By Rachel O’Conner
For most of us, a trip to Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list kind of journey. As such, you’ll want to make sure you get it right. This trip is likely to be vastly different from any you’ve experienced, and you’ll get more out of it if you’re ready for the ride.
- Expect to become starstruck
You’re probably not going to see the kind of stars you might encounter in Hollywood, but many would argue that the stars you’ll see in Africa are better.
Plan to stay somewhere off the beaten path, so you can get a full view of the stars. You really won’t need any equipment, but if you want to get a closer view, you may want to pack a travel telescope.
- Invest in loads of paper maps
We tend to take things like GPS and wifi for granted because they’re almost everywhere in the developed world. And although you should find it easy to access the internet in major cities, connections will be scarce in rural areas.
- Pack light on clothing
You’ll probably spend a minimum of two weeks exploring a part of one or two countries in the vast continent, but you probably aren’t going to want to lug around that many clothes. Instead, pack smart and light.
Invest in some good moisture-wicking clothes in fabrics like ultra-light merino wool or polyester/nylon blends. And while you’re in Africa, you may also want to buy some custom-made clothes from the local tailors. You can get a great deal and have a nice souvenir to take home.
Plan to wear long sleeves and pants to keep the mosquitos away. Malaria is a major concern in Africa, and that can be the quickest way to ruin an otherwise great trip. Visit your doctor before you go to inquire about shots and malaria prophylaxis.
- Expect to feel like an outsider
When you’re in Africa, you’re probably going to feel like an outsider, and this has nothing to do with the colour of your skin. African culture is very different from the cultures of any Westernized society, so don’t expect to arrive and feel right at home.
With that said, the African people are generally very friendly, welcoming and even a little curious about foreigners. Expect to have an amazing experience, but don’t expect to feel like a local.
- Set aside as much time as possible
From the wildlife in Karoo to the skyline of Cape Town, you’ll want to see it all, so you’ll need some time. At an absolute minimum, plan for 11 days to see the sights. If you have more time available, spend it. Africa is a very large continent with lots to see and do, and it takes time to travel from location to location.
- Book at least one safari
Because Africa straddles the equator, it contains a rich diversity of wildlife. You’ll find large predators and grazing herbivores roaming the savannas and apes, monkeys and snakes in Africa’s dense forests.
To get the most out of your African trip, research your options and book at least one safari in advance.
- Rent a car
Outside of the big cities, public transportation isn’t really an option. So if you want to get around on your own, you’ll have to rent a car. Having your own rental car can also help ensure you always have the technologies you need.
You’ll find large corporate chains in the cities, and this may be your best bet. Their policies and protections are more likely to be familiar to you than with a small independent car rental company. Regardless of who you rent from, make sure you have enough coverage. African roads can be brutal on any vehicle.
- Research the countries you’ll visit
A little research can go a long way, especially on a trip to Africa. You can find out where to stay and what to do while you’re in each country, but more importantly, you can find out whether any country is in active conflict. Check travel warnings to see which countries you should avoid.
Use these tips and get ready to have the vacation of a lifetime.
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