Safety and Precautions in Africa
Travelers often ask us whether or not it is safe to travel in Africa. Our response is a confident assurance that yes, it is safe. This is especially true if you take a few precautions that are necessary any time you travel abroad. At Lark Tours we know that a little planning and some precautions can go a long way to ensuring a smooth and safe trip.
Here are our suggestions:
1.This process begins before you leave home:
- Avoid taking valuable jewelry, watches, expensive purses, or even costly articles of clothing.
- Leave behind unnecessary objects of value such as extra credit cards, social security cards, family valuables, and so on.
- Traveling light is a good idea - it is less to look after and keep track of.
- Bring a pouch or money belt for carrying your necessary valuables such as your passport and credit card. These are far safer than purses, handbags, wallets, and especially fanny packs.
- Consider setting a daily limit on your credit card (and bank card if you bring it) so that if your card is stolen the thief will only have access to a set amount of money and not the full balance of your account.
- Bring important telephone numbers with you. A good example would be to have your credit card company's international number in case your card is stolen or lost.
- If you are bringing anything that is essential to you, such as glasses or prescription drugs, make sure to bring extras.
- For prescription drugs, you will also need to carry a note from your doctor certifying that you need and/or are certified to posses that drug. Make sure you have enough to last during your trip. Keep them in their original prescription bottles and always in your carry-on luggage.
- Pack all valuables in your carry on. Things like cameras, laptops, important documents, and so on should go in your carry on. This will keep dishonest luggage inspectors, especially in African airports, from stealing your valuables.
- Put your name, address and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage. Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality. If possible, lock your luggage.
- It is always a good idea to bring extra passport photos, as well as a copy of your passport information page, in order to make it easier to get a new passport in the event that it is stolen or lost.
- Better yet, scan a copy of all your valuable documents (passport information page, credit card, etc) into your computer and then email them to yourself. That way, if you need them, you can access these documents from any computer that has an Internet connection.
2. Once you arrive in Africa, there are a few more things to consider:
- We cannot outline every possible scenario of what could happen, but just keep in mind that the main, underlying theme, one that applies to travel no matter where you go, is to use common sense at all times.
- One of your objectives should be to blend in as much as is possible. Wearing modest apparel with no obvious flashy jewelry or cameras is a good idea.
- Your passport is one of your most valuable possessions. Keep it somewhere that you know it will be safe, such as a hotel safety deposit box or your room safe, where available.
- For any other valuables that you must bring, never leave them in plain sight or unattended, whether in your room, or on your person. As with your passport, store them safely away in a hotel safety box, a room safe, or some other place of equal or greater security.
- Your passport, cash and credit cards are most secure when locked in a hotel safe.
- While traveling, never leave backpacks, purses, hand luggage, etc unattended.
- You should always closely watch your personal belongings.
- Do not carry around large amounts of cash. There are plenty of ATMs where you can withdraw money, either with your bankcard or with your credit card.
- Be cautious and ensure that you have total privacy when drawing money from ATMs.
- Never count your money in public. This attracts unwanted attention.
- When you go to pay for something, try to be as discreet as possible and count your money inside the wallet, not in your hand.
- One great trick is to carry two wallets. Use one to hold your credit cards and the bulk of your cash and use the other as a decoy. Put money and some insignificant cards, papers, etc into the decoy wallet to make it appear real. Then if a thief confronts you give him/her your decoy wallet.
- Alternatively, put your credit cards and big bills in your money belt and use your wallet to hold small change, enough for the day, as well as insignificant papers, etc. Then if your wallet is taken your loss will be minimal.
- Always do things in groups of three or more. Wandering off by yourself in territory that you are not familiar with can be unwise.
- Walking at night, especially in downtown areas, public parks, along footpaths, on beaches, and in poorly lit areas, by yourself or with a small group, without being accompanied by a guide or expert, is dangerous.
- Avoid public demonstrations, civil disturbances, etc. If and when these happen, there may be violence involved. Police are generally unable to properly manage large demonstrations and they often resort to excessive force to break up large crowds.
- Always be wary of pickpockets who will often distract you by jostling you, asking for directions, creating a disturbance, etc.
- If you are ever in a situation where you are being robbed or confronted by a criminal, it is usually best not to resist. Money and credit cards are easily replaced, but personal health is not.
- In many parts of Africa, thieves and con artists have been known to impersonate police officers, thus you are strongly encouraged to ask for identification if approached by individuals identifying themselves as police officials, uniformed or not.
Much of Africa is well developed. You do, though, have to remember that there is a lot more poverty in Africa than there is in the U.S. Many times you carry valuables that represent over a month’s wages for some of the local Africans, which can be very tempting for them. The goal behind many of these tips and precautions is to minimize and stymie their temptation, and, in the rare event that something does happen to you, to minimize your loss and difficulties. That being said, the odds of having a safe and incident free holiday are greatly in your favor. If you follow our guidelines, you will only increase your odds of having a trouble free vacation. Africa is a superb part of the world - our absolute favorite!
For more information on safety while traveling in Africa, look over the Consular Information Sheets on the U.S. Department of State website.
In case you would like some general information and statistics about these countries, visit the CIA World Factbook.
This article was written by Lark Tours staff members. We reserve all rights to this article.