How to enter and travel Africa safely

posted 29th July 2019 by katie branson in Travel Advice

Are you about to embark on an African trip of a lifetime?

If so, you need to know how to enter and travel Africa safely. So we share the basics with you here.

Your first time to Africa, or indeed any international destination, can be intimidating so it’s important that you know how to enter and travel Africa safely.  There are so many questions to ask and things to plan, and you can end up rushing about last minute to get it all done before you leave.

Even before you book your holiday to Africa, it’s important to know the essentials we have listed below. Then you are fully informed of the ‘non-negotiable’ components of how to enter and travel Africa safely.


 

Passport requirements

Please make sure you have a current passport with six months validity remaining from the date you land back home.  Equally important is ensuring you have two blank pages per country you are visiting. Without a valid passport and available validity and pages, you may be refused to board at the airport bringing a rather abrupt end to your dream African holiday.


 

Visa requirements

Every country has its own set of entry requirements and it is your responsibility to obtain the necessary visas.  Some countries require travellers to obtain visas prior to arrival whilst many are available upon landing or at borders.

Please refer to our country details document here. Note this information is subject to change without notice so it’s always best to check with country embassies, consulates, and your Encompass Africa specialist.

Visa information

 

Travelling with children

If you are planning to travel to Africa with children, it’s important to know the rules of entry for each country. There are a handful of countries in Africa that require you to carry the original or certified copies of Unabridged Birth Certificates plus letters of consent if children are not travelling with biological parents.

These regulations can change, so while we have prepared a summary to assist you, it is always worth consulting with the country embassies, consulates and your Encompass Africa specialist.

Travelling with children

 

Medical requirements

When it comes to how to enter and travel Africa safely, the most important consideration in our opinion is your health and well being.

We cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of visiting your GP or travel doctor well in advance of travel (we personally visit 2 – 3 months prior to departure).  Take along your itinerary so they can see where you are going and for how long. That assists in determining the correct prescriptions for medication and vaccinations.

Malaria There are a number of different options when it comes to preventative malaria medication so please talk to your doctor to ascertain the most suitable tablets for you.  Ask about side effects and frequency of use.

Yellow Fever Not all countries require yellow fever vaccinations, so again it’s worth getting professional advice before you get the needle. If you do require a Yellow Fever vaccination for any country within your trip, please make sure you carry your vaccination certificate with your passport so it is readily available upon entry into the countries you are visiting.

Other vaccinations There are numerous other vaccinations that the doctor may recommend you. These other vaccinations may not be legally required to enter and simply to protect your health and wellbeing.


 

Currency

In Africa and the countries we specialise, two currencies dominate – the Rand and the US Dollar.

The Rand is accepted in South Africa and Namibia. Neither country accepts the US Dollar, so stash that away for other countries in your trip. The US Dollar is widely accepted in the other countries on Encompass Africa’s list. Additionally, the Euro is also accepted throughout Madagascar and Mozambique.

But what about local currencies? All countries have their own local currency such as the Tanzanian shilling and the Zambian Kwacha.  You will only be able to access local currency in the country itself (banks and foreign exchange offices or draw from a local ATM where available) and make sure you exchange any remaining money back to your preferred currency because that won’t be possible back home. This is the reason why we recommend simply travelling with US dollars in those countries.


 

Banking, credit cards, and cash

Essential before you travel is notifying your bank of the trip, countries you are visiting and dates of travel. Let them know which cards you are taking and that way they can assist in monitoring the card. If you do not advise your bank before you go, you run the risk of your card being frozen when the bank notices transactions in Africa.

Credit cards can be used to settle bills at most hotels, lodges, restaurants, and shops. The amount will be deducted in US dollars, Rand, or the local currency, and exchanged back to the currency of the card at the daily exchange rate.

Please do not rely on your credit card.  When you are in remote areas like on safari or visiting a local craft market, facilities won’t exist for credit card payments.

We also recommend you carry local currency, rand and/or US dollars in small denominations for tipping purposes and those smaller purchases.


 

Luggage

Before you pack your bags, make sure you know the luggage restrictions including weight allowance for all of your flights.  If you are travelling by light aircraft at any point in your trip, your luggage will be restricted to soft-sided bags with a weight allowance of 12 – 20 kilograms depending on the country and airline. The soft-sided bags criteria are often for light aircraft without any luggage hold except for under seats and at the rear of the plane, so it’s important they can ‘squish’ all of the bags into these small spaces.

International and regions flight usually operate on a 23-kilogram check-in allowance with hand luggage 5 kilograms. This will depend on your booking class of course!

So the best way to think about it is to pack for the lowest luggage allowance. That way there is no risk of getting charged for excess.

Your confirmed itinerary will list out specifications.


 

Restrictions

It is important to be mindful of the restrictions in different countries before you arrive. There is no fun in having things confiscated or being refused entry.

Some African countries have restrictions on the import and use of drones. You must have the appropriate government permits in order to use drones, and these permits can be very expensive. We suggest sticking with your camera or Go-Pro.

Also be aware that the use, manufacture, and importation of plastic bags are illegal in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. This list of countries is growing as Africa becomes increasingly more proactive on reducing the use of plastics in a bid to combating climate change. Tourists can get fined and even prosecuted for carrying plastic.   Please refrain from packing any plastic bags in your luggage and do not use disposable plastic travel containers.


 

Travel insurance

How to enter and travel Africa is not complete without discussing travel insurance.  This is your safety net and worth ensuring the very best cover to suit your needs.

Travel insurance is essential for all international travel, and is especially important in Africa. Many camps/lodges are in remote regions, and should you be injured, it is an expensive procedure to airlift you to the nearest medical facility.

Furthermore, for the best holiday possible, we recommend booking well in advance, 12 – 18 months and securing your travel insurance when you confirm arrangements. This means your trip is covered should you need to cancel due to a bonafide reason.

Please remember to have a copy of your travel insurance in both hand luggage and main bag and be mindful of what is and is not covered in the policy.

Encompass Africa work with two travel insurance companies, Allianz and Covermore, and are happy to provide obligation-free quotes.