African safari: 25 Best travel tips for first time travellers in Africa

Masai Mara National Reserve.
Lions in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. PHOTO/FILE
Travelling is a great way to unwind and relax. However, before you embark on your safari, a lot of research and planning has to be done.

A few oversights can ruin your vacation and it is therefore important to leave nothing to chance.

To ensure a great trip in Africa, put the following travel tips in mind before and during the vacation.

1.) Get travel insurance
It is possible to get sick, injured, or to lose valuables during your trip and it is therefore important to cushion yourself against hospital bills and property loss by getting an insurance policy.

READ: 7 Reasons to buy travel insurance

2.) Register with your embassy
Contact the embassy and inform them of your planned trip so that in case of a problem in the country during your visit, they can contact you and provide the necessary help.

3.) Take health precautions
Visit your doctor and get the required vaccinations and any necessary prescriptions at least two weeks before your travel date.

4.) Confirm your cards are working
It would be really disastrous to find your cards are not working while you are overseas. Call your bank and credit card provider to confirm the cards are working and to inform them of your travel plans.

5.) Make copies of your documents
Photocopy all important documents. Leave some copies at home and take others with you kept separately from the originals. They come in handy if you lose the originals. It is also easy to get replacements if you have photocopies of lost documents.

6.) Save important contacts in your phone
Have your hotel’s name, room number, physical address and phone number. In addition, save the contacts of your country’s nearest consulate or embassy. The international customer service number of your credit card provider and bank are also essential.

7.) Make a list
To avoid forgetting some essential items, write down everything you think you will need a few days before the trip and keep adding on to the list when you remember something.

READ: 10 Things to pack for Africa safari

8.) Pack less of everything
Plan your outfits well by incorporating tops and trousers that can all interchangeably go with each other. Pack trousers that can be worn for two or more days in a row. Choose easily washable drip dry fabrics and avoid any items that need ironing.

9.) Pack extras in your carry-on bag
Have extra clothes, essentials and anything you feel you can’t live without in your carry-on bag just in case your luggage gets lost or delayed.

10.) Learn how to pack smart
Roll your clothes instead of folding them to ensure they crease less and to fit more pieces into the bag. Have plastic bags for dirty and smelly clothes and get folders for travel documents for easy reach and to avoid creasing them.

11.) Pack a first aid kit
Carry some painkillers, cough, cold and flu medication and bandages. Be prepared for minor allergic reactions and stomach upsets due to new foods.

12.) Mark your luggage
Make your luggage easily recognizable by tying or sticking colourful and unique ribbons or stickers.

13.) Keep some extra cash
Emergencies such as loss of your wallet, ATMs running out of money or cards not working can happen therefore it is advisable to keep some extra money in different places to avoid getting stranded.

14.) Stay safe
Do some research on the common scams in your travel destination and learn how to avoid becoming a victim. Avoid being flashy as you might attract pickpockets and muggers.

15.) Always carry around local cash
Some outlets do not accept credit cards or cash payment in foreign currencies.

16.) Be patient
Things will always go wrong including delays, long queues and cancelations requiring you to have flexibility and patience. Getting angry will only make you feel worse over things you have no control over.

17.) Keep contact
Inform a family member or a friend of your travel plans and keep constant contact with them throughout your trip.

18.) Learn common phrases of the local language
Simple phrases such as local greetings, thank you, please, sorry and no thank you will help you relate well with the local people.

READ: How to plan your Kenya safari

19.) Carry a hard copy of the city’s map
A hard copy will come in handy when your phone charge runs out or when you are trying to save it for later use.

20.) Ask the locals
If you want the best of anything including restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping venues and breath-taking sceneries ask the locals to point you to them. You will be surprised to find very good charms in places you would not have considered visiting.

21.) Learn to haggle
Most vendors quote a higher price for their items when selling to foreigners. Be bold and bargain the price to save a few dollars which you can use for something else.

22.) Use metered taxis
To avoid paying more than you should, use metered taxis or agree on the fee before getting in the cab.

23.) Allow relaxation time
All travel destinations offer an array of attraction sites and fun activities you can participate in but include some time for relaxation in your itinerary.

24.) Be respectful
Keep an open mind in regard to other people’s custom. Learn how people dress especially women to avoid being offensive.

25.) Take many photos
Considering you will never get to see some of these places ever again, take many photos to help you remember them even when the memories fade.