Many non-Africans believe that Africa is a single homogenous mass with a linguistically/culturally/ethically uniform population. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each of the 54 African countries have unique geographies, climates, landscapes, food, languages, ethnicities, and culture. And its diversity is one of the key reasons for the continent’s continuing popularity among tourists from all over the world.
So if you want to make new memories in a place blessed with incredible natural wonders, majestic wildlife, and rich traditions, Africa is a great choice. But before planning your trip to this wonderfully heterogenous continent, keep these tips in mind:
1. Buy travel insurance
Suppose you get into a road accident in Africa? Or get malaria? Or are the victim of a crime? In all these and other situations, you will need care from qualified medical personnel and a registered medical facility. However, access to good-quality healthcare in Africa can be expensive for tourists. But with travel insurance, you can access the care you need for next to nothing.
If possible, buy a policy that offers cashless settlements, meaning the insurance company will directly pay the hospital for your treatment. If you can’t, get a reimbursement-type policy so you can ask your insurance company to reimburse your medical expenses. In the latter case, make sure to get all relevant paperwork from the hospital, including all original bills, physicians’ notes, and discharge summaries. You will need to submit these documents (in original) to the insurer. Also make copies for yourself first.
2. Be aware of the dangerous parts of Africa
By all means, visit Africa and enjoy your trip, but be aware that certain parts of the continent are risky and even downright dangerous for tourists. Many African countries are prone to dangers like violent criminals, extremists, pirates, anti-government protestors, and civil war fighters. Before leaving for Africa, do your research to educate yourself about its dangers. You can also ask a trustworthy local, such as a tour guide or hotel staff about the danger spots in that country, city, or town.
And now the good news: a majority of Africa is very safe for tourists. In fact, countries like Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, and Zambia are almost as safe as Australia or New Zealand, and Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are much safer than the United States and parts of the Middle East! (source: visionofhumanity.org)
The bottomline: Don’t to be afraid to visit Africa. Just be aware of the dangerous parts – and then make sure to avoid them.
3. Get vaccinated
Diseases like malaria, typhoid, yellow fever, and hepatitis B are a common and unfortunate reality in many African countries. Fortunately, most of them are preventable with vaccinations. So before travelling to Africa, get up-to-date on your vaccinations. If you’re not sure which shots you need, ask your local healthcare provider. Also research the common diseases in the country you plan to visit and then get yourself vaccinated for those.
Another useful tip: use insect repellent spray or cream to keep pesky African mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illnesses at bay!
4. Carry cash (but guard it well)
Credit and debit cards, e-wallets, and PayPal are all accepted methods for payment in many African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa. But in less-developed countries, cash is still king, so it’s better to carry some cash in local currency, especially for day-to-day expenditures like tickets, tips, conveyance, and food. Foreign currencies like US dollars (USD) are also accepted in some countries, as is the South African Rand (ZAR).
Another tip: guard your cash well!
Don’t carry large bundles on your person and definitely don’t flaunt it in public places. If possible, divide your cash between your wallet, suitcase, and hotel room safe (if one is available). If you run out of cash, ATMs are widely available in most countries and a majority accept debit and credit cards. Check with your local bank or card provider to confirm which ATMs you can use.
5. Be wary of hustlers
In any part of the world, hustlers tend to target clueless tourists for their latest scams. Africa is no exception. If you stand out as a foreigner or first-time visitor to Africa, be prepared to be targeted by hustlers or scamsters.
If an unknown or suspicious person approaches you, shake your head and walk away. Be polite but don’t engage in conversation. Guard your personal possessions from light-fingered thieves and pick-pockets. And never say that you’re travelling alone (even if you are) or that it’s your first time in that country.
Some more tips to keep in mind when travelling to Africa
- Carry an unlocked smartphone that accepts a local SIM card. Also carry a portable charger and an electrical adapter for your regular wired charger.
- Apply sunscreen at least twice a day.
- Avoid drinking tap water or water from unknown sources.
- Carry anti-diarrhoea medicine to ease the symptoms of traveller’s diarrhoea.
- Regularly clean your hands with hand sanitiser or antiseptic wipes.
- Get the contact details of your country’s embassy in the African country you visit. The embassy will help you if you lose your passport or face other unpleasant experiences.
- Be respectful of locals and don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done to you, such as taking photographs without permission.
- Avoid going out alone at night, especially if you are a woman. If you must, ask a trustworthy local male to accompany you.
Africa has lots to offer for anyone looking for a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. And the best way to enjoy this experience is to apply the common-sensical tips shared in this article. When you do, you will surely fall in love with this amazing continent and everything it has to offer!
Calculus Holidays are the experts at planning holidays to South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zanzibar. Interested in visiting any of these wonderful African countries? Contact us and we’ll plan your entire trip!