When intrepid travellers are choosing their backpacking destinations, Africa is not often the first place that they think of. Whether it’s due to better marketing or closer cultural ties elsewhere, Europe, Asia and South America are more commonly chosen.
However, perhaps more backpackers should consider Africa for their travels as they will discover that this huge and varied continent has so much to offer.
Choosing your itinerary
Africa is enormous. As the world’s second biggest continent it is much larger than it appears on most maps and actually covers a space roughly equal in size to the USA, China, Western Europe, India and Mexico put together. This means that any backpacking trip around the continent has to be selective.
So, the first thing to do is to choose your area. North Africa is very different to sub-Saharan Africa and East Africa is not the same as West Africa. As with any other continent, Africa has a lot distinct cultures, languages and people.
Once you’ve settled on a rough, geographical area, the next decision is what sort of experience you want to have. African Safari Tours are popular across Tanzania, South Africa and other countries, while pristine beaches can be found in Zanzibar and mainland coastal regions.
Infrastructure is limited in parts of Africa and travelling, while possible, is sometimes not the easiest, so backpacking here can sometimes mean staying in one town for a while and getting to know the local people, rather than zooming from one location to the next.
No backpacking trip should begin without identifying the places where tourists are welcome and the areas that are better left avoided.
Although some travellers worry about visiting Africa, the continent has plenty of beautiful and safe destinations to choose from. If you are worried about getting into any unpleasant situations, paying for a local guide can help to give you some reassurance.
Even parts of Africa that have undergone political and social turmoil relatively recently are becoming tourist hotspots, including Uganda and Rwanda. If you do have any doubts about travelling, be sure to seek advice from your country’s foreign office.
When you are getting prepared to travel around Africa, it’s important to make sure you are ready both mentally and physically.
Physical preparation includes making sure that you are fit and healthy enough to carry all your belongings with you, and are ready to potentially spend hours squeezed into overcrowded cars and public transport. You should also make sure that you have received any medical treatments, like inoculations, before travelling.
Depending on where you travel in Africa, you will also need to be prepared mentally to see a very different side to the world. There will be poverty that exceeds your expectations and you may find that local children are so interested in you that they barely give you a second’s peace.
However, if you do prepare properly and think carefully about your trip before setting off, there’s no reason why Africa can’t provide the most amazing backpacking experience.