All the towns and cities in Zambia have some sort of colorful market that visitors can browse. These may have items more geared toward everyday essentials for locals, but they make for an interesting morning or afternoon, and are a great way to interact with the residents of Africa. Rest assured, street vendors are present in all the main tourist destinations with souvenirs, cold drinks and snacks. Be prepared to barter or expect to pay prime prices.
Lusaka has the best options for shopping with everything from modern, air-conditioned malls to outdoor, traditional markets. Manda Hill was the first shopping mall in the country and features high-end boutiques, bookstores, jewelers, fast-food outlets, and the massive GAME Store, Zambia’s version of Wal-Mart. Lusaka City Market is the nicest real African market in the capital, though it can get quite congested.
For cheaper items, head to the source at Kabwata Cultural Village on the southeast side of the city where artisans sell their own hand-crafted items. Bargaining is key though starting prices are already low. Leopards Hill Road is a great strip to look for quality handmade items in Zambia such as leather bags, batiks, ceramics, and tribal textiles, as well as beautiful children’s clothing.
The chitenge can be seen on women all over Zambia. It is the traditional way of dressing and is basically a colorful sarong that is worn as a long skirt. Some females also wrap them around their chest or wear them as a dress, while mothers use them as slings to carry their babies. They are inexpensive and beautiful, boasting a variety of colors, patterns, and sometimes even political slogans. Most are batiks and Chipata is the best place to find the highest quality where there are shops dedicated to the traditional cloth.
Tonga baskets are hand-woven by women out of ilala palm. They are native to the southern region of Zambia and make for great souvenirs. The baskets have a square base and are made into wall hangings, for carrying or decorative with beautiful, intricate designs. It takes roughly two weeks to make a basket with a diameter of only 35 centimeters. The area surrounding Lake Kariba is where these are made though they can be found in many markets throughout southern Zambia.