Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 02/24/18
Personal Experiences from Lusaka, Zambia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I have previously lived in Seoul and Istanbul.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Baltimore, MD, USA. There are several routes but we prefer the DC-Addis-Lusaka route on Ethiopian airlines. Other people use South African Airways through Joburg or Emirates through Dubai.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Large, mostly with pools and fenced yards.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are more expensive but a good variety is available at the local supermarkets. If you are with the US mission (and soon EU missions as well) the commissary makes up for most anything you can't find at the grocery. Produce is mostly good but not everything is available year round. There are no meat cold cuts.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
We ship paper towels because we can't seem to find ones here that don't disintegrate as soon as you touch them.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
A surprising number! Korean, Thai, Indian, Chinese, brick oven pizza, and a few places that serve nice salads and continental dishes. We miss deli sandwiches and good ice cream.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
You get used to the bugs. We haven't had any major issues in our house, just a few ants and wall spiders. We also get lizards in the house. Other people have had putsi fly issues. Mosquitos are less common in Lusaka but definitely a concern in the provinces, and malaria is prevalent.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Local post--no way.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We have a nanny that we pay about $300 a month and she is fabulous. I think that's a pretty standard wage, at least within the US community.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The CrossFit gym is very popular and there's also a few other gym facilities. You can find yoga around town a few days a week. Similar to US prices.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
I've never had trouble with the ATMs. The big supermarkets and some restaurants accept credit cards but there are still a lot of places that take cash only. Any of the safari lodges will take a credit card.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Tons. Anything you could want really.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None. English is widely spoken and the official language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Not particularly. Taxis are OK but it's hard to find an official company taxi. I think there are a couple of taxi companies but I have never used them. A lot of people just have the phone number of a guy who has a car.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
High clearance. Toyotas are easy to get fixed. Don't bring anything fancy.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Not great internet options- we are lucky enough to be in Kabulonga where there is very expensive fiber optic, which is mostly reliable. We can stream Netflix most of the time. But like I said very expensive. Other parts of town have fewer options. You can get a SIM card and router box from MTN and use that anywhere but the data for that can get expensive too.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No quarantine. We have a vet that we like at Showgrounds and from what I hear there are a few more. Most of them also board pets inexpensively.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
A lot of people volunteer with women's livelihood groups. The animal shelter in Lusaka also takes volunteers.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Zambians dress well. Definitely dress sharp at work, particularly if you work with the Zambian government in any capacity. Field work is obviously going to be much more casual. School teachers are also pretty casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
In my time here we've heard of numerous robberies and a couple of sexual assaults. On the whole it's not common--if you experience anything it will probably be petty theft. Lock your car doors at stoplights and don't leave a purse on the front seat of your car in a mall parking lot. This police do their best but, particularly outside Lusaka, their capacity can be really limited. If you want someone to come out and investigate a robbery you'll probably have to go pick them up in your car.
Our main safety concern is driving after dark so we don't to a ton of it. The roads are narrow and unlit, tons of people are walking on them, other drivers have either no lights or drive around with high beams, and there are a lot of drunk drivers on the road.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
We have medical evacuation for a lot of different things. Generally the med unit or local docs can diagnose and recommend medevac if the care can't be provided locally. Doctors here are good but limited in what they can do with their facilities. For example a hospital may have a CT scanner but not have the fluid required to run the scan. As for major health issues--we take precautions agains malaria, cholera, and other water-borne illnesses.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Overall the air quality is good, although I've never seen an AQI reading for Lusaka. The problems are localized to trash-burning neighbors. I wouldn't say it's bad enough to affect your health.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Three seasons: cool dry, hot dry, and rainy season. It doesn't rain from May to October. Not one drop. The hottest season temps are in the 90s and during the coolest months you'll find highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a number of international schools in Lusaka. We don't have school-age kids but my husband works at AISL and has been very happy with it. They have good facilities and lots of extracurriculars.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, a lot of our friends' kids are on sports teams or participate in various activities.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are tons of expats around Lusaka. In the US community morale is very good.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great for families- everywhere you go is designed for kids. Almost every restaurant has a playground. Safari opportunities abound and are usually kid-friendly. The weather is good year round.
Also fine for couples. I'm not as sure about single people but I don't think it's an easy place to meet other singles. That said I do meet a lot of Zambian-foreigner couples so I guess it is possible!
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Nope. Homosexuality is illegal here. I don't think there have been any instances of Zambia prosecuting foreigners on this, but it's certainly not a welcoming culture for gays. Coming here for a vacation you'd have no problems but long-term it would be very challenging.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
In general Zambia is welcoming to outsiders, so there are many refugees from the region here in addition to large Indian and Chinese communities, plus people of European descent who often have roots in Zimbabwe or South Africa. I'm clearly a foreigner here but I don't ever feel that I'm being stared at or treated differently (I do spend most of my time in Lusaka). If anything people go out of their way to be respectful and even deferential to foreigners.
As a woman I have never been harassed, although I know it happens occasionally. I don't feel unsafe or uncomfortable going around alone. And although most Zambian families are traditional in structure, in Lusaka many women work in professional jobs and in the government.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Safaris, safaris, safaris. And Victoria Falls. South Luangwa is incredible for game drives, as are Lower Zambezi and Kafue. Also loved Liuwa Plains. Zambia is a wildlife lover's dream.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The wildebeest migration at Liuwa Plains! Or the bat migration at Kasanka national park!
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not a ton of shopping but there are nice handicrafts including baskets, masks, etc. Also great for buying "chitenge" fabric.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Kid-friendly, relatively safe, great travel opportunities.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?