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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Zambia

Zambia: Republic of Zambia
Capital: Lusaka
Population: 9,959,037
Currency: Zambian kwacha (ZMK)
Languages: English (official), major vernaculars - Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga, and about 70 other indigenous languages
Religions: Christian 50%-75%, Muslim and Hindu 24%-49%, indigenous beliefs 1%
Borders: Angola 1,110 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,930 km, Malawi 837 km, Mozambique 419 km, Namibia 233 km, Tanzania 338 km, Zimbabwe 797 km

Zambia is a developing country in southern Africa. Tourist facilities outside of Lusaka, the capital, Livingstone (Victoria Falls), and well-known game parks are not fully developed.

U.S. citizens are advised to avoid travel in northern Luapula Province and in areas of the Northern Province adjacent to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC). Although a cease-fire is currently in effect, the DRC is not yet stable and uncontrolled militia operate in the eastern DRC. In the past, armed gunmen have occasionally attacked vehicles near the DROC-Zambian border.

Land mines along the western, southern, and eastern borders make off-road travel to those areas potentially hazardous. American citizens are advised not to travel off-road along the border areas.

Large numbers of travelers visit tourist destinations, including South Luangwa National Park and Livingstone (Victoria Falls), without incident. U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.

Service providers in Zambia, including the tourism sector, are not subject to the same standards of safety oversight that exist in the United States; visitors should evaluate risks carefully.

Crime in Zambia is widespread. Armed carjackings, muggings, residential burglaries, and petty theft are commonplace in Lusaka and other major cities, especially in downtown commercial districts and housing compounds. Armed criminals perpetrate robberies and home invasions at night throughout Lusaka. Carjackings occur all times of the day. Often carjackers will block the back of a car when one pulls into a driveway. Carjackers target the full range of vehicles, and anyone who does not practice sound security procedures may be targeted. Thieves steal possessions from automobiles and public transport vehicles stopped in traffic. Travelers should keep car doors locked and car windows rolled up at all times. Travel at night is particularly risky, both in Lusaka and on roads outside of the city.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout Africa, including Zambia.

Recently, American citizens have consulted the Embassy regarding questionable business offers described to them by electronic mail sent by Nigerian-based individuals. Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of advance fees, such as fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes, must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Zambian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Zambia are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. U.S. citizens importing prescription drugs into Zambia without a physician's prescription may be arrested and incarcerated.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Persons overstaying their visa or attempting to work while on a tourist visa risk imprisonment and deportation.

Government hospitals and clinics are often understaffed and lack supplies. Private medical clinics in major cities can provide reasonable care in many cases, but major medical emergencies usually require medical evacuation to South Africa or the United States. Basic medical care outside of major cities is extremely limited. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Travelers should carry their prescription drugs and medications in original labeled containers, as well as the written prescription from their physician. (See Criminal Penalties Section.)

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Zambia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Driving on Zambian roads can be hazardous. Since most roads do not have shoulders or sidewalks, pedestrians and livestock use the roadways both day and night. While the main roads in Lusaka are maintained, many secondary roads are in poor repair. Driving at night can be hazardous and is discouraged. Minibuses and cars break down often. When breakdowns occur, local drivers place a few branches behind the car to indicate trouble, but this is hardly visible at night. Many drivers use their high beams at night to detect stopped vehicles and pedestrians.

There are no emergency services for stranded drivers. It is advisable to have a cell phone when undertaking a trip outside of town, although many parts of the country do not yet have cell phone service. During the rainy season (end of October to mid-March), travelers who do not have a four- wheel drive vehicle will encounter problems driving on rural roads. The roads from Lusaka to Livingstone and the Copperbelt cities of Ndola and Kitwe are generally in good condition year-round.

Minibuses serve as the primary means of inter-city travel in Zambia. They are often overcrowded and seldom punctual. Some luxury buses do ply the routes between Lusaka and Livingstone and the Copperbelt. City traffic is comprised mostly of cars and minibuses; motorcycles are rare. Since 2000, Americans have been involved several car accidents, a number of them serious. Carjackings occur in Lusaka day and night, most often by blocking the back of one's car when one pulls into the driveway. For security reasons, the U.S. Embassy discourages travelers from driving on rural roads, especially near the borders with DRC and Angola. American citizens who must drive in these areas are encouraged to drive in convoy and to carry satellite telephones.

Seat belts are mandatory, as are helmets for motorcyclists. A child's seat is not mandatory by law, but is essential for safeguarding children. Traffic circulates on the left side of the road. There is no left turn on red. The speed limit is 50 km/30 mph in Lusaka and 100 km/60 mph outside of city limits. However, speed limits are rarely respected, and most cars drive 80 km/50 mph in the city and 120 km/75 mph outside town. It is not unusual to see four-wheel drive vehicles, trucks, and buses driving at even higher speeds on the stretch between Lusaka and Livingstone. Drivers under the influence of alcohol, who are involved in accidents, are tested at Lusaka's University Teaching Hospital (UTH) and then taken to court.

For specific information concerning Zambian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Zambia National Tourist Board at The Road Safety Commission is responsible for road safety in Zambia, telephone 260-1-25- 24-38 or 25-19-77.

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Zambia by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Zambia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet web page at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.

Travel to military areas and photographing military facilities, airports, bridges, and other facilities deemed to be of security relevance, are prohibited. Authorities may also challenge photography of areas other than tourist attractions.

Travelers are advised that, even in the most serene settings, wild animals can pose a threat to life and safety. Travelers are cautioned to observe local or park regulations and heed all instruction given by tour guides.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

July 14, 2004

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