7 Myths About Traveling Africa AND JUST WHY They Are Wrong

Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes our regular column on solo female travel. It’s a significant topic I can’t adequately cover, therefore i brought in a specialist to talk about her advice for other women travelers to greatly help cover the topics important and specific to them! This month, Kristin reduces many of the most persistent myths in terms of traveling Africa.

When I told my friends about my first solo visit to Africa, they thought I was crazy.

“How about Ebola?”

“You can’t happen to be Africa alone! It’s too dangerous!”

“You’re likely to get eaten by a lion or something!”

That is a common reaction from anyone who has not gone to the continent and so are used to seeing it portrayed in an exceedingly negative light in the news headlines and popular culture. We often hear no more than the bad side: corruption, war, disease, crime, and poverty. With little else to be on, a lot of people naturally have a poor impression of Africa.

The truth is that Africa is a continent with incredibly varied cultures, landscapes, and activities that one could only experience there. Safaris are certainly a big draw, but there’s a lot more to Africa than that.

Africa is where I saw my first whale shark, where I spent additional time residing in the homes of individuals I’d just met than spending money on hostels, and where I safely hitchhiked from beautiful beach town to beautiful beach town.

It’s a continent filled up with people on the road, a thriving film industry, growing tech centers, and a lot of development projects. I am still continuously humbled by the hospitality and uniqueness I find there on every visit.

Yet every time I return back, I hear the same concerns, worries, and misperceptions. Today, let’s address them. Listed below are seven common myths about traveling in Africa – and just why they’re wrong:

“Africa is merely One Big Place”

Africa is often regarded as an individual place in the media and pop culture, like when Australia’s shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek described Africa as a country.

However the continent contains 54 countries, a large number of cultures, around 2,000 languages, and widely divergent landscapes.

Africa houses the largest desert on the planet (the Sahara) and the best free-standing mountain on the globe (Kilimanjaro). A lot more than 600 new species have already been discovered in Madagascar in only the last decade.

I’m constantly impressed by just how much variety there is in Africa.

I’ve sandboarded down giant orange dunes in Namibia.

I’ve walked along white-sand beaches in Tanzania.

I’ve trekked with gorillas in Uganda.

And I’ve eaten at BBQ joints in the townships of South Africa.

Discussing it like one big place is similar to saying that Europe is merely one big place.

Yet Africa is bigger than China, India, the contiguous U.S. & most of Europe – combined! With Africa, you can’t generalize.

“Africa is Dangerous”

Attacks in Kenya by the extremist group Al-Shabab, the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram in Nigeria, the issue establishing a good government in Somalia, civil war in South Sudan, and the complete Kony 2012 movement hasn’t helped Africa’s image.

Coupled with our cultural memory of “blood diamonds,” the Rwandan genocide, and Black Hawk Down, most people’s mental image of Africa is that of a location teeming with conflict and danger at every corner.

It’s true that a few of Africa is quite dangerous to visit through. But that is another instance where you can’t generalize. There are lots of, many safe regions aswell.

In line with the Institute for Economics and Peace (which bases its rankings on such factors as violent crime, terrorism, and internal and external conflicts), Mauritius, Botswana, Malawi, Ghana, Niger, Kenya, Zambia, Guinea-Bissau. Togo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Mozambique (to mention a few) are safer than the USA.

“Africa is for Voluntourism or Safaris”

I recall sitting in a restaurant in Namibia with some locals when one of these asked cheekily, “Just what exactly are you here to save lots of?” In the end, Africa sees numerous voluntourists who come to save lots of something and make an effort to do good (though often do the contrary).

46% of Peace Corps volunteers serve in Africa and, in 2014, South Africa alone welcomed 2.2 million volunteers!

For tourism, most people believe so that you can see Africa, you must embark on a safari and also have everything planned out for you personally. Hardly any imagine “backpacking” through Africa as possible and safe, but exactly like Asia or SOUTH USA, Africa includes a backpacker’s trail aswell, and it’s filled with those who are neither volunteers nor safari seekers.

There’s so much else to accomplish and see in Africa, like touring the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, lazing away on the famous beaches of Zanzibar, climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, exploring the ancient city of Marrakech in Morocco, scuba in Mozambique, exploring the townships in South Africa, and bungee-jumping at Victoria Falls in Zambia, among the natural wonders of the world.

“You will need a Lot of Money to visit Through Africa”

Since a lot of people assume they need to embark on a safari, they think it’s expensive to visit in Africa. But Africa doesn’t need to be the land of safaris that cost thousands of dollars each day and beach hotels with private butlers.

The contrary is in fact true. I was surprised that I possibly could drive myself through Kruger National Park in South Africa or Etosha National Park in Namibia, without paying a lot of money for a tour. Between those two parks, it is simple to spot “the big five” (the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard) by yourself.

I was impressed by the fantastic value for accommodations aswell. In Mozambique, I could rent a beach hut for only $15 USD per night, and you will find budget accommodations which range from $10 USD for a dorm room to $20 USD for an exclusive bungalow (in South Africa, Namibia, and Morocco, aswell).

I couldn’t believe how unique and funky the accommodations in South Africa were, from campsites to self-contained accommodations. In Tanzania, the campsites were usually in beautiful locations, with hot showers and cooking areas or even pools!

Transportation doesn’t need to be expensive either. For instance, there are budget safari options only $80 USD each day including food, accommodation, and activities (or take yourself on a self-driving safari); Baz Bus (targeted at backpackers in South Africa) offers cross-country hop-on/hop-off bus passes at under $400 USD; and car rentals in Namibia and South Africa run around $35 USD each day for a simple vehicle.

Africa doesn’t need to be super luxurious to be enjoyable!

“Africa is Dirty and Underdeveloped”

As I drove into Rwanda, I couldn’t believe how clean everything was, with almost zero trash privately of the street.

I was equally amazed by the sprawling mansions I saw upon entering the administrative centre, Kigali. Because the mid-’90s, Rwanda has pulled thousands of people out of poverty and maintained peace, together with involving more ladies in politics (61% of individuals in parliament are women – a lot more than any other country on the globe).

Cellular phone ownership is skyrocketing in Africa. I couldn’t think that in Tanzania, in the Serengeti of most places, I still had full 3G service. My coverage was way better out there than I often get in america!

I was similarly impressed by how good the roads were generally in most of southern Africa and elements of East Africa, including Tanzania and Zambia, for instance. There are certainly a lot of roads riddled with potholes or just manufactured from dirt, but that wasn’t nearly all my experience on the roads there.

While there are many (lots of) development issues that ought to be solved, the notion that most the countries in Africa are barely developed, poor backwaters is merely very far from the existing reality.

“Africa is Filled with Diseases”

The Ebola scare a year or two ago prompted my friends to worry that going to South Africa might put me in peril. The truth was that Europe, where I was living at that time, was actually closer geographically to the epidemic than South Africa. (Again, folks are geographically challenged in terms of this continent.)

Malaria is another big concern; however, there are major initiatives set up to eliminate it. While asking your physician about precautionary measures like malarone or doxycycline continues to be absolutely advisable, between 2000 and 2015, cases of malaria on the continent have dropped around 88% thanks to a rise of insecticide and mosquito nets. There’s been a 60% drop in mortality! Here’s a chart:

HIV and AIDS can be a problem, especially in South Africa and Botswana, where over 19-25% of the populace are infected. Having said that, the rate of infection in your community has fallen by 14% from 2010 to 2015. Elsewhere in Africa, such as for example in Madagascar, Morocco, and Tunisia, amongst others, the infection rate is below 0.5% of the populace.

“Traveling Alone There, Especially as a female, is an awful Idea”

Tell anyone who you plan to visit alone to Africa and you may be met with horrified reactions, because of each of the perceptions in the above list. I was admittedly a bit afraid to visit solo in Mozambique, mostly because I couldn’t find much information regarding it that was positive, but I went anyway and arrived of the knowledge with a great deal of new friends and wonderful memories.

I’ve found that solo female travel in Africa can be like anywhere else – you certainly need to be careful never to walk alone (especially during the night), shouldn’t get too intoxicated, must remain aware, and have to trust your intuition, but it’s not really a big disadvantage to be solo there. The locals often took me under their wing more, and per usual, I was surprised to find that there have been a lot of other solo travelers around, too.

***

As the media’s portrayal hasn’t been the very best for Africa, it really is, in reality, an excellent spot to travel through, with experiences you can’t have somewhere else. You may still find cultures in Africa that maintain their roots, animal encounters that don’t exist in other areas of the world, plus some of the very most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

Africa is has so much to provide, it has swiftly become my favorite continent to visit through, because of the friendliness, the heat, and the adventures. But don’t take my word for this, go and see for yourself and do not fall in love.

Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to visit the world within an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold most of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over eight years. There’s next to nothing she won’t try to almost nowhere she won’t explore. You could find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.

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