How to stay safe when traveling these
so-called dangerous countries of Africa
Some of these places are considered among the most
dangerous in the world
The whole of Africa is often perceived by the masses as a total war zone, end even where there’s not war, people are starving, living in poor hygienic condition into shacks. Well, even the less aware traveler probably knows that’s not true.
Africa comprises 54 countries, very diverse from each other, among which you can find some very safe places (Botswana ranks as the world 27th safest country in the Global Peace Index). Anyway, 14 of the 30 most dangerous countries in the world are in Africa, among which the worsts are South Sudan (4th), Somalia (6th most dangerous in the world), Lybia (7th), Central African Republic (8th), Sudan (9th) D.R. of Congo (11th), and Nigeria (again according to the GPI).
So, what should we do? Should we mind this kind of rankings when we travel?
According to the media, we should stay home. Even our governments, on their official pages, advise not to travel to a great number of countries. We are bombarded every day by news of wars, murders, violence. Looks like all the world is conspiring to harm us. When most of the media mention “African countries” is mostly to depict them as dangerous places.
Although it’s undeniably true that there is a lot of bad stuff going on on this planet, the world is still a fairly safe place to visit. If we take a look at the numbers, the amount of people intentionally harmed during their travels is ridiculously low.
From our personal experience, people from every country I was in, mentioned their neighboring nations as dangerous. Well, that’s the sad fruit of ignorance and sometimes racism.
About this post
This article is a collaborative effort, a bunch of travelers shares their experiences in some of the so-called most dangerous countries in Africa. Our aim is not to say there is absolutely no risk involved in traveling to those African countries, some can be dangerous indeed, and require a big dose of awareness.
Some Advice on how to stay safe when traveling
Be prudent, attentive, smart, trust your guts, don’t get drunk, don’t get high (or at least do that only if you really really trust the people you’re with and the place you’re in). Study the place you’re going to travel, gather as much information as you can, be careful of sensitive topics, respect local customs.
Just exerting this precautions will make you safe almost everywhere, things can happen of course, but they can happen even if you’re not traveling
Is Egypt safe for tourists?
Visiting Egypt was one of my dreams for a very long time, but I was always afraid to visit. Before the revolution, during the ‘golden time’ of tourism in Egypt, stories of hassle, scams, and harassment always put me off, and afterwards… well, I’m sure you understand why I was afraid to visit – the media portray Egypt as a kind of war zone!
Last year my husband and I won a week in an Egyptian resort, but since we couldn’t possibly head to a country such as Egypt and not visit its history and culture, we decided to spend three weeks in total – two weeks exploring and one relaxing!
We started out with three days in Cairo, and as soon as we arrived I realized there’s nothing to be worried about. There are no tourists about and locals are super friendly and welcoming – actually, the only danger is that your head will hurt from smiling too much! We didn’t even experience any of Egypt’s infamous scams.
After Cairo, we headed to Luxor and Aswan, and we loved all these places. Egypt is suffering from a dramatic decrease in tourism and since the country relies on tourism so much, they need visitors more than ever.
Now, I won’t claim that visiting Egypt is completely danger-free but I think, as long as large crowds and places of worship during prayer times are avoided, there’s really no reason to worry.
Egypt ranks 25th in the GPI index of the most dangerous countries in the world, the 10th most dangerous in Africa
Is Somaliland a dangerous place to travel?
People often confuse Somaliland with Somalia. While some maps and most of the countries ignore Somaliland as a country, it must be said it has been independent for over twenty years now and as a traveler you’re likely to feel safe there.
Yes, there are police stops on the way, and you might be forced to hire an armed guard when you travel by car, but still, there’s not much to be afraid of. Travelers are few and far between, so be prepared to attract curious looks and expect people come up to you and ask questions even if their language skills are limited.
Little tourism there makes it a fascinating trip for you. If you are a woman, put a scarf over your head. On the first day of our stay there, we walked with our hair uncovered and it seemed to be fine, but we’re were advised to buy scarves and it really made a difference in the way people (especially local women) treated us.
There are not many historical highlights so don’t rush to tick things off your list. Travel slowly, take your time to observe the culture and people. See the 5000 years old cave paintings of Laas Geel, walk the dusty streets of a seaside town of Berbera, enjoy the bustling markets of Hargeisa, eat delicious goat meat and drink sweet milky tea.
Somaliland is not ranked in the GPI index of the most dangerous countries in the world, since it’s not recognized by the international community
Kenya – a focus on travelers’ safety in Nairobi
As I’m sure it’s well known, Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya has had a number of terror attacks over recent years – in 2013, 67 people were killed in an attack in the city’s Westgate Shopping Mall. Since this incident, travellers have been very cautious of visiting this city in fear of a similar story. However, in September of 2017, I visited Nairobi and had an experience that completely exceeded the media’s portrayal.
Before leaving, the majority of people around me were very hesitant about my trip. They questioned why I would want to travel to such a dangerous city, and made it very clear that safety should be my number one priority. As always, I didn’t let the constant concern affect my decision, and I went there without a slither of fear.
On immediate arrival, it became very clear that everything that I had heard was completely skewed. I had imagined a place that would make me feel uncomfortable; with overcrowded streets, creepy people and dirty, dreary surroundings. What I discovered, was that the driving was better than that here in Australia, the people were friendly and welcoming, and the city was much nicer than I had imagined.
After talking to Nairobi locals, it became very obvious that the city is much safer than what is presumed. Protests are quite frequent and theft does occur, but none of this is ever targetted towards tourists. Safety and security measures in hotels and major attractions are the best of standards!
It’s a developing country… Bad things do occur and it would be ignorant to assume otherwise. But to let the fear of terrorism overrule your desire to visit this country is totally unnecessary. I had an incredible, safe, beautiful holiday here; and as long as you stay aware of your surroundings (as you should in every country) I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time too!
Kenya ranks 39th in the GPI index of the most dangerous countries in the world
Should you visit Tunisia?
Tunisia suffered at the hands of terrorists in 2015 – a couple of incidents have done well at scaring mainstream/group tourists away. That’s a shame – and also an opportunity for independent tourists to set their own course around this amazing country. You can never completely eliminate risk while traveling, but the generally peaceful scene on the ground rarely garners headlines.
The southern parts of the country should be considered off-limits – specifically around the towns of Nefta, Douz, Medenine, and Zarzis. Anywhere closer to the border with Algeria and the Mount Chaambi National Park should be considered no-go areas.
If you’re seeing the country behind Tunis (the capital city) the seven-day Carte Bleue rail pass is a great deal. Expect to need a small square passport photo, though it’s not a hard-and-fast requirement. Note there’s a small surcharge for tickets to (supposedly) pay for air-conditioning above and beyond the rail pass.
While typical Western clothes are pretty common in Tunis, you’ll note people dress more conservatively the further south you go. While you’re in Tunisia, cover your knees and shoulders and you’ll be fine.
Where to go?
Check out this exquisite Roman coliseum with very few tourists and the El Jem Archeological Museum — a great collection of old-school mosaics.
Carthage is a great little day trip from Tunis.
A couple of quick pro-tips:
Tunisian currency is non-convertible, meaning it can’t enter or exit the country. Some small bills as souvenirs are fine, but exchange your dinars before leaving.
Tunisia is considered pretty safe according to the GPI index, ranking 95th most dangerous. Safer than Greece, USA, and Peru
Is really Nigeria so dangerous for travelers?
By Last Kodiak
Traveling in Nigeria is not as dangerous as some people make it out to be. You might not be on the farm in Kansas anymore but it is not a complete war zone, either. The key to moving around the country is to know where you are and what regions are no-go areas. Environmental awareness is critical when in developing parts of the world.
If you are traveling in the southern part of Nigeria, you will have no problem anywhere you are. The people are friendly and crime is just like anywhere else. I would say that standard safety precautions would apply. Make sure to not show money, pricey gadgets, etc.
If you are thinking of going north, you would need to start to consider the current conditions. A good place to start for that would be the travel advisory of the State Department. As much as travelers hate to admit, those advisories are right more than we wish they were.
Nigeria is the 15th most dangerous country in the world according to the GPI, and the 7th less safe in Africa
How safe is to travel in Rwanda now?
This central African country is likely a place you associate with violence rather than somewhere you’d consider traveling to. The genocide of 1994 remains a fresh scar on this otherwise lush & vibrant country. A visit to “The land of 1000 hills” is an eye-opening experience as travelers discover today’s Rwanda, a peaceful land of friendly but remorseful people who are highly optimistic about their country’s future.
A vibrant capital city, Kigali, still self-consciously shows the scars of war while reinventing itself as a place full of art, culture, nightlife and a leader of Africa’s digital revolution. The Rwandan Genocide museum and memorial ensures the events of the past stay fresh in the mind of residents who never want a repeat.
The country is one of the cleanest I’ve ever visited (that’s 49 and counting). Thanks in part to innovative initiatives that have every resident (including the president) participate in “Umuganda” a monthly day of community service, through which neighborhoods are improved & schools, hospitals, and low-cost housing have been developed.
Containing the largest rainforest in Africa and Volcanoes playing host to over a third of the world’s dwindling Silverback Gorillas the countryside of Rwanda is the real draw to a traveler. Tourism is slowly becoming a staple of the economy and every major service is available to a traveler. Trekking through the jungles and up the Virunga Volcanoes to visit the Silverback Mountain Gorillas is a life-changing experience highlight of the country no visitor should miss!
Nigeria is the 51st most dangerous country in the world according to the GPI, one spot safer than USA
How dangerous is South Africa for tourists?
By Alya Akhmetgareeva – Stingy Nomads
South Africa is one of the most visited African countries with 9,5 million international tourists coming here every year. Though tourism could have a bigger impact on its economy if the crime situation improved. We know many people who absolutely loved South Africa, it is one of their favorite countries and they never had any safety issues here.
Why come to South Africa?
- First, to see its incredible wildlife and it’s not only well-known Kruger National park, there are many unspoiled and wilder places in the country like Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the border with Namibia and Botswana.
- Second, the diversity of this country, here you can see deserted arid areas of the North West, humid and tropical South East, dry and mountainous South West.
- Third, South African correlation service vs price is great in hospitality and restaurant industry.
- Fourth, South Africa is one of the easiest African countries to travel, here you get a mix of the infrastructure of a developed country with African wilderness.
The main problem in South Africa is the crime. We won’t say it’s a myth this problem exists especially in big cities. Our advice to stay safe is: don’t walk late night with your camera, money, backpack etc. Always lock your car doors when driving and don’t open them for anybody you don’t know. When going for a walk in a city, lock your passport, credit cards, money etc. in a hotel safe, take only necessary. Don’t leave anything in your car when parking outside not even a jacket or a book.
But South Africa is more about nature than cities, most tourists come here to see its amazing wildlife. Luckily the countryside and small towns are much safer here taking normal precautions like not leaving your valuables unattended, will be enough to keep you safe.
South Africa ranks 41st in the world most dangerous country index (GPI)
When I decided to visit Morocco, lots of people around me (especially my mom) got nervous and worried because Morocco has this reputation of a dangerous place. However, this is not the actual reality and my 3 weeks Morocco trip was an awesome experience and I didn’t felt unsafe at all.
Yes, there are lots of scams and people that will try to rip you off, but if you well prepare for what to expect, you won’t get into this traps.
Generally, Morocco is a fascinating and beautiful country that has a lot to offer. Moroccan people and Berbers (except for the traders and liars) are super friendly and sweet people and you will see this if you give them a chance to get to know them.
I believe that most of the people have a very wrong impression of Morocco. Anyway, if you use common sense, dress appropriately and respect them, their religion and their traditions, you’ll be absolutely fine.
Morocco ranks 89st in the world most dangerous country index, pretty safe even according to the GPI
How safe is to travel in Mozambique?
Mozambique is one of my favorite countries in all of Africa. However, before I went I was a bit nervous as I had heard that it was unsafe.
First – Mozambique is a beautiful country, with bright blue and turquoise water and white sand beaches. The people are friendly and warm despite being among some of the poorest in the world. Mozambique also has some amazing cuisine. You can find crab curry, coconuts, cooked shrimp for an incredibly affordable price.
Mozambique gets a bad rap for its ever prevalent police corruption, as well as Renamo (Mozambican National Resistance political party) in the north. It also has the whole Africa thing going for it that many are nervous about and is still recovering from the Mozambique war in the early 1920’s. All of this is somewhat justified and can be a genuine concern when visiting Mozambique. By staying smart and vigilant you can avoid most dangers and have a wonderful time.
Before we went we researched online about dangers. We stayed away from a few areas in the north where Renamo still has a stronghold. We never drove at night and locked up all of our possessions when we left the car. We never had a single issue in three weeks and would go back in a heartbeat!
Mozambique is a fairly safe place to visit also according to the GPI. It ranks 86th among 163 countries, pretty average