A Guide to Africa

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Africa is often said to be the birthplace of humankind. It is a vibrant, pulsating continent full of life and adventure and is home to many of the natural wonders of the world.

These days, Africa is a place of great extremes. You’ll experience the sweltering heat of the dry season followed by relentless, torrential downpours of rain. You’ll see rich skyscrapers in the middle of the city right next to an area of slums and poverty.

Most people’s view of Africa is what you’d see on a wildlife program: People out on safari looking for lions and tigers out in the wild.

Of course, while there’s lots of interesting animals, wildlife and scenery in Africa, perhaps Africa’s most memorable quality is the people – many of whom live in poverty, yet are determined to fight their way through life whilst retaining the traditions and values of their ancestors.

Unmissable Highlights

  • Visit the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt – one of the wonders of the ancient world.
  • Witness the Serengeti migration, as 1.6 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle travel across the vast plains.
  • Visit the Victoria Falls in Zambia – said to be the world’s largest waterfall.
  • Scale the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
  • Take time out to visit the golden beaches of Zanzibar.
  • Visit the Cape Coast, Ghana, and learn about the historic slave trade.
  • Learn how to dive in the Red Sea.

African sunset

Getting Around

Because of Africa’s immense size, one of the best ways to get around is by flying. Bizarrely, when flying to a neighboring country it is often cheaper to fly via Europe than to fly directly.

Before you book any flights in Africa, be sure to do a quick background check on the airline you’re booking with (if you’ve never heard of them), as some of them have particularly bad reputations and are worth avoiding.

Another way to get around is by bus/coach. When it comes to buses, it seems that the more you pay, the more comfortable the bus will be and the more careful the driving will be. Paying a little extra is often worth it, then, as it should ensure that the bus’ tires are not bald and that the bus will have a spare tire if needed.

When traveling around town, if you decide to hire a taxi (and that taxi has a meter), make sure the meter is switched on before you leave. If the meter doesn’t work (as you’ll often hear), make sure to agree a price beforehand.

Tuk-tuks are common in many African countries and can be fun to ride in. Although they aren’t as dangerous as they once were, be sure to wear a seatbelt whenever possible and avoid the seat next to the driver (often known as the “death seat” due to its high fatality rate in head-on collisions).

Tuk-Tuk

What to Expect

It might sound like a cliché, but a lot of Africa is poor. Because of this, you’ll be viewed as a rich stranger (irrelevant of your financial status in the western world), so expect people to hassle and try to scam you out of your money from time to time (as you would expect in any poor country).

How poor are most places in Africa? If your digital camera is worth $300, it’s probably worth more than half of the population of Africa survives on in an entire year.

That being said, at times Africa can be surprisingly expensive to travel, due to the distinct lack of mid-price food and accommodation. As most people in Africa are either rich or poor, there is very little market for anything in between.

Football (or ‘soccer’) is very popular in Africa, with the English Premier League and the French Ligue 1 being watched almost everywhere (which one is watched largely depends on whether the area is English or French speaking).

Having some basic knowledge of this (or at least saying you support a team – such as Manchester United or Chelsea) will endear you to the local people and will help you to start conversations and befriend them.

Corruption
Corruption is a major problem in Africa, and it has been estimated that corruption “costs Africa 25% of its collective national income each year” (according to former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo).

If you are arrested, you’ll likely be asked to pay a bribe for release. It is common for drug dealers to work in conjunction with the police. They’ll sell you drugs then tip off the police. The police will arrest you, get you to pay a bribe (to drop the charges) then they’ll split that bribe with the drug dealer.

Even if you aren’t directly involved in corruption, as you travel it will no doubt happen all around you. The taxi you’re traveling in might be stopped for whatever reason, and the taxi driver may have to pay the policeman.

Saying that, corruption in Africa has advanced to a level now where a lot of it is done so subtly that you’ll probably never notice (unless you know what to look for).

 

North Africa

Morocco

Visa
US, British, European Union (EU), Australian, Canadian and Japanese nationals do not need a visa for Morocco for stays of up to three months.

Currency
Morocco’s currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). Here’s how it related to US Dollar (USD) and Pound Sterling (GBP).

- $1 = 13.2 Moroccan Dirham
- £1 = 8.4 Moroccan Dirham

Recommended Daily Budget
$20 – $30 per day

Egypt

Visa
U.S. and British citizens need a visa to enter Egypt. A renewable 30-day tourist visa can be bought on arrival at an Egyptian airport for a $15 fee or in advance.

Currency
Egypt’s currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP). Here’s how it related to US Dollar (USD) and Pound Sterling (GBP).

  • $1 = 6.08 Egyptian Pound
  • £1 = 9.45 Egyptian Pound

Recommended Daily Budget
$20 per day (or less).

Pyramids of Giza

 

East Africa

Kenya

Visa
U.S. and British citizens need a visa to enter Kenya. The fee for single-entry visas is $50, and $100 for a multiple entry visa.

Currency
Kenya’s currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES). Here’s how it related to US Dollar (USD) and Pound Sterling (GBP).

  • $1 = 82 Kenyan Shilling
  • £1 = 130 Kenyan Shilling

Recommended Daily Budget
$20 – $30 per day in Nairobi, less than $20 a day in rural areas.

Tanzania

Visa
U.S. and British citizens need a visa to enter Tanzania. The current fee for a visa is $100 for a 12-month multiple-entry tourist visa.

Currency
Tanzania’s currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). Here’s how it related to US Dollar (USD) and Pound Sterling (GBP).

  • $1 = 1,593 Tanzanian Shilling
  • £1 = 2,494 Tanzanian Shilling

Recommended Daily Budget
$25 – $30 per day.

Victoria Falls

Ethiopia

Visa
U.S. and British citizens require a tourist visa for Ethiopia. The cost of a visa is around $20.

Currency
Ethiopia’s currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB). Here’s how it related to US Dollar (USD) and Pound Sterling (GBP).

  • $1 = 17.38 Ethiopian Birr
  • £1 = 27.22 Ethiopian Birr

Recommended Daily Budget
$20 per day in most areas, $30 per day in Addis.

 

Southern Africa

South Africa

Visa
British and U.S. nationals visiting South Africa on holiday for less than 90 days do not require visas. After entry, extensions of stay may be sought from the Department of Home Affairs.

Currency
South Africa’s currency is the South African Rand (ZAR). Here’s how it related to US Dollar (USD) and Pound Sterling (GBP).

  • $1 = 7 Rand
  • £1 = 12 Rand

Recommended Daily Budget
$20 – $40 per day.

Botswana

Visa
British and U.S. nationals do not require a visa to enter Botswana and can stay for a maximum of 90 days.

Currency
Botswana’s currency is the Botswana Pula (BWP). Here’s how it related to US Dollar (USD) and Pound Sterling (GBP).

  • $1 = 7.3 Pula
  • £1 = 11.4 Pula

Recommended Daily Budget
$25 per day.

 

West Africa

Ghana

Visa
U.S. and British citizens require a visa to enter Ghana, which will set you back around $50.

Currency
Ghana’s currency is the Ghanaian Cedi (GHS). Here’s how it related to US Dollar (USD) and Pound Sterling (GBP).

  • $1 = 1.68 Cedi
  • £1 = 2.63 Cedi

Recommended Daily Budget
Less than $20 per day.

Senegal

Visa
British and U.S. nationals do not require a visa to enter Senegal for a period of up to 90 days.

Currency
Senegal’s currency is the CFA Franc (CFA). Here’s how it related to US Dollar (USD) and Pound Sterling (GBP).

  • $1 = 496 CFA
  • £1 = 776 CFA

Recommended Daily Budget
$30 – $55 per day.

Note that exchange rates may have changed since this article was published. For up-to-date exchange rates, check out XE.com.

For more information on visas and entry requirements, check out the U.S. Department of State’s website (for U.S. citizens) or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s website (for British citizens).


Related posts:

  1. A Guide to South America
  2. A Guide to South-East Asia & the Far East
  3. A Quick Guide to Travel Visas




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