Africa

Preparing for a Trip to East Africa

Cover Photo Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Preparing for a trip to Africa is no walk in the park. It’s basically impossible to book a trip there a few weeks in advance, hop on the plane and go.

Africa has been a continent high on my list for as long as I can remember. I mean, is there anyone’s list it’s not on? I haven’t had the opportunity to do much of any travel to this beautiful continent aside from Morocco a few years back. So I’m super excited to hit my 30th country by 30 while in Africa at the end of this year.

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I’ll be heading to Kenya and Uganda on this trip with Intrepid Travel’s Gorillas & Game Parks tour. Yes, going on a tour certainly makes it easier, but there’s still a lot of things I need to prepare before my departure. In true Lauren OCD organized fashion, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve had to prepare for and consider while planning this trip in hopes to help you on your next adventure to Africa!

The tour

Africa isn’t the easiest continent to conquer on your own, at least most of the more remote countries aren’t, on top of that, it can have unsafe areas for women traveling solo. Picking the right tour for you, and the trip you want to have, will be your best bet for making the most out of your time in Africa (not to mention, it’ll make you feel more safe). 

I’m not a huge tour girl, but I love a tour to the countries that I either wouldn’t feel safe traveling to on my own, or that would be very challenging to travel around in without the expertise of a tour company. I’m heading on Intrepid’s Game Parks & Gorilla Tour, but just because this was the right tour for me, doesn’t mean it’ll be the right one for you. Keep the following in mind to make sure you pick the right one for you: 

  • What is the average age demographic for this tour?
  • What comfort level is it? Aka will you be camping, staying in hostels, staying in hotels, etc.
  • How much free time will you get?
  • What is included? Meals? Accommodations? Transportation? Excursions?
  • How many people on average go on the tour? (No one wants to be on a tour with 60+ people after all)

Beyond the tour

You’ll also want to ensure you read the fine print of your tour, and make sure to make note and book anything not included. For example, when does the tour start versus when you arrive? Do you need an extra night(s) in a hotel? What about the days before or after the tour? What do you plan to do on those days? How will you get around? Airport transfers to and from the hotel? The list goes on. Make sure you check all the boxes if you aren’t someone who is comfortable enough to wing it.

Vaccinations

When traveling to Africa, you’ll most definitely need a handful of vaccinations, unless of course you already have them from previous out-of-country trips. Make sure to visit a travel clinic at home to figure out exactly what you need. Ask your family doctor for your immunization record to take along with you to your appointment so they can sort out what you need updated, what you already have, and what you’ll need to get. Plan for this in your budget as well. Vaccinations are expensive! Although I’ve traveled a ton, I spent around $350 CAD on my consultation at the clinic, plus two booster shots, and my yellow fever shot, thankfully one other one I needed was covered by my provincial healthcare. Your doctor may also recommend for you to bring an antibiotic prescription and malaria pills with you too!

Note: There is a shortage of the Yellow Fever vaccination, so most places will only offer you 1/4 of the dosage you would normally get, versus the full vaccination. The only difference with this is by only taking part of the vaccination, you’ll be covered for less amount of years than the full one.

Visas

Take a look at the visa requirements for the countries you’ll be visiting, and remember, one size doesn’t fit all. If you are entering a country once versus multiple times, you may need a different visa. One thing to note is that the multi-entry visa isn’t a one size fits all. For example, since I’m flying into Africa through Kenya, I can’t apply for that visa in advance and have to get it at the airport when I land. See below for all the info:

  • Here is the info for multi-entry visas
  • Here is the info for Kenya visas
  • Here is the info for Uganda visas
  • Here is the info for Tanzania visas
  • Here is the info for Eritrea visas
  • Here is the info for Djibouti visas
  • Here is the info for Ethiopia visas

Packing

Packing for Africa is no walk in the park, and in my research, I’ve found it very confusing because there’s always bloggers that tell you one thing, then take beautiful photos in clothing that other bloggers tell you is inappropriate. Ugh! So anyway, I found that my tour company, Intrepid had some great tips in their detailed information notes for the tour. I also connected with a friend who just returned from Kenya to get her insight from her experience. So here are some of the tips I’ve learned for packing that I think are incredibly valuable to know. 

  • Plastic bags are banned in Africa. You can literally be charged for having a plastic bag. Therefore, if you’re someone who often packs your liquids, or dirty clothes, etc. in plastic bags, skip them for packing cubes, or canvas totes instead. 
  • Wearing light colours is a thing! Partly because it can get warm in Africa, but also because it does a good job of a) not making you stand out to animals, and b) not attracting bugs. 
  • To follow that, black and blue will attract bugs more than any other colours. My friend said she only noticed this in certain areas though so don’t feel like you have to buy all new clothes. You can always have some black pants for your long car rides. 
  • Layers! Yes, shockingly, Africa gets cold. Check the climate for the time of year you are traveling but for the most part, in winter months (June-September) it can get as low as 0 degrees celsius. When I went to Morocco, I was shocked on how cold the temperature would dip in the evenings and mornings. 
  • Skip the shorts and skirts. You’ll see very few people wear shorts and skirts and if you want to draw unwanted attention to yourself, then you can too! It’s just highly not recommended, and you won’t see locals doing it. 

I’ll be doing a whole packing list post as per usual closer to my trip so you can get a full idea of what I’m packing! 

I’m so excited for this trip to Africa, and even though there’s a lot to prepare beforehand, I know it’ll be so worth it! If you have any tips about any of the above or a trip to East Africa, please share in the comments below. Looking for all the advice and recommendations I can get. 

Pin the below image to save these tips for later!

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