This sponsored post is by Nadav Ziv:
Africa is a land of mystique and adventure. Even in today's world, where Instagram and Facebook have brought people together like never before, Africa remains one of the few places on Earth where there are huge territories over which no communication with the outside world exists. Yet, for the intrepid traveller, Africa is that frontier which needs courage, curiosity and passion.
If you are planning on taking a trip into the continent from where man started out, there quite a few things that you would need to taken into account. You should always do your research about the place that you are going to. Essential things like travel arrangements and accommodation should be taken care of.
As for accommodation, one interesting option is that of renting a holiday apartment. Many travellers are opting for these instead of the usual hotels. The USP of renting a short term apartment is that it gives you the feel of having a home away from home. Vacation rentals can work out to be more cost effective as well (learn more).
While travelling to Africa, here are 9 tips to keep in mind...
1. Rid Yourself of Preconceived Notions
Popular stereotypes make for uninformed and prejudicial decisions. This is especially true for Africa. By the end of this article, a couple of popular (and wrong) notions regarding the great continent will hopefully be debunked. However, it is a continent that is unfortunately fraught with conflict, taking some of its magnificent beauty away from it.
Before travelling to any country, make sure that your government has not issued any recommendation to postpone travel to that place. These travel warnings could be issued due to war, civil clashes, terrorism, imminent natural calamities and so on. Sometimes, your country might not have diplomatic relations with that country. In that case, in the event of any problem your country might not be able to extract you.
2. The Weather
Think Africa is hot? Think again.
It may be slap bang in the middle of the equator but Africa has quite a few places where you may mistakenly take it to be somewhere in the Alps and not in the continent which has the largest desert in the world.
Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya have glaciers. Temperatures can become very low at night, sometimes dropping down to -10 degrees Celsius. Be aware of the climate of the places that you visit, for they can vary drastically over distances. In addition to the cold chills of the night, there are places in Africa which receive snow as well. It is possible to go skiing in Morocco!
3. The Landscape
Africa has a bit of everything, there are vast deserts and grasslands, mountainous regions, rainforests, exceedingly dry places and areas which remain wet throughout the year. Uganda, the Congo and Rwanda have some of the most dense rainforests found in the world. Senegal, Guinea and Tanzania are lush countries which green and hilly landscapes.
If you're not very keen on going wild, then visit South Africa and its famed Garden Routes.
A note on deserts, there are swaths of deserts which have plenty of life as well. There are flowers which blossom during spring in the Kalahari and quite a few animals such as the elephant and the lion have adapted to the Namib's harsh conditions.
4. Beware the....Hippo?
That's right. Forget lions, devious looking crocodiles or even charging elephants. The Hippo is Africa's most lethal killer.
If it's summers and you happen to come across a hippo, be very careful of what you do. Summers in Africa are tough, there is not enough food and water for the hippo and they become very irritable. Take a guide with you when you're heading into hippo inhabited land to help you stay safe. And whatever you do, never come in between a mumma hippo and her calf.
5. It is Africa, Not a Petri Dish
You do not need to visit a pathology lab and get yourself vaccinated with every vaccine known to man. Africa may have been fatal to foreigners (and even its own) in earlier times, but the vaccines that you receive at birth will help you stay safe enough.
There are a few vaccines that you will need to take though. Rabies shots, Hep A, Typhoid and Meningococcal Meningitis should be vaccinated for. A few countries on the continent also make it mandatory to get shots for yellow fever.
6. Necessary travel documents
When travelling aboard, you need a certain set of travel documents which include a passport, visa and other immigration related documents. For US citizens, just a passport is enough. If you are travelling by air, you will need to have your passport and visa if required. If you happen to be travelling by land and sea, then you will need to have valid documents that prove your identity and citizenship of your country. If you are travelling with children then you need to present documents as proof of relationship as well.
If you are going to be travelling through the West African region, then you're in luck. Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire can all be covered with just one visa. The visa is called a Visa Touristique Entente and it costs roughly $50. Validity can stretch up to two months but you can extend it for some more time. [Francis comment: I couldn't get this multi-country visa in Senegal and it's hard to find. Apparently you can get it in Togo and perhaps a few other places.]
7. Contingency plans
Whenever travelling abroad, make sure you have all the contact details of the nearest embassy or consulate. Consular staff are on duty 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Make sure you and your family back at home have all the requisite numbers so that you or them can reach each other in the event of an emergency.
There are overseas citizens help lines in case anyone from back home needs to reach you in case of an emergency or are generally concerned about your welfare.
8. Driving documents
If you are planning to travel in a foreign country, then you will need to get yourself an international driving permit. Other countries will not recognise your driver’s license and you might get into trouble with the law. Contact the embassy of the country where you will be travelling and find out what they require for valid driving documents. Find out if there are any insurance requirements either.
Driving through Africa will require you to get a 'carnet de passage' or a triptique. A carnet de passage lets you drive the car through several countries while a triptique is for use in only one country.
Carnet de passages are issued by the motoring authorities of a country and their function is to guarantee the payment of duties and customs in case you take the car into another country and end up leaving it there.
A few countries such as Morocco and Tunisia do not require either the carnet de passage or the triptique. Other countries which do not require a carnet may ask you to buy an import permit at the border. These are temporary and generally do not cost a lot.
In case you are going to be staying there for over a year, then you should get yourself a local driver’s license there. Often, the international driving permits don’t last for more than one year.
This is one of the most vital things while travelling anywhere. Always remember to pack smart and pack light so that you can move quickly and easily. Don’t carry any valuables if you can help it. If you have to, then put them in well concealed places. Don’t pack your identity documents in places which you can't observe at all times.
These are just some of the travel tips that you need to follow in order to have a smooth and hassle-free ride abroad.
About the author
Nadav Ziv is the co-founder of TellaVista - an apartment booking engine. His website attracts many travellers looking for vacation rentals. To write your own guest post, see my guidelines.