Preparing for your Africa Holiday: A Guide to Visas, Vaccinations, Packing & Tipping


Africa

By Hilary Dubyk

Your long-awaited Africa trip is finally drawing near and, in addition to your growing excitement, it is time to start thinking of the practical aspects of your holiday so that everything runs smoothly and you are fully prepared. We understand that there can be confusing or conflicting information about what you need to organise before you depart, so we have compiled a handy guide which has the most up-to-date information on how to prepare for your Africa holiday. We hope this helps!

Visas | Yellow Fever | Travelling With Kids | Vaccinations | Luggage | Cash & Tipping | Power & Wifi | Dietary Requirements | Travel Insurance

What visas do I require for my trip and how do I get them?

Below is a list of the visa requirements and costs for each country we regularly send clients to in Africa. A few things to note:

    • Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date you travel and have 3 blank pages.
    • It makes no difference whether you choose to obtain a visa on arrival or an eVisa ahead of time (for countries that offer both options). However, getting an eVisa should make the immigration process quicker for you when you arrive into the country so it is usually worth the hassle of doing the online application. This is particularly true for Tanzania.
    • When you are getting an eVisa ahead of travel it will only be valid for 90 days from the date of issue so don’t get it too far in advance or it will expire before you actually travel.
    • When you are getting a visa on arrival, it is recommended you bring the correct USD cash amounts to pay for them just in case there is an issue with the credit card machines.
    • Most countries offer multiple visa types (i.e. Single Entry, Multiple Entry, Transit) so have a look at your itinerary and make sure you are purchasing the correct one.

EAST AFRICA TOURIST VISA

The East Africa Tourist Visa is for foreigners visiting Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. It allows multiple entries within the 3 countries, however it automatically expires if a traveller goes outside of these countries. You must apply for and pay online via the diplomatic mission of the first of the two or three countries you intend to visit. The cost is US$100.

KAZA UNIVISA

The KAZA UniVisa is a visa for foreigners visiting Zimbabwe and Zambia. It allows unlimited border crossings between the 2 countries and allows for day trips into neighbouring Botswana provided you return to Zambia or Zimbabwe the same day. The visa can be obtained on arrival into either Zimbabwe or Zambia. The cost is US$50.

BOTSWANA

No tourist visa required for Australian, New Zealand or US citizens.

ETHIOPIA

Visa required for all foreign passport holders. Can be obtained on arrival OR online ahead of time HERE
US$52 for a 30-day single-entry tourist visa.

KENYA

Visa required for Australian, New Zealand and US citizens. Can be obtained on arrival OR online ahead of time HERE
US$ 51 for a single-entry visa; US$ 21 for a transit visa.

MADAGASCAR

Visa required for all foreign passport holders. Obtain at arrival at Malagasy international airports. US$ 37 for a single-entry 30-day tourist visa.

MALAWI

Visa required for Australian, New Zealand and US citizens. Can be obtained on arrival. US$ 75 for a 30-day single-entry tourist visa; US$ 50 for a transit visa.

MOZAMBIQUE

Visa required for Australian, New Zealand and US citizens. Can be obtained on arrival. US$ 50 for a 30-day single-entry tourist visa.

NAMIBIA

No tourist visa required for Australian, New Zealand or US citizens.

RWANDA

Visa required for all foreign nationals.Can be obtained on arrival OR online ahead of time HERE. US$ 50 for a 30-day single-entry tourist visa.

SOUTH AFRICA

No tourist visa required for Australian, New Zealand or US citizens visiting for 90 days or less.

TANZANIA

Visa required for Australian, New Zealand and US citizens. Can be obtained on arrival OR online ahead of time HERE.US$ 50 for a single-entry visa (except US Citizens who must pay US$ 100), US$ 30 for a transit visa.

UGANDA

Visa required for Australian, New Zealand and US citizens. Can be obtained online ahead of time HERE. US$ 50 for a single-entry tourist visa, US$ 100 for a transit visa.

ZAMBIA

Visa required for Australian, New Zealand and US citizens. Can be obtained on arrival. US$ 50 for a single-entry tourist visa.

ZIMBABWE

Visa required for Australian, New Zealand and US citizens. Can be obtained on arrival. US$ 30 for a single-entry tourist visa.

Are there any other entry requirements I should be aware of?

YELLOW FEVER CERTIFICATE

If you are travelling to a country on the World Health Organisation’s list of yellow fever endemic countries (below), you must get the yellow fever vaccination and carry the certificate with you as you will be asked to present it on arrival into neighbouring countries and when returning to Australia. If you cannot get the vaccination for medical reasons, you must carry an official medical exemption letter from a doctor.

Yellow Fever Endemic Countries
Angola Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) Liberia
Benin Equatorial Guinea Mali
Burkina Faso Ethiopia Mauritania
Burundi Gabon Niger
Cameroon Gambia Nigeria
Central African Republic Ghana Senegal
Chad Guinea Sierra Leone
Democratic Republic of Congo Guinea-Bissau Sudan
Republic of the Congo Kenya Uganda
TRAVELLING TO SOUTH AFRICA WITH CHILDREN UNDER 18

As of Friday, 08 November 2019, foreign children can enter and depart South Africa without being required to provide birth certificates, consent letters and other supporting documents relating to proof of parentage. Foreign children who require a visa for South Africa no longer need to carry the supporting documents for inspection at a port of entry since these would be processed together with their visa applications.

What Vaccinations or Health Considerations Are Required for My Trip?

It is recommended you visit your GP or a specialist travel clinic approximately two months prior to travel to get official medical advice. We are not medical professionals, but we recommend that the two most important considerations for an Africa holiday are whether you require a yellow fever vaccination and whether you will be in a malaria risk area.

Yellow Fever – vaccinations recommended/required for travellers to the countries listed as yellow fever endemic. On this list, we mostly only send clients to Kenya, Uganda & Ethiopia. Vaccination is not generally required for travel to countries excluded from this list, however you must seek appropriate advice to ensure you are getting up to date and appropriate information.

Malaria – prophylaxes recommended for travellers to most countries in Africa due to a high risk of malaria. The only exceptions are:

  • Namibia is majority malaria-free. The only areas of concern are the Caprivi Strip which has a high risk of malaria, and Etosha National Park which has a low-medium risk during the summer months (November – April).
  • South Africa is majority malaria-free. The only area of concern is the area surrounding Kruger National Park which has a high risk of malaria, particularly in the summer months (November – April).

A few other vaccinations generally recommended for travel to Africa include Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid and these will be at your discretion. A range of factors need to be considered by both yourself and your health care professional when assessing the need for vaccines and/or medical support when planning your trip to Africa. Be sure to take a copy of your itinerary with you to your appointment so your doctor can see what you are doing.

Also note that many small group overland tours require clients that are over the age of 65 or with minor disabilities to provide a medical certificate to ensure they are healthy and fit enough to travel.

What Clothing Should I Bring for a Safari?

Regarding your clothing, there are no strict rules about what to wear on safari – there are some guidelines to make sure you and your fellow camp guests enjoy a natural experience, and that the wildlife are minimally impacted by your presence. So you definitely don’t need to go out and buy a whole new safari wardrobe – just pack simple, comfortable clothes in neutral or natural colours (nothing too bright) so that you blend into the natural environment and don’t startle the wildlife. This is mostly important if you go out on any walking safaris, and less important when sitting in a game drive vehicle.

The “no black and dark blue colour” advice is mainly applicable in Kenya & Tanzania because those colours can attract tsetse flies which have a nasty bite. But it is not as much of an issue in Southern Africa, and is mostly applicable to your tops (black bottoms are fine). And please do not wear camouflage printed clothing, particularly not in towns or when crossing borders.

Ensure you have layers and bring a warm jacket/fleece/jumper because the temperature will vary from quite chilly at night and the early mornings, to quite hot in the middle of the day. And of course, bring sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun!

Many safari camps offer a limited laundry service either included in the rates or for a small additional cost. However it is a good idea to bring a small bag of washing powder if you are going on safari for a long period of time so you can self-wash your delicates in your room.

Remember that safaris are typically very informal so it is perfectly acceptable to wear your casual daytime clothing for dinner. If you are staying at luxury lodges, particularly in South Africa, you will see people dressing up in the evenings but that is a personal choice as there are no dress requirements.

What Bags Should I Bring to Comply with Luggage Requirements?

If you are travelling in Kenya or Tanzania and have light aircraft flights in your itinerary, you will have a strict luggage allowance of 15kgs per person, inclusive of hand baggage, in soft-sided bags. Normal suitcases with wheels are fine as long as they are soft sided (no hard plastic cases accepted), and the maximum dimensions for ANY type of bag cannot exceed 90cm x 65cm x 35cm (L x W x D). If you are starting and ending your flying safari in Nairobi, our ground operator can hold your excess luggage at their office so please discuss this with your consultant.

If you are travelling in Botswana or Zimbabwe and have light aircraft flights in your itinerary, you will have a strict luggage allowance of 15kgs plus 5kg of hand luggage (20kgs total) per person, in soft-sided bags. They strongly discourage taking normal suitcases with wheels because the aircraft tend to be smaller and suitcases often cannot fit in the luggage pod. The maximum size for your bag cannot exceed 62cm x 30cm x 25cm (L x W x D). If you are starting and ending your flying safari in Maun, our ground operator can hold your excess luggage at their office so please discuss this with your consultant.

If you are travelling on a small group road or overland safari, the operators also request that luggage is packed in an inexpensive barrel/sausage bag or soft sided bag not exceeding 15kgs and 65cm x 46cm. Due to limited luggage space in the 4×4 safari vehicles normal suitcases are generally unsuitable for scheduled road safaris. The weight is also important as overloaded vehicles are inherently dangerous and cause unnecessary transport problems, plus you need to easily be able to put your bag on and off the truck every day or two.

If you are doing a tailor-made itinerary or private safari that does not involve any light aircraft flights, you have no strict luggage allowances and can bring a normal hard or soft suitcase. Just remember to keep the weight within the most restrictive limit you have on your international or internal flights. Please check your flight e-ticket or ask your consultant.

How Much Cash do I Need and What Currency Should I Bring?

You don’t actually need to bring that much cash with you as most places have credit card machines. Any extra bills that you settle at your safari camps, hotels, restaurants, bars, and any store purchases you make can be paid with a Visa or Mastercard. You only need cash for your tipping and if you want to buy souvenirs off local vendors on the side of the road. Of course, it is up to you if you would prefer to pay for more things with cash instead of your card, you just need to be careful carrying a lot of cash with you.

Most countries in Africa readily accept US Dollars as their tourism rates are priced in USD. This is much easier if you don’t want to try and figure out the local currency, and often you won’t have an opportunity to find a local ATM anyway. You will need to bring whatever USD you will need with you, and request the smaller notes that you will require for tips since you won’t be able to break larger notes whilst on safari.

In South Africa and Namibia you should use the South African Rand which you can easily take out of ATMs throughout South Africa. The Rand is legal tender in Namibia, but if you are not going to South Africa beforehand you will use their Namibian Dollar instead which you can easily take out of an ATM in Windhoek or Swakopmund. The Namibian Dollar is linked one to one with the Rand, but please note that you cannot use Namibian Dollar in South Africa.

It is hard for us to advise you on the budget you should set for expenses on your trip as this will entirely depend where you are staying (i.e. luxury lodges vs basic bush camps), how much is already included in your particular tour package, and how much you like to eat, drink and shop. Like anywhere else, the more luxurious properties charge higher prices for higher quality meals, drinks, spa treatments and souvenirs than the more affordable properties do. But typically these types of extras are much more affordable than their equivalent would be back home.

Can You Please Give Me a Tipping Guideline to Follow?

Tipping in Africa is encouraged because for people like porters, safari guides and transfer drivers, tips make up a significant percentage of their salary. As mentioned, you should keep small bills either in USD or the local currency for tips. Expected amounts differ in each country and often depend on who it is that you are tipping. As a broad guideline, we recommend tipping the following (USD amounts are per person):

  • 10% of the total bill for good food and service at a restaurant or bar
  • $1-$2 for transfer drivers to/from airports and hotels
  • $1 per bag for porters
  • $3-$5 per day for personal butlers, trackers (if separate to guide), and tour drivers (if separate to guide)
  • $10 per day for professional guides remaining with you for the length of your stay at a safari camp or the length of an overland safari tour (given as a lump sum when you say goodbye)
  • $5 per day for staff at a safari camp (given as a lump sum in the communal tip box when you say goodbye)
  • $10 per day for a guide on a standalone full-day excursion/activity
  • $5 per day for a guide on a standalone half-day excursion/activity

What Power Adapters Should I Bring?

These days many hotels and safari camps have international power plugs installed so you will be able to use the same plugs you do at home. Otherwise, most countries in Africa use the British plug (Type G), and a few use the European plug (Type C). South Africa and Namibia use their own plug (Type M) which can also be found sometimes in Botswana, although Botswana more often has the British plug.

Will I Have WiFi While on Safari?

Every city hotel you stay at will have WiFi, and these days many safari lodges & camps also have WiFi access. Often at safari camps you won’t have access within your individual room and will have to go to the main lounge area of the camp to connect. However, there are still plenty of safari camps that do not have WiFi to protect the remote wilderness feeling for guests, so please check with your consultant if this is an important point for you.

If you have an unlocked mobile phone, you may also be able to get a SIM card at the airport on arrival which gives you data for the duration of your trip on the local network. This is very simple to do in South Africa.

What If I Have Special Dietary Requirements While on Safari?

In general, safari camps are good at catering for clients with food allergies or special dietary requirements. Because most camps are in remote locations and must fly their food in from major towns and cities, it is important that they know well in advance to give them time to plan. Please ensure you let your consultant know if you have any food allergies or dietary requirements so that they can ensure all your accommodations are aware.

Do I Really Need Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is essential for all travellers to Africa and should be purchased at the time you pay your non-refundable deposit to confirm your trip. Safari camps and lodges have strict cancellation charges and travel insurance is therefore recommended to recoup expenses in the event of unforeseen circumstances that prevent you from travelling. In addition, travel insurance is the only means of compensating you for any expenses that arise while travelling as a result of flight delays and cancellations, medical emergencies, or lost or damaged baggage. Emergency medical cover is the most vital element of your travel insurance. If you suffer an injury, medical costs can start to stack up quickly, especially if an emergency medical evacuation is required.

We have a partnership with both NIB and Allianz and would be happy to provide you with a discounted quote for comprehensive travel insurance if you do not already have adequate cover. Please ask your consultant for more information.

We hope you have the most incredible trip to Africa and please don’t hesitate to contact your consultant if you have any other questions that weren’t addressed in this guide.

You can see the African holidays we offer here.

If you want to find out more about the destinations in this article, or have any questions in general please contact us.