Zambia

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Flag of Zambia Zambia
Information
Language: English
Capital: Lusaka
Population: 13,000,000
Currency: Zambian kwacha
Hitchability: <rating country='zm' />
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<map lat='-13.5' lng='28.2' zoom='5' view='0' float='right' />


Hitchhiking is common in Zambia. The people of Zambia are wonderful, friendly, and incredibly inquisitive about foreigners. With a lot of patience and kindness, Zambia is a great and relatively safe place to hitchhike. However, as a white foreigner you might be expected to pay for rides. Hitchhiking for locals works along the following unwritten rules. Touts stand around truck lay-bys finding passengers for passing trucks and cars. It's an unofficial job for them, and they can get a little rowdy and disagreeable when looking for passengers and negotiating the fees. They negotiate a fee with the passenger based on the destination, and then the truck / car driver who stops pays the tout the fee he agreed with the passenger. The driver will then charge the passenger a fee which will cover what he paid the tout and add on an extra amount for himself.

If you are kind to the 'Touts', you can explain to them that you don't really want help, as being a 'misungu' gives you better luck. This strategy works well, so long as you are still willing to pay them a little, and help other passengers (local Zambians) to get rides as well, when (if) passing cars stop. Another trick is to stop at police stops, and speak with them. If they like you, and you are willing to spend some time chatting, they will help you get rides (and maybe even offer you some delicious Nshima).

Note that in Zambia, cars and trucks are flagged using an up-and-down waving of the arm (like we all did as kids when we put our hand out of a moving car and let the wind lift our hand up and down). In general, there are three classes of vehicles: private/government transportation (nice cars), public transportation (usually minibuses or canter (flatbed) trucks), and semis.

Private and government vehicles will sometimes stop for foreigners (especially white people - 'Misungus'). You may or may not be expected to pay, and usually this is best negotiated at the beginning. Unlike many other places, a car stopping does NOT mean that you will get a ride, and usually a little bit of local language (Muli Shani Mukwai - How are you, sir/madam in Icibemba, the most widely spoken language in Zambia) can go a long way. In general, these vehicles are the fastest and safest method of travel.

Public transportation will stop for you, but you will ALWAYS be expected to pay - regardless of what the conductor tells you when you get on. Also, recognize that unless you are the absolute last passenger that could possibly fit in the transport, you are likely to wait and/or stop many, many times until the vehicle is full. If you are stuck in this situation, it is best to ask other passengers or people you are waiting with what a fair price is, as you will certainly be pegged as a foreigner and get the 'misungu price'.

From the conversations Thumbingmyway had with truck drivers in Zambia, they earn roughly between $150 to $180 per month. Sometimes their wages are even less than $150 per month, as they get paid more when carrying a load i.e. busy transporting and not waiting at the depot. I'm not sure whether this is the general way truckers are paid, or if it was just the norm for the companies that employed the drivers that gave me lifts. At any rate, this is what they must support their families on, and as one confided to me, this is why they all supplement their income by charging hitchhiking passengers. A lot of this money gets taken away from them by the police who extract a "fee" at check-points along the road, knowing that the truckers are carrying these extra passengers, and therefore extra cash too.

If your personal hitch-hiking philosophy means not paying the truckers this fee, be prepared to stand on the side of the road and wait, sometimes up to 3 hours or more for a ride that will accept you. The companies the truckers work for already pay the fuel costs, so in theory it doesn't cost them to give you a ride. They will try to get $10 out you on average for distances greater or less than 500km.

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