Traveling to Africa
Updated: Jul 20
There's no question about it, the world is becoming smaller and smaller by the day. Places you may have never thought to explore are becoming more accessible, spurring on dreams of travel, world-changing, and adventuring.
Many of us are tackling our bucket lists and stepping out of our American bubbles. If you're planning a trip to Africa, get ready to have your world rocked! The people, the food, the animals, the complete disregard to time...it's a life-changing experience.
As you prepare, there are some things that are specific to Africa to keep in mind, whether you’ll be perusing spice markets in Morocco or spending your trip at an orphanage in Kenya.
All of Africa isn't the Same People often underestimate the physical size of Africa and, as a result, they often tend to underestimate how vast the cultural differences are from nation to nation. For the longest time (thanks to The Lion King), I thought Africa was all safaris, zebras, and tiny villages. I had no idea the immense size of the continent. Every country is unique, all with their own cultures, languages, and even landscapes. In fact, some of the world's best beaches are actually found in Africa.
Because of the drastic differences, what is culturally acceptable in one African country may not be tolerated in another. Spend some time researching online, with a travel agent, or with a friend who has been to the specific country you’re traveling to.
Prepare for Your Specific Trip Maybe you're planning a mission trip to Uganda or humanitarian projects in the Congo. Maybe you’re hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, going on safari in Kenya, swimming with sharks in South Africa, or laying on a beach in Zanzibar. Whatever your agenda, get to know all about where you're going.
Since some African countries live life on their own time, keep that in mind if you're itinerary is more complicated or restricted. Utilizing the assistance of a travel agent may be helpful as you work out the logistics of getting from the airport to your final destination, whether that’s a five-star hotel or a non-profit in Rwanda.
Know What Documents You Need More often than not, many African nations require travelers to obtain visas prior to arrival. Other African nations provide opportunities for travelers to get their visas when they are clearing customs, so it’s not necessary to do any paperwork in advance. Make sure you know what the country you're visiting requires BEFORE you go. You definitely don't want to get off of a long and expensive flight across the Atlantic, only to discover that you won't be able to get into the country.
Some African countries also require travelers to obtain certain vaccinations prior to entry. Uganda, for example, requires all visitors to provide documentation of their yellow fever vaccination prior to clearing customs.
Print copies of your passport, flight and travel itineraries, and any other travel-related documents just in case. DON'T rely on your phone or tablet for accessing this information, as internet and electricity can be sparse in some parts of the continent.
Just as every African country has a different culture, every nation has a different climate, style, and resources. Basic products, toiletries, and medicines that you can find anywhere in most areas, might not be available in other parts of the continent. Do some research so you can plan to bring everything you need on a daily basis, as well as items you may need in an emergency. You will likely need to take malaria medication, so consult with your physician prior to travel to determine which prescription is best for you.
Make sure that you are culturally sensitive to the way people dress in the country that you’ll be visiting. In some places it’s totally acceptable to wear shorts and sleeveless tops; in other countries, men and women dress their best, so wearing workout clothes into town probably isn't your best bet. Find out what's culturally accepted in your destination before you go.
As you experience the beauty of Africa, remember to soak it all in and enjoy the unique cultures, landscapes, and way of life you're about to experience!
Have you been to Africa before? If so, what travel tips do you have to share?