You’re going to Africa! We can imagine that you don’t exactly know what to expect, and that the sound of ‘Africa’ in general is a bit more intimidating than that of an Asia or South-America. No worries: we’re here with our local tips and tricks to help you prepare. So: what do you need to know before going to Africa?
Let’s start with getting you into the country! You can buy your visa at the airport of arrival, but it’s more practical to fix it at home. If you however prefer the airport-option: make sure that you bring cash! You have several options when traveling to East Africa:
A Kenyan single-entry visa. This option allows you to enter the country multiple times within a time span of three months, and on the condition that you don’t leave East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda & Rwanda). This option costs €40 (or $50) and you can apply for ithere. Confused and afraid to fill in the wrong answer to the wrong question? We have a manual on how to arrange everything properly here.
An East Africa visa. This option allows free travel between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. It costs $100, and you can either get it at the Kenyan immigration desk, or, if you start in Rwanda/Uganda,here or here.
Vaccinations Here you’ll find an easy-to-read schedule on which vaccinations are recommended. DTP, hepatitis and yellow fever are ‘the Big Three’ of which you can almost be certain that you’ll need them. Depending on the length of your stay and the exact location of where you’ll be traveling, more vaccinations can be added to the equation.
Antimalarial measures Apart from vaccinations, anti-mosquito measures are of the greatest importance. You won’t find the tiny carriers of malaria in the entirety of East Africa, but just to be sure: bring enough DEET with you, at least 30%! Next to the direct preventative measures there is the well-known antimalarial medication. You can check here which option suits you best!
Food & Beverages Be careful! To prevent cholera or other stomach-related issues, it should be clear that ‘drinking water’ here means ‘water from a sealed bottle’, and that devouring an entire apple – including peel – without washing it first severely increases the risk to feeling really shitty (literally) later. Since our spoiled western stomachs aren’t 100% ‘African food-proof’, be sure to bring some antidiarrheal drugs.
⚠Make sure that you have your International Certificate of Vaccination with you. Some countries, like Uganda and South Africa, won’t let you cross the border without!⚠
The weather is an important but unpredictable factor in Kenya. As can be seen on the map underneath; there are many different climate-zones, and the temperature and circumstances can differ greatly between these. Take these differences into account when packing your bag. Some comfy leggings, a long pair of trousers, a nice sweater and a simple raincoat can get you a long way.
Rainy seasons About that raincoat… Kenya has two rainy seasons: a longer and more intense one from March until the end of May, and a shorter one in November-December. The two months right after these periods are the Kenyan tourist high season. June and December are both known for the combination of green surroundings and simultaneously the sunshine we know Africa so well for. Keep in mind if you’re planning on visiting: the prices will rise as well in these months.
African sun Lastly: the sun. Sunshine here is not your average ‘just barely making it through the clouds’-sunshine. I speak from experience when I tell you that it will sneak up on you and that you will feel it burn for quite some time. So, don’t forget those sunhats and SPF 30/50!
This is largely based on common sense: stay off the streets after sunset, avoid the bad neighbourhoods (except when you’re under the protection of a local guide), and adjust your clothing and especially your jewelry to your surroundings. Live by these rules, and you’ll discover that Nairobi is an amazingly vibrant city with good restaurants, laid-back bars and cool coffee places.
Tip: The majority of the larger cities have Uber; use it. It’s effective and surprisingly cheap.
Kenya In Kenya they pay with the Kenyan shilling, affectionately called bob by the locals. 1 euro equals 124 shilling, so the math’s easy: move the comma two places up, and give yourself a 20% discount. We have an (Dutch, but hey – it’s just numbers..) overview of the other African currencies for you.
Cash withdrawal First things first: don’t forget to switch your bank card to ‘international’. Second: a trustworthy bank where you can almost always withdraw cash is Barclays. Make sure that you withdraw the maximum amount possible; the average added cost is €5.
Haggling In Africa, haggling is a game that only produces winners. Never accept the price that they initially give you, but instead, go head to head with the local vendors: the more they smile, the better the outcome will be for you!
In conclusion: what do you need when you visit the African continent? What’s sort of okay to forget, and what do you need to pack almost simultaneously with your passport? No stress required; we got you. Men will probably be fine with three pairs of clean underwear, but for the ladies we created – just to be sure – a packing list (men are still allowed to use this as an inspiration for the contents of their suitcases of course). Everything – with the exception of the basic stuff like underwear and socks – that we think would come in handy here, is on there.
All of the above might sound slightly terrifying, but rest assured: it’s not that bad. Just get your shots, use your brain, and don’t eat the entire apple. We promise you: you’ll be fine.
Safari Njema, see you in Africa!
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Charlie’s Travels is a young travel start-up, operating from out of the Nairobi HQ with a team of modern world explorers. It’s time to experience the real Africa and get off the beaten track: create your own adventure!