There is so much to think about when preparing for a trip and Africa can be especially daunting as it is so unknown. This list will help make sure you remember everything as you prepare for your safari adventure.
- Your passport should be valid for at least six months after the end date of your trip.
- As most African countries require visas for most nationalities, it is a good idea to ensure you have one blank page for each country to be visited. So if the passport is getting full and you are planning a big overland journey, it might be a good time to renew.
- Check with the embassy of the country (or countries) to be visited whether your nationality needs a visa. In sub-Saharan Africa, visas can easily be acquired on entry, but this is not true for all nationalities. Do not rely on your tour operator to know the rules for every nationality either – it is usually your responsibility to find out this information and, of course, apply in advance for those visas if necessary.
3. Travel Insurance
- In Europe, many travellers forego travel insurance and take their chances. It is simply not worth it in Africa. The medical facilities available are usually not up to the standards in the West so having emergency evacuation cover is essential. Protection against petty theft, lost luggage and sham tour operators are also helpful.
4. Book flights, tours, accommodation
- The general wisdom is that eight weeks prior to travel is the optimal time to book flights. There are plenty of online booking engines that can find cheap flights, but for a complicated itinerary there are still travel agents ready to assist.
- Travelling in Africa is much easier on a tour, whether you join a group departure or organise a tailor-made safari. If you prefer a tailor-made itinerary, it is good to start finding an operator at least three months in advance. That will give you time to properly check out a few operators and make sure your itinerary is exactly what you want.
- Check the inclusions of the tour and book accommodation for the first and/or last night if necessary.
- Talk to your doctor or a travel clinic about which vaccinations you need for the particular countries on your itinerary.
- Allow at least six weeks before travel to get the vaccinations as some require a course of doses.
6. Airport transfers
- After a long flight, haggling with a taxi driver is often the last thing you want to do. Even if it costs a little bit more than you think you will be able to get it (not always true by the way), having someone meet you at the airport is one of life’s little joys.
- And don’t forget to organise someone to pick you up when you return home as well!
- Check what ATM and credit card facilities are available in your destination.
- Ensure you have enough cash to keep you going for the first few days – US dollars are still the currency of choice throughout most of Africa, although Pounds Stirling and Euros can be easily exchanged in cities.
- Stash US$100 somewhere in your luggage for emergencies (running out of beer is NOT an emergency).
8. Pet care
- Organising a house sitter is often less stressful for your animal and also protects your home security while you are away.
- Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to buy a new “safari wardrobe” for travelling in Africa. Khaki is not a vital requirement. Of course the specially-designed lightweight travel clothing is great if you are undertaking a long journey lugging your own bag around.
- Pack for a Purpose is a fantastic website that has lists of equipment needed by projects all over the world. If you have spare space in your suitcase, be sure to check the site for your destination and see what useful donations you can bring along
- Learning some of the local language gives you the opportunity to interact with people in your destination. Often their English will be better than your KiSwahili, but it breaks the ice if you greet someone in their own language.
Although the focus of this checklist has been on African travel, it can be applied to most anywhere. Getting these ten items organised will ensure you are ready and relaxed by the time you take off.