Flights & getting there
Getting yourself into Africa can be as simple as booking a direct-flight ticket from a major European hub, or as adventurous as hitching a lift on a car ferry then jumping onto a cargo truck. However you choose to do it, it pays to do advance research to make sure you don't blow unnecessary bucks or time.
Flights, cars and tours can be booked online at lonelyplanet.com/bookings.
The bulk of air traffic with Africa is to and from Europe, but there are a handful of direct flights between Africa and North and South America, the Middle East and Asia. Many North American travellers pass through a European 'hub' en route to Africa. For Australasian travellers it's often cheaper to pass through a Middle Eastern and/or Asian hub before arriving.
Airports & Airlines
Wild climatic variations across Africa, and differing holiday seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres, mean that it's tricky to pin down the cheapest times to fly to Africa – get the low-down on costs from a travel agent well in advance. Using mile-wide brushstrokes, it could be argued that flying from June to September or around Christmas (a 'peak season' that can last from November to March if you're coming from Australasia) is going to hit your budget hardest.
Departure tax is usually included in the price of a ticket, but check when making your booking.
Africa's only land border divides Israel and Egypt in the Sinai – the continuing troubles in Israel and the Palestinian Territories mean that the direct route via Rafah is very often closed to foreigners, so make your way via the Eilat–Taba border crossing on the Gulf of Aqaba. However, note that if your passport has an Israeli stamp in it you won't get into some African countries; if this is going to be a problem, take the (car and passenger) ferry from Jordan.
There are a lot of borders in Africa, and a whole lot more border posts. And let's be honest, crossing some of Africa's land borders requires the patience of a saint and may provide you with some of your more frustrating and dysfunctional tales from life on the road (even assuming that your visas and paperwork are in order). Endless baggage checks, overworked immigration officers, officials in search of a cadeau (gift) and long queues can all be a part of the mix. Others you'll fly through with neither delay nor incident.
Whichever is your experience, at all times remember that patience and politeness will see you through. Getting shirty with a person in uniform is one sure-fire way for 'discrepancies' to be discovered and delays to be even longer – you're the one who will end up paying for your impatience.
There's usually a border post on each side of the border crossing (ie one belonging to each country). Sometimes the border posts are just 100m apart, such as at the Namanga crossing between Kenya and Tanzania; sometimes they can be 100km apart, with a 'no-man's land' in between, such as those on the route between Algeria and Niger. If you're catching a bus 'to the border', check exactly how far it goes. Does it take you just to the first border post, from where you have to walk or take a taxi to the second one? Or does the bus go across the border all the way to the second border post, before you have to change to onward transport?
Although they're rare, it's also worth watching out for new border crossings. For example, the 'Unity Bridge' over the Rovuma River opened in 2010, becoming the main border crossing between Tanzania and Mozambique.
From various ports in southern Europe and the Middle East, towering car ferries, sleek powerful 'fast ferries' and hi-tech catamarans ply the routes across the Mediterranean.
There are daily ferries between Nuweiba in Sinai (Egypt) and Aqaba (Jordan), which is a stone's throw from Eilat (Israel). There are also four sailings per week from Port Said to Iskenderun in Turkey.
Two main companies sail the Spain to Morocco route: Trasmediterránea and FRS. All routes usually take vehicles as well as passengers, and most services increase in frequency during the summer months, when other routes are sometimes added. The two main routes:
Longer-haul ferries that operate as part of the Cemar (www.cemar.it) network also sail between Tangier and Genoa (Italy).
Cemar (www.cemar.it) sails between Marseilles and Algiers, while Trasmediterránea (www.trasmediterranea.es) runs ferries from Almería in southern Spain to Ghazaouet (Algeria). You might also find summer services to Oran (Algeria) from Almería or southern France.