Words by Alexander Besant
I’ll get some exotic, terrifying disease
Highly unlikely of course. The recent Ebola scare dented African tourism despite being largely concentrated in three countries and particular communities. Africa, needless to say, is not a country – nor 3 countries. It’s actually 54 countries on a giant, diverse continent. But yes, there’s more of a risk of getting sick in developing countries so at Hip Africa we urge you to practice some basic safety precautions: Get your vaccines, take your malaria tablets and practice safe sex!
I’ll be killed by a militia
Violence in Africa, like violence elsewhere is highly concentrated in certain places and among certain actors. Wars and violence among non-government actors occur in places like Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan, places you probably weren’t planning on traveling anyway. Ultra-violence occurs just over the US-Mexico border, often more violent than anything found in Africa but that hasn’t stopped anyone from going to Cancun has it?
I’ll stand out like a sore thumb and feel uncomfortable
Having lighter skin in an entirely black country will get you some attention but actually it’s most positive attention than anything. Remember you are exotic to them as they are to you. Clearly it’s not very prudent to arrive in comparatively poor countries dripping in diamonds, or like you’ve walked straight out of a music video. That also doesn’t mean dress like a “down to earth” Africa loving volunteer – just be casual!
Note that African cities are increasingly multicultural – think expats, foreign business people, other travellers: unfortunately you’re not the first intrepid foreigner to get there!
I’ll pay a fortune for hotels, safaris and plane tickets
Yes. Traveling in Africa can be a lot more pricey than traveling in other developing parts of the world. This is partly due to the higher cost of maintenance, electricity and quality staff. This is, of course, a question of supply and demand. The more travellers explore Africa, the more hotels and restaurants are created to cater to them, thus driving prices down. Be part of the solution.
I’ll definitely get food poisoning
Travellers always run the risk of food poisoning as your system adjusts to new bacteria and organisms. Take precautions like avoiding uncooked vegetables, fruits that don’t peel and untreated liquids and you’ll be fine. Street food might be delicious but probably better to not run the risk until you’re fully adapted.
I won’t finish the trip without getting mugged – or worse
Petty crime and violence around Africa is not more likely than in any major European capital. Take precautions in known high crime cities, particularly in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya as you would anywhere. Things might look rough in places, but most people are just getting on with their lives rather than surveilling your pockets.
There’s nothing interesting to see
Much of Africa requires a change in mindset and expectations. Don’t come expecting to see the same stuff you’ll find everywhere else, holding preconceptions of what the average ‘holiday’ should look like. Also, don’t come looking for European museums or Asian style temples. T (this) I (is) A (Africa). Just roll with it and soak up the vibe. You will have plenty to do/see/taste/buy/photograph/post on Instagram. Trust us you will not get bored.
They aren’t used to having tourists and people won’t be very friendly
Au contraire. The less used to tourists they are the friendlier you will find the locals – at worst you will be treated with respect and smiles (addressed to as sir/masta), at best you may be followed down the streets by excited children – think Muhammed Ali in When We Were Kings – who think you’re a god or rockstar
It’s way too hard to move from one place to another
Admittedly true – for now. In the past it has been cheaper to fly back to Europe and then catch another long haul flight back to Africa than finding convenient internal flights. However, all this is changing with well-known carriers such as Emirates, SA Airways and British Airways operating internal flights, as well as many home-grown companies such as Arik Air, Ethiopian and Kenyan Airways expanding. There are also excellent coach services that connect western and southern Africa. North Africa has many flights between its major cities.
I’ll feel bad seeing all the poverty and strife
Coverage of Africa tends to focus on the intensely negative, missing the fact that the vast majority of people around the continent live normal lives day by day. While there are regions that have seen, and continue to see, their fair share of poverty, disease and violence, much of the continent is seeing massive economic expansion. These days twice as many Nigerians return to Nigeria as leave. Angola is having to clamp down on Portuguese trying to immigrate to Angola for job opportunities. The landscape is changing. This is a continent full of hope.