Last Updated April, 2020
Do you think about traveling to Africa and need some tips? The second-largest continent in the world which is also the hottest and the most mysterious one has beckoned travelers over the centuries to discover its land. Tourism in Africa is gaining popularity among westerners and leaving them curious about this incredibly exotic and unique land.
The most interesting part about the African continent is its diversity. Many people may think that the majority of countries are alike, but in reality, all of them are different. When traveling to Africa, you will learn that neighboring countries can have a completely different culture, historical heritage, and nature, and to understand them you need to take some time.
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This list with tips for Africa travel is applicable to Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa as a country. No matter where exactly in Sub-Saharan Africa you travel, taking into consideration these tips is very important. So.. let’s dive in.
1. Vaccinations and First-Aid Kit
Yellow Fever Vaccination
There is only one mandatory vaccination a traveler to most African countries should get. And that’s a yellow fever vaccine. Keep in mind that this type of vaccine is a live attenuated viral vaccine which means that not everyone can tolerate it well. Make sure to get it in advance and once done, relax. A single shot of a yellow fever vaccine will last a lifetime.
Also, I would suggest having a clothing insect repellent (this one in particular) because it’s one of only a few repellents that keeps Yellow Fever Mosquitos away. Besides mosquitos, it also protects against ticks and chiggers.
There is no vaccination against malaria and no preventative obligatory requirements. Some people take pills, but sometimes they don’t help everyone in full capacity.
Taking them or not depends on you and the climate of a country where you are going to be. For example, in hot regions of the Central African Republic, you can catch malaria of the brain (just don’t read about it), that’s why in this case taking pills is a must. However, we really doubt you will be traveling to CAR. There is not that much to do there unless you are a volunteer or NGO worker.
Pills that help to prevent malaria, in reality, have many side effects. And, if you still get sick, they can distort test results.
It is still worthwhile to have an extra pack in your pocket, but don’t overthink it and panic in case you suspect malaria was transmitted to you.
Run to the doctor and remember, nowadays malaria is successfully cured. Some of my friends in Africa had been infected with malaria up to 10 times, and are still doing well. No doubt, it depends on each individual case, but still, chances are you will be totally fine.
If you are traveling to Africa just for the safari, then don’t worry about malaria at all. There are quite a few malaria-free safari destinations to choose from.
Side note: Do NOT buy drugs to prevent malaria anywhere in Asia or Africa. Purchase them only in a Western country. Medications in Asia and Africa are missing effective ingredients and can permanently damage your heart!
As for other medicines, be sure to take something that will help to soothe food poisoning symptoms and diarrhea. Unfortunately, in many countries of the African continent, almost everyone goes through these unpleasant experiences.
It should make sense, right? Yet, many people don’t realize that practices of maintaining health in their home country are not enough in countries of the African continent.
If you do not want to risk it, give up any fresh salads and sliced fruits during your trip, if they were not washed and cleaned by you. Even if you are staying in a topnotch hotel, please try to stick to foods that went through thermal processing. You may read our tips on food and drink safety in Southeast Asia to get an idea of what to do in Africa. They are very similar in this sense.
You never know what type of water a cook in a restaurant uses and how well he cleans his knives. Also, never ever forget to wash or disinfect your hands before each meal. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is.
Most countries on the African continent have only two seasons, each of which influences the weather immensely. Dates of the rainy season across Africa differ from each other.
If you are planning to go on safari, make sure it doesn’t fall into the middle of a wet monsoon. In this case, you may be stuck in mud in the middle of nowhere, not being able to see lions and antelopes. Also, if completing your Africa bucket list, you want to know bad weather is not going to ruin the experience.
On the other hand, the end of the wet season may become one of the best periods for national parks exploration. During this time not many tourists are showing up yet, and the animals are free to walk and sleep anywhere they want without any limits.
If in Asia, America or Europe prices for goods drop the farther away from tourist places you go, then in Africa you’ll witness a completely opposite picture.
In a majority of African countries prices increase with every other kilometer away from a city or metropolis. If you are not going to eat goat meat and cornmeal for your every meal of the day (or other local food), then choose your destination with well-developed infrastructure. Otherwise, dinner in the only one available restaurant within a radius of 100 km will cost you $ 50 per person, not less.
And yes, bargain for excursions and souvenirs! Almost in every place which is missing a fixed price tag, you can agree on a price that will be half of the original one. Another detail to remember: the African continent is dollar friendly, taking euros will not make sense.
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Writing out phone numbers for the embassy on your hand or thoroughly hidden piece of paper can help you in a critical moment. Make a copy of your passport and hide it away, or if your hotel has a safe, carry that copy with you instead of the original.
Keep an eye on your money and better store it in small amounts in several places.
Be sure to take care of your travel insurance because proper medicine and healthcare are extremely expensive in Africa.
Remember, you are not in your western world. Applying some extra attention and caution is simply crucial.
Oh, and don’t forget to get yourself into a great mood – tantrums on this side of the planet will never solve anything. Using smiles and friendly approach can help you replace the hotel room or a dish in the restaurant.
Take into consideration that the average 200-300 km (125-185 miles) distance between parks in a majority of African countries will take you about 6 hours by ground transportation. Or perhaps even more. Unfortunately, the road situation in Africa is tough and most of the roads do not exist.
Therefore, do not plan long journeys and, if possible, choose a plane as your main type of transportation.
As you can see, travels to Africa require some preparation and precautionary measures. There is not much to follow, but these steps are very important for you to stay healthy, happy, and enjoy your trip (or move?) to such a mysterious continent.
Traveling to Africa tips article was based on advice from my friend Anna. She is originally from Ukraine (as I am,) but used to live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire.
Have you been to Africa yet? Can you add anything to this list? Would love to hear your insight in comments!
And don’t forget to pin it for later!