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10 things you should know before travelling in Africa

Know what to expect before travelling to Africa. Picture: Pexels.

Know what to expect before travelling to Africa. Picture: Pexels.

Published May 15, 2021


Africa is home to stunning landscapes, culture, cuisine and friendly people. Clinton Moodley chats with travel agency owner Jennifer Morris about what travellers embarking on a trip to another African country need to know.

She shares 10 things you should know before travelling in Africa:

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Your passport needs to be valid at least six months after your date of return. If it isn’t, renew it before you depart.

Visa requirements

While many African countries allow visa-free travel for South Africans, some destinations require a visa to enter. Check all visa requirements with a travel professional when booking your trip as it can take a few weeks to obtain one in some destinations. People travelling on a European or UK passport may pay additional visa costs.

Health and safety requirements

When travelling during the pandemic, travellers need to be mindful of a country’s vaccination requirements and health advisories. Morris said it’s best to speak to a travel professional.

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“You may need a yellow fever vaccination certificate, or you may be entering a region with high malaria or dengue fever risks. Preparation is key to ensure that you are safe throughout the trip,” she said.


When driving overland, do ample research on road conditions, speed limits and borders.

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Morris explained: “A distance of 200km may only take 2 hours on a tarred highway, but could take half a day’s driving if the road is bad or the speed limits are very low.

Take note of refuelling stops and find out if you need a 4x4 vehicle or not.

You may need to get an international driver’s licence permit through the AA before you are allowed to hire a car in your destination country. Conducting research will ensure the journey runs smoothly.”

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Travel insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance is a requirement. Morris advised that travellers should get insurance that covers medical evacuations. “This is absolutely non-negotiable when travelling in Africa,” she said.

Customs and traditions

Morris advised travellers to check on the customs and traditions of the country before they visit.

“Some countries have a low tolerance on homosexuality, for example, or may have modest dress requirements for women in public.

“Don’t assume that the benefits enjoyed by South Africans follow you when you travel elsewhere. Be mindful of laws and customs in your destination country,” she explained.

Ask before you drink the tap water

Ask whether it is safe to consume water in a particular country.

Most countries in Africa advise against this for foreigners.

Wash all fruit and vegetables bought in stores and markets thoroughly before eating them. Purchase bottled water for peace of mind.


Research your destination’s transport offerings. “Whether by taxi, train or tuk-tuk, experiencing an African city the same way the locals do is often much cheaper than hiring a car or an Uber.

It is often the best way to have a more authentic experience,” said Morris.

Book a local guide

Not only will booking a local guide promote the local economy, but they will also share some hidden gems with you.

“If you’re travelling to a place you’ve never been before, it may be a good idea to hire a local guide for the first few days.

“Your guide will show you places and organise experiences that the guidebooks won’t tell you about, and they will know the quickest way to get to places.

“They’ll also give you a fascinating insight into the history and culture of your destination,” Morris explained.

Weather forecast

Check the dates and months of travel as some countries experience harsh weather during certain times of the year.

Read the May 2021 edition of IOL Travel digital magazine here.

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