If you've never travelled in Africa before, don't want to go solo, or prefer the friendship, togetherness and certainty that comes with a small-group adventure, then an overland Africa tour is a fantastic option.
Earlier this year, we embarked on a three-week odyssey with G Adventures all the way from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Nairobi, Kenya. It served as a wonderful introduction to the region as well as giving us countless special travel memories across five countries: the first time we saw elephants in the wild, camping in the Serengeti, sleeping by a lake full of hippos, dinner at a Malawian family's house, and an idyllic few days exploring Zanzibar.
However, despite the majority of your route, accommodation, activities and food being taken care of whilst travelling (and included within the tour cost), an Africa overland safari tour is not without its own unique challenges and considerations. And so we thought we would share our own experiences, advice and recommendations on how best to plan, pack and prepare for your own Africa overland trip, as well as tips to guarantee you have the best time out there on the road.
Picking a tour
We took the the 20 day Victoria Falls and Serengeti Adventure, which is part of G Adventures' Jane Goodall Collection of wildlife focused tours. Our reasons for selecting this were primarily:
1. We wanted a tour which gave us a decent number of days 'on location' to balance out the inevitable number of days travelling by bus from place to place.
2. We wanted to have a balance between bucket list worthy safaris and wildlife experiences, as well as spending some time within local communities.
3. A tour experience which was close to our usual travel style (i.e. not luxury).
We're happy to say that our decision was the right one. With safaris in South Luwanga, the Seregengeti and Ngronogoro Crater included, as well as lots of other cool experiences, this tour helped us to fulfil our own African dream.
So, the advice we're providing in this post is based on our experience of that tour, but it also applies to all other G Adventures 18-to-Thirtysomethings overland Africa tours across big safari and overland destinations (i.e. Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Uganda). If you've booked a tour with a different company, but the travel style involves a lot of camping and is catered to a similar set of travellers (i.e. under 40, on a bit of a budget), then all the information will still be extremely relevant for you too.
If you're planning on an overland tour which offers a higher level of accommodation, service and facilities - like these National Geographic and Classic tours - then the majority of our advice will not apply (but you should still read our 10 tips for your first safari and pack our 14 essentials to bring to Africa).
The most important thing when picking an Africa tour however is to do enough research to ensure you understand the travel style it offers, appreciate the day-to-day itinerary, make sure it's suited to your overall budget, and, most importantly, choose one which will be unforgettable!
Who's in Charge?
We had two absolutely fantastic Chief Experience Officers (CEOs) - G's name for tour leaders - on our tour. Justus and Chris, Kenyan and Zimbabwean respectively, were our lead guides, drivers, chefs, camping support, political advisors, knowledge gurus, entertainment, and friends throughout the three weeks. Your own G Adventure would be impossible without guys (and girls) like this.
They will be in charge of getting you from A to B according to the schedule, picking up everything for meals, group briefings on the first day and throughout the tour, solving any problems, handling accommodation or tour bookings, keeping the spirit up and, importantly on this sort of trip, explaining that your tents need to be two metres apart so the elephants can walk through.
We had so much respect for these guys, the work that they do, the knowledge and experience they bring, and their indefatigable nature - they will be invaluable to you throughout your own overland safari.
Anytime of year is a good time of year
Scroll through African safari photos on Instagram, take a look at the best wildlife photographers' work or sit down and watch a bit of Attenborough and you'll notice a thing or two about the colour palette...there's a lot of burnt oranges and dusky yellows. We're the first to admit that in our heads, eastern and southern Africa always looked a bit dry and dusty - with nary a splash of green.
So, when we realised that we would be visiting this part of the world in and around the wet season, we didn't really know what to expect. The Lonely Planet actually recommends avoiding Tanzania's famed national parks in March and April, suggesting that roads are impassable and it's impossible to see the wildlife.
Was that our experience? Absolutely not. Instead, we discovered verdant greens in Malawi, a raging Victoria Falls (that more than lived up to its original name), and the fortunate realisation that we'd arrived in the Serengeti bang on time to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration. Sure, it was different to what we'd seen in those famous documentaries, but different in a wonderful sort of way.
As a very broad rule of thumb, July to September is dry and sunny and viewed as the 'traditional' best time for an African safari, but this also coincides with many more visitors in parks. For more information on weather and seasons for your Africa tour, check out this post.
There's no way of getting around it - overlanding in Africa means that you will be on a bus for a long time. It simply isn't possible to cover this amount of ground any other way for the same cost or without spending months on the road.
The upside? You'll be on a private bus specifically kitted out for your travel style and group, and there are always ways to make the ride pass quicker or feel more enjoyable.
The Big Purple Lando
The buses used by G Adventures on overland trips across Africa are called 'Landos'. They're big, they're purple and damn can they handle an African road! And, as we've already established that you'll be spending a lot of time on them, you'll be pleased to know that they've been designed to make the journey, the camping, and the experience as enjoyable as possible.
Make sure you have enough entertainment
As we've said above, bus travel is going to be a big part of your African travel experience. One half of Along Dusty Roads is apparently half-cat and can sleep for hours in direct sunlight, the other needs a little bit of constant distraction; most people who venture on an overland trip will fall into the latter category. With wifi being intermittent throughout Africa, the best approach is to do all your downloading at home before you get on the plane over.
Our suggestions are:
- Take advantage of your Netflix account and download an entire boxset to your phone.
- Fill up a kindle with the latest thrillers or bring a couple of meaty books.
- Keep a journal of the trip and write it on the bus.
- Take the opportunity to begin your foray into audiobooks or podcasts (if you're new to either of those, then you can get a 30-day free trial with a free audiobook if you sign up here).
Whatever method you use, just make sure you've got enough entertainment to pass the time on those days where you're on the road for 8 or 9 hours.
Look out the window
But don't forget the reason you're here in the first place.
Some of our favourite sights and a constant source of questions for our guide throughout the three weeks were all glimpsed from the bus window. The contrasts and contours between countries, the kids always smiling and waving at us in villages (always wave and smile back), seeing what grows and glimpsing upon markets and roadside life - these are the moments where killing time actually was the best time.
Depending how many people you have on your tour, staying comfy on a 12 hour bus ride is not without its challenges, so you'll need to think ahead.
Firstly, there is space in the above seat rack to store your day bags - we'd strongly recommend you use it. Our tour was smaller than average, so we had a bit more room than usual; however in most cases, you'll want to reduce the amount of crap with you to give you more space in and around the seat (note that there is a pocket on each seat to hold a drink, book, chargers etc).
Seats are of average size and do recline, but having a decent travel pillow will make taking a nap much easier - we had these memory foam ones and they are ONE HUNDRED times better than the blow-up ones we used to travel with (although take up a bit more room when not being used).
Something which may not happen on every tour, but we thought was a really great idea, was rotation of allocated seats on the bus each day. This meant that nobody could ever lay claim to a spot for the whole trip, and everyone got the opportunity to go between window and aisle seats, and those which had more legroom available.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, there is air-con, but using 'African air-con' (i.e. having the window open) is often much more pleasant.
Consider some healthy options for the long travel days - crisps will get old, quick.
Spending a large chunk of time travelling on The Lando means plenty of naps, a good chance that you'll finally finish that book and the opportunity to eat your body weight in fried potato chips. For the first couple of days, this will feel great - after all, how often is it acceptable to eat an entire bag of salt and vinegar crisps in one sitting (hint: it is never acceptable!)
For us however, as when we travelled through Latin America on a cavalcade of bus journeys, the novelty soon ran out. We felt bloated, unwell, and fed up of finding traces of our gluttonous habits in (Emily's) bras! Making the switch to healthier snacks made us feel so much better. Even the most basic of supermarkets will sell fresh and dried fruits, nuts, bags of simple popcorn and muesli bars - take advantage of this as Pringles and white bread just won't make you feel great in the weeks to come.
Inside The Lando, you'll also find two large chill boxes. One is for the CEOs to keep your dinner ingredient chilled, whilst the other is for everyone to store drinks and snacks - take advantage of it.
Health and Safety
Full of new experiences and long days, you need to be at your absolute best to make the most of your time in Africa. The trip won't stop just because you're ill, but it will sure become a whole lot less enjoyable for you if you get a bug or feel crappy.
So, be sure to take your health seriously before, during and after your trip.
You WILL need anti-malarials
We've sung this song before, and we'll continue to do so. Anti-malarials are there for a reason - to help protect you from malaria!
Here in Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is not simply an abstract concept; it is a disease that, despite huge strides in prevention and medical treatment, still kills hundreds of thousands of people a year. Mosquitoes are everywhere, and days spent camping mean that your chances of escaping them become increasingly slim. When you consider that all it takes to contract malaria is a single bite, it makes sense to do everything you can to protect yourself.
We're not going to go into huge detail about malaria and the medications you can take to protect yourself in this post (we've already done that here and here), but we strongly advise everyone planning to take this sort of trip - or indeed any trip to this part of the world - to visit a travel nurse/clinic prior to your departure to get a course of the most appropriate anti-malaria for you, your medical history, and your tour itinerary.
Stock up on Mosquito Repellant
You've hopefully read and digested our earlier point on anti-malarials. Another key aspect of prevention is mosquito repellent, and you'll need lots of it on this trip. Malaria isn't the only disease transmitted by mosquitoes (trust us, dengue fever is not a parting gift from Africa that you'd like), nor is a leg covered in angry and itchy red bites our idea of fun. So, take our advice and invest in a good mosquito repellent.
We're big fans of this one as it's completely natural, not tested on animals and, unlike many other alternative brands, actually works. We doused ourselves in it each evening and by the end of the three weeks could count our individual bites on one hand. Buy it here.
Don't discount how much water you'll need to drink
Whether you're sitting on a stuffy bus, hiking to a gorgeous waterfall in Malawi, navigating The Serengeti in the midday sun, sweltering in a tent or sunbathing on a beach in Zanzibar, one thing's for sure: even the most heat-tolerant traveller will find themselves sweating bucketloads.
Dehydration isn't fun (after all, that's what makes your hangovers quite so bloody dreadful!), so you need to do all you can to prevent it.
The Lando is thankfully fitted with an easily accessible water filtration tank available to everyone on the trip. This provides almost unlimited clean water whenever the vehicle is stationary, and is topped up regularly by the CEOs. This not only made sure we were all kept hydrated and had easy access to clean drinking water, but it also helped make the whole trip more sustainable by cutting down on plastic waste. Instead of buying and refilling plastic bottles, bring your own BPA-free refillable bottle with you to Africa.
To support this, we also recommend investing in a reliable water filtration bottle for those times when you're away from the truck so you can simply fill up from the tap and go. The Lifestraw and Water-to-Go bottles (use the code 'ADR 15' to nab a 15% discount on the latter) are excellent for this sort of adventure. Also, bring a canvas tote bag for shopping instead of using plastic bags (which are actually banned in Kenya).
Not sure why cutting down on plastic waste on your travels is so important? Take a look at this article.
If you're going to get frisky - play it safe
We shouldn't need to tell you this, but HIV is a very real concern here. And whilst the AIDS epidemic is improving in Africa, there are several countries where it still is just that - an epidemic. We're not saying don't have fun. We're all adults and when boozy nights overseas are involved, things can happen with a local, a traveller or a fellow adventurer on your tour.
Whoever it's with, for the love of God, use a condom.
Tents and Camping
For many of us, camping is something we attempted in our gardens as children, as girl guides, or as a means to get drunk in fields as teenagers (not that we're speaking from experience, cough, cough). Most of us aren't hiking up mountains and setting up our tents atop summits on a regular basis, and so there's a few things to know about camping on your G Adventures Africa tour that'll make the whole thing go a lot smoother.
It may be a highlight of the tour
As we mentioned, we aren't the full-on camping type of traveller. We're used to roughing it in hostels and ma n' pa hotels, but you could count on one hand the number of nights we'd actually camped in the last three years. So, it may be a surprise to you that camping for 18 or so nights in Africa was one of the biggest draws for us to our tour.
We were naturally a little apprehensive about the state our backs would be in at the end, the chance of a perpetual stink and whether it would make us thoroughly miserable but, you know what? We bloody loved it for the most part. Sure, there were some nights and mornings when it was a pain to pack the tent and we'd much rather have been elsewhere, or when we had to sleep in fear of the water buffalo right outside our door, but the whole camping ethos and mindset helped bring our group (and us) together in a way which wouldn't have been the same if we were in hotels all through the tour.
It actually made some of those nights under big African skies extra special.
Food varies from cook to cook
Justus, our CEO, was not only an incredibly bright, stand-up guy, he was also a FANTASTIC cook.
Fifty percent of our group was either veggie or vegan (including us), but instead of being flummoxed and turning to a steady menu of pasta and rice, he cooked up meals that many people couldn't create given a proper kitchen and unlimited ingredients. Seriously, we actually put weight on purely because we always went up for second helpings.
However, having chatted with people who have taken other overland trips, we know this isn't always the case, and being a great chef is not a pre-requisite for a being a tour leader.
Prior to the trip, our expectations for the food were very very low, and we'd recommend that you put yours at the same level so you either aren't disappointed or you get a lovely surprise. Note that the vast majority of your meals throughout are included in the tour price, and ingredients will be selected, purchased and prepared by the CEO along the way.
The tents are surprisingly comfy - but if you go in the rainy season be prepared to get wet
Firstly, we're delighted to tell any of you who are doubting your own Bear Grylls credentials, that camping on a G Adventures overland tour is not too bad at all.
Paired up (either with a friend, significant other, or another tour member - don't worry, they don't mix sexes), you'll be given a two-person tent which will be yours for the duration of the trip. You'll both be responsible for putting it up each night, and taking it down each morning. And, as impossible as it seems when you nearly take out your new bunkmate's eye with a rogue pole on the first day, it actually gets pretty easy. Even when it's pissing down with rain. Our average time in the last week for putting the tent up was under five minutes!
Having both camped in piddly-little tents in the past, where you sleep wedged into someone else's armpit using your backpack as a pillow, the relative spaciousness of these tents is quite wonderful. Big enough for a mattress each (supplied to you each night), at least four bags and two happy campers. Just remember to bring your own camping pillow to Africa (we used these ones by Hikenture, which were excellent).
The only downside, as we discovered when we opted to take this trip in the rainy season, is that tents are not always waterproof. You won't get water raining down on you from above, but during torrential monsoon downpours, water is going to find a way in and you, and especially your mattress, will get a little damp.
Campsites vary in quality and facilities
Some are within amazing hostels with good wifi and a fancy pool, others are extremely basic on the outskirts of cities or in the middle of nowhere. Importantly, most will sell you a cold beer after a long day's driving, allow you to meet other travellers and, oddly, some require the use of a baboon deterrent (although it probably helps if the baboon doesn't steal the sling-shot that was meant to deter them in the first place...)
However, they've all been picked for a reason, whether that's proximity to the next morning's ferry, the fact that they're owned and run by people who like to give back to the community (hello Ma's Snake Park), or they just so happen to be slap bang in the middle of a stunning national park.
If you dislike cold showers, bring a steady supply of wet wipes
Having travelled extensively in countries where hot showers are a luxury reserved for fancy hotels, we don't actually mind a bit of cold water - especially if it's 32C and humid as hell outside. They're kind of refreshing.
If you feel the same, the good news is that a number of the campsites on the tour have cold-running showers. If the thought of this makes you hug your towel tighter to your body, then you'll need an alternative. Namely, baby wipes. They're fantastic for mopping sweaty brows, providing a bed-bath and cleaning all manner of sticky things.
Some members of our group insisted on taking a shower every day; we don't need to do that on the road and neither do you. Between baby wipes, bringing enough clothes and showering at least every second day, you should be fine (just make sure you don't become stinky as absolutely nobody on the Lando will appreciate that).
Also, you will rejoice when you do reach the campsites which have reliable hot water showers in which you can indulge!
Early mornings are the order of the day!
There are a few things that we've learnt to accept about ourselves over the years; we both love food too much to ever get ripped abs, we're simply not designed to live in one place forever, and, perhaps most importantly for this trip, we are absolutely NOT morning people.
Imagine our shock then when it turned out that the first 5 a.m. wake-up call was not a one off, but instead the pattern that we would follow for a lot of this trip. Early wake-ups are essential on long Lando travel days, but also for certain activities (such as safaris), so trust us when we say that 1) you better get used to them and 2) you will get used to them!
You have to be a team player
Some of you may be questioning how on earth you get a group of fifteen or so 18-39 year olds up at 5 a.m., feed them, pack up a campsite and load a bus so you can set off at 6 a.m.?
Teamwork, that's how.
On your first day of the tour, your CEO will let you know the team rota and various tasks that need to be performed daily, such as packing / unpacking The Lando (it carries all the camping and cooking equipment underneath or on the roof), cleaning it at the end of each day, food preparation and washing up. They can take some getting used to at first, but aren't difficult (and can end up being quite fun).
Working together and not slacking off is essential to the success of the trip and the spirit of the group, so don't be a shirker!
Sometimes you can upgrade from your tent....
And it doesn't make you boring if you take advantage of this. We did - and it turned out to be fantastically good timing. Whilst the camp got washed out, we had a lovely little cabin to curl up in. We're not suggesting that you do this every night - half the fun is camping under the stars - but for those nights when you're body just says no, know that it is an option in some of the camps you're staying in.
Your CEO will be able to advise on prices, or if they're not sure, have a word with the camp manager. Note that our tour also included several nights accommodation in lovely hotels in Zanzibar.
Lastly, if you really value your personal space or want a more spacious night's sleep, be aware that you can pay extra to have a tent all to yourself for the duration or the tour (instead of sharing with one other person).
Okay, time for the nitty-gritty. The little tips that you might not think of - but prove to be really useful on an Africa overland tour.
Safety and Security
After years of travelling and a general lack of trust of well, everybody, we freak out a little bit about how secure all our valuables are. In many cases, this means that instead of depositing our day bags just anywhere, we carry them on our back like hermit crabs. Great for peace of mind, not so great for our spines when those bags are full.
The first important thing to know: do not leave anything of ANY value in your tent when you're not in it. Sometimes you set up camp close to the bus and to where you're hanging out, other times you're a few minutes walk away. If anything was to happen, even the most fancy-pants insurance policy is completely void (whilst we're on the topic, you definitely need to have travel insurance for this trip - we use TrueTraveller but World Nomads is also a great option). If you're confused about travel insurance, then these are the mistakes to avoid when buying it.
Even when you're in the tent, if you're extra paranoid, the best place to leave expensive gadgets may actually be in The Lando. There are no lockers within it, but It's locked up tight once the CEO and driver go to bed, and nobody, not even those on the tour have access until the next morning. Always be sure to let your CEO know if you're leaving valuables in The Lando during the days where you're out and about exploring, or overnight.
Additionally, almost every camp that we passed through had its own security guards.
You don't need to get your visas in advance
Well, certainly if you're British, anyway.
We did think about getting our visas sorted in advance, but decided that hours spent in foreign embassies simply wasn't worth it - especially when the likelihood of others not having been so organised was highly likely.
As it turned out, in our group of 13 travellers, only three had bought their visas in advance; they had no choice but to wait for the rest of us to complete the process in person as we arrived at each border. Oh, and it's not cheaper to do it in advance.
It is however extremely important for your to set aside the necessary time well before you travel to do the necessary research on the current visa costs and requirements for each country you'll be visiting for your own nationality. The G Adventures briefing notes do give information on this, but it makes sense to do your own as well (for example, some nationalities may require advance visa purchase or specialist paperwork). Also note that you need to budget for the cost of visas in Africa, as they are not included in the cost of tours.
Carry a robust supply of US dollars
In most cases, one of the first ports of call on entering a new country is a local ATM. However, with this being Africa (a place where things don't always go to plan), that ATM may be broken, out of money, adamantly refuse your card or charge horrendous withdrawal fees. In this situation, you'll be very thankful for having a decent supply of US dollars.
Not only is it the preferred currency in countries such as Zimbabwe, but it is also accepted currency in most of the campsites on the trip, can be used to pay for tours and easily exchanged at bureau de changes everywhere. The only time you will struggle without local cash is in small shops and markets (therefore always have a small stash of local currency available).
So, make sure you bring more US dollars than you may expect on your Africa trip and get them before you board the plane to ensure the best rate.
As ever when having to backpack with large amounts of cash on your person, have a store of bills easily accessible and then divide and hide the rest in a few different places.
With regards to withdrawing or exchanging cash on the road, your CEO will advise you how much it's a good idea to take out of the ATM for the country you're about enter and exchange rates. He'll also ensure that you stop off at places where it's safe to take out cash as a group, or sometimes recommend a good person to change with at the border. Make sure to have the XE.com app on your phone, and store the currencies you'll be using offline, as this makes it a lot easier for you to quickly understand how much each new currency equates to between your home currency and that of the country you've just left.
Lastly, it's essential to travel with more than one debit card (in case one is lost, stolen or eaten by a cash machine), and a credit card which doesn't charge for overseas usage.
For more information on how we manage our money when travelling, the cards we use and tips to avoid withdrawal fees, commission and awful exchange rates, read this article.
Be Sure To Carry Some Toilet Roll With You
For many practical reasons, The Lando bus doesn't have a toilet - and we rarely stopped at spots with proper (or appealing) bathroom facilities. But this doesn't mean that nature stops calling, so you just have to improvise and go as nature intended.
Thankfully the CEOs are very good at locating spots along the road where you're unlikely to have locals or wild animals stumble upon you squatting in the bushes; just make sure you have a supply of toilet roll with you and something to disinfect your hands with after you go 'bushy bushy'.
Staying powered up is easy
This is something we were a little worried about before leaving - how on earth were we going to keep a laptop, two dSLRS and two phones charged when camping in the African wilderness!?
Turns out, we really shouldn't have worried. Each seat on The Lando comes with its own USB charging point, and there are a set of plugs in the back for other devices. Additionally, most camp sites are kitted out with plug sockets in practical places so, as long as you don't leave them unattended, it's safe to charge up.
Keen photographers should take back-up batteries
That being said, the keen photographers amongst you should take back up batteries. It would be a real shame to miss out on an epic photograph because you were busy charging other devices and neglected the camera.
If you'd like to know the camera equipment we use, read this post.
Give up on wifi
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but the internet connection in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa is pretty crap. And often it's the worst sort of connection - the kind where you have a few bars flash up in your screen, but then the page stubbornly refuses to load.
G Adventures know this, and to improve things for those who prefer not to digitally-detox, they provide each member of the trip with a daily allowance of data to use on The Lando. Not enough to stream movies, but adequate to check emails, send a few tweets, check your instagram feed (but definitely avoid Stories) or the latest news.
The bad news? It doesn't work in all countries. Countries such as Malawi and Tanzania. Even our usually reliable GlocalMe data box was unable to provide us with internet in these countries. Not great for people who literally live online like us, but for everyone else, we implore you to just embrace it. We swear, we've never spoken so much whilst travelling!
Note that not all the campsites or accommodation you'll visit will have wifi available either. Those that do may charge you a small fee for data (i.e. in Malawi we paid around £3 for 1GB of high-speed internet). Our advice is to take advantage of it when you have (and need it), but don't spend your tour hoping and praying that you can be on Whatsapp all the time.
Many Activities are Optional
You'll notice on most G Adventures tours, that the itineraries are based around certain epic experiences - for us, that was undoubtedly the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater safaris. These experiences are always included within the upfront tour fee that you pay. However, there are a huge number of optional extras that you can add in, all designed to enrich your experience of a place and support the local economy. For example, we joined a local guide to on a day trek in Malawi, whilst in Zanzibar a lot of our group went out on a snorkel & sunset cruise.
Before you set off on your tour, be sure to take a note of these optional activities and the prices attached to them to guarantee you have enough cash. Some places will take card if you forget or change your mind last minute, but the smaller, more local-led experiences will require you to pay in either local currency or USD - worth bearing in mind on those rare occasions you pass by an ATM.
Also, don't feel like you have to do these optional activities; we certainly didn't. Oftentimes, we were happy to chill at the camp or head out and explore on our own.
Paperwork and Admin
When you book your tour and have everything confirmed, you'll be sent a briefing document from G Adventures. This contains an in-depth itinerary, helpful tips and tricks, packing lists and all the nitty-gritty. It should go without saying, but you absolutely must read this - and bring it with you. Whether that's as a print out, PDF on your phone, or downloaded via their app. Chances are, if you have a specific question about your tour when you're actually on it, the information will be in there (if not, your CEO will definitely be able to help).
Also, make sure you bring 2-4 passport photos, some passport photocopies, and have your insurance policy and claims information somewhere readily available (i.e. on the cloud and a paper copy). Note that several countries within Africa require a yellow fever certificate; make sure you bring this with you.
Keep some cash for tipping
Whether you come from a country that has a tipping etiquette or not, it is generally expected on these tours and within the African tourism industry more generally. And that goes for everyone from young guys from local communities that help prepare your food at night on occasion (i.e. in Malawi and Tanzania), to your tour guides for activities and your G Adventures CEOs.
Thankfully, your CEO will be able to advise on appropriate amounts for each individual. The most important thing is that you factor this into your overall budget. You may find that some members of your group will suggest larger amounts, but remember that you are completely entitled to give only what you feel comfortable with, and an amount which is suitable for your overall budget and you feel is appropriate. Money for tips over a few weeks can mount up, so do bear this in mind.
Additionally, and we do think that this is an important point to note, as difficult as it can be to see people far far less well off than yourselves, you're not a charity. By all means, support a local artisan by buying a beautiful piece of jewellery that you genuinely want and purchase your snacks from a street vendor instead of the supermarket, but don't feel that it is your responsibility to buy everything everyone is trying to sell you, or encourage a child to bypass school because they can make cash asking for handouts.
By going on a G Adventures tour, you are already supporting local economies in ways that many other tour companies don't. Feel good about that.
Most overland trips cover a lot of ground, loads of stops, a bucket load of climates and terrain and last a decent amount of time. So, you'll probably want to take lots of outfit changes with you and a whole bag of camping supplies, right? Wrong!
As we've already mentioned, space on The Lando is at a premium. All your big bags will be packed and stored in a separate area at the very back of the bus, and whilst this space is large, there simply isn't enough room for 24 people to all bring packed-to-the-rafters 90L backpacks with them. Additionally, you really don't actually need that much stuff.
Speaking as two bloggers who have a decent Instagram channel, who like to wear nice things for photos - this really isn't the place to pack four outfit changes a day. By the end of it, everyone on the tour will be wearing a bizarre combo of clothing anyway because that's all we've got left that's clean, comfortable and dry!
So instead, make sure you pack these Africa essentials alongside multi-purpose sets of clothing. We'll be doing a more thorough packing post soon, so keep your eyes peeled!
Transferring between tours
In our group, we were the only people who started out from Victoria Falls. Everyone else had already been travelling on G Adventures tours the previous few weeks (from seeing the gorillas in Uganda and travelling up from Cape Town via Namibia on this very popular 18 day tour). After a couple of nights at the same hotel in Victoria Falls, we then all set off together.
Not everyone understood this in advance, so it's worth noting that you may join another group at the end of one tour, or that you will be joined by others at some point.
Africa Overland Safaris
The highlight of our time in Africa was undoubtedly the safaris that we got to enjoy. Witnessing animals in their natural habitat is not an experience we will ever forget, and thinking of happy, wild and free elephants still brings a smile to our face.
We suspect it may be a highlight of your trip too. After all, for most of us, it is something quite unlike anything we've ever experienced before.
However, as with any element of a trip, there a few things that will make these moments extra special, and help you prepare for what is likely the unexpected. Instead of placing all that information here (and if you've made it this far down this post, we salute you), we've separated it out into separate posts. The first one - Our Ten Essential Safari Tips - is now published!
If you have any questions about the above, our own experience, or about something which we haven't covered, then feel free to let us know in the comments or send us an e-mail; we'll do our best to help if we can!
If you've found this post useful, then why not check out more of our African travel advice and inspiration in the articles below, sign up to our monthly newsletter full of inspiration for The Constantly Curious traveller, or follow us on Instagram!
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Along Dusty Roads is a member of the G Adventures group of Wanderers, however all opinions on the above tour are our own.
You can find more information about the 20-day small-group overland tour we took with G Adventures from Victoria Falls, including the full itinerary, here.
If you would like to find out more about G Adventures' travel style, approach to small group tours and various adventures available all over the world, then go ahead and visit their website.
We will be publishing more guides on our Africa tour in the coming weeks.