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Africa is a land full of wonders, wildlife, and rich history. With stunning landscapes, fascinating cultures, and welcoming people, it is no wonder that Africa is one of the most popular destinations in the world. This Africa travel guide has been expertly crafted to highlight the best things to do in Africa for any passionate traveler.
Few people appreciate how big, diverse, and wonderful Africa truly is. I still believe it’s grossly underrated. Many people want to explore Africa to cross it off their bucket list, likely for the national parks or to experience an iconic safari destination like Masai Mara.
But think about it for a second. Northern Africa is just a stone’s throw away from Europe meanwhile, southern Africa is one of the closest locations to get to Antarctica.
- Our Travel Guides to Africa
- Best Things to Do in Africa
- 1. Kruger National Park
- 2. Giraffe Centre
- 3. Masai Mara National Reserve
- 4. Castle of Good Hope
- 5. Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- 6. Take a Beach Vacation to the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique
- 7. Explore Marrakesh
- 8. Cape Town
- 9. Mount Kilimanjaro
- 10. Descend into the Ngorongoro Crater on Safari in Tanzania
- 11. Traverse the Okavango Delta in Botswana
- 12. Shop at the Incredible Local Markets
- Where to stay in Africa
- Guest Houses
- How to Get Around in Africa
- Travel Tips for Visiting Africa
- Ensure you have travel insurance
- Select your destinations carefully
- Know the visa and entry requirements
- Embrace local customs and traditions
- Prioritize health and safety
- Try the authentic flavors
- Leave room for spontaneity and flexibility
- Learn the different communication styles
- Plan accordingly for currency and money-related matters
- Take Advantage of the Fine Dining.
Our Travel Guides to Africa
If you’d like to dive deeper into a particular country, here are the locations that we’ve covered:
Best Things to Do in Africa
1. Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park in South Africa is an exceptional place to immerse oneself in the African wilderness. Known for its high density of wildlife, including the Big Five, the park covers almost 20,000 square kilometers of diverse landscapes.
Entering the park on an African Safari feels like stepping into a different world as the sounds of birds, monkeys, and other animals greet you. From guided game drives to self-driving safaris and even walking trails, Kruger offers numerous ways to explore and glimpse its varied flora and fauna. It’s an unforgettable encounter that should be a priority when visiting Africa.
2. Giraffe Centre
Located in Nairobi, Kenya, the Giraffe Centre offers an up-close experience with the beautiful and gentle Rothchild’s giraffes. The center provides a unique opportunity to feed these incredible animals as they wander through the open fields.
The Giraffe Centre commits to conservation and education, preserving species, and promoting sustainable ecotourism. By visiting this memorable attraction, you contribute to their worthwhile efforts in protecting these magnificent creatures.
3. Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is an iconic safari destination encompassing Africa’s most extensive, uninterrupted savannah ecosystem. Renowned for its annual migration of millions of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope, the reserve also boasts an impressive array of wildlife, such as lions, elephants, cheetahs, and more.
Visiting this remarkable reserve allows you to witness Africa’s natural beauty and encounter the famous Maasai tribespeople. Their striking appearance, traditional clothing, and centuries-old way of life provide a fascinating insight into their ancient culture.
4. Castle of Good Hope
The Castle of Good Hope, located in Cape Town, South Africa, is the oldest surviving colonial building in the country, dating back to the 17th century. The historic fortress stands proudly at the core of the city and offers a glimpse into the Dutch colonial era of South Africa.
With its exciting architecture, carefully restored rooms, and impressive collection of historical artifacts, the castle provides an educational and engaging experience for history enthusiasts.
See Related: Real, Magical Castles in Fairytales to Visit
5. Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the largest unflooded caldera in the world. The Ngorongoro Crater, an ancient volcanic depression, hosts a high concentration of diverse wildlife and offers incredible scenery that captivates visitors.
Safari excursions into the Ngorongoro Crater provide excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities, with majestic animals such as elephants, rhinos, lions, and buffalos roaming freely within this natural wonder.
6. Take a Beach Vacation to the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique
The Bazaruto Archipelago is a tranquil paradise of crystal-clear waters, white sand and sandy beaches, and lively marine life in Mozambique. Visitors can relax on the idyllic shores of Benguerra Island, indulge in watersports such as snorkeling and scuba diving, or explore the pristine beauty of the Bazaruto National Park.
7. Explore Marrakesh
Marrakesh, a bustling city in Morocco, is known for its lively markets, ancient palaces, and colorful gardens. Visitors can trek through the famous Jardin Majorelle, explore the Bahia Palace, and get lost in the Medina’s winding streets. Few places offer an aesthetic like Marrakesh, making it a must-see destination in Africa.
See Related: Climbing Goats of Morocco: Why Do They Do This?
8. Cape Town
In South Africa, Cape Town offers a mix of stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches, and rich cultural history. Visitors can take a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain for awe-inspiring views, visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and explore the scenic Cape Winelands region of southern Africa.
I’ve never heard of someone who regretted exploring Cape Town. This place is magical.
9. Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, is the highest peak in Africa and attracts adventurous travelers who want to challenge themselves with a thrilling climb. A few routes are available to reach the summit, with varying difficulty levels, and amazing panoramas of glaciers, forests, and plains can be seen along the way. It’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in the entire world.
10. Descend into the Ngorongoro Crater on Safari in Tanzania
The Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to one of Africa’s densest concentrations of wildlife. With its unique ecosystem, visitors can witness the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo) and many other wildlife species on safari excursions.
11. Traverse the Okavango Delta in Botswana
The Okavango Delta, a vast wetland oasis in Botswana, is known for its diverse wildlife and unique landscapes. Visitors can embark on traditional mokoro (dugout canoe) excursions, guided game drives, safari camps, and even hot air balloon rides for an unforgettable experience.
12. Shop at the Incredible Local Markets
Among the finest enjoyable aspects of traveling to Africa is exploring its various local markets. These bustling centers offer a unique opportunity to experience authentic African culture and interact with the locals. Visitors can find traditional handicrafts, dynamic fabrics, and a wide range of fresh produce and spices.
Africa also boasts a few modern shopping malls that contrast traditional markets, especially in major cities. These malls offer a diverse range of international and local brands and dining and entertainment options. One example is 44 Stanley in Johannesburg, a warren of lanes around shady courtyards featuring a mix of boutique stores and eateries.
Shopping for souvenirs in Africa can be an exciting experience, with many fascinating items. Popular choices include handmade crafts, jewelry, and traditional clothing. Cape Town, for example, has an inventively designed retail market that hosts over 150 tenants representing local artisans, making it a great place to shop for unique keepsakes.
See Related: Cheapest Shopping Destinations in the World
Where to stay in Africa
Choosing the perfect accommodation is crucial when planning your visit to Africa. This diverse continent offers various lodging options that cater to a range of budgets, styles, and preferences. From luxurious lodges nestled among the heart of wildlife reserves to charming guesthouses in bustling cities, you will surely find the perfect retreat during your African adventure.
Hotels in Africa cater to various preferences, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly options. Many cities and popular tourist destinations offer international hotel chains, while local boutique hotels provide a unique and authentic experience. Amenities may vary, but most hotels offer private rooms, en-suite bathrooms, and on-site dining options.
Some of the top resorts and lodges in Africa, as mentioned by Condé Nast Traveler, offer unparalleled safari experiences and luxury amenities. South Africa’s Kruger National Park, for example, is home to plenty of upscale accommodation options for visitors seeking a memorable safari trip.
For a more intimate and personalized experience, guest houses are a popular choice among travelers. These accommodations typically have fewer rooms than hotels and are often family-owned and operated. Guest houses can be found throughout Africa, from major cities to smaller towns and rural areas.
Guest houses usually offer private rooms with en-suite or shared bathrooms, depending on the establishment. Breakfast is often included; some may even provide additional meals upon request. These accommodations offer the opportunity to interact with locals and experience Africa’s genuine warmth and hospitality.
Budget-conscious travelers will find an array of hostels across Africa, providing affordable accommodation options. Hostels usually offer dormitory-style rooms with shared bathrooms, though some may have private rooms. Facilities can range from basic to more comfortable, with amenities such as communal kitchens, social areas, and organized activities for guests.
While staying at a hostel, respecting shared spaces and being considerate of fellow travelers is important, creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Booking your first night’s accommodation in advance is recommended, allowing you to explore nearby options and find the right fit for your stay during your trip.
Here are the best accommodations in Africa you should consider:
- The Silo Hotel, Cape Town
- Giraffe Manor, Nairobi
- Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Tanzania
- Angama Mara, Kenya
- Royal Palm Beachcomber Luxury, Mauritius
- La Mamounia, Marrakech
- Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan, Egypt
- Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort, Mozambique
- Pamushana Marula House, Zimbabwe
- Little Ongava, Namibia
How to Get Around in Africa
Exploring Africa can be both an exhilarating and intimidating experience, so proper planning is crucial. When it comes to getting around, you might want to consider renting a car to give you the freedom and flexibility to navigate the continent at your own pace. Visit RentalCars.com to find the perfect car for your African adventure.
Public transportation in Africa varies across countries, but it is generally an affordable and authentic way to experience the continent. Buses are often the primary mode of long-distance travel, offering direct routes without the need for transfers, although they can be crowded and may not adhere to strict schedules.
Minibusses or bush taxis (locally known as Matatu, Dala Dala, Gele Gele, etc.) are commonly used for shorter distances. These smaller vehicles fill up quickly, making for a cramped experience, especially if traveling with luggage. Packing light when using public transportation in Africa is advisable for increased comfort and ease of movement.
Renting a car offers freedom and flexibility for those who prefer to travel at their own pace. Many international and local car rental agencies operate throughout Africa, providing a range of vehicles to suit several budgets and preferences. Remember that driving conditions and road quality may vary, so it’s best to experience driving in various environments.
To rent a car in Africa, you will often need a valid international driver’s license, and it’s significant to familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and regulations. Additionally, it is recommended to rent a 4×4 vehicle, particularly when exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, as this provides better road handling and access to remote areas.
There are a few direct flights to major African countries from the United States, Europe, and Asia. For instance, South African Airways offers direct flights from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Most major airlines have connections to African cities, with popular hubs such as Nairobi, Kenya, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, serving as key transit points. It’s essential to compare different airlines and fares is essential to ensure you get the best possible deal on your flights.
While not as common as air and land travel, exploring Africa by sea is viable. Whether via cruise ships or private yachts, travelers can visit coastal destinations and explore the rich biodiversity of Africa’s marine life. Yes, there are things called boat safaris where you wildlife spot in incredible colorful coral reefs.
Cruise liners offer an assortment of itineraries, often including stops in countries like South Africa, Namibia, and Morocco. This mode of travel can provide comfort, convenience, and a unique perspective of the continent from its waterways.
Travel Tips for Visiting Africa
There’s no denying that Africa is vast and diverse, comprising over 50 countries, each boasting unique cultures and attractions. To ensure you make the most of your African journey, we have compiled a list of travel tips to help you navigate this intriguing continent.
Ensure you have travel insurance
When traveling to Africa, invest in a comprehensive travel insurance policy. This will provide financial protection in unexpected circumstances, such as illness or injury, loss of luggage, booking cancellations, or trip interruption.
Look for a policy with adequate medical coverage, including medical evacuation, to ensure you have access to proper treatment and transportation in case of an emergency. Don’t forget to secure reliable travel insurance before embarking on your African adventure – check out VisitorsCoverage.com for options on the best possible price on policies and plans.
Select your destinations carefully
When planning your Africa travel guide, remember that this continent is a dynamic tapestry of unique landscapes and cultures. Depending on your interests, you might want to consider staples like South Africa, Kenya, or Tanzania for wildlife safaris or explore less-visited gems such as Botswana and Namibia for their stunning natural beauty.
Know the visa and entry requirements
When planning a trip to Africa, it is essential to research the visa and entry requirements for each country you intend to visit. These requirements can vary greatly, as each nation has its regulations and fees associated with visas for foreign travelers.
For most African countries, obtaining a visa is necessary before visiting. The cost and validity of keys differ from nation to nation, typically between $50 to $100 for single-entry tickets valid for 30-90 days. Multiple entries can have higher fees, and the permitted duration may vary.
In some cases, countries offer visas on arrival, which means you can obtain your permit at the airport or border crossing upon entering the country. However, this is not true for all destinations, so confirming this information before traveling is essential.
Yellow fever vaccination is a common requirement for travelers, especially if coming from or transiting through countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission. Proof of vaccination may be needed for entry into the country.
Here are a few examples of visa and entry requirements for popular African travel destinations:
- Kenya: A visa must be obtained before travel (visas on arrival are not issued). Fees: US$50 for a single entry or US$20 for transit (valid for up to 24 hours). Children under 15 are free of charge. Yellow fever vaccination may be required.
- South Africa: No tourist visa is needed if visiting for 90 days or less. Yellow fever vaccination is required ten days before arrival for excursionists from or transiting through yellow fever countries—currency restrictions: ZAR 25,000; foreign currency unlimited if declared.
To avoid complications and ensure a smooth trip, verifying the visa and entry requirements for your specific destination(s) in Africa is crucial. Consult the respective embassy or consulate websites for accurate, up-to-date information before embarking on your journey.
Embrace local customs and traditions
When traveling through Africa, being aware of different cultural norms and etiquette practices is essential. Understanding these customs will help you interact respectfully with locals and have a more enjoyable trip.
Shaking hands is a common practice in Africa, especially in Kenya. Men shake hands with each other, while women may shake hands with men in more sophisticated contexts.
Young men often engage in variations of handshakes, such as soul-brother handshakes or finger-clicking styles. In Tanzania, be cautious not to touch others or interact with your left hand, as it is considered unclean. Always use your right hand for shaking hands, eating, and exchanging money or gifts.
In Morocco, modest dress is expected when traveling. Men should opt for long sleeves, collared shirts, and long trousers or knee-length shorts.
Women should wear loose-fitting garments that cover their upper arms, knees, chest, midriff, and back. Tipping is common practice in Morocco, and you should tip wait staff, museum curators, parking attendants, gas station workers, and baggage porters at bus stations, among others.
Respecting local customs extends beyond attire and mannerisms. When invited to a local home for a meal, refrain from sniffing your food or declining to taste a dish, as doing so could insult the chef. Additionally, be mindful of your environmental impact and avoid littering or disposing of waste inappropriately.
Prioritize health and safety
Before boarding the plane to Africa, ensure you’ve taken care of necessary vaccinations and are equipped with a well-stocked first-aid kit. Check with your doctor or a travel health specialist for recommended immunizations and prophylactics, such as anti-malarial medication. This is also where travel insurance with VisitorsCoverage becomes very important as you can get covered for medical incidents and emergencies.
- Yellow Fever: Required for entry into some countries.
- Hepatitis A and B: Recommended for most travelers.
- Typhoid: Advisable for those visiting rural areas or eating outside major hotels.
- Polio: A booster may be necessary for some destinations.
- Rabies: Consider if you plan on spending ample time outdoors or if you will be interacting with animals.
It’s also vital to remain vigilant about personal safety while traveling, particularly in urban areas. Stay in well-lit, populated locales, and be cautious of pickpockets or scams.
Try the authentic flavors
Africa is home to various distinctive dishes, with each country and region showcasing their unique flavors. In Egypt, you can enjoy traditional plates such as koshary (a mixture of rice, pasta, lentils, and tomato sauce) and molokhia (a stew made with jute leaves).
In Morocco, tagines (slow-cooked savory stews) and couscous are stapled dishes that provide depth of flavor and satisfying sustenance. Don’t hesitate to indulge in the authentic flavors and step out of your gastronomical comfort zone. Some popular street food items include:
- Chapati – A savory flatbread often served with meat or vegetable stew.
- Suya – A Nigerian specialty of spicy, grilled meat skewers.
- Rougaille – A Mauritian tomato-based stew, often served with rice or bread.
- Samusa – A deep-fried pastry filled with spiced meat or vegetables, popular in Tanzania and Kenya.
Leave room for spontaneity and flexibility
The magic of Africa often unfolds in unexpected moments, so leave some room in your itinerary for spontaneity. This might mean accepting a last-minute invitation to a traditional celebration or adapting your travel plans based on local recommendations. By remaining flexible and open to the unexpected, you can make the most of your adventure throughout Africa.
Learn the different communication styles
When traveling in Africa, it’s important to be aware of the local customs and forms of communication. Here are a few tips to help you engage meaningfully with the people you encounter during your journey:
- Learn basic phrases: Familiarize yourself with phrases in each country’s primary language, such as greetings, thank yous, and basic questions. This demonstrates respect and courtesy towards the local people.
- Use non-verbal communication: In some cultures, gestures and body language convey messages more effectively than words. Be aware of local customs and etiquette when using non-verbal communication to avoid misunderstandings.
- Ask for clarification: Don’t hesitate to ask your conversation partner if you’re uncertain about a conversation or phrase. It’s better to seek understanding rather than risk miscommunication.
- Be patient: Communication barriers can sometimes lead to frustration, but remain patient and open-minded to foster positive interactions with locals.
By being aware of the linguistic diversity in Africa and applying these communication tips, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate the rich cultural landscape of this vast and fascinating continent.
With numerous countries and a range of currencies, preparing your finances for your African adventure can be challenging without some guidance. Each African country has its specific currency, such as the Kenya Shilling (Ksh) in Kenya, the South African Rand (ZAR) in South Africa, and more.
Be prepared to exchange some cash at your destination’s airport for local currency. Since ATMs may be hard to find during your safari adventure, it is advisable to withdraw sufficient cash at the airport’s ATM upon arrival.
While carrying large amounts of cash is not recommended from a safety perspective, you must budget your daily expenses wisely. Generally, Africa is not a cheap holiday destination, so plan for around $100 per day per person for transport, accommodation, and food. Keep in mind that safaris and adventure activities might require additional budget allocation.
When deciding between cash and cards, consider the pros and cons. Debit cards can be an excellent choice to take to Africa, as most ATMs and EFTPOS machines accept Mastercard and Visa debit cards.
Some cards, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, do not charge international ATM fees, making them a more travel-friendly option.
But, do not rely solely on cards, as some remote locations might not have card facilities. Here are a few quick tips for managing your finances during your Africa trip:
- Exchange some cash for local currency at your destination’s airport.
- Withdraw sufficient money at the airport’s ATM, as ATMs might be scarce.
- Budget around $100 per day per person for basics, plus extra for activities.
- Consider a travel-friendly debit card without international ATM fees.
- Always carry some cash, as remote locations may not accept cards.
Take Advantage of the Fine Dining.
While the informal, energetic street food scene is a must-experience part of the African culinary experience, there are also plenty of opportunities for fine dining. Fine dining establishments often blend traditional African cuisine with international flavors, creating unique and inventive dishes.
For instance, at Benguerra Island Lodge in Mozambique, the executive chefs take advantage of the lack of an African ‘food canon’ to creatively combine elements from different cultures, like a Cape Malay curry and a spinach Morongo (spinach cooked with peanuts).
In South Africa, specifically in Cape Town, numerous high-end restaurants showcase the best South African cuisine, often with a modern twist. This is especially true in the Cape Winelands, where the proximity to fresh ingredients and world-class wines elevate the dining experience to a whole new level.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.