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The Best Time to Visit Zambia in 2023 | When to Go

The Best Time to Visit Zambia in 2023 | When to Go

From authentic African safari experiences, the iconic Victoria Falls, and national parks to the unusual cuisine, welcoming locals, and unspoiled places in the wilderness, visiting Zambia is an adventure like no other!

However, you wouldn’t want to plan your journey and come across large crowds, find unpleasant weather, or find most campsites closed.

That’s why we’ll walk you through the best time to visit Zambia, the worst times to visit, and when you could avoid crowds, as well as give you some tips about how you can go easy on your wallet.

Let’s dive straight in and get you ready for this epic African quest!

The Best Time to Visit Zambia

Picturesque sunset over the small huts near camp Kalomo during the best time to visit Zambia

Marek Poplawski/Shutterstock

The prime time to visit Zambia is anytime from June through October during its dry season. In June, Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, sees temperatures fluctuating between 48°F and 77°F.

In July, the situation is similar — they range between 47°F and 77°F. With June and July being the coldest months, early mornings and late nights get quite chilly — nothing that layered clothing can’t solve.

July officially marks the beginning of Zambia’s peak safari season, so tourist numbers jack up, prices increase, and crowds are here to stay, however, that’s for a reason.

As the super lush vegetation recedes, encountering any of the Big Five on your safari — lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard, and elephant — is much more likely. In August, temperatures are slowly on the rise, usually between 51°F and 82°F.

September weather sees temperatures between 59°F and 87°F. In October, expect temperatures between 63°F and 90°F.

August is the best month to visit Zambia’s national parks alongside Victoria Falls. Walking safaris are a fantastic August activity too, while the temperatures still haven’t hit their absolute highs.

If you can’t face the Zambian heat but you happen to visit in October, note that walking safaris and game drivers are limited to early mornings and evenings, so you should be fine.

It almost never rains from June to October, hence the season’s name. In Zambia’s dry season, the sun shines regularly.

Cheapest Time to Visit Zambia

Cost-conscious travelers should consider going to Zambia in April or May. Prices go down in these two months, and crowds aren’t as abundant as they are during Zambia’s peak season.

You also stand a better chance at finding attractive airfare deals and lodging options than if you would go in some later month. To reduce your Zambia costs even further, try finding an all-inclusive resort.

Another money-saving tip would be to book a safari tour via your lodging (some offer such discounts). Also, look for safari operators that provide guests with attractive deals if they combine several tours — it’s the perfect way to get a more-or-less affordable safari experience.

Certain companies even go so far as to offer free (or sometimes heavily discounted) airfare tickets between different Zambia areas.

When it comes to the weather these months, April marks the end of the rainy season, with temperatures fluctuating between 58°F and 81°F. May visitors should get ready for temperatures ranging between 52°F and 79°F.

May sees (almost) zero rainy days as well. What makes this month so great for visiting is that camps begin to open up again, however, the ground is still slippery, which means walking safaris can be slightly challenging.

Also, overflowing streams and rivers may render areas inaccessible. Victoria Falls is also experiencing its highest level of water flow, so seeing the falls from the air may be wiser. They’re still a sight to behold!  

Least Busy Time to Visit Zambia

Idyllic view of Victoria Falls taken during the least busy time to visit Zambia, featuring a rainbow over the empty walking path next to a giant cliff overlooking the falls

Abdelrahman Hassanein/Shutterstock

You’ll find that the least busy time to visit Zambia is in November (the shoulder season).

While many bush camps close this month, and accommodations are fewer, as not many people visit, you’ll be lucky enough to have most places to yourself. Being a shoulder season, November allows for intimate wildlife viewing and peaceful lodges.

In November, the temperatures range between 66°F and 88°F. On average, there are eight rainy days (3.1 inches). It’s worth mentioning that the further north you go, the earlier the rainfall arrives.

To take advantage of the remaining dry weather, visit parks such as the South Luangwa National Park or the Lower Zambezi instead.

That said, even when the rainy season begins, chances are you’ll experience sporadic rainfall in November, so your Zambia itinerary and plans shouldn’t be heavily affected.

What makes November such a spectacular month to visit is that those who want to witness the stunning wildebeest migration at Liuwa Plain should do so precisely in late November (December is also fine).

Being home to the second largest migration of this kind on the continent, Liuwa Plain becomes photographer’s heaven with hundreds of thousands of predators moving along.

If you’ve ever dreamed about a special wildlife encounter, now’s your chance! Finally, rain paves the way for a fantastic bird-watching season ahead, so not all’s lost in Zambia’s shoulder season.

Worst Time to Visit Zambia

The worst time to go to Zambia is during the December–April period, also known as the rainy season.

In this period, rainy afternoons and seemingly out-of-nowhere thunderstorms are more than common. It might just be what ruins your outdoor activity, a day in the park, or your planned safari experience.

The rainy season goes hand in hand with unbearable humidity that can make your Zambia trip intolerable. In December, temperatures hover around 84°F during the day and around 64°F at night.

January visitors should expect temperatures between 65°F and 82°F. February sees an average high of 83°F and an average low of 64°F.

As January and February mark the peak of Zambia’s rainy season. Many camps close, but if you decide to visit in this period, you may find some bargains at those that remain open.

In March, travelers should get ready for temperatures between 63°F and 82°F. Bird-watching is a great March activity. We also recommend visiting Victoria Falls, as its flow levels increase after heavy rainfall.

Also, as a result of the constant rain, the vegetation not only becomes greener but also denser. Do note that this may be an obstacle to seeing any wildlife on your tours.

April may surprise travelers with showers, but the weather is generally slowly drying up. Either way, there are still attractions in this period as well.

For instance, the Kuomboka festival takes place in April, but don’t plan your trip precisely around it — you may be unpleasantly surprised, as some years the festival gets moved to March or gets called off as a result of low river levels.

Finally, the combination of rain and humid weather is perfect for attracting unwanted guests, such as mosquitos.

As we said, going to Zambia in the rainy season isn’t the best idea, as it’s more than likely that some of your plans (if not most) will fall through. Still, that doesn’t mean Zambia isn’t worth visiting or that you won’t have an awesome time there.

Things to Consider

Elephants seen in a watering hole at dusk with a giant mountain in the background in Lower Zambezi National Park during the least busy time to visit Zambia

Radek Borovka/Shutterstock

Here’s everything you need to know for a smooth Zambia journey:

  • Being a former British colony, English is spoken all throughout Zambia, but learning a few local words, depending on the region you’re visiting, wouldn’t hurt. There are more than 70 languages spoken in the country.
  • Travelers are required to have passports with a validation date longer than six months from their departure date.
  • Tipping is usually at the traveler’s discretion. Certain establishments are known to add a service charge to people’s bills.
  • Be careful with street food. Use common sense and opt for the busiest stall, as that’s where food will be the freshest.
  • As Zambia has more or less a conservative dress code, women travelers should pack longer skirts (knee-length is also acceptable) when walking around any of the towns.
  • Don’t get too close to the wildlife — no matter how “safe” it might feel to you at any given moment.
  • For an enjoyable safari experience, pack loose-fitting apparel such as linen or cotton. Bring a jacket for the early mornings or late nights. Comfy shoes are a must, as walking safari is one of Zambia’s best experiences.
  • Avoid wearing dark colors on game drives, as they attract tsetse flies, which reminds us — bring insect repellent.
  • Pack anti-malaria medicine too, as Zambia is a malaria-prone area.
  • Place a mosquito net over your bed at night. Nets aren’t magical and can’t save you, especially considering that most of your trip you’ll be in nature, but it doesn’t hurt to have them.
  • Use common sense when wandering town streets and store your belongings in a safe place. For instance, if you carry a camera with you, put it in a backpack.
  • Vehicle and home break-ins, pickpocketing, bag snatching, and other petty crimes are common in Zambia. Avoid walking alone, especially after dark. If you’re out in a bar and aren’t sure if your drink has been messed with, leave it. Rape drugs are a thing in Lusaka-based bars.
  • Same-sex sexual activities are considered illegal in Zambia, so if you identify with this, keep a low profile during your stay.
  • Photographing military establishments is prohibited.
  • Spontaneous demonstrations aren’t unheard of. Always keep track of recent media announcements and follow local advice.
  • Get travel insurance.

 Frequently Asked Questions

Many people in a small village called Livingstone City pictured during the best time to visit Zambia

LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA – OCTOBER 9, 2012 – People in the market in Livingstone City in Zambia/Milosk50/Shutterstock

Which countries surround Zambia?

Zambia has several neighboring countries including: Malawi to the east, Tanzania to the Northeast, Angola to the west, Botswana and Zimbabwe to the south, Mozambique to the southeast, Namibia to the southeast, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the north.

Is it expensive to visit Zambia?

Like every other place, the costs of visiting Zambia largely depend on one’s travel style, preferences, intended activities, and the places one wants to visit.

For instance, if you’re planning on visiting most parks and staying in luxury safari lodges, then the trip can get pricey. On the other hand, if you’re using local buses, camping, or staying in affordable rest houses, average money spending should suffice.

To help you plan your Zambia travel expenses even better, here’s what you should expect based on your travel style:

  • ZMW6,122 ($289; for people on a budget);
  • ZMW16,015 ($756; for those anticipating medium expenditure);
  • ZMW45,969 ($2170; for travelers on the lookout for a luxurious Zambia stay).

While Zambia’s official currency is the Zambian Kwacha (ZMW), US dollars are accepted in most places (only bring notes printed from 2013 onward).

Now is probably the right time to say that although there are many ATMs in all Zambian regions, many often run out of cash or aren’t working. Do note that the above-mentioned figures are approximations and subject to change due to currency fluctuation.

Lastly, traveling as a family of three or four people often translates into discounts or nice deals — for instance, children’s tickets are always cheaper.

What are common hazards in Zambia?

With the country’s poor infrastructure, Zambia is prone to a plethora of natural hazards.

Here are the hazard levels for each one of them:

  • River floods (high)
  • Urban floods (high)
  • Volcano (high)
  • Wildfires (high)
  • Earthquakes (medium)
  • Water scarcity (medium)
  • Extreme heat (medium)
  • Landslide (low)
  • Cyclone (low)

How do you get around in Zambia?

There are several ways to get around Zambia. That said, all require some level of caution. Here are our top tips for getting from one place to another in Zambia in a safe manner:

  • If you use taxis, make sure they’re registered and arranged through your accommodation (if applicable). Don’t randomly stop taxis on the street.
  • Avoid any off-road travel.
  • Zambia has no reliable public transport. Long-distance buses aren’t recommended as they’re overloaded most of the time and, unfortunately, poorly maintained.
  • The country’s rail service is quite limited.  
  • Riverboats appear adventurous, but they can be dangerous, as they’re overloaded like the buses, and there’s often a lack of lifesaving equipment.
  • If you decide to drive, make sure to get acquainted with local practices and relevant traffic laws. Check if the vehicle has emergency triangles, and avoid driving in suspicious areas, especially during the night.

Finally, note that traffic accidents are far more common than people realize, especially on the Great East Road in Lusaka, so whichever transportation option you pick, exercise some degree of caution.

What is popular food in Zambia?

Zambian cuisine has a myriad of dishes worth trying. Here are the most popular ones:

  • Nshima, a thick porridge
  • Bushmeat, or game meat, which may include buffalo, porcupine, impala, or kudu
  • Ifinkubala, a favorite among locals, especially in the northern part of Zambia
  • Dry fish (it’s tastier than how it sounds, we promise!)
  • Chikanda, a meat-like special known as “African Polony”
  • Kapenta, dry sardines
  • Samp, which may be eaten in numerous ways, with fresh/sour milk, roasted peanuts, or sugar
  • Kandolo, sweet potatoes
  • Tente, a well-known wild mushroom

What is the popular drink in Zambia?

A mildly fermented drink, Ibwatu or Munkoyo, is derived from pounded roots combined with maize. You can drink the mixture right after making it or allow it to ferment for a few days and consume it afterward. Locals often refer to this drink as “sweet beer.”

Can you drink the water in Zambia?

It depends on the location. For instance, most towns have water that’s purified and safe to drink. However, more remote regions require it to be boiled first. The exception is if you’re staying at hotels, which already have boiled water ready.

Of course, you can always buy bottled water in major towns. If you’re staying in a camp, make sure to ask whether the borehole water is for consumption. Whenever in doubt, opt for bottled water. Better to be safe than sorry!

What are five facts about Zambia?

Here are five exciting facts about Zambia:

  1. Copper is Zambia’s main export.
  2. Zambia is home to one of Africa’s largest wetlands.
  3. Victoria Falls’ traditional name is “Mosi-oa-Tunya,” which translates into “Smoke that Thunders” (we dare say the falls definitely live up to the name!).
  4. Zambia got its name after the fourth biggest African river (the Zambezi river), following the Nile, Congo, and Niger rivers.
  5. In Zambia, you can find the “Big Five” (a term referring to the most difficult animals one can hunt on foot in Africa and includes lions, elephants, leopards, rhinoceros, as well as Cape buffalos).

How many days should you spend in Zambia?

This is a difficult question, as the answer largely depends on what you hope to get out of the journey. How many national parks do you want to see? Is a safari experience on your list? What areas would you like to visit?

Contemplating such questions can help you organize your itinerary in the best possible way. That said, we do have some suggestions to help you out.

In general, it’s perfect if you could make a 10-day trip, but staying for eight or even six days if you want to keep things short and sweet should be enough for you to experience the main activities and see the major areas.

Of course, we’d recommend sticking with a 10-day plan so that you can fully explore various lodges and camps, safari styles, cuisine, interaction with locals, and wildlife viewing, and completely forget the reality that awaits you once your Zambian adventure is over.

Which is better to visit: Zambia or Zimbabwe?

While both Zambia and Zimbabwe are absolutely worth visiting, each country is geared toward different kinds of travelers. Zambia is more for travelers who enjoy sheer nature and spending time in camps.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe offers much more established lodges and hotel accommodations, shopping areas, and it’s a better bird-watching destination.

Over to You — Book Your Trip Today!

  • The best time to visit Zambia is during the country’s dry season — anytime from June through October. Travelers get to enjoy the safari peak season, there’s a lot to see and do, and the weather supports all kinds of activities.
  • Going to Zambia while sticking to a budget is best done in April or May. Not only does going during this period save you some money, but it also allows you to enjoy most activities and African experiences without large crowds surrounding you!
  • The least busy time to go to Zambia is during the country’s shoulder season – preferably in November. The month is ideal for travelers seeking to embrace everything this African country has to offer in solitude.
  • The worst time to visit Zambia is in the rainy season — December–April. Heavy rainfall may bring many of your activities to a halt, and the humidity will make you question why you decided to visit Zambia in the first place.

While the weather appears to be key in deciding when to visit Zambia, although important, it’s never quite guaranteed.

That said, there’s something spectacular to see and do in all months, so you’re bound to have an awesome stay, regardless of when you decide to go. Happy travels!