Lonrho Column

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Your Friend in Africa

There is undoubtedly excitement and naturally some apprehension, when one travels to a new destination. Given the infrastructural challenges, inconvenient flight schedules and the tapestry of visa and vaccination requirements out there, it is difficult to ensure you are adequately prepared for travelling in Africa – certainly, if it’s your first time.

I hear stories of seasoned travellers being delayed or even detained, due to not carrying a valid Yellow Fever certificate, or their passport has insufficient space, or the visa hasn’t been properly authorised. How does that happen?  Well, there’s no simple answer and, personally, what I do is that I attempt to minimise the risks and accelerate the time from touchdown to hotel bedroom. That works for me and if you adopt this simple approach, you’re going to give yourself a good chance of a drama-free trip.

Firstly, I’m a great believer that being polite and respectful gets you far. That being said, charm will only take you so far, because failing to carry the correct current documentation will only leave you exposed.

Relying on the travel agent isn’t always advisable, particularly as most agents have not visited Africa’s major airports, never mind the destinations themselves, and the agent’s advice can so easily give you false hope. For example, when I suddenly had to change my departure flight from Lagos and was advised I could pay for the ticket with a credit card at Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Thank goodness I had friends who brought me the necessary Naira.

In the US, leisure travellers are expected to visit, on average, over 20 websites before booking a holiday. I doubt I visit that many before travelling to a new destination, but I will do a Google search on the politics and recent news, and visit visazone.co.za for clarification on the current visa requirements.

Further to that, a currency website such as xe.com, which allows you to specify the exchange rates you wish to keep, is just a click away, and even though www.flightstats.com fails to provide any information on African airport terminals, it’s helpful when you want to confirm the aircraft will arrive at the airport on schedule – allowing you to prepare for a delay.

When all is said and done, however, nothing is better than having a friend on the ground – someone who truly knows the requirements you’ll face upon arrival. 

Ewan Cameron, CEO: Lonrho Hotels