“Traveling in Africa is too expensive” was a comment in response to a poll I conducted on my instagram stories a few days ago. The big question was “where would you go backpacking first between West Africa and Southeast Asia?” The countries in question were Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Philippines for Southeast Asia and Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Cape Verde for West Africa.
At Least 400 people took part in the 24 hour long poll and 68% of the participants said they would choose Southeast Asia over West Africa. Some people went ahead and DM’d me to state the reasons for their choices. What stood out for those that chose Southeast Asia was that Traveling in Africa expensive. Some people said that traveling in Africa, especially West Africa is difficult. Now, if you love traveling you’ll notice that most avid travelers, including Africans, have backpacked through other continents with a little percentage traveling in Africa. It’s not because they don’t want to travel through Mama Africa but because Africa is expensive and difficult to explore. I dare say, Africa is the most difficult continent to travel through.
I have thought about it and even done some research and it’s true that backpacking Southeast Asia is about three times cheaper than traveling in Africa. It’s like someone somewhere does not want people to explore mama Africa. It’s almost as if this someone gains from the ignorance folks have of Africa without ever being to Africa. Some of these perpetuations include assuming Africa is a country and that Africans live in caves and have lions for pets. I do not know about you but I am tired of receiving backhanded compliments about how good my English is from people that do not know anything about Africa. First of all, you telling me you are surprised I can speak English is not a compliment, second of all, you do know we were colonized, right?
Africa is more than wildlife, game drives and beautiful landscapes. Sure, these are a significant part of Africa, but the motherland is so much more in terms of history, culture, beaches, food and so on. Africa is home to at least 54 countries but it is difficult for travelers to explore the diversity of our continent.
The following are the challenges a traveler may face while Traveling in Africa:
want to know how I manage to travel?find out here!]l
1. Expensive flights
Flying between African countries is damn expensive. A return ticket from Nairobi to Entebbe, Uganda costs about 350 USD. A return ticket from Abidjan, Ivory Coast to Dakar, Senegal is 400 USD. A whole 40,000 KES!! I can go on and on but the story is similar between many African countries.
Flying out of Africa is no different. My friend Shishi, a Kenyan traveler of yogi on the move mentioned that a flight from Nairobi to Norway is higher than from Norway to Nairobi. Elsewhere in Asia, you can get return tickets between countries for 100 USD! Africa has its fair share of issues from politics to corruption and little demand for flights which impact on the cost of flights. It’s no wonder most people are unable to travel across Africa.
2. Low- Grade Roads
Some African countries have quality roads then there are those that have the world’s deadliest roads. Most travelers on a budget will choose to travel via road to explore other countries now that we know flights are expensive. We have had travelers drive themselves from Nairobi to Cape Town, others have chosen to use public transport. We have executive buses in Africa that travel long distances between capital cities. Most of these buses are only limited to capital cities not the off beaten rural paths and the roads are pathetic.
You will be in a bus wondering why you are being thrown back and forth and then you get caught up between throwing up and not stepping on a live chicken or a goat that is right next to your feet. You did not even notice the animals were there before. This may or may have not happened to me.
Transport in these off beaten paths is also difficult to find. Some areas have buses that commute once day and if you miss a bus then you will have to wait even days to catch the next bus. This one bus that is supposed to carry 30 people will be carrying a whole 50 people and you are crammed in that bus like sticks in a match box , next to raw fish and you ask God what kind of third world problems are these. This bus will make various stops along the way and a distance of 6 hours may take up to 10 hours. Another problem is if you choose to take a road trip you will have to deal with corrupt police officers along the way. African officers are known for harassing motorists.
Unfortunately these are the conditions of some of the roads in Africa. Welcome to traveling in Africa folks!
3. Weak Passports and Visa restrictions
Traveling with most African passports is difficult. I can count more than five people I know that have been denied visas to Europe and the United States. This is why my travels in the near future will be focused mostly on Africa, Asia and South America. I am not looking forward to being told my request for a tourist visa has been denied because I am considered “Unstable”. My friend, Gacheri wrote about her experience here.
You would think because it is hard for Africans to visit other continents, it would be easier for us to visit African countries but HELL TO THE DAMN NO!! Crossing African borders on a tourist visa is equally difficult and comes with a cost. As a Kenyan, a tourist visa to Congo will cost me a 100 USD! If I wish to visit West Africa and North Africa, I will have to pay visa fees for 90% of these countries except Ghana and maybe Nigeria. Imagine how painful and sad it is to conduct visa transactions to cross borders that were imposed upon us by colonisers. SHAME!!
Inadequate, Expensive Accommodation
Eastern and Southern Africa has tried in terms of introducing hostels to cater for backpackers but west Africa? The ecosystem for hostels is still a challenge. Hotels on the other hand are expensive for a backpacker travelling on a budget. Now let’s compare this to Asia. Asia is a backpackers haven for the fact that hostels are practically everywhere and they come cheap! So much cheaper as compared to Africa. You can easily find a decent hostel in Southeast Asia for as low as 8 usd, the cheapest you can pay for a good hostel in Africa is anywhere between 13 usd and 19 usd. See the difference? See why most people in my poll chose to Southeast Asia?
I could go on and on about how expensive and difficult it is to travel in Africa. I have not talked about our weak currencies, expensive travel activities but you get the drift.I hope that someday, Africans will be able to travel from one African country to another without visa restrictions.