When traveling through Zambia or Africa in general, it is highly recommended to rent a car. This will make your journey so much easier, as public transport will only bring you to limited destinations. Besides, the freedom that you have with your own vehicle is everything you need on a vacation! When we were traveling through Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique, it was pretty easy to rent a car as you will find those big rental companies like Sixt straight at the airport. However, in Zambia, this is not the case. Nonetheless, we managed to rent a very good car from a very good rental company. If you want to know where to rent a car in Zambia, and some tips and tricks about driving in this beautiful country, please continue reading!
How are the roads in Zambia?
There are basically 5 highways in Zambia, called the T1, T2, T3, T4, and the T5. These are the main roads that will lead you to the surrounding countries.
- The T1 goes from Zimbabwe through Livingstone to the center of Zambia. At the end of the highway, it connects to the T2.
- The T2 goes from the southern part of Zambia (close to Siavonga), all the way up to Tanzania.
- The T3 goes from Congo through the Copperbelt province and connects to the T2.
- The T4 goes from Lusaka to Chipata (close to the border of Malawi).
- The T5 will lead you through the northern part of the Copperbelt and will also take you to Congo.
Besides these main roads, there are many other roads that lead to the smaller places in Zambia. In general the main roads are very good, as Zambia is investing in the infrastructure. This process is still going on, meaning that you will find some roads thats are closed. However, the given off road options are quite oke. Still it is very important to always drive carefully as you will find some potholes here and there and some speed bumps.
Is it safe to drive by yourself in Zambia, without any knowledge about the roads/country?
Yes. We felt very safe to drive in this country as long as you drive carefully and donʼt speed to much. If Google Maps lets you down, and you find yourself lost somewhere… Donʼt worry, there is always somebody to help you out. Thatʼs one of the biggest proʼs when going to Zambia; the people are so friendly and will go above and beyond to help you. We donʼt recommend to drive in the dark. Just simply because you will not find streetlights on every road, and there is a chance youʼll bump into a wild animal. If youʼre driving a long distance, make sure you will leave in time, so youʼll arrive before sunset.
Where to rent a car in Zambia?
In Zambia you donʼt find the earlier mentioned big rental companies. Here, it is very common to rent cars from persons that you might know. If you visit Zambia as a tourist, this can be a bit difficult. Where would you find anybody that rents out cars? Besides, you want to make sure that the vehicle is fully covered by an insurance. We did some research on where we we wanted to rent a car, and found out about a company called: FairCar Hires. Honestly, we were very happy to find out about this company. FairCare Hire is such an easy-going car rental company. The whole procedure, from picking up the car, the communication, and the hand over, went very smoothly. By the end of our rental period, we brought the car back and we noticed that the end-inspection was very easy. We made some scratches here and there, but that was not a problem at all as they will bring every rented car back to the service company to do a full check. So, we received back the deposit (minus a speed-fine… yes, our tips and tricks are based on true experiences ;-). FairCar Hire is located close to East Park Mall, and they offer all sorts of cars. From smaller cars, to camping cars, to land cruisers. If you want to explore Zambia overland, then we recommend you to rent a 4×4 Land Cruiser, as this car will take you to the most beautiful places without giving you any troubles on the off-roads.
Tips and Tricks:
1. Take enough water with you.
This goes for anything, no matter where you go to, always bring enough water with you!
2. Fill up your tank, at every possible station.
If you wish to go to some smaller places in Zambia, we recommend to always fill up your tank as much as you can. There are quite some filling stations, however, when going to smaller villages/places it could be difficult to fill up your tank. Sometimes, the filling stations are empty and then it could be the case you need to wait for a day to fill up your tank again.
3. Start off driving as early as you can.
Make sure you arrive at your next destination before sunset. This is not only the safest way to travel, but it also allows you to enjoy your next destination a bit longer.
4. Treat your car on a spa day 😉
Letʼs be honest, the car will be your best friend on your holiday. You will find many carwashes along the way, a full car wash (inside and out) will cost you about 30 – 40 Kwacha which is about 3$. It will take about 45 minutes and your car will be ready to continue the ride.
5. Watch out for speed bumps!
You will find many speed bumps on the road, and they are not indicated by a different color. Sometimes it is quite hard to see them. The best thing to do: donʼt overspeed so you will be in time to pass a bump without being shaken-up.
6. Bring a map with you.
It may sound a bit old-school, but a hard-copy map will definitely help you. This is because Google Maps doesnʼt know all the roads in Zambia. Sometimes Google guides you into directions that are completely wrong. So if you find yourself in an area and it is hard to decide if you are driving on an actual road, or just through the wildereness… it could be the case that Google Maps was fooling you (we experienced this several times).