has some of the richest history and oldest cultures in the
world, and the only way to see them is to travel.
From the Pyramids
of Egypt, to the mosques of Morocco. From the beautiful
nights in the
to the lush green jungles. Wildlife, art, people,
make Africa a wonderful
place to take in all the earth has to offer. The
wonder of Africa
however is deceiving, as just underneath the fantastic
matter where you are in Africa, traveling is
dangerous. In the
you must constantly be on the lookout for pickpockets,
zealots, thieves, rapists, corrupt police and military,
men. Your restaurant or hotel might be bombed
(regardless of how
nice it is), your car might be carjacked, or you might
at that pretty girl. Disease is the number one killer, and
or dysentery could very well be the death of you.
all sorts of diseases as well, and the drinking
water is often contaminated. Its no better outside
the cities, as
land mines are still frequent in many areas from past and
Roads deeper in
the bush are barely there and more often than not in the
case of jungle
roads they are overgrown single lane trails. Corrupt
and police checkpoints are frequent, as well are bandits
Most civilian cars don't have headlights so traveling at
risky, especially since the owners of those cars see no
problem zipping around after dark. In the desert if
you get stuck
or stranded without a vehicle it is very possible you will
and thirst before you ever see another vehicle, much less
get it to
for you. In the
jungle water is not as hard to find, however the animals,
warriors may be much harder to deal with. Bridges
more than a few logs, if that.
there are several large animals that are known to attack
such as rhino's and hippo's. Traveling by bus is
just as risky,
since like the cars the buses often don't have headlights,
bus will be falling apart, and powered by an engine much
to small to
around the weight of a busload of people (Often as engines
will be replaced by the first engine they can find, these
out of compact cars or
old toyota pickups). Traveling by train is not much
are often targets for bandits who hold up the trains
the bandits of the american old west. Trains and
buses are also
havens for pickpockets and the like who can simply get off
at the next
stop before anyone knows what's happened. For the
are the safest way to travel long distances, however this
much. Most of the airplanes, even in the commercial
between 30 to 80 years old, are run much harder and abused
than anything you have ever seen. They are barely
And that isn't even the worst of the problems with air
pilots are poorly trained, and even if you manage to get a
a competent pilot you can still get shot down by military
from the ground with a SAM. By far walking is the
method of travel, as it leaves you vulnerable to everyone
you are a tourist in Africa, you have basically
painted a target on your chest, especially if you are
To most of the population of Africa there is little to no
you are American, Canadian or European, you are just a
white devil that
eats babies and tortures old women for fun. Be very
Also be very aware
of the cultures and customs of the areas you find yourself
In many places, especially Muslim areas, showing undue
women, profanity, touching someone with your left hand,
provocative clothing can get you killed. If you are
a woman it is
ten times worse. No matter where you are do not
discuss politics, do not talk religion (unless of course
you are a
follower of the same religion as those you are talking
you do do not judge the religions or customs of the people
surrounded by. Keep your beliefs and opinions to
asked about them, always keep an open mind, and smile at
It is a lot harder to rob or kill someone who
is nice to you than someone who is an asshole. In
short always be
respectful. Always ask permission before taking a
of anyone or anything, never try to sneak it. Never
try to take a
picture of a government installation, building or
affiliate yourself with anyone in conversation, not even
your home country.
Always know where your embassy is, and check in as soon as
you enter a
country or city that has one, and check in again when you
When in your hotel always make sure your doors and windows
and it is a good idea to
leave your television or radio on, especially
when you leave. It is incredibly frequent that hotel
even in the finest hotels. No matter where you are
credit cards, ID and passport hidden well, on your person,
places. Also keep money in your wallet for
bribes. Wear a
durable but inexpensive clothing. Remember, the more money
you have the better a target you will make, although just
you automatically be assumed to be wealthy. Travel in groups, never
alone, and ALWAYS hire a guide. The same goes for
The best place to get a guide or driver is either to have
country you know or trust arrange for
one, or go through your hotel. Travel as light as
the hotel manager to hold any expensive items.
Whatever you do,
break any laws, and especially don't do drugs, as the
may lead to life in prison
for the slightest (even imagined) infractions. If
is very little your embassy can do about it. The
excerpted (with slight changes) from Fielding's
A WESTERN DEVIL
it or not, if you are of European extraction, or
were raised on T-bones
and Pepsis or even wear Eddie Bauer gear, you will
be taken for a Yank,
Russian, or Euro in most of Africa.
finds himself being simply a rich American when he
looks for his roots
in black Africa. In all cases, understand that
along with your American
Tourister luggage and Nikes, you carry a different
kind of baggage.
200 years of imperialism, covert action, warfare,
interference. Also a large part of the world just
resents the fact that
you are so damned affluent and healthy, and
they're not. You may not
bombed Nigeria, smart-bombed innocent Congonese
Central African dictator, shot Hutus in Rwanda or
cut down the rain
to grow cows for your Big Macs, but the chances
are good you will be
- Learn or
try to use
the local language
even if only to say "thank you" and "excuse me."
Even learning the
"I love your wonderful country," can get you a
lot farther than, "Why
hell don't you wogs learn to speak
conservatively, stay away
from obvious American, European, or Japanese
brands and logos and do
wear signs of wealth (gold watches, jewelry,
- Call the
embassy to find out
the do's and don'ts.
flag pins, hand
out Uncle Sam decals or argue foreign policy.
Focus on learning rather
and noncommittal about the current situation of
the country. If you are
a target of an anti-American diatribe, ask the
person to tell you what
he would do if he was President of the United
States. He will probably
be too shocked at your passive intellectual
response to stay
cars and lack of language skills can create
- Say hello
everyone you meet on
the street and in the course of your travels.
Look people straight in
eye and smile. Be polite, patient and helpful.
not a carefully planned or predictable activity.
More importantly, land
mines, shells, stray bullets and booby traps have no
or mercy. Keep the following in mind.
or are currently in the hot zone. Do not trust
the representations of
or government contacts. Check it out
the beliefs of your host, be firm but not
belligerent about getting
you need. Talking politics with soldiers is like
reading Playboy with
Pope. It kills time, but is probably not a
- Do not
intrigue or meetings
that are not in public view. They still shoot
spies. Do accept any
for dinner, tea or social activities. Getting to
know your hosts is
Do not gossip or lie.
of the controlling party. In many cases you will
from officers, politicians and the regional
letter of safe passage
from a freedom group presented to an army check
point could be your
warrant. Understand and learn the zones of
control and protocol for
sides during active hostilities.
articles, letters of recommendation and
character references. It may
keep you out of jail, but it may delay your
captors long enough to
friends, house, dog or car. Carry articles you
have written or ones
mention you. A photo ID is important, but even a
high school yearbook
provide more proof.
- Check in
intelligence, local businessmen and bartenders.
Do not misrepresent
exaggerate or tell white lies. Keep your story
- Dress and
quietly engaging, affable and listen a lot. Your
actions will indicate
your intentions as the locals weigh their
interest in helping you. It
take a few days for the locals to check you out
before they offer any
that it is
for noncombatants to be wandering around areas
of conflict. If you are
traveling make sure you have the name of a
person that you wish to see,
an end destination and a reason for passing
are, the general rules of engagement, meet with
(usually found at the hotel bar) to understand
the local threats.
- Carry a
lot of money
hidden in various
places, be ready to leave or evacuate at any
time. This means traveling
very light. Choose a place to sleep that would
be survivable in case of
a rocket or shell attack.
with the local
UN, Embassy and other relief workers to
understand the situation. They
are an excellent source of health information
and may be your only
warranted buy and
wear an armored
vest or flak jacket . Carry your blood type and
critical info (name,
phone, local contact, allergies,) on a laminated
card or written on
vest. Wear a Medic-Alert bracelet.
- Carry a
kit with syringes,
antibiotics, IV needles, anesthetics and pain
killers as well as the
medication. It might be wise to use auto inject
syringes. Discuss any
with your doctor in advance.
range and consequences of guns, land mines,
mortars, snipers and other
machines of war.
- Get life
(and KRE if
relevant) insurance and don't lie. Tell them the
specific country you
be traveling to. Also check with the emergency
evacuation services to
if they can go into a war zone to pull you
- Carry a
style medical manual
to aid in treating field wounds. Take a first
aid class and understand
the effects and treatment of bullet wounds and
other major trauma.
|Although no one
a sudden change in government, there are some things
that could keep
from appearing on CNN wearing a blindfold.
- Check in
embassy to understand
the current situation and to facilitate your
evacuation if needed.
that the local government will downplay the
danger posed by
- Stay away
main boulevards, government buildings,
embassies, radio stations,
installations, the airport, harbor, banks and
shopping centers. All are
key targets during takeovers or coups.
call or have
someone contact the embassy immediately with
your location. Stay off
streets, and if necessary move only in daylight
in groups. Stay in a
hotel with an inside room on the second or third
floor. Convert foreign
currency into Western currency if possible. Book
a flight out.
various methods of
rapid departure. Collect flight schedules, train
information and ask
private hires of cars and planes. Do not travel
by land if
- Do not
opinions about the
former regime or the current one. Plead
ignorance while you wait to see
- Keep your
US dollars and
demand to pay in U.S. currency. Do not depend on
credit cards or
checks and don't be afraid to demand a discount
since who knows what
old money will be worth.
- Do not
police or army.
Remember that there will be many summary
executions, beatings and
during the first few days of a coup or
- Hire a
to travel around town and or to go out at night.
Don't be shy about
bodyguards for your residence or family.
(or have your
to the local radio station or TV station. Have
him update you on any
or street buzz. When the embassy has set up
transport make your move
your bodyguards or guides.
religiously zealous country, remember to smile, mind
your own business,
respect their customs and leave your personal
opinions at home. Some
tend to be a little more tolerant of loud-mouthed,
areas like Algeria are very intolerant. It's touch
and go if you are a
heathen, risky to be a Jew and better to just be a
Christian if you are
rural areas and underdeveloped countries.
Despite other guidebooks'
Muslims understand that Christians have
different customs and won't lop
your head off the first time you make a faux pas
by passing the falafel
with your left hand.
- Be very
the area of sexual
conduct, behavior at religious sites and
deportment with women and
objects. Sexually provocative clothes, obscene
gestures, defiling the
theft or insulting the prophet and women will
get you in trouble.
- Do not
preach or conduct
religious functions without permission of the
local government. Do not
wear religious symbols or use expressions that
use the name of Christ,
Allah, God or other religious entities.
- Read and
the Koran and
tenants of Islam. Most Muslims will be impressed
that you have read the
Koran and if you ask them questions about their
- Feel free
that you are
a Christian, but express your interest in
knowing more about the Koran
and Islamic way of life. Being a "student of all
religions" is a good
for the philosophically challenged. But beware
that students and older
men are very pleased to proselytize the word of
Allah to a potential
- If you
in a fundamental Islamic area, your life may be
at risk by identifying
yourself as Jewish or discussing an opposing
point of view. Also
there are strong feelings between Shia and Sunni
- Do not
you may touch your chest after shaking hands in
the traditional Muslim
greeting. The left hand is considered unclean
because, yes, rural
wash their nether regions with that hand.
Muslims also squat to urinate
and find the Western habit of urinating with
legs akimbo and penis
far too theatrical for their tastes.
remove your shoes in mosques and temples. Do not
point the soles of
feet to your host, use your right hand to eat,
greet and pass objects
Expect to be kissed on both cheeks by men.
Friday is the holy day and
else you need to know will be communicated to
you by your hosts or
before taking pictures,
do not insist or sneak photos. Do not take
photographs of women or the
infirm or elderly. Don't blow your nose in
public. Don't eat walking
Don't admire objects in a host's home (he will
feel obligated to give
to you). Gifts are expected when visiting homes.
Do not show open
Do not show undue attention to women. The list
goes on, but don't be
- Read up
cultures of each
region and ask permission when in doubt.
|Ever want to
Part 2? How about the Congo. What about watching
live executions on
Night Live? Go to Chad or Nigeria. You haven't
traveled until you've
to the world's last "It's my party and I'll rule if
I want to"
Here are a few tips to keep you safe:
- Do not
politics with anyone.
Usually there are no politics to discuss anyway.
Do not continue
started by strangers, just smile and say "No
compredo." Yes, you can be
paranoid in these places.
- Try not
to talk to
will be questioned later or come under
suspicion. Use your guide to
charming visitors to associate with. There
really isn't much to talk
in these places anyway. If people stuff letters
or postcards in to your
hands, do not tell your guide or mail them
in-country. They will expect
you to mail them once outside the country.
or encourage spying on foreigners. Do not be
surprised if you are not
followed but your tails may even argue over who
gets to follow you. At
least you won't be mugged or pickpocketed.
- On the
expect to have
your room and your luggage searched while you
are out. Remember those
people stuffed in your hand?
are subject to
interception and/or monitoring. Be careful what
you say. Make sure your
room is very secure when you are in it.
violation of the
or real) will result in severe penalties. There
is very little your
lawyer or senator can do for you since you are
subject to the laws (or
lack of laws) of the country you are in. Stay
away from drugs.
- If you
eco-activist or infomercial host you will be
considered a threat, not
by the local government, but in many cases by
your own. Contact the
groups listed in the back of the book to
understand what the risks are.
The concept of rights, fair trial, or fair
treatment are slim to
- If you
conditions in these countries, contact the Red
or Reporters Without Frontiers to see what you
can do to help. (See our
reference section in the back.)
to find themselves victims of attack and extortion
where tour prices are low and the crowds at the
temples are slim. Be
that banditry is a very real danger in most of
Africa. Corruption (this
assumes that there was a noncorrupt infrastructure
to begin with) can
from ticket clerks mooching spare change to soldiers
all of your possessions at military checkpoints.
bribery is normal
in many countries, but do not confuse this with
Smile, Gift or Ignore are the watchwords here.
Cheap gifts can
many situations, smiling and talking gibberish
can go a lot further
a "Fuck Off" and storming away.
soldiers at checkpoints
are often hungry, sick and impoverished. They
will shoot if you don't
They can also work themselves into a frenzy if
you piss them off. Be
smile and just keep talking.
- Meet with
discuss the situation
with local embassy staff. Ask them specifically
what to do if you are
followed or hassled. Carry their card or at
least number and address on
you while in country. Ask them for names of
or anybody important. Write it down. Who you
know will help. A name on
a piece of paper has more weight than just
saying the name.
routes, lock all luggage and belongings in a
secure place. Expect and
for everything you own to be stolen.
travel in the
Use a local guide to navigate check points and
police. Always hire a
recommended by someone you trust.
cities at major
hotels, eat at well-known, large restaurants.
Never travel or go out
at night. Phone ahead to tell people you are
coming over and call them
again when you arrive home safely.
transportation from the airport to the
from police and military. Be firm about your
innocence and try to lead
them to your embassy or safe place. Find and
remember to drop the name
of a local bigwig if you are frog-marched at
will try to
keep items removed during a search. So show them
your wallet, watch for
important papers but do not hand anything to
them. If the soldier takes
your passport into a bunker or building, walk
with him (he will wave
back), but insist that you have important
information for his
abreast of the
military situation. Keep in mind that
kidnapping, extortion and murder
are very real possibilities.
|There is a
for the multitude
of religious symbols, slogans and prayers painted on
Third World buses.
Once they cram their doors shut and the wobbly
wheels start forward,
life is in the hands of a supreme being. If you
travel via small buses,
remember the following:
night. Most Third
World minibuses make New York taxis seem
areas and/or winter
conditions. Fly if necessary.
water and food
with you, plan
for the unexpected, delays and diversions.
route goes through
areas frequented by bandits or terrorist groups.
You may be surprised
find out who controls the countryside.
- Sit near
an exit or
on top. At least
make sure you are near an open window. Follow
the DP rule: Be friends
everyone, your seat mate might be a rebel
- There is
why you paid 83¢
to travel. You don't buy a lot of brake pads and
clutches with that
rooftop luggage is
prey for rummagers, slashers and thieves. Put
your luggage in a
trash bag, a canvas duffle or under everyone
for you to doze
off and slip out your money pouches. Put your
money in your shoes if
rather than let
them choose you.
- Never get
taxi with another
passenger already inside.
- Do not
cabs; ask the
airline people how much it should cost to go to
your city and then
upon a fare before you get in.
- Keep your
the back seat,
not in the trunk.
words for "no,"
"yes," "stop here" and "how much?"
- Have the
doorman or guide
negotiate cab fares in advance.
- It is a
never carry change. Ask if the driver has change
before you hand him a
out for flat fees. Do not be afraid to negotiate
the services of a
cabby as guide, chauffeur and protector of
- Do not
where you are
going, when you are leaving or any other
particulars that could be of
to bad people.
|There is little
be said that
hasn't been said in every driver's education class.
Speed, booze, bad
and other drivers kill. Driving in the Third World
is not safe, so if
check out the local Hertz Rent-A-Yak.
local road warning
signs and laws.
yourself if possible.
Nobody gets up in the morning and plans on
having an accident. The fact
that you are rubbernecking or checking maps
while on the wrong side of
the road dramatically increases your chances of
an accident. Flying is
safer than driving.
conditions, night time or especially on
weekends. Fog kills, rain
drunks kill, other tourists kill. It is
estimated that after midnight
Friday and Saturday nights in rural America,
three out of five drivers
on the road have been drinking. That means if
you are one of the sober
ones, pray that the other sober driver is coming
the other way.
- Stay off
the road in
You may think the Italians, Portuguese and
Spaniards display amazing
as they skid around winding mountain roads. The
accident rate says they
are just lousy drivers.
To see the difference
in impact at various speeds, try running as fast
as you can into the
wall. Now walk slowly and do it again. See how
much better that
- Wear a
rent bigger cars,
drive during daylight, use freeways, carry a map
and a good road guide,
etc. You're not listening are you?
- If you
can hire a
driver with car,
do so. Contact tour companies, embassy staff and
hotel concierges. Many
countries provide a driver when you rent a car,
so make sure you feel
with him. Try a one-day city tour first to see
if the chemistry and his
driving skills are to your tastes.
drive tired or
from jet lag. Don't pull off to the side of the
road to nap, don't
possessions in plain sight, and try to park in
lighted areas. I can see
you're not listening, so just do whatever the
hell you are going to do,
but don't say I didn't warn you.
|It is hard to
safety tips considering the wide range of waterborne
take. Large cruise ships have very different safety
to pirogues. Here is a starting list.
- Know how
to swim, or
at least how
to float. Panic kills.
- Wear or
access to a life
preserver. Don't assume that the large chest
labeled "Life Preservers"
actually has usable life preservers in it.
- Do not
overcrowded boats. Charter
your own or ask when the boat will be less
crowded. Overcrowding and
seas are the number one reason for sinking of
small and medium sized
rough weather, during
monsoon or hurricane season.
- Stay off
in areas frequented
- In cold
remember where the
covered life rafts are. Understand the effects
and prevention of
Not a big problem for Africa, but still good
advice none the less.
- On large
safety and lifeboat briefings and practice going
from your cabin to the
lifeboat station with your eyes closed.
- Keep a
carry-on or backpack
with your money, papers and minor survival gear
(water, energy bars,
compass and map). Make it waterproof and a
potential life preserver by
using one or two garbage bags as a liner.
items to prevent
seasickness, sunburn, glare and chapped
maps, pens and a journal to pass away the
|Despite all the
if you have a choice of transportation when
traveling long distances,
on a plane. Yes, it is dangerous but not as
dangerous as enduring
the kaleidoscope of misery and misfortune that
awaits you on the ground.
- Stick to
good safety records.
airports on nonstop
- Avoid bad
flying at night.
- You can
sit in the
back if you want
(the rear 10 rows are usually intact in case of
ground impact but the
are dead) or above the wing (you may get thrown
clear, seat and all) or
near an exit (easier egress in case of fire or
emergency landing) might
be just as advisable.
strips and non-instrument fields.
plane the higher
the risk. The poorer the country, same deal
except when foreign
operate airplanes in Third World
carriers that are
not allowed to fly into the United States.
along on combat missions, or flying over active
combat or insurgence
like Ethiopia and Zaire.
aircraft or helicopters.
puts out a
and Airline Watch with enough hair-raising tales
of smoke filled
blown tires, near misses and hijackings to keep
you glued firmly to the
ground. $195 per year (703) 319-8050.
- After all
remember that travel
by airliner is the safest method of
transportation and that your odds
surviving a plane crash are about 50
- If you
you can buy flight insurance at 150 airports
around the U.S. You can
half a million dollars of insurance for $16.65
or you can spend the
amount on four stiff drinks. We recommend the
former, but usually end
doing the latter.
the train is
a target for bandits (this is appropriate
in Africa where
bandits and insurgents regularly target
- Beware of
routes where thieves are known to ride as
passengers. Sleep with the
cracked open to avoid being gassed.
in secret spots
making it more difficult for robbers to locate
- The back
train is traditionally
the safest area in the event of a collision.
Unless, of course, your
is rear ended.
- Keep your
with you at all
times if possible. Be nice to the conductor and
he will keep an eye out
preferable to buses or
cars when traveling through mountainous areas,
artists wait at
and tourist attractions. Be affable but do not
go anywhere with your
clerks will sell
your room key to equally enterprising
prostitutes. Go straight
until she is removed. If you stay to convince
her to leave, she may
rape and then you have the local cops to pay off
as well as the desk
and the girl.
expats and tourists. Don't make reservations in
your own name. Do not
- Dress in
attire or carry
a briefcase only when necessary. Have your
driver watch your back as
enter buildings or your hotel.
separate your credit cards in case you lose your
wallet, keep the
expiration dates and the phone numbers to order
- Do not
name, country or
hotel ID on luggage or clothing. When a clerk
asks for your room number
write it down for him.
- Do not
finances or politics with strangers.
- Wear a
(or just show
the band outward). If driving, wear your watch
on the arm inside the
Leave jewelry at home or in the hotel
- Get used
exits, memorize fire escape routes in the dark,
locking your doors and
being aware at all times.
prior warning, routine
schedules or tip-offs to do their dirty work.
Vary your schedule,
walking routes and don't be shy about changing
hotel rooms or assigned
- Stay away
front or back
of the plane (terrorists use these areas to
control the aircraft).
aisle seats unless you want to volunteer for
- Do not
at home (i.e., Playboy, political materials, or
for customs, drivers
and other people you meet.
- When you
your plans assume
someone is listening.
- Do not
"Make Up Room" sign
on your hotel room door. Rather, use the "Do Not
Disturb" sign. Keep
TV or radio on even when you leave. Contact
housekeeping and tell them
you don't want your room cleaned up.
(Written by Deric "D"
and excerpted without permission from Fielding's