This week’s expert interview is with Helen Davies. Helen is originally from Liverpool in the UK and has worked and travelled in Zambia for 3 months. She gives us an insight into visiting Zambia as a solo traveller.
Can you tell us about your background?
I’m 35 and have worked in marketing on and off for the last 11 years. I took my first solo trip 6 years ago on a nine month sabbatical and Zambia was the first stop on my round the world adventure. Prior to and in between marketing jobs, I’ve also worked as an actor, a youth worker, an tour guide leader and in the social enterprise sector.
What drew you to Zambia?
I first went to Zambia as a volunteer with The Book Bus, a literacy charity that works in and around the town of Livingstone. I completely fell in love with the place and I later went back to work there as a tour guide in Zambia tourism.
Zambia is not a destination that most women may consider visiting. What would you say is Zambia’s attraction for solo females?
Zambia is a really friendly and beautiful country and a great introduction to Africa. There are around 72 languages and dialects spoken in Africa, which sounds scary, but actually because of this diversity, most people also speak English which makes it really easy to get about.
Have you met many other women travelling solo?
I’ve met a lot of women travelling solo, both in Zambia and elsewhere. In fact in Africa especially I met a lot more solo female travelers than solo male travelers.
Are there any hidden gems in the country that people should definitely visit?
Of course there’s the stunning Victoria Falls in Livingstone. Livingstone is a great place to travel as there is so much to do there and it’s realBut I think my favourite place in Zambia is South Luangwa National Park, which is one of my favourite places for safari in the whole of Africa. It was challenging, but I also loved the time I spent on the Tazara Train, travelling between Zambia and Tanzania.
If you only had two weeks to see the country, what would your perfect itinerary be?
I’d spend 3 days in South Luangwa National Park seeing the wildlife, then I’d head to Lusaka, the capital for a stopover on the way to Lake Kariba. At the lake I’d stay on a houseboat and relax for a couple of days. Then I’d go to Livingstone for around 5 days, to see Victoria Falls, take high tea at The Royal Livingstone and try out all the great adventure activities on offer. Livingstone is also a great place to see the real Zambia, visiting the local markets and cycling around the town. Then I’d spend a few days on a rafting trip down the Zambezi and I’d finish with some rest and relaxation on Bovu Island.
How easy is it to get around?
It’s pretty easy to get around. Coaches and mini busses are pretty frequent and there are also some trains.
Is there anything to do there in the evenings as a solo?
Zambia has great nightlife in the towns, with some really nice restaurants and bars. Zambians are super friendly so wherever you are, you’ll always find someone to chat to.
Is it easy to meet other travellers?
Whilst volunteering in Livingstone I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had. As a solo traveler, the best place to meet other people is probably at the bar of backpacker hostels or camps which usually have a mix of fellow solo travelers, overlanders and locals.
What would you avoid in the country?
Walking around in the dark on your own at night. I’ve always found Zambia to be really friendly but I think it makes sense to not put yourself in a situation where you are in an isolated place. But I think this goes for most places around the world.
What would you say to someone who is looking to go to Zambia alone for the first time?
Going to Zambia is the best thing I ever did! Go!!!
Describe Zambia in 3 words
This is Africa!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
A lot of people go to Africa and never really experience true Africa. Whatever you do, get out in the towns, go to the markets and eat local food!
What are your plans for the future?
I’d love to go back and spend more time travelling in Africa, but I’d also love to visit Canada, China and Iceland too – we’ll see!
Where can people go to find out more about you?
Is Zambia on your bucket list?