My Top Africa Travel Tips
Africa is a bit of a mystery to most people. The news usually always shows the most negative aspects and there are few reports of all the wonderful and great things in the continent. It's typical to feel nervous about going there. Africa is a huge continent made up of 54 countries. Here is a guide but always do your research into specific countries that you are going to.
Before you go plan and scour the Internet for all kinds of information. For some countries you'll need to apply for a visa in advance others you'll be able to get in at the point of entry. Project visa is a great resource to get information. Check on the currency you need to pay your visa. Visas much more widely accepted than MasterCard or any other so always take a Visa card with you. Just remember to tell your bank that you are going. If you bring cash make sure it is hidden on your person. Spread it around some and a backpack some and a money belt. You can carry a mix of dollars, pounds or euros and local currency. It's not always possible to get local currency before hand. I never carry travelerís checks as they are difficult to cash.
There are some countries and places you will want to avoid so check out the current situation on Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The World Health Organization is the place to find out about any issues that are affecting the areas you might be traveling to. Aside from your routine vaccinations tetanus and typhoid are highly recommended. A yellow fever certificate is required if you're traveling where there is risk. Malaria is common in many parts of Africa so taking anti-malariaís is a personal choice and some people don't like them as side effects can be nasty. Test them out a few weeks before you go. Travel insurance is always a must.
In regards to packing and what's appropriate to wear it varies from country to country. Predominantly Muslim countries tend to be more conservative. Dress modestly no miniskirts or hot pants. Knees and shoulders should be covered. Always carry a scarf in case of needing to cover your head. Leave your fancy jewelry at home. A good pair of sturdy shoes and a sports bra for the bumpy roads are helpful.
It's always best to get there in daylight as that allows you to get your bearings. And it is also important to book your first nights accommodation before you arrive. If you're arriving in a new place for the first time it's probably a good idea to get picked up. Most hotels have a pickup service or they can order you a taxi. You will have to get used to African time as they are typically late. There are many great hostels, hotels, camps and guesthouses in Africa. You can book them through hostel bookers. Make sure you know if the doors lock or they have lockers and where it is located in a city if it's within easy walking distance to town, do they have female dorms or a night watchman.
Volunteer trips are great way to meet new friends in Africa. If your backpacking solo you will need to be prepared for the fact that you may need to make a few journeys alone. Doing Africa solo seems a bit challenging but it's really quite fun and a lot less scary than it seems. It could be quite the challenge that you need. Whatever you do, get out and meet people who live there or you'll be missing out.
Travel can seem a bit slower than you used to do and more disorganized. Travel by daylight as African roads aren't always the best and there are few streetlights. Keep your journey short and don't forget to check sunrise and sunset times. The most common form of transport is the bus. They can range from large coaches to smaller minibuses. There are some people who have hitchhiked but I would not recommend it. Trains are few and far between but if you can find one it's a great way to travel. If you need to cross a great distance one can always fly and some airlines are better than others. Motorbike taxis are common in many places and they usually don't go too fast but rarely do they have an extra spare helmet. Taking a boat or fairy in Africa can be a fun experience also.
An overland tour is one where you basically travel together in a big group with people you've never met before. You have a leader annual camp for the most part and cook your own meals. You have built-in travel companions and this might be good for some and bad for others. It's one of the most economical and safe ways to travel around Africa. Doing a self-drive is possible that it takes a lot more research and preparation than any other form of transport. I certainly would not recommend a self-driven Safari even though it can be cheaper. Always go with a guide is the best bet.
When you are border-crossing Africa make sure to keep your bags with you and have your money ready. Read up on entry requirements and act confident. Most borders are nothing to worry about. Just keep alert, and watch out for traffic and if anyone hassles you find an official.
There will be places where it is not advisable to drink water so make sure you can find bottled water which is usually available from street stalls, shops and tourist attractions. Many people do get sick by not washing their hands so make sure you keep a bottle of hand gel with you. If you find yourself becoming ill like with the flu make sure once you come home you get a malaria test. At night use the mosquito nets even though some have holes. I always carry electrical tape to repair any broken nets and use a mosquito repellent which is at least 50% Deet. To avoid heatstroke or sunstroke make sure you wear a hat and sunscreen. If you end up with diarrhea or vomiting keep yourself hydrated as best you can. It's always helpful to carry a first-aid kit.
When it comes to toilets in Africa it's more of a difficulty for women. The toilets are not very modern some of the times so you might have to go in the Bush. Don't wander off too far and wearing a long skirt can help with modesty. Always carry toilet paper with you.