Travellers I met in Lusaka all said the same thing: “there really isn’t anything for tourists in this city”. And even if they likely weren’t spoiled for adventure in previous destinations in Zambia like Livingstone, they aren’t lying. That being said, on a personal level, I found myself indulging in the sweet amenities of Lusaka on my week-long vacation in the capital. After months in the shackles of Central Africa, Lusaka was essentially the candy store to my kid. Full of shopping malls, fast food chains, and movie theaters, Lusaka was the developed city that I hadn’t experienced in over a year. And well there might be little for tourists to do here, there was plenty for me to do.
Time Needed: 2 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 40-50USD per day
Things to Do and See in Lusaka
As mentioned, there’s not a massive amount of things for tourists to do directly in Lusaka. That combined with my splurging on commercial entities in the capital, don’t expect this list to be too exhaustive, or completely travel related.
- Shopping Malls: There are a couple good shopping centers in Lusaka. So if you’ve been missing out on them, it’s a good place to shop, eat, or watch a movie. The shops are, however, a bit expensive since most of the products are actually imports from South Africa. Likely the best mall is Manda Hill, although Levy is also very good and closer to the hostels.
- The Market: The Soweto Market is good if you want to taste a bit of the local market experience.
- National Museum: I found the National Museum to be interesting, although many other backpackers weren’t impressed. It’s focused much on the human history of the region. It might not be the best museum in Africa, but it’s worth the price of admission.
- Parray’s Game Ranch: This game ranch is about 20km out of town and worth the day trip if you are stuck in the city. There’s a big swimming pool and good restaurant on site, and the highlight is the organized game drives which will put you up close and personal to some big animals.
Where to Eat in Lusaka
Please don’t throw stones at me for telling you that I don’t really have any recommendations. As I’ve mentioned, I hadn’t seen proper fast food in ages before arriving in Lusaka. Thus, I spent the vast majority of my time in Levy Mall downing KFC, Debonairs Pizza, and anything else I could sink my teeth into. If you’re looking for the best burger in town, I’ll tell you that you’ll find it at Lusaka Backpackers and not in some fancy diner.
Where to Stay in Lusaka
I stayed my week at Lusaka Backpackers (formerly known as Cha Cha Cha Backpackers) which is great. There are nice dorms, some private rooms, good hot water, free wifi, a swimming pool, bar and some amazing burgers and other foods from the kitchen. It’s a great place, but a little on the expensive side of things. Down the street from Livingstone Backpackers is the other popular backpacker’s haunt in town: Kalulu Backpackers, of which I’ve heard mixed reviews.
Getting out of Town
- Bus: From the intercity bus terminal you can get to basically any major destination in the entire country. If you’re willing to pay a bit more, the hostels usually organize mini-buses to the various travel spots around the country such as Livingstone.
- Air: Lusaka city airport is not too far from the center and connects much of the smaller destinations within Zambia. The international airport, Kenneth Kaunda, is about 15km north-east of the city and connects numerous international destinations.
- Train: The train is not that popular these days except for with trips to Livingstone. The train leaves 3 times a week at 7:30pm and takes 12 hours to reach Livingstone. There are also connection to the north, but few travellers actually use the service and it’s much quicker to take a bus.