You hear it time and time again: people are afraid to travel to Africa. They are convinced the entire place is a war-torn, disease-ridden wasteland and the thought of actually getting on a plane and traveling there frightens them. Sure. Those things do exist in Africa, but remember…it is a huge continent with a large number of countries in it and there is a lot of diversity between those countries. Also remember that things like poverty, disease, and war happen on every continent (except Antarctica, maybe) so if you’re afraid of an entire continent because of something you heard on the news about one area, you’re really being quite unfair. Would you be afraid to travel to Canada because you heard on the news something bad happened in one neighborhood of one city in Southern Mexico? I didn’t think so. So why should you be afraid to travel to Africa as a whole because bad things happen in some places there?There are a lot of beautiful places with…yes…clean, modern cities in Africa. There is gorgeous nature and friendly people and amazing wildlife to be experienced. There are wonders and marvels on this Earth that are unique to Africa, and if you say, “I’m never going to travel to Africa,” you’re missing out on a lot of things. Here are some things to remember about traveling to Africa:
It’s a big place.
Africa is 11.67 million square miles large. That’s a big place. It spans both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and is 4,989 miles from the Northernmost point to the Southernmost point. To give you a sense of scale, the Northernmost point of Africa, in Tunisia, is at a similar latitude to Virginia Beach, Virginia in the United States. The Southernmost point, in South Africa, is on a similar latitude to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Imagine that you’re going to take a trip from Virginia Beach to Buenos Aires. Imagine all the space and places and people between those two locations. That is the size of Africa.
Being such a large place, there are of course good areas and bad areas. Africa has 54 countries in it, more than any other continent, and each country has it’s own national identity, laws, culture, and society. Some of those countries are currently experiencing problems such as war and disease, yes, but others are perfectly beautiful, safe places to travel. A lot of people put all of Africa in one category, but they really shouldn’t. The other thing you should remember is that even countries who are currently experiencing problems are often only experiencing those issues in certain areas.
To put it into perspective, think about my home city of Los Angeles where I grew up. There are some areas of Los Angeles where there are a lot of problems, like crime and gang violence. However, just around the corner are some very lovely places full of gorgeous beaches that are perfectly safe. Would you be afraid to go to Malibu because you heard about a shooting in central Los Angeles? Didn’t think so. Honestly, you’re fine anywhere if you practice basic precautions such as not wandering around in the middle of the night on foot, waving around a bunch of money and yelling about it. The same goes for anywhere. Just be smart about where you’re going and what you’re doing and you’ll be fine.
Perhaps you’re afraid of health and safety when you go to Africa. You’ve heard about diseases like Ebola and HIV running rampant and you’re worried you’re going to catch one of those diseases if you travel to Africa. The first thing to remember, again, is that Africa is a big place and Ebola is only present in a small corner of the continent. Even there, their problems have subsided quite a bit and there are precautionary measures in place so even if you landed in the middle of the Ebola area right now, you would probably still be fine. Still, if you’re worried about Ebola, don’t travel to one of the few countries where Ebola is present. Problem solved. If you’re worried about HIV, you really shouldn’t be. Unless you’re planning on having unprotected sex with random people, even the countries with the most instances of HIV won’t be problematic for you. If you’re worried about health concerns such as malaria, other mosquito born illnesses, or problems should you have to visit a hospital, just remember to prepare ahead of time for such an eventuality. Take precautions to fend against mosquitoes such as wearing proper clothing, wearing mosquito repellent, and of course getting malaria prevention pills and necessary vaccines before you travel. Also remember that as a relatively wealthy traveler, you can likely easily afford and access good medical care while you’re there should the need arise. Furthermore, if you’re afraid of traveling to Africa, chances are that if I’m able to convince you anyway, you’re going to end up in one of the places that is modern and safe, so these things aren’t a huge concern anyway. They do have modern hospitals and well-trained doctors in Africa, after all.
Convinced you’re going to get robbed, raped, or worse? Just follow the same basic precautions that you would follow anywhere. Every place has good areas and bad areas and it’s usually not too hard to figure out which areas are which. Not sure? Ask a local. They will be able to tell you which areas to avoid. Just like if I’m at home in the United States, I don’t want to wander into certain areas of town, the same applies for anywhere you travel. Be smart and aware of your surroundings, as you should be anywhere, and you’ll be ok.
But what about all the poverty?
Ah, you’ve been listening to the media again. First of all, you shouldn’t be afraid of poor people. They are just people, like you and I. Secondly, back to the whole point about Africa being a big place, not all the people you’re going to encounter are impoverished. I know the media likes to flash pictures of poor, starving children in front of us so we will feel sympathetic and want to “save” Africa, but not everybody there wants or needs to be saved. There are people all over Africa living perfectly normal, prosperous lives. That’s not to say poverty doesn’t exist, but again, don’t be afraid. And if you do encounter poverty? Be compassionate and kind to them and treat them with respect, like you should treat anybody you meet, anywhere. That’s all you need to do.
What about crime?
Worried about being pick-pocketed or robbed? Just follow the same basic precautions that you would follow absolutely anywhere in the world. Don’t flash around large amounts of cash or wave your wallet around. I wouldn’t do those things in Los Angeles, either. It’s no different.
Africa is booming!
By the way, I should mention that Africa is so hot right now. I’m not talking about their sometimes soaring temperatures, either. I mean their economy is booming! The continent is currently experiencing an economic boom and things like healthcare, education, foreign investment, and tourism are on the rise.
Africans can be a pretty friendly bunch.
I haven’t been to Africa…yet. However, I’ve known people from various countries in Africa and they are some of the nicest, coolest people I know. According to the World Economic Forum, three of the top ten tourist friendly countries in the world are found in Africa (Morocco, Senegal, and Burkina Faso). Not only that, but I’ve heard countless stories from people who have traveled to Africa only to report back about meeting extremely friendly, hospitable people. Of course, in a continent of 1.1 billion (yes, billion) people, not everybody is going to be friendly. Then again, I encounter more than my share of unfriendly people on my daily commute on the California freeways every day, so there you have it.
Beautiful, vibrant cultures everywhere.
Africa is a really diverse place that is full of some of the most beautiful, vibrant cultures on the planet. Don’t you want to experience that for yourself?
It’s a gorgeous place.
Not only are there beautiful cultures and beautiful people, but the landscapes waiting for you aren’t bad either.
Where to go?
Ok, so I hopefully convinced you that Africa is a perfectly fine place to travel to. In fact, it’s high on my list of places to go! The biggest question, and one I often ask myself, is where to go first? If I had the time and money, I would spend a tremendous amount of time traveling a large area of the continent. Since I’ll likely be limited in time and funds when I go, however, I do have to choose where I want to go first. There are so many wonderful places to visit. Here are just a few that I’m considering for my first trip over:
Wonderful East African nation known for it’s wilderness, the Serengeti National Park, and opportunities to see beautiful “big five” animals on Safari.
This gorgeous landlocked country is known for it’s parks, wildlife, and of course, the beautiful Victoria Falls, which is on the border with Zimbabwe.
Another beautiful East African nation with coastline along the Indian Ocean. Also known for wildlife and safaris, as well as boasting some incredible views of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.
This bustling nation at the Southern tip of Africa is known for it’s wildlife viewing opportunities, fantastic scenery in places such as Kruger National Park, and the absolutely gorgeous city of Cape Town with the towering Table Mountain over it.
This country is known for dramatic landscapes,parks, and of course, the iconic Victoria Falls. There are many wildlife reserves where you can see animals like rhinos and hippos.