Chipata is a small and dusty crossroads in Eastern Zambia, and is a popular refueling station for overlanders on their way east to Malawi, west to South Luangwa National Park, or north to Lundazi. However, development is being directed towards the town, as evident with the new Protea hotel and Spar supermarket.
Formerly Fort Jameson, Chipata was the capital of North-Eastern Rhodesia until 1911, when Northern Rhodesia — later to become Zambia — was created. Now it's the capital of Zambia's Eastern Province and a fairly busy town with about 320,000 residents and more coming in daily.
The main axis is the Great East Road to Lusaka, which runs through to the town's solitary traffic lights ("Town"), after which it turns into the Umodzi Highway to the Malawian border. Before reaching town, to the north down the hill are the "Down Shops." Further north of the Down Shops is "Kapata," the original center of town and the poorer, sprawling neighborhood packed with stalls, vendors, and small homes. To the south side on the hillside are the wealthier neighborhoods of "Little Bombay" and "Kalongwezi."
From Lusaka, Chipata is a 7 to 8-hour bus ride on a luxury bus, costing approx 120-150K. It might be possible to find slightly cheaper transport, but it will probably take twice as long to arrive. Johabie has the best reputation; they're located at the north end of the bus station. Zoom has a rather poor safety record. You will often get surrounded by salesmen for the individual companies, who may lie that the bus for a certain company has already left. Buses leave when they fill, so it's a good tip to just check which buses are more full and buy from them. Buses to the Capital leave every hour. Be there at least an hour before departure, as the bus leaves as soon as it's full and will not always stick to the timetable. It's best to leave before 10AM, to make it before dark.
There are currently two bus stations, one for minibuses and one mainly for coaches. Long distances buses to Lusaka and Lilongwe leave from the Kapata Market bus station. For Lusaka, buses leave at 5 and 5:30 AM on Johabie. Purchase your ticket the day before to ensure your seat. Other buses leave only when full Be prepared to wait a while at the local bus station — no matter what time the conductor tells you that you will leave, it will be much later (minibuses will only leave when full). Kick back and have a warm beer; after all, you're in the heart of Africa.
Chipata is located roughly 12 km from the border of Malawi along Lusaka Road. Taxis taken from the Malawi side can take you through Malawi customs, but you'll have to change once on the Zambian side.
Chipata is strangely sprawling for a rural community. Most people with vehicles use them. For the most part however, walking is fine as the town is small for any destination you may need.
There are many cabs in Chipata. A few are recently painted an eye-catching blue but most are silver sedans that you can usually stick your hand out and flag down. There are no meters, so bargain hard. You should pay 10K to get around town (starting as far as the Protea Hotel to the center) or 15-20K for longer distances. Nightime may be an extra 10K. Cabs will also take you to the border if necessary. Prices may vary on the number of people traveling.
You can also hire bicycles for 2K, although safety isn't included in the price. For the whole day you can arrange with the TOURISM NEWS.Exposing african potential tourism
Chipata is rather low on tourist attractions, but provides a perfect perspective of a real Zambian town.
Two major festivals are held around Chipata and are well worth a visit if you're in town at the right time.
There is a golf course near the center of town.
Chipata is a good place to stock up before heading out into the bush. There is a large Shoprite, the Great East Mall has the Spar supermarket and an assortment of stores, a number of petrol stations and a few places to change money. Saturday Market on the main road just before Shoprite is a great place to buy local fresh produce.
If you are interested in taking a look around a "real Zambian town," head to the Indian shops (also known as the Down Shops) and Kapata Market. This is a frantic, exciting area of stores, stands, tiny backstreets, and music playing where you will find thousands of Chipatans wandering around, meeting friends, or doing business during the day. Chitenje, the colorful traditional Zambian cloth wraparounds, are a good buy here and go for $2-3 each; Khatri Brothers Ltd - a specialist shop selling these, have the best range and designs.
Chipata has several local restaurants offering cheap traditional food and now burritos.
Nightclub in Chipata is a little low-key, but Friday and Saturday nights sees a lot of people going out. Few expats stay in Chipata, so it's a good experience immersing in the "real Africa."
Across from East Point is a side street of small bars. These can be sketchy, especially later in the night when locals get drunk and pick fights.
Chipata has several affordable guest houses:
Out of Chipata
For those who have problems with finding nice Guest houses. The Tourism News, have an office their along Church Road, Mandawa Photo Studios Building, the road which goes to Luangwa House, +260 977 851 196. They will help you with anything to do with travelling and for those who want to use bicycles we can arrange bicycle at a very reasonable fee
Tourism News can also help you get around and see whats needs to be seen at a very minimum charge.
There are several petrol stations, a post office, and Barclays Bank with mostly-functional ATM on the Umodzi Highway (next to the traffic lights). Barclays has another set of 24-hour ATMs to the left of the entrance of Spar (accepting Visa and Mastercard). A variety of other banks can also be found, but these typically only accept Visa.
Chipata Health Centre and Chipata General Hospital are in town for emergencies. The town is generally safe and people are friendly. At night, beware of petty crime like pickpocketing, especially in crowded areas such as around East Point or late at night in Kapata.