Pre-Departure Information | London to Ghana – West Africa
Our Expedition trips are different from our other departures and other holidays you may have taken. We go through areas where no tourists go, the roads can be bad, food can be limited to what we have stocked on the truck, campsites are few and basic, visas can be hard to get and communication to the outside world limited or unavailable at times. We guarantee; we’ll break down, that we will have to wait somewhere we don’t really want to be for visas spare parts or just for someone to open a closed road and we’ll have to dig the truck out of mud and sand.
The trip might overrun so finish late; the route can change due to rains, closed roads visa issues, breakdowns and politics. It’s best not to book your return flights home until you finish the trip.
To join this trip you need to be prepared to work as part of a team and to share with the others on the trip. Some of the things you’ll never forget are the satisfaction of getting a 16 ton truck unstuck, cooking over open fires after collecting the firewood, pitching a tent and getting it right even when it rains, going to sleep when its dark and waking at dawn and wanting to get out of your sleeping bag to start another day in which you have no idea of what will happen, washing in rivers, not washing and not caring that your dirty, living outside for months, seeing more than you have ever before, trying to learn French Arabic or Swahili and having people understand what you say, finding out just how far places are away from where you started and how different places can be and how unaffected out of the way places are from the world we normally live in. Most people who do an expedition find it a lot of fun though of course hard at times.
Spending and Money – As a general rule US$ are the easiest to change anywhere and travellers cheques are hard to change. Credit cards are good to have for withdrawing cash but can be problematical. Travellers cheques, while keeping your money safe are hard to change.
General spending – $20/$60 a day is a good start, excluding side trips. Depending on how much you drink, eat out and the souvenirs you buy, so much of this spending depends on the person
Currency – It is easier if you have cash in US$ or Euros. US Dollars are accepted everywhere. Bring US$ cash in new notes from the year 2006 onwards. Higher denomination notes US$50/100 give a better rate of exchange.
Western Union & Money Gram You can have someone at home send by Western Union or Money Gram funds to you on the road. If you’re concerned about carrying cash, ask someone to MoneyGram or Western Union funds to you while your away. On their websites are the locations of their offices in Africa. MoneyGram International – moneygram.com or Western Union – westernunion.com
The best way to travel is to carry a portion of each;
(1) Euros for West/Central Africa, **
(2) US$ for everywhere else,
(3) Money on your credit/debit card
** The Eurozone in West/Central Africa includes; Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Cameroun, Gabon, Rep Congo. In these countries the local Franc is pegged to the Euro, making it the best currency to have in those countries.
If you’re coming from an area where US$ are more available than Euros, [eg USA]. Consider bringing just $US instead of Euros.
Credit/debit cards – bring at least two to five credit/debit cards as they can be rejected by the cash machine. Tell your bank before you travel to stop them blocking your card. In East and Southern Africa, ATM machines are available about every three days. Visa credit and debit cards are better than MasterCard/American Express/ Maestro/Cirrus for acceptability.
Included in the trip price & Local Payment – The tour cost and local payment includes transport in a fully equipped expedition vehicle, road taxes and tolls, services of the driver-leader, use of camping and cooking equipment, campsite fees, entrance to gameparks as specified and two meals a day while on the truck. So in towns or places where the vehicle will be parked up, although the kitchen will be available for you to cook with, food during this time will not come out of the Local Payment. Generally, at lunchtimes, we eat at small cafes or restaurants where you can try cheap and tasty local food. If no local food is available we eat on the truck.
Local Payment – Payable US$ cash but you can pay in Euros cash at the current cross exchange rate, check with us for the rate. Please pay this to the driver on departure. Travellers cheques, cards or other forms of payment are not accepted.
Not included in the trip price and local payment – The price does not include flights, visas, side trips, lunches and meals out. There are a number of optional side trips that you can choose and pay for on the route.
Buying your flight – For trips starting in London, we fly you to Gibraltar to start the trip.
Return flight – Although it is our intention to finish the trip on the finishing date, in case of delays en route you should buy your flight home till the end of the trip.
Visas – Please see the Visa page.
Washing – Most of the time you can wash every day and at campsites you can do your laundry or often have it done for you quite cheaply.
E-mail – Can be collected every week or two (some campsites have facilities).
Drinking Water – Though we have drinking water on the truck to ensure your good health we advise you drink bottled water which is readily available.
Camping – Tents are provided and all have sewn-in floors and mosquito netting. You will need to bring a sleeping bag (be prepared for some cold nights) & sleep sheet. Get a cheap mosquito net in Africa if you want to sleep outside of your tent. If you start your trip in Nairobi or South Africa you can buy camping gear at the local department stores. Most campsites have good ablution facilities & bars, some restaurants, shops and internet facilities. About half the campsites have upgrades to hut or cabins for an extra charge.
Accommodation at the end of the trip – There are numerous cheap backpacker hostels so no need to book. Your crew can help with this.
Time Zones – East & Southern Africa are on the same time up to 3 hours ahead of GMT. West Africa is normally on GMT. North East Africa is one or two hours ahead of GMT.
Language – Learning any basic Arabic would be to your advantage when crossing the Sahara. Elsewhere on route English and French are the most common second languages.
Passports, Visas & Photos – Bring 25 passport photos with you for visas. If you run out of photos there are photoshops to get more. You need a nearly empty passport to do the trip as each country uses a page for visas and entry stamps. Your passport must be valid for 9 months from the date of travel. If you don’t have enough pages in your passport it can be troublesome to get one on the way.
Visas are required for most countries visited on the first leg of the trip. We obtain most of these on route. If you don’t have enough pages in your passport you will need to get another passport. Passports and inoculation cards with any Israeli stamps must be replaced.
Insurance – Deposit and balance & Insurance – Once you are booked, your deposit and balance (within 90 days of trip departure) is non-refundable. Insure yourself when you book for the full time your away. You must have travel insurance. We only carry passengers on the understanding that, in most African countries through which we travel no passenger or vehicle liability is available. Take out insurance when you pay your deposit for the tour or for flights so that you are covered for cancellation and bring your policy. If you travel without insurance and you have a problem you could incur massive bills.
Medical coverage is the important part of your insurance, loss of belongings less so. For UK, Australian and NZ residents, we can point you in the right direction for insurance if you contact us. For other nations, it is best to search online – there are some good online insurance companies catering for US, Canadian and European residents.
Medical & Inoculations – You have to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever and will need an International Vaccination Certificate to prove this when we cross borders. It is also advisable to be vaccinated against Typhoid; Rabies; Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; Tetanus; Polio and Meningitis.
If possible start your vaccinations two months, but as late as two weeks before departure. Your doctor or medical centres with travel educated doctors can supply up-to-date medical advice and vaccinate you.
Malaria – There is malaria in the areas we visit. Malaria tablets offer only partial protection against malaria so avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes come out in the evening, wear long trousers and sleeves plus socks as mosquitoes tend to bite around the feet and ankles. Use insect repellent containing Deet. The use of repellents and covering up is as effective as the use of tablets, so by coupling both methods, you should be malaria free. In Africa buy a can of fly/bug spray to clear your tent.
On our previous Trans Africa trip most people used Doxycycline as a malaria preventative. They combined this with long pants at night. Plus use repellant and fly spray your tents before retiring. Doxycycline is available cheaply in most countries.
In Africa buy a malaria cure – standard medical procedure in malarial zones is if you have a fever of unknown origin is to treat it as malaria first to stop it quickly.
Medical Kits – We carry First Aid kits on board for emergency use only. However, the crew is not entitled to recommend or prescribe any medicine. We advise a health check with your doctor and dentist before you start your journey and that you carry your own medical kit with you.
Security in general – Take a money belt that fits under your shirt. Do not wear a bum bag around your waist, or a money belt that hangs from your neck. In certain problem areas a passenger roster will be drawn up to guard the vehicle during the day. Don’t take non essential items of value. If you lose your passport or travellers cheques it is not always possible for the expedition to wait for you. We take no responsibility for such or for any belongings
Side trips & optional excursions – Are paid for on the spot. All side trip prices are approximate and can change without notice.
Budget planner – Download this budget planner to help calculate the overall cost of your trip Budget planner
Equipment – Discman/iPods/MP3’s & CD’s – An amplifier is provided in the rear of the truck for you to plug your Discmans/i-Pods into. Although the amp is powered off the truck, your Discman/iPod isn’t, so bring along extra batteries.
Photography – African authorities require that tourists do not take pictures of airports, railway stations or military installations. We are often in areas where locals are not used to being photographed and we ask you to show them every respect and courtesy.
Your Electrical Equipment – Mobiles, Cameras, Laptops – In most camps you can charge from the mains, so bring a travel adaptor plug, as outlet power points are mostly UK and Euro types. Most countries run on 220/240 volts. To increase your battery time get a spare battery.
Mobile Phone – your phone can work abroad if you have roam facility. Coverage is good but incoming calls cost a lot. You can generally buy a local number in each country we visit.
Maps – To have your own map to follow the trip, for Southern Africa – Michelin map 955, West Africa – Michelin 953 and for North East Africa – Michelin 954.
Suggested list of clothing and equipment
The less you take the less you have to pack, wash, lug home and you’ll pick up extras along the way. Lots of cheap second hand clothes in the markets. You’ll be travelling in the heat and camping in the cool, so bring clothes for all climates, rough stuff is best. The best type of carrier is a rucksack (with an internal frame) or a kit bag.
Sleeping bag & sleeping mat (it can get very cold at night)
Poncho or rain jacket
Medical kit – Bring your own simple kit
Re-hydration sachets available from any chemist
Insect repellent containing Deet e.g. Jungle Juice
Toiletries and showering gear – You can buy toiletries in Africa
Shorts, T-shirts, swimsuit
Small day-pack or bag to carry your daily items
Hat and sunglasses
Camera (in a protective case), spare batteries and all the film you think necessary
Money belt or pouch to hold your passport
Books, personal CD player and CD’s
Torch & spare batteries
The easiest and best way to travel lightly. Most people bring too much luggage