With another adventure, actually two adventures in Africa in about a month and 2 months after I thought I would share tips on planning a trip to Africa as I have been meaning to do that since the last adventures on the continent. So if you are one of those asking yourself ‘how do I plan a trip to Africa? Well, this is the post for you! Whether you are looking to start planning a trip to South Africa, Tanzania, or looking for tips on how to plan a mission trip to Africa, the majority of the topics below are what you will need to consider when planning a luxury once in a lifetime trip to Africa or just how to plan a trip to Africa on a budge. So keep reading for the best travel tips to Africa!
Africa is not all just about Safaris, there are amazing beaches in Africa and we are blessed with Amazing weather so for those that are looking for the perfect sunny escape I have shared a couple of beaches to get your salivating over.
- 1 13 Things To Consider When Planning A Trip To Africa
- 2 How To Plan A Trip To Africa On A Budget (Your Budget!)
- 3 Activities and African Itinerary Planning
- 4 Getting Around African Countries – Flights, Buses And Rental Cars
- 5 Exploring Africa and Interacting with people
- 6 Group Travel Tour Or Self-Organised Itinerary
- 7 What To Pack For A Trip To Africa
- 8 Africa Travel Checklist
13 Things To Consider When Planning A Trip To Africa
First things, first, Africa is a continent and not a country. It is far bigger than people realise and this is something that is important when considering just how many places you can travel to in one trip. To give you an example, one of the Facebook groups I am in, there was someone who wanted to see Ghana, South Africa, Seychelles and Egypt in a 14-day itinerary for Africa. Those places are in four different corners of the continent!
This person would have spent half their time flying. Not to mention just how costly it is to fly around the continent, as we don’t yet have an abundance of cheap airlines like those found in Europe. The likes of RyanAir, EasyJet, Wizz don’t yet exist in Africa. Even then it still doesn’t change the fact that travel from North Africa down to the South is still a few hours of flying. One of my pet peeves is when people treat the continent as if it’s one country. There are 54 countries in Africa, thousands of languages, different terrains, landscapes, tribes, and oh so many beautiful and amazing destinations that will BLOW your mind. Bear that in mind when planing. With regards to safety, rather than let the fear of exploring this amazing and varied continent, let’s get you planning a trip to Africa!
Safety in Africa – let’s Talk Misconceptions
For decades the media has portrait African in a bad light and one of the reasons tourism has been slow to take off in African countries. The fact is all that is BS. Africans are the friendliest bunch you will ever meet. Travel in Africa is pretty safe, if anything the main things you need to worry about safari animals when driving through rural areas at night. As always just practice common sense in busy areas like markets with wallets and bags – like any place around the world. If you can get pick-pocketed in Europe, that can also happen anywhere and that includes Africa.
All my travels in Africa have gone without a glitch and the majority of them are self-organised. I booked everything myself from tours to accommodation, driving around from Zambia to Botswana and then onto Namibia. My family since growing up have always driven between Tanzania and Zambia where I am from as well as Zambia to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and never heard of any incidents apart from cheeky monkeys a couple of safari animal at night…other than that I have driven at night from Botswana to Namibia all perfectly fine! So like I said common sense is all you need. As far as anyone asking themselves ‘is Africa safe to travel to? Yes! I am not just talking about the popular destinations of Morocco, Egypt and South Africa. So branch out My next African adventure is a solo trip so I will keep you posted on that trip soon!
Pick A Country In Africa – Flight Routes
As popularity for African tourism grows the more flights that now have routes from Europe, the Middle East and American continents into Africa. There are already a couple of routes from Dubai. Making it easy to do weekends in Zanzibar from Dubai. Also, there are now direct flights from the USA to South Africa. Airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, KLM, British Airways all now fly frequently to African destinations. You can usually get great deals from Expedia, Lastminte, Ebookers and directly from Emirates. So the first thing to do when planning a trip to Africa is really picking a destination. That will determine everything from activities, packing, vaccines, visas and accommodation. Another thing, as I mentioned above, picking your destination will determine what other countries nearby you may be able to add to your African itinerary.
If you have a European or American passport then the majority of African countries will have visa-on-arrival which usually means you will also need to pay cash for your visa so always bring at least a couple of hundred dollars cash with you, especially for those that like to use credit cards. It may not always be possible to pay by card. Most visas will set you back $30-50 depending on your passport. My husband paid $50 the Zambian visa and I think the others ranged from $20-40. That adds up if you are doing multi-country like my husband and I did. Luckily for me, I have a Zambian passport and can travel visa-free to most countries in Southern Africa. Different story for the countries in the North as I have paid for visas ranging from $40-60. Still cheaper than how much I pay for visas across Europe and my £100 visa to the USA.
Note: Many African countries expect you to not turn up with your passport expiring within 3-6 months. You risk being sent back!
Health and Vaccinations Required In African Countries
Many countries require you to take shots for Yellow fever and have the certificate with you, for your own health and safety research each county’s requirements as well as taking malaria tablets before travelling. Before our multi-country African adventure and Asia as they were done in succession with not too long a gap we had a trip to the General Practitioner in London to run through the countries we were visiting and which vaccines we needed. I would advise you to do the same. Most vaccines last between 5 to 10 years so you may not need them if you travel often and keep your vaccine update. I recently came across my notes on the vaccines I had done, which have now expired so I need to book for more needlework. I guess I better get to those squats to make sure the glutes are ready for the injections 😀
Another important accept to think about is the water. While the water on taps might be safe to drink unless you are moving to the African country you are visiting I would advise you to buy bottled water instead. Avoid tap water and ice in drinks. If you are moving to Africa you still need to acclimatise to the local water. Packing anti-diarrhea pills tablets, especially for those moments you forget and add ice to your drinks like we did. Yep – ended up having to cancel one of tours because we had a case of the runs! Thankfully we were staying in this beautiful Garden Lodge we had two ourselves which thankfully had two toilets. To this day it gives me the giggles to think about that day.
How To Plan A Trip To Africa On A Budget (Your Budget!)
Majority of the expenses on your trip to Africa will be your flight the rest can be planned depending on your style of travel. If you are looking for how to plan a trip in Africa on a budget, you can easily save money by staying in guesthouses, hostels as well as booking cheaper tours. If you like a luxury style of travel there are plenty of places from amazing hotels, to stunning luxury safari tents in the middle of a game park. There are ways to save if you are traveling on a shoestring.
Dependent on type of activities you have book on your trip, there are stunning luxury and budget accommodation all across Africa. Whether you are looking to stay in luxury safari tents in the wilderness(if doing this make sure you book in advance). Whether you are looking to stay in the dessert and experience Bedouin culture in Morocco or experience nights under the star-lite skies in the Namibian desert, luxury accommodation on the Zambezi as hippos, crocodiles roam freely – read about our experience in at Royal Victoria Hotel and Tongabezi. If you want to experience budget or lux accommodation while sampling Africa’s many stunning beaches from The Red Sea to the Indian Ocean to Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean. There are plenty to choose from.
Luxury Safari Tents: This is glamping on steroids. A tent with all mod-cons of a luxury hotels room plus fabulous views overlooking rivers or game park. Within this there are different levels of luxury too. From the luxury tent, we stayed in at Maramba River Lodge to the super luxury the likes of The River Club.
Guesthouses and Lodges – With this option, you get the best of both worlds. You have solid walks but with the option of having accommodation still located near or within a game park.
Chalets: Traditional round huts with similar offerings to what a hotel room would offer.
Camping: While some may offer to rent the majority of our tents of accommodation that offer camping spots, you have to bring your own tent. For those doing a longer trip, there are tours that offer camping in the wild. Always make sure you ask as many questions about safety, especially if camping in places near wild animals. This is their territory and not yours.
Hotels: This needs no explanation.
Never travel without travel insurance. Whether you are doing an easy city break or adventurous activity like white water rafting on the Zambezi, hiking in the Atlas Mountains or a walking safari with wild animals. All of these activities are not covered in standard insurance so always make sure you check what is covered as well as whether they cover for cancelled flights, lost gadgets and anything else that may be of value to you. For the best deals check out Insure for Travel, Alpha Insurance or Travel Super Market,
African Trip Cost – Planning Your Budget For The Trip
Just like with any trip, there are so many little things you will need to purchase that all add up. Things like trips for vaccines, insurance, gadgets, clothing and activities specific shoes, your flight, hotel, transportation, tours, food, travel books and guides. All these things no matter how little all add up, so in addition to looking at everything else mentioned in this post always look at what your limit is and then cut where possible. So you might want to splurge on a luxury safari camp, but then cut down on certain tours or go budget on accommodation for some places you visit. Also while combined Safari packages may not suit all budgets, there are cheap alternatives too.
The beauty of costing the trip is that if you are traveling from Europe or the USA your dollar, pound or Euro will go very far in most African countries because of the currencies being lower. We have luxury hotels and budget ones so you can extend your spending as much as your bank balance will allow. For our tips in southern Africa, we splurged when we started at Tongabezi and then went budget during our other stays at Maramba River Lodge and then accommodation in Nambia and Botswana was super cheap for really comfortable stays. We had a lovely guesthouse in the desert in Swakopmund that I shared on the blog.
Activities and African Itinerary Planning
There are plenty of tours throughout Africa, from glamping tours in Africa to River cruises on the Zambezi, walking Safaris, to sandboarding in the Namibian desert. The world is your oyster. Most of these you don’t have to back in advance if you have a fairly relaxed itinerary.
If you have a fixed African itinerary I would suggest booking way in advance for activities like glamping in safari parks, especially if you are looking to experience an African Safari with accommodation in any of the national safari parks in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Malawi. This is truly a majestic continent with endless bucket list activities. From sandboarding in Namibia to surfing in Senegal or deep sea diving in the Red Sea or Gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda to shark diving in South Africa.
Best Time For An African Safari – Best Times To Travel To Africa
There are several safari parks in Africa, from Kruger National Park in South Africa, Moremi and Chobe National Park in Botswana, Etosha in Namibia, to Masai Mara in Kenya and Ngorongoro in Tanzania. All offer an amazing experience to see not only the Big Five but beautiful pink flamingo, wild cats that you never even knew existed. Any time is a great time to have an African safari. The animals tend to follow where the water is. During the dryer months, they tend to be more scattered as they move in search for water.
Wildebeest Migration – If you are visiting especially for The Great Wildebeest Migration, any time is good as these amazing creatures are always in search of water much like all the animals. They will always be on the move for fresh grazing water. If you are especially booking for this make sure you tell the tour operator you end up booking with. The best places to see this is Tanzania during the months of June and July as they cross the Mara River from Tanzania to Kenya.
Self-Drive or Arranged Tour – A self-drive allows you the freedom to plan out your own adventure. Also, make sure you have an international driver’s license. Also, depending on the time you are visiting you will need to make sure that you book a suitable car. During some periods, like the rainy season its usually preferable to have a 4×4 so your car doesn’t get stuck in the mud but these really depend on which park you visit. Another thing to note is safety, make sure you don’t do unnecessary stops to get out the car while exploring the national parks. Especially if you are unfamiliar with the surroundings. We have seen some crazy stuff during our adventures. Just don’t be those crazy tourists.
What to pack for an African Safari
I will do a full post on this but when it comes to what to wear on a safari is that its best to keep it simple. Keep to creams, khaki’s and beige shades to help you blend in with nature of the safari landscapes. Stay away from bright colours, not just because of the safari animals but because of insects as they love strong and bright colours. So, in order not to attract them, keep it simple.
When To See Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls draws in crowds all year around but there are some activities on the Zambezi that can only be done during particular times in the year. Activities like visiting the Devil’s Pool, white water rafting on the Zambezi, bungee jumping, scenic flight over the falls by helicopter or microlight to abseiling. The Zambezi is usually at its lowest between October and December and its highest between March and May. Depending on when you visit some of these activities may not be available as they are seasonal. For the full list of tours check out Aviator.
Getting Around African Countries – Flights, Buses And Rental Cars
Travel between cities and between countries gets better and better by the year. As I said above my family is used to driving between countries in Africa as it was easier and cheaper when flights weren’t readily available or were too expensive. Although not many, there are also budget flights between cities, for example when I took my husband for a little exploring back home we landed in Lusaka and after a few days of explore we booked flights with Proflight from Lusaka to Livingstone. Just do a little research as some of them may not have the same level of advertising as budget airlines like RyanAir or EasyJet but airlines are there. With China moving to invest in Africa(worryingly so – considering we are yet to recover from colonisation but that’s another post for another day.)
As far as public transport goes, there are buses between cities and between countries. While we found buses to be easier for intercity travel, I prefered rental cars when getting around. It just gave us so much freedom. We had a wide range of transportation modes. While we were in Zambia we used a combination of taxis and buses. The crossing from Zambia to Botswana was via the ferry at Kasungula but more post on that to come.
Rental Cars In Africa
There are plenty of rental cars throughout the continent. For my last trip some areas we drove, some we book flights and some places we used buses. For example, taxied from Livingstone to Kasane and then from Kasane to Maun we traveled by bus and from Maun to Namibia we rented a car.
You can book a car rental in advance from sites like EasyCar which has a wide range of coverage from Avia, Almo, Budget, Thrify and more. Many of these you can collect right when you arrive at the airports. If you are doing your own self-drive itinerary in Namibia or self-driving in Botswana as we did you need to make sure the rental company provides you with additional paperwork to cross the border.
The border checkpoint will ask you for this paperwork. Failure to provide it make means may not be allowed to cross the border. When it comes to road conditions, the majority of the roads are great but there some potholes in some areas. Roads from Botswana to Namibia, Zambia to South Africa or Zambia to Namibia are all pretty great it’s only when you are in some rural areas that there may be potholes.
Exploring Africa and Interacting with people
I have resisted doing tours like seeing the Himba people because in my eyes the treatment of those people is usually as if they are props. I love that people are taking an interest in visiting Africa but please treat people with respect and know that poor does not equal stupid. Do not use people as props in your pictures and videos. If you are going to take pictures with people, be respectful and always ask!
Also, when taking pictures of/with children – avoid this if possible unless you ask for consent from an adult guardian of the children where possible. If you want to learn about the culture and the languages(of which there are many), do this while showing respect to your fellow human being.
Solo Travel In Africa
As I mentioned above, Africa is as safe as any place when it comes to travel. I know many females that have traveled from North to South of Africa without many issues. Consider the above tips when planning your trip for Africa. If you are looking for inspiration or tips planning specific countries in Africa. Check out Travel With Katchie who has travelled solo from Tunisia to South Africa passing through The Gambia, Ghana, Gabon…all the way to South Africa where she is from. Also, check out Lee Litumbe’s Spirited Pursuits who has many posts on West Africa.
Group Travel Tour Or Self-Organised Itinerary
When it comes to how to plan travel to Africa, there is the self-organised route or doing a tour. Sometimes doing a tour allows you to explore many different places with ease as everything is all arranged for you. Especially if you want to cover a lot of ground in a new place. If you visiting Africa for the first time, sometimes this may provide a great introduction to the continent. There are tours in varying sizes from small group tours to tours in varying lengths of the trip. Below are a couple of tour companies that offer tours around Africa. Single countrie and multi-country. From private to group tours.
GAdventures – They do tours around the globe and have plenty of amazing deals to Africa throughout the year. They also do a tour similar to our itinerary covering Victoria Falls, Botswana and Namibia. They also have tours that combine South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania tour as well as Uganda for gorilla trekking.
Contiki – They do tours similar to GAdventures but are geared towards the 18-35 year olds.
Aviator – They do an amazing collection of tours from around the world. I love that they have tours that range from 30 minutes to a few hours and multi-day tours. While the above tour will have specific tours covering mainly southern safari countries, Aviator has tours spanning the whole continent. From adventure tours in Africa to food tours, walking tours, hiking and everything in between.
Lonely Planet – They do great travel guide for destinations around the world but as I am currently planning my next trip to Africa I have recently found out they do tours as well.
Trip – They specialise in multi-day package tours to Africa that range from private to group tours.
Exodus Travel – Out of the above Exodus Travels covers a wide range of destinations in Africa and many of their tours include flights whereas the above don’t. If you have a set limit of how much you want to spend on your trip to Africa this is a great way to get your trip within a certain budget and set time with flights, accommodation and tours all sorted out for you. All you have to do is pack(and sort out visas and vaccines of course!)
How Long To Travel In Africa
How much time you spend in Africa will depend on how much time you have. I would highly recommend at least 2 weeks in Africa, especially if coming from far away. My trips to Africa are usually 3-weeks to a month long but your don’t necessarily have to spend that long. How long you have will determine just how much you can do on your trip.
If you want to do a multi-country itinerary in Africa I would advise you to stick to one region. Say, you want to do 3 or four countries in 2-3 weeks just stick to Southern Africa, or West Africa or East Africa. Don’t try and East, South, West and North in such a short time. It’s not only near impossible but tiring. Katchie did Tunisia to South Africa in 6 months, all by land. I also know another person that started from Egypt to South Africa in about 6 months to a year! Again all was by land.
What To Pack For A Trip To Africa
As I mentioned above, Africa is HUGE! This means all manner of weather but for the most part packing for a trip to Africa involves plenty of summer dress due to the amazeballs weather we have throughout the year. There are places that see snow sometimes, like Tunisia, parts of Morocco and being on the Atlantic coast Namibia and South Africa can have some colder and cooler months.
What you pack for your trip to Africa will very much depend on what your activities are. Surfing, hiking, diving, or plain old beach holiday. Just check the time of the year and park according to what the weather says and what you will be doing. Essential items include insect repellent, sunscreen as well as binoculars when doing a safari. You will thank me!
Africa Travel Checklist
Below is a checklist for everything mentioned above to help you put your trip together. You can pin the Africa travel checklist as well as print it out and tick off items as and when you put your travel plans to Africa into fruition.
There you have it! How to plan a trip to Africa in tips. Have you been to any of the African countries? Is this your first trip? What are your thoughts on anything missing on the tips below to get your planning a trip to Africa?
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