Travelling to a new area of the world can be a life changing point for many people. At last, you’ll be able to experience everything there is to offer – and learn that it’s not so scary after all. Africa is a vast continent that offers the traveller outstanding beauty, exhilarating adventures and crazy moments, but it also can be very daunting, especially for the first time visitor. So if you’re travelling to East Africa, here are my top ten tips to make sure you get the most out of your trip.

1. Book a safari

From wildlife viewing to hot air balloon safaris and everything in between – there are so many types of tours available, in East Africa there is something for everyone. There are a wealth of subjects to choose from too, including classic game spotting, gorilla trekking, bird watching and aquatic animal expeditions. These safaris give you the best way of seeing all those beautiful creatures in their natural environment, as well as maybe even learn a tip or two from your guide. As if that wasn’t enough, safaris often cover a vast portion of the land meaning you can see plenty of the country in just a few days.

A lot of the time, it can be easier (and cheaper) to plan a trip yourself rather than paying for the privilege of someone doing it for you. However, safaris can be expensive and it’s often more economical and beneficial to join a group with an expert guide that knows where to go. Additionally if you are tight on time you want to maximise the amount you can do. If you have the budget, a package deal could give you the chance to experience much more than you ever imagined and using a travel rep can be useful.  Not only can they provide a great deal, they can offer a whole host of advice on everything from The Great Migration to planning family holidays in East Africa.

Top tip: Don’t wear dark blue, Tsetse flies love it and they are persistent, painful pests!

African Painted Dogs

2. Climb a mountain

Of course East Africa isn’t just about wildlife. Many visitors fancy scaling large peaks, most notably the infamous roof of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. Yet clambering up the continent’s highest point is costly and time consuming, as well as unenjoyable or even deadly due to altitude sickness. There are plenty of other ridges to scale that are still impressive but not as crowded or complicated, including mounts Kenya, Meru, Elgon and Rwenzori or the live volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania.

Top tip: For Kili, choose the longest climb as this gives you a greater chance to acclimatise.

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3. Relax on the beach

If you want glaringly white sands and cobalt blue warm seas then East Africa has a plethora of beach destinations that will put the cherry on the cake of your trip. There are the history soaked atmospheric islands of Lamu and Zanzibar to discover, as well as relaxing beaches and water sport hubs dotted along the coast. Try Diani, Kenya for aquatic adventures and Pangani, Tanzania for a peaceful retreat.

Top tip: If you are short on time Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, has some awesome islands within easy reach.

Idyllic Bongoyo Island, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

4. Get to know the locals

One of the best things about visiting East Africa is the people. By chatting to locals in a bar or taking a street tour you can easily meet some of the characters that inhabit these amazing countries. Connecting with a totally different culture can be enlightening and surprising, you just never know who you will meet. One thing is for sure, their stories will be interesting and you will probably be invited to visit their home and meet the family! If you are interested in a deeper experience then try an overnight village stay, complete with local activities and foods.

Top tip: There are some great street foods available across East Africa, most notably barbecued meat skewers (Mishkaki), egg wraps (Rolex’s) and fried cassava (Mihogo).

delicious fried meat street foods

5. Choose your season

Depending on what you want from your trip will depend on when you visit. For example, rainy season can mean super cheap prices but journeys may be adventurous due to flooding and climbing peaks are out. Between December and March is great for seeing the big cats in the east of the Serengeti as thousands of wildebeest and zebra congregate in herds. July is perfect for seeing crocodiles, when The Great Migration crosses the Grumeti River. Over on Mafia Island, huge whale sharks visit between November and February. Just remember that wild animals do not run to a strict timetable and despite your guide’s best efforts you may not be in luck!

Top tip: Check for special deals on tours during off season and bring a rain jacket just in case!

Gorilla time!

6. Get jabbed and medicated

Travelling to East Africa is great, but a trip to the hospital isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. Depending on where you’re going in East Africa will depend on the vaccines you will need, and it’s best to check well in advance. You will need to take anti-malarial prophylaxis, as from personal experience having malaria is not pleasant. Visit a trained professional at a travel clinic that will advise you based on your own medical history.

Once in East Africa take some precautions. Dehydration, diarrhoea and sun stroke can be fatal so don’t forget to keep in the shade and bring some oral rehydration salts. You don’t want to be ill as the nearest hospital can be miles away and not very well equipped. Make sure you have adequate insurance, including emergency repatriation and air ambulance services.

Top tip: Wear baby oil as a natural biting insect barrier, sleep under a mosquito net and carry long sleeved items.

Ladies selling bananas in traffic

7. Prepare yourself for (almost) anything

Mentally and physically East Africa can be very demanding. It’s hot, confusing, chaotic and can be a rough ride in more ways that one.

How much moving you’ll be doing depends on the type of holiday you have planned. Although you might head to the gym once a week, is your body ready for the struggles of trekking? Walking in similar conditions, stretching, and preparing to carry a heavy load with you are just some of the ways you can ensure you are ready for whatever challenges your trip to East Africa may throw your way. Similarly, sitting in a vehicle all day with little opportunity to exercise can be detrimental to your health. Luckily there are some easy ways to stay fit and strong whilst travelling.

East Africa is also delightful, cheerful, endearing and heart breaking, so be warned that emotions may run high. You may see people in absolute poverty, with awful ailments and the poor treatment of animals or children. This not unique to East Africa and it just may be not so apparent where you live, but it is there. Consider supporting a reputable East African charity that has a long term strategy and verified, proven results in improving lives.

Top tip: Go with the flow and an open mind. You may have to change your plans so don’t be frustrated and instead consider the new opportunities this can bring.

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

Hear me roar, a couple of lady lions

8. Take enough money

Of course, heading off travelling anywhere around the world can throw up the issue of how much money you’ll need. If you want to get the most out of travelling in this continent, then you’ll want to make sure you have enough money for any occasion. Street food can usually cost a few pounds, but excursions soon add up, and visiting East Africa can be more expensive than you think. Do you want to miss out on that once in a lifetime experience because you are a few pennies short? There are plenty of ways to make some extra cash before you leave and be financially savvy whilst you are there.

There are very few ATMs in East Africa, not many places accept credit cards and exchanging money can only be done in country. Luckily, there are some tricks to manage your spending whilst travelling, take cash out when you can and bring some US dollars just in case, as they are easily exchanged.

Top tip: Don’t exchange your money with ‘agents’ at border crossings, use the official exchanges or an ATM.

Super cute baby elephant

9. Stay Safe

Crime is everywhere in the world and just to add an extra dash of danger, East Africa has plenty of deadly animals. However, there are plenty of ways to make sure that you stay safe whilst travelling. Don’t risk your life for that ultimate selfie, or it could be the last one you take. Stay in your safari vehicle at all times, look out for snakes, scorpions and spiders, as well as bigger beasts that can be surprisingly fatal, such as hippos and buffalo.

Don’t forget that the biggest killers of tourists include road accidents and drowning, so be mindful of other drivers recklessness, research any public transport options carefully and take into account strong currents.

Top tip: Don’t show off your wealth, keep expensive gadgets, watches, clothes and jewellery at home or out of sight.

Kampala traffic jam

10. Take your time

One of the best things about travelling in Africa is the fact you don’t have to rush to a plan. You are there for a totally different type of trip, which includes humans and wild animals who don’t work to schedules. In fact, being off grid, going with the flow and not being in a hurry is one of the most pleasurable experiences that East Africa provides. Making sure you have enough time will help to make the best memories you can during your travels. Imagine going all that way to be left feeling short changed and wanting more?

Top tip: Expect delays so take a book, some cards and games or just relax!

Each new holiday comes with a list of to-dos, and here are ten of my top tips to get the most out of travelling in East Africa. Perhaps you have some more? Be sure to let me know in the comments below!

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.
If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

This is a collaborative post.