Zimbabwe is a dictatorship and a badly run one at that. Over the last couple of years the economy has been run into absolute ruin. Zimbabwe used to be a major EXPORTER of food. Now it relies on outside food aid to feed its people – when the government lets the aid in. What does this mean to you as a traveller? You cannot get petrol. Plan on that fact. Also meat is hard to find. Just look at the picture of the shelves in the grocery store in Victoria Falls. What meat you find is frozen and must be cooked within an inch of its life. That’s because electricity goes off in the afternoons. It may have thawed before. Vegetables and other items can still be found. If you have a car, take everything you need from another country. It’s a shame, but that’s the state of affairs.
The great thing about Africa is that you can drive just outside of a town or village and see wild Monkeys. Please do not fee them inside the grounds of nice hotels or inside towns. This just attracts them and they then leave their natural areas. They also eat foods that are really not good for them and they can cause the locals a lot of issues after you have left. Some villagers will happily kill the sweet Monkeys you have attracted into their living areas.
So please keep wildlife live in the wild. Take a good look at these pictures of Monkeys eating rubbish. It doesn't look right does it? Do not feed the Monkeys.
This problem was brought home to me by a friend taking a night ferry between Zanzibar and the mainland. He paid for a 1st class ticket and went to sleep. He woke up to find a couple of locals trying to carry away his 2 bags while still in the water! The scam is this. An untrustworthy employee on a ferry or bus lets a thief on without a ticket. If the thief makes some money, he gives the staff some of it. Your bags and their contents can be very valuable to someone making $200 or less a month. Also your luggage is sometimes put on top of a train/bus/van and an opportunist will try and grab it at stops. Just takes a sharp knife. Just keep watch on your bags at all times.
Bridges can sometimes be nothing more than a log above the water. During the dry season, when the water is low, they are easy to pass. But during the rainy season, when the water level can be dangerously high, you’ll have to be very careful when you cross a river.
In many large or medium sized cities in Africa you will find open sewers. Open sewers are better than no sewers you can say, but the smell won’t stimulate your appetite and the concrete blocks who should prevent you from falling in these sewers are most of the time broken are missing. So watch your step when you are walking around.
Ever go to the grocery store and throw the receipt away before you get to the door or put it in one of your bags? Don’t do it here. To keep shoplifting down to a minimum many grocery stores across Africa will insist on seeing your receipt before you walk out. This will be cross-checked with what are in your bags. Don’t forget or you will be looking for your receipt before the security guards will let you go!
Africa has a lot of desert, semi-desert and areas that dry completely out during the ‘dry season’. This means that you should research your destination a bit and prepare. I would suggest you get a lens filter for your camera and carry some wet lens cloths to clean your camera a lot. You can bring a scarf, but just about any piece of cloth will do if you are really out in it. Keep rechargeable batteries sealed up. I have a few damaged ones now I cannot use anymore. And a good pair of sealed shoes/boots. Sometimes having flip flops and the like may cause you problems.
If you are riding in a bus or similar, wash the windows first! Especially if you want to take pictures along the way. You may have to just give up on photos from dirty airplanes.
HIV and AIDS are wide spread all over the continent. Hence if you need to satisfy urges ensure that you wear protection or even better abstain. Some countries in Africa have a HIV rate of more then 40 %, therefore playing Russian roullette is probably safer then sleeping around in Africa!
Over one million people die of Malaria in Africa every year, hence it is one of the biggest dangers on the continent. I have had it twice and can assure you that it is not fun being evacuated from an African country that does not have adequate health care to be rushed to a hospital in another country that does.
Check with your doctor before departing which malaria strain is a danger in the region that you are visiting since they are several all around the continent.
Also if you have flu like symptoms when you return insist of having a malaria test done! I almost died since the doctor said to me that I picked up a bad strain of flu and collapsed 48 hours later with a rare strain of malaria.
The map enclosed displays where malaria is a problem in Africa.
Every country in Africa loves to stamp passport, my thought is the smaller the country the bigger the stamp. Hence make sure you have plenty of pages available, and check visa requirements often since they could just change overnight.
An example is the increase of the visa fee for US citizens in Zimbabwe from US$ 30 to US$ 100 in February 2008 overnight!
Africa still is home for a number of fatal diseases. Therefore it is important to visit your doctor for advice on vaccinations, such as Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Polio and others.
Ensure that all shots are up to date and taken well in advance, since they do not necessary work if they have been done on the day when you depart!
Driving around Africa is a great way to see the vast beauty the continent has to offer. It is also a way to become very dehydrated or die if you run into a problem. There is not the same concept of a ‘road-side assistance’ or break down service in many countries. Even if there is you may end up like the guy I met in Namibia who had waited 10 hours already by the time I found met him. Carry 10 litres of water in your car. For various reasons I used all my reserve water on one of my journeys. Besides, look at the car wreck pictures. No one came for these folks. To be fair, the last picture is of a car that was blown up by a landmine (Mozambique).
Buffalos can be considered as one of the most aggressive animals of the African continent. Whether they live on the savannahs or in the forests you always have to take care and try to avoid all close contact. When they charge they are determent and unhesitant.
Common house flies are just plain nasty. They happily fly onto and eat animal droppings. In Africa these nasty critters spread some seriously bad diseases. They can even carry Typhoid – which you should be inoculated for before any adventure to Africa. Keep a good hat or other item handy to wave flies away. They always show up and there is always some animal excrement for them to jump onto before they land on your food – if you let them.
You receive an email from an African Prince. He had to flee his homeland and leave behind almost all of his wealth left to him by his Father the King. The King has millions of $’s in a European Bank account, but the rebels killed his father and now he has no funds to travel and realise the wealth of the Royal Family. You can help the Prince! Just send him some money and he will reward you generously! And so the scam begins. Next time it is a Princess, a Church, an Orphanage. They all need 2 things: Your Money and Your stupidity. Unfortunately these scams sometimes work. I work for the Post Office and I have seen money wired to these fraudsters.
What is 419?
A 419 fraud is known as an Advance Fee Fraud, known internationally as 4-1-9 fraud after the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes. They tell you a story playing on your greed and you send them some money and you get rewarded later. You actually get burned.
Can you fight back?
Take a look at
419 Eaters scam the scammers! At the veryt least look at the ‘Trophy Room’ where they have gotten greedy scammers to take silly pictures of themselves and sometimes even get money from the criminal themselves! The site is addictive.
If you see it here on VT, please report it immediately. Do you know any elderly or vulnerable people who use the internet? Please warn them. These scams do work unfortunately.
Information from the US Secret Service:
419 Scams include:
• An individual or company receives a letter or fax from an alleged "official"
• An offer to transfer millions of $'s in "over invoiced contract" funds into your bank account
• You are requested to provide personal/business info
• You receive numerous documents with official looking stamps
• Eventually you must provide up-front fees for various taxes, fees or bribes
• Other scmas include: c.o.d. of goods or services, real estate, purchases of oil, beneficiary of a will, etc.
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