Women should avoid going to bars alone. Furthermore, men should avoid purchasing drinks for Zambian women they meet casually in bars; this is an invitation to spend the night.
There is a 10PM curfew throughout most of the country. Avoid being found on the street after 10PM or risk being arrested.
As the Kwacha has been declining, it often takes fistfulls of cash to purchase items. Be careful about flashing money.
While it's possible to get a good exchange rate from an individual money-changer on the street although you really should use banks if you can, you should avoid changing money with groups of men. They are likely running a scam.
Generally, Zambians are friendly people. However — as with any location — be careful about walking at night, especially if you've been drinking. There are few streetlights, and many of the locals are very poor.
Carjacking is also a potential risk while driving after dark.
Many places of accommodation have electric fences, gates and guards for added security. You can check before booking.
Corruption has become endemic in Zambia under president Rupiah Banda. Don't expect the police to be of any substantial assistance to you. If you need to log a report for insurance purposes, you can expect to have pay to do so. If you make an accusation or indicate a suspicion with a local, the person you lodge the complaint against may be interrogated and beaten by the police. It is yet to be seen whether this situation improves under new president Michael Sata.
Drinking tap water in the cities is potentially risky, unless either a you have a strong stomach, or b you are at a restaurant or hotel that caters to foreigners. If neither of these conditions apply to you, you should probably stick with the bottled stuff.
The HIV infection rate among adults was estimated to be 16.5% in 2003. Do not have unprotected sex.
Zambia is a highly malarial country. Especially at dusk, you should make every effort to cover exposed skin with clothing or insect repellent. In addition, using malarial prophylaxis in highly recommended.
In practice, yellow fever is not a problem in Zambia anymore, except perhaps in the extreme west along the Congolese borders. However, many countries will insist on a yellow fever vaccination certificate if they find out you've been to Zambia, so it's best to get a jab.
Internet cafes are springing up in Zambia, but again, connections can be sporadic and very slow. Moreover, because constant electricity is not a guarantee, some Internet cafes operate backup generators, which can be extremely costly. Be prepared to see Internet cafe charges as high as 25 cents per minute. Some hotels might offer Internet connections to their guests.
The country code for Zambia is "260." The city code for Lusaka is "211". For the city code for other towns check the directory. However, phone service both within Zambia and into Zambia is very hit-or-miss. In large cities, you are more likely to get regular, dependable phone service, but it is by no means a guarantee. The farther you travel from Lusaka, the less likely you are to maintain a good connection. International calling rates can be as high as $3 per minute.
Cell phones have been booming in recent years, and Zambia has a highly competitive market with three main operators: airtel 0976,0977,0979, Cell Z 0955 and MTN 0966,0967. Generally speaking, airtel has the largest network, while Cell Z is the cheapest. You can pick up a local SIM card for as little as 5,000K $1. Prepaid time is sold in "units" corresponding to dollars: figure on 0.4 units for an SMS or up to 1 unit/minute for calls, although as always the precise tariffs are bewilderingly complex. If you plan on roaming with your non-Zambian SIM, check first to see if your home operator has made any roaming agreements; Zambia is usually not on the top of their list. Also note that the roaming prices are very high and coverage in rural areas can be spotty.
Booths labeled "public telephone" these days consist, more often than not, of a guy renting out his cellphone. Typical rates are 5000K/min $1 for domestic and 15000K/min $3 for international calls.
Zambians follow a strict patriarchal society — men are afforded more respect than women, and older men are respected more than younger men. However, you might find that a white person, of any gender or age, is granted the most respect of all. A holdover from colonial times, this might make a traveler uncomfortable, but this is largely a Zambian's way of being courteous. Accept their hospitality.
Zambians are a curious people. To a Western mindset, this might be interpreted as unnecessarily staring at you or talking about you in front of you. Be prepared to be greeted by kids yelling mzungu, mzungu! literally, white man and answer lots of questions about yourself.
Zambians love to shake hands, and you should oblige them. However, Zambians often like to hold hands for the duration of a conversation. This should not be interpreted as anything sexual; they are merely trying to "connect" with you. If you feel uncomfortable, simply pull your hand away. If you wish to be courteous or show respect then holding your right wrist or elbow with your left hand as you shake is acceptable. Do not expect a firm handshake as this is considered agressive, likewise do not be too firm in yours.
Eye contact is also considered aggressive and disrespectful, you can make eye contact but do not hold it, slide your eyes away, but do not face away.
Women should not wear shorts or mini-skirts, especially as they travel away from Lusaka. Thighs, to Zambian men, are huge turn-ons. Low-cut tops, however, while discouraged, are not nearly as provocative.
Pointing with the index finger should not be done, it is considered vulgar.
Finally, when meeting a Zambian — even to ask a question — you should always say hello and ask how they are. Properly greeting a Zambian is very important. They are uncomfortable with the Western notion of simply "getting to the point." Enquiries about children are generally welcome and are a good way to break the ice.