So my last post about deciding to go on a trip without thinking too much about why I shouldn’t go has caught up with me. I only had three weeks to prepare for my impromptu trip to Malawi and given all the meetings and work I had to do in between I’ve not been able to prepare properly. Going to an African country is slightly different from going to one in Europe. If I was going to Amsterdam for a weekend, I would have an abundant choice of hotels, hostels and homes (via Airbnb) to stay at. I wouldn’t have to get vaccinations and I wouldn’t have to put too much thought into my wardrobe. Apart from the obvious tips like booking flights, accommodation well in advance and having travel insurance for your trip here are a few more pre travel tips:
- Vaccinations: Visit your GP or travel nurse at least 8 weeks before you travel. I called my GP and they advised that I needed to compete a travel form and drop it into the surgery before they could give me an appointment to see a travel nurse. The appointment could be between 1-2 weeks after I’ve completed the form. If you don’t have 1-2 weeks to wait then get onto your surgery’s website and it should have some useful travel information and list of vaccines you may need if going to a tropical country. Luckily I’ve had most vaccinations against diseases like yellow fever and the only thing I needed for my Malawi trip was malaria tablets. As you may or may not know, malaria is a deadly disease and one should start taking anti-malarial tablets at least a month before travel. If you are unable to get some tablets in time, or aren’t able to afford them as they are very expensive then there are other ways you can protect yourself from mosquito bites; 1) Wear long-sleeved clothing to cover your arms and legs. 2) Use insect repellent sprays, repellent stickers or wrist bands that can be bought from a drug store or Amazon. 3) Sleep under a bed net, which may already be provided by the hotel and if not you can buy one from Amazon.
- Visa: Most African countries require you to have a visa to enter their borders. It takes at least 2 weeks to arrange a visa. Most visa application forms can be found on an embassy’s website. You will need to download the form to complete and then take it to the embassy with your passport and any other required documents. Some embassies will require you to book an appointment so please call them beforehand. Your application will be processed and you will be advised when to return to collect your visa. The GOV.UK website has great information and regular updates on foreign travel requirements for all African countries.
- Dress code: This mainly applies to women. Outside the main tourist areas, it is advised to cover legs and shoulders to avoid offending local sensitivities. Obviously it will be quite inappropriate to wear long sleeve turtle neck jumpers and track suit bottoms due to the hot weather in most countries, but you can wear vest tops and cover your shoulders with a light jacket, shawl or scarf. If wearing jeans are too uncomfortable in the heat, then try wearing a maxi dress or leggings under a skirt.
- Contacts: Find out the local emergency numbers and nearest hospital and police station of the country you’re visiting. Make sure you travel around the country with the address and telephone number of your hotel or accommodation so you can call or get directions from locals if you get lost. I’m sure you do this already, but I usually give family members the contact details of my accommodation and people I’m travelling with just in case they can’t get through to my mobile.
- Language: I have a profound love for languages (and accents). If I could speak all the languages in the world I would. Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel to any country and communicate with them in their mother tongue? Although I think that would be great, I know it’s remotely possible in my lifetime. That doesn’t mean one can’t learn a few greetings before travelling to somewhere new. Locals would appreciate a tourist trying to blend in and communicate with them. I usually find that locals are also willing to teach you a few words along the way. Learn to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you.
Have any tips you can add to the list? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can update the post.