Africa is misunderstood by so many people. Well.. to be honest, everyone kind of misunderstands everyone else. The more I travel I realise how little I know. However I am fine with knowing a little. I enjoy my travels and the journey has been so great. I really like discovering new amusing yet awesome things (even things that I didn’t know about it before – for instance: the pride of donkey competition in Lamu, Kenya. I never thought donkeys would be such a big deal).
During my travels in Africa and after my travels plenty of people asked me the same thing: is it dangerous to travel in Africa? It is difficult to answer this question in a short way. So let me tell you my thoughts in general. I will also share some of my ‘bad’ or ‘dangerous’ or ‘it might be dangerous‘ travel experiences in Africa. Hope you are ready for them 😉
First all of, it really depends on which part of Africa you are travelling to. Let’s say you are travelling in South Africa. Cape Town is a lot safer compared to Johannesburg (I have never been to both place, but this is what the locals say). From my experience, it was different to travel in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania and Nairobi in Kenya. Both are capital cities, but I felt so much safer to walk around, even at night, Dar Es Salaam compared to Nairobi.
One thing that I realised is that the best way to see how safe an area is by observing the locals. Just do what locals do. When I was in Malawi, due to the lack of public transport, a lot of local people walked. They walked almost everywhere in the main roads and I could instantly tell that it was ok to walk around, especially in the city center. When you see that no one is pulling out their smartphone while they walk on the street, then do the same thing. So now let’s talk about my experiences in Africa. Here are the bad ones:
Walking at night from the Airbnb to the café in Nairobi
I remember I asked my host about a nice place to hang out in the afternoon and he suggested a beer garden, which was quite close to the house. It was around 2,1 km away. It should have been easy peasy, only a 20-25 minute walk to reach the place. So my husband and I started to walk and I remember it was getting dark (yup we departed from the house a tiny bit too late). As we got closer to the beer garden the streets emptied.
It was really intimidating and stressful. On top of that, in the morning my host told me that there was an incident and a guy was killed/shot in Karen area (which is one of the fanciest areas in Nairobi). He said there was a guy on a motorbike who just pulled a gun on another guy. The incident happened at mid-day. Plus I was advised by an Indonesian guy who works at the embassy to never ever walk at night in Nairobi. Either get an Uber or just stay at home. Brilliant!
That final stretch of road the journey seemed endless. The worst part was the second last turn before the beer garden. The road in front of us was dark. A great place to be where a random person on a motorbike or in a car could cause you a lot of problems. Those last few dozen meters we almost ran. Though nothing bad really happened to us, but the paranoia made us 100% sure to order an Uber to take us back home.
Waiting for the public transport in Blantyre, Malawi, a drunken guy tried to steal my snack
It was one of those days… I was super hungry and I decided to open one pack of chips that I bought at the supermarket. I casually munched my chips while waiting for the bus. There were several other people waiting for the bus and 2-3 men working as touts for the buses (these guy just stand there yelling out the destinations and get paid by the bus driver after the bus is full).
One of these guys walked towards me, stared into my eyes and grabbed my chips. He was probably hungry (and I am sure he was drunk too). Uhh.. never underestimate a hungry girl. I looked at him back and I remember I feel angry (or hangry-a mixture of hungry and angry). I grabbed back my chips from him!
He wasn’t happy and he came up quite close to me, like super close, with an intense look in his eyes. Then he moved back and, luckily, my bus arrived. The next day I avoided that bus stop hahaha. I felt scared!
Walking by myself in Malawi from my friend’s house (it was outside the city center) to where I can get a bus into the city
The walk from my friend’s house to the main road was an enjoyable 1,8 km walk. It is a nice proper road, not much traffic (in fact only 2-3 cars pass by every 3 minutes) and plenty of trees. Along the route there was around 600 meters stretch with no houses, just corn fields on either side.
The main problem is almost no one walks around the area. So the idea of walking by myself was quite frightening. My husband said I shouldn’t walk alone. He told me, “you know that people can suddenly pop up from the cornfields and grab you and rape you.” Yeah right, he was worried about me and yet added to the distress. He was away to England for 2-2,5 weeks so I was alone in Malawi.
Good thing is the awful possibility never happened even I walk the road by myself 3 times. I usually waited until there was another lady walking along the road so we could walk together (but not really together because we didn’t talk to each other haha).
Having rocks thrown at us by kids in Lalibela, Ethiopia
I remember we walked back from a cafe to our hotel. It was starting to get dark. Lalibela isn’t a dangerous place to walk at night. We passed a dark road and on the other side of the road there was a street light. Three kids were standing around it.
We just walked and suddenly I felt a rock flying towards us. At that time I thought ah, maybe something fall down from the tree. So I ignored it. Then it happened the second time. And then a third time. That was when we were really sure that it was a rock being thrown by kids on the other side of the road.
We shouted at them and asked them to stop it. Out of 3 kids, only 2 had rocks in their hands. You might guess it right, they threw another rock at us as soon as we turned and walked away. As soon as the rock passed us we turned around and chased them (it was quite hilarious actually). One of the kids, she didn’t throw the rock at us, ran to her house which was just next to the street lamp. The other two ran into the darkness.
We knocked on the door of the house and two ladies greeted us. We explained the situation and told them that it was not a nice thing to do. The two ladies said that her daughter didn’t throw anything, it was her friends who did that. We addressed the issue by saying she was up to the idea because she was laughing and supporting the boys throwing the rocks at us.
Long story short, with very limited communication due to the language barrier, they understood us and apologised. Luckily the rocks didn’t hit any of us. We said that it was important to educate the kids that it is not a good thing to do to tourists or to anyone.
Went to a floating bar in Lamu, Kenya
The story of going to a floating bar in Lamu wasn’t a bad experience actually. For the first time I chewed Khat (google it). It tasted horrible. You chew it with chewing gum and I just don’t understand why a lot of people like it. I guess it is kind of similar to smoking, you just have something to do while you do nothing.
So that was my bad experiences from travelling in Africa. I can’t remember any others unpleasant stories. There were tons of incredible things that happened to me during my time on the continent. The music festival in Zanzibar, the hike in Malawi, the night out in Dar Es Salaam and a lot more.
So are you now more convinced that travelling in Africa is not dangerous? 😉 Let me know if you have any amusing stories from travelling in Africa.