There is no shortage of shops in Livingstone. You will get anything you want or need, though you might have to visit several shops. Imported gourmet items are expensive and harder to come by. Livingstone is full of tireless vendors - for example, people selling curios, boys selling cold drinks, women and young girls selling fabrics and jewellery. You could quite easily exhaust all your money, but beware - this is a popular tourist spot so prices are a bit higher than in other places and bargaining is the norm.
In Livingstone, you could buy beautiful handmade items such as baskets, wood carvings and chitenges (fabrics with colourful prints). A person who can bargain well can strike gold.
For hints and tips on the best places to shop, see the Livingstone shopping guide below. We also have some general information for shopping in Zambia, which offers some great ideas for souvenir shopping across the country. After a day of sightseeing and shopping, sit down and enjoy a meal at one of the popular Livingstones restaurants.
If you have tried one of the adventure sports such as bungee jumping or rafting on the Zambezi, you must buy a T-shirt, which is a token of honour in Africa and a wonderful way of telling people about your achievement. You could also purchase your photos or videos of the adventure activities, but check out the quality before buying. This is possible with bungee jumping and though the videos are not of professional quality, you will be able to show your folks back home what you tried here, along with some interesting background music!
Locally made handicrafts, such as baskets and carvings, are favourites among tourists. There is a pretty good selection at the curio stall near the border to Victoria Falls but better bargains are available at places away from tourist areas, such as some roadside stalls or stores in Lusaka. The best place to shop for curios is the Kabwata Cultural Centre.
In Zambia, as a generic thumb rule, assume that the first price quoted by shopkeepers is at least double the actual worth of the item. Do not be afraid to bargain - the locals do it too - but at the same time, do not get carried away by the thought of saving a few bucks. The majority of shopkeepers publicise fixed rates and are not willing to bargain; however, this is not standard. In contrast, a majority of ad hoc salespersons such as roadside vendors and taxi drivers, who do not advertise their rates, are always willing to negotiate.
Giving tips is not necessary, but is often expected. At one point in time, it was considered to be illegal. However, today, service providers like porters expect around 50 cents per piece of luggage and restaurants usually add a 10% service charge on the bill or expect a tip of an equivalent amount.
Finally, do not fight shy of asking for your mbasela (pronounced em-buh-say-la) from shopkeepers when you purchase several items - it is the Zambian practice of giving away a freebie when more than one article is purchased.
Compared to its neighbouring countries, Zambia is quite expensive. A budget traveller looking for basics will spend a minimum of US $40 per day for a bed and three square meals. The cost of transportation in Livingstone is also relatively expensive due to the long distances involved. Foreign currencies are difficult to exchange/use in Zambia as compared to other developing nations. Also, very often, you will be paying the same price as in America for an item.
On the other hand, all your needs can be taken care of for US $200 or above per day if you opt for the all-inclusive safari lodges or five-star hotels in Livingstone. Looking for a middle path between these two extremes can be tedious but it pays to keep searching. There are also several safari operators who offer 'Do-It-Yourself' camping options for anything between US $5 and US $95 or more.
Safaris in Livingstone, Zambia are amongst the best in Africa. They have the best guides in Africa and offer the most excellent viewing experiences. The National Parks in Zambia are not commercialised like in other countries such as Kenya or South Africa. Here, you will not see Land Cruisers or the absurd 'zebra-striped game viewing buses' like in other parks.
Livingstone has a number of major banks and exchange bureaus spread across town. You will also find several ad hoc 'money changers' at the border or near 'Eat Rite' who are best avoided unless you are desperate for money or are savvy enough. They somehow manage to take advantage of tourists by short-changing them.
You could also exchange money at various Livingstone hotels and lodges. Although they do not give favourable exchange rates, this is the most convenient method. The Barclay's Bank ATM doesn't always have money when you need it.
The main banks in Livingstone are located parallel to the main road, near the post office. Most of them are open from Monday to Friday between 8 am and 2 pm but you must be there early if you want to avoid standing in long queues.
The Zambian currency (ZMK) is the Kwacha, which means 'sunrise'. It was thus named to celebrate the independence of Zambia. The Kwacha was linked to the US Dollar and, therefore, conversion was easy. However, in the late 1990s, the Kwacha devalued rapidly after being floated independently in the market. From mid-2005, due to international debt-relief work and rise in prices of cooper, the Kwacha has again appreciated in value quickly. Today, the Kwacha is at 1$ = 4000ZMK and 1EURO = 5300ZMK. Although it is illegal to use dollars, it is commonly used to buy goods of a greater value. What's more, it is accepted by everyone.
If you bring US dollars into Zambia, then only the bigger currency denominations and the newer notes will be accepted by the banks and exchange bureaus. If you are lucky, you could exchange the smaller denomination notes in Livingstone town but not at the banks. The US $50 and US $100 notes are best for exchanging - for smaller denominations you will get 5-10% less at the exchange bureaus. Banks and bureaus will only exchange $1,000 per person per day.
Exchanging Euros is even more difficult and bureaus give 25% less than the market rate. International banks exchange Euros but with a commission charge. Exchange rates change overnight so watch out for them; they can fluctuate up to 3-5% everyday.
The locals refer to 1000K as a 'pin'. So, if you want to sound like a native, you can say 'ten pin' for 10,000K. In the 1990s, when the Kwacha devalued rapidly, banks did not have sufficient time to produce newer notes of bigger denominations. Hence, Zambians had to often 'pin together' or 'bundle up' a number of smaller denomination notes to buy things. Today, notes are available up to a denomination of 50,000K. However, due to occasional shortages, hang on to the notes of smaller denominations.
ATMs are located in all the major cities; however, they may not be functional all the time. Most of them accept only Visa cards and MasterCard. Amex cards are usually not accepted. Nearly all high-end Livingstone hotels and safari lodges accept international debit and credit cards, but with a surcharge of 5-10%. Certain Livingstone shops and restaurants also accept these cards.
Although using modes of payment other than cash is gaining popularity in Zambia, you should not depend solely on your credit card to make purchases here. Traveller's cheques are next to impossible to process in this country. If you are lucky, American Express Traveller's Cheques will be accepted. At present, Thomas Cook Traveller's Cheques are not accepted in the country.