10 African Safari Travel Tips to Keep in Mind
As the saying goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, please take a moment to read our travelling trips.
1. Travel insurance
As soon as your travel plans are confirmed, take out travel insurance. It would be advisable to choose a policy plan that covers cancellation, medical illness, emergency evacuation and associated hospital treatments. Be sure to take the relevant documentation/details with you.
2. Personal safety
Your personal safety and security is mostly a matter of common sense. So take the same precautions while travelling in Africa on safari that you would in any major city at home:
- Do not carry large sums of cash (see below for more information on Cash, Credit Cards & ATMs).
- Carry your cash (plus passport and other travel documents) in a money pouch hidden under your shirt. Keep it out of sight or stowed in your camera bag or knapsack (which should remain in sight at all times).
- Keep a close watch on your personal bags when walking in crowded areas (airports, markets, restaurants and on the street).
- Do not walk alone at night.
- Leave your passport, airline tickets and cash in a safe place (the hotel/lodge safe) when venturing out.
- Keep tempting valuables (including phones, cameras, wallet pouches, handbags) out of sight. Lock them up in the room safe or hand them into management.
- If possible, leave your jewellery at home.
3. Cash, Credit Cards & ATM’s
Normally the best option would be to carry a combination of cash (preferably US$ for most countries…and Rand for South Africa) and at least one credit card.
Traveller’s cheques (checks) are not widely accepted in African countries whereas the American Dollar remains the most widely accepted, followed by the Euro and Sterling.
NB! Visas secured on arrival must be paid in cash and in the exact amount.
Be careful of money-changers!
Credit & Debit cards
Most establishments accept international credit cards. Use them as a method of payment wherever possible. However, it is advisable to carry more than one brand of credit card as not all types are accepted by all outlets/hotels.
Important Travel Tip: Most banks and credit card companies advocate that you advise them before you travel overseas. This is so that their credit card monitoring systems do not suspend your card when they detect any unusual purchases. Such purchases will trigger the suspension of your card.
Always be extra cautious with providing your credit card details when travelling and above all and do not let your card out of your sight when paying your bill.
In Africa, ATM machines supply only local currency and you may need an international PIN code. Be sure to check with your bank/credit card facility at home about how this should work. Not all ATMs in Africa will accept every credit card type. VISA has the best coverage in Africa. Use an ATM at a bank, so if your card is retained for any reason, you can go in and get it back. Don’t rely on ATMs as your main source of cash while on safari!
4. Electric current
220 -240V/50Hz is the predominant electrical system that all of Africa uses, as is much of Europe, the UK, Australia and New Zealand and virtually all the Asian countries and India. If you are however from North America, please ensure that you bring an adapter for the proper plug configuration and a converter.
- C (European): Two-prong round (unearthed)
- D (Old British plug): Three-prong round (small)
- F (Schuko plug): Two-prong round (with 2 x earth contacts)
- G (UK plug): Three-prong rectangular
- M (South African plug): Three-prong round (large)
Type M (standard in South Africa), Type D (standard in Namibia) plug sockets and Type G (the UK standard) plug sockets are the dominant plug types in Africa. However, some countries do offer Type C & F plug sockets (see Table below). A number of hotels have international wall sockets which will take an array of both two-prong and three-prong plugs. North America and Japan use Type A & B plugs, and Australia a Type I plug. All will require an adaptor plug!
Country: Plug type
- Botswana : D & G
- Rwanda: C
- Kenya: G
- South Africa : D & M
- Malawi: G
- Swaziland: M
- Mozambique : C, F, & M
- Tanzania : D & G
- Namibia : D & M
- Zambia : C, D, & G
- Uganda: G
- Zimbabwe: D & G
Not all safari camps and lodges will have electrical outlets in the tents/rooms but they most definitely have an outlet where you can recharge your camera/video and phone/iPod batteries.
Some camps run their generator at certain times of the day – so be sure to check with the manager when you arrive.
Generally speaking, telecommunication in Africa is not of the same quality as accustomed to at home but mobile (cell) phone coverage (and even Wi-Fi) is certainly more widespread throughout Africa – although not in some of the more remote safari destinations (thankfully).
A Travel Tip before you leave for safari: confirm with your service provider that your phone is registered for international roaming (also check that your phone is compatible with the networks in Africa. If your phone is a dual or tri-band GSM phone it will work just fine.
Nowadays Wi-Fi is being offered at most safari destinations – some as an extension of that country’s communications grid, and some connected via satellite. We will gladly inform you before you leave home which camps/lodges have WiFi. Better to use WiFi than your mobile phone. Avoid exorbitant international roaming charges!
6. Water is life
Drink only bottled water. Drink water frequently! Dehydration is a real danger on safari and quite frequent. Make sure to drink at regular intervals and have water at hand at all times. You will always be safe drinking the bottled water that is readily available at all the camps and lodges. It is recommendable to carry a bottle of water with you at all times – including on transfers between camps.
In the winter months (June to October), the game reserves can be extremely dusty. Contact lens wearers should bring eye drops and eyeglasses, to avoid eye irritation. Clean camera and video lenses regularly and store them in a camera bag, while on safari.
8. Questions regarding Tipping
Should we tip, and if so – how much?? These are common questions for most visitors to any foreign country! In Southern Africa, tipping is not expected but is customary. The traditional gratuity to safari guides or camp staff is not included in the price of your tour and is completely discretionary.
9. How to approach Charity while on safari/tour
Many visitors to Africa feel a strong urge to help the less fortunate whom they encounter on a safari, or when visiting a local village or school. It is best to seek an appropriate opportunity while you are travelling, rather than carry along gifts from home. Many safari camps and lodges are actively involved in working with their local communities to sustain schools, clinics and other projects. Ask about this when you are there and visit the school, clinic or project if you can. A donation to something you have seen on the ground will bring you more satisfaction (and directly help the neediest). Contribute in a way that helps a person (or community) help themselves, and enhance their way of life.
Resist the temptation to offer ‘handouts’ to kids on the side of the road. This only encourages dependency on such generosity and teaches these children that begging brings reward. There is no dignity in begging and the harassment it fosters will not endear you to the next group of tourists either!
10. Exchange of currency
Most African countries have stringent exchange control regulations and it is illegal to enter or leave the country with anything other than nominal amounts of local currency. To avoid problems, do not exchange too much money into local currency at any one time. There is normally no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that may be imported.