Some countries have a reputation when it comes to safety. This should never stop us from taking a leap out of our comfort zones to explore a new country, one that is far removed from what we are used to in our home town. Africa is a beautiful continent, the second largest in the world covering nearly 30 million square kilometers, and containing 54 countries and a variety of cultures, landscapes, and wildlife. Instead of being put off by the idea, it is important to know how to safely explore Africa, so that you can be encouraged to visit this fascinating land.
Be aware that although Africa has come a long way in terms of development in the past decade, it is still a continent that is, in many places, struck with poverty. As a result crime can be a problem, especially petty theft, and car jacking. Bear in mind that as someone who can afford to travel for enjoyment you are already considerably wealthier than most of the local population, so it is important to follow some tips to avoid being targeted for theft and crime:
- Avoid wearing anything that displays wealth and could make you a potential target. Remember, even a watch that you might not consider to be extremely valuable could be worth a months wage to someone in a poor area.
- Even better is to avoid taking too many valuables. Leave behind anything that you might be very sad to lose, and anything unnecessary that might cause hassle, or that is very expensive. Try to pack light so that it is easier to keep track of all of your possessions.
- Carry credit cards and money wisely. Do not carry large amounts of cash around, and keep everything away in a bumbag, or some sort of body-secure bag.
- Valuables should be packed in your carry on case, not in your suitcase. Corrupt airport officials have been known to steal luggage, as have members of the general public. Johannesburg is particular well known for it’s airport thefts, as well as having a comparatively high level of violent crime.
- Know the area you are in, whether it is safe, and what districts and slums should be avoided. Ask around and listen to warnings off other travelers or locals. Common sense is the ruling factor when traveling, and it will have to be kept keen and aware in Africa. Do not go down any dodgy looking roads, and do not travel alone at night in isolated areas.
- Always keep a watchful eye on your belongings at all times, but especially in very crowded places where the bustle can be a distraction. Favorite targets for theft include train and bus stations and markets.
- In the unlikely event that the worst case scenario happens, and you are held up in a car jacking or mugging, surrender your belongings, and do not resist; it is not worth risking your life in a country that you are unfamiliar with.
- Take precautions against malaria; apply strong insect repellent to prevent mosquito from running riot on you. An insect net is crucial for sleeping undisturbed and for preventing bites. In malaria ridden areas make sure you take any medication that may be required.
- Be aware that there is a lot of HIV in Africa, so always treat sexual encounters with care, and use protection with new partners.
- Some areas have water that is not safely drinkable. In this case make sure you buy enough bottled water, and only drink that. Take precautions with food that doesn’t look trustworthy.
- There are some recommendations for vaccinations before visiting Africa, including Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid and Polio.
- Check out government sites for up to date information regarding the safety, political tensions, and war in any areas in Africa.
- Take a copy of passport numbers, social security numbers and any other important information such as insurance. Stash the copies somewhere different, out of the way, in case you ever lose the real thing.
- Avoid public demonstrations and protests. It is not worth getting involved in foreign political affairs, where the situation could become very dangerous.
Most of All; Enjoy
Do not let anything put you off Africa, or any other experience for that matter. It is important to be aware of the issues surrounding the countries that you visit, but safety simply requires precaution, and responsibility, as well as common sense. Africa is a great continent that is waiting to be explored.