Sun, exotic wildlife and a vibrant culture are just some of the things you can expect from your African escape. Your first time travelling to the vast continent can be daunting, especially if you’re not up to date on the safety procedures in place in the country you intend to visit. This guide will provide you with all the travel advice you need to keep safe and healthy in your destination of choice.
The safest countries in Africa
With 54 possible countries to visit, the options for an African holiday are endless. Solo travellers in particular might be afraid to visit the continent under the assumption that it is unsafe. However, many African countries are regarded as safe and tourists can explore without fear of danger, as long as they take the appropriate precautions. Here are ten of the safest countries you should visit.
This country, in the south of Africa, is considered one of the safest on the continent. More than 42,000 Brits flock to experience all of the scenic landscapes and exotic wildlife that Botswana has to offer. Since gaining independence in 1966, the country has seen steady economic growth and safer living conditions for visiting tourists.
Best time to travel
If you want to get the most out of your trip to Botswana, then you have to choose the optimum time to travel. Travelling during the dry seasons (between May and September) will mean that wildlife is easier to spot if you choose to embark on an African safari. If you’re travelling to South Africa to experience the landscape and culture when there are fewer tourists, Botswana is a delight to visit between November and March; the temperature is cooler, there is an abundance of lush greenery to admire and mosquitoes are less active.
Safety tips and precautions for Botswana
Luckily, Botswana’s crime rates are much lower in comparison to the rest of the region but tourists should still take precautions to protect themselves during their stay. Take care not to showcase valuables, or go to secluded areas, especially at night. If you’re a solo traveller, consider hiring a tour guide to help you navigate the areas you’re unfamiliar with.
Travelling with Kids
A holiday to Botswana would be the trip of a lifetime as well as an invaluable learning experience for the children. Safaris are popular activities for all of the family to engage in while in the country and are perfectly safe for your children if the appropriate safety precautions are taken. Botswana’s safari experience is one of the best on the continent, as thousands of animals can be seen gathering around the world’s largest inland delta each day. As long as you and your children are up to date with all of the necessary vaccinations for Botswana, you can enjoy the country and feel safe while doing so.
Crime levels in Ghana are low compared to other West African countries. Tourists flock to this gem of Africa to bask in the sandy beaches and enjoy the calm, peaceful nature of the residents.
It’s strongly recommended that you’re up to date with your vaccinations before setting off on your flight to Ghana. The process is more complex than a flight to Spain and there are certain entry requirements to meet before you can enter the country, including getting a visa and yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Water: is it safe to drink?
Like in most African countries, travellers should avoid drinking any tap water in Ghana; bottled water is a safe alternative. Cholera is a serious issue in Ghana with frequent outbreaks reported in the region each year. A cholera vaccine is recommended for tourists travelling to high-risk zones as they can prevent you from getting the potentially fatal diarrhoeal disease.
Diseases to look out for in Ghana
Travel diseases will not only ruin your Ghanaian holiday, but some can be life-threatening. Luckily, there are measures you can take to protect yourself from contracting them. Hepatitis and typhoid are just some of the high-risk diseases in Ghana and it’s important to get the appropriate vaccinations in order to reduce your chances of contracting them. Yellow fever is high risk in 27 African countries, including Ghana but if you receive a yellow fever vaccination ten days before setting off, you will be protected against the disease. Even if you’ve received one of the recommended vaccinations before, make sure it’s still effective as it can decline over time.
Known for one of the most devastating genocides in African history, Rwanda has come a long way since those dark days. As far as capitals go, Kigali is safe to explore, so you can embrace the city’s vibrant nightlife without constant fear of crime and danger.
Packing for your trip
Thin clothing that covers your skin is essential if you want to avoid insect bites. Clothing alone isn’t enough to prevent insect bites, so don’t forget to pack malaria tablets which can reduce your risk of contracting the disease by 90%. A quality camera is a must-have for those who want to capture the beautiful Rwandan national parks.
Food to avoid
Rwandan cuisine is delicious, consisting of local vegetables and tangy spices: the challenge is sampling these foods without ending up with an upset stomach. Avoid food from street vendors, or any buffet-style dishes that have been left out in the heat. Don’t be afraid of all food and exercise caution when deciding upon a food venue. Hygiene standards in Rwandan restaurants have improved over the years and there are many restaurants to dine in and freshly made and visibly well-cooked food is usually fine to feast on. However, food is not the only safety concern you will encounter in Rwanda and vaccines are recommended to protect you from diseases such as rabies and hepatitis B.
Activities in Rwanda
Packed with activities and culture, you couldn’t possibly experience every amazing thing Rwanda has to offer in one trip. The Kigali Genocide Memorial documents a crucial part of Rwanda’s history and is an emotional exhibition that explores how the 1994 genocide unfolded. For a more light-hearted excursion, the Volcanoes National Park is not to be missed; the park is home to some exotic mountain gorilla as well as some golden monkeys. Vaccines you need for Rwanda
Seychelles is not merely an island paradise – it’s an intricate network of 115 islands that each have their own unique charms. Once you step aboard, you’ll never run out of sun, sea and sand to explore. Tourists to the islands generally do not experience any trouble as there is not much political instability or violent crime reported. Seychelles has a high per capita income and is generally stable and prosperous, thus making it a safe part of Africa to visit.
Safety tips and precautions for Seychelles
Soak up the sun and wade through the warm waters, but remember to take some precautions when you’re in islands that are more remote. Try not to swim all by yourself in beaches that are unpopulated and far off from your resort or hotel. This also applies to isolated roads in Seychelles, which you should avoid travelling on, especially in the nighttime. While violent crime is not common in the islands, robbery and petty theft do occur, so protect your belongings and take the necessary precautions. While you’re frolicking on beaches, be wary of cutting your feet on sharp corals and objects and make sure you keep an eye out for children in the water, as there is a risk of drowning.
Diseases to look out for in Seychelles
It is important for you to get yourself vaccinated against tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid before you set foot in Seychelles. These are some of the diseases that you may potentially contract during your stay in the islands if you have not yet been vaccinated or if you are not updated with your vaccines. Other diseases to watch out for are largely mosquito-borne and not preventable by vaccines – namely chikungunya and dengue. Seychelles is a breeding ground for mosquitoes due to its warm, tropical climate, so you should take suitable precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Visitors to Seychelles should also know that there have been cases of leptospirosis reported in the islands. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is spread through the urine of animals such as rats, dogs, raccoons and deer in the islands. Remember to avoid freshwater in rural areas and try not to walk barefoot if you do venture into these areas.
Packing for your trip
The sunny islands of Seychelles are beautiful but may be dangerous for those with sensitive skin that is prone to sunburn. Remember to pack a generous amount of sunscreen for your trip so that you can protect yourself from the glaring rays of the island sun. Since mosquitoes are abundant in the islands, it is vital that you also bring along mosquito nets which you should use while you’re sleeping at night, permethrin, which you can treat your clothes with and DEET containing insect repellent, which you should apply to your skin. Vaccines you need for Seychelles
With its European and Arabian influences, Morocco has a medieval charm that cannot be replicated. The country is diverse and boasts deserts, mountain ranges and vibrant cities all at once. The best part is, all of these are equally mesmerising and photogenic. It has become safer to visit in recent years because there have been no terrorist attacks in recent years and the diseases reported are far and few between.
Activities in Morocco
The famed city of Casablanca is a must-visit destination when you’re in Morocco as it boasts cultural and architectural gems such as the Hassan II Mosque and the Cathedrale Sacre-Couer. Nature lovers may prefer to embark on trails leading to the Atlas Mountain ranges or trek to the Ouzoud falls, where they can witness stunning and picturesque sights courtesy of Morocco’s natural phenomena. And for those who’re just visiting to get a feel of the country’s medieval charm, you can spend days wandering around cobbled streets and feasting your eyes on quaint houses and the colourful spread of wares by street vendors.
The UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) strongly recommends that you get vaccinated before you head to Morocco so that you don’t need to worry about contracting travel diseases during your trip. If you’re unsure about your immunity, it’s best that you consult a travel health professional to check if you need any vaccinations or booster shots before you travel. The hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, typhoid, rabies and tuberculosis vaccines are recommended for your visit to Morocco. It’s also important for you to either get health insurance or get your insurance plan updated to cover trips overseas because private healthcare can be very expensive in Morocco and you may not get the best service if you go to public healthcare institutions.
Food to avoid
Although food in Morocco is generally safe to eat and delicious as well, you should exercise the necessary precautions to avoid contracting diseases such as traveller’s diarrhoea and hepatitis A. Go for cooked food that is served hot and fresh and avoid consuming vegetables, meat or dairy products that are either raw or undercooked. It’s also advisable that you avoid fruits that have not been peeled or washed properly. As always, practice caution when indulging in street food. Vaccines you need for Morocco
A veritable jewel in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is best known for its photogenic golden-white beaches, azure waters that stretch on with no end and luxury resorts. The beach destination to beat all beach destinations, Mauritius is also probably one of the safest nations to visit in the African continent. Free from the political unrest, terrorist threats and violent crime that plague many African countries, Mauritius has established itself as a great spot for honeymoons and family getaways alike.
Travelling with Kids
Mauritius is probably one of the best destinations in Africa and even in the world, to take your kids to for a relaxing holiday. The resorts in the island-nation are family friendly and often provide entertainment options for kids. The tropical climate is pleasant and suitable for kids, who can spend their time frolicking in the clear, blue waters. Plenty of activities in the island are also suitable for children – from swimming with the dolphins to whale watching, these activities are as much educational as they are fun. Make sure that your children are up-to-date with their travel vaccines though, as they are just as susceptible to common travel diseases in Mauritius as they are anywhere else in the world.
Water: is it safe to drink?
Mauritius is one of the few African countries in which tap water is 100% safe to drink. The water in the island nation is supplied by the Mauritius Central Water Authority (CWA), which complies with standards set by the World Health Organisation for drinkable water. Water quality is assured as tap water is tested every day by the CWA to make sure that it is suitable for drinking. Since the island has a tropical climate and is hot almost all year long, the availability of potable water comes in handy as you can just fill your water bottles up no matter where you are and keep yourself hydrated.
Best time to travel
April, May, September and October are the months which are ideal for your holiday in Mauritius. Between April and May, the weather is warm without being too humid, so you can frolic in the beaches and enjoy the sunshine without getting too sticky. Avoid flying to the island between January and March, as this period typically marks the time when tropical storms strike. Between September to October, the winds from the months before die off and the island is just cool and dry enough that you and your travel partners can enjoy outdoor activities such as paragliding and sunbathing without becoming soaked in sweat. Vaccines you need for Mauritius
An underrated African destination, Lesotho’s unspoiled verdant valleys and regal mountains are often overlooked for the mainstream charm of its neighbour, South Africa. The two countries are a study in opposites however, and the tranquil charm of Lesotho, with its vibrantly green hills, ample livestock and rural townsfolk may be more appealing to those who want some time away from the city hustle and bustle. The country is much safer than neighbouring South Africa and does not experience the political unrest and terrorist threats that many other African countries suffer from.
Safety tips and precautions for Lesotho
Lesotho generally is much safer than its neighbouring countries and has lower crime rates than its immediate neighbour, South Africa. Because it’s a mountainous country with predominantly rural regions, it is neither a hot spot for violent crime nor terrorism, which makes it a rather family-friendly African destination. However, the country is still not very safe for women travellers – women should avoid travelling alone, and if they cannot avoid it, they should avoid wandering alone in the dark and in poorly lit places. Although there is not a high risk of violent crime, scams and extortion are common since the country is ridden with poverty, so keep your guard up when you are interacting with locals, riding in taxis and even buying items in shops.
Diseases to look out for in Lesotho
Altitude sickness is a very real threat for tourists visiting Lesotho as the country is at a high altitude. It may cause dizziness, rapid pulse, sweating and other symptoms which are easily recognisable and should be treated immediately. The HIV occurrence rate in Lesotho is also the third highest in the world and almost a quarter of locals are affected by the disease – visitors to the region are generally safe from contracting the disease as long as they do not engage in casual, unprotected sex or inject drugs with unsterilised needles. NaTHNac encourages travellers to Lesotho to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, tetanus, typhoid, cholera and tuberculosis. A rabies vaccine is also recommended if you’re going to be largely staying in rural parts of the country.
Packing for your trip
Since altitude sickness is a possibility during your travels to Lesotho, remember to consult a travel health professional or your GP beforehand and stock up on drugs that alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness. These pills will come in immensely handy since healthcare facilities in the mountainous region are very basic and far and few between. A basic travel first aid kit would also prove to be very useful if you happen to have a fall or have a minor ailment such as a cold or headache, especially since the medical facilities may not be of high standard. Remember to pack moisturiser as well, as Lesotho has dry air due to its high altitude and this will cause dry skin.Vaccines you need for Lesotho
The fabled Madagascar, brought to the world’s attention particularly after the release of the animated film with the same name, is a wildlife paradise and is home to some of the most endangered animals on the planet. From the well known lemur to the panther chameleon and the tomato frog, there are many species of animals and birds in Madagascar which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The country is safer than many of its other African counterparts, but you should still be cautious since crime is not uncommon and there is still civil unrest present.
Food to avoid
Since tap water is not safe to drink in the country, avoid drinks that have ice added to them and salad and fruits, which are raw and may have been washed in this water. Generally, choose food that is served hot instead of cool or even lukewarm and do not go for dishes that have been left uncovered. Avoid street food that looks unhygienic and if you absolutely have to consume street food, choose dishes that are prepared in front of you and that are piping hot. Seafood is commonly served in Madagascar, but avoid any seafood items that are undercooked or raw.
If you’re travelling to Madagascar from a country that has a risk of transmission of Yellow Fever or if you have transited for more than 12 hours in such a country, you will be asked to produce a Yellow Fever certificate before you can enter, so it’s best if you get vaccinated in the UK well ahead of your travels. There has been an outbreak of measles in Madagascar since October 2018 and it has killed more than 1,200 people, so if you haven’t already been vaccinated against measles, it is imperative that you get your vaccination before you begin your travels. It is also recommended that you get your routine immunisations along with a rabies vaccination, since Madagascar is home to a vast array of wildlife.
Activities in Madagascar
There is an abundance of wildlife parks and nature reserves in Madagascar, but one that cannot be missed is the Tsingy de Bemaraha, which boasts breathtaking limestone pinnacles that have been eroded and shaped by groundwater. The national park’s pristine forests are also home to many endangered species of animals, including the famed lemur. The Avenue of the Baobabs, a unique dirt road from Morondava to Belo Tsiribihina, is another place in Madagascar which inspires awe. Dozens of majestic and gigantic baobab trees line the road and walking along this trail will make you feel truly small.Vaccines you need for Madagascar
If you’re looking to experience the Africa that you see in the National Geographic channel – rich and teeming with wildlife at its most untouched – then Zambia is the spot for you. Unlike its strife-struck neighbour, the Republic of Congo, Zambia is a relatively safe country that has crime levels similar to European countries and which is home to friendly locals. Almost 60,000 Brits visit the country every year and perhaps only areas near the country’s border with Congo should be avoided, especially during times of civil strife.
Water: is it safe to drink?
The tap water in Zambia is not potable and should not be drank unless it has been thoroughly boiled beforehand. Go for bottled water and stock up on these, as the area you are heading to, especially if it’s rural, may not have convenience stores to purchase potable water from. Since tap water is unsafe for drinking, avoid consuming drinks with ice added to them and raw vegetables and fruits as well, as they may have been washed with this water. If you are travelling to very remote areas, bring a water filter along with you.
Best time to travel
The period from May to October marks the dry season in Zambia and this is an ideal time to go on wildlife safaris in the country since animals gather around rivers and other water bodies and are easier to spot and observe. The weather is also mild and warm and it is easy to get from place to place. The rainy season stretches from November to April, and during this time, dirt roads may become dangerous and impassable and some camps and safaris may even cease to operate. March is a good time to visit if you’re in Zambia solely to see the Victoria falls, as the volume in the waterfall increases after the rainy season.
Travelling with Kids
If you’re travelling with your kids to Zambia, you may be requested to produce their birth certificates to confirm your relations to them, so make sure you have these ready. If you’re travelling with your child without the child’s other parent, you may also be asked to produce a letter of consent from the other parent allowing the child to enter Zambia. Wildlife safaris in Zambia will be entertaining and educational for children, but note that some safari walks may not allow children under 12 to participate in them. Safari drives, on the other hand, are less restrictive. Livingstone, a southwestern town in Zambia, also has plenty of fun-packed activities that kids can enjoy, such as flying fox, white-water rafting for the whole family and even steam train rides. Vaccines you need for Zambia
The ethnically diverse Ethiopia offers its visitors a culturally and historically rich experience. With more than 80 ethnic groups living in the country, the country has a diverse range of literature, architecture, food and ethnic garb that tourists will no doubt find fascinating. Contrary to popular misbelief, the country is actually one of the safest ones in Africa for visitors and violent crime rarely occurs. Except for the Ogadan region, the border regions and parts of South Ethiopia, it is also largely free of strife – in the places mentioned, there may be ethnic strife and rebel activity, but tourists are unlikely to be caught up in these.
Diseases to look out for in Ethiopia
While the upside to choosing Ethiopia as your holiday destination is that you will have a generally safe holiday without terrorist threats, violence or strife, the downside is that you may be in danger of contracting diseases which are endemic to the country. Ethiopia is a breeding ground for mosquitos, ticks and insects of all sorts and thus is a hotspot for malaria, dengue, chikungunya, African sleeping sickness, African tick bite fever, leishmaniasis and many other insect-borne diseases.
You are advised to take utmost precautions to avoid insect bites during your trip and bring along antimalarial pills to keep yourself from getting infected with malaria in the case that you are bitten. Influenza is also common in the country during certain seasons, as is schistosomiasis. To prevent from contracting the latter, contact with freshwater should be avoided altogether or minimised and only water that is confirmed to be safe for drinking should be consumed.
Packing for your trip
Since insect-borne diseases are so common in Ethiopia, it is best if you pack the necessary items that will help you to prevent getting bitten by insects or at least minimise bites and your chances of contracting these diseases. Insect repellent that contains at least 50% DEET is a must when you’re travelling to Ethiopia, as is a sleeping net with which you can cover yourself when you’re going to bed. Bring along permethrin and treat your clothes with permethrin before the trip so that insects are deterred from biting you. Bring long sleeved shirts and long pants since some insects that carry disease are not put off by insect repellents.
Safety tips and precautions for Ethiopia
Since petty theft and robbery are becoming increasingly common in Ethiopia and travellers are becoming targets as well, remember to familiarise yourself with the routes that you are taking and to travel with companions whenever possible. Try not to travel with too many valuables and keep these valuables hidden. If someone does try to mug you, do not resist and hand over your valuables as the attackers may turn violent otherwise.
Regions in Ethiopia bordering other African countries such as Sudan and Kenya may be unsafe to travel to, so try to avoid travelling to or passing by these regions. The Somali border region is especially dangerous since foreigners have been targeted or caught up in the violence caused by civil unrest. Although mobbing has become less frequent, remember to be firm and walk away from mobs of locals who may tease or confront you – try not to provoke them, to avoid violent incidents.
Home to the oldest desert in the world, breathtaking mountain ranges, verdant plains and gushing rivers, there is no doubt that Namibia is the country that contains within it all the best parts of Africa. With beautiful landscapes that look like they came straight out of a movie scene and dystopic desert ranges that never seem to end, the country possesses the raw and untouched wilderness that many wish to experience. Namibia has been free of civil war and strife for almost two decades and is a lot safer for visitors than many other African countries. Crime rates are not exceedingly high, but incidences of petty crime and theft are not uncommon and tourists should take adequate caution when making their way through the country, especially if they are in possession of many valuables.
There is a high risk of malaria in Northern parts of Namibia such as Damaraland and Etosha National Park, especially between the months of November and June. Other areas with a significant risk of the mosquito-borne disease are the Caprivi Strip, Kavango and Kunene river regions. If you are travelling to any of these regions, you are recommended to consult a travel health professional so that you can take a course of antimalarials during your trip. Routine immunisations as well as the cholera, rabies, tuberculosis and hepatitis B vaccines are recommended for travellers to Namibia as well. Since insect bites are a real problem in the country, remember to take precautions beforehand to avoid these bites. Crime is rather common so try not to take taxis or walk through rural or desolate areas after dark. Crimes, including the robbing of tourists, often take place outside of the city centre, so take the necessary precautions and stay safe.
Activities in Namibia
One of the iconic sights in Namibia are the Deadvlei and Sossuvlei ranges – these clay and salt pans consist of dead trees that make for eerie and almost dystopic scenes that have been used as sets for many movies. The Namib desert also is an excellent excursion for both adults and children. The oldest desert range in the world will awe visitors with its endless golden beauty and startling biodiversity as they traverse it. Tours of the world-famous Etosha National Park, which is teeming with animals such as lions and elephants, are also popular with visitors. For those who’d like to get a feel of the urban part of Namibia can also visit Windhoek city and tour its numerous churches and museums.
Best time to travel
With an average of 300 days of sunshine yearly, Namibia is one of those rare locations that can be visited all-year round. The period between July and October is the theoretical dry season and is a great time to visit the country if you’re planning on viewing wildlife or going on safaris, as animals will gather at waterholes and are easier to track and view. March and April are optimal months for visitors who wish to engage in bird-watching as they can catch exotic birds before they begin their migration. This period is also ideal for photography as the sunlight is not too intense like in the middle of the dry season and sets up a perfect backdrop for the photography of natural scenery.
Exploring the beautiful African landscape is truly an adventure and not as dangerous as you might think! Book your appointment today and our certified travel nurse will advise which vaccines for travel you should consider if you want a fun and safe African holiday.