-Before you go:
Register with the US embassy. You’ll receive email notifications if anything is happening in any of the countries your traveling in.
-Go to your local travel clinic and make sure your vaccinations are all up to date. Even though Zambia does not require yellow fever vaccine, other African countries (including South Africa) do. If you think you might be doing other traveling (or have layovers) it is important to have the vaccine and the documentation or you might not be able to board your flight. Zambia is in a malaria zone, so prophylaxis is recommended (along with lots of bug spray). It is also useful to get some cipro, just in case, for any unforseen GI issues.
-Bring an old cell phone, SIM cards are cheap and it’s free to receive calls. If your phone has data, data SIM cards are relatively cheap and another easy way to stay in touch with people back home (whatsapp and skype are great apps). Having a phone is also an important way for people to get a hold of you in country
-Call your bank and credit card companies before you leave to let them know that you will be traveling abroad so they don’t block your cards. Also ask them what their international transaction fees are for transactions and ATM use, as those can quickly add up.
Overall, Zambia is a very safe and beautiful country with extremely friendly people. Everyone is always smiling and asking you about your day. Even with that, it is important to always be aware of your surroundings and stay safe while traveling.
-Ask locals/expats working at the clinic for tips. They are your best resource for places to go, things to see and the best ways to stay safe. If they advise not to do something, you should follow it.
-When possible, try to travel with a buddy. It not only makes it more fun, but you also can look out for eachother.
-Always act confident, even if you think you’re lost. If you need time to look at a map, go into a restaurant or a shop rather than standing out in the street, where you’ll seem like a lost tourist and be a possible target for pickpockets
-Zambia has both registered and unregistered taxis. Talk to locals at the clinic and have them recommend drivers that they trust. Try to use those when possible. Have locals give you an idea of how much rides to certain areas of town should cost. Always determine a taxi fare before entering the car, and bargain if you are over-quoted. Carry exact change or offer to pay for gas along the way, as drivers often do not carry change.
-Even though Zambia is relatively safe, you should not walk around at night alone. If you’re planning on being out after dark, make sure your taxi driver is willing to drive at night or you have a reliable way to get home.
-Always carry tissues (lots of public toilets lack toilet paper), hand sanitizer and water purification tabs, just in case. Tap water is not safe to drink, so always purify your water before drinking it or buy bottled water.
-Power can often come and go, even in big cities, so a flashlight is very useful. Headlamps are even better because they leave your hands free (very helpful when trying to go to the bathroom in the dark!)
-Air travel within Africa can be expensive, so many Zambians travel by bus. Roads to the major attractions in Zambia (Victoria Falls and South Luangwa National Park) are well paved but lack any sort of illumination at night. Speeding is a big problem among drivers and it is therefore advised to only travel during the day and only on recommended bus companies. Ask locals working at the clinic which companies have the best reputation. They can also help you navigate the bus station as it can be a crazy experience the first time you go.
-As a girl, it’s always useful to have a purse with a zipper. It makes it harder for pickpockets to reach inside.