Travelling around Africa is an experience unlike any other – the diversity of people, wildlife and culture makes any trip to the continent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
What’s more, it’s not like a standard holiday. You’ll come away having experienced another way, and pace, of life. Don’t expect to get anywhere too quickly or without some hiccup – but enjoy the journey. Here are some key things you’ll learn:
- The local people are lovely
The people you encounter on any trip can make or break your travel experience. In Africa, the locals will certainly make your experience that bit more special. Even if you’re travelling as part of a group, make sure you make the effort to meet the people who live nearby. If you don’t, you’ll certainly miss out. As blogger Helen in Wonderlust says, “the heartbeat of Africa lies with the people.”
- You’ll stand out
Wherever you go, it’s likely you get some extra attention for being an international visitor. Most of it is just excitement from local kids and special attention from business owners, but watch out for inflated prices.
- The history can still be felt
South Africa has undergone a historic transformation since the dark days of apartheid – but that doesn’t mean the devastation still can’t felt. If you visit the country, it’s something you should learn about. For instance, Kelly from iTrek visited the Langa Township to discover how the people are still trying to mend the systems of racial segregation.
- You won’t cover it all
Africa is huge – it’s the second largest continent in the world. So don’t expect to visit everywhere in one trip. Instead, do your research and plan ahead to travel to the region that will suit you best.
For beginners, Travel Cake recommend countries with some level of tourist infrastructure including public transportation, hostels and Western food options. In West Africa, this includes Ghana, Senegal and Gambia. Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya are suggested as good options in Eastern Africa. For Southern Africa, they recommend considering Zimbabwe or Botswana.
- It does get cold at night
You might assume the climate in Africa is hot – but in some places, it gets extremely cold at night. In One Girl’s 12 things you need to before you visit Africa, she describes camping in Namibia and having to borrow a friend’s jacket and use a towel as a blanket. She’d made the mistake of only packing summer clothes – that’s one thing you don’t want to learn the hard way.
- Power cuts are normal
Something you won’t miss upon your return from Africa is the frequency of power outages. You might freak out the first time it happens, but by the 35th you’ll be used to it. A lot of tourist places have back-up generators though so do your research if you want to stay somewhere that won’t be as affected by outages.
- You can fit a lot of people into a minivan
If you spend any time travelling around Africa, you’ll quickly realise that personal space is a luxury when on the road. The number of seats in a car or van is by no means the limit they’ll try and squish in. As Nomadic Matt explains, “just when you think they couldn’t possibly fit another person in, they have them stand on the windowsill outside the van.” The silver lining is that it’s a very cheap way of getting around.
Have you been lucky enough to visit anywhere in Africa? Share your experiences with us below.