Visas and Passports
Before you fly to Africa, make sure your passport is in order, you have the relevant visas and travel insurance, and you’ve made copies of everything! It’s always good to be prepared and have enough time for the authorities to give you the green light. Please have a look at Project Visa for all up to date visa requirements and information.
Travellers of most nationalities need visas for some, if not all, African countries. Most of these can be obtained at the land borders when travelling through Africa, or alternatively at the airport when arriving. It is however essential that you check the visa requirements for your nationality of each country before you arrive in Africa.
You will find general visa information specific to each country in our destination guide, but visa requirements and costs change frequently so it’s always best to get up-to-date information before you travel. Our consultants can advise you and visa requirements are included in our pre-departure information.
Note that most visas obtained whilst in Africa must be paid for in cash in US dollars, so make sure you bring dollars with you. Note further that due to the circulation of fake notes, visa-issuing authorities will only accept dollar notes issued after 2003.
All visitors to Africa must be in possession of a full passport which is valid for at least six months after the finish date of a trip.
Furthermore, it should have plenty of empty pages, particularly if you are doing a longer trip as you will collect a number of page-filling visas and stamps. It is advisable to allow at least one blank page for each country you are visiting; if your passport is almost full, you may find yourself unable to complete the tour.
And keep an eye on it: getting a new passport in Africa is usually extremely difficult, so always ensure your passport is safe. You should also take photocopies of it with you and keep these, along with your vaccination certificates, separately from the passport.
When crossing borders your tour leader will often be able to take the passports for the whole group and do all the border crossing procedures on your behalf. At borders, listen to what the tour leader tells you, turn the stereo off, and remember that border officials do not take kindly to you entering the border post with no shirt or shoes on!
It is essential that you obtain travel insurance from your home country for any trip to Africa. You will not be permitted to join a tour without it and your tour leader will request contact details for the insurance company at the beginning of the tour. Your policy should cover you for personal accident; medical costs; and loss, damage to, or theft of personal belongings.
Ideally the policy should include repatriation in the event of a medical emergency back to your home country. You should carefully consider a policy that specifically covers adventure travel if you plan on doing many of the optional adventure excursions.
Note that most policies limit the value of personal baggage and belongings, so if you have expensive camera or video equipment, you may want to consider extra cover. In the end, it’s always best to leave your jewellery, expensive watch and best clothes at home.
It is essential that you consult your doctor or travel clinic a few weeks before coming to Africa for advice on what vaccinations you need for the countries you will be travelling through. And you will also need to check with your travel consultant if you need to have an up-to-date vaccination card – on some Overland itineraries you do, on others you don’t – and in some countries officials particularly want to see proof of a yellow fever vaccination.
Note further that when changing money in some East African countries, some banks or bureau de changes want to see the proof of purchase receipt before changing traveller’s cheques though note that this is the piece of paper you are supposed to keep separate from your traveller’s cheques in the event they get lost or stolen!
All Overland vehicles have safes on board so lock away your air ticket for the duration of the tour and only get it out if you are required to reconfirm your flight before you fly.
Take photocopies of all your paperwork and keep these separately somewhere. Some travellers scan copies of their passport and other documents and send them to a personal email address that can be accessed in Africa.
Getting There & Flights
Our Overland tours start and finish in major African towns and cities, leaving their departure city on the first morning of the tour and finishing in the afternoon on the last day. This definitely makes planning for flights a whole lot easier!
Some of the start and finish cities – Cape Town, Swakopmund and Victoria Falls for example – are great destinations in their own right; remember to make some time to explore these places before or after your tour.
Note that while these starting destinations can all be reached by air, they are not necessarily the point through which you enter the country and you may need to arrange for a local flight to your actual point of departure.
Furthermore, depending on the tour you choose you may start and finish in the same city; arranging a return flight in and out of that destination is then a simple procedure. But some of the tours cover great distances and your start and finish points may be thousands of kilometres and many countries apart. In this case you may need to arrange additional flights within Africa or book an international flight arriving in one destination but departing from another.
Our consultants can help with air travel arrangements to fit your overland tour as well as pre and post-tour accommodation in each of these cities and airport transfers.
What to Pack
From washing line ropes and head-torches, to swimming gear and good shoes – it’s easy to forget what to pack. Make sure you follow our overland trip pack list – all you need to worry about is packing too much!
Ah, the Big Question: let’s start with what you pack everything into: generally a medium to large backpack and a daypack is recommended; hard-sided suitcases are not advised as they are difficult to fit into the luggage compartments of overland vehicles.
We have suggested 2 bags as on tour because you’ll have access to your big pack in the morning and evening but not during the day; ensure you put everything you might need during the day into your day pack which stays with you at all times. This includes items such as spare batteries, snacks, a sweater, water bottle, or book.
Now for what you put into the bags: pack practical, easily washable clothes that do not need ironing rather than high fashion items. Leave the shirt and tie or the high heels at home; no one will care if you wear the same t-shirt for more than one day. On an overland tour your clothes will take a hammering: dust, dirt, mud, sunscreen, insect repellent, cooking oil, washing up water. Bring clothes that you don’t care too much about and are possibly prepared to ditch at the end of the trip to make room for souvenirs.
You also need to strike a balance: most people bring too many clothes with them to Africa but on the other hand many travellers are surprised at how cold Africa can get at times. Make sure you bring a warm fleece and long trousers. Conversely, it comes as no surprise to hear that Africa also gets extremely hot in places so bring shorts and T-shirts and plenty of sunscreen.
Here’s what we recommend you pack – though remember that if your main bag is too heavy to lift, you’ve packed too much.
• 3-4 short sleeved shirts or T-shirts
• 2 pairs trousers or 1 pair and 1 skirt – not jeans as they take forever to dry after washing; the trousers with zip-off legs are very practical
• Warm sweater or fleece
• 1-2 pairs shorts
• Tracksuit pants – handy to pull over shorts if it gets cool at night
• Light sweater or sweatshirt to keep in your day pack
• Underwear and socks
• Hat or cap
• Water/wind-proof jacket – essential if you are going to see the gorillas in East Africa
• Boots or sturdy sports shoes
• Sarong – very handy for both men and women; used as a towel, sunshade, wrap and sheet. Can be bought very cheaply in Africa
• Set of reasonably smart clothes to wear for the odd meal or night out
• Sandals, flip-flops or thongs. Need to be waterproof and should not fall off if you want to go white-water rafting
• Personal toiletries but leave the make-up bag and plug-in shaver at home
Other Items to Pack
Packing for an Overland adventure doesn’t just mean clothes: travel in Africa is adventurous and you will need equipment that you would not normally consider for a conventional holiday. Indeed, some items – such as a sleeping bag, water bottle and torch – are essential so check with your travel consultant whether any of these extra pieces of equipment are needed on your Overland tour.
Depending on the time of year and the countries you are visiting, a medium warmth sleeping bag is sufficient. Quite often it’s too hot to climb into your sleeping bag so get a bag that has a zip all the way around so you can open it up and lie on top. You may want to consider an inner liner or sheet as well, either to use on its own or to put inside your sleeping bag to keep it clean; you then only need to wash the sheet.
Most trips require you to bring a sleeping mat though on some shorter tours these are included – make sure you check your pre-departure information. They can also be used as comfortable seat when you are around the campfire or on the beach. The purpose of the sleeping mat is to provide you with some comfort and to insulate you from the ground. By creating a barrier between the ground and your sleeping bag, the sleeping mat helps retain heat and protects your sleeping bag from cold spots and rising damp.
Absolutely essential if you’re camping – you need to be able to see where you are going in the dark and we urge you to carry your torch everywhere at night. Many overland passengers bring head torches; these may lack a certain style but they are mighty handy when putting up a tent or cooking as they leave your hands free. Most vehicles have interior and exterior lights but excessive use of these drains the vehicle’s batteries – you will need a torch. Remember to bring enough spare batteries.
A durable plastic water bottle can be filled from the vehicle’s water tank or jerry cans which carry safe, often purified drinking water. Bottled water is available but it is expensive and throwing away several plastic bottles a day is also not very eco-friendly.
On most trips there will be the opportunity to pay for a laundry service somewhere along the way. In East Africa this might involve the washing-on-stones-in the-river method; your clothes will be wonderfully clean though this method wears them out quickly – so leave the designer gear at home.
In South Africa and Namibia you may be able to use a laundromat and some campsites have washing machines although at some point on your tour you will have to hand-wash your own clothes. Happily, washing soap is cheap and plentiful in Africa though you may want to consider bringing a clothes line and scrubbing brush.
Sleeping out under the stars in Africa is a wonderful experience but you will certainly need a mosquito net. In most campsites there will be a tree or fence from which to hang your net or you can simply hang the mosquito net from the truck. There will be some campsites however where it is necessary to sleep in a tent, especially those in national parks where animals roam free and campsites are unfenced.
Other items you may want to consider are spare camera batteries, binoculars, an alarm clock and a pen knife which is always handy – especially if it has a bottle opener or corkscrew