Meet Tiffany Kobia, a Kenyan in her mid-twenties that decided to solo travel across three African countries. Although she had traveled to Tanzania in 2015 with her group of friends, this was her first solo trip outside Kenya. I caught up with Tiffany to narrate her solo travel experience across East Africa.
1. Was your recent solo trip to the three East African countries your first? Why did you choose East Africa?
I decided to travel to Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi for three reasons which include:
- These countries are visa-free for Kenyan passport holders. I only required a valid passport and yellow fever certificate to cross all the border points.
- The countries are fairly close to my home country
- I wanted to explore East African countries before venturing to other African countries.
2. Give a brief description of the places you visited. Is it safe to travel to alone to these countries as woman?
As I mentioned earlier, the countries that I visited were Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. I was really excited when I left Nairobi but anxious at the same time because this was my first time traveling solo miles away from home.
My first stop was in Kabale, Uganda. My hostel had organized my transport from the bus stop to the hostel so everything was smooth. Kabale, home to Lake Bunyonyi is a beautiful, tranquil town. I must add that I felt very safe in Kabale as a solo female traveler. I met other solo travelers that were staying in different hostels and resorts along Lake Bunyonyi. Ugandans speak English so communication was great.
My next stop was in Kigali the capital of Rwanda, fondly known as the land of a thousand hills. I was really excited to visit this hyped city but they don’t hype it for no reason. Rwandans are super friendly but there was the language barrier challenge as most Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda or French. Luckily, the manager of the hostel I was staying in could speak English so every time there was a challenge in communication, especially with the moto-taxis, I would call him to act as the translator. That’s how I survived in Kigali. Language barrier aside, I felt completely safe in Kigali as well.
I went out, visited the city at night and treated myself to dinners at a couple of restaurants. I felt at home in Kigali
Burundi was an entirely different experience. I was lucky to have been connected to a Kenyan traveler that was traveling in Burundi so she picked me up after I arrived in the capital, Bujumbura. I did not appreciate the catcalling from the touts who could tell we were not Burundians.
Another downside is that Burundi is in a period of political upheavals so there is a heavy police presence. This got to my nerves. There is also the possibility of language barrier but luckily for me, my Kenyan friend can speak French. I honestly don’t think I would have proceeded to Burundi were it not for the Kenyan connect.
3.What steps did you take to ensure your safety?
I ensured my safety by being in constant communication with the managers of the hostels that also came in handy with customizing my itinerary. I always had my passport with me and the local currency. I ensured my phone was always fully charged before leaving my hostel.
4.Did you make friends in your solo trip? How did you you go about it? Who took your photos?
Traveling solo can be really overwhelming since it forces you to be independent. You literally have to plan things end to end on your own. I am also shy so I do not know how to initiate conversations. However, I managed to make a few friends.
In regards to taking photos, I asked strangers to take pictures of me or just take selfies. Most times I’d take photos of the scenery.
5. What should anyone traveling to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi know before going?
If you are planning on traveling to Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, you need to start saving money early enough so that you have an easy time. I was on a budget so I traveled by bus which I booked earlier and got a discount. You also need to research on different activities you want to engage in. Have an itinerary so that your days are well planned and organized. If traveling by bus, prepare your mind and body for the long bus rides and slow process at the immigration offices but its all worth it.
Another aspect of solo traveling is that all expenses fall on you solo as opposed to splitting costs on a group trip. I started saving for this trip at the beginning of 2019.
I have a separate kitty for my travels both local and international. A lot of research takes place before a trip and I did mine online after which reached out to people that have been there before for advice.
I did a lot of research online and asked around from people who have been there before. I also sought the services of a travel consultant because I needed a well-planned itinerary with costs and timing. This was a long trip and the fact that I was visiting 3 countries and 4 towns, i could not afford to take any chances. I had also researched on accommodations and activities to do. I booked my accommodation via booking.com and hostel world. I got to know more about the activities to do once I settled in each country since you I met other travelers there and we exchanged ideas.
6.What was the highlight of your trip? Any must do activities?
My highlights of this trip include:
- zip lining across Lake Bunyonyi
- Visiting the Rwanda/DRC border in Rubavu district, Gisenyi, Rwanda.
- Visiting the Rwanda Genocide memorial which was overwhelming.
- Enjoying the breeze and watching the sunset at Lake Tanganyika
8.Is there anything that you did not like about Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi?
The only thing I did not like about this trip was the poor transport system in Bujumbura, it’s really difficult to get around.
Getting accommodation in Bujumbura was really a hustle. Language barriers are also a problem in Rwanda and Burundi.
The long bus rides were exhausting but worth everything. I will definitely be traveling solo again both locally and outside the country.
9. Will you be traveling solo again? Would you advice people to travel solo?
Lots of lessons learnt on this trip and most importantly I affirmed that I can go on a solo trip.
I would advise anyone contemplating travel but cannot convince the people in their lives to travel to try and do it solo. Who knows. you might love solo travel. You will meet other solo travelers and it will trigger a different way of thinking. Start with local destinations. In fact, there are so many places and things to do in our country. Also traveling is not an expensive affair unless you want to splurge. You can start saving as early as now for your next trip. Research on the places you want to visit and the activities to do, ask around, check out reviews of the places then dedicate yourself to saving up for that trip.
Find Tiffany on Instagram: @miss_tiffany_k
P.S: At an affordable fee, I help travellers create customized itineraries to different destinations. If you would like help with your itinerary, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org