The vast continent of Africa is so massive, it is larger than the United States, China, and Brazil combined. There are 54 countries (and, no, not one of them is Wakanda), each with a unique identity.
Many of the nations are categorized as developing nations, and because of how most media platforms have negatively portrayed the continent, it has not been the most popular holiday destination.
However, if you take a closer look, you will find that Africa has a lot to offer, from secluded beaches, to remote islands, to booming cities, to dense rain forests, and many more. It indeed has a lot to offer.
We hope these tips for traveling to Africa will help change your perception and encourage you to venture out of your comfort zone. Come see the unique beauty the continent holds, as well as improve your travel experiences!
In this guide we will use Liberia, in West Africa, for more specific references.
Wanderful members only!
An Introduction to Liberia
The Republic of Liberia is a country off the coast of West Africa. It was founded by freed slaves from the United States in 1822 and became a republic in 1847. Prior to that, the land was full of thriving tribes, immense trade routes, and dense forests.
Its first independence day was a celebration of the newly returned Black folks from the US, establishing the land as a territory free of invasion from the British or French, with America acting as a moral protector.
Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence. An early agreement to supply rubber wood for the US-based company Firestone helped to keep the world interested in Liberia’s vast natural resources.
Between the 1950’s and 1960’s Liberia was known as the fastest growing modern African economy.
It was in the early 90’s when a civil war caused so much confusion and was a complete catastrophe for the nation and its beautiful people.
Liberia was also the first African nation to elect a female head of state. Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, a Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, is happily known as “Iron Lady” as she held onto peace and fought hard for Liberians, especially the women.
In 2014, Liberia was hit with Ebola, another major set-back for the small country.
In 2018, George Weah, former football player and native Liberian, was elected as head of state, a testament to the people of Liberia.
Where to Travel in Africa
As stated before, there are 54 countries in Africa, therefore there is a lot to take into consideration. Think about why you want to travel to Africa. What type of experience are you looking for?
Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro?
Exploring the deserts of Egypt?
Relaxing on white-sand beaches of Sierra Leone?
The large continent gives you plenty of options, so it would be good to check in with yourself first to help narrow down the list.
In addition, if you can, we highly recommend you visit more than one country, and more than one region.
Remember: Africa is an astoundingly diverse place, so you’re certain to find a destination for all types of travelers.
If you do choose to visit West Africa, be sure to consider Liberia.
Liberia has a remarkable history, it borders the Atlantic ocean and is known for its beautiful beaches, immense rainforest, amazing wildlife, and, of course, delicious food.
Obtaining Your Travel Documentation for Africa
Once you have decided on the country or region you want to visit, the real work begins! Each country has requirements to enter their borders. Typically, a simple Google search (i.e. Liberian Visa Application) will lead you to the correct web page you need.
Check if you have a consulate near you for the country you want to visit.
If there isn’t one nearby, you will likely have to mail your passport. You heard right, mail one of the most important documents for an individual.
My first experience with this almost sent me into a severe panic attack. But, not to worry the process works.
To ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible, I recommend you select the option to expedite your visa processing. It will cost more but will ensure that your application is in the queue and under a deadline. Also, when sending your passport via delivery service, make sure to add insurance and get a tracking number.
Vaccinations & Medications for Traveling to Africa
This step in the process is where many lose interest.
The continent holds a negative connotation with deadly diseases and poor health systems, which can be true, but it is no reason not to travel to Africa.
Before traveling, you must visit your primary physician or a traveler’s clinic to receive the proper medication and vaccines you will need for your visit.
In the case of Liberia, two quick pricks in the back of your arms for Yellow Fever and Typhoid, plus malaria medication with instructions, and you are good to go!
Take ALL your medicine as prescribed. Malaria is no joke and can ruin your amazing experience!
Tips for Flights, Accommodations, & More
In the internet age and popularity of social media, there are many avenues to explore when researching your travels.
Flight routes to major hubs can be easy to find, there are also African airlines that partner with US-based airlines to make travel easier, also allowing you to collect more bonus miles.
But what if you want to go to one of the lesser-known destinations?
For this, I recommend finding a reputable tourism agency that can sort out your travel experience from flights to accommodations, tours to experiences.
Guides are also available to help travelers navigate the unknown terrain.
In Liberia, West Tourism is a boutique tour operator focused on providing tour services in Liberia and other West African destinations. Visit http://www.west-tourism.com/ for more information.
Expenses for Traveling in Africa
Contrary to popular belief, developing nations can be more expensive than well-developed destinations.
For accommodations, there are affordable options like guest houses that are clean and decent, but may not have the amenities of the top tier hotels.
Airbnb has taken the continent by storm, and you could be pleasantly surprised by the unique spaces available. So make sure to check them out as well.
If you are interested in Airbnb, beware there are many “catfishers.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Make sure to inquire about airport pick ups or taxis rates before you arrive. If traveling to Liberia, the average cost of a taxi from the airport to the city is $50-$60.
If you are anything like me, my travel adventures tend to center around eating! And eating in Liberia is an experience on its own.
We are known for our unique traditional dishes like Cassava Leaf, Potato Greens, and — my favorite– Fufu and Soup. Everything is eaten over our staple food: rice.
It is usually said in Liberia that unless you’ve eaten rice, you have not actually eaten for the day.
The cost for one of these meals for lunch will range from $5 to $12, depending on location.
If you are willing to be adventurous with your digestive system, you can try some local street food (and get fairly full) for less than $5.
Safety & Security While Traveling in Africa
When traveling to any unfamiliar country, there are always safety concerns. Because of the unjust ways Africa has been portrayed over the years by the media, it is normal to have more questions and concerns.
Please rest assured that, usually, it is not as bad as it appears. African countries are also known for their peaceful and joyous people.
However, we do advise that you do your research, pay attention to cultural norms, and be mindful of religious practices in whichever region you pick.
Getting a tour guide or a security or local person to assist you in long distance travels within the region is advisable. You will not need a full security detail, but again, having someone to speak on your behalf is helpful.
Remember, Africa has 54 nations, and over 2,000 distinct languages. Miscommunication can mess up any trip!
In many countries on the continent of Africa, people of all races and religions flow freely with not too many issues. Knowing the general laws of the country will be helpful for you to abide by those guidelines, which is another reason a guide is helpful!
Carefully note the local laws for LGBTQ+ folks, religious affiliations, and accessibility restrictions to ensure your safety wherever you travel.
Top Tip: In almost every African country I have visited, the police and other government agencies will ask for “small thing” (aka a tip). No one is by any means required to give them anything but it can make your life a bit easier. Again, refer to your guide, or when in doubt maybe think of the price for lunch, or a drink. Remember it’s just a suggested tip.
Enjoy Your Trip!
Thus far, we have talked about the more serious things to keep in mind when planning a trip to Africa.
But the whole point of this is to enjoy your experience!
In Liberia, the locals are friendly and always willing to help, share their unique cuisines, arts & crafts, fashion, and more!
I recommend buying a beautiful garment and learning the significance behind it, which will help you appreciate the culture, rather than appropriating it.
Visit all the must-see destinations, learn about the people, and experience their customs in a respectful way.
A new wave in the travel world is the anti-savior complex; there is a way to appreciate the beauty of someone’s culture without exploiting it.
It’s always good to ask questions. Liberians love to tell a good story, and West Africa is known for their storytelling society, the griots. And with our rich and infamous history, we have a lot to say!
Hopefully this guide will move you in the right direction to making that trip to one of the most amazing continents in the world!
The question is: where will your first destination be?