Life began here; the oldest desert and longest river on earth resides here. It’s where human hands built jaw-dropping monuments without sophisticated machines. This is where colourful festivals with virtuous culture epitomises social existence. Pristine beaches, sky-kissing mountains, lush valleys and incredible dunes, rare species and unspoilt ambience are all features defining the African continent. If you haven’t been to Africa, it’s time you started making plans to. Crossing the Mediterranean Sea or the Indian or Atlantic Ocean by any means into Africa is no doubt a plunge into a lifetime adventure. Just as there are a lot to look forward to, these 10 tips for enjoying your trip to Africa should help you have an interesting time whilst here.
1. Make Friends with the Locals
Without attempting to hit the cliché line, Africans are among the friendliest and most welcoming people on earth, you only need to hit the right cord. It’s simple, greet and respond to greetings, show respect to the people and their values, listen to them and don’t be “too western” or bossy. Google map may point you in the right direction as to exactly where you intend to go in Africa, but these locals know all the areas best and will point you towards people and places that you’ll get a lot out of. You need not be told that in the final analysis, people are your greatest assets when traveling not your gadgets.
2. Learn to Laugh Things Off
It sounds trivial, but this will be more valuable in lowering your blood pressure. Africa is a different terrain and things might not go as you’d expected, but be set to embrace the differences and laugh out loud at them. When something goes wrong, just roll with it and keep a light-approach, remember that a smile, a shake of your head and a laugh will take you a lot further than the angry, frustrated, nagging and shouting attitude will.
3. Get the Medical Kits
Yes, malaria is something to worry about in some places but if you remember that a slight headache could cause serious discomfort in the United States as much as it would in the most remote place on the African continent then I need not slam out the need to prepare for health eventuality. As it’s not advisable to put a car on a long journey without first making basic fitness check, so would I not advise you to make a trip to Africa without medical check-up. Since I am not a physician, my advice is that if you are prone to being ill or perhaps you are a sufferer of any chronic ailment, then consult your doctor before making your trip. Here is a smart one: you don’t need prevention against every disease, but taking the best kit to ward off mosquitoes, taking rabies shot, along with injections against hepatitis A, meningococcal meningitis and typhoid may be okay. You may need yellow fever vaccination, too.
4. One Bag, Pack Less
This is a million dollar advice; I sometimes see people at the airport and wonder what the heck are they doing with so much luggage. It goes without saying, if you are coming to Africa, one bag is enough. As my friend will say: “Suitcases are for suits, check-in for suckers.” A black backpack with convenient sleeve for your gadgets and other necessary items will do. If you pack everything because of fears of eventuality, you’d find out when you get here that you only need 1/3 of what you brought.
5. Learn to Bargain With a Smile
African markets are unlike western supermarkets with price tags! Bargain for everything. Here is where you need to make local friends gets invaluable. They’d tell you the going price so you won’t have to pay through your nose for everything. However, if you don’t get that help, have a great conversation with the first seller of whatever service or product you’re interested in. Never buy from that person. Instead, figure out exactly where the line is and then haggle harder with the next vendor. This may save you valuable sum and hey, you’d connect faster with the community.
6. Spread Your Money Out
Scratch that! I am not giving security tips here. It’s okay though to be security conscious but when you are out bargaining, this helps. I suggest carrying varying amounts of cash in 3 different spots and knowing what the amounts are so that you never pull out too much.
7. Eat Local Delicacies
This gets some people shuddering but I assure you, we Africans have cuisines that makes eating simply fun. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to eat at the “westernized” restaurants. African foods are as sweet as they are nice and hey they are packed with nutritional value. Here are popular options to try out if ever you are in Nigeria – 20 Popular Nigerian Food.What’s more, their prices are pocket friendly also. Don’t be afraid to eat the cooked foods at the road-side kiosks, just ensure it’s the vendor with the clean kiosk. Moreover, you can snack on some African fries especially if you are in a hurry. It’s part of the adventurous.
8. Take More Fluid
Against what you’ve probably been thought, some parts of Africa could be freezing. Yeah, the continent might straddle the equator, but not everywhere is scorching. Mt Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) and Mt Kenya both have glaciers and nights can be dangerously chilly in the desert, with temperatures dropping to as low as -10C. In fact, it snows enough for skiing in places like the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the Maloti Mountains in Lesotho and in the Eastern Cape Highlands of South Africa. Nevertheless, if you are going to the hot parts, be prepared to drink a lot. What you drink is up to you, just make sure you’re drinking because you’ll end up sweating more, walking more and not realizing just how dehydrated you are until you notice that you haven’t gone to the restroom all day.
9. On Wildlife Safari, Beware of Animals
CNN once noted that you should worry less about lions and Nile crocodiles and instead keep an eye out for hippos while in Africa. The channel attributes it to hippos being the biggest people-killers on the continent. Found in sub-Saharan Africa, the animal is aggressive, unpredictable and can charge at 28kph. If you’re in a boat (where many people will encounter them) hit the sides to signal your position. If on foot, keep your distance and never get between a mother and her calf. Hippos are most aggressive in the dry season when water levels are low and food supplies limited. Listen out for oxpeckers since the birds issue warning calls if hippos are around. I have nothing more to add.
10. Bits and Pieces that Mean a Lot
Travel documents are important, so are Paperbacks that’d keep you company while waiting around when traveling, but more importantly don’t embark on a trip to this beautiful continent without a copy of this essential travel guide gal.li.vant. Other essentials include unlocked phone that adapts to local SIM Cards, power adapter, power bank, camera, USB, mini speakers in case you plan to have a picnic which sometimes is simply unavoidable. If you’re traveling in West Africa, consider getting a Visa Touristique Entente (VTE) which covers Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire all in one document. If you plan to drive a hired vehicle through Africa, you may well need a carnet de passage or a triptyque depending on which parts of Africa you’re headed (the former is for entry to multiple countries, the latter to one), although neither is required in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
See you in Africa!
Usifo Mike-Alvin is a creative writer with a knack for budget traveling and adventure. He travels across Africa and reports for www.afrotourism.com