Africa is a beautiful continent, full of fast developing nations and incredibly rich in culture and diversity. It has an energy unlike any other place on earth and the spirit of the people is something to be admired. Life in Africa is about love, gratitude and community – something that people in the developed world could probably learn a thing or two about.
Africa is a nice place to be. It is not a place full of war, disease, poverty and starving children. Travelling to Africa for the first time has a tendency to freak people out.
- Malaria awareness
Malaria is no joke – it’s a big problem in Africa and millions die from it every year. However, don’t let the fear of this ruin your trip. Malaria is easy to prevent and with the proper precautions you will be fine.
Malaria is not easy to catch, it’s a specific species of mosquito called Anopheles that carries it and it struggles to live at altitudes above 1,500m. The obvious prevention method here is to use insect repellent whenever outdoors at night, in the bush, or wherever mosquitoes might be found. If you don’t get bitten, you are safe!
- Learn about HIV
To some people HIV and Africa are almost synonymous. That’s a little bit sad. People seem to be arrested with the fear that just spending time on the continent will put them at risk. HIV is a very difficult disease to contract. Don’t have unprotected sex, don’t get a blood transfusion, and don’t use needles. Easy!
- Have first aid kit
A standard first aid kit can come in handy in a place where ambulances are scarce and hospital helicopters don’t exist. That means bandages, antiseptics, prescription antibiotics, a pocketknife, sterile needles, DEET, anti-diarrheal and painkillers.
- Camera use
You are going to come across some amazing photo opportunities of local people doing things you have never seen before. Have some tact with your camera because local people will often take offense at you taking photos of them. Use your zoom and take your snaps from afar or just be discreet. If you wish to get up close and take your perfect photo, ask permission first. Alternatively, take the photo and then offer a “tip” afterwards. It will keep the peace and they will appreciate your respect.
- Take an old smartphone
3G is available and cheap – you might only pay $20 or so for unlimited data for a month. Take an old smartphone that uses the original size simcards. Original sized sim cards are both cheaper and easier to find. Getting your hands on a nano or micro sim will be more difficult and more expensive.
- Be smart with the hustlers
While walking around the streets you all get some unwanted attention. Guys will try to sell you arts and crafts or lure you to souvenir stores in an effort to earn a commission. That’s fine if you are interested, but chances are you are not. If any case these people are harmless and are just an annoyance more than anything else, so the trick is to just be cool and relaxed rather than hostile.
- Stay safe
Despite what people think Africa is not a wild, lawless place. Of course there’s crime, but common sense will be sufficient to keep you safe. Don’t go out alone at night – take a local male with you. When you arrive in the country, ask someone you can trust such as a tour guide or hotel staff about the danger spots in the city. If you always have an escort at night and don’t go wandering, you will be in no more danger than you would be in your home country.
- Get a driver
Once you land in the country, get the phone number of a reliable taxi driver. If your hotel sends a driver to the airport and you get to your hotel alive, get his number. Otherwise ask the hotel staff for a reliable taxi. Keep his number in your cellphone or even better, memorise it. You can call him whenever you are in a fix, especially if you are stuck somewhere after dark, making sure you will never be stuck behind enemy lines.
Come, explore, discover, enjoy. Happy travels!
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro