Flight Tips for Safari-goers
Arranging your own safari means you get a lot of freedom. There’s a small price to pay, though: you need to arrange and prepare stuff. Fortunately most of this can be done before reaching Africa. This list of flight tips, compiled by European flight ticket website Tix.nl, will help you get ready for your flights to and in Africa.
Save on flight costs
Airfares take up a huge part of anyone’s safari budget. Ticket prices fluctuate throughout the year and tend to be higher in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer season (June through August). The bigger your group, the higher the savings are when you fly outside of the peak months. If you’re flying from the US, you will notice that most airlines make a stopover in Europe. By booking your US-Europe and Europe-Africa flights at different airlines, you can make additional savings.
Get your visas in order
Nobody likes to be stuck on a dusty border crossing in the blistering heat. If you can avoid this by applying for your visa from home, do so. This may entail a visit to the relevant embassy or consulate in your city, or sending your passport by certified mail if you live far away from the nearest diplomatic office. Totally worth it, as less time spent in the company of border officials means more time to tick off the Big Five. Please note that your passport validity needs to be at least 6 months at the moment you enter your destination country.
Exchange your money at the airport
African nations cheerfully accept your dollars. Taxi drivers, hotels and tour operators are more than happy to tweak the exchange rate a little to their favor. To reduce the chance of over-paying, always pay in the national currency. A good place to change your dollars or pounds into shillings, pulas or kwachas is your destination airport. Often you’ll find various money exchangers to choose between, so compare the exchange rates before drawing your wallet.
Fly as it was meant to be
International airports in Africa may be a little smaller than in the Western world, but they are generally modern and familiar affairs. How different is flying out to the domestic airports, most of which are dirt or grass landing strips, with locals who gather in the middle to welcome you and to possibly score a sale. Get ready for a real flight experience in single engine planes. While well-maintained and safe, these aircraft are noisy and shake a little more than you might be used to.
Weight and size limits on those small planes are low, which is why we suggest you to leave baggage with wide frames and wheels at home. Indeed, soft-sided duffel bags are the way to go when travelling to and between wildlife parks. Your pilot takes care of everything: he checks you in, doubles as a security officer, weighs your baggage and stores it in the luggage hold as he sees fit.
Take the right flight
Tiny African airports don’t have gates and sometimes lack workers to point you in the right direction. If you’re in a hurry to grab the best seat on board, at least make sure you walk to the right plane. This may sound obvious, but passengers do make mistakes. It happened to wildlife photographer Ariadne, who didn’t find out she had boarded the wrong plane until it was airborne. It took her two days and a lot of stopovers to get back on track.
Spot wildlife from the air
Taking to the air presents unique opportunities to spot wildlife. You will fly higher than a dedicated safari flight or a hot air balloon and there is no guide to help you spot the animals down below, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see any. Due to their size, elephants, wildebeest and giraffes are particularly easy to pick out, even from a higher altitude. That is – if you’re lucky enough to cross their paths.
We hope that you've found these flight tips helpful!
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