11 Champion Travel Tips for Traveling Africa
Traveling Africa: Look like a Travel Pro From the Very Beginning
Hands down, traveling Africa is one of the best things to do sometime in your life! But to make it even better, here are some top tips:
1.Screw the Tours
You don’t need to go on an expensive organized tour while traveling Africa. Not even an overland tour. You can do it by yourself with just a backpack. So save your money and don’t buy into the lie that Africa is hard to travel by yourself.
(Not convinced, watch this short FAQ video explaining why I’m so glad I never went on an African Overland Tour)
2. Pack a Tent
African countries are so stunningly gorgeous that even if you’re not the outdoorsy type, you’ll still want to sleep outside. And don’t worry– it’s not what you think. You’re not just popping up a tent anywhere. It will most likely be in the camping section of a backpacker’s lodge or occasionally in a local’s backyard.
The added bonuses of tent life includes saving cash and always having a place to stay.
Just make sure your tent is waterproof and small enough to fit in your backpack.
3. Throw the Guidebook Away
While some find a Lonely Planet or Briggs helpful, don’t become dependent on them. The best way to discover what to do is to ask a local beside you what they suggest you see. Or just wander around and get lost. You’ll discover the best and most unexpected treasures along the way.
4. Make Friends with Locals
The people you meet while traveling Africa will be the best part of your trip. Hands down. So don’t be shy, eat at local restaurants, couch surf as much as you can, and talk to those around you. Since most African countries pride themselves on extreme hospitality, you’ll meet plenty of kind souls ready to be your new bff.
5. Pack Light
Buy the essential backpacking gear, but after that quit. You’re trekking across the 2nd largest continent so you want to travel light. Trust me, I brought so much with me that I ended up selling almost half of it in a market in Mozambique. There are some things you really NEED and somethings you really don’t, and only someone who has actually spent time traveling Africa can give you a good idea what to bring because it’s MUCH different than other places.
The only backpacking gear I recommend now is…..
6. Travel like a Local
While flying from place to place may save time, you’ll lose the beauty of seeing all the small towns in between. The buses also offer a great cultural experience and usually a few laughs along the way. Not too mention, they are so much cheaper!
7. Start in South Africa First
If you’re new to backpacking or nervous about traveling Africa by yourself, then start in Cape Town. Not only will backpacking South Africa be more similar to where you’re from (making it therefore a little easier and less overwhelming), but it’s also a major hub for backpackers who can teach you all the tips and tricks you need to know to get started.
8. Leave the Assumptions Behind
Lions are everywhere, everyone is poor, and there is still a genocide going on in Rwanda, right? Nah. African countries are evolving fast. So leave your stereotypes behind and start traveling Africa with an open mind. Pretend you are a student and your goal is to learn as much as you can about the way of life around you without judging or thinking you have better solutions.
Want to know what other common stereotypes about Africa are also false? Check out 7 Stereotypes About Africa That Just Aren’t True.
9. Create a Flexible Schedule
Enter the continent on a one way ticket or at the very least refundable tickets. More then likely Africa will surprise you. There’s more to do than a safari and spawned on by locals and fellow backpackers alike, you’ll soon be scouring the countries for adventures you didn’t even know existed before you came.
Believe it now or not, but your initial itinerary will dissipate as quickly as the cold beer you’re drinking on the beaches of Zanzibar. So make your schedule flexible so you’re not stuck with unwanted fees or penalties.
10. Common Sense is Sensible.
Just because most African countries are safer than what you would expect doesn’t mean you should be stupid. Use common sense. Follow my suggested safety tips, take necessary precautions, and prevent crimes before they even happen. Don’t do things that you wouldn’t do at home– such as leaving your drink unattended, walking in a dark alley alone at night, or putting yourself in an isolated situation.
Buy something from the Clever Travel Companion (or read my view about them first) since pick pocketing is quite common in some countries, carry extra hidden cash on you, and leave all your valuables at home.
11. Just Go
Nike is right. Just do it. The best things in life are always the scariest at first. Push through the initial discomfort because once you’re there, you’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been.
Want more tips? Like what to always carry with you for a long bus ride? How to go through immigration? Or how to avoid malaria and other illness? Check out Backpacking Africa for Beginner’s E-Book for even more helpful advice. It’s everything you need to know before you go (and will keep you from making several unfortunate mistakes).