Travelling to Africa for the first time is met with mixed fillings; excitement and a level of uncertainty about what to expect.
You’ve probably done your research or heard so much about Africa before now, and finally you want to make that first trip to Africa a reality.
In this blog post, I will be asking you 11 questions you must answer to ensure that you are well prepared for your first trip to an African country. And don’t worry, I will also do my best to guide you in answering these questions.
The basic thing every traveller requires for travelling is the visa and passports, enough money, clothes, your flight ticket and positive spirits.
First thing to do is to have an open mind to learn, after all one major purpose of travelling is learning.
Having an open mind will help you to learn and have an understanding of the variety of cultures and way of life of people living in the continent.
Get ready to see culture. Africa is said to be the bedrock of human existence, the earliest form of civilization can be traced to Africa.
Before we dive into the questions, get a notepad and a pen in hand to answer these questions on the go. Or do it on your phone. Now let’s dive into the questions.
QUESTION 1: What country do I want to visit on the continent?
Africa is a continent of 55 countries. There are so many that you can visit. Africa is divided into Northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa (meaning South of the North).
You need to establish what country you would love to visit before you do anything else. Your purpose of visiting will likely influence your choice of a country to visit.
There are some countries in Africa that people tend to visit a lot because of the tourist sites, culture and beautiful nature. Some of the favorite destinations for travellers are Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa.
People travel to Africa for various reasons- business or work, to see family, to relocate, for charity or just for vacation.
If you don’t have a country in mind to visit. You can learn about different countries by researching about them online. YouTube is a great resource as many people have begun to document their travel videos online. With the kind of information available online now, you can make informed decisions about the country you intend to visit.
QUESTION 2: When do I plan to travel, and How long do I plan to stay there?
Fixing a date for your trip ahead of time has a lot of benefits. You can begin to look out for cheap flights if your departure date is still very far, as opposed to rushing to get your flight, a week or two before the day you intend to travel.
Planning a date ahead will also help you take care of any thing you need to sort out in preparation for your trip and during your absence from home.
Also, you can pick a favourable date to travel to Africa. For instance, you might want to travel during summer periods, which is the peak period for tourist visits in Africa. If you are not keen on travelling when other tourists are visiting the country you can plan to travel at other times for a more personal less crowded travel experience.
Planning your trip ahead of time will help put things into perspective, you can now book your return flight based on your time frame.
You can plan around your life and work schedule such that you don’t miss out on any important activity at home. You will also be able to achieve all you intend to achieve in Africa within the period of your visit when you plan.
QUESTION 3: Is the country I want to visit foreigner friendly and safe?
Safety and security is an important factor to consider when picking a country to visit in Africa. You want to find out how friendly the people are to foreigners or tourists visiting the country. I know for a fact that most countries in Africa are friendly and very welcoming.
However it won’t hurt to research more about the country. Find out information about crime rates, find out if people have visited that country before and what their experience in the country was. Look out for what tourists are saying about the country. You can learn more about the country you intend to visit using Reddit and Tripadvisor.
Another reason why you should ask this question is because Election periods in Africa can be tricky. You want to avoid visiting some countries in Africa during these periods for your own safety.
Even if you are not under any harm directly you might not be able to visit some places or do some activities because there is a bit of tension in the country during these periods.
QUESTION 4: What is my purpose for visiting?
Establish your purpose for visiting the country and what you intend to achieve when you visit the country.
I would get a notepad and write down a few things I would love to achieve or do during my visit.
Like I said earlier in question one, your purpose for travelling will most likely influence your decision on which country to visit.
For instance if you intend to travel to go on a Safari or to go see the great migration of the wild beast. Kenya will most likely be your choice destination and not Ethiopia. But if you want to learn about Ethiopian history and culture as a part of your undergraduate thesis for instance, Ethiopia will definitely be your destination of choice.
QUESTION 5: What fun things do I want to do when I Visit?
It’s your first time visiting Africa! So even if you are not there on a vacation you should make time to go out on an adventure and visit fun places in the country.
Experience what life is like in the country, visit the local markets, go to the museum, hike the mountain, Africa has awesome nightlife that you can enjoy, go to the beach, meet new people and make new friends, go on a boat cruise. The options are limitless.
Do your research about fun places to go to in the country you are visiting before you travel and take note of these places on your notepad. When you arrive in the country you will find out even more places to visit. The experience will be awesome, I promise.
QUESTION 6: Where do I plan to stay during my Visit?
Accommodation is an essential part of your travel so you need to plan for it. Thank goodness this is not something complex. The options you have for your accommodations will be staying in a hotel or using Airbnb.
If you have someone on ground who can host you throughout your stay and whom you are comfortable staying with, that will be a cost effective option.
For the purpose of this post let us assume that you do not know anyone in the country you are visiting. I recommend that you book a Hotel before you arrive. Preferable one with a 5 star rating.
It might cost you but you are assured of your safety and that of your property during your stay in the country. The one downside of an Airbnb in Africa is intrusion of privacy which can happen sometimes. So I would recommend a hotel especially if you don’t plan to stay for more than 2-4 weeks.
QUESTION 7: What is my budget for my trip to Africa?
Finance, finance finance! You need to plan the money dear!
Count your cost, budget for your flight tickets to and fro, to your accommodation, feeding, transportation in Africa, expenses for fun outing, travel insurance coverage, budget for donation or support (if you intend to do that), and things you would love to buy and bring back home with you.
Also, include a miscellaneous amount in your budget for unforeseen emergencies.
QUESTION 8: What do I pack for my trip to Africa?
Packing is an essential part of travelling. You should pack only essential items like your clothing, gadgets, toiletries, mosquito repellant, footwear and medications if any. I wrote a blog post on items to pack for your trip to Africa and it covers everything you need to the T!
QUESTION 9: Am I solo travelling or am I using a travel Agency?
Solo travelling implies that you will be doing everything yourself. Your accommodation, flight booking to and fro, feeding, and transportation will all be done by you.
The upside of solo travelling is that you have autonomy to make decisions based on your preferences. You decide where you want to stay during your visit, what kind of food you would like to eat and even when to leave the city.
Most travel agencies already have things paid for on behalf of their clients and if you don’t like a certain service you have a choice but to use them anyway because it’s what is provided for you. There is a timeline on your travel period which you might want to shorten or extend.
A travel agency has its benefits too. With a travel agency you don’t need to bother yourself with all the planning and preparations involved with travelling to a country for the first time. All you need to do is to show up with your luggage at the airport.
QUESTION 10: What Health and safety Measure should I take before I travel?
Ensure that you are healthy and in a good place to make the trip. Consult your doctor for a check up and for any necessary check up before your trip.
Health and Travel insurance: Get your travel insurance in order before you travel.
Anti malaria treatment: Malaria is a common ailment in Africa so it is advisable that you take the anti malaria treatment before you travel. Just in case.
Vaccinations: major vaccinations required for African travellers are the yellow fever vaccine which is required in some African countries.
Visit the CDC site to get more information about health risk in African countries you want to visit and COVID 19 test and preventive measures to take/make.
What you Eat: Watch what you eat to avoid Food poisoning. Although it’s good to have a taste and feel of the various rich foods in your location it’s good to watch what you eat. Ensure that the environment where the food or (local) drink you want to eat is clean and free of flies.
Preferably eat in restaurants you can still have a taste of the country’s rich food in a good restaurant cheaply. Some of you might have food allergies or allergies of any kind so be careful.
QUESTION 11: What are the requirements for first time travellers to Africa?
I have written a separate blog post on Essential Travel documents required for travellers.
To list them briefly; you would need
- Visa (you can apply for this online if the option is available. Most time you get Visa on arrival)
- International drivers License (if you plan to drive)
- Covid 19 test results (not more than 72 hours old)
- Return ticket
- Yellow Fever Vaccine card (find out if the country requires this)
If you have taken the time to answer these 11 questions and carried out the requirements for each question, then congratulations! you are ready for your trip to the African country of choice. I hope you have a splendid experience.
Do you have any question you would have asked before taking a trip to an African country? Do let me know in the comments.