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 (T4) from Lusaka, which to the west is referred to as Lusaka Road, to the east as Malawi Road, and in town as Umodzi Highway. Near the western boundary of town is the aptly named Lundazi Turnoff where the M12 meets the Great East, taking travellers north to Lundazi and west to Mfuwe. Continuing into town, to the left at the first set of traffic lights is the "Down Shops" trading area. Further north of the Down Shops is the poorer, sprawling neighborhood of Kapata, packed with stalls, vendors, and small homes. Cresting the hill and arriving at the second set of traffic lights, visitors enter central Chipata, commonly referred to as "Town." Most banks, government offices, and supermarkets are located here. To the south on the hillside are the wealthier neighborhoods of "Little Bombay" and "Kalongwezi." Exiting town to the east, the Great East Road continues on to Mwami/Mchinji at the Malawi border.
Proflight Zambia offers daily flights from Lusaka to Mfuwe Airport, the closest airport to Chipata and gateway to South Luangwa National Park. During the high season, Proflight also offers daily flights from Jeki Airstrip at Lower Zambezi National Park. Bookings can be made online.
From Lusaka, Chipata is a 7 to 8-hour bus ride on a "luxury" bus, costing approximately K170-190. It might be possible to find slightly cheaper transport, but it will probably take twice as long to arrive. Juldan, Andrich, and Jonda are the safest and most reliable. Zambia Malawi is another option, although they have a poorer safety record. All offer daily service. Jonda offers continuing service to Mfuwe on select departures, some Juldan buses continue on to Lundazi, and Zambia Malawi has a route to Lilongwe via Chipata. Per government mandate, buses can only travel between 0500 and 2100. Most leave Lusaka between 0500 and 0700. When entering Lusaka's Intercity Bus Station, you will often get surrounded by salesmen for the individual companies, who may lie that the bus for a certain company has already left. Better companies depart near scheduled times, but buses generally leave when they fill, so it's a good tip to just check which buses are more full and buy from them. Better still, stop by the station the day before and purchase tickets in advance to guarantee your seat. In any case, 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 Lusaka before 10AM, to make it to Chipata before dark.
Long-distance coach buses arrive at and depart from Kapata Bus Station in Chipata. A taxi from here to the town center should cost around K15-20.
Chipata is located roughly 12 km from the border with 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. Shared taxis are available from the border to Chipata for K15. Alternatively, book a taxi for K60-80 to avoid having to wait for the car to fill. The road to town from the border is tarmac and in good shape.
Chipata is a sprawling small city, but most points of interest for travelers are located in the center of town within walking distance of each other.
Cabs are abundant in Chipata. A few are painted an eye-catching blue, but most are silver Toyota sedans. To flag one, just extend your arm with your hand flat and palm facing down and wave up and down. There are no meters, so bargain hard. You should pay K20($2) to get around town (starting as far as the Protea Hotel to the center) or K20-30 for longer distances. Nighttime rides may be an extra K20. Cabs will also take you to the border if necessary. Prices may vary on the number of people traveling.
You can also hire bicycle taxis for K3, although safety isn't included in the price.
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, although it is more of a public park.
Chipata is a good place to stock up before heading out into the bush. There is a recently opened Choppies, a large Shoprite, the Great East Mall with a 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 fresh local produce (busiest on Saturdays but open daily).
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 K20-30 each.
Chipata has several local restaurants offering cheap traditional food. However, most places are closed at night.
Nightlife 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." Unfortunately, thieves do operate at the discotheques so if going for a wild night out you shouldn't bring along anything you're not willing to lose.
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.