Lumping in a whole topic under the title “Traveling Africa: Where To Start” is a big task, Africa, as a continent is about twice the size of the United States, so lets get real, mashing everything together into an over generalization about such a massive place, is basically impossible. But we’re going to throw out an introduction to the general topic here which hopefully will lend some thought to your planning process for anyone who’s thinking about heading out on the adventure of a lifetime.
Everyone has a romantic desire to go to Africa, somewhere, even if you don’t know it. You’ve probably been watching Out Of Africa one too many times or memorized the complete works of Ernest Hemingway.
If that’s the case then you’re probably looking for a modest introduction to the continent, something that’s relatively safe and familiar.
What are your choices country-wise?
Sadly most of northern Africa is out of the question these days. Post Arab summer these countries are still a little iffy if not down right “no go land”.
West Africa, tourism-wise Senegal and Ghana are pretty good, but still a little rough around the edges – ie. lacking the familiarity that new arrivals might favor.
Southern and Eastern Africa are going to be your best bets and beside these are really the Out Of Africa / Hemingway that you’re probably thinking.
South Africa might as well be Europe. It is an easy country to digest, almost everyone speaks English, all amenities and creature comforts are pretty much everywhere at every hotel, restaurant etc. Pretty much every eating establishment is going to have European quality food safety standards etc, etc… if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can easily rent a car and drive yourself around on a roadtrip through the countryside.
South Africa is the exception to the rule in terms of self guided Africa. Anywhere else you’re going you would do well to hire a guide beforehand. Kenya and Tanzania are the obvious choices, these guys have been putting up with tourists for a really long time and know how to handle it, they will probably all be friendly, all speak English. Hotels will have proper restaurants, rooms, bedding, a cold beer.
Off the beaten path a bit, Zambia is a better alternative these days to Zimbabwe, although Victoria Falls still welcomes tourists with open arms. Botswana is gorgeous, but less developed than other countries. Namibia is fantastic, ex-German colony, so well run, nuff said. Mozambique, is a worthwhile consideration, after a horrible civil war that ended around 1993, the country has figured out that a healthy and happy tourism industry is a great way to generate revenue.