Most people think Africa is a scene from World Vision. A dusty barren landscape with no food or water and hungry kids with flies on their heads. That or, they may think it’s a deep unexplored jungle, where you have to dress up looking like Indian Jones, machete in-hand so you can escape hungry tigers. As much as the lather would be pretty cool, I can assure you neither are a degree close to the reality of what Africa actually looks like. If you really want to know – picture green sloping hills, beautiful sunsets between valleys, local’s wearing colourful traditional clothes, and school kids strutting out their best fashion while taking selfies with their smartphones. This is not a Africa in the future – this is how it is today.
This blog is to help you avoid wearing a Indian Jones costume coming off the plane and packing too many survival kits. Read on and relax. Very soon you will be UNpacking your bags of all the excessive items you thought you needed.
Whether you are taking a Safari, hitting the beaches, or going on hike, the packing list is mostly the same, with some exceptions. I’ll explain this later. For now, the first thing you really need to do before anything else is apply for your VISA. I personally recommend anyone going to Africa to apply for a VISA before your trip. You can also just buy it the moment you arrive there, however you might risk getting rejected OR asked to give a “payment”, but that’s rare. Regardless, if you have more than a month before departure then just send that Passport to the Embassy and save yourself the hassle. You will thank me after you get to skip the long lineup of tourists waiting to pay for a VISA at the airport.
SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS!
Once your papers are in check, you need to go visit a Travel Doctor or any Doctor that can make sure your vaccination shots are up to date. Unfortunately, unlike developed countries, African countries are still some ways to go in making sure all these biological threats are eradicated. You should also look into getting malaria prevention pills. Malaria is an incurable disease and once you get it you got it for life. So why take the risk?
Keep it Simple Sam
Now we get to the likely one of the most annoying parts of any travel experience – packing. Let’s admit that we all hate packing our own bags and certainly wish we can hire someone to do it for us. Anyway, if you plan on going on Safari’s or Hiking you need to make sure you include these things. A hoody (it can get very cold at night), windbreaker or water-repellent jacket, hand sanitizer before eating, sunscreen, and extra batteries for your cameras and phones. If you think you need to look like Indiana Jones before going to a Safari or going on a hike, please send me a photo. Other than that, a Safari can be very chill and relaxing. Your guides would have thought of everything in advance and are very experienced. There is plenty of food served and most lodges or camps have good access to water, toilets and shower facilities.
Now if you are going on a hike, try not to trip over the grandma next to you carrying a basket of bananas over her head. Walking through forest trails is how a lot of locals travel to and from work or town. So if you pass out in the middle of the hike, don’t worry I’m sure someone will pass by with some water to spare. The only thing I will recommended is a comfortable pair of hiking shoes. If you plan to climb a mountain, too bad, I haver never climbed a mountain before but I know lots who have. Perhaps a thick jacket. Whatever you do, do not overpack your bag! Otherwise you will find yourself spending hours scrubbing the dirt off your large pile of laundry. Oh yeah and don’t expect a washing machine unless you are staying at a nice Hotel.
Then there are moments when you jump on the plane and realize you left your toothbrush or phone charger behind. Don’t panic. Africa is part of the global economic force, which means you will find your favorite toothbrush or shaving cream brands at the many local supermarkets in town. You might pay a premium for your phone charger, but at least you get to use your phone during the trip.