Your passport is your most important travel document. Check it long before your travel date to make sure it is valid and up to date, in case you need to renew it. You need to have at least two blank pages in your passport and the expiry date needs to be more than 6 months after the end of your trip. If your passport does not meet these requirements, it is best to apply for a new passport because you may be refused entry if your passport expires within 6 months after your return journey, or does not have at least 2 blank pages for possible visas and immigration stamps. It's a good idea to make a certified copy of your passport and keep that in a separate place, and leave a copy at home in case you lose your passport so that someone can fax the copy to your embassy if required.
Visa requirements depend on the countries you will be visiting and the nationality of your passport. Most nationalities will not require a visa for visiting South Africa and Botswana and can purchase a tourist visa upon arrival for countries like Zimbabwe and Zambia. Some countries like Kenya and Tanzania require that you apply for a tourist visa in advance, via their embassies or consulates in your home country. It is your responsibility to find out whether you need a visa or not and to obtain the necessary visa if needed. Here are some helpful links:
For countries that charge a fee for a tourist visa, such as Zimbabwe or Zambia, it is important to have enough cash on you in USD to pay for your visas at the point of entry. Also, check your itinerary carefully to find out how many times you will be entering the country. A double-entry visa costs less than two single-entry visas, and if you need a multiple-entry visa, you may have to apply for that in advance from the Zambian consulate in your home country.
A common concern about travel to Africa is malaria. Many of Africa's top safari destinations are in malaria areas. However, cases of malaria among tourists are very rare. If you take appropriate prophylaxis against malaria such as Malarone, and take care to avoid mosquito bites, the risk of contracting malaria is very low. Malaria can be treated - if you feel sick during or after a visit to a malaria area, inform your doctor that you have been to a malaria region so you can be tested for malaria. Don't let the risk of contracting malaria stop you from going on a safari to Africa! For more information about malaria, and a map of malaria areas in Southern Africa, see our malaria information page.
Yellow fever is another mosquito-borne disease, uncommon but potentially serious. Yellow fever is absent from most countries on the African safari circuit, however certain countries such as Kenya carry a very low risk of yellow fever, and for this reason, you may need a Yellow Fever vaccine before your trip. Currently, South Africa requires all travellers arriving from or travelling through Kenya and Uganda to have a valid Yellow Fever certificate.
People with disabilities may find that accommodation and facilities in Africa are not always designed with accessibility in mind. If you or any member of your party have disabilities, it is extremely important that we make the necessary arrangements to make your holiday go smoothly. We must, therefore, insist that you contact our UK offices on 0203 474 0093 before completing any reservation to ensure compatibility with the holiday that you chose.
The most common currencies used in Southern Africa and East Africa are the South African Rand and the US Dollar. In South Africa, everything is priced in Rand and you can exchange your home currency for South African Rand upon arrival at the airport, or through any bank or Foreign Exchange office in your home country before departure. US Dollars are widely accepted, but some countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia have decided they will only accept newer notes (printed in 2004 or later). Bring your general spending money in small denominations ($1, $5 and $10 bills) as many merchants do not offer change. Zambia has recently passed a law that all local businesses must now invoice and trade in the local currency, Zambian Kwacha. You can exchange some of your Dollars for Kwacha upon arrival at the airport if you expect to make local payments. Never change money on the street. Apart from it being illegal, the likelihood of getting scammed with a very poor rate or fake bills is high.
Credit cards are widely accepted in most African countries, but sometimes connection problems or network issues in poorer countries may cause card facilities not to work, so have some cash on you just in case. In countries with modern infrastructure like South Africa, it is possible to draw cash almost anywhere.
A bit of common sense will help you keep your money and valuables safe, just like anywhere else in the world. Never carry your money in a visible money belt. Don't walk around with your wallet sticking halfway out your back pocket, begging to be stolen. Never leave money or valuables in your bags in your room, or in a vehicle. Always keep passports and valuables with you, or lock them away in your room safe.
How much spending money to carry will depend on where you are going, which meals, drinks and activities are already included with your accommodation, your personal expenses and optional extras you may want to pay for, your tipping habits, length of stay, etc. We give some more detailed advice about this in our pre-trip documentation, and please feel free to discuss this question with your consultant.