Travelling can often be problematic and tiring, but when you try all of this in a country – continent even – whose culture is so far removed from your own, the strain is multiplied. If you’re not used to haggling for just about everything, or if you’re used to fast, prompt and especially western service, then you’re going to get a big culture shock when you arrive in Africa.
Laurence Watts, a seasoned backpackers speaking to the Guardian says (http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010/aug/21/africa-for-beginners-backpacking) :
“It’s big, slow, exciting and infuriating in equal measure. Its charm lies in the simplicity of local life, the cheerfulness of its people and its natural wonders.”
If you’re visiting Africa for the first time, it makes sense to visit one of the more ‘western-friendly’ countries. Of course all countries have a tourism industry – to some degree at least – but some offer a more ‘shallow end experience’ which is ideal for people just setting foot on the ‘Dark Continent’.
Ghana – actually often referred to as Africa for beginners – is one good example of this. Ghana has infrastructure, political stability, paved roads and people speak English. Getting around isn’t much of a challenge and the people are open and friendly.
Failing that South Africa is another popular destination. Although the country has had troubles, that didn’t stop the country opening its arm to tourists last year for the World Cup. Requirements for visiting the country vary and you may or not need a visa. South Africa has the right to decide who can and can’t enter the country and a visa is no guarantee of entry.
Morocco, on the north coast of Africa is another popular destination for first timers, particularly those coming from Europe. Depending on where you’re coming from you generally won’t need a visa to enter the country and you can easily get around with a little French. In the more touristic cities like Marrakesh and Fez English is widely spoken, particularly among the market traders and those working with hotels and other tourist attractions.
Likewise Tunisia and Egypt are both popular destinations for people to break into Africa and with a growing number of airlines offering cheap flights and package holidays to Sharm El Sheikh, Tunis and Marrakesh, more and more people are venturing onto Africa and discovering what the continent has to offer.
If you are travelling to Africa as a woman, it’s important to take safety precautions. In more touristic areas like Sharm El Sheikh and parts of Northern Africa where residents are more used to western customs things are a little easier going, but it’s always important to try and read up on the typical expectations for women in the country you are visiting.
For example, in Morocco women who smoke are thought to be prostitutes and openly smoking can lead to a lot of unwanted attention. Likewise some places will have strict rules about how women dress. Regardless of where you’re visiting – and regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman – be sure to read up on local customs and etiquette before visiting, in order to ensure you have the best possible holiday.
Jennifer is a part of the digital blogging team at digitalcrosstalk.com who work with brands likeBritish Airways. For more information about me, or to keep up to date with the latest in travel news, check out my posts at digitalcrosstalk.com or visit my Twitter account, @dcrosstalk