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Africa Using Public Transport

Travel Forums Africa and The Middle East Africa Using Public Transport

1. Posted by Sam2000 (Inactive 121 posts) 8y

Hey - I've got a lot of travelling time next year because I finally have a proper job. Asides from Interrailing in Europe. I am visiting South Africa (Cape Town) for two weeks doing organised charity work. I am then flying to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) to visit a friend of mine for a week. However, then I have three weeks to kill, if I want.

I have nowhere in particular that I'd like to visit...well, actually, I'd really like to go to Congo to Virunga NP, but I'm not sure thats wise at the present time.

Using public transport, is it actually possible to make your way around Africa? I'd like to really do Equatorial Africa - Kenya, Rwanda, Congo (both of them), Gabon, those sorts of places, via train and bus, perhaps internal flights if they don't cost too much. I'm not an overly experienced traveller, being 18 and I'm not eager to take big risks (having a trip around Zimbabwe, for example, does not appeal to me at the present time). How common are terrorist attacks on tourists? Or anyone for that matter.

How advisable is it? Or is better to save that money and go somewhere else and do Africa when its settled down a little more?

2. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 8y

Great perspective regarding future travelling Sam!
I am not an experienced overland traveller in Africa, but it seems with three weeks that you have to choose between a few countries.
Just by head I would say that Gabon and the Congos are a bit to far away and it would be better to go to Tanzania in combination with Rwanda and then fly back from Kigali to Dar.
Overland travel in DRC is not recommended due to safety concerns. Gabon is pretty expensive, especially if you want to visit the beautiful national parks it has to offer.
I heard very positive things about Rwanda. It is safe, with great nature and friendly people. I think you want to visit the Mountain Gorillas as well, and Rwanda is by far a better option than Congo. Also better than Uganda, because you will have a good chance to show up and go visit the Gorillas within a few days. Tours in Uganda tend to be booked solid by tour operators.
Terrorist attacks are not really a worry in that part of Africa, or anywhere in the world except Afghanistan and Iraq probably.
Check the Lonely Planet Torn Tree Forum by the way, there are several people over there which have very recent information about visiting Congo on a day trip from Rwanda. It is possible.
Public transport is not a worry either, especially in Tanzania, Kenya and Central African countries like Rwanda. Buses and minibuses travel between most major cities and towns.
Have fun!

3. Posted by Sam2000 (Inactive 121 posts) 8y

Thanks for the reply!

This would be my first "proper" trip, the other trips I've done have all been weekend breaks/family holidays.

I'm not too worried about Tanzania, I'll have a couple of friends with me and they are locals, so it should be good to see bits of the country with them...not seen them for years either...!

The reason I wanted to visit Congo was, as you say, the gorrilas mainly, in the Virunga NP, I think its called. I read a National Geographic article on it recently, which I found incredibly interesting and it made me want to go there a lot. Rwanda I want to go to because the recent genocide is something that isn't really a personal thing as such, but I have a friend of mine who's mum was a refugee because of the genocide...and talking to her and has sort of been a very interesting and somewhat distressing experience. Plus, her photo's of Rwanda are incredible, come to think of it, the NatGeo article did mention that Rwanda was one of the best places to go to see the gorrilas, so if I can "kill two birds with one stone", in that respect, that would be great.

Thats the other thing really - I need to finish in Dar Es Salaam because I need to book my plane ticket with the next couple of weeks because the prices skyrocket, it seems, if I wait any longer.

With regards to visas, do I need a seperate one for each country and can I, like I did in Egypt, get them upon arrival?

Gabon I wanted to visit almost purely because I saw some wonderful photographs of it, then again, every country in the world has wonderful photographs taken of it. Its not a priority really.

Thank you very much for the reply, I'm going to do a bit more research before I commit myself. I'll be doing a month in Europe as well so I'll have plenty of oppertunity to travel this year!

4. Posted by kandyrop (Budding Member 3 posts) 8y

hello sam
I think ultrecht has provided good info that will enable you make good decision prior to your visit.Kenya and some east african countries are safe,kenya is indeed safe on public transport but you will have to watch out also.Collect fare info because it might be hike for tourists.
Moses-birding club of lake baringo,kenya

5. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 8y

Hey Sam,

It seems that for the east and central african countries, UK citizens can get a visa upon arrival, at least at the airports. If you want to cross into Rwanda from Tanzania, I am not sure if you can get a visa at the border.
I guess it's best to check the respective embassy/consulate in your country or a specifici company in the UK dealing with visa. These things change all the time, and are different from country to country.

By the way, check Kigali Airport to see which companies offer flights back to Dar in time to get your onward flight out of Dar.


6. Posted by Jennig (Budding Member 12 posts) 8y

Hi Sam,

Michael has some good advice, i can only second it and add a few little bits of my own.

Gabon is very expensive, also far away and internal flights in Africa are far from cheap, especially going to the not so touristy/popular areas. Also it takes time to get to the scenic parts of Gabon and as well as getting there and back it will eat up your whole holiday time.
Congo, most borders you have to arrange the visa before you get there. Although if entering from Rwanda into DRC as suggested, my buddy just did it and he didn't have a visa already arranged, so i assume it is possible. I will send him an email to double check and let you know for sure.
Kenya and Rwanda you can get visas on the border (if you are traveling on a British passport, if not you may have to get Rwanda in advance). If you are trying to get to the gorillas then Rwanda will probably be easier, however as a lone traveller, you may get to fill the spot of a tour group who has decided not to do it. You can also get a Uganda and Tanzania visa on the borders. Just remember that a lot of the borders take US dollars only. I have also had the problem along the way of having the older US dollar notes, they just wont accept them in many places, so try (for your own convenience and ease in Africa) to have newer ones. Remember to bring some passport photos incase you end up applying in embassies (often you need to hand in 1 or 2 photos with an application)

Borders - visas aside, borders close and open in a moment. Just because you get a visa it does not guarantee travel into the country. So maybe when you get here after all your travelling your plans will change last minute. We had the border to DRC close as we were on the river between Congo and DRC - leaving us in no mans land.

Public transport is available throughout africa, just remember that it takes time. Some buses/minibus taxis dont leave until they are full, also break downs are not uncommon, and you will often have to bargain hard to get the price the locals pay (or close to it) especially if it is not scheduled transport or has a receipt. Trains are also subject to this, 24 hour delays are not unheard of.

Travel insurance - be aware that the fine print in some UK travel insurance invalidates your travel insurance if you go to a country which is not recommended by the FCO. I had this problem with Zimbabwe. Because it was on the FCO and Australian Govt list of 'do not advise travel to' countries, had i gone this would have made my whole travel insurance policy invalid. I had to get special permission to go to the DRC from my insurance company before going. It is worth asking your insurance company before you go.

Africa travel is more work than Europe but well worth the effort.


7. Posted by pedro1960 (Budding Member 5 posts) 8y

It's quite safe to travel by local transport in the safer countries of Africa (e.g. Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal and many others), as long as you remember some basics:
1. Start your journey early and aim to arrive at your destination before nightfall. Some places which are perfectly safe by day can be liable to attack by night.
2. Just in case your minibus should be attacked (pretty unlikely, but still....), keep some money in a wallet which you can hand over to the robbers, and your main money, etc. hidden on your person (in the pocket of a pair of shorts under your trousers, in your shoe.....)
3. Keep an eye on your luggage. Keep it with you if possible. But don't be paranoid - I've never seen anyone in Africa trying to steal someone else's luggage - they would get lynched!
4. Don't accept food and drinks from strangers and (this is a new one to me) don't buy food from roadside sellers (!) Well, I've done this hundreds of times with no problems, but recently I met an African woman who bought roast chicken from a roadside seller in Uganda which turned out to be drugged, so she woke up some time later minus money, etc.....

8. Posted by Sam2000 (Inactive 121 posts) 8y

[My last few posts don't appear to have appeared on the forum, I replied to this one, and a couple of others yesterday which aren't actually on here...]

Thanks very much for your advice.

I have decided to just spend a week extra in Africa (after visiting my friend in Tanzania), essentially due to financial constraints, and time constraints - I need to be back in time for university, and spending three weeks actually eats into time at university, which isn't sensible, especially in my first year!

I am currently planning just to spend a week in Rwanda, my mum has a friend there (along with every other country in the world, so it seems) who may be able to put me up for a few days, which automatically makes life easier.

I've had issues with minibusses not leaving until they are full in Egypt...that was the end this other guy just paid for the missing two people to get the driver to leave...

I'll check the Kigali airports website and see flights to Dar...the prices in Africa appear to be a lot higher than I was expecting...seriously, I thought a flight would almost be like buying a train ticket to London or something...apparently not!

9. Posted by marcelle25 (Budding Member 4 posts) 8y

Hi Sam,

You might want to look into Uganda. There is gorilla trekking, safaris and it is the source of the nile. There is also hiking in the mountains and many wild birds. Not to mention it is easy to get a visa. Travel by public transport is safe and relatively easy. Just be aware of what things should cost because you have to bargain here. You can take special hires, taxis, buses and bodas.