Tips to stay alert & safe in Africa
Although Africa has come a long way when it comes to safety and security, the continent is unfortunately still subject to many dated stereotypes when it comes to Western travelers. The truth is, you are statistically much more likely to be a victim of petty theft in Barcelona than you are in Cape Town or any other frequently visited city in Africa. Not to mention that most recently people have been subjected to serious danger due to terrorist attacks in Paris, in venues that were considered the most secure and safe in the city. So really, are we ever completely safe?
That said, like in any place that you are not familiar with, it is always better to stay alert. Let’s go through some general safety tips to always keep in mind when traveling to this stunning continent.
A respected, reputable, and local tour guide will already know the fundamentals when it comes to keeping you safe. Some offer airport pickup or chauffeur service or should at least be able to give you recommendations. Safaris have guidelines in place to keep you safe from danger. Your tour operator will know the animals and when they are behaving abnormally.
Tour guides will also already be a known part of the local community. Ask them about which scams to avoid, your tour guide will have heard about all of them. Local authorities will also respect them, so they won’t be open to intimidation or be taken advantage of. Read reviews carefully and learn their history before choosing a tour operator or a tour guide.
As a tourist, you will stick out. Don’t wear flashy clothing or accessories and try to keep a low profile. In a city, there might be pickpocketers who target tourists. Even though there will be so many new and exciting sights at your destination, don’t forget to keep an eye on your surroundings. Consider wearing a money belt or similar device to keep your valuables and passport safe.
Research the neighborhood you are staying in to see which routes not to take. Look up the taxi companies that work in the city and their average rates. Never get in an unmarked taxi or a company that isn’t on your list. Also, always ask for the rate before the drive. If you wait until the end you may get asked for way too much money.
It is always a good idea to not drink too much, a drunk tourist is an easy target. As in many cities, you should always avoid walking around during the night.
Many of us are lucky enough to never think about how we are going to get clean water in our daily lives. However, you shouldn’t drink the tap water in many African countries. Buy bottled water, boil the water, or use iodine tablets to make sure you don’t get sick. It is important not to skip drinking water, dehydration during the dry season is not something you want to experience.
Use purified water for everything, from brushing your teeth to drinking. Make sure to keep your mouth closed while showering as well. When at a restaurant, don’t drink anything with ice unless you are certain it is from purified water.
The best part about traveling is trying the local cuisine. However, in some African countries, you have to be cautious about what you eat. Fresh salads and produce washed in tap water need to be avoided. If safety measures aren’t taken in the kitchen, you could contract typhoid or simply end up on the toilet for longer than you had planned on vacation.
Many diseases, like typhoid and Hepatitis A, are easily passed through touch from unwashed hands. Depending on the cities in Africa you are traveling to, there is a chance that you won’t find soap in every bathroom. Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it frequently. Don’t eat without first cleaning your hands carefully.
Travelers to Africa need to constantly be on the defense when it comes to mosquitoes. Don’t sleep without mosquito netting and make sure it doesn’t have any holes. Wear light clothing that covers your arms and legs at night. Keep spraying insect repellant throughout the day and especially after a shower.
Your vacation to Africa should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is above all, safe. Follow the tips in this travel guide and the advice from your tour operator so you can stop worrying and start enjoying yourself in this amazing part of the world.