Travelling solo in East Africa
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Jan 31, 2013 2:08 PM Last Post By: gerbilina
Jan 22, 2013 2:35 PM
Travelling solo in East AfricaHI! My partner and I are doing a round the world trip next year, and plan to spend about 3 months in East Africa. Our itinerary will hopefully be Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and into Tanzania, finishing up in Zanzibar.
How popular is this route, and to calm down my parents (and hers) how safe is it do independently? As far as I can tell, it seems pretty swell. I've met people who've done truck tours through these areas, but we're far more intrepid and would like to do it solo.
We'll be 25 at the time, and we've traveled ALL over S.E Asia, as well as New Zealand and Australia, so we know what we're upto. Basically, what can we expect for hospitality in these areas, and how difficult will it be in comparison to travelling in Asia (we had some pretty trying times in the Philippines for example)
Heaps of thanks in advance for responses.
Jan 22, 2013 2:51 PM
1If I travel abroad I always have a big stick behind my back. The result always is top security.
East Africa and Asia. In East Africa the social contacts are intact. In Asia often/usually not because almost all of them are money orientated.
The countries you have mentioned are more or less okay. You should worry more about your airline delivering your lugguage to you at your destination airport.
Have a good and cool time in East Africa.
Jan 22, 2013 2:52 PM
2Travelling in East Africa is NOTHING like travelling in South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. There isn't a big back-packer scene in East Africa so its just not geared up for this kind of travel. Don't get me wrong - it is possible to travel independently - iIts just much much harder than the places you have visited. This is why most people do overland truck tours.
We usually travel independently and wing it when we get to a place. We have done just this in every part of the globe. We tried to do it this way the first time we visited East Africa but wasted a lot of time and money. I go to Kenya twice a year now, and have friends there, but I still organise all my travel arrangements through the travel consultant I met on that first visit in 2006.
Jan 22, 2013 3:43 PM
3I will make a few assumptions: 1 that you want to travel freely - use public transport etc; 2 go on safari, see the real places of interest.
OK from the above - it is not a problem to travel to most of the places you want to see using public transport. You just have to be a bit more flexible with your timetables - add extra days etc. Safaris - places of interest - well yes you can get to many of them using public transport - but others do require the use of the professional companies. Once you have sorted out an intinerary / times dates etc then you can start to firm up the organisations you need for the safaris. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are all considered relatively safe - in Kenya stay away from the NE - Somali border region; Uganda - similarly its the NW up against the Congo (both of them). Not been to Rwanda or Burundi but in general are ok - but again its the regions to the west near the Congo borders that are less safe.
Preparation - I would recomend getting all 5 visas before you leave home - provided there is a consulate or embassy in your home country. Rwanda/Burundi you made need to make arrangements to get in Narobi. Second - vaccinations. Well since you have been to SE Asia you are familiar with anti-malarial products, other vaccinations (1) Yellow Fever will be compulsory - all East Africa is an " at risk" area; others to consider - Hep A & B; ensure tetanus & polio vaccinations are up to date; consider Rabies - as you are likely to be more than 24-48 hours away from a major hospital (Nairobi). So visit your major public health/travel clinic for some advice.
Go and enjoy - just tell your collective parents that you may never leave Zanzibar!!??. Rgs O_Mike
Jan 22, 2013 10:51 PM
4Yeah, tell your collection of parents that they can send their holiday postcards to you in the future to Zanzibar. That you will stay in Zanzibar.
Jan 23, 2013 4:41 AM
5I've done both in the area, flew to Zanzibar then worked my way up to Nairobi independently, then did the truck tour thing from Nairobi up to see the gorillas. Basically I decided to do the second part like that because firstly I was friends with the guide, second gorilla permits can be a pain in Uganda if you just show up and try to do it all independently.
I'd say there is a decent enough backpacker scene in these towns though certainly not as well developed- there's usually one hostel in a town like Arusha where tourists tend to go, then more outfitters than you can shake a stick at for the typical things like going on safari or what not. Zanzibar was just as fine as any tropical paradise island you can imagine with multitudes of tourists (if you've been to Asia this'll prolly be fairly familiar to you), plenty of guesthouses in Stone Town and what not, and lots of resorts all around the island these days. Used to be Nungwi on the northern tip was the chill backpacker spot but two years ago when I was there it was starting to turn into any other overdeveloped place overrun by other tourists etc, so not sure if that still holds.
Biggest thing btw I will recommend in that part of Africa is when checking out a place to stay be sure to ask if they have a generator. Even in Zanzibar which you'd think was developed enough had the power go out for 2 months (no joke) before I showed up, and short outages were common. Beyond that though I think you prolly have enough experience to go around and figure it out.
Jan 23, 2013 2:17 PM
6Andro - the power problem(s) on Zanzibar where back in 2009 or 2010 (I think) when the 40 year old cable from the mainland failed. A new cable has been operating since 2010 but yes there are problems with power. The major resort/4-5 Star hotels now have back-up power (a result of the cable failure) but if its anything like I experienced in 2011 - the power went of around 6.15 pm and came back around 7.25 pm each night. So the recommendation was to carry a small torch/flashlight and eat early.
In Tanzania (which I can speak about from personal experience) the problem is that with much of their power is generated by hydro-power, so any short drought or drop in seasonal rainfall means less electrical power and with its population increasing (up 5 mil in the last 7 years) the demand is also going up. There will be an improvement went the new gas fired power stations come on line but that is probably a year - 18 months away. I can not speak for Kenya, but Uganda does have some problems - but not as bad or regular as TZ.
Jan 24, 2013 5:15 AM
7Kenya also has problems with power - particularly during droughts (hydro-electric power as in Tanzania). Electricity can be rationed - one day on and one day off type of thing. Where I stay, this impacts the water supply as electricity is needed to pump water. Electricity and water are not things to take for granted in Kenya.
Jan 24, 2013 9:45 PM
8Alright, thanks for the responses! The power thing really isn't that big an issue for us, we reguarly stayed at places where thered be no power for 3 days then maybe a few hours for a few in asia. Adds a bit of charm, and if it gets too much you can always move on!
So organisation is one of the more difficult parts of an Africa trip? Does the hassle and cost vs the convenience but lack of adventure on a truck tour equate. Anyone got any experiences there? Whatd you say andromeda?
Also budgetwise - how does it rack up? Comparable to where? It looks expensive, but i can only presume this is due to a lack of backpacker related infrastructure and massive distances.
Lastly, has anyone been to Burundi? Is it worth the 90 dollar visa? Or would we be better suited to skipping it and going to tanzania via Rwanda?
Jan 31, 2013 11:19 AM
I have spent time travelling with friends in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania (including Zanzibar).
First of all I would disagree with orion_mike on the visa front. We got all our visas at the respective borders with no problems at all. Visas for Uganda and Tanzania were US$50, Kenya US$25 and Rwanda was free. However I understand that this depends on your nationality (we were all on UK passports) and the costs can change at short notice so I recommend you check this out.
Personally I think if you have a lot of time (which you do) its certainly worth NOT doing a truck tour and getting around via public transport. Public transport is fairly easy to organise to most areas (the exception being some of the more remote corners and national parks). Especially when you consider costs saved by going by public transport (public buses on average were about $1.50 per hour travelled when I went) its definitely worth it.
In terms of general costs, there are not many hostels at all in the region so this may bump your costs up, compared with say, SE Asia. However in Kenya, Uganda and mainland tanzania, it is still relatively easy in most places to get a cheap room for two people for USD15 per night. It should be noted however that cheap hotels are not as good as their equivalents in SE Asia - many are old, almost none have hot water, etc. Food can be cheap if you eat local stuff- however many larger towns will have western restaurants which are expensive and will push costs up. Day to day travel will often not exceed USD50 per person per day, assuming you are staying in the cheaper places, not moving about constantly, etc. HOWEVER this does not include things like safari's, gorilla trekking, etc which I would budget for separately (gorilla's are about $500-600 per person, decent safari about $300-350 per person per day.)
My own personal highlights of things you should see/do in the region-
Lamu - north east kenya, amazing town, looks like it hasn't changed in centuries, everyone gets around on donkeys, nice beaches, dhow trips are definitely worth it
Lake Bunyoni - south west uganda, beautiful lake, with loads of little islands on, peaceful and tranquil, stay at byoona amagara retreat (it will be in your LP/guidebook)
Murchison Falls NP - one of the less visited parks in the region when compared to Masai mara, serengeti, etc, but loads of wildlife, and the murchison falls itself is spectacular
Zanzibar stone town - touristy in parts but still a wonderful place to wonder round, the nightly fish market at foodahrani gardens is amazing
Lake Kivu- lake in rwanda, has a beach, there are hot springs near by, great place to go to really get away from the tourist track (we never saw any westerners there)
Lake turkana - far north kenya- absolute trek to get up there but in my opinion worth it to go to part of the region where few bother, people still in full tribal dress, the desert is amazing. the lake is also home to about 10-15 thousand nile crocodiles (highest concentration in the world apparently)
any more questions, let us know
Jan 31, 2013 2:07 PM
10In August 2011 me and my boyfriend spent a month in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania (and Zanzibar). We went with a truck - and as we had limited time I think it allowed us to do and see the most possible things in the time. We also didn't realise that is was so possible to do it independently. However on our travels we met lots of people at campsites that were doing it alone. Some had hired cars and some were public transporting it. We did run into the same people we met in Jinja, Uganda in Zanzibar - they has public transported it and got there at the same time as us but hadnt done gorillas or safari. As you have 3 months I'd say do it yourselves, just be aware you might have to wait 3 days for the next bus out of a town. Enjoy!!! Enjoy the gir
Jan 31, 2013 2:08 PM
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