Today’s visitors will often speak of how Africa is in some mysterious way a life-changing experience. At the very least, it is the experience of a lifetime.Africa is the planet’s second largest continent, with 54 countries and more than 11 million square miles of surface area. Its highest point is the snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, rising some 19,340 feet above sea level. Its longest river is the Nile, which runs more than 4,000 miles from Burundi to Egypt. Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest body of water, is surrounded by Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. The great Sahara Desert forms the northernmost boundaries to the continent, while the untamed waters surrounding South Africa are the original trading route of the former European colonialists with India, Asia and the South Pacific.
The best time to visit Africa is during their dry season – May through April with September, October, March and April being the coolest in temperatures and least humidity. Going on safari during the dry seasons means you will avoid possible mudslides, floods and torrential rains. It’s also the best time of year to view the animals as they tend to migrate to areas where they can find water.
Best Time to Go
September, October, March, April or May when temperatures are not as scorching as they can be in January or February.
All foreign nationals need a passport, valid for six months after the intended date of departure. A visa is required for citizens of Australia, Canada and the U.S. if in South Africa on a lengthy business trip. Reconfirm travel documentation requirements with your carrier before departure. The health situation in most African countries requires visitors to be up to date with all common childhood vaccines. This includes Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio. If you are traveling with children, make sure they have had all their shots. You may also need to get boosters for tetanus, diphtheria and measles if you haven’t had those in a while. Some African countries have actual entry requirements and won’t let you in unless you have proof you’ve been vaccinated against a specific disease. The most common is yellow fever. Here’s a list of countries where yellow fever immunization is an entry requirement. Double check with the embassy of the country you are traveling to for the latest information. Proof of immunization against cholera used to be a entry requirement for a lot countries but is no longer so. Many doctors agree the vaccine is actually quite useless. The following vaccinations are also highly recommended for travel to every African country:
- – Hepatitis A
- – Menicgococcal Meningitis
- – Rabies
- – Typhoid
Countries in Africa also differ as to which diseases are prevalent and you have to adjust your vaccinations according to your specific destination. While everyone should get the recommended shots listed above, to find out what you need to get per country see this health and travel web site for recommendations. Just click on the country you are visiting for a list of the vaccinations you should get. There is no vaccine for malaria. If you are traveling anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa you should probably take anti-malaria prophylactics. For more information see “How to avoid malaria while traveling in Africa”.
CLICK HERE to see the currencies by country.
Do’s & Don’ts
Don’t become so worried about crime that you forget to enjoy the country. It’s easy to fall into the habit of worrying so much that the real pleasures of the country and its inhabitants pass you by.
Do visit a Zulu or other ethnic village to see the incredible traditional dancing.
Don’t be afraid to ask about security when making hotel reservations and when checking into your hotel. Some Johannesburg hotels now require that everyone who enters be asked for identification, including guests.
Do take, at the minimum, a 300-mm lens if you want to get great animal photos in South Africa. Animal photography is best at dawn and dusk. Also take a flashlight, and a pair of high-quality binoculars will come in handy—they’re a must for bird-watchers.
Don’t swim at any beach if others aren’t swimming. Sharks cruise the waters, and some beaches aren’t protected by shark nets.
Don’t be surprised to see the Malagasy eating locusts—the insects are considered quite tasty.
Do be prepared to declare all currency and valuables upon arrival, although customs officials will rarely bother to check. Change money only with authorized cashiers and save receipts.
Don’t forget to tuck your trousers into your socks if you’re going into the forest to see lemurs. You may or may not come across a lemur, but you’ll definitely come across a leech or two.
Do be careful with your belongings in crowded areas of Antananarivo, especially around markets. Watch out for pickpockets. Don’t touch an aloalo (a wood carving representing ancestral acts), as they are considered sacred.
Do take batteries, toilet paper and envelopes along with you. Quality paper products are sometimes in short supply outside Antananarivo and other major cities in Madagascar.
Don’t expect anything to be open on Saturday or Sunday.