Every time I think of the vast and beautiful continent of Africa, I get a vision of the blazing sun setting beneath the marula and baobab trees. It’s a vision as iconic as it sounds, and unless you’ve seen it for yourself, you wouldn’t know how picturesque it is. As a unique blend of natural wonders, vibrant cultures and renowned prehistoric sites, with the sprawling remains of some of the world’s greatest ancient civilisations living alongside modern cities, there is nothing quite like this continent.
This ultra-diverse continent is packed with beautiful countries, each with a rich heritage. You can explore exquisite safari destinations or witness the incredible marine life in coral-rich oceans. Whatever you do, you will always find yourself in the lap of nature.
Whenever you travel to a new place, let alone a new continent, you need a travel guide. Since there are a lot of travel requirements, some restrictions and even guidelines for different countries, every traveller, whether alone or in a group, needs to do proper research on their destination before boarding the plane.
Having recently travelled to a number of countries in Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania, I have put together some backpacking rules, important information and travel tips below. It will help any first time traveller to have a safe, comfortable and enjoyable stay.
Best time to visit
As Africa is a huge continent with a wide variety of landscapes, climates and wildlife, you’ll need to choose the best time to visit your chosen country according to your interests and what you want to see during your holiday.
If you want to go on a safari, visit between May and August as wildlife is easy to spot and you may see elusive creatures such as rhinos, lions and leopards. Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe offer incredible safari experiences. If you want to see marine life, you can travel to different destinations throughout the year. Zanzibar in Tanzania, île Saint-Marie in Madagascar, Camps Bay in Cape Town, South Africa, the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique and Lamu Island in Kenya have some of the best beaches on the continent.
What to expect?
In North Africa, most people speak Arabic and follow Islam. It’s famous for its natural wonders, including the Nile River, the Sahara Desert, the Red Sea and the Atlas Mountains.
For the best safari destinations, you must visit East Africa and enjoy incredible wildlife sightings. Most people love to travel to Kenya or Tanzania to see the Great Migration, which takes place every year between July and September. You can also trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro or take a short flight to great honeymoon destinations such as Madagascar, Seychelles, Reunion and Mauritius. Uganda is the best destination for gorilla trekking.
In the southern part of Africa you can travel to popular tourist destinations such as Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Sossusvlei, Kruger National Park and Chobe National Park.
Central Africa is the least visited region in Africa due to political instability and poor tourist infrastructure.
1.If you are planning to travel to Africa, you will need to get some vaccinations a few days or weeks before you arrive. Depending on where you’re going, you may need a yellow fever vaccination or a polio vaccination. Consult your GP at least 2-3 weeks before travelling to Africa.
2.As malaria is a serious problem in some parts of Africa, you will need to take anti-malarial medication, wear long sleeves and trousers, and use insect repellent.
3.Sunburn is a serious problem in Africa. Make sure you carry sunscreen with you at all times.
4.Few cities have good health facilities and most rural areas have only a basic health system. Make sure you have travel insurance that covers all your travel activities and emergency repatriation.
5.Tap water is unsuitable for drinking in Africa, so pack refillable bottles and ask your hotel or lodge to fill them for you.
6.As water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis are common in Africa, don’t bathe in rivers and lakes unless it’s safe to do so.
7.Same-sex couples are advised to be discreet in public and to be aware of local laws and customs.
Additional travel tips
1.Make sure you do not travel alone in remote areas as crime rates are high in some parts of Africa.
2.Be aware of ATMs as there are not many in remote areas. Try to withdraw cash whenever and wherever possible.
3.Be careful when driving in some parts of Africa as local driving standards may be low in some regions.
4.Wear modest clothing as some parts of the continent are conservative.
5.Take appropriate footwear and clothing with you if you wish to experience the many wonders of nature.