Quick, think of a tourist destination. You may think of Paris or Tokyo. You should start thinking about Dar es Salaam and Kampala.
67 million tourists visited an African country in 2018. That number sounds small, yet it’s bigger than the number of tourists who visited the Middle East. On a trip to Africa, you can meet thousands of tourists from all over the world as well as thousands of African residents.
But where exactly should you go? What sorts of things can you do in Africa? What must you do before you go?
Answer these questions and you can expand your understanding of world culture and history. Here is your quick guide on how to visit Africa.
Pick a Location
Africa is not a monolith. The continent contains more than 50 countries, and each one has distinct cultures and interesting history.
Think about what you want out of a vacation. If you want to go on a classic African safari, you can go to Kenya. If you’re interested in mountain climbing, you can visit Tanzania, where the world-famous Mount Kilimanjaro is.
Egypt is the most famous African country for its extensive history and riches. But Ethiopia, Nigeria, and the Congo have interesting histories of their own. Do your research and decide which country would make the most interesting destination.
Before you pick a country, you should check the Department of State’s travel advisories for it. The Department of State may recommend that you delay your vacation so you can go at a safer time.
Figure Out What You Want to Do
Even within one country, you will find many cultures and things to do. You should try to think broadly when you are planning a trip to any African country.
If you want to go and climb Kilimanjaro, you can. You should then try a Kilimanjaro hike so you can see different sights on the mountain and in the nearby countryside.
An easy way to see everything a country has to offer is to visit urban and rural areas. If you’re worried about the language barrier, you can ask a guide and a translator to accompany you.
Get Your Visa
Many African countries require visas from American citizens. It doesn’t matter if you only plan on visiting Africa for a few days. An official will check your passport and paperwork to see if you have gone through the formal visa process.
South Africa and a few other countries do not require visas. But as a tourist, you cannot receive job training or do paid work inside the country. You should plan a trip that focuses on sightseeing.
For countries that ask for visas, you need a valid passport and proof that you will return to the United States. This means that you must book your tickets home before you apply for a visa. You should schedule your vacation for several months in advance so you avoid cancellation fees if you can’t get a visa.
Keep in mind that visa rules are prone to change. Keep up to date with the news in the country you plan on traveling to. You can also talk to the consulate of the country to see if there are any documents you need to submit.
Get Your Vaccinations
Most African countries also require you to provide proof of vaccinations. Each country has different requirements, but the majority of countries ask that you have hepatitis A and rabies shots.
It takes two weeks for you to develop immunity once you receive a vaccine. But you may need to provide proof of your vaccination months in advance. You should get your shots as soon as you book your tickets.
Malaria is a prevalent disease across sub-Saharan Africa. You are not required to get a malaria vaccine, but you should get one if you are going south of the Sahara.
COVID-19 is another prevalent disease. Most Africans have not received vaccines yet, so transmission rates can be very high. You should get vaccinated and perform social distancing while you are out in public.
Schedule the Right Time
You can visit Africa at any time of year. But you should understand what the weather conditions will be like and how the climate can affect your trip.
If you plan on visiting national parks or going on a safari, you should visit during the dry season. In Northern Africa, the dry season runs from June through September. In Southern Africa, it extends from April through October.
Traveling during the dry season is easier because roads are not flooded. But the dry season can be extremely hot, and you may struggle to find water or air conditioning. The rainy season is cooler, and you may be able to find exotic birds in the forests.
Find Your Accommodations
Booking a hotel or a tour can be a bit of a challenge. If you are planning a vacation in the dry season, hotels and tours can get booked up very quickly. Beach destinations like Zanzibar also get booked up, especially during the holiday season.
You should talk to a travel agent and have them book your accommodations for you. An agent can help you save money and time, including on airfare.
Regardless of where and when you are going to Africa, you should buy travel insurance. Your flight can get canceled on short notice due to storms. Read the terms of an insurance package before you buy one and see if you can reschedule your canceled flight.
Plan Your Trip to Africa
There is no one trip to Africa that everyone goes on. Africa has dozens of countries to offer, with hundreds of tourist attractions in each country. You should prepare to see a lot, even at a rural location like Kilimanjaro.
Pick the perfect country and then apply for a visa. Get your vaccinations in order.
Decide whether the wet or dry season is better for you. Then get a move on booking your accommodations and flights.
The more you learn about Africa, the more you can get out of Africa. Read more African travel guides by following our coverage.