Vigilance is all-important when you are traveling to Africa. When you are in unfamiliar territory, you cannot take anything for granted. You have to be more aware and more careful than usual, since you won’t be able to access home support and backup. Here are 35 ways to travel safe and sound.
Research Your Destination Beforehand
- Understand local cultures, rules, laws, crime rates, weather conditions, attitudes, etiquette, price of things and similar information.
- Find out which areas of your destination are considered safe to stay or travel through and which are considered shady.
- Read up on common scams and crimes in your destination area.
- Read local reports on the internet and follow up on current events, especially any political unrest.
- Learn what could be termed offensive behavior at your destination, to avoid provoking people by accident.
Checks and decisions to make …before leaving home
- Take only as much with you as you absolutely need during your travel. The less you take with you, the less your loss in case of theft and it’s not expensive to buy clothing which you would most likely do anyway.
- Don’t carry expensive gadgets openly and avoid looking like a tourist.
- Take copies of your passport, fronts and backs of your credit, debit and prepaid ATM cards, traveler’s checks and other travel documents. Keep a set in your luggage and one set on you.
- Take cards and some cash of local currency in small denominations.
- Before leaving on your trip, visit your state department’s website and obtain travel advisories for your destination country.
- Take copies of your itinerary and leave them with family and friends at home. Whenever you move to a different locality or register in a new hotel, message the contact numbers and contact people’s names to your family.
- If you want to drive while abroad, obtain an international driving permit.
- If you’re carrying medication, leave some of them in your luggage, some in your pocket and some in your carry-on luggage.
- If you’re a diabetic or if you suffer from any other disease, carry a note from your doctor, along with your prescription and latest health reports.
First things to do on Arrival
- Register your international driver’s license with your country’s embassy in your destination city. If anything happens on the road, your embassy will have contact information for you and will contact your family.
- Buy a cheap phone and get a local SIM card with international calling facility.
Keep Your Valuables Safe
- Don’t carry all your cash in your wallet. Every time you open your wallet, you risk exposure. Hide a bit of your cash in a hidden compartment in your luggage and your clothing.
- Use your debit or credit card to make purchases as much as possible.
- Keep your valuables such as jewelry and costly purchases under lock and key.
- Keep your wallet in your inner jacket pocket so that it won’t be easy to steal it. Carrying a money belt under your jacket is also a good idea.
Ensure your wallet is out of reach of pick-pockets
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
- Don’t get fully engrossed in the sights. Make sure you look around now and then; being aware of any suspicious looking people can help prevent thefts and other crimes.
- Get hold of the phone numbers for the local authorities whenever you travel to a new destination. Report a crime over phone the moment it occurs and follow it up with a written complaint.
- Use a GPS if you are unfamiliar with the roads or carry a map with you and check your route so that you know exactly where you’re going and how to get there.
- Travel with pairs as much as possible. Solo travelers are usually targeted more often by criminals than those in a group.
- Avoid walking around in a strange area during the night.
- In countries where the crime rate is high, manage your foreign exchange, taxi booking and other necessities with government approved agencies. Resist dealing with currency exchangers, gypsy taxis and street vendors.
- Don’t get into a battle of words with people you don’t know. This is how con people operate; they try to engage you in a conversation and try to lead you astray.
Try To Blend In
- Blend in as much as possible to avoid standing out as a tourist. This reduces your likelihood of being targeted for theft.
- Learn a bit of the local language, at least enough to get answers to basic questions.
Select the Right Accommodation
It’s best to stay at a hotel/Lodge/Self Catering establishment recommended on the internet or by friends. Have a look at Moonflower Cottages if you are looking for something central in Johannesburg’s Northern Suburbs which is safe and has reasonable rates.