Africa has long conjured up thoughts of being a little scary – especially as a travel destination. Many years ago when my hubby and I announced we were going to travel through Africa for the first time, many of our family and friends were horrified! We couldn’t understand the reactions. Having now spent a number of years travelling back ‘n forth to Africa, we still to this day don’t understand the perception.
On the contrary what we’ve discovered is that Africa is immensely culturally rich, deeply soulful and incredibly breath taking. And I really genuinely want others to share in the experience of Africa.
I’ve certainly learnt an abundance of stuff about travelling in Africa over the many years, and I want to share it with you. Who knows, it may also even encourage you to ‘take the plunge’ !
First and Foremost – my little words of advice
- Rule #1 … Always remember, you are the visitor … respect the people, culture, environment, dress code and public behaviour… always!
- Just learn to roll with it! So the power may go out for a day or so.. not the end of the world. Things may just take a little longer to be processed than what you’re used to. It WILL happen – all in good time. (YES I still struggle sometimes!)
- Leave your pre-conceived ideas at home. You are going to experience new things, in a new country, with a new culture…. It’s TOTALLY EXCITING!
- Don’t be freaked out about being in Africa – there’s absolutely no need! Just like anywhere in the world, travelling is about keeping yourself safe, having your wits about you, and trying not to make dumb decisions or choices
- Forget all that you’ve read about Africa being dangerous – African people are right up there in the top friendliest in the world. They love to chat and laugh and you will feel connected with them very quickly
- Expect the unexpected – you just may be pleasantly surprised. Anything can happen in Africa, so if you go with little or no expectations, you will have the time of your life
- Leave your time clock at home – you’re on Africa time, which is basically ‘no time’
- Remember the mantra “T.I.A.” (“This Is Africa”) – meaning anything can happen!
A Few Travel Tips
- Buy a local SIM card when you arrive. They are extremely cheap and topping up with airtime is very cheap also
- Try NOT to stand out as a tourist. Avoid looking like one – ie carrying a day pack, exposing flash cameras, wearing expensive clothing and jewellery is unwise. It’s not necessary and looks ridiculously out of place
- Wear a cheap watch, if you really must – this avoids having your phone out on display to check the time
- US$ is the best currency to bring, and is easily exchanged. Ask for the largest denomination note (US$100) as you’ll get a better exchange rate in Africa. Ensure your $ notes are POST-2009 or they won’t be accepted in many African countries
- NEVER carry all your money or cards together! Put them in all sorts of hidey-holes in your luggage and on your person
- This is my personal preference – you may disagree. Carry photocopies of your passport, insurance, visa etc. when you’re out and about daily exploring the local areas. I personally don’t like the thought of having my passport stolen or lost, so prefer to carry copies, and leave my originals safely locked up if I can. Entirely a personal decision though
- Carry a small purse with you, and keep a small amount of cash in it. It means your wallet which may be stuffed full of cash and cards is not on public display – particularly in markets
- Try the local food as much as possible. It’s part of the whole travel experience and you’ll be pleasantly surprised
- If you’re game – try the local public transport (may pay to check your insurance cover first though)
- Ensure you carry a water bottle – you can easily become dehydrated when busy exploring
- Ensure you have a good quality insect repellent
- Always take anti-malaria tablets, and make sure you finish the course
- Ensure you carry your Yellow Fever Certificate in your carry-on luggage as many countries will ask to look at it at arrivals and departures and at borders
- Wherever possible, barter. The locals love it! Please remember though that this is often the only source of income for the vendors, so be respectful
- Carry some toilet paper with you. Many toilets won’t have it
- Carry hand sanitizer and hand wipes on you at all times
- When looking at travel insurance options – always take out a COMPREHENSIVE policy
- Take photocopies of all your documents – including air tickets, visas, insurance policies
- Ask for a business card of the accommodation place you’re staying at in case you get lost while out exploring. You can hand it to a taxi driver to get you home safely
- Ensure you know which countries require visas, and whether you must apply for them online prior to arrival, or whether you can obtain them at the border
- Check the expiry date of your passport and ensure you have at least 6 months left on it at the date of departure from your last visiting country
Things I’d suggest you bring from home
- A hat. The sun is hot in Africa
- Layers of clothing – yes, even Africa can be chilly
- A good torch – especially when on safari
- A first aid kit. You never know when you may need to treat a graze or cut
- Lightweight pants and top – when the mozzies are out, you don’t want them to make a meal out of you
- A cheap selfie stick. They’re fun and the locals will LOVE you for it
- A multi power adaptor. You will need it!
- A power bank – for charging phones, notebooks, etc.
- A lightweight mozzie net – most accommodation places provide them, but some are in poor condition and in my view a complete waste of time. Believe me a mozzie can spend hours and hours searching even the minutest hole in which to get in and pester the daylights out of you
- A small camera – these days, small cameras are just as good. By all means bring your photographic toots ‘n whistles, but leave them safely locked away, and take them out for when on safari. Pays to bring a USB stick so you can free up the camera space for even more photos and videos
- Both VISA and Mastercard ATM/Eftpos cards – not all ATM’s will necessarily accept both cards.
- Sanitary products. Whilst they are available, they may not be what you are used to or like, so best to bring your own
If you are keen to experience Africa, remember you’re off on a new adventure – take it all in, soak it up, and make a conscious effort to ‘stop and smell the roses’. You are there for an experience – enjoy it. It will have a lasting effect on you.