For the typical traveler, Zambia may not place high on the list of places to visit. Most travelers likely have never heard of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city! For them, it’s hard to imagine many things to do in Lusaka.
But for families who like to go off the beaten path, Zambia is a destination not to be missed. From the famous Victoria Falls in Livingstone, to the beautiful national parks filled with animals, Zambia fits perfectly into the quintessential image of Africa – wild and beautiful.
This post was updated on April 19, 2020.
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A little background on Zambia
Much like Africa is more than just lions and giraffes grazing in the Serengeti, Zambia is more than just breathtaking landscapes and natural wildlife. It’s a country rich in culture, industry, and ideas. Bradt Travel’s Zambia Travel Guide is a great resource to have if you’re planning a trip to Zambia.
Zambia is a landlocked country located in southern Africa. It’s a former British colony, bordered by eight countries: DRC, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola. The capital city, Lusaka, is home to 1.7 million people. And the country as a whole, which has a population of around 17 million people, has around 72 different ethnic groups within its borders. Fortunately, English is the official language of Zambia, so travelers will have a relatively easy time communicating with people.
The official form of currency is the Zambian kwacha. As of April 2020, one US $1 is equivalent to roughly 18-19 kwacha. While many fancier business accept credit and debit cards, most street vendors and small stores only operate in cash. Fortunately, ATMs are found throughout the city of Lusaka, as well as in other major cities.
Getting into and getting around Lusaka
The main airport in Lusaka is Keneth Kaunda International Airport. The airport mainly services domestic and African regional destinations. However, there are flights coming in and going to Dubai and Istanbul. If you’re flying from Europe or the United States, you’ll most likely connect via Johannesburg, South Africa.
For getting around Lusaka, the best option for families is to take taxis. They are fairly easy to flag down. You’ll need to negotiate a fare with the taxi driver.
Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive around Lusaka on your own. From my research, the average price for a car rental is $76 per day. Zambians drive on the left side of the road, and you’ll need to have an international diver’s license in order to drive in Zambia.
The streets of Lusaka are fairly maintained, but you may come across some that have seen better days. Traffic can happen in the morning and evenings as people go and come back from work. If you’re uncomfortable driving in Lusaka, you may want to consider hiring a driver.
Take the time to explore all the things to do in Lusaka
Most travelers come to Zambia to see the famous Victoria Falls. These waterfalls, known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders), stretches over two kilometers long. Victoria Falls borders the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. And on the Zambian side, during the height of rainy season, visitors can see sprays from several miles away!
But if you’re planning on just breezing through Lusaka on your way to Victoria Falls, why want to consider extending your stay in Lusaka by a few days. There are so many things to do in Lusaka, even for families! If you’re not convinced, here are ten fun things to do in and around Lusaka that will make your stay worthwhile.
Learn about Zambian history at the National Museum
I’m really into museums. I think it’s because I’m actually kind of a nerd at heart. I love learning about a place and its history. As far as museums go, the National Museum is nothing to write home about, but if you want a glimpse into Zambian culture and history, this is a great (and cheap!) place to start. You kids may enjoy some of the traditional African games on display at the museum.
At the time of my visit, they had a photo exhibit of Zambian photography over the years, and also an exhibit of Zambian life in the village, complete with life-size wax models. The National Museum is open every day from 9am to 4:30pm. The entrance fee for foreigners is $5 (USD) for adults and $3 (USD) for children.
Shop for local handicrafts at Kabwata Cultural Village
For those who are into traditional arts and crafts, the Kabwata Cultural Village is not to be missed. They have artisans from all over Zambia selling crafts ranging from paintings to wood sculptures, musical instruments to jewelry.
I loved seeing the different crafts, and even bought a painting for myself. The vendors are friendly, and won’t pressure you too much into buying anything. Kabwata Cultural Village is open every day from 8am to 6pm.
Go to the mall to find things to do in Lusaka
There are some pretty wealthy people living Zambia. It is evident in the abundance of malls, restaurants, and amenities within the city. There are a variety of malls to choose from. My top picks include the open-air Arcades, the upscale Manda Hill, and the newer East Park.
Many of these malls have movie theaters too, which your kids may enjoy. You’ll find a good selection of English language movies. So if you’re in the mood to catch a film, you can have your pick. Additionally, on Sundays, Arcades hosts an open-air market where you can shop for souvenirs and hand-crafted goods.
Get a glimpse of local life at the public markets
For a more authentic or local shopping experience, head into the city center, or “Town” as the locals call it. The main market is the Town Centre Market, where you can buy any kind of goods you can possibly think of.
Alternatively, you can head over to the Soweto Market, which is just a few blocks southwest of Town Centre Market. I love walking through local markets, as there’s an energy and vibrancy there that is often lacking in grocery stores or shopping centers. When you visit in Lusaka, however, beware of pickpockets. Keep your belongings close to you as much as possible, and avoid bringing valuables to the market.
Use the city bus to take you to all the things to do in Lusaka
Speaking of local experiences, one of my favorite ways to get to know a city is to use the public transportation. Unfortunately, Lusaka’s city bus routes are a bit difficult to figure out. Most families will have an easier time using taxis to get around the city. The fares are pretty affordable.
But if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try your hand at riding the public bus. Many of the bus routes run along the main roads, like Cairo Road, or the Great East Road. An easy bus ride to try is the one from Arcades Mall into Town, which only costs 5-10 kwacha per ride per person. Riding the bus can be fun. And it will give you a taste of what it’s like to live like a local.
Have a family day at Orange Tree
One of the other things to do in Lusaka is to try the many restaurants that the city has to offer. Lusaka has a large expat community. And it’s evident in the assortment of cuisines you can find in the city: American, European, Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese.
During the time of my visit to Lusaka, I visited Orange Tree Public House. It’s now one of my favorite places to eat in the city! There is a playground on the restaurant grounds, so the kiddos can play. And the food is comparable to any dish you would get at a gastropub in the United States.
Dine in style at Latitude 15 Degrees
When it comes to a nice meal in Lusaka, though, the prize has to go to Latitude 15 Degrees. It’s a hotel, restaurant, and spa. While I was in Lusaka, I met up with friends for dinner one night, and was thoroughly impressed by their food, service, and overall décor.
You can certainly tell, this is where the “other half” of Lusaka dines. In terms of things to do in Lusaka, this is one of the fancier and upscale options. After our meal, we took a tour of the grounds, and even got a peak at one of the rooms. Pretty impressive!
See animals at Munda Wanga Environmental Park
Zambia has some amazing big game in its national parks. But in a city like Lusaka, you’re hard-pressed to find any of those kinds of animals. When it comes to wildlife related things to do in Lusaka, the closest thing is Munda Wanga Environmental Park. It serves as a sanctuary for injured or rescued animals, and rehabilitates them for entry back into the wild.
During my visit I saw animals like zebras, monkeys, and porcupine. There’s also a beautiful botanical garden that’s worth strolling through, and a playground for kids. It’s about 16 kms outside of Lusaka. So you’ll need to hire a taxi or a driver. If you’re feeling adventurous, catch a bus from central Lusaka headed towards Chilanga or Kafue.
Munda Wanga Environmental Park is open daily from 8am to 6pm. Entrance fees are 25 kwacha for adults and 15 kwacha for children ages 2 to 15 years old. If you’re bringing food to the park, there’s a picnic fee of 5 kwacha.
Discover things to do in Lusaka at Kalimba Reptile Park
Another fun excursion is the Kalimba Reptile Park. The park has an assortment of snakes and crocodiles. We saw black and green mambas, as well as crocodiles that were twice the size of me! They also raise free range ducks and tilapia.
It’s not that far from Lusaka, so you can easily do a quick morning or afternoon trip. If you’re into fishing, there are fishing ponds where you can catch your own fish. Fishing rods are available for free, but any fish caught and kept is charged 30 kwacha per kilogram.
Kalimba Reptile Park is open every day from 9am to 5pm. Entrance fee to the park is 60 kwacha for adults and 30 kwacha for children. There is a swimming pool at the park, as well as playgrounds for kids, and
Make friends with the elephants at Lilayi Lodge
One of my favorite things to do in Lusaka in terms of animals was visit the Lilayi Elephant Nursery. The nursery is located in the same grounds as Lilayi Lodge, which is about 35 km outside of Lusaka.
Lilayi Elephant Nursery is managed by the Game Rangers International, who help rehabilitate the rescued baby elephants. Many of these elephants were orphaned due to poaching, and will stay at nursery near Lilayi Lodge for three years. At that point, they will be transferred to another rehabilitation center until they are fifteen years old. Once the elephants turn fifteen, they are reintroduced back into the bush.
The elephants at Lilayi Lodge spend most of their time roaming the reserve, which is pretty big and has plenty of trees and brush to make the elephants feel like they’re in the bush. Every day between 11:30am to 1pm, the elephants are brought to the viewing area so that visitors can see them eat and play. The entrance fee is 50 kwacha for adults, and 20 kwacha for children aged 12 and older.
Experiencing things to do in Lusaka with your kids
There are so many fun things to do in Lusaka! The ones I listed here are just the tip of the iceberg.
I didn’t get to come to Lusaka with my kids, but I wished that I had because I think they would have had a blast all the things to do in Lusaka. The city is a great introduction to seeing what life in Africa is all about. If you’re planning a trip to Zambia, consider spending a few days in Lusaka. You won’t be disappointed!
Have you been to Zambia? What’s on your list of things to do in Lusaka? Share them in the comments!
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