Africa Branch FAQ
Replies: 69 - Last Post: May 17, 2013 7:35 PM Last Post By: chefhagan
Apr 5, 2005 12:35 PM
May 11, 2005 5:10 PM
31How long is my Ethiopian visa valid?
On your Ethiopian visa, the days start counting when the visa is issued -- not from the date of entry. If you get a 1 month visa, and then wait 3 weeks before entering Ethiopia, you will only have one week left on your visa. Many, many tourists have been overstaying their visas based on this bad info. I overstayed my visa by only 3 months. Fortunately, the fine for overstaying a visa is a very reasonable $20/month.Cheers from Addis Ababa,
Edited by: Irene_Adler
May 21, 2005 10:06 PM
32I want to go to Central Africa/Congo/DR of Congo. What should I know?
Hey all just got back from Central Africa. Here is some of the info I wish I had. Obvisouly if have any further questions email or pm me. Although it takes me a while to get back to the PMs. Sorry its so convoluted.
the border between Congo(Brazza) and Gabon in the East near Leconi on the Gabon side is open for both sides. From the Gabon side take the train to Franceville and hitch a ride to Leconi. From there it is about an hour walk to the border. Where you can ususally find a ride to Okoyo- which will take at least a day in the dry season. From Okoyo there is almost daily transport to Oyo- but figure it will take another day. Keep in mind many locals simply walk from Okoyo to Leconi. So grab that backpack and join in.
In general upcountry travel or North of Oyo- There is pretty reliable travel from Oyo to Okoyo and Owando. From Owando to Ouesso you have to hitch a ride on a loggin truck which could take between 3 and 7 days.
In the SE corner of Cameroon is a border from the logging town of Socambo (Angola to the locals) to the river town of Ouesso. Socambo is where all the local loggers come to recharge after being kept in the bush for about 2 weeks chopping down trees- so it is predominately male- meaning satellite tv with Man U games and many many prostitutes. Most rooms are attached to the bars, come with mosquitoe nets and your own surround sound with no off switch. Cost is between 2-5000CFA
To get across a pinasse goes about 3 times a week to Ouesso it will be about 1000CFA or you can charter your own for 4000. However be prepared to be shanghaied for your watch or more money before you reach Ouesso (as I was)
Now here is the thing about travel in Congo Brazza- it is all very seasonal. From about end of May to the end of Dec is the wet season making the roads impassable but the rivers high and fast. From Feb to April its dry so take the truck. Now if you are there in April or Jan its tricky the roads are still puddled but the rivers are low. Either way expect the length of your trip from X to Y to double whatever the driver/captain tells you.
In Ouesso there are about 5 boats that do the trip from here to Brazzaville. The Equatiorial is by the worst and the Oduaka is marginally the best. However if you are in Ouesso you will probably take the first boat out anyway. In the high season it takes about 5-7 days to brazzaville in the low season it takes about 7-14 days depending on the river height the draft of your barge and the amount of snuff consumed by your captain. The best way to do this is to camp on the boat. Cause you are going to need shade, sleep, and to attempt some privacy. Second you dont want to be on the main barge as the sheer amount of people, and women smokin their fish make it difficult to unbearable. Think floating refugee camp.
If the river is low these barges will leave from Pokola the next town down river. Supplies are few and far between so get everything in Ouesso. Your boat will stop in Pikunda and Moosaka for the police. If you are foreign or are carrying goods you need to pay a tax of 2-4K-CFA. Everyone pays at least 2K even the regulars so be prepared to pay at least that. Moosaka is where all 3 rivers converge the Sangha, the Congo, and the Oubangui. It is also where everyone who is been on a boat for x amount of time gets off and drinks alot. Here is probably the only time you seriously need to worry about your stuff. As theives hang out at the port waiting to get on and steal things from drunk passengers.
From Moosaka to Brazza its smooth sailing and a standard 2 day- boat is running 24 hr- trip. Or...
you can get into a pirogue for 7000CFA for 20 hours to get to Oyo. At the port walk up the hill onto the main through fare turn right towards the traffic circle and you will see about 20 busses and vans waiting to take you to Brazza. It costs 7000CFA and they all leave at 3AM to get you there by 9AM.
Most of these busses are well maintained by Africa standards and relatively safe. They drop you off outside the city and it costs a 1000K by taxi to get to the beach.
The beach is one of those places that is just pure madness even if you've made it this far you will still be minorly shocked. Cripples, men with whips you also lock young trouble makers in closets. Dont buy any of the permits or fake documents they will sell you- only your ticket for the boat- and watch your back.
The train from Brazza to Point Noire is still considered dangerous by locals who still ride it cause its the only means to get around. The cobras and ninjas still come on board and demand money and goods from passenjers. However it does seem like the gov't and the militia have some sort of deal as they dont take any government goods only yours.
If from Brazzaville you want to head east to Zaire-upon arrival in Congo Zaire women go upstairs and men go downstairs and they keep everyone locked on the dock till the whole boat has disembarked. Many people will demand your passport. Make sure they show you their badges and tell them you will follow them to the customs agent but do not hand over your passport.
In brazza or at Kinshasha you can charter a small motor boat to take you all way down to Soyo for about 50USD. From Soyo you can get trucks to Luanda with surprising regularity.
To get to Illebo you can take a smallish barge or pinasse to Illebo and from there further down the Kasai River. The journey from Kinshasha to Illebo takes about a week. In Illebo you can get a train all the way to Lumbubushi but it is notoriously slow and breaks alot figure between 3 and 8 days. Bring alot of that Spanish table wine and you'll make a lot of friends.
Air Travel: Flights leave to Lububushi almost everyday.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Aug 3, 2005 12:22 PM
33"Is it safe to cross the road?" (in Morocco)
Yes, usually, with the possible exception of Blvd. Pasteur in the Ville Nouvelle of Tanger.
Look left, look right, look left again.
Watch out for especially for motorbikes. If the merchants have just washed the pavements, they may be wet and slick. If there's a gendarme around, follow his directions and ask his help.
and, the key one for any country - "Is it safe to get out of bed in the morning?"
Yes, usually. However, if you need extra reassurance, always do your daily transits for your trip. But if you are this meticulous and potential problems showed up, you wouldn't travel during this time anyway.
Added by alifbaa:
Is it safe to drink the water in Marrakech?
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Aug 15, 2005 12:56 AM
34Why am I having difficulty finding information about Morocco?
Many people say they've done a search of the FAQ and/or the web for information about Moroccan cities. If so, perhaps the problem is spelling. Here is a list of Moroccan cities, which could be copied and pasted into your search. Note that there are sometimes two or more common spellings, because these names are transcribed from the Arabic alphabet.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Nov 9, 2005 5:06 AM
35I want to go to Mozambique. Where can I get information?
Mozambique: All you ever wanted (or did not, as the case may be) to know about Mozambique. Researched and written up by two nutters who have nothing better to do than find all the best and worst spots. Great general info too! Ask me anything about Mozambique!
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Jan 25, 2006 2:48 AM
Feb 2, 2006 1:04 PM
These questions get asked almost daily in the Africa branch, so I though I might as well answer it in this thread for once and for all.
Yes, it's possible and easy to obtain one upon arrival, despite what your home consulate may say. If you're Dutch, British or any of the other nationalities who are required to pay US$50: just bring this amount in cash and get your visa at the airport or at the border.
If you have one or two days to spare, to go looking for a safari company in Arusha, then it's easy to do so. It's cheaper to go in a group of at least 4, so try to find an agency that already has some people booked up, or look for some other tourists to book together with. Ask around for recommendations. Criteria to look for: good vehicle, knowledgeable guide, good tents / sleeping mats / sleeping bags, good cook is also nice. In Tanzania it should be about US$120-130 per person per day including all the above (sleeping bag negociable, I borrowed one for free). Sometimes you may be able to book for a safari that leaves in 2 days; use the days inbetween to see museums, go on cultural tours, relax...
Before you book, check whether the company is not blacklisted at the Tanzania Tourist Board on Boma Road in Arusha.
Standard is Serengeti + Ngorongoro + either Lake Manyara or Tarangire or both.
Ruaha and Selous in southern Tanzania are less visited parks, for a more special experience. These may be a bit harder to reach, and harder to find groups to join.
I hear the train from Dar Es Salaam to Selous is great, you may even spot animals from the train.
Cultural Tourism Programme
I can warmly recommend doing a cultural tour! It may sound cheesy but it's really an interesting way to see the country and the way people live and work, and have some great conversations and exchanges with them. I did two different tours and did not meet any other white people for days, except the two Swedes who joined my first tour group.
These tours come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. A daytrip to Mulala (halfway between Arusha and Moshi), or a multiple day trip to towns and villages way off the beaten track. There are cultural tours in Arusha, Kondoa, Mbeya, the south, etc. A guide takes you around; part of the money goes to the local communities you visit.
Things that might be included in these tours are:
- hunting with bushmen
- witnessing a honey harvest (very exciting, in the dark in the bush, with many angry bees and delicious honey)
- hiking through crops / plantations
- seeing 4000 year old rock paintings (Kolo) with an archeologist
- seeing a natural spring
- meeting a medicine woman
- visiting a school, nursery, hospital
- cycling or riding a donkey kart between rural villages
- eating traditional local dishes and drinking things like fresh lemon juice or banana wine
- meeting and talking with lots and lots of local people, seeing how they live and work, answering their curious questions in return
In particular I can recommend both the daytrip to Agape Women's project (Mama Anna) in Mulala (you can also stay the night if tyou bring camping gear); and a tour to the Kondoa / Kolo area with the guide called Moshi Changai. He can be contacted through the Tanzania Tourist Board on Boma Road in Arusha, or e-mail email@example.com. This is his website, find more info and photos there.
Moshi Changai is an excellent guide and good, hygenic cook.
But I'm sure many of the other tours of the Cultural Tourism Programme are also very interesting.
Personally I loved Stone Town on Zanzibar, it has sso much history, culture and great food. I loved the maze of little streets, the markets, the Indian and other restaurants, and the stalls with fresh food in the evenings at the seafront.
I was very impressed by the Slave Cells, and the stories the guide told me about the Whipping Tree and the Slave Market.
The sultan's palace is also very interesting and displays old photographs, arab swords, clothes, pots etc.
Of course there are many other things and places to see and do, like hiking areas, Lake Victoria, train rides, volunteer work, etc. Just read your guidebook, and the posts in the Thorn Tree.
Is it safe?
I travelled around Tanzania, Zanzibar and Kenya for 5 weeks as a solo female and look, I survived. My cell phone was nicked from my hotel room in Nairobi Kenya, and some guys tried to rob me in broad daylight in Dar Es Salaam (area near YWCA hostel). In Dar I felt safer in the area around Jambo Inn.
But other than that I felt totally safe and happy. In fact I encountered a LOT of very helpful and friendly locals, who gave me warnings, escorted me to the next minibus or to the building I was looking for, or watched my backpack for me while I was walking around with it (a lady walked next to me and flicked her eyes whenever someone else was coming to near my backpack from behind).
Just don't do stupid things like walking around alone after dark, or wearing expensive jewelry, or carrying your SLR camera around your neck all the time. Read more safety tips in my Amazing Travel Tips list.
Safari nzuri - bring a phrasebook!
Bring a Swahili phrasebook and learn some greetings and numbers, this is such an icebreaker. It's really appreciated by the locals if you try. And sometimes you even get better prices if you try negociating in their language.
HAVE FUN! Tanzania is a wonderful country!
Edited by: Zabba
Feb 8, 2006 10:46 AM
38Options for storing digital photos:
1) Burn them onto CD in internet cafes. Bring a few empty CD's for the cafes that don't provide empty ones for you. Always check the CD after burning and before erasing your memory card! You could decide to burn two copies and send one home for extra safety. It can be expensive. (In Tanzania usually around US$5 per CD.) Check whether your camera is automatically detected by most systems (Win2000/XP), or whether you need to install software first. In that case you need to bring the software on CD, and ask the internet cafe owner if you're allowed to install it.
2) Bring a portable hard drive / storage device, especially made for memory cards (with slots for the cards), for example by Sitecom or other brands.
3) Bring a portable storage device / MP3 player like iPOD or iAUDIO which you can connect to your camera (slower than option 2).
4) Bring a portable CD burner and empty CD's, burn when/where you want to (but bulky: device and CD's). Again, you could decide to burn two copies and send one home for extra safety.
5) Upload to web based storage sites (for example PBase.com, for about 25USD you get a huge amount of space), but uploading can take ages.
6) Bring loads of memory cards, small and light weight, but way more expensive than the other options.
7) Bring a laptop computer and store them on there. Bulky and heavy, and a target for thieves. Only a reasonable option if you need to computer for other purposes too.
Or a combination of two of these options for EXTRA safety (for example 1 + 3).
As to options 2 and 3:
20 GB is a nice amount of space to have on a storage device, especially if you also want to bring music (option 3). 30GB or 40GB is even better if you're snap-happy or have a camera of 8 megapixel or more.
If you want to check how many pictures that will allow you to store: put the memory card in your camera, set your camera to the quality you'll want to use. See how many pictures that allows you to store on that card.
If it's a 1GB card and you have a 20GB storage device, then multiply that number of pictures by 20 and that's the amount of pictures you'll be able to store on the device. If your card is a 512MB one, multiply by 40, and so on. (512MB x 40 = 20GB)
Always test the device at home before you leave.
More details can be found and questions can be answered in the branch for "Computers, Cameras and Phones".
Feb 15, 2006 7:46 PM
39Great White Shark Cage Diving (near Cape Town)
(This reply is also on the Africa FAQ sticky, unfortunately I can't figure out how to create a link to a reply of a thread :-/ )
The following general information is about the operations in Gansbaai 150 km SE of Cape Town:
Who can participate, when should I go and what must I bring?
There are no restrictions beyond the usual being physically fit and of good health in general. You have to be able to climb down and up a ladder to get into the cage and back on board.
If you have an "unusual shape" you better book through a dive shop in Cape Town as they are probably better with supplying a wetsuit that fits you than the cage dive operators. Rather pay some exrta bucks for hiring a suit than freezing your private parts off.
The cages are suspended at the surface and snorkel and mask are used while the sharks are around as the noise of scuba regulators tends to scare the sharks away (!).The scuba gear in the cages is only for extremely unlikely emergencies like the cage getting pushed underwater or tipped over. I never heard of anything like that actually happening but the operators are playing rather safe than sorry.
If you do not hold a valid scuba diving certification please confirm with the operator if they allow you into the cage. Their policies vary from "yes" via "as long as you are comfortable with mask and snorkel" to "no".
If it comes to viewing the sharks from the boat (which in general is better than the in water viewing but of course much less thrilling) you can probably bring your grandma :-)
The shark season is a bit earlier than the whale season and peaks from April to October. During this time the boats have sharks almost every single day. You often see whales on the way from Kleinbaai Harbour to Dyer Island or on the way back. April and May have excellent diving conditions but no whales.
The big problem in winter are the rough ocean conditions which can prevent the boats from going out. July and August are tricky with regards to that as the cold fronts bringing big seas are plentyful. If you can choose a time I would recommend October for whales and sharks. (Whales around most certainly from July until November)
For anyone who visits especially for the sharks I would recommend to book two day trips with a gap of three or four days in between. This almost guarantees for suitable ocean conditions on at least one of the two days.
The shark diving is still pretty good during summer but the trips are well booked and the chances to have sharks are worse than in winter. The operators claim chances to see sharks on a particular day to be above 50% in summer and close to 100% in winter.
Bring a flask with hot chocolate or tea as the water is chilly all year round (11°-16°C) It is not warmer in summer! The temperatures can change from day to day depending on ocean conditions.
Point and shoot disposable waterproof cameras give reasonable souvenir photos of the sharks. They are available from photo shops for example Audiolens at the V&A Waterfront.
Don't forget hat and sunblocker!
How exactly does it work?
The sharks are attracted to the boat by chumming which is the technique of laying a scent that drifts from the anchored boat down current. Chum is a very watery fluid containing fish oil. NO buckets of blood.
Once a shark is in the vicinity of the boat the divers get into the cage. A crew member of the boat attracts the shark to come close to the cage using bait.
Half a tuna is often used as bait. It is attached to a rope and pulled away before the shark can grab it. The shark sometimes gets the bait but the intention is not to feed the sharks.
The sharks do not attack or show aggression towards the cage and the divers.
The practice of touching the nose of the shark and thereby causing the shark to drop its jaws open should be discouraged and reported as it is illegal to touch the sharks. I personally recommend to avoid operators who use this practice or show it on their brochures.
There are numerous concerns that shark diving "conditions" the sharks to associate boats and divers with food. This is highly unlikely as the operation would rather condition the shark negatively. The shark usually does not get any reward (food) after being attracted to the dive boat by chum and bait. Following a scent and investigating bait are natural behavior patterns of the sharks.
In my oppinion the educational effect of showing these magnificent creatures in their natural environment and teaching the public about the nature of these sharks by far outweights concerns about invading the sharks environment and influencing their behavior.
You can't protect what you don't know.
One of the best links about great whites on the www is this one:
You should have a fast internet connection as the site has some amazing pictures and video footage to offer.
A current listing of Operators in South Africa, no specific order.
Gansbaai & Kleinbaai:
White Shark Ecoventures
White Shark Diving Co.
Shark Diving Unlimited
White Shark Projects
White Shark Adventures
African Shark Eco Charter
Edited by: Zabba
Feb 23, 2006 2:29 PM
40Is XXX border crossing open?
Algeria - Maroc (Morocco): Border is long time closed!!!
Algeria - Libya: Border crossing at Djanet via Ghat is currently closed to foreign traffic.
Algeria - Niger: Border crossing at In-Guezzam (Algeria) to Assamakka (Niger) open. Route du Hoggar currently safe.
Tunisia - Algeria - Border crossing at Taleb Larbi open (Nefta via El-Qued).
Algeria - Mali: Bordj Mokhtar (Algeria) via Tessalit (Mali) open. Route du Tanezrouf currently not safe.
Libya - Algeria: As stated above. NO crossing at Djanet.
Libya - Chad: Border crossing at Tibesti currently un-safe. Primarily one way route!
Libya - Sudan: Used by smugglers only. Currently not safe.
Libya - Niger: Border crossing after El-gatrun via Tumu (Niger) open. Malboro piste currently safe, but always check ahead!! Primarily a one-way route.
Libya - Egypt: Border crossing at Al-Bardi open. Have Egyptian papers ready. Currently a nightmare but do-able!!
Libya - Tunisia: Crossing at Ras Adjir open.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Mar 8, 2006 6:33 AM
41Passport requirements to enter South Africa
There is a dubious regulation stating that you need to have at least TWO empty pages available for visa entries on arrival in South Africa.
There is a lot of other information around and many times immigration officials are happy with one page or even put stamps on top of old expired SA entry stamps.
Anyway: Make sure to have two empty pages on arrival.
Please let me know by PM if you have contradictive OFFICIAL information and please include links / sources and I will get this reply edited or removed by the moderator.
Edited by: Zabba
Jun 25, 2006 3:31 AM
42How to travel from Nigeria to Ghana:
Bus: Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Ghana (coastal route)
Public airconditioned buses from Lagos to Accra (will stop anywhere on request between these two cities). If you ask nicely, they will give you a discount.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Sep 1, 2006 3:17 PM
43I still haven't found the answer to my question. Should I just add my question to this thread?
Don't ask questions on the FAQ thread, nobody will reply.
First use the search function for posts in the Africa branch by filling the blank space after Search Africa Branch at the top left corner of any Africa branch page
If you get no results, then use the more complete search for posts in all branches of the Thorn Tree, after clicking on the Search icon at the top of any TT page.
If no results are produced, then post a New Topic with your question.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Sep 11, 2006 12:04 PM
44Power Outages in Tanzania
Just to remind people who are planning on travelling to tanzania, or are feeling the effects of "the drought" already, there are massive power outages all over Tanzania at the moment! I believe Dar es Salaam was without power for a significant amount of time, most people relying on generators (which are hideously expensive)...This may or may not affect your travel, where I am working at the moment (Capri Point, Mwanza) we are not affected, but it certainly may wreck your plans a little bit. Its just something to be aware of, especially if relying on internet communications (emails to safari companies etc)...As you can see, with this reply I just received from an enquiry...
Thank you for enquiring about Wild Things Safaris.
Tanzania is experiencing major power outages due to drought. One of our field staff will get back to you as soon as they can.
As for the drought, well its apparently more of a water shortage, and the reason the country is so affected by it all is cause the government really hasnt updated services/infrastructure for years (or so I have been told) and its been a looming crisis!
Dar es SalaamBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$205.00 per night
Cape TownBook now
(0 star Hotel)
From US$17.06 per night
Cape TownBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$134.69 per night