Travelling from South Africa to Zambia by Bus

Here is some practical information for travelling from South Africa to Zambia by bus. Pack some patience for the trip!

Zambia is best reached overland from south as roads and buses are considerably better in South Africa than in Tanzania or Malawi.

The trip is easily done in two parts. The first leg from South Africa to Botswana is monopolized by Intercape Mainliner. They have daily departures arriving 9 pm to the capital of Botswana, Gaborone. If you have over 20 kg of luggage, prepare to pay a rather ridiculous fee for the overweight. From Gaborone you can take a bus to Zambian side, either in Livingstone or Lusaka.

Grey And Developed Gaborone

The Intercape Mainliner was half empty when we boarded from Johannesburg. The trip went smoothly in a Western-style bus through northern countryside. The border formalities were quickly done and cost us nothing. The citizens of the European Union get a lavish 90-day entry permit.

Arriving to Gaborone included some hassle. The workers of the bus company offered to call taxis to take passengers to hotels. According to them, there were no hotels near the bus stop and it was dangerous to walk downtown at night. As we don’t like taxis, we kindly turned down the offer and decided to have a look at the city ourselves.

In the bus stop one fellow passenger, a young Botswanan woman clinged on us asking for help. She said she was afraid of going around alone and asked if she could follow us. Soon she started to ask for money for taxi and tried to borrow our non-existent phone. We got rid of her, and after that found out that there was a hotel right around the corner, though an expensive one (80€). We found a more reasonably priced option with the help of local police. Still it was expensive, 45€, and included facilities we didn’t use like satellite TV, fridge, air-con, hot water, telephone, and wifi. We just wanted to sleep but as it was raining and we were pretty tired, we stayed.

Later we found out that Gaborone lacks budget accommodation just like the rest of Africa. This little city of 500 000 inhabitants is built mainly for administration and business. It is pretty dull for sightseeing and the main attraction are the parliament houses.

The weather in Gaborone was chilly and rainy although it was summertime—much like in Europe. We wanted to continue onwards as soon as possible and with as few stops as possible because every stop in Africa means a lot of hassle: lurking pickpockets, touts, and hawkers. We bought tickets straight to Livingstone in Zambia with Gaborone-Lusaka Express which took off the same evening.

A Hurryless Express Bus

This time the bus was considerably downgraded. The seats were cramped: three seats on the one side, two seats the other. Also the roads started to deteriorate. It was raining the whole way and the bus was hydroplaning as the tires were in less than perfect condition. Inside was chilly and sweaty because of humidity. People were sneezing and coughing and of course we got a flu afterwards, too.

Despite the company’s name “Gaborone-Lusaka Express”, the bus stopped in every little village and even in the middle of nowhere to let people out or to the toilet. The worst delay was in the border, though. First we waited for the border to open and after that for the next bus to arrive as there was another bus for the Zambian side. This took four hours after which we waited for the ferry to cross Zambesi River.

Livingstone Tourist Heaven

Our destination, the city of Livingstone was a one-hour-drive away from the Kazungula border. It was touristy because of nearby Victoria Falls that attract bungy jumpers and other fearless adventurers.

The small city centre is full of backpacker places, hotels and motels. We hadn’t seen so many tourists on our trip—not even in Diani Beach in Kenya. Fortunately we could escape the rush to the countryside some twenty kilometres away from the city. We stayed in Crocodile Creek’s peace and quiet sitting in the outside lounge and watching crocodiles to swim by. Quite a paradise and a perfect ending for our East and South Africa tour.


  1. Thanks for the post. Got some valuable info. How much was the bus from Gaborone to Livingstone including the ferry? Planning a trip to Zambia soon.

  2. Thanks for the comment and glad you found the post useful. The ferry does not cost anything and locals took the bus only from Gaborone to ferry and then another bus after the ferry to Livingstone. That way it was a lot cheaper. We paid for the for the whole way from Gaborone to Livingstone 660 Botswana pula (71€) for 2 persons. You might want to make sure you don't have to stay a night in Gaborone as it was the most expensive city we visited Africa regarding accommodation.

    Have fun in Zambia!


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