Traveling through Zambia with backpack. Chipata.

We visited Zambia in January 2015, during a complete trip,
8 months, around Southern and Eastern Africa.

Chipata is a rural border town in Zambia (Malawi is not far), quite big and spread out, surrounded by hills (big deforestation) and crops.
Chipata´s main street

Nothing special to stop the traveller, just relax before/after the border, on the way to Malawi (20 km north) or access point to South Luangwa national park (130 km southwest).

The Great East Road (Lusaka-Chipata, 580 km) is being renew (january 2015). So expect a very good and shorter trip when it´s completely ready.

Beautiful landscape on the way, crossing many traditionnal villages.

   Public Transport in Chipata  

Not too many minibuses around, just a few vans connecting the bus station and the supermarkets (2 km away). 
Many shared taxis (minimum 15 K, 2 €) and bicycle-taxis (you seat on the back of the bicycle, hard job!).

The bus station is north of town, passing the long street market, off the main road where supermarkets are. Crowded rural station, many “cowboys” (boys looking for a comission), keep calm.

Price bus Chipata to Lusaka: 150 K, 8h30 (580 km), with a few companies. 
We travelled with Zambia - Malawi company (AKA Kob´s), the service was fine (even drink&biscuits). In either directions, departures from 5:00 til 10:00 mostly.

Transport from Zambia (Chipata) to Malawi (Lilongwe):

We saw only one bus company supposed to go to Lilongwe: Zambia-Malawi (Kob´s). They have a Lusaka-Chipata-Lilongwe bus. But it seems that not everyday and not all the buses per day cross the border and continue to Lilongwe. It´s better to ask well at the company´s office (bus station). Not everybody says the same, about schedules.
Price: Try to get 50 K (7 €) from Chipata to Lilongwe (it´s only 150 km), it´s the real price, but they will try to charge 70 K. 
The "cowboys" will try to make you confused! Keep calm!
So, if schedule and price not clear, better take the “multi-transport” option (keep on reading, please). 

Taxi and biciycle- in Chipata

Multi-transport Chipata - Lilongwe: 

Don´t worry you will get to Lilongwe. You just need different transfers, so some extra time.
You can take 2 shared taxis + minibus to reach Lilongwe from Chipata.
You need, in total, at least 4 hours (transport and waiting time to fill vehicles) and around 50 Kwachas (7 €) in total. 

In detail, the route is:
  • Take a shared taxi from Chipata (near Spar supermarket) to the border. Departure when full, price: 15 K but maybe try to charge 20 K. 20 minutes and you are at the border.
  • Walk just a few meters and cross the border, few people, stoping at the border posts.
  • Shared taxi from border to Mchinji (first "town" on Malawi side). Departure when full. Price: 500 MK. 10 minutes to the minibus stop.
  • Take a minibus from Mchinji to Lilongwe. Departure when full. Price: 1.800 MK, around 2 h.

Transport Chipata - South Luangwa (Mfuwe):

South Luangwa National Park is connected with public transport from Chipata, but the problem is that there´s only one company ("Green bus") and one bus a day. 
The Green bus” ticket costs 60 K from Chipata to Mfuwe, 70 K to the camps (around 10 €). Departure from Chipata is at 14:00, and from  Mfuwe at 5:30. It´s 130 km on a tarred road (it should take around 2 h-2h30).
A taxi can cost around 50 $.

   Cheap accommodation in Chipata  

Near the bus station in Chipata, we saw a few local lodges, most of them dirty places or "love hotels", the only correct option in this area is the government Kapata Lodge (60-70 K/room, but they were fully booked or didn´t accept can try). 
Also a few expensive lodges, mainly close to supermarkets (main road).
You will have to go outside the center to find something, cheap and correct.

Dean´s Hill View Lodge:
It´s where we stayed.  
It´s west of the center, you will pass close when entering from Lusaka (more than 4 km from the bus station/center, walking is too long, so think in taking a taxi). 
If coming from Lusaka, the lodge is close to the Total station or the gas station of Protea Hotel (if the bus stops there, it´s better to get off at this place...or try to ask the driver to stop you there but ususally they don´t).

They had a big fire and they are doing works to re-build, so it doesn´t look not too nice now, but it´s clean and calm. 
The “views” are just to the town and deforested hills… 
Dean is from England, 20 years in Zambia.

The second floor still burned (left). Views from the lodge (right)

Price for camping: 35 K/pp (5 €)
We were lucky because it was rainy and low season, almost empty so Dean offered us to stay in a twin room for the same price than camping.Thanks!
You have to pay an extra fee to use the kitchen (?), 5 K/day (1 €).

Mama Rula´s: another popular place for tourists in Chipata, it´s further from Chipata´s center (9 km), on the road to Mfuwe-South Luangwa. You need a car or taxi to go there. South African owners, many overlanders, pool.

   Services, Food & Drinks in Chipata  

A few banks with ATM around town, internet (few shops), etc.
Mainly on the main road (road to Malawi), near Spar and Shoprite supermarkets (quite well supplied), also a few franchises. Not too many restaurants (a few basic ones near the bus station).
Markets near the bus station and around the supermarkets, for fruits and vegetables and a few snacks.


In Chipata, you´ll meet many informal street changers, buying and selling Zambia and Malawi kwachas. Many will try to cheat you, kind of pronunciation trick: 17 (seventeen) or 70 (seventy)? So, check the rates before and write down how much they have to give you.
Exchanging at the border was fine, guys there and rates were OK and the changers don´t cheat you.

   South Luangwa National Park   

The most famous game park in Zambia, on a low valley, close to the Luangwa River.
We didn´t go because it  was rainy, and we were not really interested in safari drive tours inside parks (after great self-driving exploration in Namibia and South Africa). Also cause transport to get to the gate is not that cheap.

The access road (tarred, 130 km) to South Luanga is via Chipata. Direct minibuses from Chipata to Mfuwe 60 Kw (9 €), just 2 km from the gate, they can continue to the camps 70 Kw (10 €), near the gate and river.
Mfuwe has small shops, gas station, but it´s quite remote area, not too many people around.
Bring food if you don´t want to spend too much money eating at the lodges!
February and march have more rain, some camps inside the park can be closed. But usually the ones outside, around Mfuwe, are open.
Price for entrance fee in South Luanga: 25 $ (tour), 30 $ (self-drive) and extra fee for car (15 $ foreign).
Game drive (3h) around 40-50 $/pp, walking safari (3h) similar prices.

Cheap accommodation: just near the bridge and gate, a few lodges, like Croc Valley (always open), Track and Trail, Flat Dogs (it seems that no camping anymore), Wild Life (6 km west).
Camping (around 8-10 $/pp), also dormitories, rooms are quite expensive.

North Luangwa National Park (25 $ fee): there´s no public transport, only 4x4 private cars or tours.Even wilder!


  1. Muchos gracias - to informacion es muy interesante. (disculpe de mi espanol. Soy Australian!)


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