Travel in Africa – lessons learned

Posted on October 31, 2015 by in TOP Travel Destinations

Travel in Africa

Torsten has asked me to post this on behalf of him.

Travel in Africa

Safety

Many countries in Africa don’t have a public service sector that really works. Most public institutions are merely namesake.

The crime rate is high in many places, with some areas off the chart. The good news – violent crime and terrorism is rare. In most countries non-locals will stand out and criminals will try to separate you from your money – scamming, scheming and stealing. Don’t hesitate to protect yourself with guards, hiding valuables and getting good insurance.

Don’t get paranoid though – it’s a cost of travel and unfortunately we can’t change the places we go to – we can only adapt. Keep in mind the locals assume you are extremely rich and can absorb any loss. Criminals do not want to take you hostage but they see no moral issue in stealing stuff under you (as it literally happened to me).

Time

Time runs different on the African continent – expect to do much less in a day’s time (and be even more exhausted). Internet speeds are slow, traffic a crawl, waiting for your food will take an hour. Areas that would take you a day or two to explore in other countries will take you a week or more in Africa.

Travel in Africa

Flexibility

Given the challenges, it’s amazing that good airlines operate mostly on time, like Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways. However in many other areas you need to be extra flexible. Don’t expect much. Go with the flow and hope for the best. Most of the time things will work as planned, but it’s more like a general guideline here, not something you should expect.

Food

The many cuisines in Africa are often formed by many influences – European, Indian and Ethiopian. In the countries I have been to, the food was usually a very positive surprise, though you need to often dig deep to find these places. Expect about 50%-75% of what you pay in the US.

Ethiopia is the best place to eat but most cities have a stunning array of local and foreign food options.

Travel in Africa

Society

Most African societies are deeply split between rich (that means education) and poor. It’s astonishing how little has changed in such a long time – even when the rest of world has gotten much better at eradicating poverty.

Prices

While labor is cheap, prices are high for most areas and for the services you will be in touch with. The society is so stubbornly split between rich and poor that you will not generally be able to take advantage of the low labor cost.

Travel in Africa

Diversity

Africa seems like one place to us but it’s stunningly diverse. The landscape, the people, the languages and the many different businesses and opportunities will keep surprising you. Think of the many differences Europe offers, but packed into another continent.

The people

Africans are incredibly friendly and caring. The culture is usually tilted towards enjoying life and away from consumerism. This may be a hindrance for observing rules and instituting public safety, but it’s a boon for music and art.

Communication

In many countries English or French are the languages that many people are familiar with. Even taxi drivers will speak either to an extent.

SIM cards are cheap and mobile phone networks are built out very well. While data services are slow and spotty, it’s hard to find a place without any cell phone coverage.

Travel in Africa

The nature

Africa has lots of unspoiled nature and wildlife to explore. Safaris are a good introduction but many countries offer wildlife tours. I would love to do an African road trip traversing the continent and being able to spend time in some of the most amazing places the world has to offer.

The adventure

Traveling in most African countries is an adventure. It’s frustrating, infuriating and overwhelming. But it will also be beautiful, invigorating and breathtaking.

In many places you will be the only tourist that shows up in a whole day or even in weeks. Mass tourism does not really exist bar Egypt and South Africa.

Africa will challenge even experienced travelers but it will reward you for the challenge.

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