So, you’ve always wanted to call yourself the African Queen, and you’re finally gonna make it a reality.
Lucky you. A trip to Africa is a life-changing experience. But there are special preparations you need to make for travel to this continent that’s split in half by the Equator.
For the purposes of not writing a novel, here, we’ll deal with tips for traveling specifically to the locales covered in Brand g’s Africa trips – South Africa and Zimbabwe. But most of these tips apply to almost anywhere in Africa.
THE SAFARI PORTION (SOUTH AFRICA)
You’ll need to get pills and/or shots for travel into safari zones almost anywhere in Africa – South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, etc. Don’t bother going to your regular doctor; they rarely keep the kind of vaccinations on hand that you’ll need. Go to a Travel Medicine clinic like Passport Health, or a pharmacy, and tell them what countries you’re traveling to. They’ll know what you need. (CostCo does travel medicine, as do most of the major drugstore chains like Walgreens, CVS, etc. – but it varies by location. Call ahead.) CostCo has the best prices, since this stuff won’t be covered by insurance.
For our trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe, we got malaria pills and a Typhoid shot. (We’d already gotten Hepatitis A&B shots.) Yellow Fever was recommended for some areas of Africa (although not the ones we were visiting), and the shot was expensive and hard to get – limited supply – so we didn’t get it. We lived.
Even if it’s warm – we were there in November, and most days had highs of 80 or so – try to avoid shorts while on game drives, or, at the very least, while on the evening game drive (when bugs are busiest). Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes. Sure, you’re taking the malaria pills, but why risk it? Luckily, skinny jeans are still a thing, because those are the kind of pants that are best, with a narrow ankle opening. Otherwise, be prepared to slather on a lot of bug lotion. (Your safari camp will provide this in your room.)
ZIMBABWE (VICTORIA FALLS)
Sure, you’re staying steps away from the massive Victoria Falls, but the drinking water isn’t the cleanest, here, and you could end up with the runs. Use the bottled water provided in your room – not just for drinking, but for brushing your teeth.
With that said – I accidentally rinsed my mouth from the faucet after brushing and thought I was done for. Nothing happened. The Victoria Falls Hotel (it’s a beautiful, high-end property) filters their water supply. But still.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
If you’re staying in Brand g’s host hotel, you’re in a good part of town, and there’s really nothing to worry about. But research the neighborhood if you choose a hotel on your own. There are parts of the city that are fairly crime-ridden at night. (During a tour, we drove through the “Beverly Hills” of Joburg, and all the mansions had razor wire rimming their walls.) The city is definitely worth a visit, though, for sights like the Apartheid Museum and a tour of Soweto, the ultra-poor but proud township where Trevor Noah grew up and where 1.2 million people still live.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
There is really nothing to be cautioned about in Cape Town, other than to be judicious with your use of water in your hotel room (they’ve been having a terrible drought). It’s one of the most beautiful and sophisticated cities in the world. You’ll fall in love with it!
Seriously consider this. You may not be covered under your employer’s medical insurance. My husband and I often travel to Europe without travel insurance; but when you’re traveling to a country whose medical facilities can be second-rate and/or 100 miles away, you want the option to be airlifted if something serious happens. It’s worth it for the peace of mind.
This is a matter of personal taste, but I always change into pajamas for overnight flights, because it’s so much easier to sleep when you don’t have tight, sexy jeans (in my mind, I’m still 28) and such pulling at you. And since you’ll be traveling at LEAST a full day to get there (it’s about 22 hours of flying time from the west coast to Johannesburg, for example), get comfortable. But leave the dinosaur slippers at home.
As you can see, traveling to Africa takes a little more prep work than a jaunt to Europe. But trust me, it is worth every moment and dollar of it, because you’ll have experiences you cannot replicate anywhere else on the planet.
And being able to drop bombs like, “When we were on safari” while your friends mentally imagine you being crushed under a boulder – who can put a price on that?