Advice for Traveling to Africa
Africa consists of more than 54 countries containing more than 3,000 ethnic groups speaking more than 2,000 languages. The continent is the second largest and the second most populated in the world. Although many people travel to Africa to go on a safari, almost any activity imaginable can be found on this continent. Before you go to Africa, consider these tips making your trip more successful.
1. Think About the Weather
While many people instantly think of a desert climate when they think of Africa, that is not always the case. Africa’s largest glacier is found in Rwenzoris on the border between Uganda and Zaire. Travelers to Africa can also go snow skiing at more than 14 resorts. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Africa was -11 degrees at Ifrane, Morocco, while the highest temperature ever recorded was 136 degrees at Al’Aziziyah, Libya. In Northern Africa, it is not unusual to get less than 2 inches of rain annually while in Central Africa it can rain up to 157 inches annually. Therefore, travelers need to check the weather where they are headed before jumping on a plane to Africa.
2. Choose Your African Experience
There are many different things to do in Africa. You can:
- Climb a Mountain
- Play with penguins
- Drive the Garden Route
- Go caving
- See a local festival
- Hunt for fossils
- Attempt whitewater rafting
- Catch a big fish
- Experience a safari
With so many possibilities, the hardest thing will be deciding what you want to do on your African adventure. Most experienced African travelers recommend choosing adventure over comfort, although Africa has some amazing five-star resorts.
3. Get Your Shots
There are some shots that you must have before you can enter Africa. Getting others is highly recommended. You should start by making sure that all your vaccines are up to date. The Center for Disease Control recommends that travelers get the Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines. Some travelers will also want to get the Hepatitis B vaccine. If you plan outdoor adventures, then getting the rabies vaccine may be a good idea. If you are going to Central Africa, then you may need to get the yellow fever vaccine.
4. Get Your Passport and Visas
It takes the United States government about six weeks to get your passport, although there are ways to expedite the process. Generally, you can apply at most United States post offices. Make sure that your passport has enough blank pages for every country that you may visit on your trip. Most African countries require tourists to get a visa before they are allowed to enter while others require you to be able to show that you have a hotel reservation. You can expedite the process by having your money ready when you see the officials.
5. Be Malaria Aware
If you plan on going to Sub-saharan Africa, then you are at risk of getting malaria as it is carried by four types of mosquitoes found in the region. In some areas, wearing long shirts and pants is enough to cut down your risk. In other areas, you may want to take malaria drugs during and after your visit. Do not wait until you get there, as many malaria drugs sold locally are not effective.
6. Eat Like a Local
In most places in Africa, it is safe to eat the local food. Eating like a local not only adds an air of authenticity to your trip, it can be a great way to save money. Each country has their own favorites, so keep your itinerary in mind when choosing what you want to eat. It is very likely that the first barbecue was held in Africa, and jollof rice was probably the ancestor of Cajun jambalaya so be sure to consider trying both when visiting Africa. Additionally, try the hot curry served in hollowed-out white bread and the maize porridge. Many places serve outstanding venison if you are looking for an upscale meal.
7. Bring Your Adventure Spirit
The best laid plans for an African vacation sometimes do not come off as planned. Therefore, make sure to bring along your spirit of adventure. You are safer in Africa than you are in many big U.S. cities. Make sure to dress modestly so that you do not attract attention to yourself. When possible, try not to be outside alone after dark. Over 30 million people visit the continent each year with most coming home with fantastic stories of the people that they met and the things that they saw.
Africa is a big continent, so choose the adventure that you want to enjoy before traveling there. Make sure to get your shots, passport and visas in order as far ahead as possible. Take precautions against malaria if needed. Try the local food as it is delicious. Above all, make sure to bring your spirit of adventure.