East or West Africa?
Replies: 5 - Last Post: Nov 12, 2012 12:47 AM Last Post By: ric_howard
Sep 26, 2012 2:40 AM
East or West Africa?I want to go on a long trip with Africa as a focus. One possibility is to go to South Africa for two months, then somewhere else on the planet, and then from november 2013 to West Africa:
- Burkina Faso
- would really love to go to Cameroon but flights from the forementioned West African countries aren't cheap. Could go by bus to Lagos, bus to Calabar and then ferry to Limbé, can anyone advise on the safety of this? Anyone know of another way to go to Cameroon?
Another option is to go from Cape Town to Nairobi, starting February 2013 and travelling slowly, as follows:
- South Africa (possibly also Lesotho and Swaziland)
- Mozambique (only Mozambique Island via the train through Nampula)
- Burundi (only Bujumbura, entering and leaving via the north from Rwanda)
I'm a 25 year old girl travelling alone, using public transport. Before I backpacked around Asia for 6 months, including India. Which option would be safer? Any countries or regions I'd better omit or reconsider due to safety concerns? Another option would be to go only to South Africa and spend more time elsewhere in the world.
Also I have extreme car sickness (pills don't work), usually sitting on a bus for around 6 hours is fine, but roads that are mountainous, go up and down a lot, have a lot of curves or have asphalt and thus drivers going through the curves at reckless speeds, all make me vomit. Which countries in particular will be difficult for this? I know that I will be sick on busses sometimes but this is worth it for me.
Someone told me that West African countries are more expensive than East African countries, is this true?
Another thing is that I go to Africa more for the people, culture, to experience reality rather than for nature. I'm not into seeing animals and safaris don't interest me.
Any advise, however particular or general, is appreciated.
Sep 26, 2012 5:14 AM
1hmm if you have problems with long bus journeys then perhaps Africa is not for you. The East African example will involve well over 150 hours on very hot, very bumpy, very fast, very dangerous buses, and that is an extremely optimistic target. Its worse than India with regard to buses as the roads are much worse, thought it is not as humid. If you managed Indian buses ok then you might be ok though as its not massively different.
Different countries are different prices, southern and east africa is a massive chunk of world. Depending on how long you have, i would say it would be better to concentrate on a piece of the continent (southern africa - namibia, botswana, zimbabwe, zambia) or maybe east africa (kenya, tanzania, Uganda) and explore the countries rather than race through them to tick them off, these are massive countries and you'll never get that sense of culture and reality if you don't spend at least a month or two in each one.
Sep 26, 2012 7:12 AM
2If lengthy or uncomfortable bus rides are problematic for you, then you are going to suffer a lot in Africa. A combination of bad roads and bad vehicles mean that travel in Africa is often bumpy, and buses are often PACKED. Even short trips can take ages: it's not uncommon for buses to average only 10-20 km/h.
In terms of safety and security, Africa is very unpredictable. This time last year, I'd have told you that Mali was just about the safest and most secure country in West Africa, and today it's a mess. What you have to do when you travel in Africa is keep abreast of the latest news, and check on the ground locally to hear what's going on, and which places you suddenly need to avoid.
As for East or West Africa: personally, I find West Africa more interesting, but both are certainly enjoyable. The Cape Town to Nairobi route has more tourists on it than much of West Africa, and there's more infrastructure for backpackers, and it will be easier to find others heading your way. In West Africa you'll be on your own more, and your trip will be much more enjoyable if you can speak some French.
As for the Nigeria section: this should be fine, as long as you have some Africa experience under your belt before you head into Nigeria, and as long as you can get a Nigerian visa (which isn't always that easy...). Lagos is hectic, but survivable with common sense, and after that it's a safe-enough overland journey to Calabar (I'd break up this trip, in places like Benin and Enugu), and you should find regular ferries into Cameroon and a Cameroon consulate that can give you visas in Calabar. But Nigerian bush taxi drivers drive like demons, so you're going to need to pack a few paper bags....
Sep 26, 2012 10:24 AM
3Re Botswana: the main attraction there is nature and game reserve. So if you absolutely don't want to see any of that, it might not be the best country. South Africa would be great for you - easy to break the journey in many parts, confi bus, lots of different cultures and possibilities to see villages/culture/people.
As for Namibia, it's a bit hard to travel by public transport over there (the bus will only bring you to main cities).
Have you thought about Zimbabwe? Current situation needs to be checked, but when I went it was one of the place where I met the most friendly and welcoming people ever!
Nov 9, 2012 4:04 PM
4Thank you for the replies so far. You're being very helpful, yet I'm still very much in doubt whether to go to West Africa and South Africa or whether to go from Cape Town to Kampala.
I will probably spend 2 months in South Africa and 1 month in Namibia no matter if I add West or East Africa. For West Africa, the time schedule could be something like this:
Ghana 1 month
Burkina Faso 1 month
Benin and Togo (or Cameroon) 1 month
The time schedule for East Africa would be more like this:
Zambia 1 month
Malawi 1 month
Tanzania 2 weeks
Uganda 2 weeks
Rwanda 2 weeks
Burundi 1 week
Is this too rushed? Does anyone have any idea of how long others take to go this route?
I was already afraid that I would meet less other travellers in West Africa. How many other travellers does one meet, close to zero? I do speak enough French to get by though.
Indeed South Africa sounds like a relatively good country to be in with car sickness in Africa! Considered Zimbabwe, but maybe it's too dangerous? My government specifically advises against travelling by train in Zimbabwe, which I would be doing. Would also be travelling by train wherever possible in South Africa, but I guess that would be less risky. Did you feel safe in Zimbabwean trains? Were there lots of other people using them?
Nov 12, 2012 12:47 AM
5there was a very bad rail accident in Zimbabwe in the early 2000's i think near vic falls which is probably why governments are warning of rail travel there, i dont think its 'safe' anywhere in africa but this might be a reason why there is a specific warning. the problems usually stream from import bans and limited currency which means thousands of people take to trains because there is no fuel for other forms of transport etc so when these trains crash they create high casualties which ups the apparent risk-factor of taking them if looked at a km/fatality database which i am sure that people use to assess such infrastructure. Also I'm sure the tracks and carriages are probably poorly maintained but you could say this about a lot of countries.
on your itinerary, 2 weeks is a long time in Rwanda, it is very, very small, i would spend an additional week in Uganda as its a vast country and most people who come here as a stop through to get to rwanda end up staying longer than they thought!
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