Crossing Lusaka to Livingstone, Zambia
Ticket Fee: I can’t remember but should be more or less than 20 USD. Note that they only accept Zambian Kwacha.
Travel Time: Around 6 hrs.
Travel Schedule: Travel schedule varies but as Livingstone is a common destination, there should be buses leaving every hour especially during peak season
Road Profile: Generally comfortable but Zambian weather is hot and the buses are not air-conditioned. When the bus is in motion, the breeze is a relief; on a standstill, you’re in for a sweat
Bus operator used: Mazhandu. This is also the bus operator most recommended by locals.
1) Online booking is not available so you have to personally go to the station and reserve your ticket. Livingstone is a common route in Lusaka so several bus operators would be available but it’s best to book your ticket a day before to ensure good seats especially during peak season.
2) The bus terminal is located in Dedan Kimathi Rd, Lusaka. It is an open-air and crowded terminal and local vendors will try to offer you cheap bus tickets as you enter the gates. Just ignore them and proceed straight to the bus operator of your choice. Make sure to research your preferred bus operator because asking the locals for recommendation would prompt them to persuade you even more. I recommend Mazhandu bus as suggested by my CS host who is a local Zambian guy. I have also read online that Mazhandu should be a reliable bus compared to other poorly maintained buses that tend to break down in the middle of the road. And true to their tagline, Mazhandu buses leave on time.
3) In my case, I didn’t get the chance to book my ticket a day before so I just went straight to the terminal at around 5:30 am on my preferred departure date in the hopes of finding an available seat for one person. When I got there, the next bus to leave at 6am was full so I booked the next one that leaves at 7am. There were only 2 remaining seats at the farthest back and I thought I was still lucky to get a window seat. This was off season yet passengers seem to pile up pretty quickly so those traveling in big groups should definitely book in advance.
4) Zambian weather is hot and humid and there were only non-air conditioned buses available. It wasn’t as bad as expected though as the wind blows alright when the bus is in motion. Still, it is not the best 6hr. ride. There will be one or two stop-overs for toilet break and snacks. Otherwise, it’s just a road of trees, mountains, and other sceneries that are quite interesting to look at since there’s nothing else to do.
5) At the bus terminal in Livingstone, you can get a shared taxi for 10 kwacha to your hostel. I recommend Fawlty Towers Backpacker’s Lodge. It’s cheap, clean, and has a very good location with a grocery right across with money exchange, coffee shop, etc… They also have free shuttle very morning to Victoria Falls and other activities like my favorite, The Devil’s pool or even cross-country tour to Chobe, Botswana. They have free pancakes every day at 3pm also and anyone can use the common kitchen and cook your own meals. They have a swimming pool too, which I took advantage of for the next 3 days. For 12 USD a night for a dorm that accommodates 4 to 6 people per room, it’s definitely worth it.
Another popular backpacker’s hostel around Livingstone is called Jollyboys. It’s supposed to be a busier backpacker’s place with frequent parties during weekends, popular among teenagers and young adult travelers. Price is more expensive though for 15 USD per night per person on a 12 pax capacity mixed dorm.