The official currency of Zambia is the Zambian kwacha (ZMK), which fluctuates fairly regularly. As of January 2013, Zambia rebased the currency by dividing it by 1000.
The denominations of kwacha banknotes are K100, K50, K20, K10 and K2Coins are in denominations of K1 and 50, 10 and 5 Ngwee.
Currency Rules in Zambia
By law, payments within Zambia can only be made in Kwacha, even if the price is stated in U.S. dollars, but some establishments still accept U.S. dollars. Therefore, it is always best to enter the country with the necessary amount of kwachas for your trip, or else carry U.S. dollars or pounds sterling which can always be exchanged.
There is no limit on the importation of foreign currency, provided it is declared on arrival using a foreign exchange declaration form.
Currency Exchange in Zambia
It is preferable to use only the services of a designated bureau de change and to keep up to date with the most recent exchange rate.
At most border posts in southern Africa, you can exchange dollars at the border for local currency, but you will not get a favorable exchange rate and are likely to encounter informal money changers. Be very wary of scammers, counterfeit bills and paper stuffers.
The best currencies to bring to Zambia (in order of preference) are the U.S. dollar, British pound, South African rand and euro; the currencies of most neighboring countries have no value in Zambia, except at the relevant borders. The exception is the Botswana pula, which can also be exchanged in Lusaka.
It is easy to find currency exchange offices – almost always called bureaux de change – in all cities and large towns. Exchange rates are not much better than those of banks.
There is no black market. You can get a few more kwacha by exchanging money on the street, but it is illegal and there is the possibility of being ripped off, robbed or set up. Money changers at the borders are more or less legitimate, but they may take (slight) advantage of your ignorance of current exchange rates. If you can’t change cash at a bank or exchange office, try a hotel or a store.
Paying and withdrawing money in Zambia banks
Bank hours of operation: Monday to Friday, 8:15 am to 3:30 pm. Saturdays, 8:15am to 11:30am.
Most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and larger stores accept credit cards, and larger banks usually advance local currency against a credit card.
ATMs are available in Lusaka, Livingstone and other major Zambian cities. Most banks have ATMs that accept Visa cards for cash payment. Visa is frequently more accepted than MasterCard or American Express.
Traveler’s checks are widely accepted, although they are no longer commonly used. To avoid additional exchange charges, travelers are advised to carry traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars, euros or pounds.
Although most prices are fixed in Zambia, there are some cases where they are negotiable.
Cabs are not metered, so you have to haggle over the price offered. For those staying in local guesthouses, you can also try to get a reduced price, especially if you spend several nights.