Tips on travelling to Africa

posted 11th November 2019 by Ginny Cumming in Travel advice

Tips on travelling to Africa

Whether it’s your first trip to Africa or your twenty-first, there are certain things you need to consider, plan and organise. It’s all well and good booking that perfect campsite and dreaming about that ice-cold sundowner as you gaze at a magnificent African sunset, with hippos honking in a nearby lake and giraffes gracefully wandering by, but if you haven’t undertaken these basic steps first, you might never get there.

Below is a simple guide to help you on your way when you’re travelling to Africa. For more detailed information, just follow the links – and, of course, talk to us!

 

Passport requirements

If you’re travelling to Africa you’ll need a current passport that’s valid for at least six months from the date you return home. You’ll also need two blank pages for each of the countries you’ll be visiting. Without these things, you could be denied boarding of your flight, bringing a rather abrupt end to your dream African holiday.

Read more here.

 

Visa requirements

Every country has its own set of entry requirements and it’s your responsibility to obtain the necessary visas. Some countries require travellers to obtain visas prior to arrival, while many are available upon landing or at borders. Please refer to our country details document here.

This information is subject to change without notice so please check with the embassy of the country or countries you intend to visit. We’re always here to help if you have any questions while completing visa forms.

Read more here.

 

Travelling with children

If you’re planning on travelling to Africa with children, it’s important to know the rules of entry for each country. There’s 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 their biological parents.

These regulations can change. We’ve prepared a summary to assist you, but you need to consult the embassies and consulates of each country you’ll be travelling to – and through.

Read more here.

 

Medical requirements

When it comes to travelling safely in Africa, in our opinion the most important consideration is your health and wellbeing. We cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of visiting your GP or travel doctor well in advance of of your trip. We personally visit 2-3 months prior to departure. This will allow time for any necessary vaccinations.

Take along your itinerary so your doctor can see where you’re going and for how long, and determine which (if any) vaccinations and medications you’ll require. Keep in mind that some vaccinations and tablets take time to work, so it’s vital that you follow instructions.

Be sure to also carry a supply of any regular medication. If you take any prescription medication, take a copy of the actual script as well. And keep everything in your carry-on baggage, just in case!

Malaria – There’s a number of different options when it comes to preventative malaria medication, so please talk to your doctor about the most suitable option for you.

Yellow Fever – Not all countries require yellow fever vaccinations, but if you do require a this shot for any country on your trip, make sure you carry your vaccination certificate with your passport. It should be readily available when you enter each country you’re visiting.

Other vaccinations – There are numerous other vaccinations that your doctor may recommend, but they may not actually be legally required to enter a country. It will be at your discretion whether or not you proceed.

Read more here.

 

Currencies

In the African countries we specialise in, two currencies dominate: the rand and the US dollar.

The rand is accepted in South Africa and Namibia. Neither of these countries accepts the US dollar, so stash that away for other countries on your trip.

The US dollar is, however, widely accepted in the other countries on Encompass Africa’s list. The euro is also accepted throughout Madagascar and Mozambique.

All countries also have their own local currency, such as the Tanzanian shilling and the Zambian kwacha. If you want to access a local currency you’ll have to be in the actual country, and withdraw cash from a bank, foreign exchange office or a local ATM (where available). At the end of your stay, if you have any money left over make sure you change it before you leave, because once you leave the country you’ll be stuck with that currency. Every country is different, but you’ll probably find you’ll be able to change local currencies to US dollars, rand and euros. This is the reason we recommend travelling with US dollars and rand: it’s much simpler!

Read more here.

 

Banking, credit cards and cash

Before travelling to Africa, it’s essential you notify your bank of your trip. Let them know the countries you’ll be visiting, the dates you’ll be travelling and which cards you’ll be taking. This way, they can assist in monitoring them. If you don’t make this important call before you travel, you run the risk of your card being frozen when your 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. It will then be exchanged back to the currency of your card at the daily exchange rate.

Please don’t rely on your credit card – when you’re in a remote area 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 smaller purchases.

Read more here.

 

Luggage

Before you pack your bags, make sure you know the luggage restrictions – including weight allowance – for all of your flights.

If you’re travelling by light aircraft at any point in your trip, this is super-important. Depending on the country and airline, you’ll have a weight allowance of 15-20 kilograms. That’s hand luggage and main bag combined! Your luggage will be restricted to soft-sided bags – light aircraft have no luggage hold, so bags have to be stowed under seats and at the rear of the plane. Therefore, it’s important they can all be ‘squished’ into these small spaces.

It depends on your booking class, but international and regional flights usually operate on a 23 kilogram check-in allowance. You’ll also have a hand luggage allowance of five kilograms.

There’s obviously a big gap between the luggage allowance on international flights and light aircrafts. Therefore, you’ll need to make a decision – are you happy to pack light for your entire holiday? Or would you prefer to make arrangements to leave your extra luggage behind while you head off on your light aircraft? If this is the case we can assist with extra storage, so please just ask.

 

Restrictions

Be mindful of restrictions in different countries before you arrive – you don’t want to have things confiscated or, even worse, be 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.

Please 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, in a bid to combat climate change, becomes more proactive when it comes to reducing the use of plastics. Tourists can be fined and even prosecuted for carrying single-use plastic items. So please don’t pack things like shopping bags, freezer bags or disposable plastic travel containers.

 

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is essential for any international holiday, no matter what your destination. At Encompass Africa, we insist all of our guests are covered by insurance when travelling to Africa.

This is because in Africa, the medical system is not free and good hospitals are not cheap. Many camps and lodges are in remote regions, and should you be injured, it’s an expensive procedure to airlift you to the nearest medical facility.

For the best holiday possible, we recommend booking well in advance – 12-18 months. We also recommend you secure your travel insurance when you confirm your travel arrangements. This means your trip will be covered should you need to cancel due to a bonafide reason.

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

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

Read more here.