By Rachel O’Conner
For many people, the thought of travelling to Africa brings up thoughts of the great unknown. Since a large portion of this continent remains undeveloped, it’s a vastly different experience than travelling to North America or Europe. But don’t let that scare you. Whether you’re travelling to Africa or Australia, many of the same rules of safety apply.
Here’s how to stay safe when travelling to a new continent.
Protect your travel documents
Whenever you travel to a new continent, your travel documents become of paramount importance. But there are some cases where it’s safer to take your passport with you and others when it’s best to leave it in the hotel safe.
In most cases, you can get by with a copy of your passport for identification within the continent (obviously not for entering the country). So make a wallet-sized laminated copy of the first page of your passport to keep with you as your passport is safely stored elsewhere. You can do the same with your visa.
And if you’re travelling to an area where you worry that you might be targeted, invest in a passport cover. This will keep strangers in line guessing about where you’re actually from in those cases where you do need to whip out your passport.
Learn a few key words and phrases
If you can learn the native language, that’s ideal. But at the very least, you’ll want to learn a few key phrases that can help you out of trouble. You’ll want to know the words for bathroom, help, hospital, police and danger. These are words you will likely never use, but it’s a good idea to have them in the back of your mind.
And there are other key phrases you may want to learn that are situation specific. For example, if you’re renting a car, you’ll want to be able to ask questions like, “does the ac filter work?” or “what’s the mileage?”
At the very least, bring a written sheet of paper with these phrases that you can point to when necessary. There are many apps that do the same thing in an even better way, but you may not always be able to rely on cell service. When in doubt, use the old-fashioned route.
Figure out how you’re getting around
If you want to cover a large area during your trip, in most cases, you’ll need a car. This is also true for your African vacation as a car may be the best way to get from country to country – depending on which part of the continent you are. But as you’re creating your road trip checklist, be sure that safety is a priority. Bring a first aid kit, blankets and road flares – and find out about any roadside assistance that’s available. If you’re taking a train, learn the routes before you go. You don’t want to end up in a bad neighbourhood on an unfamiliar continent.
Another way to get around a new continent is by hiring a tour guide to drive you. Again, this is something you should research before you leave as you’ll want to check references to make the safest possible decision.
Research the pros and cons of any excursions
You may encounter an activity that looks like the thrill of a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. Before you do anything that’s a little “off the beaten path,” research the pros and cons. For example, cycling may seem like a relatively benign activity, but this all depends on the road conditions. So in this example, you might research whether there are commonly cycling accidents on that road. Or you may want to take to Google Maps for a street view to see whether the road is wide enough for cycling. With anything that’s not a typical tourist attraction, do a little digging in advance to see if there are hidden dangers. Don’t forget to find out the health and safety condition at the destination before going on the trip.
Whenever you travel to a new continent, it’s important to remain aware of your surroundings and practice common-sense safety measures. You’ll want to kick back and enjoy yourself, but don’t get so comfortable that you lose sight of your safety precautions. Research is key to keeping yourself safe, so you understand the specific dangers and how to avoid them.
What are your best tips for staying safe while travelling to another continent?
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