Hooray, you’re going to Africa! To help your trip run smoothly, here are 11 essential things you’ll need for travel and safaris in southern and eastern Africa:
Medications and Vaccinations
Definitely take Dukoral (an oral vaccine for traveler’s diarrhea) before you leave and because malaria is rampant just about everywhere in southern and eastern Africa, it’s important to bring antimalarials with you. Malarone is the superior antimalarial brand, with very few side effects. Many people I met took Doxycycline because it was cheaper, but it gave them weird dreams and some became more sensitive to the sun, causing them to burn easier, which is counterproductive when you’re in Africa. And get your Yellow fever shot. Some places, like Zanzibar, won’t let you in without your yellow fever certificate. Bring bug spray to further ward off mosquitoes, and therefore, malaria and yellow fever.
US dollars are accepted in many places for tourist activities and it’s the only currency accepted when paying for the visa-on-arrival in the southern and eastern African countries. It would’ve been nice to know before I arrived in Africa that nowhere in southern or eastern Africa accepts US dollar notes from before 2006.
Be Prepared With a Sizable Budget
Africa is surprisingly expensive, so make sure you’ve saved and budgeted a decent amount of money for your trip.
Visa Credit Card
Visa is the credit card of Africa, so when credit cards are accepted, it’ll be Visa. Sometimes MasterCard is accepted.
A Sports Bra (for the ladies)
For driving on the violently bumpy roads.
A Flashlight (or torch) and Headlamp
Power outages happen all the time and you’ll likely find yourself camping and often waking up before sunrise.
A Clothes Line
If you’re camping and need to do your washing by hand, it’s really helpful to have a clothes line (or washing line) for hanging your clothes to dry. You’ll need to bring detergent/soap too.
Extra Batteries or Charging Devices
You may not always have electricity at the places you stay. The vehicles you’ll be driving in will have charging stations that you can use while driving, but it’s always good to have a backup.
A Good Camera
If you don’t have a good camera, going on an African safari is where you’ll notice how crappy your camera is. Don’t even think about using your phone. I wish I invested in a good camera before my trip. I borrowed a little camera with a 20x zoom (which did take decent quality photos, to be fair), which would usually be great for most places, but while on safari, it helps to have a professional camera with a great zoom lens to capture the animals from a distance in great detail. Or make friends with someone who has a great camera so you can share photos.
For spotting animals from a distance on safari (unless you have a giant camera lens).
For more on Africa, see What To Expect While Traveling in Southern and Eastern Africa.