For many, just the thought of travelling to Africa is enough to send them scurrying under their bed with fear.
We’ve all heard the horror stories. Africa is a daunting and challenging place to travel to.
But, it is one of the most rewarding travel experiences you will ever have.
There is no place on earth like Africa, and if you can tame those monsters that hide in your shadows then it is so worth you investing time and money travelling on this unique and vast continent.
I was a little scared when we decided we were going to travel Africa independently.
The tours sounded safe and comfortable, but we really wanted more of an authentic experience.
With this came a certain amount of fear. But my fears were alleviated as soon as we touched ground.
After almost five months of catching local transport, camping, and spending a lot of time with the locals, we had no dangerous or horror stories to speak of – only challenging journeys, warm friendships made, and one out of the ordinary case of tick bite fever.
Africa Travel Safety Tips
Behaviour / Appearance Safety Tips
- As with any place you visit, act confidently and always be friendly. You don’t want to invite trouble your way. Africans are really friendly, there is no reason you can’t return their beaming smiles and chat with them.
- Do not wear any flashy jewellery. Look like a budget traveller. Never talk to Africans about money and how much you have. Try not to carry a lot of money on you and keep it well hidden.
- Ladies – there will be many local men that will want to chat you up, these are really young, cool, good looking men. It is so easy to be charmed by them. Just be careful. We all know that Africa and AIDS, unfortunately, go hand in hand with each other. That’s all I’m saying.
- We found the locals really aggressive in Tanzania. They will crowd you and pull at you in order to get you to buy from them etc. Just be really firm and confident with them from the word go. Avoid conversation and eye contact. Just a curt nod of the head and move on.
Destination Safety Tips
- Choose your destination wisely. Always check your government’s advisory warnings. Know your own comfort level and be prepared for any dangers you may encounter. I personally would not go to places that are currently involved in acts of war or aggression. For me, it is just not worth it.
- Try to avoid walking around at night. Unless you are in big cities and with people. I would just stick to the campsites/hostels/hotels, or if you do, don’t be rolling drunk or by yourself.
- Know the area you are in. Just in case there are wild animals, you don’t want to be unknowingly walking around in their home at night time (or day for that matter). We stayed at St Lucia, one of my favorite South African towns, but a place where hippos freely wandered the streets at night.
- The only place I was really scared was Johannesburg, but that was because I had heard a lot of horror stories. Nothing happened to us. Make sure you are aware of where it is safe to go and where it is not.The second time I went there I had my brother, who lived there for awhile, to look out for me and take me to the safe areas. If you can spend time with local people you know and trust who know the area like this then hang out with them. It will ease your mind and allow you to see the good side of the destination. Or if you are that concerned then perhaps join a tour of these certain areas.
Driving in Africa Safety Tips
- Hiring a car is a fantastic way to see certain parts of Africa, especially the Game Parks. Make sure you understand the road rules and take care.
- You will have plenty of cars, trucks and other vehicles overtaking at any moment, blind corners or not. I always honk my horn several times when approaching a blind corner to warn anyone coming opposite to stay on their side of the road until I pass.
- When in the game parks keep your windows rolled up when you get close to the wild animals. Yes, they could jump in there. Only get out of your car at the designated rest areas and still keep your five senses heightened.
- If you come face to face with an elephant and he starts flapping his ears, that is your cue to reverse a bit and give him his space. And if he charges then let’s hope you can drive like Michael Schumaker.
- If you have to catch public transport i.e mini-vans, pick ups, never sit in the front seat/cabin. It is commonly known as the Death Seat. Take the squashy back options – it is safer.
Health In Africa Safety Tips:
- Make sure that you get the recommended vaccinations before you arrive in Africa. You will need Yellow Fever and may not be allowed to enter your own country upon return if you have not had it.
- Carry your vaccination booklet with you as you will need a lot of vaccinations and won’t remember when you had it or when you need a booster. You’ll need to show it to prove you have had your yellow fever vaccination as well.
- Do you have malaria pills? Probably something you should have. Although they generally just mask the symptoms rather than prevent them. My brother still got malaria even while taking them and was holed up in a small, dusty cabin on Lake Malawi for three months. He was happy enough, as the World Cup Soccer was on so he could watch all the matches.
- Some have ugly side effects so choose wisely. We didn’t have any problems with Doxycycline, although it can make you more sensitive to the sun. They came in handy for me when I contracted Tick Bite Fever. They are an antibiotic so they helped clear it up.
- Watch out when swimming in stagnant water (particularly in Malawi) where you can get Bilharzia. Check with the locals they will tell you if it is okay to swim or not.
- Don’t go hiking mountains in the heat of a Malawian 40 degree day. You will feel like you are about to die from heat stroke – really stupid move.
- We ate plenty of food from local vendors and street food and never got sick. Go for it! Choose places that are well frequented by locals.