We don’t like to blow our own trumpets, but Acacia Africa are widely known in travel circles as experts on travel for the African continent, especially Southern Africa, so we thought it was high time to share some of the expertise we’ve gathered over happy years in the travel industry and give you your insider’s guide to African travel. Shh…it’s still officially a secret.
Firstly, throw away any foreign media’s idea of Africa. This continent is a remarkable smorgasbord of people, culture and nationalities that vary hugely, not the homogenised whole it’s often spoken of as. If you have a good friend in Bob from Tanzania, the locals in Botswana won’t have met him! Think instead of rich cultural history, friendly locals, vibrant markets, staggeringly diverse cultures and exceptional environments and you’re more on track!
Africa and friendliness go hand in hand. Collectively, we’re one of the friendliest continents! Smiles are common, as are greetings on the street- and maybe a little curiosity as to where you come from too. That said, do remember that large parts of the continent are very conservative religiously, with Christianity and Islam dominating, so being respectful in speech and dress will get you far.
Language is often not as much of a barrier here as you may fear. True, the sheer variety of languages on the continent is staggering, but most locals will speak English at least as a second or third language. German and French also play a key role in some countries. That said, there’s nothing wrong with learning a few local phrases for the area you are travelling to- everyone likes to be spoken to respectfully in their own language.
Corruption and crime
Foreign media gives a horrendous picture of crime in Africa that ridiculously exaggerates a legitimate issue. Corruption does sadly rear its head in spots, especially at some borders. Most of the time you will have no issues, but other times you may get a hint for a bribe. This is why we recommend working with established and prestigious travel companies like Acacia, to help avoid unpleasant situations that may befall the solo traveller.
Many African countries are poor, at least by Western standards, but this makes them neither savage nor dangerous. Standard tourism safety protocols make sense- leave the flashy jewellery at home, keep your cash hidden, be aware of your surroundings and don’t make yourself an obvious target wandering around with huge camera or down dark streets at night. However, these precautions make sense anywhere in the modern world. Don’t curtail your African adventure through fear! Again, using reputable tour operators and taking their advice on travel and service providers can make a world of difference to your feelings of safety and comfort levels.
Travellers from America or Europe may experience a little bit of culture shock here. Few areas offer intercity bus networks, subways and cheap taxi services, so getting around will look a lot different and possibly cost a little more than you are used to. Obviously if you’re part of a tour this will be handled for you. If you’re travelling solo, expect to experience tuk tuks, mopeds, rickshaws…anything with wheels! Local minibuses will be packed with people and the occasional chicken, while an entire village can pile onto the back of a pickup truck to get a ride home.
Do note that distance is a huge part of the African experience- it’s normal for commuters in South Africa, for example, to drive up to an hour a day just to get to their offices. Tourist hubs Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town are separated by distances best tackled by air then car, and you can’t just ‘pop’ from one to the other in an hour to watch a local sports match. A little careful planning, however, will craft you the perfect itinerary for your needs.
Don’t get too hooked on timeousness, though. ‘African time’ is a little different, and it’s best to take a strict devotion to the clock down a notch or two to avoid frustration.
Health and money
Before you leave home, it’s important to check for any vaccine requirements for entry into the African countries you will be visiting. You can always ask your tour operator for help here. Don’t skimp on these- not only can you be prevented from entering a country if you don’t have coverage, you also risk your health. Yellow Fever, in particular, is taken very seriously by border controls.
Health services on the continent do vary. While some countries do not have 1st world levels of care others- like South Africa- do. It’s best to bring yourself any chronic medications you take, as well as your favoured brand of headache tablets, to ensure you have plentiful stock for the trip. Don‘t forget to check on malaria needs in the area you are travelling to, and pack plenty of sunscreen!
Food in Africa is delicious, so come prepared to snack! While you will find some international chains here, be a little adventurous and try the local cuisine too, or you’ll miss out on a huge taste experience. Drinking water in Southern Africa is exceptional, in some ways surpassing the Americas, but quality may decline as you head north.
Africa isn’t a particularly cheap continent to travel- budget around $100 USD a day- and choosing adventure activities and safaris may raise that too. ATMS are plentiful in Southern Africa, and we advise currency changing through your tour operator or a bank rather than street touts no matter where you go. Booking activities through your operator is also highly recommended to avoid touts and scams. Remember- if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Acacia Africa believes everyone should travel in Africa at least once. Aside from the exceptional wildlife experiences, the perspective it offers can truly be life changing [plus the food is seriously good]. Let us help you craft the perfect African experience today, and experience this unique and vibrant continent for yourselves.