There is no adventure like an African Adventure.
It is as raw and demanding as travel can get. In many places, little has changed since David Livingston embarked to discover the source of the Nile.
The roads if any are treacherous, there is a lack of the rule of law, there is a high potential for disease, and tribes, gangs and militias are abundant.
Needless to say there are plenty of ways you can die in Africa. So if you’re thinking about backpacking through Africa, be sure to avoid the following.
1. Car Accidents and Bus Crashes
With poor roads, few police, defective cars and drivers who think their in a F1 race, car accidents are incredibly common in much of Africa.
In a two-week period I had the pleasure of experiencing not one but two bus crashes. Fortunately I had a premonition each time and was able to brace myself properly before impact.
The only way to avoid being in an African accident completely is to fly and even then, accidents do occur.
2. Gun Wielding Farmers
Like American farmers, African farmers also carry guns. The only difference is there aren’t many authorities around to dissuade them from using them.
During my time in Ethiopia I heard countless stories of backpackers being murdered for merely the clothes on their backs. I myself was even hunted while hitchhiking.
The best was to keep from getting killed or robbed is to refrain from hitchhiking and stick to the cities.
Malaria is the biggest killer in Africa. It is known as a vector born disease, which means it is transmitted through mosquitos. As a result it is very hard to avoid.
I have met countless travelers who, if it weren’t for their malaria pills, could have potentially died. Therefore it is definitely a good idea to stock up on pills before your trip.
4. Plane Crashes
There are multiple small and relatively unknown airlines in Africa. Due to their poor track record, the UN classifies such airlines as dangerous.
Despite this, I decided to fly Marsland Airlines to Sudan. Although nothing happened, the aged and faded fuselage of the plane was definitely a point of concern.
Though it costs more, if you want to improve your survival, fly big western airlines.
5. Being Kidnapped
Kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking in Africa is big business. Not only does it happen to Africans but also to backpackers and tourists.
Though fortunately I haven’t had any experience with this, I have heard of some who have.
The best way to avoid this is to travel in cities and with guides.
6. Revolutions and Mass Protests
Few events are as exciting and dangerous as a big African protest.
During my time at the Egyptian Revolution, I narrowly avoided suffocating from tear gas, being hit by both rubber and real bullets and being trampled in a stampede.
Although I was lucky, many Egyptians were not.
Protests and death go hand in hand, so if you want to improve your chances of survival, it’s best to stay in your hostel.
7. Drinking The Water
Another big killer in Africa especially among children is diarrhea from polluted water. The worst diarrhea I ever had resulted from drinking the local water in Sudan.
As a veteran of travelers diarrhea I can tell you that this was something new. The pain was so unbearable that I ended up passing out on the pot. Although you could die from diarrhea, there is a good chance you won’t.
Never the less, it is a good idea to stick to bottled water or bring purification tablets.
Although traveling in Africa can increase your chances of death, if you take advantage of my former misadventures and misfortunes you can greatly increase you chance of survival.
The truth is that there are plenty of places in Africa that really aren’t all that dangerous. And since people are people wherever you go, they would much rather help you than harm you.
Yes Africa can be dangerous, but that’s what makes it so exciting. It shouldn’t prevent you from experiencing Africa for yourself.
About the Author:
When Leif was 16 he ran away from home and explored much of Europe and the Middle East without a dime. He is currently working on a book about this adventure as he continues to make new ones traveling the world.