East Africa’s otherworldly beauty across the plains and forests, and its collection of historic sites, ancient towns and thousands of wildlife animals ought to ignite the adventurous spirit of locals. Sadly, most tourists are foreigners. Most Africans, especially Kenyans, only travel during national holidays like Christmas. They travel to visit relatives in their ancestral homes. There’s a significant population to convert into ardent travellers.
Here are the most common reasons we give for not travelling often, and solutions.
Travelling is too expensive. There’s air fare, there’s accommodation and a dozen other expenses.
- You don’t have to travel out of your county/town. Explore what’s around you and later visit places away from home. For example, in Nairobi, Kenya National Archives has so much history within its cream exterior, but just a handful of Nairobians have paid the Ksh50 to go inside and explore. Most attractions in major cities like Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala and Zanzibar charge less than Ksh1000, and you can board a matatu or tuk tuk to get there.
- Travel during the low season to get the cheapest accommodation rates. If you can only plan a holiday over Christmas of Easter holidays, explore the less popular destinations. There’s adventure there too. For example, Zanzibar, Mombasa and Naivasha are bottlenecks during national/international holidays, but there are other regions to visit like Meru, Samburu, Jinja and Bwindi.
- Book budget accommodation. In Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Lamu, Kampala, Entebbe and other major cities, there’s full board accommodation for less than KSh 5,000 a night. You just need to find it.
- Choose all-inclusive packages. Let your tour operator worry about where you will stay, what you will do and what you will eat.
I have no time
- Make the time. Life is too short. Turn the triangle of life into a hexagon or other shape. Work, home, church needs to turn into work, home, church, safari or something else.
I don’t like travelling alone
- You don’t have to. Book group tour packages to travel in the company of other adventure seekers. It can be you and seven others or you and 24 other passengers depending with the shared transport offered.
I am an introvert
- You can still be an introvert when you travel. Find a destination, book a private villa, explore on your own and spend time by yourself. Mombasa, Malindi, Zanzibar and other coastal destinations have lavish villas and cottages on the beach where your door overlooks the shore and you have miles of silky white sand to stare at all day long.
My home is my sanctuary. I cannot live elsewhere
- Are you sure? How do you know you won’t feel comfortable elsewhere when you haven’t tried homestays? You don’t have to stay in a hotel. No. Book a private villa, an apartment or a homestay and have all the space and amenities to yourself.
But I have never had a holiday in my life
- Now is the time to start. There’s always that one step, and you need to take it now.
There’s too much paperwork involved
- Not as much as buying a piece of land, or joining a university, or requesting for a loan from a bank. In East Africa, you only need two documents: a passport and a yellow fever certificate. In Kenya, if you are travelling to other countries in East Africa, apply for a temporary passport online, print the document and have it stamped at the border as you enter another country. The other passport takes about two weeks, and the application process is online. Print copies of your application and the payment vouchers, get a signed copy of the ID of your lawyer or a public servant who certified your application, get passport size pictures, and drop everything at Nyayo House for processing.
- Get a yellow fever jab at a general hospital or at the border if you are travelling to Tanzania.
I get sick when I travel
- Seek medical advice if you suffer from travelling diarrhea. If you get sick because of change of weather or elements in the air, find a destination that’s good for your health. For example, if the weather around Mount Kilimanjaro, in Bwindi Forest or Mount Kenya is not favourable, visit the coast or the plains of the Serengeti and Maasai Mara ecosystems.
I am on a diet
- Carry your diet plan with you. Ask the hotel that’s offering accommodation to cater to your preferences, or eat elsewhere.
- Travel solo if group travel will give you temptations. Here’s an article I wrote about how to travel while on a diet, and not cheat.
I have nothing to wear
- Do you have a few pair of shorts/jeans, an outdoorsy top/t-shirt, and a pair of sports shoes/rubber shoes/sandals? Well, book your next safari because you have enough to wear. Unless there’s a specific activity you must undertake while on safari, such as hiking or swimming, your weekend clothes are just fine. Beach wear and hiking gear is available in supermarkets and sports houses all over. Nowadays, you can even rent a sleeping bag or a pair of mountain climbing boots.
What if I get lost?
- First, if you are travelling solo, get a local guide. For example, in Zanzibar, find a guide at Forodhani Gardens and he will take you around Stone Town.
- Second, if you think you might get lost, install travel apps like GPRS to navigate to your desired destination.
- Third, buy a hard copy of a town/attraction’s map. For example, at Karura Forest, buy a comprehensive map at the gate.
What if I underestimate the expenses and get stranded?
- Some banks, like Equity Bank, are accessible across East Africa. Additionally, there’s Mpesa in Kenya and in Tanzania.
- Pay for all essentials in advance. For example, pay for accommodation, meals and transport in advance so you only carry cash for personal expenses and entry fees to attractions.
- While changing currencies as you enter another East African country, list down all the expenses so you can calculate how much to exchange against an estimate of your expenses.
I get emotionally attached easily when I travel
- Travel with friends or family members so that the attachment is to the memories you make together not to the places.
I will be too exhausted to work the next day
- Travel on Friday evening and get back home by Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
- Take one day trips if you can only travel over the weekends.
I have school going kids
- But they don’t go to school on Sunday, right? Take them out for a fun day. Explore your city, have lunch or a picnic.
- When schools close, take a few days off for a holiday with your kids.
My child is too young
- There are numerous child friendly destinations around East Africa.
- Some hotels have child friendly menus and rooms with baby cots.
- Find hotels with babysitting services so you have time alone when on holiday.
- Certainly, a holiday is a time to relax and have fun. When you are relaxed, you have more energy to take care of your young one.
Travelling is for white people not Africans, or for millenials who have no financial commitments
- Travelling, and adventure, is for everyone. It is no longer as expensive as it used to be in the last century. You can enjoy a one-day adventure for less than KSh 3,000 or a weekend away for just KSh 10,000.
I don’t like flying
- You don’t have to fly when travelling across the country or the region. Use a train or a bus. Road trips, especially overland truck safaris, rock.
So, what next on your bucketlist?