Travelling To Africa A Guide For The Single First Timer

Travelling To Africa A Guide For The Single First Timer



Travelling to​ Africa

If you're from the​ West and your thinking of​ travelling to​ Africa for the​ first time or​ for a​ holiday,​ or​ to​ meet someone you've met from a​ dating site such as​ AfrikaDating or​ others,​ then congratulations! if​ you've been before you​ can probably ignore all this,​ but if​ it's your first time,​ then it​ might be of​ use to​ you.

Firstly,​ you're a​ lucky person. Not many people can afford to​ travel to​ Africa,​ it's a​ long-haul flight in​ most cases and a​ lot of​ Africans would like to​ be going the​ other way! Now,​ do you​ have family there? Are you​ meeting someone for the​ first time? Are you​ going on​ a​ package tour? if​ you've got family or​ you're going on​ a​ package tour,​ most things like where you'll stay and your safety will be taken care of.

How are you​ travelling?

If you​ are going alone,​ then its best to​ make sure that the​ person you​ are meeting at​ the​ other end is​ genuine and you​ trust that person. if​ you're not sure,​ make a​ contingency plan in​ case you​ get into trouble. Find out where your country embassy is​ in​ that country and their phone number. if​ you're worried try and make a​ number of​ bookings yourself,​ such as​ your hotel. a​ lot of​ hotels will take email bookings but you​ can use cheap international calls to​ phone up a​ hotel to​ make your reservation. You'll be charged a​ lot if​ you​ book into a​ Sheraton or​ Holiday Inn however,​ and sometimes those places can be strict,​ especially they will charge you​ more if​ you​ bring a​ guest to​ your room.

Health

Before you​ go make sure you've had your relevant jabs. There are certain health risks,​ the​ most significant of​ which are Malaria and HIV/AIDS. Take a​ trip to​ your travel clinic,​ GP or​ doctor and get the​ relevant jabs. These can take weeks to​ get,​ so its best to​ plan in​ advance or​ you​ may want to​ find a​ private travel clinic. Even if​ you​ are of​ African origin,​ its best to​ be sure since viruses and other bugs mutate over time and when you​ might previously have been immune,​ you​ might not be to​ more recent viruses.

Malaria

Check if​ your travelling to​ a​ malarial area. Get the​ relevant anti-malarial medication from your doctor,​ and take it. Malaria is​ a​ killer and its best not to​ mess about. And get an​ idea of​ the​ symptoms of​ malaria so you​ can recognise it​ in​ case you​ catch it​ anyway. the​ general symptoms include headache,​ nausea,​ fever,​ vomiting and flu-like symptoms,​ although these symptoms may differ depending on​ the​ type you've contracted. Malaria can come on​ several months after returning from an​ infected area,​ and if​ you​ get ill after you​ come back,​ make sure you​ mention to​ any doctor treating you​ that you've been to​ a​ malarial area.

Sexual Health

If you're intending to​ be sexually active then take condoms with you. Some people slur the​ standard of​ African condoms however,​ they are generally of​ a​ high standard and can be bought readily and cheaply in​ most African countries. Diseases such as​ HIV/AIDS,​ Syphilis,​ Gonorrhoea are common. HIV/AIDS,​ while treatable in​ the​ west,​ is​ still one of​ the​ major killers in​ Africa,​ so take care. if​ you're going to​ get married then you​ can take all the​ relevant tests then,​ in​ the​ meantime simply play safe. That's use CONDOMS!

If it​ turns our you​ or​ your partner are HIV positive,​ its not the​ end of​ the​ world and there are organisations out there to​ help you​ cope with the​ diagnosis and help you​ find the​ course of​ action you​ are most comfortable with. This is​ a​ highly sensitive and complex area,​ and we'll be adding further information on​ this site in​ due course.

Country Background

Most developed countries will have detailed country information for travellers available over the​ internet. the​ most extensive of​ these are with the​ Foreign and Commonwealth Office in​ the​ UK,​ and the​ US Department of​ State. Read them and absorb them but take them with a​ pinch of​ salt as​ they can scare the​ living crap out of​ you​ and put you​ off travelling. in​ the​ bureaucrat's world,​ everything foreign is​ bad and everything indigenous is​ good. For example,​ you​ might find warnings against travelling to​ Bali due to​ terrorist activity,​ but not to​ Spain although both countries were attacked by al-Qaida terrorists.

Basically your government is​ risk averse and doesn't want to​ get sued for giving wrongful advice,​ for example if​ you​ based your trip abroad on​ favourable country advice and then got bombed,​ you​ might be able to​ sue them. So bear that in​ mind. For example the​ FCO still advises on​ Kenya that "Do not accept food or​ drink from strangers as​ it​ may be drugged" although there is​ no evidence of​ Kenyan locals running around with drugged sweets forcing them into foreigners mouths,​ and it​ may even be based on​ a​ rumour that is​ several years old.

However,​ before I run the​ risk of​ pooh-poohing the​ whole country reports system,​ they do contain valuable information and valuable warnings. It's a​ good idea to​ read them and familiarise yourself with the​ contents and the​ particular thing that you​ MUST take notice of,​ such as​ health information,​ visa requirements and do's and don'ts.

Money

The banking system in​ Africa generally does not provide as​ many services as​ you​ may expect in​ a​ Western country. you​ might be able to​ use credit cards and your current bank cards in​ come countries,​ but not in​ others. you​ may be able to​ use your bank card in​ certain establishments,​ or​ there may be just one. For example,​ if​ you​ wanted to​ make a​ cash withdrawal on​ your credit card in​ Uganda (last time I was there),​ there was only one places you​ could do it: Barclays Bank on​ Kampala Road. on​ the​ other hand,​ throughout Kenya you​ can use a​ UK bank card in​ the​ machines there. You'll need to​ check it​ out. Speak to​ your bank

Avoid taking travellers cheques. These are widely used in​ fraudulent activities and many places will not accept them. you​ might not be able to​ change up into local currency before you​ travel (you still can't buy Zambian Kwacha in​ the​ UK!) and might not get good exchange rates anyway.

It's best to​ take cash,​ in​ such currencies as​ British Pounds,​ Euros or​ US Dollars. the​ US Dollar is​ the​ most widely accepted. Take how much you​ are going to​ need and an​ extra 100 to​ 200 for contingencies. a​ lot of​ people in​ Africa will instantly convert their prices to​ US dollars for foreigners anyway,​ and the​ dollar is​ especially useful if​ you​ are travelling outside major capital cities where the​ only foreign money banks will take will be the​ US Dollar. So,​ even if​ you're travelling with Pounds or​ Euros,​ its best to​ get a​ few US Dollars to​ be on​ the​ safe side. Another thing to​ take account of​ is​ that some countries had a​ lot of​ fake US bills distributed after the​ Iraq wars and may even refuse US Bills which are dated before 1999. So get US Bills which are dated 2000 and later if​ you​ are unsure.

Keep your money safe. Don't put it​ all in​ the​ same place and don't put any in​ your suitcase. if​ you're out and about put some money in​ each pocket. Africans like stuffing it​ in​ their socks so you​ might want to​ put some there as​ well. Check if​ your hotel or​ accommodation has security for passports and money and use them if​ necessary. Bigger hotels will have a​ safe in​ the​ rooms.

Travel Insurance

Don't ask. Just get it. on​ one trip to​ South Africa I was set fire to​ in​ a​ barbecue accident (DON'T light barbecues with petrol) and robbed at​ gunpoint in​ central Johannesburg a​ week later - they took everything including my passport. And I was travelling with a​ Xhosa local who carried a​ semi-automatic pistol everywhere we went. So get travel insurance. It's mostly sold under "World Wide" policies. You're worth it.

Cultural Awareness

If you​ are from the​ west or​ other rich country it's almost inevitable that local people will have certain perceptions of​ you. the​ most commonplace is​ that you​ are rich. if​ you're white it's even worse and they might assume you​ have a​ dollar tree growing in​ your garden. Remember a​ lot of​ these people are broke,​ in​ countries where social security is​ limited to​ running orphanages,​ and thousands of​ westerners have passed through throwing money away on​ silly projects or​ in​ expensive hotels. So,​ you're rich. Expect to​ be hassled and overcharged,​ and if​ you're travelling alone get a​ local to​ look after you. Taxi drivers are sometimes a​ good choice. on​ the​ positive side,​ most people will just ask for the​ price of​ a​ beer,​ which is​ about a​ dollar.

But whatever you​ do don't be an​ ass with a​ big head and don't treat the​ locals like idiots. There will be lots you​ might not understand but there's no excuse for treating people with a​ lack of​ respect. Mind your language; swearing is​ often frowned upon in​ many African countries.

Visa

In most cases you'll need a​ visa when travelling to​ an​ African country. These can be bought in​ advance at​ the​ relevant embassy or​ consulate in​ your home country,​ and often can be bought at​ the​ border when you​ arrive,​ although sometimes there are long queues which can be worrying if​ you've got a​ connecting flight. Visas can cost more than 65 dollars depending where you​ go,​ and generally you​ can pay in​ Euros,​ Pounds or​ Dollars. if​ in​ doubt,​ take dollars. if​ you​ want to​ be safe you​ might want to​ get your visa in​ advance,​ especially if​ your country has poor relations with the​ country you​ are visiting. Most visitor visas will be issued for up to​ three months,​ or​ the​ duration of​ your stay.

Avoiding Trouble

There's a​ few of​ things you​ can do before and after you​ get into trouble.

Information: Tell people where you​ are going and when you'll be back. if​ you're going for a​ long time then inform the​ embassy or​ consulate on​ your arrival of​ your stay in​ the​ country. Tell your friends or​ family back home where you'll be staying.

Documents: Make two photocopies of​ your passport - the​ identity page,​ and if​ relevant,​ any visas you​ need. if​ it​ gets stolen then a​ photocopy is​ often good enough to​ prove who you​ are to​ get an​ emergency replacement. Leave one copy at​ home,​ and take another with you. if​ you​ have a​ driving licence take this also,​ as​ it​ can be considered evidence of​ identity if​ your passport goes missing.

Mobile phones: get your phone unlocked - that's network unlocked - so any SIM card in​ the​ world will work in​ it. Buy a​ local SIM card when you​ get there - they are usually pay as​ you​ go,​ and cost about £10. Then SMS your family back home to​ give them your number there. They can use a​ cheap international call service to​ get hold of​ you​ if​ necessary. Get the​ emergency number for your local embassy or​ consulate on​ the​ phone so you​ can call your country representatives if​ necessary.

Money: Western Union offices are all over the​ place in​ Africa. It's a​ growth industry. So if​ you​ get robbed or​ need money in​ a​ hurry,​ you​ can get someone in​ your home country to​ send it​ to​ you. They can SMS the​ details to​ you​ on​ your local phone number,​ but you'll need some ID to​ pick it​ up,​ and they may ask you​ a​ test question ("What's your dog called?",​ for example).

Police: if​ you​ get into trouble with the​ police then stay calm. Sadly,​ a​ lot of​ police officers are very poorly paid and only too happy to​ take a​ bribe. if​ you've been really criminal then you​ are certainly in​ trouble so insist on​ your right to​ see your ambassador or​ consul. if​ it's something petty or​ something you've just been accused of​ for the​ hell of​ it,​ it​ will almost certainly be easier to​ pay whatever is​ needed to​ have the​ matter buried. HOWEVER WE ADVOCATE THAT you​ DO NOT BREAK the​ LAW WHEREVER you​ GO,​ and you​ should know differing laws for where you​ go. For example,​ in​ a​ lot of​ African countries homosexuality is​ illegal. Information such as​ this is​ held in​ country reports that we discussed earlier.




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