Africa is, as we all know, a continent with a huge variety of landscape, climate and culture! It is exciting, addictive and awe-inspiring. When you have had a taste of it, you will never want to leave. Go on, ask anyone! We have put together 32 Africa Travel Tips from locals and seasoned Africa Travelers for anyone thinking of visiting this magnificent continent:
- Yes it is Africa, yes it gets cold! Bring warm clothing!
- If you are going to be travelling around and not staying out in one place – bring only one bag and a small daypack! Backpacks are great, especially ones that can be carried on – no need to worry about lost luggage.
- When it comes to packing, less really is more – you don’t need to pack for every eventuality. Bring a bit of laundry detergent that you can use to hand wash clothes in the sink if you need to.
- Bring a lightweight long-sleeved shirt and pants to help protect from the sun and from bugs.
- Ladies, remember that many African countries are quite conservative in their dress, so make sure to pack clothing that is appropriate for the country/culture you are travelling through.
- Bring and wear sunscreen and a hat!
- Carry a few granola bars or an energy bar for a convenient snack when you get to your hostel late at night or your bus gets delayed.
- Bring a good book and trade it with someone when you’re finished it.
- Bring a head torch. They may look funny, but they are very useful when you need to do something and there is a power cut, or no electricity to begin with.
- A small first aid kit is always useful to have to treat minor injuries.
- Either take an unlocked cell phone and get a SIM card when you get to your destination, or buy a cheap phone when you arrive. Most companies give out free SIM cards or sell them at a very cheap price and you can just add airtime as you need it.
- As far as cameras go, in most cases, a small camera will suffice. It is much easier to carry around a small camera that fits in a pocket and if you can get one that is waterproof, even better! Also, take an extra memory card for it so that you aren’t forced to delete pictures on the fly!
- Bring a USB stick with you. This is a convenient way to take other travellers’ pictures home with you or to transfer data between computers.
- Bring a cheap, waterproof watch. You can use it as an alarm and don’t need to worry about the battery dying if you don’t have a place to plug in. Also, if you’re in the middle of a packed market, it’s better to not have to take your phone out to tell the time.
- Bring a power adapter – if you are unsure of exactly where you will be travelling, bring a universal adapter. If you take an extension cord with several plugs on the end, you can use one adapter to charge several devices and it’s often much more convenient to have a longer cord.
- Never carry all of your money or cards in one place. Spread it out into different pockets, a money belt, the lining in your bag, etc. You don’t want to be left with nothing if your wallet gets stolen.
- If possible, bring two types of credit cards (Visa and MasterCard, for example), you have a higher chance of a having a card that will work at any ATM.
- Always make sure that you have a small amount of cash in a convenient pocket so that you are not standing in the middle of a market shuffling through a stack of money to find the correct change.
Food and Drinks:
- Eat local as much as possible! Try as many of the local cuisines as you can.
- Make sure that you drink enough! It is very easy to get dehydrated when you are travelling – you are often walking much more than you realize and will likely be sweating!
- Bring mosquito repellent and make sure you know if the countries you are visiting have malaria. http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/
- Check the vaccination requirements for each country – especially for yellow fever, as you will have to show proof of it to enter certain countries. http://goafrica.about.com/od/healthandsafety/a/vaccinations.htm
- Always barter at markets to get a fair price, but remember that for most of these people, the market is their only source of income. Decide on a price that you think the item is worth and negotiate with them, but remember, what is likely pocket change to you, could make a big difference to someone else.
- To get the best deals at markets, go early in the morning, as many sellers believe that if the first person to come to their shop buys something, they will have good luck for the rest of the day.
- Bring toilet paper. Travelling is all about new experiences, but sometimes a few comforts from home, like toilet paper, can make all the difference!
- For female travellers: you will often not be able to find the same sanitary products that you use at home, so stock up on them before you start your travels. Try to bring biodegradable products if possible. Also, check out this blog for other useful suggestions: http://herpackinglist.com/2013/01/female-travel-packing-list-east-africa/
- Get travel insurance for medical expenses, lost luggage and flights.
- Scan all important documents and take a copy with you (leave it in a different place than the originals) and leave a copy with someone at home.
- Make sure you know which visas you need for the countries you are visiting and look into multi-country visas to save money. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/africa/practical-information/visas
- Always check the expiry date on your visas carefully when they are issued to you
- Arrive open-minded and ready to experience new things! Leave your pre-conceptions behind and remember that you are travelling to experience new things – not to experience the same things in a new setting!
- For tips more specific to safety, check out these sites:
Here is more information on our EDGE of AFRICA volunteer opportunities.