Three days ago we passed through the border at Tunduma-Nakonde by foot using public transport. Here is a guide on how to do it since everything we found online was misleading. So first and for most; yes it is possible, actually not that difficult, and THE VISA CAN BE BOUGHT AT THE BORDER.
We started from Iringa on our path out of the country so I will start from there. We left Iringa using public transport by taking a Kimotco bus. I believe the bus left at 7am and we arrived at Mbeya around 2pm. In Mbeya we stayed at Mbeya Peak Hotel. A very reasonable hotel with a bar and clean rooms for 40,000TSH, but most importantly it is only about a 10 minute walk from the bus stand.
Border Crossing Day:
We left the hotel at 06:00am, walked for 10 minutes to the bus stand. We were told by the front desk there would be mini buses to Tunduma in the morning starting from around 5:30am. When we got to the stand we stood on the street to eye the situation. (Warning the touts will see you and come up to the street) The minibuses line up in order they are leaving. But there are a lot of vans and full buses parked around, but the minibuses are all in a line. The first bus in line is the first bus to leave, walk to that bus and ask the driver if he is going to Tunduma. Or the bus will have something in the front window saying Tunduma. If he says yes or if the bus says Tunduma, just get in the mini bus. You do not need the full size buses to get to Tunduma. Upon entering the bus stand the swarms of touts came for us, they will tell you that the mini bus is the wrong bus or try to sell you tickets or anything to keep you out of the bus and talking to them. Just say no thank you and get on the mini bus. The ticket for us was 4000tsh per person. The bus sits for about 20-30 minutes on the lot before leaving for Tunduma. Make sure you don’t pay until the bus has left, that way you don’t end up paying a tout, but that you are actually paying the conductor. This is tricky since you don’t know who the conductor is until you leave the bus stand. The bus is slow and makes a lot of stops, but it should take just over two hours to get to the border. We got off at the last possible stop, our driver announced ‘Zambia’ to everyone, but not every driver may do that.
As soon as the door opened on the mini bus at the border there were touts. One tried to grab my bag from the floor and was attempting to pull it out. Do not let them get your bags, they might offer to carry, or help with visa or getting transport but you can do it all yourself and if they carry your bag even 5 meters they will ask for a hearty amount of money. While walking to the border they will follow the whole way and through the border as well and will wait for you outside of offices. Again, you don’t need their help at all.
When we got out of the mini bus we saw a sign that said ‘Zambia’ with an arrow. If you do not see the sign, no worry, there is a lineup of trucks/lorries going through the border. We walked through the trucks past the ‘Tanzania Revenue Service’ and continued till we saw a building which looks like a border office, it also was flying the Tanzanian flag from a flagpole. We got a yellow exit form from someone at the front door, then just waited in line to get your exit stamp on your passport. We then walked about 100 meters towards Zambia again sort of following the trucks. There should be another similar looking office (although I would say the exterior is a little more beige). There you will have to give your Yellow Fever card, then get an Ebola check (temperature check), then wait in line for your visa, get your visa stamped, and fill out a visitors card including where you are staying. The visa for Slovenia and America were both 50$ each. That is all you should have to pay for the border!!!
So at the border you need:
Exit stamp from Tanzania
Visa for Zambia ($50)
Entry stamp for Zambia
(and remember there is a time difference between Zambia and Tanzania, Zambia is one hour back +02:00 GMT)
Once through the border we just followed the main road, it’s about 500 meters to the bus stand which is on the left hand side of the street (walking away from the border). There were also a million touts in the bus stand plus the ones which followed us from the border. Tell them you do not need any help, and to please go away. (Or if you happen to have a feisty Slovenian girl then she can tell them off!) We bought a ticket from the Shalom ticket desk, with a bus leaving at 2 PM. In the bus stand only buy tickets from the ticket desks. The only person you should be trying to buy a ticket from is the one sitting behind the little desks and who didn’t come to find you. Also there is no charge for luggage and watch your bags because ‘porters’ will come to try and take them, then charge for the luggage fee, there is no fee.
We left the hotel in Mbeya at 06:00 am and we were through the border with bus tickets bought by 10:00 am. The only real issue was that the buses leave much later. We bought bus tickets from Shalom, which had a bus leaving at 2pm (14:00). This is bad if you are planning to go all the way to Lusaka, it means you will travel through the night which is not the best. We went and bought tickets to Mpika (halfway) for 80 ZMK each. We got to Mpika about 7, so it was dark out. That is not the best, but the bus drops you off at the Puma station. If you book ahead in Mpika, book at Bayama’s. It is an excellent place with wonderful food – GET THE PIZZA OR BBQ CHICKEN! But also, it is less than a five minute walk from the Puma gas station. When you get off at the Puma gas station you will see there is another gas station across the street. If you are looking at that gas station there is a side street to the right of the station (east of the Puma station). If you walk about 3 minutes down this road you are at Bayamas. It has a circular green and red sign. The owner is usually around, or ask at the bar about availability or for your room. I would suggest booking in advance though, we missed out on the budget rooms, but the doubles were excellent and very reasonably priced.
In the time you are waiting for the bus in Nakonde there is food at the gas station down the road (2 minute from the bus stand) and a Barclays right next to the bus stand (30 seconds down the road). Just be prepared for the wait for the bus!
At anytime if you are confused about where you are while going through the actual border, just follow the line of trucks/lorries which are going through. The main road takes you past all the visa offices and to the bus stand. And YES you can get your visa at the border so you do not need to do anything before you get to Tunduma, and yes it is all possible by public transport.
When leaving Mpika there is a daily bus (even on Sundays) run by Juldan Motors (ask for the office, it’s a little separated from the other bus companies). It cost 140 ZMK per person, we didn’t get to pick seats, but fortunately the driver put us up front. We were NOT dropped off at the Inter-City bus stand in Lusaka, but at the central or main bus stand. So ask your conductor or driver before you go so you know which bus stand in Lusaka you will end up. Good luck and here are the costs below!
Mini Bus – 4000 TSH/person
Visa’s – 50$ (Yes, you need dollars, not Kwacha or Shillings)
Bus – 80 ZMK/person
Bayama’s – 150 ZMK (or 80 if you get the budget rooms)
Mpika-Lusaka – 140 ZMK/person
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