If you have never been to Africa before, then you are in for a treat. It’s a beautiful continent, and many of the scare stories that you here about it are often exaggerated. However, you still need to make yourself aware of a few things to ensure you don’t suffer too much from culture shock: Africa’s countries are still very much developing and the experience of seeing so much poverty at close hand can have a negative experience on many a traveler. Read on to find out how to go about preparing for a vacation to Africa…
If you have never been to a developing country before, then you need to steel yourself a little. The poverty levels in many parts of Africa can be truly shocking, and it is likely you will experience a lot of begging, particularly if you really want to see the real sights and sounds of a particular country. It’s hard to know what to do in this situation: you just can’t help everyone. If you want to give some small change, feel free to though, or alternatively donate some money to a local hospital or development agency, who will put it to good use. One major tip: if you want to help begging children, give them food, not money. It is unlikely that they will see any of it, and they are likely to have to hand it straight over to an adult. This could be a family member, at best, or a gang member, at worst.
As it is highly likely that you will be far wealthier – in money terms, at least – than most of the locals, you may find yourself targeted by scammers. These can come in the form of ‘touts’: people trying to sell you goods or services that you just don’t need, such as a guide around the city. This isn’t to say they will all just rip you off, but it’s safer to stick with the official guides, particularly if it is your first visit. In terms of scams: well, there are quite a few. Let’s take a look at some of the ones you are most likely to come across…
It is quite likely that you will be tempted with an offer to exchange money for far better rates than you would get in a bank. Although you might get a better deal, it’s best to avoid this, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s illegal, and you could end up in trouble. Secondly, it’s extremely dangerous to flash around your money and you could end up either robbed then and there, or targeted for theft later on down the line.
Some locals are employed to try and get you to go with them to a different hotel that you have booked into. You will often be told that it is full, or your room has been double booked, or even that the hotel has been closed down. It’s all nonsense, of course; designed to earn the hotel tout a commission for taking you somewhere else. The trouble is, you could end up in an troubled area, or a hotel with awful facilities. As soon as you arrive, head to your hotel, and don’t let anyone stop you until you get there!
Accepting Free Things
If you are offered a free ride out to a tourist attraction, you can pretty much guarantee you will pay an extortionate amount of money to get back. There are plenty of friendly and welcoming people in Africa who will be more than happy to help you, but you need to keep your wits about you in the tourist hotspots.
It’s only natural to look at things that are out of the ordinary and a little funny looking, and on your trip to Africa, you will often find that funny-looking thing to be you. See it like being a huge celebrity and try not to worry about it. Of course, this can be disconcerting for women, particularly if they are being stared at by large groups of men, but let’s face it: you’ve probably had worse walking past a building site at home.