Top 10 Africa Travel Tips

My Top 10 Africa Travel Tips.

Prepare before you go to be physically ready and have a peace of mind

Africa is safe for travelers if you take precautions.

If youre traveling to Africa for the first time, there are probably a lot of unknowns and maybe even concerns that you have. From getting vaccinations to the potential dangers and whether you can drink the water or not, theres a lot to consider. In this article, Ill share with you 10 of my top tips if youre preparing to head to Africa and some of the lessons I learned during my trip.

10. Be careful about transportation

Transportation can be hit and miss in Africa. There arent many trains and some bus companies are better than others. Seek recommendations from other travelers about reputable companies and reliable drivers, and avoid taking long motorcycle rides. If possible, Id recommend flying. If youre daring, rent a car as I did in South Africa.although Id recommend against this in developing countries like Mozambique. 

9. Bring a water filter

Water is readily available everywhere but bottled water isnt. Aside from being an environmental issue, having a water filter is also a practical option as it means you can drink water whenever you need. Sometimes water bottles are refilled and resealed, so the quality is not always guaranteed. Dont be afraid to use a filter wherever you are, even in the big cities.

8. Eat local

So many guidebooks and blogs will tell you not to eat street food in Africa as a precautionary health measure. But I ate locally most of the time and found the quality of food wasnt very different from back home. I opted for mostly vegetables and fish, and would recommend that you make sure your meat is cooked if youre eating chicken and red meat.

7. Hang out at hostels with other travelers

The hostel scene is growing significantly in Africa, with most countries offering shared accommodation where you can meet other travelers. This is an easy way to connect with other people if youre traveling alone and make friends to travel onwards with if youre heading in the same direction. Most hostels will also provide airport transportation if theyre located in big cities.

6. Africa can be dangerous

Just as youd be vigilante traveling in unknown cities back home, you need to be careful about where you go, particularly at night. Places such as the Congo and Sudan are still experiencing a lot of violence and many of Africas big cities have a reputation for crime, both big and small. I avoided drinking too much and stayed with friends most of the time. So stick to what feels comfortable and dont take any unnecessary risks – there are no heroes in traveling!

5. Keep your arms covered

Even if its stinking hot and you want to be in a short-sleeve t-shirt or singlet, Id recommend covering up as an additional layer of protection against mosquitoes. This goes for your legs too. I wore lightweight, long-sleeve clothing, which also helped to prevent me from getting sunburned. While mosquito repellant might help, long sleeves are also a great anti-malaria precautionary measure.

4. Travel light

Africa has everything you need. Rather than bringing outfits for every occasion and all those just in casethings, pack light. You dont want to be carrying more than you have to and can always buy additional clothing and toiletries cheap once there. Id recommend limiting yourself to a 30-40 liter backpack. For example, my friend Toto traveled an entire month with just two shirts, two sets of underwear, his swim shorts and sandals, some toiletries and a hand towel. 

3. Be in good mental health

Traveling in Africa will probably expose you to a completely different environment from what youre used to and will inevitably have you questioning the way you used to think about the world. This can be mentally difficult and draining, as well as depressing at times. I didnt prepare myself for this emotional rollercoaster and am not really sure how to advise about going about it, other than being aware and in a good mental state before you leave home.

2. Get in shape

Traveling around Africa can be grueling at times. It can involve long days on bumpy roads and negotiating cultural differences, making it both physically and mentally challenging. Eating well and exercising to ensure youre in shape before you leave home will put you in the best position to meet the challengesand withstand the heat!

1. Get your shots

Many African countries are still exposed to diseases and infections that have been largely eliminated in the west, so its important that you get all the necessary vaccinations before you go. While youve probably already had some of the shots as a kid (polio, measles, rubella), there are others that you might not have (typhoid, rabies, hepatitis A and B). Add to that, there are a whole host of lesser-known ways of getting sick, including snail fever and sleeping sickness from tsetse flies, so be prepared!

Chat with your GP about what shots you might need, depending on where youre visiting, as well as a malaria precaution that suits you. There are lots of different options out there with various side effects, such as bad dreams, unsettled stomach and even buzzing in your ear, so figure out which ones best for you. Lots of people dont take malaria pills and some end up contracting the disease, so its a good idea to know what to do if you do get it. Understand the symptoms so you know the early warning signs and make sure you have travel insurance (with medical coverage) in case you end up in a local hospital.

Also, its important to remember that several countries require you to have a Yellow Fever certificate before entry. So make sure you have this shot and carry a card as proof when you pass through immigration.

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