How to Prepare for Your First Trip to Africa

A person feeding a giraffe

By Sally Norton

If this is your first trip to Africa, you will be glad to know that you have so much to look forward to. There is something so special about this continent and all its countries. They are all similar and yet unique in their own way. Once you land, you will be able to experience breathtaking sites, try the most delicious food and drinks, and meet some of the most interesting people in the world. What you experience here, you will remember for the rest of your life! But, before you go to Africa, you must prepare. Don't worry - we are here to help you out with that. Thus, without further ado, here's how to prepare for your first trip to Africa.

Decide Where You Will Go

To prepare for your first trip to Africa, you must first decide where you will go. Africa is a huge continent - the second-largest continent in the world. And, it has 50 different countries for you to visit. Of course, seeing all of them is not an option (unless you have a year or two to spare). Thus, do research and decide where you want to go. The best way to do that is to think about what you want to do on your vacation. For instance, if you wish to experience safari - choose Kenya or Tanzania. If you want to learn about African culture - choose Ethiopia or Egypt. And, if you want a typical yet enriched beach vacation, go for one of many Islands of the Indian Ocean.

Two women riding camels in the desert

Knowing where you will go on your African trip will help you prepare for it.

Book Everything and Pack Accordingly

You should start booking your tours now that you know where (and when) you are going to Africa. This means booking your flight, accommodation, and all the fun stuff (horseback and camel riding, ATV driving through the desert, snorkeling in the Indian Ocean, etc.) you plan on doing in Africa. If you are going on an organized trip, this is something that your tour guide will do. But, if you are going on a solo trip, you must book everything alone and ahead of time.

Knowing where you will stay and what tours you will go to will help you pack for your trip. So, start packing. We advise you to bring a swimsuit, a couple of shorts and shirts, flip flops, some good hiking shoes, and a cap. Of course, you can always bring more stuff, but be sure to use your luggage efficiently if you do that. That is, learn some tips on packing everything you need in just one bag. Having more than that will be troublesome!

Deal With Paperwork - Insurance and Visa

Another thing you must do to prepare for your first trip to Africa is getting your Visa. Visa requirements change all the time in Africa - so, a couple of months before going on a trip, check what you have to do. Sometimes, all you will have to do is purchase a visa upon arrival, and sometimes you will have to apply weeks in advance and wait until you are approved. That all depends on where you are going (in which African country) and your nationality.

Moreover, while you are dealing with all the visa-related paperwork, it would be good to start dealing with the insurance. Of course, you should get health insurance, but you should also get trip insurance. This insurance will cover your costs if the flight gets canceled, something happens to your hotel, you lose your luggage, etc. Having insurance is especially important if you are traveling alone or if you are the organizer of your trip! Many things can go wrong in an unknown country, and insurance is one way to have peace of mind.

Visa, passport, and different documents

Having insurance is crucial when visiting African countries.

Exchange Your Money

A couple of weeks before your trip to Africa, decide what you will do about the money. This is important for four reasons. First, carrying large sums of cash with you is neither safe nor practical. Secondly, ATMs are not available everywhere. Thirdly, exchange offices are rare. And fourthly, traveler's checks are never accepted in Africa.

In order to enhance your travel by not worrying about money, we advise you to keep it on your card and draw just enough cash to get you to the next place. All bigger cities have ATMs and exchange offices, and all resorts will take foreign currencies such as dollars or euros. But, to be safe - contact your travel guide or the hotel you booked to be sure what to do with the money situation.

South African money

Make sure to always have some local currency with you.

Go Shopping

One of the last things you should do to prepare for your first trip to Africa is go shopping. We are sure you will love this part. But, before you go on a shopping spree, make a list of the necessary things. First, think about medication. If you already got vaccinated for your destination (which is obligatory), your doctor has advised you on what medication you must bring. But, if you haven't, rush to the clinic as soon as possible! Then, buy your cosmetics - a good quality sunscreen and anti-mosquitos cream are all you need.

Finally, buy your equipment. What you will buy depends on your destination. That is, it depends on the tours you have booked. For instance, if you book a safari, you will need binoculars. If you book a desert tour, you will need sunglasses, a bandana, and a good pair of hiking boots. And, if you are going to a beach resort, you don't have to bring anything - the resort probably has it all. Once again, do some research before going - that is the best way to prepare for your first trip to Africa.