Africa is a wonderful continent, with plenty of varied, beautiful landscapes, friendly people, rich wildlife and birdlife and of course, some iconic travel attractions, holiday destinations and landmarks worth visiting.
When planning a visit, whether short or long, to any part of Africa, it is important to do your research and set your best laid travel plans.
Because many parts of Africa are rural or off-the-beaten-track, it is important to consider where and how you travel carefully.
Another thing you definitely need to get down is medication, as some parts of Africa are prone to certain sicknesses, like malaria etc.
In this post, we outline some practical tips to ensure that your trip to Africa is all you dream of and more, with every possible travel and safety precaution included!
1) Plan when to visit
This is one of the most important things to consider when travelling anywhere but especially in Africa. Some parts experience extreme cold and rainy seasons, while others turn dry and arid, like a desert, during the summer months when temperatures soar.
Figure out when you wish to visit – wet or dry season – and plan your trip safely around that. If you are unsure of the best months or season to visit your African destination, get advice from other travellers through online travel groups – or speak directly to tour operators, travel advisors who are best equipped to advise you on this.
For example, some places in South Africa, like Cape Town, are less-than-pleasant during the winter months, when temperatures drop and Cape storms bear down on the city and Western Cape province as a whole. (However, rates are also cheaper during winter months, as this is considered off-season.)
Whereas other parts of South Africa and Africa experience milder winter seasons, so travel is actually quite good during those months.
Another factor is the wildlife. Some areas experience worse or better wildlife gatherings during certain times of the year. So if wildlife watching and safari are on your to-do list, it’s important to do your homework and investigate this too.
2) Research your destination and any travel restrictions surrounding it
Obviously, with COVID-19, many parts of the world have been flagged as ‘non-travel’ destinations, as they battle lockdown restrictions and infection waves.
Yet, even when coronavirus was not an issue for travellers, some African countries still have certain travel restrictions and conditions for visitors that need to be considered and obeyed.
For example, Zambia has a strict ‘no plastic bags allowed’ policy. This means that you cannot even travel to Zambia with plastic bags in your luggage. So you need to rather get cloth or felt bags for luggage compartmentalisation and packing.
Always check with tourism bodies, local government/provincial sites and travel operators what you can and can’t do in certain countries and which travel restrictions, regulations apply for both visitors and/or locals.
3) Plan your itinerary and try book in advance (where possible)
Although holidays and travel adventures can be fun if you leave a little room for creativity and spur-of-the-moment adventures, it is still best to have a loose itinerary for any travel to Africa.
Mainly because resources (like ATMs or banks) can be limited, cellphone reception might be on the frizz and many other factors can come into play. This can quickly turn an impromptu outing into a nightmare day.
It is best to plan as much of your trip, transport, accommodation and funds in advance so you aren’t left with any nasty surprises.
Another good idea is to book through local tour operators, qualified guides and verified local tourism bodies. Not only does this take the headache out of trip planning but it also ensures that you have the safest, best experiences, accommodation and routes plotted out for you in advance.
Plus, local guides and operators often have insights and travel tips that you would never glean from a brochure so you might find a hidden gem or enjoy a unique experience with their help and guidance.
They can also share insights into local cultures, assist with any language barriers, help streamline your travels and point you in the direction of the best or fastest route to take etc.
If you don’t want to rely on a local guide or company for the entirety of your trip, then at least hire them for the first day or two as you adjust to the new country and find your feet.
4) Find out which travel vaccinations and medications you require
When travelling to certain parts of Africa, it is important to find out which travel vaccinations and medications you need before travelling to the country.
Also, find out from your doctor, travel clinics or local guides which medications are handy to travel with in case something bites or stings you or you run into some small medical scare.
Many places require you to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate, for example – while other areas carry the risk of contracting sicknesses like malaria and dengue fever.
Always be prepared and find out what medication you need in advance, during your trip and of course, afterwards when returning to your own home country too.
It is also advisable to carry bug repellent or some netted clothing and also a small, yet handy first aid kit, if possible.
You should also find out where local hospitals, clinics or doctors are and memorise a few local emergency numbers in case you get stranded during a hike; bitten by a spider or snake; or have any other medical emergency that requires hospitalisation or treatment.
Comprehensive travel insurance is another must-have – although this should apply to travel anywhere, not just in Africa.
5) Travel responsibly and respect local cultures and rules
Some parts of Africa are still stricken by poverty or beset by things like homophobia or strict customs for women and how they are allowed to dress, act etc.
In light of this, it is important to do your research, find out about the local cultures and country’s rules for foreign visitors.
You might also need to dress more modestly or cover up when visiting certain countries or cities.
Also, remember to respect local cultures and people and speak, act and dress appropriately to avoid causing offence or breaking local customs, rules.
It is also helpful to try learn a few words of the native language(s) – like please, thank you, hello and the like. Although English is widely spoken in most parts of Africa, locals always appreciate the effort and it helps you as you travel too.
These are just some of the key things you need to know when visiting Africa. So that, with a bit of planning and foresight, you can enjoy a wonderful, safe trip and leave with nothing but incredible memories and photos.