What language is spoken in Kenya, what's the weather like in Namibia in September and what currency is used in Botswana? We have answers to all these and more.
Capital city: Pretoria
Area: 1 219 912 km² / 471 011 square miles (five times larger than Great Britain and three times the size of Texas)
Population: 51.12 million
Time zone: GMT +2
Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)
Electricity: 230 - 240V
Geography: South Africa is flanked on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the Indian Ocean, and boasts more than 2 500 km (1 500 miles) of coastline. The two oceans meet at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. The terrain ranges from desert to green hills, mountain ranges, subtropical areas and sunny beaches.
Climate: Summer 18 - 29°C / 64 - 84°F; Winter 6 - 21° / 43 - 70°F
Language: South Africa has eleven official languages; Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. Except for deeply rural areas, most South Africans speak English.
Religion: Predominantly Christian, but also includes Muslim and Hindu.
Capital city: Gaborone
Area: 582 000 km² / 225 000 square miles
Population: 1.6 million
Time zone: GMT +2
Currency: Pula (BWP), although the US dollar is widely used in practice
Geography: Botswana consists mainly of semi-desert, with the notable exception of the famed Okavango Delta.
Climate: Summer 19 - 33°C / 66 - 91°F; Winter 5 - 23°C / 41 - 73°F
Language: English and Setswana
Religion: Predominantly Christian
Capital city: Windhoek
Area: 825 418 km² / 318 695 square miles
Population: 1.7 million
Time zone: GMT +1 April - August; GMT +2 September - March
Currency: Namibian dollar (NAD), The Namibian dollar is equivalent to South African Rand
Geography: From sandy dunes to rocky canyons, Namibia is home to two deserts - the Namib and the Kalahari.
Climate: Summer 19 - 28°C / 66 - 82°F; Winter 14 - 24° / 57 - 75°F
Language: English is the official language; Oshiwambo, Afrikaans, Nama, Damara, Otjiherero and German are also spoken in Namibia
Religion: Predominantly Christian
Capital city: Harare
Area: 386 670 km² / 149 295 square miles
Population: 12.5 million
Time zone: GMT +2
Currency: The Zimbabwean dollar is the official currency (ZWD), although the US dollar is widely used in practice
Geography: Landlocked country separated from Zambia by the Zambezi River, home to the famous Victoria Falls
Climate: Summer 16 - 27°C / 61 - 81°F; Winter 7 - 21°C / 45 - 70°F
Language: The official language of Zimbabwe is English. Other languages spoken include Ndebele and Shona.
Religion: Predominantly Syncretic and Christian
Capital city: Lusaka
Area: 740 720 km² / 285 995 square miles
Population: 9.7 million
Time zone: GMT +2
Currency: Kwacha (ZMK)
Geography: Deciduous savannas, grassy plains and even rain forest in the areas around Victoria Falls.
Climate: Summer 25 - 35°C / 77 - 95°F; Winter 6 - 24°C / 43 - 75°F
Language: English is the official language
Religion: Predominantly Christian
Capital city: Maputo
Area: 801 590 km² / 309 495 square miles
Population: 21.4 million
Time zone: GMT +2
Currency: Metical (MZN), although the US dollar is widely used in practice
Electricity: 220 / 240 v
Geography: Wide coastal plains, mountains and plateaus with three major rivers and almost 2 500 km (1 500 miles) of coastline dotted with islands
Climate: Summer 21 - 29°C / 70 - 84°F; Winter 19 - 27°C / 66 - 81°F
Language: Portuguese is the official language
Religion: Predominantly traditional beliefs, followed by Christianity
Capital city: Nairobi
Area: 582 650 km² / 224 960 square miles
Population: 30.8 million
Time zone: GMT +3
Currency: Kenyan shilling (KES), although the US dollar is widely used in practice
Geography: Low coastal plains and central highlands bisected by the Great Rift Valley
Climate: Summer 16 – 33°C / 61 - 91°F; Winter 15 – 30°C / 59 - 86°F
Language: Swahili is the official language, but English is widely spoken
Religion: Predominantly Christian, but also Muslim
Capital city: Dodoma
Area: 945 087 km² / 364 900 square miles
Population: 35.9 million
Time zone: GMT +3
Currency: Tanzanian shilling (TZS), although the US dollar is widely used in practice
Geography: Coastal plains rising to a central plateau and highlands in the north and south, including Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain
Climate: Winter 10 - 23°C
Language: Swahili and English are the official languages
Religion: Equally divided between Christian, Muslim and traditional beliefs
From currencies, visas and ATMs to photography, food and Internet access, here are the answers to all the questions you’ve ever had about travelling in Africa.
Do I need a visa to travel in Africa?
As a rule, it is very likely that you will need a visa to travel to your selected destinations in Africa. Citizens of some countries (particularly the Commonwealth), may be exempt when travelling to specific African countries. As a rule, it is always a good idea to check visa requirements at your local embassy or consulate ahead of travel, as they do change quite frequently. Although some countries may offer visas at the place of entry, travellers are rather encouraged to obtain these prior to travel in order to save time and money. When entering an African country, your passport should generally be valid for at least six months longer than the duration of your stay and must have enough blank pages for the visa and entry stamps.
What type and standard of accommodation will I encounter?
A wide variety of accommodation, from five-star hotels to guesthouses, game lodges and bed and breakfasts can be encountered in most tourist hotspots throughout Africa. In the cities there are also award-winning boutique hotels and spa resorts. However, accommodation in national parks and other places where numbers of visitors are limited can fill up quickly, particularly in high season, and it is recommended that you reserve all your accommodation as far in advance as possible.
How much luggage can I take?
If you are going on safari, remember that luggage capacity is limited on small planes and other modes of transport you are likely to use. It is likely that you will need to restrict your luggage to 15 kg (33 lb), packed in a soft duffle bag, plus a reasonable amount of camera equipment.
Where can I find an ATM?
ATMs are found throughout major city centres and shopping complexes in most of Africa.
Will I be able to access the internet?
Internet connectivity is slow in many places in Africa. Guests travelling in South Africa should be able to dial up, unless they are at a game lodge or camp in one of the many wilderness areas, where connections may be slow or non-existent. In most other African countries Internet connections are only available in the larger towns.
Is Africa a good birding destination?
Africa offers exceptional birding in diverse destinations, boasting not only an excellent array of indigenous species, but a large number of migrants. The Okavango Delta in Botswana is an ideal spot for birding, as are the many Rift Valley lakes of Eastern Africa. The coastline of Namibia, as well as the famed Etosha National Park, is a draw card for birders. With its diverse birding destinations and huge variety of species, South Africa is also an excellent country for keen birders.
Will I be able to buy memory cards or film for my camera?
Memory cards and film are available in most large cities and towns. However, the quality may vary and it is recommended that you bring your own.
Is Africa a good destination for travelling with children?
Africa is a great destination for travel with children and you can be assured that all young travellers will receive the warmest welcome. South Africa is ideal for travel with even the youngest of children, as baby supplies are readily available and there is a good transportation network. Namibia is also an excellent self-drive destination for the whole family. Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania present slightly greater challenges in terms of travel times, with frequent trips in small planes, and may be better suited to slightly older children. Many safari lodges throughout Africa cater for specific age groups and arrange exciting activities for children, although children five or under are not permitted on game drives. There are also a number of other adventures available, from beach holidays, boat rides and cruises, horse riding, surfing, hiking and many others.
Will I have cellphone reception in Africa?
When travelling in South Africa you should be able to get cellphone reception, unless you are at a game lodge camp in one of the many wilderness areas. In most other African countries, cellphone connections are only available in and around the larger towns. Guests are advised to check with their cellphone operator before travelling. Cellphone cards can be purchases in most towns and at the larger airports. There is Blackberry connectivity across South Africa and in most African capital cities (even in Zanzibar and at the Ngorongoro Crater).
Is it customary to tip and how much should I give?
Please only tip is you feel the service warrants it and use your common sense – there is no expectation for exorbitant tipping anywhere in Africa. We recommend that you tender small amounts to hotel or lodge staff at the end of your stay. When is doubt, please ask lodge managers for a tipping guideline. It is customary to tip 10% of the bill at all restaurants and 10% of the fare to taxi drivers.
Is it ok to take photos everywhere in Africa?
As always, it is courteous to be sensitive and ask permission before photographing people. In most African countries it is illegal to take photos of airports and military installations.
Is it safe to travel in Africa?
Africa is perfectly safe to visit and the African people are renowned for their warm hospitality. As with any travel, it is a good idea to take the standard precautions. Keep your passport and valuables close at hand or safely locked away and don’t leave luggage unattended. When travelling in town, check with your tour operator or hotel concierge to see if there are any areas that should be avoided. Avoid isolated or deserted areas, particularly at night, ensure that your car is locked at all times and park in well-lit, busy areas. Avoid wearing excessive jewellery when exploring Africa’s diverse cities and make use of concealed travel wallets. When driving through Africa, it is not recommended to stop for hitchhikers.
Is the tap water safe to drink in Africa?
Tap water in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa is purified and is safe to drink, however, bottled water is also freely available. The water in Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe is not safe to drink and it is recommended that you stick to bottled water or boil all water before drinking it.
Should I take out travel insurance before my trip to Africa?
We strongly recommend that you take out adequate travel insurance when confirming your booking. This should cover any medical situation (such as hospitalisation), as well as cancellation or curtailment of arrangements and loss of your baggage. When you travel with &Beyond, you are automatically covered by our emergency evacuation insurance. This provides emergency medical services / evacuation to hospital should you suffer either sever illness or injury at one of our lodges. As this is for emergency evacuation only, it does not cover the cost of treatment once in hospital and in no way replaces your normal travel insurance, which must be purchased prior to travel.
What clothes should I pack when travelling to Africa?
The most practical items to pack for an African safari are light cotton tops and cotton trousers or shorts in khaki, brown, white and beige. In South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, morning and evenings can be cold during the winter months (June – August). Due to the high altitude on the rim of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, night time temperatures are cold even in summer. Travellers to these regions should pack a fleece or sweater, as well as a warm jacket for game drives. Swimwear is a must when travelling to the coastal areas of South or East Africa. Comfortable walking shoes are essential for those planning bush walks or walking safaris. Guests intending to climb Mount Kilimanjaro should pack thermal underwear, light layers, a sweater, warm jacket, good socks and sturdy boots. Travellers heading for Zimbabwe should avoid any camouflage or military-style clothing, as this is illegal in the country.
What currency is used in Africa and where can I exchange money?
The currency varies according to the country that you are travelling in. In South Africa the currency is the rand, in Botswana it is the pula and in Namibia it is the Namibian dollar. Kenyan and Tanzania shillings are the legal tender in East Africa, while the Mozambican currency is the metical. Zambian money is known as the kwacha, whereas US dollars are accepted as legal tender in Zimbabwe. Foreign currencies such as the US dollar are also widely accepted in East Africa, although dollar bills dated before 2003 are usually not accepted. Most international airports have banks where money can be changed and, in large cities, facilities are usually available at reputable hotels and lodges. It is a good idea to change your money in advance if you are heading into more remote or rural areas.
What is the electricity supply and what plugs are used?
The standard voltage throughout Africa is 220V AC. South and Southern Africa make use of three-pronged round plugs, while a three-pronged square plug is used in East Africa.
What kinds of food will I be able to eat?
Most large cities in Africa offer a large variety of restaurants and cuisines from around the world. Options in rural areas may be more limited, but most safari lodges and camps pride themselves on their cuisine, which may include variations on local specialities. Most places can cater for special diets, as long as they are given plenty of advance warning.
Can &Beyond arrange my flights for me?
Yes, &Beyond can take care of all your travel arrangements, from the moment you leave your hometown to the time you return.
What medical precautions do I need to take before travelling in Africa?
Apart from large portions of South Africa, most parts of Africa are malaria areas and it is recommended that travellers see their doctors for a course of prophylactics prior to travel. When travelling to Kenya or Tanzania, you will require a recent yellow fever inoculation. Travellers travelling to Botswana, Zambia or Zimbabwe and coming from a yellow fever region must also be inoculated against yellow fever.
Can I use my credit card in Africa?
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in most restaurants, shops and hotels in South Africa, as well as in most large cities throughout the continent. Diners Club and American Express may not be accepted outside South Africa. Proof of identification may be required when paying by credit card, so be sure to carry some form of photo identification at all times. In East Africa park fees can only be paid using cash or traveller’s cheques.
What should I be aware of when driving in Africa?
In most African countries traffic drives on the left and gives way to the right. Drivers must have a valid driver’s licence, with photo, or an international driver’s permit. Seatbelts are mandatory. Self-drive in South Africa and Namibia is easy to adapt to, with signposting in English and rental cars easily available in all major cities. There are a number of toll roads in South Africa that are clearly indicated well before reaching the toll stations, where payment may be made at an attended booth. Overtaking on the inside is not illegal in South Africa and is a common practice, so remember to be aware of cars on the inside when changing lanes. In general, speed limits are 120 km/h (75 miles/h) on freeways and 60 km/h (37 miles/h) in towns and cities. In Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania places of interest are generally only accessible by dirt roads, which are often in a bad condition during the rainy season. Road conditions vary widely and a 4x4 vehicle is usually necessary. Self-drive travel in these countries is not recommended.