Your First Time to Africa



Your First Time To Africa

Before you embark on your first life-changing safari expedition to Africa, there are a few things that are essential to understand.

Here is our list of tips for your very first time to the land where time began:

General points
  • Valuables: When staying in accommodation, always keep your valuables in the hotel safe. Don’t tempt thieves! Also keep a careful eye on your camera and video equipment.
  • After dark: As with many places in the world, it is advisable to avoid walking alone after dark. This will of course vary by location, but as a rule of thumb we always recommend this.
  • Traffic: Be aware of traffic in towns, as in some cases the rules of the road are not always adhered to, and some of the narrowest streets are in fact public roads.
  • Driver licences: International driver licences are required in most African countries before you will be able to rent a car or motorbike. Rental agencies will be able to assist you in processing the paperwork – and keep the paperwork with you at all times as random road checks are often conducted.
  • Foreign exchange: Only exchange money at a bank or recognised Bureau de Change.
  • Firearms: All firearms should be declared on arrival in any African country.
  • Drugs: Possession and use of illicit drugs is not tolerated in most countries and strict legal penalties are imposed.
  • Waste disposal: Waste disposal systems in many countries are not equipped to deal with the increased ecological pressures that tourism brings. A few simple measures can make an enormous difference. Remove the wrappings and boxes from soaps and shampoos etc. before travelling, and where possible, substitute paper for plastic.
  • Eco-friendly choices: We recommend the use of environmentally friendly shampoos, sun creams, lotions and detergents for washing, and also to use as little as possible. This will help keep water supplies, rivers, streams and the sea free from pollution, especially in pristine wilderness locations.
Health & Safety
  • Malaria: Malaria is prevalent in Africa. The best preventative is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Cover up at sunset, use insect repellents, and sleep under mosquito nets. Get a malaria test for any fevers appearing a week after receiving any bites. See your doctor for advice on prophylactics.
  • Medicine disposal: Take your unused medicines home with you – don’t throw them away as they may be recovered from the garbage and misused. If you feel so inclined, make a donation to the local hospital of any medicine and medical equipment that you do not wish to take home.
  • HIV/AIDS: HIV/AIDS is a worldwide epidemic and Africa is one of the worst affected continents. Exercise the same caution you would anywhere regarding sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Travel insurance: While the safety of clients is always a priority for Destinations Africa, and although we take all possible measures to minimise risk of anything untoward happening to our clients, the reality is that accidents do sometimes happen and illness can befall us anywhere. As you would expect, an African Safari is likely to take you to some very remote and isolated locations, which is wonderful in terms of a vacation but less than ideal should illness or injury befall as it may be hundreds of kilometres from the nearest hospital or medical centre! So, to ensure that you receive appropriate treatment as soon as possible you need to have comprehensive travel insurance which includes medical evacuations! Whether you purchase this insurance or are provided with it as a reward for use of a particular credit card, you still need to make sure before you leave home that it is appropriate for your needs and travel plans.
  • Yellow fever: Travellers to the following countries must produce a certificate confirming yellow fever vaccination (with the vaccination occurring at least 10 days prior to travel): Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Rwanda. (This is a requirement even if you are just transiting through the country concerned).
    • Passports: Each visitor must be in possession of a valid, signed passport that will remain valid for at least six months beyond his/her scheduled departure date. You MUST have at least six blank pages available for visas, entry/departure stamps etc.
    • Visas: Different African countries can have differing visa requirements. Feel free to ask us regarding the visa requirements of any country you intend to visit, or you can also enquire at your destination country’s local consulate or high commission for further information.
    • General documentation: It is imperative that every traveller arrives in the country of his or her destination with the appropriate documentation.
Customs Information
  • National treasures: The purchase of “national treasures” for export from any country is strictly illegal, and the onus rests entirely on the buyer not to make such purchases for export. In addition, Canadian, US and Australian Customs prohibit the importation of any products made from endangered species of wildlife.
  • Weapons: Under no circumstances should sheath knives or small arms be taken on safari.
  • Foreign-made possessions & duty: If you are taking foreign-made possessions on your trip, consider registering them with the Custom Office before you leave your country of residence. This includes cameras and other items that may readily be identified by serial numbers or other markings. If you fail to do this, the article may be subject to duty each time you re-enter your country of residence. Alternatively, you may carry copies of documents such as bills of sale, insurance policies, or receipts for purchase/repair as proof of prior possession.
Language & Culture
  • Immerse yourself: Take time to learn about the country and places you are visiting. Learn a few words or phrases of the local language – even if only “please” and “thank you”. You will receive a generous response! A little knowledge of the culture and natural history of your destination can significantly enhance your African holiday experience.
  • Photos: Always ask permission before taking photographs of the local people. Do not take photos of sensitive buildings such as government buildings, military installations, people in uniform, customs and border posts and airports. If you are uncertain, just ask.
  • Beggars: Do not encourage children and vagrants to beg – refrain from giving sweets, money or other trinkets.
  • Alcohol in public: Alcohol should not be consumed in public unless it is at a recognised establishment – many religions and countries prohibit the use of alcohol in public.
  • Public behaviour: Public displays of affection and rowdiness are often considered offensive – be aware of the local views on such issues.
  • Religious sites: Make yourself aware of religious sites in the country you are visiting. Mosques, sacred burial sites, and so forth are generally out of bounds to tourists and no photographs may be taken at these sites. Even if a place is open for visitation be aware and show respect for the area you are entering.
  • Religious holidays: Also take note of religious holidays in the country you are visiting e.g. if you visit Zanzibar during Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic religion, you may find it difficult to find food and drink outside of tourist facilities during the daylight hours as the Muslims will be fasting from sunrise to sunset. It is also preferable not to be seen eating, drinking or smoking in public during the daylight hours of this month.
Dress Code
  • Local dress standards: Respect local customs and cultures, and be sensitive to dress codes and behaviour. Remember you are a guest. More often than not, local people are too polite and will refrain from making any comment on inappropriate attire, but your respect for their customs will be noticed and greatly appreciated.
  • Beach clothing: Beach clothing should be kept to the beach. Don’t stray into villages and towns in skimpy, tight fitting or see-through clothing. In strictly religious countries such as Zanzibar, clothing should reach down to the knees, and arms and shoulders should be covered in public places. Men should not be seen in sleeveless shirts or bare-chested in town.
  • Bathing regulations: Ensure that you are familiar with the local bathing regulations e.g. nude and topless bathing is absolutely forbidden in Zanzibar.
Tourist Services
  • Agree on payment: Agree to prices with boatmen, taxi drivers etc. before setting off and pay only on arriving at your destination. This will help to avoid potential offence or confusion.
  • Tips: Tips are normally expected. However pay only at your discretion.
  • Operator licences: Ask to see the identification and licence of anyone who offers tourist services. Do not be embarrassed to do this, and do not feel obligated to do business with anyone who refuses to show identification! Additionally, caution and common sense are watchwords when dealing with unlicensed peddlers.
  • Bartering: Bartering with the locals is common except in hotels, restaurants and tour operations.
  • Forbidden exports: Don’t be tempted to bring back living material or products made from coral or animal remains. Some species are protected and there may be a heavy fine or jail sentence if you are caught buying products made from protected animals, or if you bring back the animal itself. There may also be laws prohibiting the importation of animal products to your home country.
  • Shells & coral: Please resist buying shells and other coral as it is typically harvested from the reefs while it is still living. This is having detrimental effects on the reefs and marine ecosystems.
  • Support local skills: We recommend supporting the local skill base, as many are being lost due to lack of demand. There are many locally produced arts and crafts which are attractive and good value for money. These are also unique, unlike the mass-produced imported souvenirs.
Food & Water
  • Drinking water: In urban areas tap water is usually considered safe to drink. However, this can vary by country. Outside urban areas, it is recommended that you only drink boiled or bottled water.
  • Contaminated food: If eating outside your hotel/camp/lodge, take care to avoid possibly contaminated food, particularly seafood, unwashed vegetables and fruits that are already peeled when they are served. If you are uncertain about your food for any reason, do not feel obligated to eat it.
  • Food in tropical climates: In warm tropical settings, also exercise caution when eating foods that can spoil from lack of refrigeration (such as salads containing mayonnaise and dairy products).
  • Appliances: If you bring along electrical appliances, include an international converter kit complete with a set of adapter plugs.


If you’re looking for an African safari company in Australia, all that we ask is that you get in touch with us first, so that we have an opportunity to show you what we offer and to discuss your options.

Our itineraries are individually tailored to various budgets, so please don’t assume that our safaris are out of your reach. Please let us assist you on your journey. It would be our pleasure.