Africa is a beautiful country to vacation. When planning your trip, the first thing to remember is to check which vaccinations are needed to enter the country. Africa requires all people entering the country to be up to date on common childhood vaccines including hepatitis b, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, and rubella, and polio. Hepatitis A and meningococcal meningitis are also recommended. Depending on which area you visit, you may need to take anti malaria prophylactic. Also be aware of diseases such as bilharzia, yellow fever, tuberculosis, cholera, dengue fever, and sleeping sickness. Be sure to check with your doctor for updated requirements.
It is also a good idea to pack a first aid kit to take on your vacation. Items that should be included are antibiotics, anti diarrhea meds, pain killers, anti inflammatory, antihistamines, antibacterial ointment, anti malaria medications, hydrocortisone cream, bandages, gauze, tape, and band aids, tweezers, thermometer, insect repellant, sun block, oral rehydration salt, iodine tablets, and hand wipes. It's also a good idea to bring along sterile needles and syringes due to the high rate of HIV and Aids in Africa, because rural hospitals are sometimes forced to reuse their own. If something happens requiring a trip to the hospital you will definitely want new sterile needles.
Travelers Insurance is also good to have and will cover any medical costs you incur during your trip. Most require that you pay up front and submit a claim for reimbursement, so be sure to put back a credit card or cash for any medical needs.
You will also need to apply for a passport in plenty of time to get it before your trip. Some parts of Africa require that you also have a visa, so be sure to find this out before you leave. If you need a visa, you have to apply at least two months before your trip.
Cell phone service is available in most of Africa, but may not be in wilderness areas. Always ask permission before photographing people, and in most of the countries it is illegal to take pictures of the airport and military bases. American money is usually accepted in most of East Africa, but may not be in other areas. If you are going out to a rural area it would be wise to go ahead and exchange your money. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in South Africa and in large cities. If you rent a car, be prepared to drive on the left hand side of the road. African law requires the use of seatbelts, and speed limit signs are clearly posted and in English. It is not a good idea to self travel without a guide in some areas. Internet access in Africa is slow or doesn't exist at all. Many languages are spoken throughout the country, but most speak English. Most of Africa is also predominantly Christian, and some Muslim.
So now that we have covered the basics, we are ready to plan the trip.
First you must decide how you are going to travel, whether by plane or boat. Plane tickets vary in price depending on where and when you are departing. A good estimated price is around $1000 for a round trip ticket, but be sure to check with your local airlines. Ships also vary in price for the same reasons, and are typically more expensive due to most options are cruise lines so you are paying for everything else and not just the ride. There is also a railway service in Africa, but it is not recommended for tourists because of its unreliability. However, the Blue train and Rovos Rail located in South Africa offer beautiful sight seeing and formal dining cars.
Going on a safari can be quite expensive. The longer you stay, the cheaper your price will usually be per night. If you are on a budget, search for safaris that allow you to drive yourself instead of taking the all inclusive packages. A luxury safari typically costs in the thousands per person, with all inclusive packaging. Prices can get as high as one thousand per night. Overland safaris are usually the cheapest and will require camping and traveling with a group. You may also be required to pitch in with chores. If you choose to self drive, you can rent a car and drive through a public park on your own. This also gives you more control of your budget by allowing you to choose your hotel and places to eat.
What you see will depend on which area you visit. East Africa features herds of wildlife, a large volcanic crater, water falls, and the Nile River. Southern Africa also has many animals, the largest conservation area in the world, and is more modernized than the rest of the country. Some areas are not easily accessible by land, and require that you fly into the game area. Be sure to bring a camera on your trip. Expect to see a variety of wildlife such as elephants, lions, tigers, giraffe, zebras, rhinos, cheetahs, gorillas, hyenas, and many more.
One thing to keep in mind when planning your trip is that the seasons are opposite of most countries, with summer being December to March and winter from June to September. Just like with any other tourist country, there are plenty of scam artists waiting to take your money. Be sure to research any company you plan to hire as a guide or place to stay before paying. Parts of Africa are also having political unrest or high crime rates, so be sure to check with the State Department advisories when planning your trip. You should pack light weight cotton clothing, but be aware it gets very cool in some areas at night, so be sure to pack at least one jacket. You will also want to stick to neutral colors while on a safari to be less noticeable to the animals. You may also encounter beggars on your trip due to extreme poverty in some areas. They ask that you do not hand out money or other items, and to donate to local community centers instead.