Africa is filled with gems for the traveller, from its northernmost tip right down to the south. It’s no wonder that many countries on the continent are finally being recognised as destinations worthy of any bucket list. But as with all foreign destinations in the world, there are a few things to be aware of before you explore the continent’s vast beauty. Here are seven things to consider before setting off.
Visas and important documentation
If you’re considering travelling to or through the continent, it’s important to know the visa requirements for each country you visit. Along with your passport, many countries require you to apply for a visa prior to your arrival, while others offer visas when clearing customs. Find out more at consulate centres or through your travel agent.
A Visa Touristique Entente (VTE) allows for travel to Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo, while Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and Mauritius, among others, offer visas on arrival.
It’s also worthwhile taking photocopies of important documents with you as you may need them.
Several African countries may require you to get vaccinations prior to arrival. It’s important that you know which are relevant to your destination ahead of time, as not getting the appropriate vaccinations may result in you being denied entry into the country or, worse, contracting a life-threatening illness from something as small as a mosquito bite. Vaccinations often required include, but are not limited to, yellow fever, hepatitis A and typhoid, which can be spread through contaminated water and food.
While there is no vaccination for malaria, taking prophylactics may minimise your chances of infection. It’s also important to note that some countries have diseases specific to their respective regions, such as sub-Saharan countries that are known to fall under the “meningitis belt”. When travelling to Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Senegal, you will most certainly need vaccinations for meningococcal meningitis.
Always consult your GP ahead of travel.
The beauty of Africa stretches to regions that are remote and rural. This means access to ATMs may be limited in some parts. Carry a reasonable amount of cash for your day-to-day travelling. A widely accepted form of currency is US dollars and euros, as are Visa and Mastercards.
Get travel insurance
Getting travel insurance is always a smart move, no matter your destination. This may be included by some banks as part of your credit card benefits. Most travel insurance covers medical evacuations, so travellers won’t have to pay for emergency medical transportation when necessary.
Check that your travel insurance at least covers trip cancellations, interruptions and delays; in-patient and outpatient treatments, prescriptions; and personal liability.
Pack a powerbank
No matter which part of the world you’re heading to, a powerbank makes all the difference in regions where access to electricity is limited.
Cellphone coverage and internet connectivity
Most African countries have great cellphone coverage, but when it comes to access to the internet, be aware that many aren’t operating on high-speed connectivity, so consider the implications if you’re travelling for business.
Keep abreast of your travel destination’s socio-political affairs
Keep a close eye on the news about the country you’re visiting as events there could affect your plans. Some news reports may not adequately or accurately cover what’s happening in the country itself, so it’s advised that you check your sources and, if possible, confirm with your contacts in the country or speak to your travel agent if you have concerns about safety.