Africa has 54 sovereign countries—the most on any continent—and is the second largest continent in terms of both land area and population. Africa is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, by the Red Sea to the northeast, and by the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Africa is a vast continent spanning over 8,000km (5,000 mi) north to south and 7,500km (4,800 mi) east to west (not including islands) and contains a wide array of peoples, skin colours, religions, and cultures. Africa contains the world's longest river—the 6,650km long (4,100 mi) Nile River running from Burundi to Egypt—while the Congo River in the DRC is the second largest in terms of discharge as well as the deepest with a depth of over 230m (750 ft) in some spots. Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro is the world's tallest free-standing mountain at 5,890m (19,340 ft). Djibouti's Lake Assal is the second lowest point on Earth, the saltiest lake outside Antarctica, and one of the hottest places on Earth.
While the first activity most people associate with Africa is safaris, there are endless possibilities for adventure. You can purchase crafts in markets, venture into the Sahara with a Tuareg caravan, visit pygmy villages, hike through jungle to watch gorillas, relax on tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, snack on exotic treats, travel down a river in a dugout "pirogue", travel across savannah on a colonial-era railway, and much more.
Africa is a very diverse continent, with each country, or even each part of a country having its own unique culture. While it is common for people in the West to refer to Africa as if it was a single country, one should remember the sheer size of the continent, and that Africa is not one country but 54 different countries, meaning that it is impossible to make generalisations of Africa as a whole.
Tragically misunderstood by many people as a land of poverty, corruption, war and famine, and simply as a land of suffering—a misconception only bolstered by the media and the numerous NGOs on the continent—Africa today is a vast continent with many bustling metropolises, friendly people, and amazingly diverse and beautiful landscapes. While there are some places resembling the stereotypical Africa of war, famine, and poverty, most of the continent is peaceful, well-fed, and of working class.
As the second largest continent, there is a wide range of climates to be found. However, since the continent is nearly centred on the equator, much of the continent is quite warm/temperate with very few, small areas on the continent experiencing any temperatures that can be considered "cold". In the temperate regions (parts of northern Morocco & the Mediterranean coast as well as South Africa), temperatures generally range from the 10s C to the mid-30s°C (40s-90s°F) year round. Closer to the equator and on islands like Cape Verde or Mauritius, temperatures may only vary less than 20 degrees Celsius (15-35°C/65-95°F) throughout the year. In the deserts and arid regions like the Sahel and Horn of Africa, temperatures routinely hit 40°C+ (and even 50°C+ in the heart of the Sahara) but because sand does not retain heat like most soil does, those same places can easily fall down to 15°C at night. There are a few bastions of cooler weather, however. Higher elevations, such as the Atlas Mountains in Morocco & Algeria or in Lesotho, are quite cold and snowy during winter and Mount Kilimanjaro, almost on the equator, is cold year-round (cold enough to support glaciers!). Peaks on islands such as Reunion, the Canary Islands, Mount Cameroon and more are cool enough to necessitate a jacket much of the year.
A far more important factor to consider when travelling to Africa is when the rain/monsoon season occurs. Timing varies a bit even in neighbouring countries, so check the page of the country you are visiting for more info. In West Africa the season starts in March around Cameroon, but not until June in Senegal or the Sahel and ends around September. While rain may not be a huge factor when travelling to southern or East Africa, it is very problematic in West Africa and on islands in the Indian Ocean. In West Africa, rains will often flood and make many roads and railways impassable and, due to poor drainage, can literally result in rivers of water flowing down streets and sewage lines to overflow. In the Sahel, it can result in flash floods in low-lying areas.
The largest weather-related dangers for travellers to Africa are lightning and tropical cyclones. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has more lighting strikes each year than any other country on earth, especially in the eastern part of the country near Goma. Lightning risk is highest from western Kenya/Tanzania and Ethiopia west to Senegal and south to Angola and Zambia. Tropical cyclones affect the islands of the Indian Ocean, with the season running from 15 Nov-30 Apr (15 May in the Seychelles and Mauritius). Tropical cyclones also infrequently affect the horn of Africa near Djibouti & Somalia, but when they do, the arid land results in major flooding. Tropical cyclones often form off the coast of western West Africa (Guinea/Senegal) during the early part of the Atlantic Hurricane Season (June-August) and will rarely impact Cape Verde, for which these particular storms are called "Cape Verde-type hurricanes".
Air fares to Africa can be very expensive, but there are ways to save. The best way to get great airfare to the continent is fly directly to an African country from its former colonial rulers. For example, it can easily cost hundreds of euros/dollars more to fly from London to a former French colony, or conversely from Paris to a former British colony. About the only exceptions are Egypt, which has plentiful, cheap connections with the Middle East & Europe and a handful of West African destinations (e.g. Cape Verde, Morocco) popular with British tourists and accessible with cheap holiday flights.
Airline consolidators can also be used for discounted air fares. If you have additional travel time, check to see how your total fare quote to Africa compares with a round-the-world fare. Don't forget to add in the extra costs of additional visas, departure taxes, ground transportation, etc. for all those places outside of Africa.
See your destination's article for more specific information on flights. Bear in mind that many African countries only offer a few international flights each day, or in some cases, each week. While it isn't hard to reach South Africa or Egypt, getting to Malawi or Togo can be quite a challenge.
There are more flights to Africa from Europe than from any other continent. Popular holiday destinations such as Egypt, Morocco, Cape Verde, & South Africa are well-served from Europe's major cities, even with discount and charter airlines. Royal Air Maroc, Afriqyah Airlines, & EgyptAir have a good selection of European destinations and Ethiopian, Kenyan, South African, & Arik Air serve a couple of major cities (London, Paris, etc.). The cheapest flights to African cities are often through the African country's former colonial power. Cities with large immigrant populations such as London, Marseilles, & Paris have a good number of flights to Africa.
Chief among European airlines flying to Africa are:
Many European discount airlines serve major tourist destination in Africa (especially Morocco, Cape Verde, Tunisia, Egypt, & the Gambia), including Jetairfly, EasyJet, & Corsairfly.
From North America
The following routes are operated from North America as of August 2017:
In addition, there may be charter flights from Houston to certain countries in the west of Africa, catering mainly for the oil industry in Texas.
Outside the peak travel times to Europe (e.g. summer) you might be able to get a good deal to London or Paris and book a fare from there to Africa separately on a European travel website. But don't book the United States to Europe portion until you get confirmed on the Europe to Africa portion first. Through fares to Africa from the United States can be quite expensive, so avoiding peak travel times to Europe can sometimes save a lot. However, since new non-stop flights to Africa have recently been added, and Europe is much more expensive than it used to be, try getting a direct quote first, then see if you can do better. Another growing option is flying through the Middle East on Emirates or Qatar, which both serve a reasonable selection of African & American cities.
From South America
The following routes are operated from South America:
From Asia & the Middle East
If you're flying to a small African country, Africa's major airlines all have extensive coverage in Africa and fly to a handful of Asian destinations:
Nearly all North African countries along with Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, & Somalia have extensive connections with the Middle East. And similarly, countries with large Muslim populations are likely to have a connection to Jedda/Mecca either year-round or seasonal (e.g. during hajj). North African destinations aside, connections with the Middle East include:
Other flights from East and South Asia include the following: Cathay Pacific flights to Hong Kong. Furthermore, due to increased Chinese investment many cities have service from Beijing, cities with direct flights to Beijing-Capital include Luanda, Algiers, Lagos, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, & Harare. Malaysian Airlines serves Johannesburg from Kuala Lumpor. Korean Air serves Cairo from Seoul. Air Austral flies to Bangkok seasonally from Reunion. Air Seychelles flies to Singapore and Male from Mahe. Air Madagascar flies from Antananarivo to Bangkok & Guangzhou.Air Mauritius flies from Mauritius to Bangalore, Chennai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, & Singapore. Singapore Airlines flies to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The best option to fly from East or South Asia is likely on Emirates or Qatar, both of which have a decent selection of destinations in Asia & Africa, or via Europe on airlines such as British Airways, Air France, or Lufthansa which all offer an extensive number of destinations across Africa.
There are only a handful of connections to Australia:
Qantas' flight is one of only two commercial routes that pass over sea ice near Antarctica (the other is Qantas between Buenos Aires [Santiago after March 2012]& Sydney). International aviation rules require polar gear that takes up several rows of seats to fly over Antarctica (specifically, south of 72 degrees), so there are no commercial routes over the continent. The 747 flies close on the westward journey, Sydney-Jo'burg, because there are very strong tailwinds near Antarctica (flight-time is 11.5 hours westward vs. 14 eastward). With a clear sky and a window seat—especially on the left—you should be able to see a vast expanse of sea ice and perhaps even continental Antarctica near the horizon! Other airlines fly further north because their 2-engine planes must remain closer to diversion airports in Western Australia/the Mascarene Islands, in case of engine failure. A New Zealand-South Africa flight would be only route where the Great Circle (shortest) route would pass over continental Antarctica, but no airline has ever flown this route.
The only land connection to another continent is the 163km-wide Isthmus of Suez, which is found in Egypt (although the Sinai peninsula is sometimes considered a part of Africa for geopolitical reasons). Thus the only way to drive into Africa is to drive through Egypt. Most people driving from the Middle East to Africa travel through Jordan and take a short car ferry to Egypt to avoid transiting Israel, since Egypt's two African neighbours (Sudan & Libya) deny entry for persons with Israeli stamps or Egyptian/Jordanian stamps indicating travel to Israel.
Despite there being just one, narrow land crossing into the continent, there are other ways to bring vehicles into Africa by short car ferries. The short crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco is crossed by several ferries daily and relatively inexpensive. Other car ferries include:
Several overland trucks make journeys which cross between Europe or the Middle East and Africa, these companies are listed below under "Get around/Overland trucks".
Many Mediterranean cruises stop in North African countries such Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, the Canary Islands, & Cape Verde. Some ocean liners will stop in the Canary or Cape Verde Islands on trans-Atlantic crossings or in South Africa, Madagascar, Zanzibar, the Seychelles, or Mauritius on round-the-world trips.
Elsewhere is Africa, cruises are limited to luxury or 'boutique' cruise lines often aboard small vessels and quite expensive or "freighter cruises" which do not offer much to "passengers" but may spend a few days in a handful of ports. Grimaldi Freighter Cruises, , has weekly departures to West Africa making the round-trip from Amsterdam in 38 days.
The Seychelles, Reunion, & Mauritius are popular destinations for yachts and private vessels, but piracy around the Horn of Africa has kept a lot of the European vessels away.
For a truly unique experience, take the RMS St Helena  from the UK to Cape Town via St Helena-one of the world's most remote islands!
Africa is plagued by visa bureaucracy and policies that differ widely from country to country. However, there are currently four customs unions in effect in Africa:
There are a number of reliable airlines that ply the African Continent. Chief among them are:
There are also many airlines which are noteworthy in particular regions, such as TAAG Angola Airlines (South/Central Africa), Arik Air(Nigeria), Air Burkina (West Africa), Air Austral (Indian Ocean), Air Mauritius (Indian Ocean), Tunis Air (North Africa), Mauritania Airlines International (West Africa) and more.
Consider airline safety when flying in Africa. Although SAA, Ethiopian Airlines, & Kenya Airways all meet EU & FAA safety standards, the same isn't true for all airlines, especially smaller domestic carriers in countries where political stability may be lacking, tenuous or only recently reintroduced. Check with the EU Commision on Air Safety  for a list of airlines that do not meet their safety standards.
Low cost carriers (LCCs) are also present in Africa, but in a much smaller scale when comparing with other regions of the world.
If you want to drive your own car around Africa, see also Carnet de Passage.
Driving in Africa can be a hair-raising adventure. It should not be undertaken personally unless you are already comfortable driving in developing countries.
The best roads, the best rental cars, and the (relatively) least insane driving can be found in South Africa and Botswana, but even then, driving in those countries is still a far cry from what visitors from First World countries are accustomed to.
For sightseeing trips, it may be less expensive to hire a taxi than to rent a car, but be sure to negotiate taxi fares beforehand. Travel on rural roads can be slow and difficult in the dry season and disrupted by floods in the rainy season. If you plan on travelling in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, avoid the rainy months of May through October above the equator and the rainy months of November through April below the equator. Some roads may be flooded or washed out during these months.
Travel by car outside large towns can be dangerous. Major roads are generally well maintained but there are few divided highways in Africa. In addition, rural auto accidents are fairly common because of high speed limits and the presence of wildlife in these areas. Night driving, especially in rural areas, is not recommended. Visitors are encouraged to hire reputable tour operators for safaris or other game viewing expeditions. Although self-drive expeditions in national parks sound like a great way to save money, you will change your mind quickly if an elephant overturns your car or sits on it with you inside.
Bus service is extensive in Africa and in almost all countries it is the main means of transportation for locals and tourists alike. Styles of buses and minibuses vary across the continent, refer to country pages for more info.
Many locals hitchhike in countries throughout Africa, often paying a small fee to the driver. It is best to check the political and social climate of each region before travelling.
In the whole of Africa it is possible to flag down cars and pay them a required fee and get a lift in return. That is just the way public transport works in this part of the world - he who has a means of transportation, that is a car or minibus, is automatically expected to give lifts to others and of course charge them a small amount of money for the favour. The idea of it has nothing to do with the Western idea of hitchhiking.
Some people with limited amounts of time or who would prefer not to make their own arrangements opt for the "overlander" experience. Many operators run tours in large trucks that are comfortable and equipped with facilities for around 8-30 persons. They're generally run on a pretty tight schedule and cover a lot of distance, such as "Nairobi to Johannesburg in six weeks". These tours are run throughout the whole continent but East and Southern Africa are by far the most popular destinations. Accommodation is mostly camping with tents provided. Most meals are arranged and many are prepared by those on the trip (cooking duties rotated throughout the trip), and free time (like everything else) is scheduled. However, there is plenty of time to participate in the adventure activities that certain areas of Africa are famous for such as Victoria Falls, Swakopmund, Zanzibar, and Serengeti National Park. Some people really enjoy these tours, especially when they do not have enough time to organize all travel arrangements themselves. Others loathe the very thought of travelling in a group and think that they keep you way out of touch with the "real" Africa. Whatever the case, they're a very different way to travel through Africa. The people that go on these tours tend to be young at heart and slightly adventurous; these tours are not luxury trips.
Passenger railways in Africa are sparse and the majority are short and within one country. South Africa and Egypt are the two countries with significant passenger railway services. There is also a handful of interconnected railways running from Botswana through Zimbabwe & Zambia to Tanzania (which will connect to Rwanda by 2012). Morocco has two modern, fast train lines connecting most major cities. In Kenya, there is a Mombasa-Nairobi-Kisumu line which is popular for wildlife spotting. Namibia has a line running from Swakopmund to Windhoek and south to near the South African border. In South Africa the five star Blue Train ranks amongst the best luxury trains in the world. The Blue Train travels from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. The Gautrain is a modern fast train connecting major areas of Johannesburg, OR Tambo International Airport and the administrative capital city of South Africa, Pretoria.
There are also a handful of very old, slow trains in Africa: Wadi Halfa-Khartoum, Sudan (with a short ferry on Lake Aswan, you can continue north to Cairo); Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso-Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire; Dakar, Senegal-Bamako, Mali (stopped running summer 2009); a couple trains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and short lines in Cameroon & Gabon. The Chinese are currently building railway lines in Angola which should open in the next few years.
For a unique experience, you can ride the longest train in the world in Mauritania in either the guard's van or atop open iron ore carriages.
Where there is water, there are usually boat services to some extent. In the DRC, boats are the primary means of transportation due to the extensive network of rivers and both the lack of any roads at all and the extreme ruttedness of those that do exist. Some noteworthy river travels in Africa are:
Along the Niger River small, wooden pirogues varying in design from a 2 person canoe to wider craft carrying about passengers with a canopy and rudimentary toilet. Travelling by pirogue is slow, but the Sahelian scenery and people you meet on the boat and during stops make this a memorable African experience. Due to cataracts, pirogues on the Niger only operate in Mali and Niger bordering Benin and then again in Nigeria after Gaya (Niger). If you can blend in with the locals, you may avoid border formalities this way.
Along the Congo River large, old and often overcrowded ferries connect cities along the river in the Congo, DRC, & Central African Republic. Small boats from villages come out and moor themselves to these ferries to sell food and merchandise and the boat is a bustling marketplace of hundreds of people much of the time. Conditions aboard these ferries are poor and bearable only by the most seasoned of travellers. Talk to the captain to see if you can use one of the handful of rooms to sleep.
There is no dominant language in Africa, but if you are travelling in West or Central Africa, French will be the most useful across these nations and regions apart from English. Arabic is the dominant language in North Africa, though French is also widely spoken. English is also useful in many countries. Swahili is the most useful language in East Africa. In Ethiopia, most people speak Amharic, which is indigenous to the nation. Even if you know a blanket language like French, it is always a good idea to bring phrasebooks for the native languages. In Senegal, for example, despite being part of Francophone Africa, visitors are likely to find Wolof very useful and sometimes necessary when dealing with residents. The more you wish to interact with locals or go out of the cities, the more important it will be for you to have resources to communicate in the local African language.
Flora & Fauna
Africa is home to many famous natural wonders, from the Nile River, the world's longest river, to Victoria Falls. The continent is home to two of the world's four volcanoes with permanent lava lakes—the dramatic Mount Nyiragongo which rises hundreds of metres above Goma, DRC and Erta Ale in Ethiopia's stark Danakil Depression (the others are Mt.Erebus in Antarctica & Kilauea in Hawaii). Both volcanoes can be climbed by the adventurous tourist to stand at the rim gazing in awe at the bubbling lava below, an especially incredible sight at night!
While the continent's diverse and unique wildlife is often all that is mentioned in regards to African travel, as home to the oldest civilizations on the planet, Africa has equally impressive cultures and history. The most famous civilization on the continent, and arguably in the world, is that of ancient Egypt. From the southern city of Abu Simbel to Luxor and all the way north to Alexandria and Cairo, including the Pyramids of Giza, the only surviving of the original Seven Wonders of the World and the most iconic symbols of this ancient kingdom. Sites from the Nubian-Kushite Kingdom that broke away from Egypt can be found in Sudan, such as Gebel Barkal and many other pyramids in Meroe.
Ethiopia offers many ruins from the ancient Axumite Kingdom where the Queen of Sheba ruled. The obelisks and Dungur ruins in Axum were built prior to the kingdom's conversion to Christianity, while many other great monuments, such as the Ezana Stone and the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, where the Arc of the Covenant is said to be stored, were built after the conversion as religious sites. Other famous Christian structures built later by the kingdom's successor, the Abyssinian Empire, especially during the 12th and 13th centuries, can also be found in Lalibela.
In West Africa, structures from the ancient Mali Empire can be found in Timbuktu and Djenne. Although there are Islamic influences, the architectural style of the Malian Kingdom's mosques are still quite unique and recognizably African. The cliff dwellings in Mali's Dogon Country, built by the Dogon people, are also impressive ancient structures in Mali. Often overshadowed by Africa's other monuments, Sungbo's Eredo in Ijebu Ode, Nigeria, built by the Yoruba people, is actually the largest pre-colonial structure remaining on the continent. Today it towers over the city, covered in vegetation.
Ruins from the ancient Swahili culture can be found in the coastal areas of East Africa, particularly in Kenya and Tanzania. The Swahili structures combines elements of African architecture with Islamic architecture, which was quite prominent around the 14th century. Some of the most famous Swahili structures include the Gedi Ruins and Pillar Tombs around Malindi and Kilwa Kisiwani. Zanzibar's Stone Town features Swahili structures spanning hundreds of years from its early days to the 18th century.
In Southern Africa, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe have fascinated visitors ever since Europeans discovered them. No one had believed that the inhabitants of black Africa were capable of creating any great monuments on their own until the ruins of this ancient culture were discovered.
Roman structures are scattered throughout North Africa, with the ancient city of Carthage being the most well-known abroad. Many cities, such as Leptis Magna, Timgad, and Dougga feature Roman ruins as impressive as those in Europe itself. Many other European structures can be found throughout the continent, dating back to the earliest days of imperialism.
Safari is the swahili word meaning to travel , however many outsiders interpret "safari" to mean a visit a game area to interact with African wildlife. The most common types of safari are "hunting safaris " where game is mainly hunted for trophy , and "photographic safaris" where wildlife is primarily watched and photographed, and the goal is often to see the Big Five.
Photographic safaris can be in the form of dry or wet safaris ; dry being driving safaris and walking safaris ; wet being safaris from various types of water vessels. The best place for safari is on the African continent in the countries of Kenya, Tanzania , Zambia , Zimbabwe , Botswana ,Namibia , and South Africa , where there are dozens of parks , reserves , sanctuaries , etc , set aside for safari. Discerning safari enthusiasts will arrange their safari around the safari jurisdiction , the time of year , the type of safari vehicles, the proficiency of the guides , the camps and food , the size of the travel party, etc. A good resource for African safaris is Lion Dog African Safaris based in North America , and the African Travel Resource based in Europe .
Africa does not have tall, jagged mountain ranges comparable to the Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, or Alps and there are very few mountains requiring technical gear. The Atlas Mountains across Morocco, Algeria, & Tunisia; the Drakensberg in South Africa & Lesotho; the Semian Mountains in Ethiopia; and the Rwenzori Mountains between Uganda & the DRC are the only considerable mountain ranges on the continent, all with numerous peaks which can be easily climbed. Additionally, there are some tall volcanoes along the Great Rift Valley, on the Indian Ocean islands, & in Cameroon. Some of the continent's most climbed or unique mountains are:
Abseiling and rock climbing can be done in many parts of Africa, with many opportunities in South Africa.
Trekking & hiking
Most of Africa's mountain ranges and highlands are suitable for trekking. The Drakensberg in South Africa & Lesotho, Ethiopian Highlands, and Mali's Dogon Country are the most popular trekking destinations in Africa and most guidebooks to these countries describe the most popular routes. In the dense jungles of the CAR & DRC treks, almost always organized, to pygmy settlements are available. Established trekking routes exist in the forests of Guinea's Fouta Djallon highlands and Cameroon.
The Aïr Massif in Niger is popular for hiking around its sand scraped rock formations and oases, usually short distances from your camel or vehicle transport. Hiking can also be done in many forests with established paths. In Uganda, Rwanda, & the adjacent DRC, hiking to see the endangered mountain gorilla is a major tourism draw, although permits are US$500 to spend hours hiking through tropical forests to spend 1 hour in close proximity to the gorillas.
There are a good number of great scuba diving sites across Africa. The Red Sea off Egypt offers clear, tranquil waters. Diving in the Indian Ocean is common off all islands and on the continent from Kenya south. Diving in South Africa is most famous for "shark dives", where divers are lowered in cages to watch sharks feed on bait, although other diving opportunities exist. Few locations inland are popular with divers; Lake Malawi—which is clear, deep and filled with unique species—is the only lake with a significant number of dive operators.
Relax on a beach
Africa has a very long coastal line with thousands of beautiful beaches as it is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
Football is the most widespread and popular sporting event with games between countries usually drawing tens of thousands of patriotic, cheering fans filling basic stadiums. Watching a football match in Africa is a must; try to dress in the colours of the home team and join the cheering celebration with your neighbours! The quadrennial African Cup of Nations (Angola in 2010) is the continent's premier championship. South Africa played host to the first African FIFA World Cup in 2010.
Rugby is played by several former British colonies in Southern and Eastern Africa.
The three easiest currencies to exchange within Africa are the euro, US dollar, and pound sterling. In some countries with a large tourism sector Australian and Canadian dollars and Japanese yen may be exchanged at large banks and some currency exchanges, but you will receive a poor exchange rate as these currencies are uncommon and more troublesome for the banks in turn to exchange. The continent is roughly split between a blocks where the US dollar is easiest to exchange and use and where the euro is.
Due to concerns about counterfeiting, money exchangers, banks, and most likely even merchants will not accept US dollar banknotes that are worn or older than 2001. As strange as that sounds, it seems to be a steadfast rule amongst anyone dealing much in dollars and you will find it difficult or even impossible to dispose of worn or pre-2001 dollar banknotes. The same does not seem to hold true for euros, but may for other non-African currencies.
With few exceptions, African currencies are generally not accepted by banks or money changers outside their native territory, or at least not at a decent exchange rate. The currencies of some smaller countries are non-exchangeable and become worthless abroad, with some countries prohibiting export of their currencies and confiscating and even fining people leaving the country with currency (most notably the Angolan kwanza).
There are three currency unions in Africa:
Despite sharing the same name and same exchange rate (655.957 CFA francs = €1), the two "CFA franc" currencies are issued by different banks and are NOT interchangeable. A 1000 CFA franc banknote from Gabon will not be accepted by a merchant in Benin, and vice versa. Indeed, even with banks and money changers it will likely be easier (and you'll receive a better exchange rate) to exchange euros or even US dollars. Given the fixed exchange, if visiting any of these countries, euros will receive a more favourable exchange rate.
The Mauritanian ouguiya & Malagasy ariary are the only two non-decimal currencies currently in use in the world, divided into 1/5th fractions known as khoums & iraimbilanja, respectively.
The US dollar has been the de facto currency of Zimbabwe since the collapse of the Zimbabean dollar and allowance of foreign currency as tender in January 2009. The Djiboutian franc (117.721=USD1) and Eritrean nakfa (16.5=USD1) are pegged to the dollar.
The US dollar is the easiest currency to exchange (and may receive a better exchange rate compared to the euro) in Southern Africa and East Africa, as well as the DRC, Nigeria, & Liberia. Many tour operators, tourist attractions, and hotels in these regions set their prices in dollars, some even going as far as to offer poor exchange rates for or even refuse local currency. Also, many countries in these regions set their visa prices in dollars and will only accept dollars (or perhaps pound sterling).
The euro is the official currency of France's Mayotte & Reunion territories and Spain's Canary Islands. The West & Central African CFA francs are pegged to the euro at 655.975 (formerly, simply 100 to the French franc). The Moroccan dirham is pegged (with a fluctuation band) to the euro at roughly 10 dirhams to one euro. The Cape Verdean escudo is pegged at 110.265 to one euro and the Comoran franc is pegged at 491.9678 to one euro. The Sao Tome and Principe dobra was fixed at 24500 to 1 euro in 2010 to guarantee stability—it was worth just 12000 per euro in 2004.
The Euro is the easiest currency to exchange and receives the best exchange rate in countries whose currencies are fixed to the euro, with strong European ties, and/or where the majority of tourists are European. This generally corresponds with North Africa, the Sahel, West Africa, & Central Africa with the exceptions of Egypt, Sudan, & Ghana, neither the euro nor dollar is better, and Nigeria, the DRC, & Liberia. Due to the relevantly recent creation of the Euro and long-standing status of the dollar, beware that there are some regions of Africa where people either have never heard of the euro or will see it as worthless.
South African rand
The South African rand is an official currency and widely circulated in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, & Namibia. Although the latter three issue their own currencies, they are pegged 1:1 with the rand and are not legal tender in the other countries as is the SA rand. The rand has also been accepted in Zimbabwe since the Zimbabwean dollar's demise, but not as widely as the U.S. dollar. It is also readily exchanged (and sometimes accepted for payment) in Botswana and Mozambique as well as most of the tourist spots in Botswana and Zambia.
Durban South Africa boost of markets, visit Warwick Junction precinct which houses a bustling market area. Here you will find the Bovine Head Cookers, the Early Morning Market, Herbalists’ Bridge, Music Market, Clay Market and the Hazrath Badshaw Peer Market/Brook Street Market as well as the Victoria Street Market and the Brook Street Bead Sellers Market. The streets and pavements are lined with traders of all kinds and the Berea Station offers more shops.for more tours around Durban contact Durban City Tour Guides
Trade in ivory is prohibited by nearly all countries in the world, with hefty penalties and even jail time for offenders. Many animal products (some commonly found in fetish markets) are also banned by western countries, such as tortoise shells, tusks of any animal, or any part of or item made with an endangered species. Some African countries keen on conservation will prosecute all violators to the fullest extent of the law...so be careful when purchasing animal products unless you want to spend years in an African prison. Keep in mind that even if an item may be exported from an African country it may be illegal to import into a Western country; both the EU and US have strict laws on importing animal products in the name of conservation.
Some medications which may be purchased without a prescription in Western countries or parts of Africa may contain ingredients considered illegal narcotics or controlled substances in some countries. In particular, diphenhydramine is a "controlled substance" in Zambia and several Americans have been fined and jailed on drug-trafficking charges for possession the over-the-counter allergy medicine Benadryl (elsewhere called Dimedrol) and the pain reliever Advil PM whose main active ingredient is diphenhydramine.
Drug trafficking is as common an offense as in most Western countries. The list of what substances are considered drugs varies from country to country. Beware khat which is readily grown and consumed in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa is considered a drug in most other African countries. Organized drug trafficking is a major problem in Guinea, & Guinea-Bissau en route from South America to Europe.
As with most countries, check local laws concerning antiquities before trying to leave the country with anything that appears to be over 100 years old.
Although Africa previously dealt with ruthless dictators, more recently the continent has seen a rise in militant Salafi groups. Nonetheless, most of Africa is safe for travel and nearly all tourist attractions on the continent are far from conflict. There are also jihadists and radical Islamists operating in various countries. Some jihadi groups cooperate.
Somalia, where warlords have fought for control since the collapse of the central government in 1993, and the Central African Republic, where general lawlessness and rebels exist throughout most of the country, should only be visited by experienced travellers who are very competent regarding the dangers that exist. Otherwise, these areas should be considered no-go regions. Exceptions are Somaliland which is de facto independent and quite safe and the CAR's isolated Dzanga Sangha National Reserve.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to the second largest jungle after the Amazon and most of the country is impassable by land. The eastern and northeastern regions are home to rebels and general lawlessness and have recently been home to the bloodiest conflict since World War 2. Safe regions are the west (incl. Kinshasa), south (near Zambia border, incl. Lubumbashi), and a few spots on the border, such as Goma, Bukavu, & Virunga National Park.
The Central Sahara is host to numerous problems, notably that a growing presence (or at least impact) of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in much of Saharan Algeria, northern Mali (north of Timbuktu, east of Gao, and near the Nigerian border), and far eastern Mauritania has resulted in several kidnappings (incl. one Briton beheaded, kidnapped near the Mali-Niger border) and a couple of suicide bombings in Nouakchott. A Tuareg uprising has left much of the area around Agadez, once a popular tourist destination, off-limits and unsafe. Several borders in the Sahara are closed or very unsafe as a result of banditry: Libya-Sudan (closed), Libya-Chad (closed), Chad-Sudan (unsafe due to Darfur conflict), Chad-Niger (banditry), Libya-Niger (banditry), Mali-Algeria (no road crossings, AQIM), Algeria-Mauritania (AQIM), & Algeria-Morocco (closed).
Portions of Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Chad are home to rebels and it is important to obtain up-to-date information on which parts of these countries are safe to visit (see warnings on those pages). Nigeria has a poor reputation for conflict largely based on events 20+ years ago and, at present, only a small region around the Niger Delta is unsafe to visit. Similarly, in Sudan, only the western Darfur regions and south-central "boundary" between the conflicting North-South are dangerous.
As of February 2010, the authoritarian governments of Eritrea & Guinea have been hostile to the West following harsh condemnations of authoritarianism, massacres of civilians, & refusal of food aid. Niger had a coup in February 18 2010 and instability (especially in the capital) is possible in coming months. While it is physically safe & possible to visit these countries, beware of political unrest.
As of 2011, the states of North Africa have been swept by a wave of popular unrest, with Egypt and Tunisia experiencing revolutions and Libya descending into a civil war, and all other countries going through some sort of unrest. While travel to much the region is perfectly safe now, protests still sometimes turn violent, and travel to Libya should be avoided.
Africa can certainly be a dangerous continent just like others. Check the "stay safe" areas of the individual countries you are going to.
In most parts of Africa dangerous wildlife should be of only very minor, if any, concern at all. In some parts of East Africa and South Africa large abundances of potentially dangerous animals can be found, but the majority of the time any traveler would most likely be perfectly safe in a vehicle with their tour guide. Nonetheless, attacks and deaths do occur (rarely with foreigners, but commonly with locals) and it is best to be well-informed. Nile crocodiles can be extremely dangerous and swimming is not an option in most low-lying portions of East Africa. Lions and leopards can be dangerous, but you are unlikely to encounter them on foot unless you are being extremely foolish. Large herbivores such as elephants and rhinos can also be very dangerous if aggravated, even while in a vehicle. Venomous snakes exist and are plentiful, but are very shy and you are unlikely to even see one let alone be bitten by one. Most insects in the country are no more dangerous than what you would find in any other country, and the spiders are mostly harmless to humans. Despite all of this, easily the most dangerous non-human animal in the entire African continent is the mosquito.
Many countries are authoritarian regimes, so exercise caution in what you say. Freedom of speech and assembly are not necessarily guaranteed.
LGBT travellers should exercise extreme caution when travelling to Africa as many African countries outlaw homosexual activity and same-sex marriage. Places such as Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Sudan have strict laws against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Penalties can range from small fines to the death sentence.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of HIV and AIDS infection on Earth. A 2005 UN Report says over 25 million infected, over 7% of adults, for the continent as a whole. Be extremely cautious about any sexual activity in Africa. Especially note that the rates of HIV infection among sex workers is phenomenally high.
Bushmeat from gorillas, monkeys, chimpanzees, & mandrills should be avoided. Due to their similarity to humans, a number of diseases (including yet-undiscovered or poorly-studied ones) can be spread by consuming their flesh, especially if not heated hot enough. HIV is undoubtedly the most famous disease transmitted from primates, but others include ebola, anthrax, yellow fever, and more.