Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 12/19/21
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?
I have lived overseas in southern and eastern Africa and in South America.
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?
It took us about 30 hours from the east coast of the United States to Lusaka going through Doha and including a 9 hour layover (which was great for resting between long flights).
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
My tour will be 2-3 years.
5. 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?
Housing is primarily houses with yards (sometimes pools) in a range of neighborhoods. Most expats live in Kabulonga, Ibex Hill, Lilayi, Woodlands, and Leopards Hill.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Local fruits and vegetables and basics (flour, sugar, maize meal) are cheap but imported items are more expensive than in most of the United States, sometimes significantly more expensive. You can get the most important basic items here but don't expect to have everything you would be used to in the United States.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Anything that's hard to find and/or super expensive here: almond butter, Heinz ketchup, canned soups, soy sauce, shampoo and conditioner, high-quality chocolate, body wash, good toilet paper, salsa.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Tigmoo Eats and Afridelivery are popular food delivery services, but expect a wait time of 1-2+ hours. The most popular restaurants are meat/steak places (Prime Joint, Marlin, etc.). There's also Chinese, Indian, one Ethiopian restaurant, and one authentic Thai restaurant (Rin's Kitchen). There are some decent places that have a range of Italian/American/"international" dishes like Eden Haus, Mint Active, and The Gathering.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Not really. There are flattie spiders, lizards, mosquitos, etc., but nothing crazy. We sometimes find chameleons in our backyards and those on Leopards Hill Road and farther out get snakes sometimes.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
There are not local postal facilities as far as I know.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is plentiful and inexpensive. It's common for expats to have gardeners, housekeepers, cooks, and/or nannies or some combination thereof. You should be prepared to give very specific instructions and train your staff, as they may not know intuitively what your preferences are or they may have different practices to which they are accustomed.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are a couple of Crossfit gyms and regular gyms, and they are not expensive compared to the United States.
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?
They are commonly accepted at restaurants and bars, grocery stores, etc. ATMs are in most malls and work fine.
5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Most areas don't have sidewalks, let alone ramps.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I don't take public transportation. There's an app that's somewhat similar to Uber and not expensive, and there are private drivers for hire.
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?
A high-clearance vehicle is better for potholes, speed bumps, and rainy season, as well as road trips out of the city. Toyotas and other Japanese vehicles seem to be the most popular and easiest to get repaired. I would not bring a very low car or a sports car that would stand out significantly.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Fiber is available in some areas and seems to work okay. In other areas the internet is SIM-based and can be very slow and unreliable. Fiber is cheaper but SIM-based is around $85/month for 100gb of data.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
MTN is inexpensive and widely used.
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?
There are a couple of good vets, no quarantine requirement. Not a lot of green spaces (except in your own backyard if you have one).
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are a number of international NGOs with offices in Lusaka.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
LAWS is an animal shelter that does a lot of important work in Lusaka rescuing and rehoming animals, and they can always use more volunteers.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
People generally dress nicely/formally at work (or even not at work).
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Crime in Lusaka is increasing; mostly petty crime and robberies, but violent crime as well. Car break-ins, house break-ins, thefts and resale of dogs are all common. I would not go out in dimly lit areas at night and would keep doors locked and homes secured.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is not high quality. Serious health issues should be addressed in South Africa. There are no major health issues in Lusaka, although there is malaria in some areas of Zambia.
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?
Air quality is pretty good, although it gets quite dry during dry season and the smell of burning trash is not pleasant.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Not that I'm aware of.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
There's a rainy season (Dec - April more or less) and a dry season (June - October more or less). It's cooler from June/July to August and the hottest is the end of dry season before the rains begin (Nov/Dec).
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is a decently large expat community: diplomatic missions, NGOs, etc. People seem to like it here compared to other African capital cities in the region.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There's an ultimate frisbee group that meets every Wednesday evening at Showgrounds that's very popular. There's also a supper club, some local restaurants/bars/markets that are popular with expats, a running group, a Crossfit gym, etc. Depending on your interests it's likely possible to find a group that's doing it. There are several very active Facebook groups for expats in Zambia that are a wealth of information.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Not a huge amount going on socially/culturally so probably better for families who aren't looking for nightlife and mostly will be focused on their kids or hanging out with other families at home (barbecues, brunches, etc.).
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Zambians are kind and friendly but there is a significant socioeconomic and cultural divide between the average expat and the average Zambian, so it's important to be aware of that and to recognize what the true motive of your friendship might be.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Zambia, and LGBT people are very underground. The new presidential administration seems more tolerable than the prior one (which actually formed "NGOs" to witch-hunt and prosecute/harass LGBT people) but people are still very cautious. The average Zambian is anti-LGBT.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Significant gender equality issues (gender-based violence, lack of land ownership rights for women, economic disparity). Some tribal prejudices.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The national parks are beautiful and full of cool animals. Victoria Falls is awesome. Great country for safaris although they're not cheap (resident rates are $150-$375/person/night all inclusive, depending on when and where you go). Lots of waterfalls in Zambia but most are a long ways driving from Lusaka. Annual bat migration at Kasanka National Park. Direct, relatively inexpensive flights to Kigali, Joburg, Nairobi, Harare, Addis.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There's an elephant orphanage in Lilayi where you can watch the baby elephants get fed every morning for cheap. Lilayi Lodge is beautiful and has very good food. There's a weekly handicraft market at Arcades Mall on Sundays, and several monthly markets that are fun. Lusaka National Park is great for long walks or mountain bike rides and looking at animals, and there are rarely many people there. Forest Reserve is also nice for walks and you can bring your dog.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Lots of handicrafts, although many are from Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Kenya. Chitenge is beautiful too (all from outside of Zambia - mostly DRC, Nigeria, Ghana, and Tanzania).
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Labor is inexpensive so it's not hard to get household help when needed. Traffic is never too bad. Most houses have decent yards and you can grow your own vegetables and lots of beautiful flowers. People are generally patient and kind.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Most goods are more expensive than I anticipated. Infrastructure is bad (water/electricity/internet). "Witchcraft" is very much a thing that many people believe in, as is mob justice (don't be shocked when you see someone getting beaten up by a crowd).
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but part of that is that I am part of a diplomatic mission which means I have assistance dealing with certain things that would be harder for a private citizen (e.g., facilities and maintenance staff who can help fix our generator or bring water if we run out; assistance getting visas or a driver's license; less likely to be hassled by police; etc.).
3. But don't forget your:
Anti-malarials, over the counter drugs, uninterrupted power source, car parts, anything you'll need but would be 5x the price on the local market here or impossible to get.