Is it Safe to Travel in Africa?

Updated August 3, 2021 | Kristin Templin

Is it really dangerous?


Africa is famous for its natural beauty, national parks, and amazing wildlife. Unfortunately, it is also well-known for being unsafe. While this may be true for some areas of this immense continent, there are many places that are completely safe to travel to and may actually be safer than your own hometown.

So why did Africa get a reputation for being unsafe?

One of the biggest reasons for this may have nothing to do with Africa as a destination and more to do with our own misconceptions of it. In Western media, you often hear about car jackings, muggings, violent crime, terrorism, and civil war. You don't hear about the normal, mundane day-to-day lives of the millions of people who call Africa home. Sadly, very few people make the effort to learn more about Africa and even fewer actually travel there so the stereotypes and misconceptions about safety in Africa continue as a result.

Much like the Americas, Europe, and Asia, Africa is an incredibly diverse continent made up of 54 separate countries. All of these countries have their own problems that they are trying to tackle just like every other country in the world.

What countries are safest to travel to?

While it is impossible to say that every part of a country is safe all of the time, there are certain African countries that statistically are safer than others based on crime rates. This is often particularly true in the tourism hotspots where violent crime is very rare. Places like national parks are generally very safe and you may find that your biggest safety concern is whether or not that the noise you heard outside your tent was a lion or just a gazelle.

East Africa, Southern Africa, and certain parts of North Africa are generally the safest places to travel to.

  1. Rwanda
  2. Botswana
  3. Mauritius
  4. Namibia
  5. Seychelles
  6. Ethiopia
  7. Morocco
  8. Lesotho
  9. Zambia
  10. Kenya
  11. South Africa
  12. Malawi
  13. Tanzania
  14. Zambia
  15. Ghana
  16. Egypt
  17. Uganda
  18. Madagascar
  19. Zimbabwe
  20. Tunisia

This list is by no means exhaustive and many, many other African countries are perfectly safe to travel to and well-worth exploring.

What countries are less safe to travel to?

Rather than focusing only on which countries ARE safe to travel to (there are many!), let's take a look at the countries that aren't safe. These are the countries that are on many department of states' "do not travel" lists and with very good reason. Many experience high levels of armed robbery, terrorism, and kidnappings and although there may be areas of the country that are safe to travel to, it is important to maintain caution at all times and always be aware of the security situation of your location.

Many of the below countries are located in Central Africa; however, you will find countries scattered around the continent.

  1. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  2. Somalia (excluding Somaliland)
  3. Libya
  4. Mali
  5. South Sudan
  6. Central African Republic
  7. Nigeria
  8. Mauritania
  9. Mozambique

Again, this list is not exhaustive and there may be countries that have crime rates that warrant extra caution. It is also important to note that in most cases, it may only be certain parts of a country that have security issues.

Africa Travel Safety Tips

There are a number of things that you should do to keep yourself safe wherever you travel regardless of whether or not it is domestic or international travel.

Read the travel advisory and travel warnings for a country before leaving.

The security situation can change rapidly in many countries especially if they have experienced a period of civil unrest. Make sure to read the most recent travel advisories before you depart so that you are aware of any potential issues that can occur while you are in a country. If possible, try to read the advisories from a number of different countries to get a broader perspective on the safety situation. It is advisable to stay away any large demonstrations or events, particularly if they seem like they may be political in nature.

Get all necessary vaccinations.

When traveling through different African countries, it may be necessary to have proof of vaccinations. Countries most commonly request yellow vaccination cards, especially if you are coming from a country with high transmission rates. Starting in 2021, you may also need to provide coronavirus vaccination records due to the ongoing pandemic (make sure to check the most recent travel restrictions before booking flights anywhere). It is also a good idea to be up to date on tetanus, and hepatitis vaccines.

Use common sense & follow extra precautions in major cities or rural areas.

It is important to follow the same precautions when traveling that you would at home. Take Ubers if possible and never walk alone at night, especially as a woman, in cities like Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Cape Town. It is also important to be careful when walking in remote areas alone. A good rule of thumb when traveling is to never do something abroad that you wouldn't do in your own country.

Buy travel insurance.

While this may seem like a no brainer for many U.S citizens, it is something that is easy to forget when you are planning a big trip. Since there are many areas in Africa where the health care systems are underdeveloped, it is important to have travel insurance in case you need to receive treatment in a private hospital or be evacuated to another country for serious medical care.

Take a guided tour.

If you still have safety concerns about traveling to Africa, it could be very helpful to join a guided tour. While this is basically a necessity if you are going on a safari, it can also take the stress out of traveling through countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and South Africa.

Have enough money to support yourself.

While it is certainly not a good idea to walk around with huge amounts of money on you, it is important to always have access to enough money to cover the cost of your trip in case there are any emergencies. Africa is a surprisingly expensive place to travel through and you may find yourself blowing through money much faster than you planned. By ensuring that you always have access to enough money, you are giving yourself a bit of extra "insurance" knowing that if something goes wrong, you may be able to solve the issue with cash.

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