The Zambian Currency
The currency in Zambia is the Kwacha it was re-based in January 2013, this process involved removing 3 zeros from the currency and of course issuing new notes and coins. At time of writing (September 2021) the Dollar to the Kwacha is approximately US$1 = ZMW 17.
Hard currency is accepted in most tourist facilities so for those booked on fully inclusive safari holidays it is not usually necessary to purchase any local currency. For those that do want or need some Zambian Kwacha you can change money at banks or in bureaus but the easiest way of obtaining local currency would be from cash-point machines which can be found in all major airports and in urban centers throughout the country.
I recommend that you bring a small amount of cash US Dollars with you as a “back-up” also if you are buying your visa on entry to Zambia this will be charged in US$. Be sure to bring notes of varying denominations since change is often a problem in Africa and all notes must have “large heads” – the old series notes with small heads are no longer accepted anywhere in Zambia.
Credit cards are accepted in many places but it is safer not to rely on any single card to get you through Africa. Authorization usually needs to be obtained for larger purchases and this is sometimes difficult. Visa is the easiest card to use in Zambia, followed by Mastercard and American Express.
When staying in a hotel or camp or when eating in a restaurant in Zambia, it is a statutory requirement for a 10% service charge to be added to your bill (or, more usually, incorporated within it). This is passed onto the staff and is designed to replace the optional gratuity.
Having said this, it is customary to tip staff a small amount if you feel the service has been up to scratch. In a hotel restaurant or bar this would usually not exceed 10%.
Whilst staying in safari camps one is not expected to tip staff during the course of your stay but rather to leave something with the camp manager at the end.
As a guideline whilst staying in camps I advise something in the region of $10 per guest per day but of course this is entirely discretionary. If you have had a particular guide looking after you then it would be customary to give him a small gratuity separately in order to show your appreciation but, as ever, this should only be given on merit.