Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Tour Tips for Your Safari

Get some rest the first day in Africa. The elevation is high, and you are in a different time zone.

Tanzania's currency is the Tanzanian shilling (Tsh). The best currency to bring is US dollars in a mixture of cash and travelers cheques, plus a Visa card for withdrawing money from ATMs. Make sure your USD bills are not older then the year 2000 because they may not accepted in many places in East-Africa.

Standard Chartered (with branches in Dar es Salaam, Arusha,. Moshi and Mwanza) and Barclays (Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Kampala) have ATMs that allow you to withdraw shillings with a Visa card. ATMs that accept Mastercard are more rare. The NBC bank in Bukoba has a ATM but only accepts Visa cards.

Money Exchange
Do not exchange money on the street. You may be approached by someone willing to give you premium for your hard currency. This is what is known as the black market. It is illegal. Hotels, Camps and Lodges can change money but sometimes their exchange rate is lower. There are several foreign exchange bureaus in all major cities and at the borders offering competitive rates.

Banking Hours
Banking hours are from 0900 - 1500, Monday and on Saturday from 0900 - 1200. Banks at Airports remain open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Credit Cards
Some top-end hotels, tour operators and a few mid range establishments in East Africa accept credit cards, most with a 5% to 10% commission though their use is not common. In Bukoba credit cards are nowhere accepted. You can get cash advances at poor rates against Visa and Mastercard in Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Zanzibar Town.

Safekeeping of passport and Valuables
Please keep your Passport and money ON YOU at ALL times. Never leave money or valuables in your room or in your vehicle. You can check valuables in security boxes at the hotels and lodges. Be especially careful whilst in camps and lodges and on special excursions such as boat rides. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.

Do not walk around cities at night and apply extra caution on weekends when streets are relatively deserted. Please take a taxi instead. Always let a tour member know where you are going when you go off on your own. Please take the same care and common sense precautions that you would do in any other part of the world.
Be careful of the "hustlers" in cities.  You may hear a hard luck story, which is designed to get you to donate money to some cause. We strongly suggest you do not get involved.

All the main cities (also Bukoba) in East Africa have internet cafes. Mobile (cell) phones are very common in East Africa. All the companies sell pre-paid starter packages, and top-up cards are on sale at shops throughout the country.

Glasses & Contacts
On safari be prepared for bumpy and dusty roads. These can be irritating to contact lens. Eye drops and a spare pair of glasses are a sensible precaution.

Pack light; Laundry facilities are available throughout your safari. Remember your 20-kg limit (30 kg for first and club class travelers) on your return from Africa. Excess luggage charges may apply. Place the safari luggage tagso on your baggage. Your driver-guide uses these to identify your bags.

Safari attire is casual and comfortable. Dress mainly for outdoor comfort with a change of informal clothes for the evening. Evenings and early morning can be chilly especially on the mountain areas. Warm jerseys, socks and walking shoes or sneakers are recommended. Footwear should be low-heeled and comfortable. There is not much walking and you stay in your vehicle during game drives. Bring a lightweight raincoat and a hat for sun protection. Roof hatches on safari vehicles are left open whilst game viewing. 

Our equatorial sun is strong. Too much can cause dehydration, nausea, dizziness and headaches. We recommend that you wear sunscreen and a hat, as well as a strong pair of dark glasses.

Drinking Water
On safari, we recommend that you do not drink the water from the taps and even out of the thermos or flasks provided. We recommend instead, that you purchase bottled water at the lodges. Use mouthwash to brush and wash your teeth. Ice is generally frozen from boiled water and is ok for consumption.

The hotels, lodges and camps are renowned for their high standard of cuisine. However, a change of climate and traveling can, in a few instances, cause traveler’s diarrhea, a minor complaint not comparable in severity with 'gyp tummy'. Eating in moderation avoiding cold buffet lunch tables that have been exposed to the mid-day sun, and fasting for a day (whilst drinking plenty of bottled water) should you be stricken, are sensible precautions.

Spirits, Beers, Wine and Cigarettes
Are all available. The price of soft drinks and beer is reasonable, while imported spirits, wine and cigarette tend to be on the expensive side.

Anti-Malaria Medication
We strongly recommend that you take anti-malaria medication. Malaria is rare in most highland areas, but traveling in the hot bush and coastal areas requires precautions. If, on your return home, you develop influenza symptoms, please see your doctor immediately as you may well have contracted malaria.

Most hotels and lodges you will stay generate their own electricity. However, take a small lightweight flashlight, as some generators are usually only run for short periods in the early morning and again in the evening from 18.30 to 22.30 hrs. The voltage is 220-240 AC, suitable for appliances with the exceptions of those manufactured in the USA and Canada.

DO NOT take photographs of the locals without their permission. NEVER take photographs of military, military institutions, armed forces barracks, policemen, the President, government officials, or airports. Always keep your camera loaded and ready for action. You never know when it is going to start. If you intend to purchase extra film, we suggest you do so in major cities, as often the safari lodges and camps have limited stock. You may wish to carry your equipment in a dust-proof bag, as the roads can be extremely dusty.

Wild animals
Do please remember that the animals are wild and should never be approached on foot. Please be alert and cautious in the lodges and camps when walking from your room to the public areas especially at night.

Game viewing
Carry binoculars for added pleasure whilst game viewing.

Tipping is generally not practiced in small local establishments, especially in rural areas. However, in major towns and in establishments frequented by tourists, tips are expected. On safaris, it is common practice to tip drivers/guides, porters and other staff between the $10 and $20 per day.

The Safari Experience
Please look at any inconveniences with a positive attitude. Flat tires and a few unexpected delays are all part and parcel of the safari experience.

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