Cash and Payments in Zambia
The currency in Zambia is the Kwacha (K). Official regulations state that all payments within the country must be made in kwacha, but US dollars are widely accepted by many of the larger hotels, lodges and tour operators. Indeed, prices for visas at the border, import taxes, and national park fees are all quoted in US dollars, which confuses the matter even more.
If you’re on an all-inclusive Zambia safari holiday most expenses will be taken care of anyway, and any tips or sundries can be paid for in dollars. If you’re self-driving, then carry enough cash in both currencies. Purchasing fuel is almost always a cash-only transaction, and often only payable in kwacha.
Credit and debit cards (Visa more so than MasterCard) are accepted at prominent stores, major supermarkets and large hotels, although these facilities become significantly less common when you leave Lusaka and Livingstone.
Similarly, ATMs are widespread in urban centers but increasingly less frequent (and less reliable) in the country’s interior. Very few places accept travelers’ cheques or American Express, so it’s best to avoid those two options entirely.
As with most African countries, cash is king, and if you’re carrying US dollars, smaller denominations are preferable ($1, $5, $10, and $20 bills). Larger notes are the most commonly forged, and, as a result, vendors are suspicious of them.
Be sure to inform your bank of your travel plans so that your card is not blocked due to suspected fraud. If you’re bringing cash into Zambia, any amount over $5000 must be declared on arrival.