Is it safe to travel Africa alone as a woman?
YES! Different places have different red flags. Find out what they are, how to avoid them. I generally stay away from walking very late night (although this was never a problem in Accra, Yoff, Bamako, Lome and a few other places. Trust your gut feeling. My rule was to mind people’s body language and trust what they communicated through that. This said: reading too much into absolutely everything leads to missing out on spontaneous, and often organic experiences.
What health precautions do I need to take?
Every guidebook writer and their blogger will say everything. Indeed, go to travel clinic and you’ll be given a long list of jabs you need to get. Get them, don’t get them…chances are they are available where you’re going anyway. HOWEVER: don’t leave home without getting a jab for yellow fever.
What about Malaria?
Please do not take my word as gospel truth just because it worked for me for over 5 years. I do not take anti-malarials because they have been known to mask symptoms. I prefer having a malaria test kit and treatment. If this going to be your route then remember to TEST as soon as your body feels weird (malaria feels like an invasion). And even if you are on anti-malarials, have a test kit and treatment ready. Generally speaking, you can get Malaria treatment anywhere, but if it helps you sleep better at night don’t leave your home country without a stash of treatment (thou shall not fuck around with a killer disease in any way AT ALL).
Is the water good to drink?
YES. Different strokes for different folks but I drank local water all the way because if it’s not killing anyone around you then it sure as heck ain’t going to start killing with you. Of course, the source of the water must be trustworthy. Don’t just jump scoop water from a river and start drinking it. You wouldn’t do that at your local stream, why start now?
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes, please. You never know when you’ll have an emergency.
Are there any specific requirements for passports?
It must be valid, it must have pages left for visas and visa stamps.
How do I get a visa from x to y?
Each country has its own way of doing things. Find out at their embassy in your country before you go if you can get a visa on arrival and the currency you need to pay for it. I prefer getting visas outside SA, which worked all along until I was in Addis and wanting to go to Asmara in Eritrea. Also, most countries generally have diplomatic representations all over, but don’t assume, for instance, that you’ll find a visa to Djibouti in Accra.
Should I bring cash, credit cards or travellers cheques ?
I have had moments when I cursed not using travellers’ cheques. There are plenty ATMS, even is some obscure/far out places but again, this depends on how developed a country is. The rule of thumb is to withdraw lots of cash if you’re going to a village/far out destination. Well- organised people have an emergency 200 USD stashed somewhere. ATMs take visa and mastercard cards, BUT not all that has a sign will give you cash: some banks are not linked to whatever it is that makes it possible to withdraw money any place, any where.
There are more money transfer agencies than there are ATMs in some places. Western Union and Money Gram are pretty much everywhere.
Is there a suggested packing list?
If you’re going to the desert than know that it gets extremely hot during the day and bone marrow freezing cold at night, so maybe pack thermal under-garments, lol. Have a dress that would please even the most conservative of people, not because you can’t wear what you want but because sometimes you have to show something called courtesy and dress appropriately. ALSO. If you’re all about the look, pack heels and a fly outfit for a night out because African women will dress you under the table.
What are my options if I don’t want to travel independently?
You have lots. A lot travel companies offer packages to places as near as the Vic Falls, and as far as Egypt. There are also overland trucks that you can join. Overland trucks are made-for-group-travel, seen it all refurbished lorry-like vehicles. Every option has pros and cons.
The pros of booking a package deal is you can go it alone while outsourcing bookings, logistics and even schedule to a travel agent. The con is a travel agent once said there was no way for me to travel up and down Africa without flying back to SA every time I want to move countries– Afri travel is the bastard of travel in SA, so don’t assume your agent knows what they’re talking about, especially when they give you advice that defies logic. The con of overland tour is that it’s pretty much like Kontiki, which is also the con. When it comes to independent, there really are no cons; however, prissy princesses are advice to leave their tiaras at home.
Are condoms widely available?
Absolutely, but if you’re going to have a shag-fest along the way do the smart thing and leave with a stash of condoms because you just never know when you need that latex stat, without first going to a shop. Should you need a shop, condoms are everywhere and come in different varieties so you’re good to go. The same goes for emergency pills BUT I’ve never needed to use one so don’t take my word on availability. CONDOMS are everything anyway.
One for the ladies….
Fling it if you must but take note from How Stella Got Her Groove Back and be on scam-alert, lest you end up like Terry McMillian. Basically, shag and move on unless it’s real deal. if you wouldn’t date him in your hometown then don’t date him on the road because fact is some guys a run visa scams through their dicks.