Know As an Expat Heading To Africa,
So you’ve decided to take a trip to Africa! I shall be your guide. Africa is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I just know you’re going to love it! The decision to take the plunge into visiting Africa can be nerve-wracking but will try and demystify all misconceptions you might have.
After years of travelling around Africa, I’ve learned a thing or two, so I am well placed to share a few of my best and most useful Africa travel tips with you. And believe me, travelling to Africa is not half as scary or difficult as people are made to believe.
To visit most African countries, your passport must be valid for 6 months from the date you expect to leave the country (sometimes it is on the date of entry, but I still go with the date of departure to be sure) and you will need at least 2 blank pages for each country you intend to travel to.
If you have dual nationality, it is worth looking up which of your passports is best suited to the countries you want to visit, for instance, some passports have lower visa charges than others. However, if you intend to fly to various countries, you can only use one passport for the length of your journey.
You will need to submit your passport in advance (with your Yellow Fever Certificate for certain visas, so be mindful of the deadlines and don’t leave it too late, else you may face an emergency trip to the embassy or even worse, they may not allow you on the plane… this is known to happen.
African Visa Policies
You will need a visa to visit most African countries, especially if you are not a holder of an African passport and every country in Africa has a different visa policy, so it is really important to do your research.
Some nationalities are exempt from certain visas whilst, for some countries you will need to apply in advance. Depending on the host country, you might be able to apply online and for the majority of the countries, from the embassy in your own country or a neighbouring African country.
Please note, you might be able to get at visa at the point of entry (airport/border in countries like Zimbabwe and most East and Southern African countries. Whereas most Central and West African countries require you to apply for a visa in advance. Most cards are accepted at most borders visa payments, but Africa can be rife with technical problems so make sure you have enough cash as a backup precaution.
Budgeting For Your Africa Trip
How much is a sufficient budget for a trip to Africa? This is possibly one of the most popular questions asked but one of the most difficult to answer.
It depends on your personal preference. You could spend as little as $20 a day if you camped, used local transport, ate local food, drank only water and soft drinks, and didn’t take part in tourist activities such as game drives. But once you start incorporating taxis, paid events, dinners, hotels, your budget will start to grow. The best way to find out how much it would cost you is to sit down with a pen and a paper/excel spreadsheet and work it out. No one else can tell you this because it will depend on your expectations.
Preparing Your Money for Africa
You’re going to have to take some cash with you to Africa. Typically you’ll need money for your visas (if you don’t get it in advance) and then it’s nice to have some cash (dollars, euros or GBP) depending on the country you’re visiting.
Some African currencies are closed, which means you can’t get them outside that country, so you’ll either need to take money to swap for local currency or use ATMs in the host country. However, it’s always nice to have some emergency cash to shift, just in case the ATM isn’t working/empty.
It is advisable to have cash, most of it hidden in your luggage (divided into separate wallets) and then a small amount in your regular hand luggage. All US Dollars that you take must be undamaged and unmarked. Ideally, it should be the newest USD you can find, dated 2009 and later. Some fake notes are circulating in Africa, so earlier dated notes are rarely accepted.
There are ATMs and FOREX offices in most major cities and towns, but you will have to try a few because they don’t always have enough money.
Sign up for Western Union, just in case you need more money sent to you. There are branches of the Western Union throughout most of the African cities.
Download the currency conversion app to your phone so that you can always verify how much you pay, as it can be frustrating when you travel between countries with similar currencies, with different values.
Pre-Trip Health Preparations for Africa
The first port of call is to talk to your doctor or specialist travel clinic – they should be able to inform you about what you need to do and your doctor might be able to give you some of your vaccines free of charge or on a cheap prescription.
Just note that travel clinics tend to cash in on travellers, so they’re going to advise you to get even medication you might not need. Your doctor may be less overzealous about your injections, so you need to weigh up your risk vs. your costs. The reality is there aren’t a lot of vaccines for you to take apart from having a Yellow Fever vaccine certificate to reach certain countries.
A Yellow Fever certificate is required if you are travelling from a country where Yellow Fever is a risk factor (this can include transit but typically only if you have spent more than 12 hours in a risk country).
Make obtaining your Yellow Fever certificate a priority, as some countries won’t let you in without it, and if you don’t have it, you’ll get a shot at the airport (if available) that normally costs $50. You should also have your Yellow Fever shot at least 10 days before you reach the region.
Malaria is widespread in several parts of Africa. Taking anti-malaria is a personal preference, and some people don’t like it because the side effects can be a little nasty.
In the event, you get some anti-malaria medication, test your malaria tablets a few weeks before you leave. If you do have side effects, it’s probably better to find out before you leave home. Most people prefer getting them from their local pharmacies but in the event, you fail to get them for one reason or the other, you can purchase these in at your destination. Only make sure you’re buying them from a reputable pharmacy.