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Lonely Planet Calendar 2004
Lonely Planet 2004 Calendar

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- Printable maps of Africa

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Roots recovered
Roots Recovered! the Guide for Tracing African-American and West Indian Roots Back to Africa
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Travelling to Africa

A page of travel tips and more. Hopefully useful when planning an independent travel to Africa –mostly for first time visitors to the great continent.

I get several e-mails asking for travel tips. I can't answer all the mails I get and now decided to put some of my own "experience" here instead. I am sure many people are much more experienced than me, when it comes to getting around in Africa, and you are welcome to mail me if there is something I should add in particular. Please note that this page only has very general travelling tips to Africa and doesn't rally give justice to the big differences there is between the many countries in Africa. For tips of what to see and do in a few of the countries, I invite you to surf around on the photo pages on this site.


If you are considering visiting Africa for the first time – make sure you are ready for a life time experience. Some people (including yours truly) never really returns. Those who do return, will agree that Africa has changed their life in some way or another. Africa gets in your heart and in your blood like nowhere else I have heard of. You are most likely to loose your heart to Africa, but don't worry you will also gain so much. This is actually not a warning at all. It is a recommendation. Go and see!!!

First time in Africa

When you first set foot in Africa you risk getting something of a cultural shock –obviously depending on how experienced you are as a a traveler. The heat, noise and number of people who wants your attention from the moment you arrive in a major airport, can be quite overwhelming. It is probably a good idea to plan from home where to go and how to get there from the airport. After a day or two you will have more time and energy to negotiate the fair price for a taxi, or take a minibus somewhere and start exploring.

"You might have the watch, but I've got the time!"

You will soon discover that the speed and rhythm of life is completely different from what you are used to (where ever you come from). You never run in Africa. Most people take their time, having learned that it's really the only way to overcome the practical challenges of the infrastructure and everyday life in Africa. You will have some waiting here and there, but it really doesn't have to be a problem. Many African languages does not have a word for "stress", so why should you be the one to introduce it? Give yourself the time you need and you will be able to relax better. You are planning a holiday aren't you? Don't make too tight a schedule –make a flexible plan. Allow yourself the time to get Africa under your skin. You will learn a lesson you can take back home.

"Go with this bus. We are ready for departure." There you go and find your seat, only to discover that the bus still won't go until the last seat is taken, which can easily be a wait for an hour or more. Other times it is impossible to see a reason for the delay. Everybody is waiting, nobody has an answer –and then suddenly, when you are about to give up, something happens. Well, you can choose to get upset, loose your temper, shout and make a fool of your self (other passengers will probably find this very amusing -or maybe offending). But you could also just accept the facts and use your time relaxing with a book or talking to whoever is around. It is easier said than done, but Africa will teach you patience and you will feel much better when you have thrown away your wristwatch and accepted the special "African time". This said, I also need to mention that things are improving many places and in my last few travels I really haven't had any waiting worth mentioning. And to be fair I have also visited places with busses going exactly by schedule with no hazzle at all.

Travelling and new experiences

Whether you go as a tourist or a development worker of some kind, you might be tempted to tell "these people" how to do things in a more practical way. Well, think twice. I have often heard that you should remember that you are bringing one mouth, but two ears. Things that work great back in Europe or US doesn't necessarily work in Africa. There can be many reasons for this, so allow yourself to dig deeper. If you think that you and the western world has nothing to learn from Africa –well, then you really have a lot to learn!

Africa and it's people will welcome you with generosity, hospitality, warmth, openness and respect. The attitude YOU bring is crucial to the success of your travel. Remember you are a visitor, learn and respect local customs, be open-minded -and you'll be greatly rewarded.

Enjoy your travel!


Personally, I prefer knowing the basic facts about the country I'll be visiting (history, geography, what are the main languages, religions, cultural highlights, political situation etc.). Proper preparations will bring you several steps ahead and it will also be easier to start a conversation with somebody you meet on the way. Make a plan of what you definitely want to see during your stay, but don't make the schedule to tight and allow space for changes. The best experience on your trip could very well be something you didn't plan for at all.


A good guidebook is probably a must for all independent travelers. Both Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are covering most of the African continent in their books. These books can be a good help and has the answers for most of your practical questions, but don't take them as "bibles" with a final word on everything.

Novels about the country you are visiting can bring new dimensions to your knowledge of people and culture. If possible, find a novel written by an African writer and avoid books with the cliche-image of Africa.

See the Africa Webstore for:

  • Maps and guidebooks
  • African litterature
  • Film (DVD)
  • Music


The guidebooks has basic maps of the African countries. That is okay for most travelers. But a big, detailed map is really nice to have -even if you are not travelling by car. The map gives you a better idea of the infrastructure, how the country is tied together and it can show you a better way to a remote village or beach. I have also learned that folding out a good map attracts people and inspire to tell stories from the country. It can be a good icebreaker, specially when meeting elders, who normally wouldn't engage in a talk with a young tourist.


Movies are, just like books, a great chance to learn something about the country before leaving home -if you avoid the Hollywood stereotypic movies, where Africa is nothing but a colourful background. It is not easy to find African films, but look at the page of African movies for inspiration.

What to put in the bag?

The best answer would be: as little as possible. You will regret carrying to heavy a package, specially if you are going to walk a little (you will). Don't bring to much clothes. You can always buy a fresh T-shirt somewhere along the road.

Ideas for your checklist

Pick what you need/don't bring it all.

A bag/rucksack (of a solid make)
Passport, travel documents, visas, travel insurance
Cash (Dollars, Euros), credit cards for big towns
Pocket knife and sewing kit (not in you hand luggage of course)
Electrical adapter (if needed)
Binoculars if going on safari
Small alarm clock
Day pack
Sun glasses
Walking shoes and sandals
Clothes (as little as possible)
Dust safe plastic bags for electronics
Lighter, candle lights, small torch
Mosquito net
Maps and books

Malaria tablets
Insect repellent
Some kind of pain killer
Band aid
Sun lotion



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