Lusaka skyline at night
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Five reasons why you should visit Lusaka, Zambia

Harriet Comley

Contributing writer

For many visiting Zambia, Lusaka is just the destination airport, and some don’t ever see more than the airport. Lusaka is very much overlooked but heading to the capital for at least a few days is a great way to experience Zambia’s culture and local life. Here are five reasons why you should visit Lusaka, Zambia.

A colourful market in Zambia

1. The people

I have not spent a day in Zambia without someone asking me how I am. This could be a Zambian I know, a stranger in the street, or a someone on the phone. Zambian people are super friendly and completely up for talking with foreigners, especially over a beer or a whiskey!

Head to Chicago’s at East Park Mall for a fantastic fun filled night out. This is a popular local spot. Drink Zambian brewed beers and get to know the locals.

Markets are a quintessential part of Lusaka life. Heading to one of Lusaka’s many markets is a great way to meet local people and learn more about Zambian culture. The Farmers’ Market at the Bonanza Estate is a great place to pick up some local crafts and talk to residents and expats.

Zebra near Lusaka, Zambia

2. The wildlife

Wildlife in a capital city I hear you ask... well, this is Zambia. Head just 30km from Lusaka’s city centre and you’ll find the Lusaka National Park. It’s a beautiful and accessible escape from the inner-city bustle. Head to Lusaka National Park and you’ll find giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, impala and even the protected white rhino.

Within the park you’ll also be able to visit the Lilayi Elephant Sanctuary. If you have ever seen the movie Holiday in the Wild, well the elephant sanctuary is based on Lilayi Elephant Sanctuary. Though the movie depicts the sanctuary being a plane ride away, deep in the bush, it is in fact around 20km outside of downtown Lusaka. At the orphanage they are dedicated to the protection of young elephants and releasing them into the wild. If you stay at neighbouring Lilayi Lodge, you will be able to get a behind the scenes tour of this protection area.

African maize porridge, nshima, with meat and sweet potatoes

3. The food

When you are in Lusaka you must eat Zambia’s staple food, nshima. Nshima is made from mealie meal (or maize meal) and has a consistency a little like mashed potato but hard, or polenta if you’ve ever had that.

Nshima is served with relish comprising of different meats and vegetables. Meat often includes chicken, pork, beef, goat, kapenta and ifishuma. If I told you to order ifishuma without knowing what it was, would you order it? Well, ask for ifishuma and you’ll get a side of caterpillars! These crunchy and often spikey caterpillars are pan-fried and one of the most interesting things you’ll taste whilst in the capital. Some of the vegetables commonly eaten with nshima include impwa (eggplant), umulembwe (ocra), mushrooms, tomatoes and onions.

To get the best nshima don’t head to a fancy restaurant, go to one of those local roadside joints. If there’s a big pot outside and a woman wearing a chitenge holding the biggest wooden spoon you’ve ever seen, you just know it’s going to be a delicious spot for nshima.

People playing the drums in Zambia

4. Zambian culture

Lusaka is a melting pot of Zambian culture and traditions. There are over 72 spoken languages in Zambia, of which seven are official. Bemba, Nyanja, Lozi, Tonga, Luvale, Lunda and Kaonde are all spoken in Lusaka as many people have migrated to the capital. This is one of my favourite things about Zambian culture, everyone may be united in being Zambian, but they are different in their culture and language.

A Zambian might be from the Bemba tribe and speak Bemba but hop on a Lusaka bus and they could be conversing in Nyanja. The Zambian culture is one of acceptance, diversity, and a fierce and fiery pride I have never encountered before.

To learn more about Zambia’s culture, you must head to the Lusaka National Museum. Here you can discover all about Zambia’s fight for independence and the countries culture and heritage.

Lusaka city

5. It’s affordable

Relatively speaking, Zambia is an affordable travel destination. Though the prices of safaris are considered expensive, the cost of local living and food is significantly cheaper than say Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand. Of course, like anything if you opt for luxury or foreign products, they will be more expensive in Lusaka. Choosing local options especially accommodation and food will save you a lot.

Usually, capital cities are a bit more expensive than other cities, but Lusaka is still affordable. You can get a decent double bed ensuite room for around 450 Zambian Kwacha (US$23). A good plate full of nshima with a lot of relishes for 70 Kwacha (US$4) and a local Mosi Beer for no more than 20 Kwacha (US$1.20). That’s some seriously good food, drink and accommodation for a fraction of the price you’d pay in other countries.

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Harriet Comley

Author - Harriet Comley

Born and raised in the U.K., Harriet is a travel enthusiast and freelance writer. She has lived in Canada, Vietnam and China, and is currently based in Zambia. Harriet has travelled extensively around the world, including many trips to Paris, and frequently returns home to London.

Last Updated 9 May 2022

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