Overland transport in Africa

Overland transport in Africa is different to other continents. When you plan to overland, especial in Africa you have several options to do so, which are mainly based on your budget and time.

a) Overland by Car

This is by far the most expensive way to overland Africa. Fuel, costs for insurance, road tax, carnet de passage (not necessary), repairs independent of how old the car is. We will write a post about the carnet de passage in a separate post, as there is a lot of misinformation around, we traveled on a free TIP in different countries without problem.

overland transport

Traveling overland by car can be a wonderful and adventurous way to explore new places, whether you’re taking a road trip through your own country or embarking on an international journey. Here are some steps and tips to consider when planning an overland car trip:

  1. Plan Your Route:
    • Decide on your destination and the route you want to take. Consider scenic routes, points of interest, and the distance you’ll cover each day.
    • Use GPS navigation systems, maps, and online tools to plan your route and estimate driving times.
  2. Vehicle Preparation:
    • Ensure your car is in good condition. Get it serviced, check the tires, brakes, and all fluid levels.
    • Carry a spare tire, jack, and necessary tools for minor repairs.
    • Know how to change a tire and perform basic maintenance tasks.
  3. Documentation:
    • Ensure you have all necessary documents, including your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.
    • If traveling internationally, research and obtain any required permits or visas for your car and yourself.
  4. Packing and Supplies:
    • Pack your car efficiently, keeping essentials easily accessible.
    • Carry emergency supplies, including first aid kits, flashlights, batteries, and a basic toolkit.
    • Don’t forget to bring necessary personal items, clothing, and toiletries.
  5. Accommodation:
    • Decide if you’ll be camping, staying in hotels, or using a combination of accommodations.
    • Make reservations in advance for popular destinations or during peak travel seasons.
  6. Food and Water:
    • Stock up on non-perishable snacks and drinks for the journey.
    • Carry a reusable water container and refill it whenever possible to stay hydrated.
  7. Safety and Security:
    • Lock your car when it’s unattended.
    • Be aware of local safety guidelines and potential hazards in the areas you’ll be traveling through.
    • Have a plan for emergencies, including knowing the local emergency numbers.
  8. Budgeting:
    • Estimate your expenses, including fuel, accommodation, food, and activities.
    • Set aside extra money for unexpected costs or emergencies.
  9. Entertainment and Communication:
    • Bring entertainment options for the road, such as music, audiobooks, or podcasts.
    • Ensure you have a reliable means of communication, whether it’s a mobile phone, satellite phone, or two-way radio.
  10. Enjoy the Journey:
    • Take breaks to rest and stretch during long drives.
    • Explore the local culture, try new foods, and interact with locals along the way.
    • Capture memories with photos and journal your experiences.
  11. Environmental Responsibility:
    • Practice responsible tourism by minimizing your impact on the environment. Dispose of trash properly and respect nature.
  12. Insurance and Roadside Assistance:
    • Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers car-related issues and medical emergencies.
    • Research and have contact information for roadside assistance services in the areas you’ll be traveling through.

Remember that overland travel by car offers the flexibility to go off the beaten path and discover hidden gems. It’s also important to be adaptable and open to unexpected experiences as they can often be the most memorable parts of your journey.

b) Overland by Motorbike

Although we never toured on a motorbike, we met a lot of travelers doing so. Fuel consumption is low, but you often are forced to stay in a guest house, which adds to the costs, although guest houses are rather cheap in Africa, in contrary to hotels.

overland transport

Overlanding with a motorbike is a thrilling and adventurous way to explore remote and off-road destinations. It allows you to immerse yourself in the journey, experience the open road, and reach places that may be inaccessible by other means. Here are some key considerations for overlanding with a motorbike:

  1. Choose the Right Motorcycle:
    • Select a motorcycle suitable for overlanding. Adventure touring, dual-sport, and enduro bikes are popular choices because they can handle a variety of terrains.
    • Ensure the motorcycle is well-maintained and in excellent working condition.
  2. Plan Your Route:
    • Plan your overland route carefully, considering the types of roads or trails you’ll encounter.
    • Use maps, GPS, or navigation apps to chart your course and find points of interest along the way.
  3. Motorcycle Gear:
    • Invest in high-quality protective gear, including a helmet, riding jacket, gloves, boots, and pants.
    • Consider weather-appropriate gear for varying conditions, such as rain gear or heated clothing.
  4. Luggage and Packing:
    • Choose motorcycle-specific luggage options like saddlebags, panniers, and tail bags for secure and balanced storage.
    • Pack light, carrying only essentials. Weight distribution is critical for stability.
  5. Camping Gear:
    • If you plan to camp, pack lightweight and compact camping gear, including a tent, sleeping bag, and cooking equipment.
    • Consider a compact camp stove for preparing meals.
  6. Tool Kit and Spare Parts:
    • Bring a tool kit specific to your motorcycle and the knowledge to perform basic repairs.
    • Carry spare parts such as brake pads, clutch cables, and spark plugs.
  7. Navigation and Communication:
    • Have reliable navigation tools like a GPS unit or smartphone with offline maps.
    • Consider a satellite communication device for emergencies, especially in remote areas.
  8. Safety and First Aid:
    • Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it.
    • Wear protective gear, including armor for off-road riding.
  9. Documentation:
    • Ensure you have all necessary documents, including your motorcycle license, registration, proof of insurance, and identification.
    • Research and obtain any required permits or visas if traveling internationally.
  10. Budgeting:
    • Estimate your expenses, including fuel, accommodation, food, and maintenance.
    • Set aside funds for unexpected costs or emergencies.
  11. Emergency and Breakdown Plans:
    • Have a plan for what to do in case of breakdowns, accidents, or medical emergencies.
    • Share your travel itinerary with someone back home and check in regularly.
  12. Environmental Responsibility:
    • Respect local environmental and cultural norms. Leave no trace and pack out all waste.
    • Stay on designated trails and avoid damaging sensitive ecosystems.
  13. Local Laws and Regulations:
    • Familiarize yourself with the traffic laws and regulations of the countries or regions you’ll be traveling through.
    • Know the rules for crossing international borders with your motorcycle.
  14. Insurance:
    • Ensure you have appropriate motorcycle insurance, and consider travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and trip cancellations.
  15. Enjoy the Journey:
    • Take time to enjoy the scenery, meet locals, and immerse yourself in the cultures you encounter.
    • Be flexible with your schedule and open to unexpected experiences.

Overlanding with a motorbike can be a challenging and rewarding adventure. It offers a sense of freedom and connection with the open road, nature, and diverse cultures. However, thorough planning, preparation, and safety measures are essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

c) Overland by Bicycle

Yes, there are some of these brave types of traveler, crossing Africa by bicycle. For sure the cheapest way, no fuel and you are forced to camp in the bush, because you cannot reach each day a village where you can stay in a guest house. We give travel tips for cyclists when we get the information as well.

Overlanding by bike, whether it’s a bicycle or a motorbike, is a thrilling way to explore diverse landscapes and cultures while enjoying the freedom of the open road. Here’s a guide to help you plan an overland bike trip:

1. Choose Your Bike:

  • For a bicycle trip, select a bike suitable for long-distance touring, such as a touring bike or a mountain bike with appropriate modifications.
  • For a motorcycle trip, choose a bike that’s well-suited for overlanding, such as an adventure touring or dual-sport motorcycle.

2. Route Planning:

  • Decide on your route, taking into account the distance, terrain, and weather conditions you’ll encounter.
  • Use maps, GPS, or navigation apps to plan your journey and find interesting stops along the way.

3. Bike Equipment and Maintenance:

  • Ensure your bike is in excellent working condition. Have it serviced, check tires, brakes, and all essential components.
  • Carry a tool kit, spare parts, and the skills to perform basic bike repairs.
  • Pack essential bike accessories like lights, locks, and a repair kit for flat tires.

4. Gear and Clothing:

  • Invest in quality gear, including a helmet, gloves, riding jacket, and pants.
  • For bicycle overlanding, wear comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing suitable for various weather conditions.
  • Consider rain gear, a first aid kit, and camping equipment if you plan to camp along the way.

5. Luggage and Packing:

  • Choose bike-specific luggage, such as panniers, saddlebags, or bikepacking bags, to securely store your belongings.
  • Pack efficiently, bringing only necessary items and distributing weight evenly for better balance.

6. Navigation and Communication:

  • Use navigation tools like GPS units or smartphone apps with offline maps.
  • Consider a satellite communication device for emergencies in remote areas.

7. Safety and Health:

  • Always wear safety gear and follow local traffic laws.
  • Stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and protect yourself from extreme weather conditions.
  • Carry a basic first aid kit, any necessary medications, and have knowledge of basic first aid.

8. Documentation:

  • Ensure you have essential documents like your ID, passport, travel visas, and any required permits.
  • Carry copies of important documents and keep them in a waterproof bag or pouch.

9. Budgeting:

  • Estimate your expenses, including food, accommodation, fuel, and maintenance.
  • Have funds set aside for emergencies or unexpected costs.

10. Camping and Accommodation:

  • Decide whether you’ll camp, stay in hostels, hotels, or use a combination of accommodations.
  • Make reservations in advance, especially in popular or remote areas.

11. Environmental Responsibility:

  • Follow “leave no trace” principles by disposing of waste properly and respecting the environment.
  • Stay on designated trails and respect local customs and traditions.

12. Insurance:

  • Ensure you have appropriate insurance coverage, including health, bike, and travel insurance.
  • Research if your insurance covers bike theft or damage.

13. Communication and Emergency Plan:

  • Share your travel itinerary with someone trustworthy and check in regularly.
  • Have a plan for handling emergencies or breakdowns, including local emergency contact information.

14. Enjoy the Journey:

  • Take time to appreciate the scenery, meet locals, and immerse yourself in different cultures.
  • Be flexible with your schedule and open to unexpected experiences.

Overlanding by bike allows you to experience the world at a slower pace, connect with local communities, and enjoy the freedom of the road. It’s an adventure that offers both physical and mental challenges, as well as unforgettable memories along the way. Proper planning and preparation are essential for a safe and enjoyable journey.

d) Overland by organized overland companies

This is the most comfortable and safe way to travel Africa overland. They organize everything, you just need to enjoy and visit a lot in short time. There are some companies that are in business already for a long time like Dragoman, Acacia, Oasis Overland and several others. If you search the internet you will find the appropriate for you. They offer from luxury to self contained camping tours.

overland transport
Overland trucks on the ferry to Sudan

Overlanding by organized overland companies is a popular way to embark on adventurous journeys with the convenience of having a structured itinerary and a support team. These companies specialize in arranging overland tours and expeditions, often in specially equipped vehicles, and provide travelers with the opportunity to explore remote and exciting destinations. Here’s what you should know if you’re considering traveling with an organized overland company:

  1. Choose the Right Company:
    • Research different overland companies to find one that aligns with your interests, budget, and travel style.
    • Look for reviews and testimonials from previous travelers to get a sense of the company’s reputation.
  2. Select Your Destination:
    • Overland companies offer a wide range of itineraries across various continents. Decide on the region or countries you want to explore.
  3. Trip Duration and Itinerary:
    • Consider the length of the trip and the specific places you’ll visit. Overland tours can range from a few days to several months.
    • Review the itinerary to ensure it covers the destinations and activities you’re interested in.
  4. Group Size and Dynamics:
    • Find out the maximum group size for the tour. Smaller groups can provide a more intimate experience, while larger groups may offer more social interaction.
    • Consider the demographic of fellow travelers. Some tours are designed for specific age groups or interests.
  5. Accommodation and Meals:
    • Inquire about the types of accommodation included in the tour, whether it’s camping, guesthouses, or hotels.
    • Ask about meal arrangements, including whether meals are included and if dietary restrictions can be accommodated.
  6. Transportation:
    • Understand the type of vehicle used for the tour. Overland companies often use specially designed trucks or vehicles that are suitable for rough terrain.
    • Check the condition of the vehicles and safety features.
  7. Guides and Crew:
    • Learn about the qualifications and experience of the tour guides and support staff.
    • Ask about language proficiency and their ability to handle emergencies.
  8. Cost and Inclusions:
    • Get a clear understanding of the tour’s cost and what’s included. Some companies offer all-inclusive packages, while others may have additional optional activities.
    • Inquire about any additional fees or expenses not covered in the tour price.
  9. Health and Safety:
    • Ensure the company has safety protocols in place and provides access to medical assistance in case of emergencies.
    • Check if vaccinations or travel insurance are required or recommended.
  10. Flexibility and Free Time:
    • Ask about the level of flexibility within the itinerary and whether there’s free time for independent exploration.
    • Understand the policy regarding changes to the itinerary due to unforeseen circumstances.
  11. Preparation and Packing:
    • Seek guidance on what to pack for the trip, including clothing, gear, and personal items.
    • Inquire about visa requirements and any necessary travel documents.
  12. Cancellation and Refund Policies:
    • Review the company’s cancellation and refund policies in case you need to change your plans.

Traveling with an organized overland company can be an excellent way to explore challenging and remote destinations with the assurance of knowledgeable guides and a support network. Careful research and clear communication with the company are essential to ensure that the tour aligns with your preferences and expectations. Once you’ve selected the right overland tour, you can look forward to a memorable adventure.

e) Backpacking Africa

Backpacking in Africa is not so easy if you are inexperienced. Although public transport is very well organized, you have to plan very much ahead, because certain areas are difficult to reach by bus. What is different to backpacking in western countries is, that local transport in towns is very cheap, so you need not carry your backpack over long distances, because most of the time for a few cents you get a motorcycle taxi from your backpackers guest house to the bus station.

Backpacking through Africa can be an incredible and enriching experience, offering a diverse range of landscapes, cultures, and adventures. However, it’s essential to plan carefully and be prepared for the unique challenges and opportunities that come with traveling across this vast and varied continent. Here are some tips to help you plan and enjoy your backpacking adventure in Africa:

1. Research and Plan:

  • Start by researching the countries you want to visit. Africa is a vast continent with diverse regions, so choose your destinations carefully.
  • Create a rough itinerary but remain flexible to adapt to unexpected opportunities or changes in plans.

2. Visas and Documentation:

  • Check the visa requirements for each country you plan to visit and apply for them in advance if necessary.
  • Ensure your passport has enough blank pages and is valid for at least six months beyond your planned return date.how-to-travel-africa-transport

3. Vaccinations and Health Precautions:

  • Consult a travel clinic or your healthcare provider to get the necessary vaccinations and medications for the countries you’ll visit.
  • Carry a basic first aid kit and any prescription medications you may need.

4. Safety Precautions:

  • Research the safety situation in each country you plan to visit and stay updated on travel advisories from your government.
  • Be cautious with personal belongings, and consider using a money belt or hidden pouch for important documents and valuables.

5. Budget and Finance:

  • Create a budget for your trip, including accommodation, food, transportation, activities, and emergencies.
  • Carry a mix of payment options, including cash (in the local currency), credit/debit cards, and a backup source of funds.

6. Accommodation:

  • Consider a mix of accommodation options, including hostels, guesthouses, campsites, and even budget hotels.
  • Booking in advance may be necessary in popular tourist areas.

7. Transportation:

  • Be prepared for varied and sometimes challenging transportation options. Africa has extensive bus networks, shared taxis, and domestic flights.
  • Travel by road can be slow and rough in some regions, so plan your routes accordingly.

8. Pack Light and Smart:

  • Pack lightweight and versatile clothing suitable for varying climates and cultural norms.
  • Don’t forget essential items like a good quality backpack, a sturdy water bottle, a headlamp, and a multi-purpose travel towel.

9. Respect Local Customs:

  • Learn about the cultures and customs of the regions you’ll visit, and show respect for local traditions, dress codes, and etiquette.
  • Familiarize yourself with basic local phrases and greetings.

10. Stay Informed: – Stay updated on current events and local news in the countries you’re traveling through. – Connect with other backpackers, both online and in person, for travel advice and recommendations.

11. Travel Insurance: – Purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and personal belongings. – Ensure it includes coverage for adventurous activities you may want to participate in, such as safaris or trekking.

12. Enjoy the Journey: – Embrace the unexpected, as Africa is full of surprises and unique experiences. – Interact with locals, try local foods, and immerse yourself in the rich cultures and histories of the continent.

Backpacking through Africa can be a transformative experience, offering a chance to connect with nature, diverse peoples, and ancient cultures. With thorough planning and a spirit of adventure, you can make the most of your journey across this remarkable continent.

Overland Travel Tips for Africa

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