Mythical Africa

Howick Falls, South Africa

Solo travel in Africa is an incredibly rewarding and awesome experience, but it’s always a bit daunting when you are travelling to a new place or a new country and especially to a new continent by yourself.

So when you start to plan your trip to Africa, the first question you’ll probably ask is where should I go? If you travel alone in Africa, you need reliable, current information and to take sensible precautions. The moment you mention travelling any parts of Africa, here are the common responses you should expect:

“You can’t travel to Africa alone! It’s too dangerous!”
“You’re going to get eaten by a lion or something!”
“And Boko Haram”?
“What about rebel leaders and kidnappings”?
“What about Ebola?”

Perception:This is a common reaction from those who have not been to the continent and are used to seeing it portrayed in a very negative light in the news and popular culture. We often hear only about the bad side: corruption, war, disease, crime, and poverty. With little else to go on, most people naturally have a negative impression of Africa. The reality is that Africa is a continent with incredibly varied cultures, landscapes, and activities that you can only experience there. Safaris are certainly a big draw, but there’s so much more to Africa than that .

Hoanib Valley, Namibia

Geography: Africa is often thought of as a single place in the media and pop culture, like when Australia’s shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek referred to Africa as a country. But the continent contains 54 countries, thousands of cultures, an estimated 2,000 languages, and widely divergent landscapes. Africa is home to the largest desert on earth (the Sahara) and the highest free-standing mountain in the world (Kilimanjaro). More than 600 new species have been discovered in Madagascar in just the last decade.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Safety: It’s true that some — but certainly not all — of Africa is very dangerous to travel through at the moment. But this is another instance where you can’t generalize. There are many, many safe parts. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace (which bases its rankings on such factors as violent crime, terrorism, and internal and external conflicts), Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Madagascar, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Malawi (just to name a few on the list) are all safer than the United States.

Sites: There’s so much else to do and see in Africa, like touring the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, lazing away on the famous beaches of Zanzibar, climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, exploring the ancient cities of Marrakech and Timbuktu, scuba diving in Mozambique, exploring the townships in South Africa, and bungee-jumping at Victoria Falls in Zambia, one of the natural wonders of the world.

Nyika Plateau, Malawi

Media Potrayal: While the media’s portrayal hasn’t been the best for Africa, it is, in reality, a wonderful place to travel through, with experiences you can’t have anywhere else. There are still cultures in Africa that maintain their roots, animal encounters that don’t exist in other parts of the world, and some of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see. From the incredible natural environment to the rich cultural history, the friendly locals to the vibrant markets, Africa has everything, sometimes all at once. There’s just something about this fascinating continent that pulls you in and keeps you wanting to return over and over again. But there’s no denying that it can also be a daunting place to travel for even the hardiest of explorers!

Thanda Island, Tanzania

VISA Tips: Be informed: Know your visa requirements before visiting any country in Africa. Get in touch with your local embassy before travelling, or pay a visit to Project Visa for answers to all your visa-related questions.

Be organised: While you can get most visas at the individual points of entry, arranging them ahead of time saves a tonne of hassle (and sometimes, money!) later.

Be money smart: Always carry spare US dollars just in case. If you need to change money on the border, always know the exchange rate before you get there and bargain hard.

Be stubborn – if someone looks like they’re deliberately holding things up to make you pay to “rush it through” firmly (and politely!) ask to have your passport back. If you’re certain that your visa meets all the requirements but you’re being asked to pay more to get it approved, decline and ask to speak to another official.Above all else: approach the process with a smile and have a laugh. It’s easier that way!

Lake Abbe, Djibouti

Taxis and Movement: One of the best things about travelling in Africa is no matter where you are or where you want to go, getting from A-to-B is always possible. How you get from A-B however, is another story altogether.

Taxis, tuk tuks, mopeds, rickshaws, you name it… If it has wheels and appears capable of travelling some distance, you can probably travel on it. You might find yourself sitting on a flight or bus, crammed into a local mini bus with 25 other people (and the odd goat or chicken!), or hitching a ride in the back of a pick-up with half a village heading home from the markets.

For the record: travelling by mini-bus is an African rite of passage and we totally recommend embracing the uncomfortable seat and cramped conditions for this insight to how the locals live!

For a journey you can relax into, our tips are:Always travel by day. Always.

Always wear your seat belt

Don’t expect to leave or arrive on time – things run on Africa time here!

You may, or may not, get a seat. You may sit in the aisle of the bus for 5 hours with a chicken pecking at your head. Roll with it – it’s all part of the adventure!

For most mini bus journeys, you can negotiate your fare. Never pay a “bag storage fee” on large buses. It’s a scam – your ticket price includes your baggage.

Sao Tome Island

Accommodation: From tailor-made luxury safari tents where you can live like Prince Harry, through to your standard backpacker dorms where snore-proof earplugs are a must – the options of where to lay your head in Africa are many and varied.

Many travelers actually choose to camp their way through Africa (we often did!), because the camping facilities are accessible, safe, full of good amenities, and super cheap. Plus, what better way to make new friends than by sitting round the campfire swapping stories about your day?!

Larger cities have all the usual accommodation options, the further into the countryside you venture, the less options are available. Don’t fear though, you’ll ALWAYS find somewhere to rest up after a hard day’s adventuring!

Things to consider:Always book accommodation well in advance during peak season (May – October). Places like Namibia are extremely popular, with very limited accommodation in desert areas.

Use guide books, online reviews or local recommendations. Does it get good reviews?!Does your accommodation have a safe, lockers or locks?
Is there a night watchman/security to make sure you and your belongings are safe overnight?

Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

But there are plenty of blogs and experiences by different nationalities travelling across Africa. truth is, tour Africa and then make up your own mind. Dont be influenced by the media or movies. You’ll miss out on a lot of adventures. Also be sure to check Trip advisor for tips for tourists who have already seen the sights.

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