For a first-time visitor to East Africa self-drive vehicle are not advisable. Some of the tarmac roads are in poor condition and the traffic is heavy. Most of the roads to the National Parks and Reserves are gravel roads, which are very rough and can become a treacherous sea of mud during the rainy season. If you still insist on driving on your own, you need an international driving license. Self-drive vehicles are commonly available in Rwanda and Kenya but not in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda. Crossing international borders in East Africa is also not possible with rented self-drive vehicles.
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East Africa is a photographer’s haven. It is abundant in wildlife and bird life in their natural habitat, magnificent scenery, diverse culture and unlimited sunlight. It is difficult not to capture its beauty. While on safari, one must remember that the animals are not tame and it is advisable to keep a distance or remain in the vehicle.
When taking shots of local people, respect their culture and always seek permission from them first. Photography around government institutions and premises is prohibited. Tourists intending to film and take photos in parks and public city space for commercial purposes have to apply for a permit beforehand. The use of drones is not allowed.
A UV filter and lens hood is required to reduce the glare while a camera bag comes in handy to protect the equipment from the dust.
East Africa has good telecommunication networks for local and international services. International STD system is fully operational in most urban centers and there are mobile phone networks in most urban centers too. Radio call equipment is available in most lodges and tented camps located in remote areas where telephone facilities have not yet been installed. Radio call communication is not available in Ethiopia.
Internet services are available in most lodges although the speeds may not match those in other parts of the world and the prices are high due to long distance calls to the service provider.
As elsewhere in the world, visitors are advised not to leave cash and valuables in their hotel rooms but make use of the hotels safe deposit box.
Visitors should also not carry large amounts of cash while walking on the streets.
They should also be careful with handbags and other valuables while in crowded places and busy streets. It is advisable to take a taxi/cab if you are visiting the city after 6pm. Walking alone at night should be avoided. Besides an efficient police force and a special Tourist Police Unit, most hotels employ experienced security personnel.
All in all it is advisable to take precautions as anywhere in the world.
Visitors arriving into East Africa must have valid vaccination certificate for yellow fever!
This is particularly important when crossing from one East African country to another.
Typhoid and cholera vaccination certificates are also recommended.
Malaria is rare in Kigali and Nairobi and the highlands but prevalent in hot and humid low altitude areas such as the Coastal region, Lake Victoria and the savannah.
Visitors are advised to consult with their doctor on the best time to take Malaria prophylactics when visiting East Africa.
It is safe to swim in the sea and swimming pools but it is not recommended in lakes, rivers and open reservoirs as you risk getting infected with bilharzia.
We encourage visitors to East Africa, to drink bottled water which is widely available in supermarkets and general stores.
The Flying Doctor Service, which covers the entire East African region, provides highly effective emergency response and ambulance services in case of accidents.
There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency you bring into any of the East African countries.It is advisable to change the foreign currency into local currency only in banks and Forex Bureaus. Before your departure visitors can change the local currency back to their original currency but visitors may be asked for the initial exchange receipt. US$ are acceptable for payments in most tourist establishments and are commonly used than the Euros. Many hotels and National Parks quote their rates in US$ for visitors.
The present Exchange Rates are as follows:
1 US$ = 100.00 Ksh
1 US$ = 2104 Tsh
1 US$ = 3530 Ush
1 US$ = 803.00 Rwandan Franc
1 US$ = 21.92 Ethiopian Diir
The exchange rates are constantly changing, for live exchange rates you can refer to Xrates.com. Credit cards such as Visa Card, Master card and Chinese Union Card are widely accepted in tourist establishments; with a 5% -7% surcharge for processing card payment. In Rwanda and Kenya there are many ATM's where you can use credit cards to obtain cash. The banking system in Kenya & Rwanda are very advanced as compared to Uganda, Tanzania & Ethiopia. Banking hours are usually from 8.00 am – 4.00pm from Monday – Friday. At the Airports the banks are open 24 hours.
Tourist Visas can be obtained at most entry points though visitors are advised to obtain their visa from their home countries to avoid delay at the entry points.
The visa fees vary between Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Uganda.
The single entry visa allows multiple entries within the East African countries. However, applications for a Rwanda and Kenyan visa can be done online.
Tourists traveling to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda can also apply for the East African Tourist Visa, a multiple-entry visa which covers travel to these three countries.
To apply for the Rwandan Visa online visit: Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration & Emmigration
To apply for the Kenyan Visa online visit: Republic of Kenya Electronic Visa System
Visitors are not allowed to engage in any paid or unpaid employment during their stay except with written permission from the Department of Immigration.
Apart from personal effects visitors may bring with them cameras, binoculars, cigarettes, perfumes and spirits in such quantities as are in the opinion of the authorities consistent with the visit. Gifts are subjected to duty while firearms; illicit drugs and obscene literature are prohibited.
Because of East Africa’s geography, the temperature, rainfall and humidity vary widely. The region experiences different climatic conditions.
Rwanda has a temperate climate with two rainy seasons (February to April and November to January), mild in the mountains but with frost and snow possible.
The area around Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in Africa is generally hot, fairly humid with rainfall spread throughout the year. The area receives the highest rainfall of 200mm in April while the lowest is in January. Temperatures range from 180C to 280C. The highlands around Mt. Kenya, Mt Kilimanjaro and the Rift Valley enjoy perhaps the most agreeable weather in the country. There is a great variation of climate between the hot and relatively dry floor of the central Rift Valley and the snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. Rainfall varies from 20mm in July to 200mm in April and falls into 2 seasons (Long rains March – May and Short rains October–December). Temperatures vary from a minimum of 100Celsius to 280 Celsius. The coastal belt is hot and humid all year round with coastal sea breezes. Average temperatures vary little throughout the year ranging from a minimum of 240 C to 300C.
The semi arid areas of Northern and Eastern Kenya and Eastern and Southern Tanzania experience the most extreme variations of temperature ranging from 400C during the day to 180C at night. Rainfall is sparse but when it falls, it often falls in form of violent storms.
Rainfall season in Ethiopia is between July and October if you are visiting the northern circuit which covers Ethiopia’s Historical attractions. If you are visiting the South, the rains are experienced in April and May. The average temperature in Ethiopia is 250C.
Uganda is sunny most of the year, with temperatures rarely rising above 29oC. The heavy rainy season is March-May, light rainy season November-December, though there will always be a few hours of sunshine. June is usually dry, but showers can still be expected.
Can Harmony Safari Expeditions arrange my flights for me?
Yes, Harmony Safari Expeditions can take care of all your travel arrangements, from the moment you leave your hometown to the time you return.
What medical precautions do I need to take before traveling in Africa?
Apart from some portions of Southern Africa, most parts of Africa are malaria areas and it is recommended that travelers see their doctors for a course of prophylactics prior to travel. When traveling to Kenya,Tanzania and Rwanda you will require a recent yellow fever inoculation. Travelers traveling to Botswana, Zambia or Zimbabwe and coming from a yellow fever region must also be inoculated against yellow fever.
Can I use my credit card in Africa?
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in most restaurants, shops and hotels in most large cities throughout the continent. Diners Club and American Express may not be accepted in some countries. Proof of identification may be required when paying by credit card, so be sure to carry some form of photo identification at all times.
What should I be aware of when driving in Africa?
In most African countries traffic drives on the left and gives way to the right. Drivers must have a valid driver’s license, with photo, or an international driver’s permit. Seat belts are mandatory. Self-drive in South Africa and Namibia is easy to adapt to, with signposting in English and rental cars easily available in all major cities. There are a number of toll roads in South Africa that are clearly indicated well before reaching the toll stations, where payment may be made at an attended booth. Overtaking on the inside is not illegal in South Africa and is a common practice, so remember to be aware of cars on the inside when changing lanes. In general, speed limits are 120 km/h (75 miles/h) on freeways and 60 km/h (37 miles/h) in towns and cities. In Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania places of interest are generally only accessible by dirt roads, which are often in a bad condition during the rainy season. Road conditions vary widely and a 4x4 vehicle is usually necessary. Self-drive travel in these countries is not recommended.
Do I need a visa to travel in Africa?
As a rule, it is very likely that you will need a visa to travel to your selected destinations in Africa. Citizens of some countries (particularly the Commonwealth), may be exempt when traveling to specific African countries. As a rule, it is always a good idea to check visa requirements at your local embassy or consulate ahead of travel, as they do change quite frequently. Although some countries may offer visas at the place of entry, travelers are rather encouraged to obtain these prior to travel in order to save time and money. When entering an African country, your passport should generally be valid for at least six months longer than the duration of your stay and must have enough blank pages for the visa and entry stamps.
What type and standard of accommodation will I encounter?
A wide variety of accommodation, from five-star hotels to guesthouses, game lodges, bed and breakfasts, caravan camps and camps can be encountered in most tourist hotspots throughout Africa. In the cities there are also award-winning boutique hotels and spa resorts. However, accommodation in national parks and other places where numbers of visitors are limited can fill up quickly, particularly in high season, and it is recommended that you reserve all your accommodation as far in advance as possible.
How much luggage can I take?
If you are going on safari, remember that luggage capacity is limited on small planes and other modes of transport you are likely to use. It is likely that you will need to restrict your luggage to 15 kg (33 lb), packed in a soft duffle bag, plus a reasonable amount of camera equipment.
Where can I find an ATM?
ATMs are found throughout major city centres and shopping complexes in most parts of Africa.
How much should I tip?
Please only tip if you feel the service warrants it and use your common sense – there is no expectation for exorbitant tipping anywhere in Africa. We recommend that you tender small amounts to hotel or lodge staff at the end of your stay. When in doubt, please ask lodge managers for a tipping guideline. It is customary to tip 10% of the bill at all restaurants and 10% of the fare to taxi drivers.
Will I be able to access the internet?
Internet connectivity is slow in many places in Africa. Guests traveling to remote areas should be able to dial up, unless they are at a game lodge or camp in one of the many wilderness areas, where connections may be slow or non-existent. In most other African countries Internet connections are only available in the larger towns.
Is Africa a good birding destination?
Africa offers exceptional birding in diverse destinations, boasting not only an excellent array of indigenous species, but a large number of migrants. There are many Rift Valley lakes of eastern Africa with diverse birding destinations and huge variety of species, South Africa is also an excellent country for keen birders.
Will I be able to buy memory cards or film for my camera?
Memory cards and film are available in most large cities and towns. However, the quality may vary and it is recommended that you bring your own.
Is Africa a good destination for traveling with children?
Africa is a great destination for travel with children and you can be assured that all young travelers will receive the warmest welcome. Many safari lodges throughout Africa cater for specific age groups and arrange exciting activities for children, although children under six are generally not permitted on game drives. There are also a number of other adventures available, from beach holidays, boat rides and cruises, horse riding, surfing, hiking and many others.
Will I have cellphone reception in Africa?
When traveling in Africa you should be able to get cellphone reception, unless you are at a game lodge camp in one of the many wilderness areas. In some African countries, cellphone connections may only be available in and around the larger towns. Guests are advised to check with their cellphone operator before traveling. Cellphone cards can be purchases in most towns and at the larger airports. There is Blackberry connectivity across Kenya and in most African capital cities (even in Zanzibar and at the Ngorongoro Crater).
Is it ok to take photos everywhere in Africa?
As always, it is courteous to be sensitive and ask permission before photographing people. In most African countries it is illegal to take photos of airports and military installations.
Is it safe to travel in Africa?
Africa is perfectly safe to visit and the African people are renowned for their warm hospitality. As with any travel, it is a good idea to take the standard precautions. Keep your passport and valuables close at hand or safely locked away and don’t leave luggage unattended. When traveling in town, check with your tour operator or hotel concierge to see if there are any areas that should be avoided. Avoid isolated or deserted areas, particularly at night, ensure that your car is locked at all times and park in well-lit, busy areas. Avoid wearing excessive jewellery when exploring Africa’s diverse cities and make use of concealed travel wallets. When driving through Africa, it is not recommended to stop for hitchhikers.
Is the tap water safe to drink in Africa?
Tap water in most African countries are purified and is safe to drink, however, bottled water is highly recommended.
Should I take out travel insurance before my trip to Africa?
We strongly recommend that you take out adequate travel insurance when confirming your booking. This should cover any medical situation (such as hospitalization), as well as cancellation or curtailment of arrangements and loss of your baggage.
What clothes should I pack when traveling to Africa?
The most practical items to pack for an African safari are light cotton tops and cotton trousers or shorts in khaki, brown, white and beige. Due to the high altitude on the rim of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, night time temperatures are cold even in summer. Travelers to these regions should pack a fleece or sweater, as well as a warm jacket for game drives. Swimwear is a must when traveling to the coastal areas of South or East Africa. Comfortable walking shoes are essential for those planning bush walks or walking safaris. Guests intending to climb Mount Kilimanjaro should pack thermal underwear, light layers, a sweater, warm jacket, good socks and sturdy boots.
What is the electricity supply and what plugs are used?
The standard voltage throughout Africa is 220V AC. Southern Africa make use of three-pronged round plugs, while a three-pronged square plug is used in East Africa.
What kinds of food will I be able to eat?
Most large cities in Africa offer a large variety of restaurants and cuisines from around the world. Options in rural areas may be more limited, but most safari lodges and camps pride themselves on their cuisine, which may include variations on local specialties. Most places can cater for special diets, as long as they are given plenty of advance warning.
How physically demanding are your programs, especially the game drives and game viewing activities?
Generally, the safari programs are not physically demanding, and are enjoyed by anyone who is reasonably fit. The only physical activity on safari is a game walk, but usually they are not strenuous. Participation in these activities are at the discretion of tour participants