Two years ago, when I first announced my plans to visit Sub-saharan Africa, the first reactions I got were far from encouraging.
“It’s so dangerous! What if you get killed?”
“But there’s Ebola there. I also once read about a fly that can make you blind.”
“There’s nothing there. Maybe the lions are cool but people in Africa can’t even eat! And what about KONY?”
If you’re considering traveling anywhere in Africa, you’re bound to hear a few misconceptions from *cough cough* people who have never actually been there. While Africa does challenge you, especially as a solo female traveler, it doesn’t mean it’s dangerous or should be avoided. In this post, I address five common myths about travel in Africa.
Here, then, are five ridiculous myths about Africa (and why they’re bullshit)
But what about all the wars or whatever is going on there? It’s so dangerous!
Nigeria’s ongoing conflict with Boko Haram, the plague of violence in eastern DRC, Rwanda’s Genocide in 1994, the Ugandan Bush War in the eighties. Most people heard about these conflicts on the news around the world, but very few even cared enough to check what countries these conflicts were happening in and concluded that the entire continent was war-ridden.
It’s not entirely untrue that some parts of Africa are currently dangerous to travel to, but generalizing the entire continent is as ridiculous as if, say, there was a war going on in Costa Rica and suddenly saying you can’t go to Canada because it’s, you know… in the same continent and hence, full of danger.
Rwanda, for instance, is considered one of the safest countries in the world and there are so many other places in Africa that you can visit safely. Think Namibia, Botswana, or Tanzania to name a just few.
Traveling alone there as a woman will get you killed
I spent six months in 2017 traveling eastern and southern Africa on my own. In total, I covered 13,000 kilometers and never once felt in danger. Sure, there were times occasions when I had to keep about my wits, and a few times here and there in which I felt a bit uncomfortable, but never once did I think “oh, god, this is it. This is where my life ends.”
I took public transport everywhere I went and even hitchhiked a few times. Two years later, here I am, in one piece and plotting my return to the continent later this year.
Having a blast on a very dangerous beach at Diani Beach, Kenya
It’s full of diseases. You’re going to get Ebola!
When I announced that my flight to Nairobi was booked, a few of the responses I got were “but isn’t there Ebola there?”, “don’t you need to get like a thousand vaccinations to go there?”.
Again, some people are geographically challenged.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 affected countries like Sierra Leone and Guinea, both of which are closer in distance to Europe than Kenya!
Other diseases, like malaria or yellow fever, do exist in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, but there are many that have eradicated them and others in which the diseases are holoendemic (meaning they only exist in portions of the country). It’s not untrue that traveling to some countries in Africa does mean putting yourself at risk of catching a strange disease that doesn’t exist in say, Europe, but that doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get it.
Check the CDC for the latest news of outbreaks, vaccinate yourself against typhoid and Yellow Fever, and wear lots of mosquito spray and you’ll likely be okay!
It’s so underdeveloped and dirty. People are starving!
Kevin Carter’s infamous Starving Child and Vulture photograph of Sudan’s famine in the nineties left an imprint on everyone. Somehow, the media lead everyone to generalize the entire African continent, all the 54 countries in it, as a place where nothing thrives.
Let’s take a look at Rwanda, for instance. It has pulled over a million people out of poverty since the genocide in the ’90s and is currently the country with the most women in politics in the world. I was amazed at how clean and green it was, too! I hardly saw trash on the streets, and it was one of the first countries in the world to make plastic bags illegal! I actually wrote an entire post on how amazing Rwanda is and how the world could learn a thing or two about this incredible country.
It’s effing expensive to travel to Africa
It’s true that doing some activities in Africa can easily break the bank. A permit to see gorillas in Rwanda will set you back $1500, and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro costs a whopping $1200 if you manage to find a budget-friendly tour.
That, however, doesn’t mean that traveling the continent is expensive. If you want a cheap safari, you can easily find a ton of those in Malawi. Hostels or small guesthouses rarely cost more than $12 in most countries, and getting around Tanzania by dala-dala will set you back a few cents. Eating out at restaurants meant for tourists can easily set you back $20 in, say, Kenya or Tanzania, but if you walk a few meters, you’re bound to find a local restaurant where you can get a meal for anything under $2.
What are other myths you’ve heard about Africa?
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