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Wednesday, 01 July 2015

When you go to Africa: Preparing for the Trip of a Lifetime - Page 3

Written by Philip Perry
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Dusk and dawn are the most common times for mosquitoes. Many countries in the region have two seasons, the rainy and the dry season. During rainy season mosquitos are particularly bad. Note that it is only the female mosquitos that carry malaria. Wearing long sleeves at dusk or if you are up (and you may be, Africans get up early) at dawn can help, though some people forgo long sleeves at it may be too hot. Bring mosquito repellent with a high concentration of DEET and spray it on your arms legs, neck and any other exposed skin. Read the directions carefully and follow them. 

For protection at night, make sure you sleep under a mosquito net. If you plan to be visiting rural areas or places that are indeed malarial make sure to purchase an insect repellent treated mosquito net. They are more expensive. But it will give you added protection. The way to use it is to hang it from the ceiling from the hook provided. Spread it out and tuck it under the mattress. This will keep you within a canopy of protection. When not in a hotel, you may want to check your bed for creepy crawlies, just in case before turning in. Insects, along with the other myriad forms of life abound in this biologically rich area.  

It’s important to contact your health insurance company before your trip. Many hospitals in the region expect payment before treatment, so be prepared for that should something go wrong. Most insurance companies will reimburse you, or reimburse half depending upon your plan, on your return home. Furthermore, if you do need to be airlifted out, you want to know how much of the cost they will cover and how.  

Contact your financial institutions as well. If you are taking credit cards or a debit card, call the companies and your bank and let them know about your stay, where you are staying, where you might use your card, what dates you will be traveling and the length of time you will be there.  If you don’t inform them, when you go to use your card they may think that it has been stolen and you won’t be able to receive your funds.  Also certain cards may not work in certain countries. Personally, I found that my Visa and Master Card both worked fine at ATMs all over Malawi, but my Discover card did not work there at all.  

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The state department has a great service for those traveling abroad. Visit and sign up for their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) program. Whether you are traveling or planning to live in any foreign country, the STEP program will give you email updates and alerts get you in touch with the closest consulate or embassy and can better help you should you experience an emergency. It’s also a good idea to find the consulates or embassies in the country or countries you are traveling in and write down their address, email, phone number and any other relevant information and keep it on hand. Check the State Department’s website too to see if you need a visa before going to your destination. In Malawi you get one at the border. Make sure to print out your itinerary and e-ticket and have it with you. Some border patrol agents require proof that you are leaving the country by a certain date. 

Buy locks for your suitcases. Not only are certain airports and hotels suspect, but it will give you piece of mind. I lock up any excess money, my laptop, smart phone and other items in my suitcase and lock my room whenever going out for extra security. Sometimes at the smaller backpackers and lodges, staff can have sticky fingers. It’s also a good idea to have a money belt with you and leave your valuables in it and on your person. It pays to keep some extra money in your locked up suitcase should anything happen. In the rural villages you will find that the majority of people are friendly and honest to a fault. Still one should be careful. In the cities theft is a common occurrence, though some more than others.  Watch out for cramped areas in nightclubs, bus terminals and crowds on the street. These are the most common places where theft occurs. 

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Last modified on Wednesday, 01 July 2015

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