How to Plan Your Trip to Africa

1. Decide What You Want to See and Experience

Are you just wanting to see the animals? Maybe you want to volunteer or spend some time in a natural setting like Karen Blixen from ‘Out of Africa’? For a little bit of everything, I always suggest either Kenya or Tanzania in East Africa. This is where you can visit Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara. You might also climb Kilimanjaro or take a trip to the beaches of Zanzibar. What you do and perhaps the number of countries you visit will also depend on the length of time you have available. Nairobi Airport is an international hub and a convenient place to begin a journey in East Africa which is another reason to consider Kenya/Tanzania. Whether travelling alone or as part of a couple/group, overland tours are a great way to see multiple destinations and travel without having to find your way around. On this website, you will find my advice (as an ex-tour leader) on the best safaris, tours and destinations that you might want to consider.

2. Join an Overland Tour or Travel Independently

Africa can be an intimidating place for first timers and expensive for car rental. I personally love to travel alone and spend time in less touristy areas but this idea often sounds much better than the reality of backpacking Africa solo. It is also challenging to meet fellow travellers on a trip to Africa and I suppose this is because Africa is not yet your typical backpacking destination. This is why you might want to consider an overland tour which can last from anywhere between 1–12 weeks. These tours are common in East and Southern Africa which means it often makes sense to begin your trip by flying into either Nairobi. Johannesburg or Cape Town. I was an overland tour leader for many years and there was a nice mix of ages and nationalities on every tour. This means overland tours are ideal for couples, friends and solo travellers alike. Again, you will find all my recommendations for the best overland tours on this website.

3. Check Your Visa Eligibility

You will need to check the official government website for whichever countries you wish to visit in Africa. For instance, there is a simple evisa process for both Kenya and Tanzania for most nationalities. Visa eligibility is one reason why travellers decide to visit East and Southern Africa because the process is straightforward for most nationalities. In fact, if you were to take a 10-week overland tour from Nairobi to Cape Town, it is likely you can get your visas on arrival at each border crossing. Your tour operator would be able to confirm this matter upon booking the tour and you would also have an experienced tour leader to oversee your border crossings. Easy! If you know where you want to go and your nationality is eligible for a visa, you can then move on to booking your overland tour or safari.

4. Book Your Overland Tour

This is an area in which I can help you the most because there are countless overland tours in Africa. I personally guided almost every type of tour that you will find on my website and each one offers something a little different. You should also know that certain companies are much better than others and the differentiating factors usually come down to the staff and vehicle/equipment. This is to say that some overland companies use extremely old vehicles which are much less comfortable (and safe). Each tour has a driver and tour leader and this is what I would call the ‘secret sauce’ of your trip. I say this because I have personally witnessed how an incompetent tour leader can absolutely ruin an overland trip. So makes sure to check out my recommendations for the best overland tours/operators and then put down a deposit early to ensure that you secure a spot on the trip you want.

5. Book Your Flights and Apply for eVisa

I’m a big fan of Skyscanner for booking flights but maybe you have a favourite of your own. You will likely need a return flight or onward flight details in order to receive evisa approval. If you can get visa on arrival at the airport (For example, Tanzania facilitates visa on arrival), you will still need to produce proof of onward travel. I emphasize this because some airlines even ask you for this information before allowing you to board and so it just makes sense to cover all bases. Your tour operator will also provide a receipt which is another document you can attach to your evisa application. Just make sure to book a flight which arrives at least a day or two before the departure date of your tour. You can apply for any eVisas and purchase travel insurance which is required for any overland tour.

6. Purchase Your Travel Insurance

You are required to have personal travel insurance before the tour leader will let you on the actual overland trip. This WILL be checked on the first day of your tour and Africa is not a place you want to travel without it anyway! During my time working as a tour leader in Africa, there were many injuries/incidents in which travel insurance saved the day. I won’t go into details but it was common for travellers to incur injuries or illness that resulted in hospital bills and the unexpected cancellation of their trip. Please take time to consider the quality of your travel insurance because it really matters. A good travel insurance policy will ensure you are actually covered and not just holding a piece of paper that says travel insurance. This is why I have written a full article on the best travel insurance for Africa and the best travel insurance companies with which I had to liaise when working as a tour leader.

7. Book Your Pre-Trip Hotel Room

You will need to arrive at least one day before the day of departure for your overland tour. I recommend you splash out on somewhere comfortable in order to get some proper rest and tackle the jetlag straight away. Make sure to check out my posts about the best places to stay in Nairobi and all the other popular starting points for an overland tour. This will also ensure you get to stay somewhere conveniently located for the start of your tour. After that, you should be mostly ready for the trip of a lifetime. But maybe you’re still thinking about where to go? I suggest taking a look through my posts to help you pick the best overland tour for your trip to Africa…