Road Trips in Africa: Six Best Guidelines to Organizing the Trip of a Lifetime
Perhaps Walt Whitman’s was referring to African road trips when he quipped; “Not I – not anyone else, can travel that road for you, you must travel it for yourself”. It’s a fascinating experience that inherently calls for spontaneity; the ability to drive through wild terrains with no sign of life, yet emerge in luxuriant stretches dotted with herds of grazers while nearby you can hear the lion’s roar! It’s the drive through seemingly remote areas to find Wi-Fi connection and mobile money transfers at the park’s gate! Every mile has a story to tell, and as seasoned altruistic travelers may tell you; this trip is about letting go of the tried path, and drawing your own map. Here are a few guidelines by Jovago.com to guide you on this adventure.
While putting together your dates, take a short time and try your basic car mechanical/maintenance skills since you might be required to change the tire or refill your oil miles away from a gas station. Again, on top of packing your suitcase, consider available food in your destination, the season and longevity of your supplies should you need to pack snacks, a cooler or an ice box will come in handy. In case you will be required to pitch tent along the way, it’s good advice to pack your own; you might just drive in to a site to find all tents taken up by those ahead of you!
On the Road:
The most exciting part about driving yourself is that you can be spontaneous enough to enjoy the intrinsic features and experiences on your route; every turn is a unique opportunity for another picturesque moment.
To enable you maximize on this experience, ensure that you familiarize yourself with the civil rights especially pertaining to the road, the highway code with basic road rules (speed limits, overtakes and undertakes etc.) and check requirements on foreign drivers/licenses ahead of time. Assuming that you choose to rent the car, countercheck the credibility of your providers from other sources or ask for references. The next great rule of happy road trips is to always ensure that your fuel gauge never goes red while on the road; gas up any time you have the chance, and ask the attendants how far it will take you to the next station. On the same note, always carry a spare tire and keep your tool box well stocked.
Connection, Communication and Boarders:
Even in this age and hype of single visa entries to different regions in Africa, rules still supply at border points; for instance, while international number plates are acceptable, you will still be required to display a sticker indicating the country of origin as well as third party insurance with a 90 day validity when crossing into Botswana.
Borders for East African’s tripping the region will only require the driver to sign his car identify into a form and show his driving permit in addition to the usual police checks. Another important aspect is the cultural upholding in the area, this touches on dressing, greetings, and interaction, which will come in handy especially when you need advice at a junction. You will also note that most diversion roads are not marked, and usually take the names of the neighborhood hence will call for short stop overs and a consultation on either your map or the locals.
Internet and mobile networking may not be accessible in some areas, make sure you communicate with friends and family before you gear up to tackle such stretches. It’s very prudent to ask your local network/mobile provider for a map on their coverage.
Your Destination, and Expectations:
This is a reminder touching on point no.2; apart from the basic fees at different entry points e.g. national parks, reserves etc., you may be required to pay packing fees as well as amenity fee in some areas. Unless there is cause to believe that you are being conned, or ripped off, pay your dos without much ado and enjoy your trip!
Also, take note while some countries parade their palaces and state property as tourist attractions, countries like Kenya have strict penalties for adventurists caught photographing the president’s home (State House) and the army barracks. This rules may also apply to private homes and other sorts of property. For the sake of upholding good tourism manners, keep off the urge to take photos of the locals without their consent. Note that while some may accept, they might demand a little fee for their faces. I think it’s fair!
Your Safety and Security:
This should cover aspects of vaccinations, as required by your destination and recommended by CDC. Pack a first aid kit and homeopathic remedies as well as economical packs of water treatment solutions, useful ointments, bug spray etc. While on the same, avoid travelling in the night as you are more likely to be attacked in the dark.
It’s also useful to have the emergency lines for the districts on your route and ensure that at least you have a direct line to a medical facility. Referring back to no.3, always have your travel insurance updated before hit the road. On the flip side of safety, remember this is Africa, animals have the right of way and you may have to hold down your brake as a pair of lions or heard of gazelles walk gracefully across the road. Trust your sixth sense and don’t stretch your imagination too far!
Finally, Be Vigilant!
Unfortunately, some of the most popular destinations in Africa are also ranked as the most dangerous for tourists, for instance, while Morocco ranks as one of Africa’s most toured destination, it also holds number ten on world’s most unfriendly countries for female tourists, similarly, Nairobi – one of the most tourist-popular cities is also rated as one of the most dangerous. Although hundreds of other travelers have been on your route and successfully completed their road trip without hitches or incidents, it’s very important to take in your surrounding and keep your senses alert just in case you turn out to be the unlucky one.
Jovago.com is an online hotel booking service with offices in Lagos (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya), and Dakar (Senegal) founded by Africa Internet Holding and has MTN and Millicom as two of the investors. Jovago.com, Africa’s No.1 booking portal, facilitates the booking process for its users to provide them with the best hotel booking experience with fast, transparent and easy-to-use services. Jovago.com has over 20,000 local hotel listings across Africa and over 200,000 hotels around the world.
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