Here we offer you a few important travel tips and suggestions when traveling in Africa:
Give Africans the warmth and respect they give you and you’ll make friends for life. Please ask questions and then enjoy the long, intricate, “drifting” answers. Some countries in Africa are not politically open so you’ll need to know when to steer clear of politics. Please don’t make any disparaging comments about the leadership even in a one-on-one discussion.
Understand that there are hundreds of different cultures and religions in Africa so please avoid negative cultural statements and comments about religious practices and observances. The African people generally regard a firm handshake as aggressive. Don’t be surprised when you are shaking hands to get a soft handshake
Be respectful when taking photos of people and certain buildings (always best to request permission). Take the time to learn about some current issues in the country, sporting passions and developments so you can break the ice with some informal chit-chat. For example, You don’t need to necessarily know the President’s name but if you have read that a president has numerous wives or that he wears skins to a formal dinners please don’t question this in a mocking way.
Please don’t pack anything precious or valuable in your checked luggage. Your cameras, laptops, binoculars and diamond earrings need to stay with you.
Try and look at a long range weather report before packing so you can pack appropriately. If you aren’t sure whether to take along some more formal wear, please ask me. I’ll be delighted to give you recommendations and suggestions.
Some African regions experience 4 seasons in a day and so it’s always a good idea if you are travelling in the summer months to pack a light-weight fleece and in the winter time, to include a few tee-shirts. The winter day temperatures can be wonderfully warm with night time temperatures plummeting.
As in most major cities in the world there are certain no go areas. It is advisable to leave your valuables locked in the room safe.
Take only as much cash as you may need for the day and use your card wherever possible, but do not let it out of your sight.
Keep a photocopy of your passport separate from the passport itself and most importantly, make sure you have enough blank (free) pages in it for stamps. Immigration officials can get quite sticky if you don’t have at least two or more free pages. (South Africa requires at least two and some countries demand 4 blank pages.)
Label your bags and luggage carefully. I always recommend you label the inside of your cases too. This “rule” is also valid for all hand luggage.
Visa requirements change from time to time but many African countries have an online facility to purchase relevant visas. Your travel agent or the consulates that operate in your country can help.
In some African countries you can’t purchase your visa in advance – you pay on entry. I will always give you a heads-up on the relevant requirements and charges and you will need to have the exact sum of US $ in cash as it is unlikely you’ll receive your change!
Please also see:
Applying for a South African Visa:
NB - New entry rules into South Africa when travelling with children:
It’s best for African Stay to pre-book all shuttles and transfers. These are convenient and safe.
When you land, it’s a good idea to change some US$ or Euros into the local currency. I suggest you don’t carry large amounts of cash on you.
Across the continent you can use your Visa or MasterCard. It’s safe and convenient. Some stores and hotels may not accept Diner’s or Amex. You can use your cards to draw cash at one of the thousands of ATM’s where you see the Visa or MasterCard signs.
Public transport and traffic flow:
In some cities traffic flow is affected by broken-down cars, potholes, flooded roads, cattle in the roads and traffic lights that don’t work. (It does not necessarily apply in South Africa which has a first world road infrastructure).
Don’t leave getting to the airport or your destination to the last minute as traffic can be backed up or delayed. I strongly urge you ask your driver how long the journey will take or if you are self-driving, then ask the hotel GM or concierge for advice.
Almost all countries in Africa have a limited public transport system. I would suggest that if you are planning to use local taxis, trains and buses that you let someone know what you are planning.
If you are travelling during the day, try and get a window seat as it’s fascinating to see the vegetation, coastline, lakes or villages.
Road trips in Southern Africa:
Travelling throughout Southern Africa by road is a wonderful experience but there are very specific regulations about taking your vehicle across a border. Often this involves detailed paperwork which can generally be done in advance.
The Carnet de Passage is an essential item for motoring tourists as it covers temporary admission of vehicles into neighbouring countries. The Carnet de Passage is an international customs document which facilitates the payment of custom duties. This document is issued exclusively by the Automobile Association of South Africa.
An international driving permit is advisable but not compulsory. What you will need is travel insurance as well as Third Party insurance and always ensure you have the preferred currency – US Dollars in various denominations.
Throughout South Africa, the water is safe and actually “delicious” but in sub Saharan Africa and other major African destinations, I would urge you to use only bottled water - even to brush your teeth!
Basic medical advice:
Mosquito repellent and anti-histamine creams are essential in malaria-risk areas. Please get advice from your travel clinic about anti-malarial medication before embarking on your trip and make sure you take one of the modern prophylactics that have minimal side effects. There are apparently, some excellent homeopathic options that are completely reliable and suitable for low to medium risk areas.
If within two weeks of your visit to a malaria area, you develop flu-like symptoms, you need to seek urgent medical attention.
Depending on your destinations, you may need several vaccinations especially for yellow fever, and you’ll need to carry your vaccination card with you at all times.
Check with me or your local travel clinic to make certain of any vaccinations required for travel in Africa.
South Africa doesn’t require yellow fever (for example) but Zambia does even if you are visiting just a day.
Medical Kit -
My suggestions for your own medical kit include:
- Antispasmodic and anti-diarrhoea pills.
- Antiseptic creams and if you can carry one with a cortisone base as well as antifungal that would be ideal.
- Broad spectrum antibiotic pills are a good idea for any travel, although not essential.
- A homeopathic tablet that helps you deal with travel across the time zones.
- Headache pills.
- Flu medication.
- Sun block with a significant SPF factor and after-sun cream or gel.
- Plasters and cotton wool or antiseptic swabs.
African Stay and its agents and ground handlers will give you 24 hour contact numbers in case of an emergency; although we hope you never have to use them! Print them out or put them on your phone and always keep these numbers handy.