Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, currency, language, health, local time, business hours and holidays, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, temporary entry of materials and personal belongings,etc.
Last Published: 4/2/2019

Business Customs

Business law is based mostly on British law, and business customs are similar to those in the U.S. and Europe. Zambians are polite and mild-mannered, and a direct confrontational style is not well received in the local cultural context. Business dress code is formal for both men and women.  If the attire is a skirt suit, then the length should be below the knees. 

Travel Advisory

Crime is a problem in Zambia.  Mugging, carjacking, and house and car break-ins are not uncommon. Copperbelt towns along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo have seen periodic surges in crime due to political instability across the border.  There are no internal travel restrictions in Zambia, although areas around military bases may have restricted access. Website for State Department consular information sheet for Zambia.

Visitors should exercise caution when purchasing curios and souvenirs to avoid items that contain materials that are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Visa Requirements

A passport and visa are required to enter Zambia.  The passport must be valid for at least six months after the intended date of departure from Zambia and have at least two blank pages.  Foreigners coming to Zambia for business are entitled to a free thirty-day visa.  Business visas may be obtained by presenting a letter of invitation from the organization that is sponsoring the traveler that specifies the nature of the intended business.  Business visitors intending to stay longer than thirty days must apply for a temporary employment permit.  A single-entry visa may be obtained at a port of entry for $50 and is valid for only ninety days.  For a three-year multiple entry visa, travelers must apply in advance at a Zambian Embassy or consulate.  The three-year multiple-entry visa fee is $80.  Multiple entry visas may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia, 2419 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008, and telephone:  (202) 265-9717.

The Government of the Republic of Zambia requires travelers to have at least two blank visa pages in their passport upon entering Zambia.  Likewise, travelers transiting South Africa should ensure that their passports contain at least two completely blank (unstamped) visa pages each time entry is sought.  These pages are in addition to the endorsement/amendment pages at the back of the passport.  South African immigration authorities routinely turn away travelers who do not have enough blank visa pages in their passports.
U.S. companies that require travel of foreign business persons to the United States should advise the foreign business person to work through the U.S. Embassy consular office for their visa application and processing.

Visa applicants should go to the following links:
State Department Visa Website
U.S. Embassy Website
U.S. Embassy Consular Section
In the past, the Zambian Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) has detained a number of travelers for possession of Benadryl and other over-the-counter medications, which have contained small quantities of diphenhydramine, an active ingredient that is on Zambia’s list of controlled substances.  Although unaware of these restrictions, U.S. citizens have been charged with drug trafficking offenses, had their passports confiscated, and been jailed.  As a result, any U.S. citizen visiting Zambia is strongly advised to leave all non-prescription medications behind.  When traveling with prescription medications, U.S. citizens should carry a doctor’s prescription and ensure that the medication is in its original bottle.  Any U.S. citizen stopped by the DEC for possession of over-the-counter medications should contact the Embassy at +260-211-357-000 as soon as possible.


Payments within Zambia by law are made in kwacha only, even if the price is quoted in U.S. dollars.  Foreign currency is only accepted by immigration officials for the purchase of visas at international airports.  Most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, and retail outlets take credit cards.  The commercial banks will advance local currency against a credit card.  Most banks have ATMs which accept Visa cards, more often than MasterCard and American Express, for cash.  Although traveler’s checks are widely accepted, they are no longer commonly used.  To avoid additional exchange rate charges, the traveler’s checks must be in U.S. dollars, Euros, or British Pounds.  Exchange of foreign currency is done in banks or Bureau de Change which are located in most towns in shopping areas, gas stations and supermarkets


Zambia is a member of Intelsat and receives video and communications services through its earth satellite station.  Telecommunications services are generally adequate, but often unreliable and relatively expensive. 

The Western Fibre Route cable connecting Malawi to Zambia has led to significant retail price reduction for broadband services and facilitated domestic fiber builds.  The first commercial LTE network launch has been undertaken and this has increased the number of mobile subscriber base in the country.  Several internet service providers (ISPs) have rolled out WiMAX wireless broadband networks.  In June 2016, Vodafone and Afrimax Group (Afrimax), a 4G telecommunications operator in sub-Saharan Africa, launched in Zambia.  Vodafone Zambia offers a range of commercial connectivity products at retail and through direct sales channel including 4G and Wi-Fi mobile data service, fixed internet, and suite-of-office solutions.  The Zambian government opened the National Data Center in February 2017 as part of the Smart Zambia project which aims to transform the country through information and communication technologies.

Cellular service is currently offered in all provinces of Zambia, but coverage is uneven.  Major private firms that offer mobile phone facilities include MTN Zambia and Airtel Zambia.  AT&T’s USA Direct service is available, as well as similar services to Britain, Sweden, and some other European countries.  There are a number of callback service companies operating in Zambia.

Global System for Mobile (GSM) is the most prevalent digital cellular phone technology.  There are 23 Internet Service Providers offering dial-up connections, broadband wireless, and VSAT services.  The GRZ has liberalized the International Voice Gateway which now falls under ZICTA.


There are regular airline connections to Lusaka, Ndola, and Livingstone from Dubai, Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Gaborone, Windhoek, Harare, Addis Ababa, Cairo, Lilongwe, and Nairobi.  Domestic flights are available between Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe and Chingola (Copperbelt Province), Mfuwe and Chipata (Eastern Province), Livingstone (Southern Province), Kasama (Northern Province), Mansa (Luapula Province) and Solwezi (Northwestern Province).

There are regular flights linking Johannesburg to Lusaka, Ndola, and Livingstone.  The government is constructing a new airport terminal at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka while a new site for the Ndola airport was recently acquired and construction works have commenced.  A Livingstone International Airport upgrade was completed in 2017.

The government intends to upgrade one other international airport, Mfuwe, but the timeline is unclear.  There are several private city bus lines.  The railway system is run down and undergoing restructuring.  Passenger train travel is unreliable and uncomfortable.

The government has made available $120 million for use in making major facelift of the rundown infrastructure.  The 27-kilometer Chipata-Mchinji Railway, connecting the eastern border with Malawi through to Nacala Port in Mozambique was completed in 2010 and is operational.  The GRZ intends to construct new railway lines from Chingola, on the Copperbelt, to Solwezi, in Northwestern Province, as well as a railway line connecting Solwezi to the Benguela railway line in Angola, providing eventual access to Lobito Bay.  Two other green field projects include construction of the 760 kilometer railway from Chipata to Mpika station on the TAZARA and from Nseluka to Mpulungu at a total cost of $3 billion.  

Road transportation is the preferred means of transport for many goods.  The core road network infrastructure consists of an interconnected network of bitumen paved roads and gravel roads that requires consistent maintenance by the Road Development Agency (RDA).  The GRZ initiated the Link Zambia 8000, an accelerated national roads construction program in 2012 to overhaul its road networks maintained by the RDA.  At the end of 2016, about 3,947 had been procured out which 678 kilometers were surfaced and open to traffic.  A number of inner and outer ring roads are under construction at different stages of development which dramatically improved accessibility and reduced congestion.  Zambia is landlocked, and goods come in and out via air freight, or through five African ports: Mpulungu, on Lake Tanganyika; Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Beira, Mozambique; Durban, South Africa; and Walvis Bay, Namibia.


Although there are 73 local languages in Zambia, English is the official language.  Government business and commercial transactions are normally conducted in English.
Other dominant languages are Bemba, Kaonde, Lunda, Lozi, Luvale, Nyanja, and Tonga.


Basic medical care outside of major cities is extremely limited.  Private medical clinics in major cities can provide reasonable care in many cases, but major medical emergencies usually require medical evacuation to South Africa, India, Europe, or the United States.  Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment for health care services.  Medical insurance covering air ambulance evacuation is highly advisable.  For the most recent travel information on Zambia, check U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Malaria is endemic in Zambia.  Prophylaxis is strongly recommended.  HIV prevalence is very high in Zambia with approximately 14% of the adult population HIV positive nationwide but with higher rates in urban areas. Drinking water should always be treated if bottled water is not available.
Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays
Zambia does not participate in daylight savings time. Zambia’s time zone is Universal Time (UTC, GMT) plus 1 hour.

Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays

Government Offices are open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m and close from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 pm, Monday to Friday.  Bank hours vary, but most banks are open from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.  Some are open every Saturday while most open every first and last Saturday of the month from 8:15 a.m. to 11:00 am. 
Shops are generally open from 8:15 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Sunday while others open from 08:15 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Zambian Holidays in 2017:  

Sunday, January 01  New Year’s Day
Monday, January 02                          New Year’s Day Holiday
Wednesday, March 08          International Women’s Day
Monday, March 13  Youth Day (Public holiday March 12 falls on   Sunday)
Friday, April 14          Good Friday
Saturday, April 15      Holy Saturday
Sunday, April 16  Easter Sunday
Monday, April 17 Easter Monday
Monday, May 01  Labor Day
Thursday, May 25    Africa Freedom Day
Monday, July 03    Heroes’ Day
Tuesday, July 04 Unity Day
Monday, August 07    Farmer’s Day
Wednesday, October 18    National Day of Prayers, Fasting and       Reconciliation
Tuesday, October 24  Independence Day
Monday, December 25 Christmas Day

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Tourist/visitors declare their goods to customs at point of entry and declare and produce them for inspection at the point of departure.

Web Resources

Zambia Tourism

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Zambia Business Travel and Etiquette