Answers to ALL of your questions
about Backpacking Africa
Panning the trip
AFRICA. 54 countries, and the second biggest continent in the world, so where to begin?
We recommend starting with browsing around and finding places that interest you to visit.
You can use the Countries page for some general info on some of the more popular countries to visit.
Every place that you decide you want to visit, "pin" it on the map, and soon you will have a general "route" for your trip. Of course, it is important to not plan ahead too much and keep the trip dynamic - that is the secret of backpacking!
Time and budget boundaries - to make sure you are not biting off more than you can chew, a good formula is to budget about 1500$ a month for your trip and about 3 weeks to a month for each country. Of course, there are many exceptions, many people spend much less or much more, and many countries need less or more time than specified, but this is a general formula to make sure you are on the right track.
In addition, this would be a good time to get familiar with some cool features on this backpackers community:
Tip Maps - A very useful tool especially during your trip. You can easily download the maps to your phone and see other travelers' recommendations about what to see and do around you.
WhatsApp and Facebook groups - Be a part of the community. A great place to meet others during the trip, ask questions and give answers to others
Discount Vouchers - These will come in handy to save you some money during the trip. We do our best to make the expensive parts of the trip fit a backpacker budget.
We also invite you to see our page on how to Travel Right, with many important recommendations about backpacking in general and specifics for Africa. One major thing you should do is get to know the place you are about to visit, you can start with the
Learn More page.
If you are thinking about volunteering during the trip, visit the Volunteering page for some very important insights that might change the way you perceive volunteering and will definitely make you come to this experience with a broader perspective.
Well, if you are not in Africa now, most chances are that you will need to fly there. Obviously, the best way to save on flights is to plan a few of them as possible, best if you can dial it down to just the flight there and back. We will provide here some tips about finding cheap flights, some are general and some are specific to Africa:
1. Search in "private" mode
these websites use "cookies" to save your searches and then use it to jack the price when you return to order.
2. Use several different flight search engines and learn the advantage of each
for example in Skyscanner you can search over the course of a month, or put destination = everywhere to find the cheapest flights. google flights also have some useful tools to find the cheapest rates for your flights, as well as Kiwi. of course there are many other search engines, it is always best to compare and use at least 2 of them.
3. After finding on a search engine - check the official site.
for example, if you found a flight with Ethiopian airlines through Skyscanner, go to the official site of Ethiopian Airlines and search for the same flight. sometimes that could lead to a lower price.
4. Search for low-cost flights - FastJet, Kulula air
Public transportation will be one of the most special experiences on your trip.
On public transport, you will discover first hand what people mean when they use the phrase "Africa Time".
There are many kinds of transport; Motorbikes that carry passengers - called Bod Boda in Uganda or Piki Piki in Tanzania;
Big vans with a capacity of around 20 passengers but usually take 30+ called Matatu in most of East Africa, Cumbi in most of southern Africa and Dallah Dallah in Tanzania. there are also regular buses, taxis (though they might look just like regular cars).
some tips for public transport:
-If you want to start your trip on time, leave early.
-Prices - a good way to get an idea of how much it should cost is to ask at the guesthouse you slept in before you leave.
-For longer trips, use larger means of transport. the smaller the vehicle the more stops it will make.
-transport between places will usually leave from a public transport station in the middle of the town, or from the edge of the town.
-In big cities, you can use uber to get around.
With all that being said - we encourage you to use public transport as much as possible! it is the best way to get closer to the local people and their everyday life and is bound to provide you with unique experiences
Health and vaccinations
We are not doctors, so all we are going to do here is direct you to the best places to receive information on each of the health issues you might be worried about:
The CDC - Centers for disease control and prevention, has important and updated information on everything you need to know.
start from the CDC Travel page, for specific info for each country, and vaccines needed and recommended. Also, you can browse by a disease to get information on Malaria, Bilharzia, Ebola, Zika or others, to get updated information.
Drinking water - in most places in Africa it is not recommended to drink tap water. best to buy bottled water which is cheap and can be bought almost anywhere. some more info on what to eat and drink when traveling in this PDF
Also, It is important to have a basic first aid kit with you at all times. you can find many different ideas for what the kit should include - here is one example
There are 2 basic ways to handle money abroad:
- Travel with Cash (USD), and change it to local currency.
- Travel with credit cards, and withdraw local currency.
We're not going to recommend any of them, just to tell you that both are fine for traveling in Africa. its very easy to find ATM's (Visa accepted everywhere, Mastercard 95%) and also local currency traders for USD (Euro also available, but not everywhere).
Like in any other place in the world, in big cities you should stay alert for pickpocketing.
Also, some places might be unsafe to walk around at night. However, do not give up on the nightlife! its colorful and could be a great experience. to be sure, just ask the locals or at the guesthouse you are staying where is ok and where it is better not to go.
Phone and Sim Cards
Local sim cards are by far the most convenient way to handle your phone abroad. "Global" plans usually end up being more expensive. There is no sim that we know of the will work in multiple countries.
in most of the countries it works like this:
1. buy a sim card - usually around 1-5$
2. buy scratch cards that are worth airtime, at any local vendor (usually they have signs, also you can ask for "air time")
3. follow the instructions on the card to charge your phone with money for calls or data.
After these simple steps, you are good to go for local calls and a fair-good internet. Do know that at the many of hostels and guesthouses you will have Wifi.