Travelling to Africa

May 08, 2019

Heading to Africa for a holiday or safari? There are a couple of things that might be useful to know to make your holiday run smoothly.

Flights and travel

Africa has a number of international airports, and many airlines will fly you directly into one of its main cities. If your destination is a bit more off the beaten track then there are a host of smaller airlines and subsidiary airlines, as well as charter flights that will get you where you need to be.

Travel companies will be able to advise on which flights you need to be on, and, on arrival at the airport closest to your destination, lodges and hotels will arrange transfers for you. There is also a booming charter flight industry on the continent so if you want to avoid long hauls by road you can employ one to drop you off at the nearest airstrip.

From a road transport point of view, not every city or town is only reachable by a 4x4. Almost all of the major cities have working road systems and access to main lodges and reputable safari destinations can be done by car. In an instance where a destination can only be reached by 4x4, the managers of your lodge will collect you from a pre-arranged destination.

Health and Safety

As previously mentioned Africa is safe for a holiday, in fact many safari destinations are some of the safest holiday places in the world, offering facilities and amenities for the whole family. Not every destination is riddled with malaria and lodges like those of Bakubung, Tshukudu, Kuzuko and Kwa Maritane in South Africa offer an opportunity to see the Big Five in a malaria-free environment.

Each lodge, hotel or safari camp will also be able to provide onsite information around camp safety and your general safety while staying with them. When it comes to security Africa is no worse than the rest of the world, in fact there are countries and areas that are incredibly safe. However, as when you travel to anywhere else in the world, the golden rule applies that you use common sense and ensure that you don’t expose yourself to unnecessary risk. Always speak to your local contacts with regards to what you need to look out for; this could be your travel advisor, concierge or safari guide.

When it comes to health, all major cities have hospitals and clinics. Your local medical insurance might require that you take additional cover while travelling, so please check before you depart. Ensure that you take all chronic medications or specific medications you are required to take with you on your trip.

In addition please also ensure that if you are entering a malaria area, that you consult your medical practitioner and take your malaria prophylactics with you. Also check with a travel clinic or reputable online resources as to what possible vaccinations/injections you may need to take – many countries in Africa do require you have a yellow fever injection before entering the country.

Cash and Banks

You do not need to stockpile your cash and sew it into the seams of your clothing when visiting Africa. ATMs and bureau de changes can be found throughout all major towns, and you can access cash almost everywhere. Even smaller towns and more remote areas do have ATMs and these are connected to international cash switches. Just check with your bank if they are linked to international monetary switching facilities.

Most African countries will accept US dollars in lieu of their own currency, in fact in some countries it is preferred, except of course South Africa where you will be required to transact in South African Rands (ZAR).

As per usual, when travelling abroad, contact your credit card company to advise them that you will be away. Both Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted across the continent. If you do have access to an account with both institutions it is advisable to take both, as in some parts one over the other might be accepted. You can take travellers checks should you wish, but these will need to be cashed at a bank, the airport or at your hotel. Another option would be to purchase a world currency card or cash passport.

Tipping is as appreciated in Africa as it is around the world but it is not compulsory. It is always best to ask the local people in the area what the standards are, but as a guideline a 10-15% gratuity seems to be the norm for most countries.

Packing for Travel

Africa is a vast and diverse continent and some areas enjoy dry arid temperatures while others are wetter and more humid. Also remember that dependant on your destination and the time of year there is seasonality to consider. winter and summer months can be starkly different in many areas.

A useful tip is to pack comfortable walking shoes, Africa does not enjoy the convenience of as much public transport as many European countries. If you are going on safari please ensure that these shoes are walked in before hand, you do not want to start getting blisters while out on a game walk. Also light and neutral clothing is advisable for the bush and even if the temperatures are reported to be warm, always take a sweater or jacket for the evenings, which can often be cooler.

Other essential items include a sunhat, sunglasses, binoculars, a camera, spare batteries or a battery charger, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a water bottle. If your destination is a city, then pack as you would for visiting a city back home.

As mentioned Winter in some regions can get bitterly cold. In Cape Town, as an example, the Winters are severe and they are wet, so don’t pack a suitcase full of shorts and tees, rather check the weather in the region before departing. If you are heading to the beach then please take all the same care as you would in say the South of France. The African sun is a scorcher and it is unforgiving – so take a hat, flip-flops and a lot of sunscreen.

Passports and Visas

Check with your travel agent or airline as to what visas you will require in the various countries. Some countries are stickier than others with the issuing of visas, so ensure you do this well in advance. Also if you are entering multiple countries on your visit, be sure to have a visa to cover each. There are only a few countries that will issue a visa at the border so check all of this beforehand. Be advised that visa regulations can change in Africa at a moment’s notice, so stay informed, and keep a number of pages blank in your passport.

Africa truly is a wonderful continent to visit and it will create memories for the rest of your life. Don’t let naysayers put you off, follow the rules and enjoy – a visit here will be something you will never forget. Book your trip now:

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