6 Travel Tips for First Time Travelers to Africa

by Sandy Salle on January 15, 2013

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First-time traveler to Africa? Here’s our list of the top 6 travel tips for those on their very first trip to Africa! 

1. Pack Smart: Since many African safari vacation itineraries include chartered flights on smaller aircrafts, it’s essential to pack efficiently in order to follow proper domestic flight packing guidelines and restrictions. This means that all non-essential items should be left home (such as evening gowns, jewelry, and other items not needed on safari J). Before packing for your African safari vacation, make sure to check the luggage restrictions for the domestic airlines you will be using within Africa. Your specialized safari vacation planner or tour operator should have a complete, up-to-date list of these restrictions.

Also, for travelers interested in giving to the local communities in Africa, consider working with the Pack for a Purpose organization.

Pack for a Purpose works with a variety of accommodations within various African countries (as well as internationally) to help travelers donate while on vacation. When you stay at an accommodation that is affiliated with Pack for a Purpose, all you have to do is pack 5 lbs. of materials, such as soccer balls, pencils, or other school and recreation supplies, and that accommodation will transfer the materials to designated areas in need. The items that you bring with you for donation will be determined by community-based projects and often include pens, pencils, erasers, calculators, colored pencils, games, blood pressure cuffs, Band-Aids, soccer balls, and more.

2. Keep an Open Mind: Don’t close yourself off to new possibilities and experiences right off the bat. Educate yourself on ALL the things you can see and do whilst in Africa, even if they are things you don’t think you’ll enjoy. For example, we had a client who was really interested in exploring the food and wine culture of Cape Town. We suggested that they dine with a local through one of our select culinary tours and programs, but they were skeptical of the idea, not sure if they would feel comfortable in someone else’s home. Well, they gave it a shot and LOVED it. In fact, it was one of their favorite activities out of their entire trip.

In my opinion, the more you step outside of your comfort zone and explore new adventures and possibilities, the more you will grow as a person and expand your outlook and perspective on life.

3. Always Bring Several Camera Memory Cards: One of the most common regrets I hear from clients is that they wish they had brought an additional memory card! Always make sure to bring at least two memory cards because you’ll find yourself taking more photos than you had thought. And, of course, don’t forget to bring your charger or additional camera batteries.

african safari vacation

4. Journal your experiences: A trip to Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many travelers. Make the most of it by capturing all of your amazing memories on paper. From the exhilaration of game drives, to your safari guide’s hilarious sense of humor to an exceptional experience at a quaint Cape Winelands restaurant to the adrenaline of zip lining across the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls, the experiences you have in Africa can be had nowhere else on earth. And as the years go by, the strongest memories stand, but some of the little details begin to fade. So capture all those little details (no matter how small they seem at the time) in a journal.

5. Experience it all without putting TOO much on your plate: Many first-time travelers to Africa want to hop from country to country, experiencing the best of each. However, with all of the travel involved, this can take away from your trip and cause unneeded stress. Therefore, I suggest visiting destinations that have a lot to offer, including South Africa and Zimbabwe. I would say that these two destinations offer the most in terms of attractions, game viewing, history, and culture.

South Africa, for example, is home to Cape Town (a bustling city, bursting with culture, history, and an exceptional culinary scene), Cape Winelands (for countryside wine tasting), Kruger National Park (South Africa’s flagship park), and so much more.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, is home to Victoria Falls (one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World), Hwange National Park (a top game-viewing park in Africa), and Mana Pools National Park (famous for its renowned and adventurous Mana Pools Canoe Trail).

victoria falls

6. Leave the details to the professionals: The last thing you need is the stress of planning an entire vacation to a continent you’ve never been to. And as many of us know from experience, stress can ruin an entire trip.

From planning transfers from the airport to the hotel to booking prominent accommodations, to traveling between countries to booking the best activities, and reserving seats at some of Africa’s best restaurants to getting the best value for your money, there are tons of little details and factors involved when planning a dream trip to Africa. So make sure, it’s done right by hiring a trusted and specialized travel professional to help you with all the details.

African safari vacation

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