A Few Tips For Travelling In Africa
By Jemma Dicks
There is nowhere quite like Africa. This huge continent is extraordinarily diverse. The landscape, the people, the food, the climate – they vary from country to country. Travelling in Africa can be exhilarating, frustrating, exciting and shocking. One thing is certain though – it will be an experience you will never forget!
I've provided a few tips below that I hope anybody planning on visiting, travelling or volunteering in Africa will find useful.
Always carry loose change
When travelling by bus you will find that at pretty much every set of traffic lights, street vendors will board the vehicle to tempt passengers with weird and wonderful wares. From tasty treats to the most peculiar of souvenirs – there is bound to be something that catches your eye so make sure you have a bit of cash to hand.
Wear a fake wedding ring
As a female travelling alone in Africa I found this useful for a few reasons:
- It helped avoid any unwanted attention.
- That slightly eccentric, slightly odd and slightly irritating traveller that you inevitably meet on your travels will keep their distance. They will look for another solo traveller to share their slightly eccentric, slightly odd and slightly irritating travel tales with.
- It can be quite entertaining in times of boredom, especially when waiting for delayed buses and resorting to conversations with strangers you will never meet again. I found myself telling wild tales involving my non-existent husband to people I knew I would never meet again. (For the record – he's an astronaut and incredibly handsome)
Bring a surge protector
Temperamental electricity. Otherwise known as the camera killer and the ultimate bane of the traveller (mosquitoes aside). The electricity supply in Africa can be unpredictable to put it mildly. It comes, it goes, and many electrical items fall victim to it. If you don't want your equipment to fry then save yourself a battle with the plug socket and bring a surge protector.
Embrace 'Africa Time'
'Africa Time' is a term I heard frequently on my travels, but it is hard to really define it. Perhaps a scenario would be easier:
You are arranging a time to meet somebody for lunch. They suggest 2pm. You clarify 2pm. They confirm but add 'Africa Time'. You smile, nod and walk away wondering what they mean. You turn up at 2pm. They turn up an hour or two later. 'Africa Time' in a nutshell.
A little frustrating at first, you soon learn to accept the laid back way of life.
Be adventurous with the food
Africa is a meat-eater's paradise, full of game that you'll find nowhere else. Be sure to sample the incredible ostrich and springbok, and the unique taste of crocodile and kudu. And it's simply criminal to visit South Africa without having a braai (apologies to any vegetarians!).
For anyone who doesn't fancy meat, all is not lost! When travelling in Namibia I was shown how to wrap bread dough in a spiral around the top 30cm of a long, smooth and thick stick. This was then held over an open fire and cooked like a marshmallow. I had it with fresh honey and to this day I have never tried bread anywhere near as good.
Take a sink plug
You don't really appreciate how useful sink plugs are until you come across a basin without one. From washing your face to cleaning your socks – a basin without a plug is annoying! Pick up a travel sink plug before you leave to save you (and your fellow travellers) the stench of smelly socks. If all else fails, I find that stuffing a wedge of lemon in the sink hole does just as good a job and leaves your undies smelling nice and fruity.
Think carefully about what to take travelling with you. Do you really need more than one jumper? How many pairs of shoes are you actually going to wear and how many of the ones you've picked out are practical? Is a sleeping bag necessary or could you hire one locally? Remember you might have to carry all of this on your back.
In addition to this, bear in mind that on long bus journeys a large rucksack is likely to be strapped to the roof. A bag small enough to sit on your lap will save you spending the entire journey nose-to-window praying you don't see your bag bouncing down the road.
Pack some snack bars
The heat can get to you. Pack yourself a few energy bars for those days when you need a sugar kick, you're not feeling too well, or just craving a bit of western food.
Back-up your photos
A camera is replaceable but photos are not. Back them up on a USB, CD, Facebook or even Pinterest (shameless plug alert).
Carry cards and cash separately
This isn't really specific to travelling in Africa but more travelling in general. Avoid carrying all of your money in one place. If you were to lose your wallet, it will give you peace of mind knowing you have another debit card and a bit of cash in your rucksack.
Always travel with a toilet roll
I've saved the best until last. Next time you visit your bathroom be sure to value your toilet roll! Those who have travelled overseas before will have noticed that once you leave your home country, toilet paper is like gold dust. If you feel slightly awkward announcing your intentions to the world by lugging a whole roll around with you, then a pack of tissue paper will disguise your motives and do just as good a job. Either way, it's a life saver!
Got any tips to add?
These are just a few ideas but obviously Africa is a pretty big place. If you have any tips of your own to add, then please share them with us using the comments box below. We will post the best tips below the article. Please leave a link if you would like us to credit you.
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