park would be your best bet (within Zambia). Good game viewing plus a plethora of activities in addition to your traditional game drive (canoe, motorboat, fishing, walking etc.). It’s a superb safari destination, albeit not as productive as South Luangwa to the north of Lusaka.

If you will be at Vic Falls, you may also want to consider visiting Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe or Chobe National Park in Botswana – both are easily accessible from Vic Falls and arguably more productive than Lower Zambezi for wildlife viewing.

Lastly, while in Lusaka, you may wish to check out Lilayi Lodge – a newly refurbished lodge that houses one of two elephant orphanages in Africa (the other is the famed Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya).

Good luck and have a lovely trip!

-Kota Tabuchi, Managing Director: Africa, Travel Beyond

Kitwe, Zambia
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6. Re: Zambia for the first timer

Congratulations Rick for going to a fantastic, friendly country. Whatever you do, please do not take the train !

It is unreliable, uncomfortable and there is no water for you know where ! I love Zambia and currently working here. I would not recommend a first time traveler to hire a car as the roads are awful, pot holed and ideally need someone used to them. If you can hire a SUV with a driver, that would be great but this can be awfully dear. I would recommend you taking an early bus from Lusaka to Livingstone and maybe befriending a taxi driver in Livingstone whom you can hire daily at a fixed and good rate. Like you , I do not like driving in a place I have never been. Good luck with your visit ! Welcome to the real Africa x

Lusaka, Zambia
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7. Re: Zambia for the first timer

Regarding how to get to Livingstone from Lusaka, I think the first question is whether you plan to visit your son near Choma. If the answer is yes, then since Choma is more than halfway from Lusaka to Livingstone, and since you'll have to travel there by road, that would suggest that you keep going by road as well....

In short, I would consider going by road one way (e.g. Lusaka to Choma, then on to Livingstone) and flying one way. This would mean Proflight, if you already have your US-Zambia flights booked into / out of Lusaka; if not, and if you fly from the US via JNB, then I would consider flying from Livingstone or Vic Falls to JNB on the way out.

Chobe is a very good and worthwhile day trip from Livingstone. Visiting other national parks (LZNP, SLNP) in Zambia would be great, but will involve more travel time - either internal flights or long drives.

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