Backpacking Africa: My Top Travel Tips (After 11 Years of Travelling the Continent)

Planning a trip to Afrca? Got lots of questions/concerns? Here are my top Africa travel tips after 12 years of travelling the continent.

So you’ve decided to take a trip to Africa! That’s awesome!

Africa is the most incredible place on the planet (in my opinion) and I just know that you’ll love it! But I can imagine you are now feeling very excited, as well as a little bit scared!

After 10 years of backpacking and travelling around Africa, I’ve learned a thing or two, so I wanted to share a few of my best and most useful Africa travel tips with you. And believe me, travelling Africa is not half as scary or difficult as people think!

PS. This is a monster of a post, actually, it’s an old post from 2014 that I’ve completely updated for 2020 (what can I say, I have A LOT of Africa travel tips) so make sure you have a cuppa in hand before you start reading…

Why should you take my advice?

I’ve been travelling in Africa since 2009. Whilst I’ve spent most of that time in East and Southern Africa, I’ve also had lots of experience travelling in West and North Africa too and many of these tips will apply, wherever you go.

I have been an Africa travel blogger since 2013 (full-time from 2017) and for the past 5 years, I’ve been running my own small group African adventure tour company called Rock My Adventure.

I’ve also written The Independent Traveller’s Guide to Backpacking Africa, a 300-page e-book with everything you need to know about travelling Africa in an authentic, safe, fun, adventurous and ethical way.

I’ve travelled solo extensively using public transport, taken a 2.5-month overland truck tour from Nairobi to Cape Town, self-driven across South Africa and Botswana, camped in the bush, stayed in hostels and luxury safari lodges, lived like a local, hitchhiked, volunteered, and worked as a tour guide – so I’ve pretty much travelled through Africa in every way you can. 

So to help you prepare for your upcoming travels, I’ve pulled together all of my top Africa travel tips and advice for travel in Africa, based on my experiences and the things I’ve learned along the way.

Whether you’re going for a couple of weeks on an African safari holiday or backpacking through multiple countries – this guide will apply to you.

Whilst I don’t want to generalise too much, as each country and region is different, but a lot of things I’m writing about here are universal. Not everything will apply to everywhere, but you’ll get the idea and have a starting point for your planning. I go into more detail in my blog posts about each individual country.

Enjoy the planning stages and use the time to prepare yourself physically and psychologically (as my friend Moses would say) for the African adventure ahead.

So get informed, get excited and most of all don’t panic!! You’re going to love it!!!

Other Africa posts you might enjoy…

Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate sales help with the running costs of this site, so thank you for your support!

My Top Africa Travel Tips (After 11 Years of Travelling the Continent)

Lappa fabric shopping in Sierra Leone

Planning Your Trip to Africa

If you are in the early stages of planning, head over to my How To Plan Your Dream Trip To Africa (in 18 easy steps) post, as this is really useful for how to get started planning your Africa trip and can be used in conjunction with this post.

Things to Consider:

  • How do long you have?
  • What is your budget?
  • What countries do you want to go to?
  • What activities do you want to do?
  • Do you want to take a tour? Or travel independently? Or do a mix of both? Have a read of this post to help you decide.
  • What will the weather be like? Remember lots of activities/events in Africa are seasonal.

Blogs are a great resource for planning a trip to Africa, so read away!

Africa Travel Blog

Passport Prep for Africa

To visit most African countries, your passport needs to be valid for 6 months after the date you intend to leave the country (sometimes it’s on entry date, but I always go with departure date to be sure) and you will need to have at least 2 blank pages for every country you intend to travel to.

For some countries, like Togo, a year’s validity is required.

I almost didn’t get let into Morocco because I didn’t have a free page. I had lots of space, but no free pages. They let me in, but I got a telling off from border control and it was touch and go for a while there.

So make sure you have room in your passport for the countries you intend to travel to.

If you have dual nationality, it’s worth checking both of your passports to see which one will work best for you. However, if you are travelling to different countries, you can only use one passport for the duration of your trip.

You may need to send your passport off in advance (with your Yellow Fever Certificate – see below) to apply for some visas, so be aware of timelines and don’t leave it too late, otherwise you may face an emergency trip to the embassy or even worse, they may not let you on the plane… I’ve known this to happen.

Khwai Concession & Moremi Game Reserve Botswana - Rock My Adventure Tours

Visas for Africa

You will need a visa for most African countries, especially if you do not hold an African passport and every country in Africa has a different visa policy, so do your research.

Almost all visas cost money, usually starting from around $30+.

Some nationalities are exempt from some visas. For some countries or special types of visa you will need to apply in advance. Sometimes this is online and other times from the embassy in your own country or in a neighbouring African country.

Others you’ll be able to get at the point of entry (airport/border) – this is my favourite type.

Most East, Southern and North African countries allow most people to purchase visas on arrival (not all, but in general). Whereas most Central and West African countries require you to apply in advance.

If you are working as a volunteer or travelling on business, you will often need to get a special volunteer visa.

However, there are some exceptions and it can vary depending on your passport. Always check the rules for your nationality and your passport, as it varies.

If obtaining the visa on arrival, ensure you have the correct money in the currency required – usually dollars (sometimes euros) and have that amount easily accessible, away from your hidden cash so you are not having to rifle through your bags or counting money out in the open.

Cards are accepted at some borders, but this is the exception, not the rule, so make sure you have enough cash.

African Visa Resources:

  • Project Visa: A great resource to get information on your specific visa requirements.
  • Wikipedia: One of my other favourite resources for checking passport requirements is Wikipedia. It lists every country by passport and tells you what your requirements are for every other country.

You will then need to cross-check on the embassy page for the country you are visiting. Some of the embassy websites are very confusing, so if you are unsure, just give your local embassy a call and speak to someone over the phone.

A Step By Step Guide to Planning an Amazing Trip to AFRICA

Budgeting for Your Africa Trip

How much to budget for a trip to Africa? This is probably one of the most common questions I get asked (and also see asked in the Backpacking Africa Facebook group), but one of the most difficult to answer.

It really depends. You could spend as little as $20 a day, if you camped, used local transport, ate local foods, drank only water and didn’t do any activities. But once you start adding in taxis, activities, meals out, hotels… your budget will start going up.

The easiest way to figure out how much it’s going to cost you is just to sit down with a pen and paper/excel spreadsheet and work it out. No one else can really tell you this, as it will greatly depend on how you travel.

Things to Consider:

  • Where are you going? If you’re still unsure, go back to this post or have a look through some of my Africa itinerary posts.
  • How many days you are travelling for?
  • What are your pre-costs?
    • Visas
    • Insurance
    • Flights
    • Vaccinations/Medications
    • Equipment (rucksack/clothing/tent etc)
  • What will you spend on food/drink each day? Average costs are as follows:
    • Local Meal = $1 – $3
    • Western Restaurant Meal = $10 – $20 (can be more)
    • Soda = $1 – $3
    • Beer = $2 – $4
    • Wine = $2 – $5
  • Where are you going to stay? Average costs are as follows:
    • Couchsurfing = Free
    • Camping spot = $6 – $10
    • Dorm bed = $10 – $20
    • Private room in a backpacker/flashpacker hostel = $20 – $40
    • Private room in a hotel = $30+ (the sky is the limit with this one)
  • What activities are you going to do? You’ll be able to find most costs of the internet. Safaris and anything ‘extreme’ (bungy jumping, white water rafting, mountaineering) are usually the biggest expenses.
  • How are you going to get around? Local buses will be cheap as chips, but taxis or coaches cost more, so maybe allow a little leeway for those days when you just can’t be arsed stuffing yourself into a local bus.
  • What else will you need to spend your money on when you’re there? Visas? Souvenirs? The odd bribe?

For an in-depth look at what I spent on my first Africa, have a read of My 6-Month Africa Travel Budget post.

If you are going on a tour, it will be easier to work out your budget in advance. If you’re travelling solo, it will be a bit more of a guesstimate, but you can still get a good idea using the guide above. They usually say, ‘cost it up and then double it’.

Whilst this may sound extreme, it’s good advice as there’s always more than you expect to spend your money on. If you end up with more money than you need… great! You can always keep travelling for longer (if you have the time) or put it towards another Africa trip in the future.

Sierra Leone Leones

Preparing Your Money

You’re going to need to take some money with you to Africa. You’ll usually need money for your visas (if not obtained in advance) and then it’s good to have some cash (Dollars, Euros, or GBP – depending on the country your in) to change.

Some African currencies are closed, which means that you cannot get them outside of the country itself, so you will either need to take money to exchange or use ATMs when you are there. However, it’s always good to have some emergency cash to change, just in case the ATM’s aren’t working/empty.

I never carry travellers cheques as they are pretty much obsolete these days.

If I have cash on me when I arrive, I usually have most of it hidden in my carry on luggage (split into a few money wallets) and then a small amount in my everyday purse which I carry in my handbag.

I usually bring pounds (as I’m British, but you would bring your own currency) and dollars for visas and some activities. In some countries, you will need to take euros (especially in North or West Africa). If I can, I sometimes take some of the local currency too, if it’s available where I live.

Things to Consider:

  • If you’re UK-based, have a look at Martin Lewis’s website to see who is offering the best currency exchange rates in your area.
  • In Africa, Visa is much more widely accepted than Mastercard or any other card so always take a Visa card with you.
  • Have at least 2 cards in case you lose one/it gets blocked/swallowed by the ATM.
  • Remember to tell your bank where you are going, otherwise, they may block your cards.
  • Try and get cards that don’t charge a commission when you take out money in a foreign country. Have a read of this article for more advice.
  • All US Dollars you take must be undamaged and unmarked. Ideally, they should be the newest USD you can find, dated 2009 and later. There are lots of fake notes circulating in Africa so earlier dated notes are rarely accepted.
  • There are ATM’s and FOREX bureaus in most major cities and towns in Africa but you may have to try a couple as they don’t always have enough money in. 
  • Before you leave a major city – make sure you have enough cash for the next part of your journey (in Sierra Leone there were very few ATM’s and none outside of the cities).
  • Always carry some USD, Euros or GBP as a backup – in East and Southern Africa, US dollars are the best backup currency and in North and West Africa (generally the French-speaking countries), Euros are the best (do your research on this to make sure).
  • Sign up for Western Union, just in case you need money wiring to you. There are Western Union branches everywhere.
  • Download a currency conversion app onto your phone (I use Units Plus) so that you can always check how much you are paying, as it can get confusing when you are moving between countries that have similar currencies, with different values. I once confused Tanzanian Shillings with Kenyan Shillings and accidentally ordered a £50 bottle of wine at Carnivore in Nairobi. Ouch! It still makes me cringe when I think about this.

Okavango Delta Botswana - Rock My Adventure Tours

Pre-Trip Health Preparations for Africa

I’m often asked about what vaccinations, malaria and other health precautions you have to take when travelling to Africa, but I am not a doctor or medical practitioner, so I would advise you speak to one asap!

However, here’s some guidance, based on my own experiences.

The first port of call is to speak to your doctor or a specialist travel clinic – they should be able to advise you on what you need to do and your doctor may be able to give you some of your vaccinations for free, or on a cheap prescription.

For everything else go to your local travel clinic. I use Nomad Travel Clinic or Boots Travel Clinic in the UK.

Just remember that travel clinics are businesses, so they will advise you to get everything. Your doctor may be less overzealous with the injections, so you need to weigh up the risks v’s costs yourself.

The truth is there aren’t many you HAVE to take (apart from getting a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate for entry into some countries – see below), but there are a lot that you are advised to get.


Aside from your routine vaccinations (MMR, Polio, Diptheria, Meningitis etc) Hepatitis A, Hepititis B (3 x vaccinations), Tetanus and Typhoid are all highly recommended.

3 x Rabies vaccinations are also recommended if you are going to be visiting any remote areas or likely to come into contact with animals.

A Yellow Fever certificate is compulsory in order to gain entry to some countries (see below).

Just remember that you need to get some over the course of a few months, so don’t leave it to the last minute.


Yellow Fever

A Yellow Fever certificate is required if you are travelling from a country where Yellow Fever is a risk (this can include transit too but only usually if you have spent more than 12 hours in a risk country).

Also have a read my Do I Need a Yellow Fever Certificate to Travel to Africa? post.

Do make sorting out your Yellow Fever certificate a priority as some countries will not let you in without it, and if you don’t have it, they’ll make you get a shot at the airport (if available) which usually costs $50.

You should also get your Yellow Fever shot at least 10 days before you enter the country.


Malaria is rife in many parts of Africa. Taking antimalarials is a personal choice and some people don’t like them as the side effects can be a bit nasty.

I have taken antimalarials in the past (I don’t always take them now as I spend too much time in Africa to take them long-term) and if you choose to take them, your doctor can advise the best ones for you.

The one to avoid is Lariam, which is known to have quite severe side effects, including depression and psychosis.

Always test out your malaria tablets a few weeks before you go. If you do get side effects, probably best to find out before you leave home.

Some people choose to get some from home and then buy the rest in Africa as they tend to be a bit cheaper over there. Just make sure you buy them from a reputable pharmacy.

See below in the ‘Staying Healthy’ section for more info on malaria prevention (just remember some malaria tablets make the contraceptive pill ineffective).

Africa Health Resources:

To research what precautions you need to take, have a read of these sites:

Bungee Jump Livingstone Zambia

Travel Insurance for Africa

Travel insurance is SO important when travelling in Africa (or anywhere else in my opinion). Please take my advice and make sure you have it before you travel.

Medical care is not free in Africa and even the cost of getting to the hospital can be super expensive, so you need to be covered in case of a medical emergency, including air ambulance evacuation and repatriation in the event of accident or illness.

For example, if your appendix bursts whilst we are in the Serengeti, you will need to be evacuated by helicopter to Nairobi. Without insurance, you would need to pay for that helicopter out of your own pocket. Medical bills in Africa can reach into the thousands – even more, if you need an emergency flight home!

I had to go for an MRI scan (which revealed my fibroids) and treatment for a kidney infection in Namibia and my bills were a few hundred dollars.

You should also check that your insurance fully covers you for other things, such as cancellation charges, lost luggage, theft, and damages etc. If you are bringing along any electrical equipment such as cameras and laptops, you should also ensure your insurance covers those items too. Some policies only have this as an add-on.

I usually use World Nomads, Outbacker, or InsureandGo. However their basic policies do not cover all activities, so it’s always best to double-check that they cover you for the things you want to do (things like hiking over 4000m, white water rafting, and bungy jumping aren’t covered in many basic insurance policies) and the areas you are visiting.

For some African countries with travel warnings in place (like the DRC, Mali, parts of Ethiopia etc), you may need to get specialist insurance from the likes of First Allied, Battleface, or High Risk Voyager.

Covid-19 & Travel Insurance

And… now you may want to check if your policy covers Covid-19, as many of the popular companies (including World Nomads) don’t cover you for Covid-19 related cancellations or medical bills. The companies that I know of that currently have some* Covid-19 coverage include Battleface, Nationwide, Virgin Money, Allianz Assistance, Staysure, Trailfinders and the Post Office.

* Just be aware that many of these policies don’t cover you if you travel anywhere that is against the government’s travel advice, meaning your cover won’t count if you travel against it – including Covid-19 cover.

Please always read the small print.

The Robberg Peninsula Hike

Packing for Africa

Africa is vast and even if you’re only visiting one country, you’ll likely have to pack for a number of different occasions, activities, temperatures, and cultural considerations.

You DON’T have to wear khaki or zip-off pants all the time and unless you are on safari, they’re rarely necessary. But there are a few general packing rules I live by that will cover you for all situations.

I would recommend that you read my Africa packing list posts and have a read of the below guidelines.

Africa Packing Tips:

  • Check the weather. If you’re going to Sierra Leone in March, you probably won’t need much in the way of warm clothes. If you’re going to East Africa in July (especially if going on safari or hiking at altitude), you’ll need thermals, a fleece, a down jacket etc.
  • Even though it’s Africa and you don’t expect it to be cold, it DOES get cold at night in many places and you will likely spend a lot of time outdoors, so you may need to take some really warm clothes.
  • Dress modestly if going to anywhere local (school, market, village, border crossing etc). Shoulders are usually fine, but keep your knees covered. No mini-skirts or hot pants. Knees and shoulders should be covered in predominantly Muslim areas, such as Stone Town in Zanzibar or Lamu in Kenya. If in doubt, look at what the locals are wearing. Follow suit.
  • At your hotel/round the pool/on the beach, it is usually fine to wear whatever you want.
  • I always carry a scarf with me in case I need to cover my shoulders or head.
  • Take at least one nicer outfit if you are planning to go to any of the upmarket hotels, however they don’t usually have strict dress codes.
  • Leggings are great. You can wear these under a dress that might be too short otherwise and they’re super comfy.
  • Bring some neutral coloured clothes which are especially essential if you plan on going on walking safaris or are camping out in the bush.
  • Take good pair of sturdy shoes for hiking and nighttime treks to the loo.
  • Girls, take a sports bra for those bumpy roads.

Other Packing Considerations:

  • Leave your fancy jewellery at home.
  • Take a good camera, you’ll want to capture all of the amazing things you’re going to see.
  • Good feminine hygiene products are hard to come by, especially out of the big towns and cities, so take a stash with you from home.
  • Toiletries are available at most major supermarkets.
  • Suncream is also hard to find and can be expensive, so take it with you.
  • Take a kindle/good book and have music to listen to – journeys and nights are long.
  • Always have a torch, headlamp preferably. Power cuts are frequent.
  • Ensure you have the right travel adapters and charge whenever you can.
  • I usually have a roll of gaffer tape on me to fix anything that needs fixing.
  • Don’t overpack, you’ll soon regret it when you have to carry that bag.

Helen in Wonderlust in Zanzibar

Arriving in Africa

On my very first trip to Africa, I started off in Livingstone, Zambia, where I worked as a volunteer for The Book Bus. This was a really great introduction to Africa as I was picked up at the airport and my accommodation was taken care of.

Volunteering allowed me to get involved with the local communities, visit some places most tourists never see, immerse myself in the culture, and see ger a real feel for Zambia before venturing out on my own. By the time I left for my first completely solo adventure, taking the Tazara train from Zambia to Tanzania, I felt pretty confident.

However, if you’re going it alone, or have a few days before joining a trip or volunteer programme, arriving in Africa needn’t be a scary experience.

  • Arrive in daylight: Arriving in daylight (if you can) is great as it allows you to get your bearings, but it’s easier said than done and it’s not a problem if you can’t. Cheaper flights tend to arrive at night, so unless you want to pay the big bucks, you may have to take this route. But that’s ok, don’t panic! Arriving at night is absolutely fine (I pretty much always arrive in the dark due to the flight times) and there are a few things you can do to make it easier.
  • Book accommodation: My advice is to always book your first night’s accommodation before you arrive. In fact, I like to book ahead when I’m arriving in any new city or town. But at least have your first night booked when you are fresh off the plane, feeling tired and disoriented. It just makes things a lot easier and if you don’t like where you’re staying, you can always move, but get your bearings first and then move on.
  • Get picked up: If you’re arriving in a new place for the first time, day or night, it’s probably a good idea to get picked up. There are always taxis at the airports, some hotels and guest houses have a free shuttle or if not, they will always be able to send a driver to pick you up. Give them your flight details and you can agree the price beforehand. If they can’t/won’t – consider staying somewhere else. The driver will usually be waiting at the gate with a piece of paper with your name on.
  • Don’t panic: If for any reason they aren’t there, don’t worry. Likelihood is they are just late. You will get used to ‘African Time’. There will be a number of touts/taxi drivers waiting at the gate. They’ll ask your name, but don’t give it out as they will likely tell you they are the person picking you up, even if they aren’t. Not that they’ll necessarily try and rip you off, but they want the business. If you’re being picked up, wait for that person, they should know your name! If you’re worried, find other tourists to hang out with whilst you wait, or find a member of staff who can assist you. Have the name, address and telephone number of your accommodation written down.

Climbing Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Where to Find the Best Places to Stay in Africa

There are loads of great places to stay in Africa and I find that picking the right place can really enhance your Africa travel experience.

I have listed all of my favourite African hostels, guesthouses and campsites here. Traveller and local recommendations are also a great way of finding the best spots as you go! 

My favourite sites to look for and book accommodation in Africa are and Hostelworld. I also use Google as well, as there are often cool places that aren’t listed on the booking sites, but they do have their own websites.

Just be aware that good accommodation often gets booked up in advance, especially in the peak seasons – usually July to October, Christmas to February and the South Africa school holidays. Campsites in Botswana & Namibia can book up months and months in advance!

Things To Consider:

  • Is there a good common area or bar which will be good for making friends? The backpacker hostels and campsites tend to be the best places for this.
  • Is it clean?
  • Is it value for money?
  • Does it have character?
  • Do they offer activities?
  • Do they have lockers/places for your valuables?
  • Is it in a good location or miles away from anywhere? For me that’s near the action and/or with a great view. If you don’t have your own transport, stay somewhere that you can get to easily.
  • Is there a night watchman?
  • Does it get great reviews?

Savuti Botswana - Rock My Adventure Tours

Staying Safe Whilst Travelling in Africa

Your biggest concern when it comes to Africa travel is likely to be safety.

In general, the same rules apply as they do at home and listening to the advice of those who know the local area. Common sense is the most important factor when it comes to staying safe in Africa.

General Africa Safety Tips:

  • Keep an eye on travel advisory warnings. I always refer to the FCO website for up to date info.
  • Ask advice from the people at your accommodation. They are your best resource for knowing where to go and where not to go in your local area.
  • Do not walk around alone at night, especially in quiet areas. If you do need to venture out, take a licenced taxi. Your hotel will be able to call you a reliable one. Get them to pick you up afterwards also. If you have to walk, make sure it’s in a group and in a lively area. I’ve done this many times and never had a problem.
  • If you are going out, let people know where you’re going.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol or leave your drinks unattended, especially if you are in a public place.
  • If you are lost and need some help, ask a shopkeeper or someone official to point you in the right direction. I also prefer asking women for directions where possible.
  • Don’t leave expensive items in your unlocked tent or dorm room. If your accommodation has a safe/lockers, use them.
  • Have a small wallet with a little bit of day to day cash, and keep the main bulk of your money separate from that, either in a hidden money belt (I like the ones that loop onto your belt), or in a safe. If I don’t have access to a safe, I usually spread my money about my person.
  • Don’t make yourself a target by flashing money about, wearing expensive stuff or leaving expensive belongings unattended.
  • If you’re in a taxi, be aware that people could snatch your phone/bag through and open window or unlocked door, so keep your door locked or your phone out of sight.
  • Walk with confidence.
  • Try not to look lost, even if you are. I try to study the map and learn my directions before I head out. Or sometimes I just write them on a piece of paper or my hand. If you need to find your bearings, pop into a cafe/shop to ask directions or look at your map discreetly.
  • Don’t give out your number or the name of your hotel to any random strangers.
  • If you feel unsafe on your public transport, speak to the driver or get off (if in a safe place to do so).
  • Dress appropriately for where you are.
  • Listen to your guides on safari. Don’t get too close to wild animals unless your guide says it’s ok.
  • Make a copy of your passport and store it separately to your actual passport.
  • If you do (God forbid) get mugged. Be friendly and polite, I know that sounds weird, but just do it. Hand over what you’ve got. Everything is replaceable – except you.

Africa: Independent Travel v's Overland Tour

Solo Females – Dealing With Male Attention in Africa

In some countries, people might say that you shouldn’t make eye contact or look at men because it’s an invitation. In my opinion, I wouldn’t say this is a massive problem in sub-Saharan Africa, but it does happen.

I have had a few ‘situations’ where men have been a bit of a problem. I’ve never felt in any danger, but these situations were more annoying than anything and to be honest, I’ve had worse bother at home in the UK. Declarations of love at first sight and marriage proposals are common.

I’ve been offered impregnation more times than I can count. Especially in Malawi and Tanzania.

Whilst travelling alone on the train from Zambia to Tanzania, I found myself eating in the dining carriage. Despite there being a number of others in the carriage, a guy came in and made a beeline for me. I was a woman alone and I stood out. He wasn’t threatening in any way but he was drunk. I was polite to him and eventually, he said it was nice to meet me and left.

Once when I was in Kenya I made friends with the guy who worked behind reception at our hotel. He was a nice guy, young (early twenties), always chatty and friendly. He even came out with our group (and a load of others from the hotel one night). I thought we were pals. When we left the hotel, he asked if he could keep in touch by WhatsApp. I said sure. To be honest I didn’t think anything of it.

I then received a barrage of messages, a poem, and even a quite serious voice message declaring his feelings for me (there was also some quite heavy, film-type music playing in the background which made it all that little weirder).

I told him I was sorry if he got the wrong impression, but I am married and definitely not interested in him that way – at all. Undeterred, he said that he was coming to see me as he wanted to talk to me… in private. WTF?

I told him that shouldn’t come, I wasn’t interested and did not want to talk to him. I went out for the evening, my phone was in my bag, on silent. When I got home, I had about 7 missed calls and a load of messages.  He had followed me to the next place I was staying (we’d told him where we were off to next before he went a bit weird), but luckily we’d moved hostels – so he wasn’t able to find me.

He was now angry that I hadn’t been there to meet him as he’d requested. I explained that what he had done was pretty much stalking and blocked him. I’m still baffled by his behaviour and doubt that he even realised how weird this all was.

But it isn’t just the fellas. Once I gave my number out to a girl I met in the street. I’d just arrived (on my first ever Africa trip), she stopped me to chat and she said she wanted to be my friend. Me being nice, I  gave her my number. She DID. NOT. STOP. CALLING. I had to block her because it became too much.

My Top Tips for Dealing with Male Attention:

  • Always be polite, but firm – set boundaries.
  • Be aware that friendliness can easily be misconstrued.
  • If you feel the situation isn’t great, remove yourself as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t give out your number unless it’s to someone you know really well (unless you want a stalker – malicious or not).
  • Consider wearing a fake wedding ring.

Dealing With Touts and Sellers

Over the years, I have perfected the ‘don’t mess with me look’. I’m so good at it, I didn’t get any harassment in Morocco, which is notorious for it.

The first time I travelled alone in Africa was a bus trip from Livingstone to Lusaka, on my way to catch the Tazara Train. I was a little too prepared for the touts when I arrived at Lusaka bus station and I think I literally knocked about 6 men out of the way as a walked off the bus in my determination not to look like a scared tourist. This may have been a tad unnecessary. As soon as I said ‘No, I have a taxi thanks’, they backed off. Just act confident and take your time to assess the situation.

One of the phrases that I guarantee will grate on you when travelling in Africa is “Come into my shop, looking is free”. The first time you hear it, it’s funny, but after you’ve walked past the twentieth curio shop in a row, selling the exact same stuff, it gets a bit annoying. But there’s nothing you can do about it – they said it to the hundred people before you and they’ll say it to the hundred people after you. Smile and say no thanks if you’re not interested but don’t lose your patience, it will achieve nothing.

At the market, look nonchalant until you’re ready to commit. If someone is following me around trying to sell something I either walk away immediately, tell them I’m more likely to buy if they stop following me (nicely of course) or I sometimes just say, “I’m not a tourist, I live here”- always seems to do the trick and people back off a bit after that.

If you do want to buy, it’s fine to bargain or trade. You may get charged more because you’re a tourist so you’ll need to weigh up whether the price is fair. Don’t pay way over the odds, but at the same time, don’t barter them down too much. Start with a price about half what you’d be willing to pay, and work up from there. 

If someone offers to carry your bag at the airport/ferry/train station – they’ll want a tip. If you don’t want to pay them, say no thank you and carry your own bag.

On the beaches, you’ll be asked a million times if you want to buy bracelets, tours, hair braiding or whatever else they happen to be selling. Same rules apply.

People are just trying to make a buck to provide for their families.

Top Tips for Dealing with Touts and Sellers:

  • Be confident when you say ‘no thanks’ and move on, don’t glance back.
  • Always smile and be polite, but firm.
  • Don’t lose your patience or get angry, it will achieve nothing.
  • Pay the price you think is fair (and that you can afford) and you’ll never get ripped off.

Savuti Botswana - Rock My Adventure Tours

Begging in Africa

The biggest thing that gets you is when people beg or ask for money. Many people live in poverty and begging is common in Africa.

Occasionally, you’ll also be asked by people you do know too, that’s when it gets really tough to say no. It’s hard not to want to give to people who are obviously in need, but it’s not always the best thing for anyone concerned.

I once gave some left over food to some boys in Kenya who looked really hungry. It was obvious that they were glue-sniffing, something people do to stave off their hunger. What I should have done, is divided the food up equally. What I did was just hand the food to one of the boys. So what happened? They started to fight over it. I started that fight.

Giving money to kids just encourages them to beg more. It sucks not to be able to help people. But sometimes, you can cause more harm than good.

The only thing I give now to anyone who asks for anything is water bottles. This is something they will usually share with their friends.

If you want to donate something, whether that be clothes or money, do it through a recognised programme. Do not bring sweets for the kids.

Okavango Delta Botswana - Rock My Adventure Tours

How To Make Friends When Travelling in Africa

If you are travelling alone, making friends whilst in Africa isn’t usually that difficult. It may require a little confidence and you may have to initiate the conversation, but there’s almost always someone at the hostel bar to chat to and people bond quickly in Africa because it is such an amazing and crazy place.

But there have been a few times when I haven’t met other people and have just had myself for company (like the first time I climbed Kilimanjaro), or when I’ve stayed at a fancy hotels or when we saw no other tourists in Sierra Leone (although I was travelling with on the Rock My Sierra Leone Adventure tour so I had friends).

If you are backpacking solo, you will need to be prepared for the fact that you may need to make a few journeys alone. You’ll meet awesome people in hostels and camps for sure or have a read of my 23 Places in Africa that are Perfect for Solo Travellers post to give you some ideas of where to go.

The only downside is that the likelihood of your new friends taking the exact same route as you at the same time is a lot lower than say in somewhere like Southeast Asia, where there are more tourists who are all practically following the exact same route.

I guess this is what makes solo Africa travel seem that little bit more challenging at times. But, it’s really quite fun and a lot less scary than you think!

I had no idea it was like that before I went, but it was just the challenge I needed. I learned to love my own company and it allowed me to become truly independent like I’d never been before.

For the bits you don’t want to do alone, you can always join a group for part of your trip, whether it’s for a couple of weeks, or joining a small group safari for a few days.

Kenya Group Tour - Rock My Adventure Tours

My Top Tips for Making Friends:

  • Grab a beer (or soda if you don’t drink) and head to the bar. If there’s no-one there, chat to the barman/woman.
  • Be brave. Just start the conversation.
  • Make friends with local people. If you don’t do that you will really be missing out. As a Rock My Adventurer, backpacker, self-driver or volunteer, you will get to interact and make friends with local people more than if you are an overland or on a luxury safari. And if you are travelling solo, your local friends will really be a lifeline at times. 
  • Join a group tour. My Rock My Adventure tours are PERFECT for solo travellers and take all the hassle out of solo travel.
  • My other main tip is to try learning a few keywords in the local language, it will win you a lot of respect:
    • Hello, how are you?
    • What is your name?
    • My name is…
    • Thank you.
    • You’re welcome.
    • No, thank you.

Conversation Starters:

  • Introduce yourself.
  • What’s your name?
  • Where are you from?
  • How long are you here for?
  • Where have you been?
  • Where are you going?

It’s that easy. Before you know it, you’ll be swapping safari stories and making plans.

Getting Around in Africa

There are lots of options for travelling around Africa, from public transport to driving your own car to taking tours, to mixing and matching.

Solo Travel & Public Transport

Bus: The most common form of transport is the bus. They range from big coaches, to smaller minibusses known by many different names (dala dala in Tanzania, matatu in Kenya etc). Undoubtedly the bigger buses are generally more comfortable and safe as most have seatbelts. I’d recommend them, especially for long distances.

The small buses are often packed solid, only leave when they are full (so you may be waiting a while) and they often drive too fast… but they are often the quickest way to get around. I take them frequently as they’re really cheap and sometimes the only way I can get to where I need to go. For instance when I was living in Bagamoyo in Tanzania (in 2009), the only ways to get there from Dar es Salaam were to take a dala dala that cost a couple of dollars or a taxi that cost $60.

If you do take a minibus, keep the distances short and if you feel in any way unsafe, get off at the next stop where there are plenty of people around. Another bus will be along soon.

Buses are few and far between in Namibia and some parts of Botswana and South Africa, and may not get you exactly where you want to go, so you might be best taking a tour or hiring a car in that case.

My general rules for travelling by bus in Africa are:

  • Travel by daylight where possible. African roads aren’t always the best, there are few street lights, animals in the roads and in some areas bandits (although this is rare).
  • Don’t use the small local minibuses for long distances.
  • Oh, and wear your seat belt. If there’s one provided there is no excuse not to!

Train: Travelling by train in Africa is awesome, there just aren’t enough of them. But if you get the opportunity train is a great way to travel.

Plane: If you’re short on time, need to cross an area that’s notoriously unsafe or travelling in the rainy season when roads are bad, flying is a good option.

Motorbike: Motorbike taxis (called motos, boda-bodas or piki-pikis) are common in many places, especially East Africa. Whilst they generally don’t go too fast (the roads aren’t good enough for that), very rarely will the driver have a spare helmet so you are taking a bit of a risk if this is how you choose to travel.

Boat: Taking a boat or ferry in Africa can be a really fun experience but safety regulations are not always as hot as they are at home, so my best advice is to ask around for a recommended company. Check if they have lifeboats/lifejackets and if in doubt (looks really shabby or overloaded), don’t get on.

Hitchhiking: This isn’t something I would do from the roadside personally, but I know people who have. Hitchhiking anywhere in the world carries risks, Africa is no different. If you are really on a budget, the best thing to do would be to ask the other guests (there are often overlanders who could give you a lift) or staff at your hostel/hotel can hook you up with a ride (in my experience, Africans are very well connected – especially those that work in the tourist industry)! Rarely will you ever get a ‘free’ lift.

San People in Dkar - Botswana

Small-Group Tour

Small-group tours are a great way to see Africa, especially for safaris or for the more remote places that are difficult to get to without your own transport. Plus they take a lot of the hassle out of finding accommodation and working out how to get from A to B.

I created my own small group tours in Africa because I wanted to create a kind of hybrid between a solo backpacking/flashpacking adventure and an overland tour. My aim is to give an authentic experience but with more comfort than solo backpacking or overlanding.

Overland Tour

If you want to travel Africa in a relatively cheap way, whilst ticking lots off your bucket list, then overlanding is a good option. This type of trip will be heaven for some people, hell for others.

An overland tour is basically where you travel together in a big group, with people you’ve never met before in a converted truck. You have a leader and driver, you’ll camp for the most part and either cook your own meals.

Overlanding is one of the most economical and safe ways to travel around Africa. Whilst it isn’t necessarily as cheap to get around as public transport and you’ll have less freedom, you may actually save money on other things such as accommodation and activities, plus you pay for most things upfront, so it makes it really easy to budget. You pay a basic price which includes your transport, food and some activities (but not visas), then you just add on any extras along the way.

You can read my thoughts on solo travel vs taking an overland tour or small group tour.


Doing a self-drive is possible, but it will take a lot more research and prep than if you’re taking any other form of transport. There are a number of companies that offer self-drive packages, both guided or not and some offer back-up support. Or, you could drive your own car.

Top tips for self-driving in Africa:

  • Get yourself a good vehicle – you may need a 4×4, depending on where you are going.
  • Make sure you have insurance.
  • Learn about the mechanics of your vehicle.
  • Do your research and plan your routes well! Ask around as you go for advice.
  • Fill up your petrol tank whenever you can, especially when travelling in remote areas.
  • Don’t drive at night.
  • Check sunrise and sunset times as the sun goes down early in many parts of Africa.
  • Keep distances short.
  • Always let someone know where you’re going.
  • Keep a very close eye on travel warnings and avoid dangerous areas.
  • Think about taking a GPS and satellite phone as a backup to your mobile phone.
  • Know the legal requirements of the countries you are travelling through and ensure you have the correct paperwork. Don’t give officials any reason to fine you (especially in Mozambique where the police are corrupt AF).
  • If you hire a car, check the costs for taking the car through different countries – this can add a lot to your budget.
  • Carry spare water – for you and the car.

Climbing Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Border Crossings in Africa

I’ve completed tons of overland border crossings in Africa and I’ve only once had a problem (and that was because the internet was down at the Mozambican border), but problems can occur, so it’s best to be prepared!

Border Crossing Tips:

  • Read up on entry requirements before you get there to make sure you can get in – being stranded at the border when your bus has to leave without you is probably not fun.
  • Keep your day bag (with your valuables in) with you at all times. You can usually leave your big bag on your vehicle, but sometimes they make you take it with you too.
  • Have a pen handy to fill in the departure and entry cards.
  • Have your money ready with your passport and Yellow Fever certificate (if needed).
  • Rock up to the counter with a smile. Say ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’, it goes a long way.
  • Don’t give your visa money to any touts who offer to ‘help’ you. Only give your money to the person behind the counter.
  • If anyone hassles you, find an official.
  • Change a little money at the border with the money changers. It’s probably illegal, but travelling long distances without local money or getting to your destination and not being able to find an ATM or open FOREX bureau/bank is a pain in the ass.
  • Watch out for traffic as some borders can be busy.

Most borders are nothing to worry about.

Hiking the Robberg Peninsula - Garden Route Itinerary

Staying Healthy in Africa

As well as getting your vaccinations and malaria tablets prior to your trip, there are plenty of other things you can do whilst in Africa to avoid getting sick.

Water: There will be some places where it is not advisable to drink the water. Ask at your accommodation and if in doubt, drink bottled water. Water is available to buy from street stalls, shops, tourist attractions and hotels or you could sterilise your own water by boiling, using a Steripen or a water filter bottle like this one.

Hygiene: One of the most common reasons for people to get sick in Africa is not washing their hands. Wash your hands before you eat and keep a bottle of hand gel with you. I like to take a nail brush to make sure my hands are extra clean.

Malaria: If you begin to feel fluey whilst your there, or even within a few months of returning home, head to the doctors as soon as possible for a malaria test. Cover up your arms/legs/feet at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Use a mosquito repellent which is at least 50% DEET (it’s not always easy to buy repellent so take some with you) and use your mosquito net where available.

Heat/sun: To avoid heatstroke/sunburn, make sure you wear a high factor sunscreen and drink lots of water. If you’re going to be out in the sun a lot, cover-up!

Bilharzia (schistosomiasis): This is a parasite infection that you can get from water, either by swimming in it or drinking it. Ways to prevent it include drinking bottled or boiled water and avoid bathing/swimming in freshwater where a lot of people live along the shore i.e. some parts of Lake Malawi (however it’s ok to swim off the islands in the middle of the lake). Do your research and ask your guide or at your accommodation about whether it is safe to swim. For more info on Bilharzia click here.

Diarrhoea/vomiting: If the inevitable happens, keep yourself hydrated. Take electrolytes to help you replace lost salt and sugar in your body. If it doesn’t go after a couple of days, get yourself to a clinic for some medicine.

STIs: It’s easy to let your guard down when you travel, but this should go without saying. ALWAYS practice safe sex.

Rabies: Rabies shots aren’t compulsory before you go and the likelihood of you catching it is low. But to be on the safe side, stay away from animals you don’t know. They may look cute but it’s better to be safe than sorry! For detailed info on rabies click here.

Kit: I always carry a first aid kit with me (you can see what I take with me here). If you need any specific medications, take them with you as they may not be widely available. Anti-biotics and other generic medications are available over the counter from lots of pharmacies or from clinics.

Food: I’ve never had a problem eating local foods in Africa. I eat chapatis, samosas, rice and beans, plantain, ugali/nshima from street stalls and container restaurants all the time and I’ve been fine. Perhaps just avoid the usual suspects… thin-skinned fruits and veg, salads, undercooked meat and unclean looking food prep areas. This really is a judgment call, and you will know the sensitivity of your stomach and sometimes it can just be the luck of the draw.

Solo Female Travel Tips Africa Safety Women Woman

Dealing With African Squat & Bush Toilets

Anyways… oh, African toilets, you gotta love ’em.

Most of the time, you’ll be able to use a toilet, but unless you are on a really luxurious safari, you will probably come across some squat or bush toilets.

Bush toilets are when you just go… in the bush, as nature intended. This is actually quite liberating.

Squat toilets are worse than bush toilets because they often stink and are occasionally covered in wee and/or poo. Nice.

My top tips for dealing with the loos are:

  • If it stinks, cover your face with a scarf (if you have anything that smells nice to put inside the scarf, like essential oil, do that).
  • Squat low and wide. It will help with your aim and you’ll hopefully get less pee on your feet.
  • Don’t go wandering too far off in the bush by yourself. Especially if you’re in an area with animals.
  • Check what’s around before you drop your pants!
  • Wear a long skirt or keep a sarong with you, that way it’s easy to hide your modesty.
  • Always carry toilet paper.
  • Whatever you do, do not stop drinking water because you don’t want to pee. You’ll end up dehydrated and ill, and constipated. Now, needing to pee all the time might be a pain, but being constipated is worse. Plus, you’ll end up spending longer hovering above that horrible toilet. You want to be in an out! Drink water!!!!!!!!!!!!

Victoria Falls in Zambia

A Few Last Thoughts About Africa Travel

  • Embrace the expression TIA, which means ‘This Is Africa’. It basically means, expect the unexpected, this is Africa and anything can happen. Be flexible, be patient and bring your sense of humour. Africa travel is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.
  • Borrowing this phrase from my friend Moses – “Prepare yourself physically & psychologically” – your trip will be amazing, exhausting, life-changing!
  • Relax and enjoy. Africa is bloody wonderful, it will surprise you and you will fall in love with it.

Hope you enjoy your trip to Africa! Let me know how it goes! 

Join one of my Africa group tours or buy my Backpacking Africa e-book!

Similar Posts


  1. Africa was also my first solo trip and I didnt regret it for one moment – ive been home now 8 months now and not one day has gone passed where I dont think about the place, im off back there in November to get my next fix! 🙂 p.s. I felt at home every second of my time in Africa and didn’t once feel I was at a disadvantage as a single woman! 😀

    1. Totally with you Lauren! I felt at home too and loved travelling there as a woman! Bet you are so excited to go back! I’m back in October and November!!! Cannot wait!!! x

      1. can you please make a stop over to Ghana in tour next vissit.Hoping to meet someone like you. love your braveness and boldness.

        1. I would love to go to Ghana someday!!!!!!!!!!

          Thank you Philophatra. I don’t really see myself as brave or bold, I just like to travel, meet new people, to learn! I’ve found Africa a wonderful place to travel.

  2. Great post! I spent 15 months in Africa with the military. It’s always hard to find decent information about general trip planning considerations. I think your post works for males and females both. I remember a love-hate relationship with Africa, and not that I’m gone I really miss it

    1. Hi Justin,

      I completely know what you mean! Africa travel is totally frustrating at times and a bit of an enigma, but for some reason, all the things that drive me mad, also make me love it… so hard to explain! Thank you, glad a seasoned male Africa traveller thinks it works! That’s definitely nice to hear! All the bad stuff you see on the news, is so far removed from most of Africa daily life, but that’s what a lot of what people see, so I just thought it would be good to hopefully give a bit of an insight and hopefully make people feel better about going! In most cases a bit of common sense is all you need! 🙂 Hope you are enjoying your travels!

    2. Hi Helen My name is Carolena and i am from America. i just read all the tips you spoke of here and am so amazed of your adventures i have wanted to go to Ghana for 7 years and one thing or another stopped me i want to also do The Smiling coast of Gambia. My family tells me to not travel alone and i might not ever get back but then i hear of stories like yours are u ever considering one other person adventuring with you …I am 57 going on 30 no one believes i am the age i am i want to see it all but would at least one time feel better if i was with someone with experience and a sense of fun and adventure …let me know if u ever consider travel with another or if u know any women that do if you don’t …well Happy Holidays and peace. Carolena SEattle…..

      1. Hey Carolena,

        Ghana and The Gambia are both places that I think are great places for travellers, even solo travellers and I too wuld like to go. Your family are probably just worried, mine are the same. But if you take the necessary care, then you should be really safe!

        I took a friend of mine travelling earlier this year who had never travelled alone before and she loved it. I took care of most of the arrangements. She was a little out of her comfort zone at first, but got into it! I would definitely consider travelling with others. I like to travel solo, but I get a bit bored of it after a while and love company!

        I would definitely think about doing a little group tour as I think there are a few people in the same boat as you (and me) who love to travel to exciting places, but don’t always want to do it alone!!

        When are you looking to go???

    1. Hi Helen sorry it took so long for me to reply between school and taking care of my Mama with Alzheimer’s it had been a bit busy but i am back on track. As far as wanting to go to the Gambia i would like to go in July or August 2016 if you ever want a travel partner i am definitely game. Carolena B.

  3. Hello Helen,

    I am a television producer working for major independent production company Optomen Television in London. Optomen produces a wide variety of factual television programmes for broadcasters across the world, including Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home and Mysteries of the Museum.

    Optomen is currently producing a new primetime documentary series for Channel 4 in the UK about people who have quit the rat race and moved to live in remote places across the world. They may have purchased their own island, built a treehouse to live in in the jungle or moved to a remote village for a new way of life, away from the pressure of urban living. It will be an inspirational series following the incredible stories of ordinary people who are living a unique way of life in some of the most beautiful and breath-taking places.

    Our research team in London is currently looking for suitable stories to feature in the series and we’re keen to see if we can find one in Africa. I have heard there are cases of British people marrying into African tribes, or setting up safari companies, etc. I was wondering if you knew of anyone or whether you have any contacts in Africa that may be worth approaching?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Kind Regards,


    Many thanks and Kind Regards,

    Cheryl Jackson

  4. Such a helpful post, Helen! Your love for Africa is so apparent. I think I would be more likely to go on a small group tour for my first trip to Africa rather than going solo, but I definitely want to go eventually! South Africa may make it into my 2015 plans…

    1. Hey! Aw, thanks Amanda! I do love it… a teeney bit, okay a lot!

      A group tour is a great intro to Africa. Africa is a great place to travel for a woman, the most difficult things are the logistics of getting from A to B. It’s difficult to plan before you go, unless you take a tour. But on the ground it’s not so bad! People are really helpful! You’d love South Africa! 🙂

  5. This is by far the most comprehensive, helpful guide to anyone who is thinking about traveling to Africa and doesn’t know where to start. Thank you so much for putting all of this information in one place. I will be favoriting it and coming back to it often when I start looking into going to Africa. The visa and health links are super helpful for travel in general. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Laura!!! No worries at all, glad you enjoyed it! Was worried it might be a bit long, but wanted to get it all in one place. Please let me know when you go to Africa and if you need any help!

  6. This guide is really comprehensive and extremely useful. I myself have not traveled to the continent of Africa yet, but it is good to know that as a solo female traveler that it is relatively as easy as traveling anywhere else.


  7. Hi Helen! I’m so glad and thankful to have stumbled upon this article you wrote. I plan to head to Africa when my visa here in Germany expires and would like to do some volunteer work over there. I am getting a lot of the same responses you have, people being worried. I’m definitely going to bookmark this post for further research 🙂

    My friends’ and families’ current biggest concern is the ebola outbreak. Can you shed some insight on this from your personal experience so far? (I would like to volunteer in Kenya and I heard that the disease is turning suspect in the East)…

    Cheers! xx

    1. Hi Tee,

      Africa is a great place to travel! I’m going back in 3 weeks and can’t wait. I’ll be going to Kenya and Tanzania. I’m not a medical professional, but in my opinion, I don’t think ebola is a massive risk to East Africa currently. I don’t think there have been any cases that I know of. You see, very few people travel between East and West Africa. It’s the same distance between Sierra Leone and England, as it is Sierra Leone to Kenya. And it’s much easier to fly from West Africa to Europe than it is to fly West Africa to East Africa. So, I’d say that ebola is no reason to not go to East, Southern or Northern Africa currently. Keep an eye on the FCO and WHO websites for the most up to date info. Hope that helps!

      Helen x

  8. Hello! I love your blog! Keep up the good work! I’m a solo traveller/expat in Africa as well.

    I actually found your site after googling “African men too friendly.” Haha. I’ve just moved to Lome, Togo for work, and I live on a street that is populated by locals. I’ve been here two weeks now, and I’m actually beginning to get frustrated because I can’t leave my house and get to the end of the street without a man calling out, walking over to me, giving me a long handshake, speaking for a while and then wanting my phone number “so he can come visit me at my house.” Some of these people are older men who seem a little tooo flirty. I started out being really friendly, because I do want to meet people, but now it’s becoming too…much.

    I have no problem saying hello and then moving on when I just meet someone in another street, but these are people I’m going to be seeing for a while (I’ll be here 10 months.) However, there’s no way I can possibly field all the calls I’m already receiving (a couple of them got my number when they ‘helped’ me top up my phone, against my will), and I’m so busy with friends I’ve met through work. Might you have any ideas of phrases to use to basically get me to “hello and goodbye…No I don’t want you to come to my house.” I’d appreciate it! Haha!

    1. Hi Chloe, Apologies for the late reply! I’ve been in the Masai Mara for the last week!

      I don’t know the local language in Togo, but my advice is to tell them you are married. Not boyfriend, that you have a husband, it’s the only thing that works sometimes! Maybe change your number if guys have it and keep calling! Or if you can, block them, or set their numbers with the name ‘don’t answer’! It’s horrible to do it, but you have to be very firm, which I too find difficult, but you have to do it! You’ll get used to it! Say hello, how are you but then move on quickly. You won’t be hurting their feelings, these guys are tough but annoyingly persistent!

      I hope that helps! Give me a shout if you need any help, and let me know how it goes! X

  9. Hi there Helen
    Always love reading about adventure in Africa, and found your blog really interesting. My husband and I did a roadtrip from Durban in South Africa up to Cairo and across through Libya and Tunisia to Europe. Sadly the last section of the jouney would not be possible now. We have published a book on Amazon called: Africa Road Trip, 1 Landcruiser, 2 Australians 300 days, which is available both as an ebook and print copy. We have also put more photos on my website
    We just loved Africa – it is such an exciting place to travel and we found every day had a wow factor.
    Best of luck with your future travels. I’ll be following your blog which is fantastic.

  10. Hi Helen,

    This guide is exactly what I was looking for – you go into so much detail, which is amazing, and you’ve given me the reassurance that it’s ok to travel this vast and magnificent continent alone. I was supposed to be going with my boyfriend, but I had such a wonderful time travelling round South America alone that I decided (or rather, am still in the process of deciding) to go solo. My main concerns were not only regarding safety, but also the likelihood of meeting other travellers, as I don’t actually enjoy spending much time on my own; I just like the freedom of being able to do whatever I want. In South America, I met many other solo travellers, but I wasn’t sure whether this would be the case in Africa. I definitely want to volunteer after reading your post, in fact I may well apply for the same organisation as you! And go from Zambia to Tanzania too, like you did. The other countries I’m interested in are: Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe aaand… think that’s it! Do you have any other tips/advice on those specific countries? Looking forward to hearing back from you soon 🙂


    1. Aw, thank you Milly! We sound very alike! I loved travelling solo in Africa.

      Volunteering is a great thing to do, and a great way to meet other travellers, and settle into African life before venturing out on your own.

      I have loads of advice for specific countries, but would take me all day to write them! 🙂 Let me know any specific questions and I will try to answer! I’ve been to all those countries except Zimbabwe!


  11. Personal safety and self defense is so important for us women travellers and we should all be prepared to fight back effectively if the need ever arises.

    I have been teaching Krav Maga to women and girls for over 5 years now and we teach a very effective technique which should be in every woman and girls arsenal. We are a women only event, run by women, for women, and this is what we teach to women of all ages.

    This is the “groin grab” self defense technique to be used against a male attacker which is taught in many womens self defense classes, and there is actually a little trick to it…

    You’re going to take your hand and grasp between the attackers thighs underhand. Its going to feel like you’re “cradling” the testicles. Dig your fingertips into the fragile skin BEHIND the scrotum. Then, once you have a good grip, you turn your hand into a vice, with your fingers digging inwards, around the back and over the top of the testicles. If you do it right, you should feel the testes INSIDE your hand which is holding the scrotum. You want, whenever possible, to hook your fingers over and around at least one testicle. One of them is enough.

    Then, with your hands in a claw and your fingertips latched around the testes, you turn your hand sharply, as though you were turning a doorknob. Simultaneously, squeeze hard and pull the testicles away from his body as fast and as hard as you can. Do not let go of them. This is important. What happens then, is that your assailant usually screams out in pain and then tries to grab the wrist of your hand holding him in a futile attempt to try to get you to release him. Don’t. He then quickly loses one of the natural advantages he usually has over us (his strength) within a matter of seconds. Vomiting, curling over, collapsing and convulsing is common. Shock and unconsciousness can set in within 8 seconds. When he collapses, which he will, you get away to safety as quickly as possible and call for help.

    It’s never too late to perform this technique at any stage of an attack, and that even includes the option of reaching down if he’s on top of you, but it is easiest to do when the testicles are exposed and closest to you where you can grab hold of them. I’ve actually met several women in my life who have fought off their attackers in this way and one did it when her attacker was on top of her and raping her at the point he lost control. Don’t ever hold back. Some women scream while they are doing this, and some women think of a loved one being harmed to help overcome any bad feelings of hurting someone else even if they are being hurt themselves. Do whatever you have to do if you feel it helps.

    If done properly, and done with enough force, this technique can even lead to the testicles rupturing. It’s actually easier to do than most women believe, and just about all of us have the capability to injure an attackers testicles in this way – whether we are young girls still of school age, or whether we are great grandmothers. After all, if you think about it testicles are just small objects of extreme vulnerability to pain squishiness wrapped in a delicate layer of skin which offers them no protection at all from this kind of counterattack. Most importantly, this fact holds true no matter what size your attacker is, nor how strong he is. And no matter how angry he is, and how much he’s threatened what he’s going to do to you, he’s going to drop. Don’t let anyone (usually men) try to convince you otherwise.

    I know that this advice would have been a difficult read for many women, but our lives are worth far more than a rapists testicles and we should be prepapred to do whatever it takes to get away to safety. Please help to share this advice with as many other women and girls in any way you can. It could one day be a life saver.

  12. Thanks so much for the helpful guide! I just arrived in Tanzania as a solo, 20-something in order to do research.

    I have been quite nervous with venturing out on my own from my accommodation, mainly with risk of theft or unwanted attention.

    Reading this has given me much more confidence. Thank you!

    1. No worries at all Alex! Glad it helped!

      Hope you have a wonderful time in Tanzania! I know you will! 🙂 Try and get to Zanzibar if you can! x

  13. Muli bwanji? I’m so glad I found this! Thank you for all this amazing information!

    I’ve been to Malawi and Zimbabwe on volunteer projects but I really want to go back to the area and do my own thing. I’m fairly independent but I’d definitely be a bit nervous travelling alone as 21 year old.
    I have a lot of time before I go back to university in January and not the biggest budget but I really want to go back to Malawi and Zim and possibly Zambia, Botswana, SA etc. How long would you recommend for this type of trip?
    Rachel 🙂

    1. Thanks Rachel, glad you found it useful!!

      For the trip you are doing, I’d say at approx 2 months minimum for all the countries you mention, but more if you can. You could spend a year doing this trip! I guess a good place to start is by looking at how long you want to go for, how much budget you have. That will determine the length of stay, and then you can base it around that!

      Hope that helps!

  14. Hi Helen,
    I really liked this post, but I have a question and maybe you can help me out.
    Im in Nungwi, Zanzibar at the moment. Im travelling alone at quite a young age, the locals keep asking me about my husband or they are nice but I have the feeling they always want to sell me something, its hard for me to cope with that and I would love to spend some time with other travellers for a change. So my question, did you ever stay in Nungwi and if so, where did you stay ? Do you know a hostel for young travellers on a low budget here ?

    1. Hey Maria, I did stay in Nungwi, but back in 2009! Kendwa Rocks has a dorm. It’s not listed on the website but there is one! Think it’s really chepa! Lots of backpackers there! It’s only down the road so you can still go to Nungwi for nights out!

      There’ll be a big party at Kendwa Rocks tonight so go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Let me know how you get on!!

      Helen x

  15. Hi Helen,
    Great blog! Any recomendation of where to stay in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar? I would like to stay somewhere safe and that’s popular with weatern travellers so I can hang aoround with them hopfully!


    1. Hi Bee,

      I wrote about where I stay in Zanzibar on this post:

      In Zanzibar, I have stayed in Kendwa Rocks in the North, it’s a really good place for backpackers! There’s also New Teddy’s and Paje by Night over on the East coats.

      In Dar es Salaam, there aren’t that many hostels etc. But one that a lot of the overlands stay in is the Mikadi Beach Lodge, so there will be loads of travellers there!

      Hope that helps!!


      1. That helps a lot, thanks a lot Helen! Excuse my paranoia but I have hardly travelled on my own just wondering if Tanzania is good place to start :/ so I’m really pushing myself! Is it possible if I could take your emails and ask you some more questions please?

          1. please Hellen ask Bee to try Ghana too. it is a beautiful and a peaceful country to vissit. she will always feel at home in my country GHANA.

  16. Hi Helen, excellent bit of writing. I’m trying plan a trip from South Africa up to Kenya, via several countries, and would like to drive. You said you would suggest a ‘group self drive’, have you participated in one and is there a company/website you could recommend to me?

  17. Thank you for this and all the other great content you have on Africa. I’m in the very early stages of planning my trip and am finding your blog one of the most useful resources for this continent that I’ve come across. Thanks for putting so much time and effort into it!

    1. Thanks Marbree!!! That means a lot! 🙂 If there’s anything specific you need to know, give me a shout! I often turn questions into blog posts!

  18. It suddens my heart always when Africa is branded with all sorts of crimes as if europe, Asia and America is an Angel continent. First of all Africa is not a country but a continent as rightly said by the writer. it has 54 counties with each country having diff cultures and languages. please to all those here I want you to know that Africa is a very nice place to live just like you wish to live in the europe. May God bless the writer for enlightening you all. Long live Africa

    1. Thank you so Philophatra. I am thinking that you are from Africa yourself?

      Africa is beautiful, with so many diverse countries, each with their own individual beauty!

  19. Hi Helen,

    your adventures are an inspiration! I am planning on traveling to Namibia in October, but don’t drive and the lodge where I am thinking of staying is in the middle of nowhere and do not offer shuttle services.

    Any advice on personal guides/locals in Namibia who I can contact?

    many thanks
    Lili Hollandt

    1. Thanks Lili!!

      Where’s the lodge you are staying at? Are you staying at one place or moving around? I’d say you can probably get a lift there somehow! But will depend where you are going to!

      I don’t know any personal guides in Namibia, but let me kow where you’re heading and I’ll see if I can help! Feel free to email me if you don’t want to write it on here! 🙂

  20. Hi Helen,
    I can’t thank you enough for this amazing blog – I’ve decided to go travelling to Africa on my own for the first time later this month and all your advice really REALLY reassure me.

    May I ask you which Absolute Africa tour you would choose between:
    – Gorillas & Game Parks (• Queen Elizabeth National Park • Kazinga Channel game cruise • Serengeti National Park • Ngorongoro Crater • The Grumeti Reserve • Lake Victoria)
    – Maasai & Migration (• Zanzibar • spice tour • Serengeti National Park • Ngorongoro Crater)
    – Wildlife Encounter (• Gorilla permit • Ngorongoro Crater • Serengeti National Park • The Grumeti Reserve)

    I have no idea where to go in Africa but those 3 options are the only ones that match the dates I’ll be travelling.

    Thanks again so much!

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for the lovely compliment!

      Ooh, they are some tough choices, all really really good! I think if I could choose any, I would go for the Wildlife Encounter! Although I really love Zanzibar too. Yes, I think I would do Wildlife Encounter, but if you can somehow tag on Zanzibar, I would! How long do you have in Africa?

      Let me know which one you choose, and give me a shout if you need more advice!

      Helen x

  21. This is a fantastic guide to traveling in Africa. It’s been so hard to find good information – we’ve ended up getting most of our info and travel recommendations from fellow travelers in our hostels. We’re currently in Zambia, headed toward Malawi and Tanzania. I’m excited to check out your reading recommendations as well!

    1. Thank you Elizabeth!!! That’s how I did it the first time too, as there was hardly anything on the internet back then – plus the internet was really difficult to get in Africa then! So jealous you’re in Zambia!!!!!!!!! I want to be there toooo!!!!!!!!! 🙂

      Enjoy your trip, have the time of your life and make EVERY DAY COUNT!!!!!!!!!! x

  22. I’m planning to visit Nairobi in Jan ’16. My travel companion pulled out frm going. I still want to go. I’m a mature, single lady traveling on a shoe string budget. Pls recommend nice places to stay on t cheap. Email me. Thanks.

  23. hi! I’ve never been to Africa. I wish i could be there someday! it seems that you have enjoyed a lot. And Pictures are really awesome I’ve heard about the interesting food of Africa. What was it? Did you try it? how was your experience?

    1. Hi Paul, Thanks for reading! Africa is amazing, I love it! There’s tons of great foods in Africa, some of it takes a bit of getting used to, but most is amazing! I’ve tried loads of it. I love a South Africa braai, the fish in Zanzibar, chapati, nyama choma! So much great stuff!

  24. Hi, Helen! On December 30, I’m heading to Africa for a six week solo backpacking trip, starting with a climb up Kili the first week, then spending the next five weeks making my down to Cape Town. Your blog has been invaluable in helping me (and, more importantly, loved ones) to reduce any concerns I may have about safety. I’ve lifted a couple of your comments (with proper attribution) and posted them on my blog to help make those around me a little more comfortable with my adventure.
    Thank you!!!!!

    1. Thank you so much John, this is such a lovely compliment and exactly why I do what I do. I feel very honoured!

      Have a fabulous trip!! Looking forward to checking on your progress! Hakuna matata!

  25. Hi Helen
    Happy new year! This is the most helpful blog I have come across.
    I am looking to an overland tour in 2017, any suggestions for best time of year to head off?

    1. Hi Brittany,

      How long are you going for? Are you doing a full trip eg) Nairobi to Cape Town? It will depend on where you want to go and how long for. Let me know and I’ll suggest a good time!

      Helen x

  26. Am james from kenya my dream is to open a camp site i have almost 60 actear of land i work in a certain bus componey in samburu driver but i see when i open a campsite how do i found tourists.when i go through internent i saw you site how do you help me to get tourist?i need to talk to you more about campsite email is [email protected] thank you i will be online any time waiting for youa email thank you so much

  27. Hi helen,

    First thank you for this great site!

    Im looking to apply for my East African Tourist Visa online. But i will start in Kenya. Or can I get it on arrival ? On Mombassa airport?

    Also do you maybe know if i still can apply for my Uganda Visa when I cross the Border from Kenya?

  28. Leaving for southern and East Africa in march. Starting in Namibia for 3-4 weeks volunteering and then onward. I have a friend in Kenya I will be visiting. I am so happy to have found your blog because it has calmed my nerves slightly. I am, of course, a solo female traveler.

  29. During my first trip to Nairobi, I used the matatus (public buses) but they weren’t very comfortable because I always had to hold my personal belongings very tight for fear of pickpockets. My other option was use of cabs which were quite expensive, hence only used them once in awhile.
    On our last trip however, I had to find better means of getting around since I was going with my family. Lucky enough, I found a company online where I could hire a car with a private driver, it was the best option. Getting around was made easier and comfortable. You may find more info about them on the following link:

  30. Hi Helen! I loved reading your post. I am currently looking at a trip that would include Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ehtiopia and Kenya. Do you have any recommendations for those places? What tour company did you use, and would you recommend that over solo backpacking? And lastly, did you carry a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad? Thanks so much for taking the time to individually answer these questions. It’s really wonderful of you and really helpful!

    1. Hi Mariel,

      Thanks for your comments! When you say do I have any recommendations for those countries, do you mean things to do, places to see? If so have a look through my country pages as I have quite a few posts that might answer your questions. 🙂

      I used Absolute Africa however I don’t think they go to Ethiopia, but I do really recommend them for all the other places you mention! Both solo and overlanding tours are great. Very different. Overlanding is easier, sometimes cheaper as costs are shared, but less of a local experience I would say.

      When I overlanded I had a sleeping bag and mat (I think they provide those now) and the company provided the tents. When I solo backpacked, I stayed in dorms/guesthouses so didn’t need a sleeping bag or mat.

      Hope that helps!

      Let me know if you have more questions!!


  31. I am a 75 y.o. Amerucan retired nurse. Your article was informative & excitingly written. I wanted to go to Africa for several years, now I have a desire to safari then stay for 6 months. Please advise the contact information for the Safari company you went with. You may give them my contact info:

  32. Hi Helen, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog. Do you have any recommendations for budget safari companies in Kenya and/or Tanzania? Thanks


    1. Hi Louise,

      Thanks for reading!!

      I really recommend Mara Explorers Camp in the Masai Mara. They are a camp but also organise safaris! That’s who I would use.

      Then for Serengeti, I went with Absolute Africa. I also recommend Bee Eater Safaris! 🙂


    2. Helen, you have written an excellent guide which many people will find helpful and dispel the negative press about Africa. At stride safaris we organize budget safaris for groups and individuals. We try to make the pricing as affordable as possible to ensure no one misses out on amazing experience. Some of the tours we provide are actually free or at very low costs (payment for gate entrances).

  33. As a fellow backpacker, I must admit this is one of the best blogs I have read. So well written and laid out. I have passed it along to others saying it’s a must read for people considering trips to Africa! Thanks for that 🙂

  34. Hi Helen! Thanks a lot for your blog!! helping me to discover Absolute Africa, it seems like it’s so much cheaper than the other tour company i originally was planning to go with.
    By the way, i’m just concerned about the vaccine..there are so many ‘recommended vaccine’, wondered how many you actually did before the trip and how long it took? I wanna book the tour for end of June and wondering if i have enough time to do all the vaccine.

      1. Esther I recommend visiting Uganda, you only need the yellow fever vaccine and you can take preventative malaria tablets. Uganda has several attractions. The gorillas are at the top of the list, they are several national game parks, bird species, spectacular falls, you can easily cross over to Kenya or Tanzania on the same visa (same as other East African countries)

  35. Hi Helen 😀 thank you so much for the informative and exciting article.
    I am having a medical program for a month in Nairobi and it ends 31/7 and I am very interested to reach cape town overland but in a short period and with Victoria falls included within 10-15 days max . how much time do you think it takes and what about the low cost airline… do you recommend it?
    and if it is possible.. how should i arrange it Sorry for the too many questions. Thank you in advance

    1. Hi Sherif, low cost airlines are usually fine. I used One Time Airways or South African also do the route. 10 – 15 days is probably a bit rushed to go Nairobi to Cape Town without travelling most days. If I were you I would focus on a smaller area. Maybe fly o Livingstone and then overland to South Africa. Or overland to Livingstone and fly to South Africa. You could do an overland tour or use public transport! Hope that helps! Sorry without knowing all the details, budgets etc, difficult to advise.

  36. Hi Helen !
    this was really nice to read and definitely makes me want to discover Africa 🙂 i am going solo to Zanzibar in July, which wasnt really planned but now i got my flight tickets. Do you have any tips about where to stay and what to do as a solo traveller there ? I dont really want to spend 10 days surrounded by couples in honeymoon 😀
    Also it will be my very first time travelling alone, its really exciting and scary at the same time, do you have any advice for me ? thank you !!

    1. Hi Vanessa, I have one post on Zanzibar about Stone Town for ideas – but if I were you, I would head straight to the beaches as it’s easy to meet people there, either in Kendwa or Paje. Stay at Kendwa Rocks in Kendwa or New Teddy’s in Paje. Paje can be quiet in low season, but Kendwa Rocks is generally always busy. Then you can meet some other solo travellers to explore the rest of the island with! 🙂

      At the beach there’s loads of things like snorkelling trips etc or you could hire some bikes! All the activities are displayed in every hotel.

      In terms of general advice, it’s all in this post, or in this post:

      My biggest advice – don’t worry!!! It is not as scary as it seems. When you arrive, grab a beer at the bar and start chatting to people.

      Enjoy your trip and if you have any specific questions, let me know!

  37. Hi Helen,

    Would you recommend go to Tasmania and Kenia with kids (10 and 15)? Can you give tips how to organize our trip for 1-2 weeks? May be somebody from your friends there can look after us? What the best time to go there? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Vladimir, I guess you mean Tanzania? Yes definitely you could!

      You can visit most of the year. Really depends what you want to do there! I can recommend some companies to use. Alternatively, I can help with the planning but I do charge for that as it’s a lot of work.

      Email me with your specific requirements and I will try to support.



      1. Vladimir, being a Ugandan, am biased so I would suggest you go to Uganda, and cross to Tanzania, alternatively you can do both Tanzania and Kenya, Late June early July is a good time, you have the chance to see what is dubbed as “the greatest show on earth”, on this web page – . On that link I highlight what you can see there (Wildebeest migration). Helen is an excellent trip planner, so she can help you out. You need to help her though, by mentioning what animals you would like to see. The Mountain Gorillas are only found in Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda. Tanzania and Kenya are good for viewing the great Wildebeest migration. Prices are high though when you take that route. Your kids are old enough and it would be a good experience for them.

  38. good info but would have been nice to include some books by Africans …. not predominantly white men. E.g. Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe.

    1. Hi Janna,

      The list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, it’s simply a list of a small few of my favourites. 2 of the 5 books on this list are written by Africans, one from Malawi, one from Kenya and I’d like the think that the colour of their skin is irrelevant and that whatever it is they are still ‘African’ and their perspective and observations on Africa are equally as valid as the other. However, I realised this list was short and there are a lot of other books about Africa I enjoyed so I wrote another post about them which you can find here: – Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie is featured there along with other African writers. My intention is to add to this list as and when I find the time to read some more.

      Thank you for the recommendations for the other 2 authors. I will check them out.


  39. Hi Helen,

    This is amazing! Being a Kenyan, I plan to discover my country as well as Tanzania by myself, sometime in August. I am a local but this is still great for a first solo trip.

    Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Mary, that’s a great compliment coming from a Kenyan! Glad you found it useful! Have a great time! I’m be back in Kenya in September! I can’t wait!! 🙂

  40. I just wanted to say that this blog is awesome. Everything here is EXACTLY what I wanted to know, because as you mention at the start, I originally questioned how dangerous it would be. Thank you for spending the time to write it all up and in such a way that is so thorough and organised!

  41. Hello!
    I happen to stumble upon your blog and I wanted to humbly thank you for your soild advice, and expression of gratitude toward Africa! You are an inspiration to all female travelers =)
    Everything you’ve written sounds so accurate and well experienced. It’s great to also know in your personal experience that you haven’t gotten sick from the change in food 😉
    I too hope to travel around Africa at some point. My partner is originally from Ghana so I’ve been immersed in African culture since we’ve been together (almost 4 years). we have yet to travel to Ghana, but have both graduated from college and hope to save for a trip in 2017. It’s costly for us because the whole family is in Ghana and will expect gifts. We are also in the middle of finishing a house for the family. It would be ideal to finish the house by the time of our trip.

    I’m hoping to also visit Togo and Ivoy Coast when we go since I’ve met many people originally from those places and would love to learn more about their culture.

    1. Hey Yaa!

      Thank you for reading and for your lovely comment! I love Africa and hope that shines through in my words. I hope you get to visit soon, but yes I can imagine it gets costly when visiting the family! 🙂

      I’ve never been to West Africa but I would love to go soon!


  42. Very comprehensive post! I’m African but haven’t traveled across the continent yet. I relate to most of what you’ve written. I hope to make it to most of these places soon. Thanks again for a great post!

  43. Hi Helen!!
    You might be my virtual guide… Thank you for sharing your experiences. My hubby and I want to go in December to Zambia and Zimbabwe, and we are wondering about services shutting down during the season, such as public transportation, day tours, etc.
    Anything you could share? Dec 17, 2016- Jan 2, 2017…

    1. Hi Jay,

      I think most things are open, as the holiday season is quite a big time for tourist companies. You may struggle Christmas Day, but would you want to be travelling on that day anyway? 🙂

      All the activities will be running!



  44. Well guys, I still remember the sight of real lion cubs in the Etosha National Park in Namibia. This park is wonderful. I guarantee you’ve never seen such an amazing place. If you ever wanna find out what I’m talking about, contact Wild Wind Safaris. They organize trips and tours in South Africa and they do it really well. You won’t regret!

  45. Hi,
    I know a young (28 year old) anglo woman from the states who is doing research in Takoradi. She is living with co-worker from the agency who is quite nice but involved in his own life. Because she is there in a research/student capacity she is really on her own and isolated, She is not meeting peers in hostels etcetra because of her three month research commitment. any suggestions on how she could make some social connections with the local Ghanaian community? do you know of any tour guides in the Takoradi Sekondi area.

    1. Hi Debbie, I’m really sorry but I don’t have any contacts in Ghana. I would maybe suggest that she could join the Facebook group ‘Backpacking Africa’ as there may be some Ghanaians in there. Or, are there any expat groups that meet? There are a few sites that help like this one and I think there are a few forums too.

      Or maybe find some bloggers living in Ghana, I found these guys but there are bound to be a few!!

      Are there other people they work with who she could hang out with? What has she tried already in the way of making friends/connections?

  46. So glad I found this blog. I’d like to spend my 40th birthday in Africa. So I’m giving myself plenty of time to save up the money and do the research. South Africa, Victoria Falls, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Madagascar, to name a few places are on my list. Thanks for sharing!!

  47. Hi Am jb from Sierra Leone west Africa. ..any tourist that want to
    visit Sierra Leone. .Freetown. .on a vacations. ..i am ready to help
    he or she with travelling guides and visa and tour guide. .because i
    know every coner of the city. .i promised you will have the best
    vacations here because Sierra leone have many things to offere
    tourist…just contact me on my email ….
    [email protected]
    my #…..0023299195017
    just hala at mee. ..have a good day ..peace. .

  48. Africa really is a continent to fall in love with. The contrast with the rest of the world really is amazing. Thank you for some really nice advice, I mostly agree after two visits of Africa. We recently came back home from a trip to Namibia and South Africa and there it was possible to find everything we needed during our stay. But it was a bit harder to find the necessities in The Gambia earlier this year. So it is quite important to plan ahead. 🙂

  49. Hi Helen, I was wondering if it is possible to travel in Tanzania during the rainy season from feb-may or is this a really stupid idea?

  50. Hey Helen,
    All the tips you have shared can make anyone travel solo even a women too. It’s really appreciable that it’s a really amazing way to help other people to travel some new destination by just writing a post and giving all the relevant information. Hats off to you girl….

  51. Hi Helen,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog, thank you!

    I’m hoping to visit either Tanzania or Kenya this summer but with my family. Myself and my husband, both 50 and 2 kids 14 & 17. Do you know of a anyone who has written blogs/guides for families wanting to travel Africa on a budget?

    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Roz, I can’t think of any of the top of my head but I will have a look for you.

      Is there anything specific you want to know? I may be able to help. A lot of the info on my blog can apply to families and I used to be a tour guide looking after Girl Guides aged 14 – 26, so have some knowledge of that age group!

      Fire away and I can see where I can help.

      Will come back to you asap.

  52. Hi Helen, My name is Michelle. I am planning a trip with my Daughter who is 8 this summer. We want to Safari and sightsee but I don’t want to pay 8,000 to 10,000 dollars to for 2 weeks in June. We don’t care where we go as long ass there’s lots of wildlife and it’s safe. I was thinking of self driving as I have done 4000klm in 11 days before. Was thinking the same as you Niarobie to Cape Town. What is your advice we would be coming from Canada.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      I’d strongly advise against doing Nairobi to Cape Town in 2 weeks. If you did that you’d be driving pretty much all day every day and you wouldn’t see anything. Driving in Africa is a lot different to elsewhere. The roads can be horrendous and much slower than they look on Google Maps. Plus there’s borders to cross etc.

      I suggest that you stick to 2 countries max.

      There are plenty of safari companies that charge much less. I would suggest maybe you contact my friends at Mara Explorers Camp, they should be able to do you a reasonably priced safari. And there are also a few other companies that do reasonably priced ones. If you go on you will be able to find some companies. You could also try Shemaji Safaris in Tanzania.

      Some comnpanies do a safari with a beach trip, which are quite nice. Or you could just do the safari bit with a company and easily do the rest yourself, after your safari, you canthen fly or get a bus to the beaches?

      Maybe have a think about what you want to see and do and start from there.

      Hope that helps!

  53. Hi Helen!
    We loved your article on africa, we live in Maputo, Mozambique and it is an experience every day! Africa brings you many good things and there are still many people who do not know and blogs like yours make people want to open up more.

  54. Great blog post! We spent 17 weeks overlanding from Cape Town to Cario and your photos are pretty much our photos…. Funny. Love Africa and can’t wait to be back. Did you hike in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia?

  55. Hello Helen,

    Excellent post and thank you for writing this. I’m from Vancouver, Canada and am starting an epic journey next week in Madagascar. I’m going to go there without any money (only money for VISAs) and want to see if I can make it back home. Do you have any advice for me?


    1. Thanks Nima!

      I’ve never been to Madagascar so I don’t really know what to suggest to be honest.

      How are you going to pay for accommodation, food, transport?

      Are you going to see if you can hitch rides and stay with people? What will you give them in return for their hospitality?

      Do you have some kind of plan? Where will you stay when you get there? How will you even get from the airport into town?

      I’m full of questions and concern! 🙂

  56. Hi Helen! I’ve only briefly read though some of your topics and suggestions. I travel as much and as often as I can to those “less alluring to the normal person” kind of places. I saw your travel plans for the DRC. Is that still happening. The country is beautiful, and on my list, but admittedly I’m a little nervous about this one. I’ll do Jo’burg to Cairo towards the end of the year and I feel comfortable with all of the countries I’ll go to. I’ve done Morocco to Gambia and have also never felt more comfortable traveling through that area. But the DRC?! When you have time I’d love to hear about our plan because I might just add it to my trip.

  57. Hi, Helen!

    While I’m not a solo female traveling to Africa, I am traveling to Africa!

    I’m so inspired by your experience spending time over there. I’ll be heading to South Africa from Chicago this November (November 24 – December 5th) and I’m super excited. Thanks for helping amp me up even more.

    I found your tips to be really informational, especially making friends with the locals. While I’m not a totally experienced traveler, I do tend to keep to myself while traveling. Hoping to make some friends on this trip!

    Hope all is well – keep writing!

  58. I am traveling to Africa! Thanks for sharing the tips and are very informative. I found your tips to be really informational, especially making friends with the locals. I suggest this extremely valuable advise for anyone wishing to travel to Africa.

  59. Great article, wonderful pictures too. I wish I would get my hands on those books now… on a side note, welcome to Kenya in East Africa too. It is awesome, the weather is great and you also get to see the big five as well as a diverse collection of flora and fauna.

  60. Great post..! Thanks for sharing…really interesting to read…really important tips and guides.. This post gives me positive vibes about Africa, and the people. Eagerly waiting to go there to mingle with them. The pictures are so lively and stunning.

  61. Great Post!

    I came here looking for advice on travelling betwee countries by land. You touched on it but I still don’t think I know everything.

    Is it possible to travel the majority of african countries by land? Even across boarders?


    1. Hi Joe,

      You can travel through most places overland. You can figure out most of this as you go and asking at the places you stay will get you a heap of info.

      You can usually travel across borders by bus too, but it depends on the bus. Some will include the border crossing and some won’t and you’ll get dropped off at the border and then take another. I would make sure your journeys are just by day and factor in the time it might take to cross the border.

      Where are you going?

  62. Hi, I’m really wanting to travel to South Africa alone so I’m glad I came across your site because it’s given some great advice that I’ve needed and haven’t been able to find else where :), I just wondered about the tip of wearing a fake wedding ring I can see how it would work but would it be risky in the fact that it could inflict a mugging maybe? And also I don’t drive and other websites maybe talk about renting cars to get around, is this going to be a major disadvantage to me? Thanks

    1. Hi Bethany!

      I wear a few rings when I travel, just cheap silver ones. As long as it’s not too flashy, I think you’ll be fine. Or even a wooden one would work! You can buy things like that there!

      You can get around South Africa on tourist buses, train etc. I think having a car does really help, but you could always try and find a buddy in Backpacking Africa Facebook group! 🙂

      Helen x

  63. Hi Helen,

    I love your traveling blog. I just want to stop searching on the internet ‘what to see’ and totally follow your advice and routes. I just had a couple of questions and you seem like the perfect person to answer these :D, if you don’t mind.

    My boyfriend and I are traveling to Tanzania in June 2018. Unfortunately your tour only leaves at the end of June. So we were thinking of just traveling on our own without a guide or group. Is this something doable in Tanzania?

    We arrive in Dar Es Salaam, but also go back to Europe from the same airport. We were thinking of booking a flight from Dar Es Salaam to Kilimanjaro Airport. We can book it fairly cheap with our student discount card. Or do you advise us to travel via a big loop and see more of Tanzania that way?

    Last question….Do you advice us to book small tours, like the safari’s, in advance? Or can we book it as we arrive at the different locations? We want to try to travel with a low budget…

    Many thanks! And keep on going with this blog ;-)!

    Sara & Guy

    1. Hi Sara & Guy,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Yes, you can travel on your own, or join a group tour. Travelling on your own is just a bit more fiddly but totally doable! You just have to book everything separately, but that’s ok! Public transport is pretty straightforward in Tanzania. Maybe just book a tour for safari, I don’t advise hiring a car for the Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater! You can book in advance or when you get there. You can either contact safari companies and get quotes for a private tour, or ask if they have groups you can share with. It might be easier to join a group when there as you’ll get volunteers booking last minute safaris, or you may meet people to join with, especially if you stay in hostels! 🙂

      I would probs fly/bus it up to Kili and work back from there. Hope that helps!!! 🙂

      Have a great trip!

      ps. My first Tanzania tour starts in August! 🙂

  64. Ahh, this was really helpful, thanks! I am will be travelling solo, but I am a little unsure of tours. Can I easily find these at hostels as I go? In your experience, is it cheaper to find 2-3 day tours along the way or book overland tours? I want to travel and do it all myself however I realize to see more nature and animals I need to be on tours. Thanks for a great blog!

  65. Amazing post! I’ve been to Kenya and Tanzania in 2011, with my mum and her well-traveled in Africa friend, but we were mostly using a local travel agency – moving everywhere with our driver-guide and staying in quite luxury hotels, so we didn’t get much of the tase of local life. Despite that, towns like Nairobi, Arusha, or even the Nungwi beach on Zanzibar seemed to me, as then 18 yo blond girl, quite frightening.
    Despite that, I fell in love in Africa and decided to try it again someday – this year in July I’m going to Rwanda, this time for a scientific conference, so with high insight in the Kigali city and contact with locals. Still a bit afraid of that plan, but reading posts like that and information about how safe and traveler-friendly Rwanda is, I’m getting much more courage and certainty that I won’t regret this decision.
    Thanks for that post!


  66. I think it’s best if you keep yourself from swimming in lakes or any freshwater to fully avoid being infected with schistosomiasis. In addition, make sure to only drink filtered water.

  67. wow, i cant imagine what it took you to put together that information about Africa as a travel destination. i find the information so resourceful as it expounds on each details entailing the different destination.

  68. Wow, this is such a great, informative post and I love your pictures too. I want to go to Africa but I was worried about it because I am alone. This helps me a lot. Thanks for sharing these tips about how women travelling alone in Africa.

  69. Oh wow, this post is quit an eye-opener as I have never been to Africa. i have been to Mexico so I am familiar with being around people who are poor and negotiating trinket costs with local shops. But I have never seen a squat toilet before! let alone heard of one! But if I had a choice I think I’d rather do my duty behind a bush and cover it up with a little dirt. Thank you for this post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *