Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Zambia?
Zambia is going through a transitional period in its politics at the moment and things are tense. If you're travelling there, check out FCO advice before you travel.
The country is an amazing place to explore but you'll definitely need a 4 x 4, especially during the rains, and local knowledge so take a guide with you or instead, join a guided tour.
The capital Lusaka is a fascinating city but can be chaotic. It's also not the kind of place to be driving around at night.
Seat Belt Laws
By law, everyone in a moving car in Zambia must be properly secured with a seatbelt, you’ll often see rear seat passengers not wearing them but, given the dangerous driving, please stick to the rules.
Drinking and Driving
The legal limit for alcohol in the blood in Zambia is 80mg per 100ml of blood; the same as in the UK. Be very wary though of drinking and driving as you’ll need every ounce of concentration to cope with local driving.
Must Have Documents
You will need to have both parts of your driving licence; an international driving licence is not compulsory but can be useful. You’ll need the vehicle registration document, a letter of consent from the owner if it’s not your car, proof of insurance bought in Zambia and, if you’re to be in Zambia for more than three months, a carnet de passage.
The speed limits for Zambia are as follows:
Highways: 100 km/h
In Town: 50/60 km/h
Watch out for speed limit signs that can suddenly introduce a new speed limit for a stretch of road.
Minimum Driving Age
You have to be at least 18 to be able to drive in Zambia. If you're renting a car the minimum age is 23 but with some companies, it's 25. You may also need to pay a young driver premium if below 25 or with minimal experience.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
Safety camera warning devices are not illegal in Zambia but we’d recommend following the speed limits carefully as the roads can be very dangerous.
On the Spot Fines
Traffic police should issue tickets for traffic offences but in some areas you may find that they ask for payment on the spot. This is illegal and should be politely refused as long as you don’t feel you would be in any danger by doing so. The tickets issued by the police should state the offence, the fine, where it can be paid and how long you have in which to pay it.
Child Safety Rules
In Zambia, child safety rules have yet to be standardised but it is recommended that you follow international guidelines and don’t allow children under 12 to travel in the front and make sure they are secured in a suitable restraint system in the rear of the car. If you are hiring a car, tell us your requirements when you book and we’ll ensure that you have the required seating installed before you collect the vehicle.
A minimum of third party insurance is compulsory in Zambia and it must be purchased in the country. You’ll need to be able to prove you have it.
Rules of the Road
Standard International driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
• You must have two warning triangles in your car and place them up to 30m in front and behind your car and have your hazard warning lights lit if involved in an accident or if you break down.
• You must have a fire extinguisher, especially if you are carrying extra fuel containers.
• You must have reflective tape on the ends of the front and rear bumpers, white at the front, red at the rear
You must have a red and white T sign displayed on the front right and back right of the towed vehicle. Make sure your visibility is good and that the towed vehicle is securely attached as bumpy roads can often dislodge towing attachments
Safety cameras are common in Zambia, both mobile and fixed devices. The police usually set up mobile units immediately after a speed limit sign to catch unwary drivers. Tickets will be issued on the spot for those. There are few fixed speed cameras but most of those are not functioning.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
Using a phone without a hands-free kit whilst driving in Zambia is illegal despite many drivers doing so. You will receive a ticket for doing so if caught.
Parking in many Zambian towns and cities is very haphazard with cars almost seeming abandoned rather than parked. In Lusaka, you will need to be a little more ordered in your parking and should use the municipal garages or parking lots if you want to keep your car safe.
Paid parking is generally only found in Lusaka and the bigger towns and cities. In these places it’s recommended to use paid parking as it adds an element of safety for your car which can often be open to theft of or from the vehicle. Always use garages at night rather than street parking for your own safety.
Enforcement of parking is done by the police and, on the rare occasions when they do enforce parking rules, you can be ticketed or towed away.
In Zambia there is little acknowledgement of the needs of disabled drivers and it is up to the individual to negotiate with car parking attendants for a more convenient space. This is often forthcoming with the lubrication of a few coins
Motor Way Signs
There are only a few roads that could be classed as motorways in Zambia and they are found around the capital. Signage on them is green with white writing
English is the national language and so most visitors should have no trouble being understood
Zambian traffic lights follow the international sequences and so shouldn’t pose a problem. Be aware that many Zambian drivers ignore red lights so proceed carefully when lights change to green. You cannot turn on a red light unless a sign indicates that you can.
There are only around 100km of decent roads in Zambia and none of them are currently liable to tolls.
The emergency number in Zambia is 991 for the police and ambulance whilst you can reach the fire service on 993.
What to do in an emergency
Make sure you have plenty of water and fuel before setting off on journeys in Zambia. If you encounter problems with your car, you may be out of phone range but if not, use the phone number given to you by the car hire company. If you are driving your own vehicle, make sure you’ve got an emergency number you can call.
In the event of an accident you should call the police on 991 if it is serious and await their arrival. You will need a report from them for your insurance company or the car hire company. Whilst awaiting their arrival, take photographs of the scene and take the contact details of witnesses. If it is safe to do so, don't move the vehicles.
As of August 2014, the average price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in Zambia is £1.08 whilst diesel is £1.01. Prices can vary between the cities and rural areas.