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The safest countries to visit in Africa – East African Edition

First off, I want to warn you before you go further in this article: I really apologize if this article turns out to be long, but if I breathe (and I barely exaggerate) it’s because I travel. Each year, there is this need–not to say addiction–I have to leave the city, the region or, if possible, the country I live in. If you want to kill me, you already know what to do: prevent me to travel. That simple. LITERALLY. OK now that it’s clear, let’s start, shall we?

Whenever I tell most of my friends or acquaintances, African or non-African, that my favorite travel destinations are in Africa, the common reactions I receive from them are quite funny. Some, on the one hand, look at me with despair, as they see in front of them a reckless person whose final goal is to die young and honorably (lol!). Others, on the other hand, step a little back and give me that curious and surprised look, as if I just told them I climbed the Everest naked without resting.

Why? Because Africa, and I will never stress it enough, has been and is still being portrayed as a dangerous–if not war-torn — and poor continent and traveling in such an “unsafe” continent can seem to many people’s eyes a suicidal operation. This is why I created this series of 5 articles on the safest places to visit in Africa, with the aim to prove you wrong and show you what you’ve been or are missing out because NO! Africa is not unsafe, with many of its countries being way safer than many others located in other continents questionably privileged by the Western– especially African-descent –tourists.

Without further due, let me introduce you to the list of the safest countries to visit in East Africa :

  • Ethiopia
  • Rwanda
  • Tanzania

Ethiopia

When I think of Ethiopia, the first thing that comes to my mind is good food. Then, calm, beautiful and smiling people–surely welcoming–but also historical landmarks. Its history differs from the rest of the continent, for being the only one to have not given in to the influence of the European colonizers in the past centuries and one of the world’s first Christian society. It is now one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, and fortunately easily accessible, thanks to its awesome airline Ethiopian Airlines and its 125 destinations worldwide.

Ethiopia is a very safe country, with serious and violent crime being very rare, even more for travelers. The risk of petty crime is very low, and outside Ethiopia’s busy and rapidly-growing metropolis Addis Abeba, serving as the country’s capital, the risk is even lower. Pickpockets are the main safety concern for travelers in Ethiopia, so here are a few tips that I personally apply to ensure you the best experience ever on your next trip there:

  • Act like you know where you’re heading, so you can avoid malicious people who may try to take advantage of your ignorance. To be honest, this is a method I’ve often subconsciously put into practice during my recent trips to the few African countries I’ve had the chance to visit, and I can say it is quite effective.
  • Watch your belongings and refuse if someone suggests you to take care of your bags. Don’t let yourself being easily distracted by people. Some of them work in groups, come out of nowhere to divert your attention, and as soon as you’re distracted enough, next thing you know all your banknotes and valuables are gone, so PAY ATTENTION and continue your way while politely and firmly refusing any unnecessary encounters.w
  • Keep your hands in your pockets when entering crowded areas and remove them when it’s necessary, hich can at first seem awkward, and somehow paranoid, but can avoid you bad surprises. Because yoooo some thieves out there are so skilled, you’d wonder at which university they got that skill from.

Rwanda

Here we are in Rwanda, the land of the thousand hills, my country of origin I love and care so much for (stay assured that I won’t be biased–I will at least try not to). Home to beautiful national parks, magnificent lakes, and breathtaking scenery with its green and soothing hills, majestic volcanoes, and savannas, Rwanda was once the most dangerous country in the world (or at least one of them), a literal no-go zone.

However, over the past 20 years, safety has progressively become a priority for the Rwandan government for the welfare of its citizens and tourists, and things have changed for the better in this awesome country. The efforts have not been in vain, as Rwanda is one of the safest countries to visit in East Africa. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear that Kigali, known for being the cleanest capital of Africa, is exceptionally safe. I would personally walk on its calm streets, both during the night and during the day, without an ounce of fear for my safety, the presence of police officers and military in the city helping a lot in that matter. For the other cities, it’s pretty much the same, but it’s always better to ask the locals about the safety status. Same rule as the majority of the countries mentioned in this article and the previous ones, when getting into crowded areas, watch your pockets.

Tanzania

From seeing the Big 5 living their best life on the savanna grass of the Serengeti National Park to climbing the Mount Kilimanjaro through lounging on the white sand beaches of Zanzibar, Tanzania has indeed so much to offer. No wonder why more than 1 million tourists come to visit this awesome country. Since its independence, unlike the majority of its neighboring countries where bloody periods of instability sparked in the last years, Tanzania has enjoyed an overall peace, being one of the few countries in Africa to have never known the war in the past decades.

Tanzania is indeed a safe and hassle-free country. However, some locals there may be cunning so here are some safety precautions you might want to follow to enjoy the most of this amazing nation:

  • Don’t isolate yourself, especially on beaches
  • Avoid walking on the streets at night, take a taxi instead
  • Never get into a taxi if you find another passenger you don’t know in it
  • Bring your best thrift-store clothes and walk like you know where you’re heading
  • Don’t leave your belongings unattended and watch your ID closely

Fun facts

  • Unlike many African countries known for their expensive visas, that require a lot of time and forms to get them, Rwanda has from January 1st, 2018, introduced visa on arrival for every tourist, regardless of their country of citizenship. All you have to do is to show up at the customs with $30 US, and there you go! It’s even better for Rwandan National ID Cardholders who are not bound to pay visa fees. This step has been taken in order to boost tourism from African countries’ citizens.

  • Tanzania’s national language is Swahili. It has been institutionalized as such by the first president Julius Nyerere, whose politics encouraged unity over tribalism through a language the population could all identify with. Since then, the media, the road signs, life happens in Swahili, Tanzania has become a model in the continent in terms of social stability, peacefulness, where its people don’t fear war, and above all of the African pride!

Conclusion

This was my third article (out of five) of my series about the safest countries to visit in Africa, in which I talked about one of my two favorite regions of Africa–the other one being West Africa–EAST AFRICAAA, home to my home country!! East Africa’s multiple cultures are another proof of how diverse the continent is, despite the beliefs some people maintain of a monolithic and homogeneous Africa because *rolling eyes* no Africa is not a country! Indeed, even East Africa itself is diverse with its very distinct cultures. You may wonder now why you never heard any of the information I just dropped–and it’s okay because I’m here to fill this purpose!!

Congratulations if you made it here, I really hope you enjoyed reading this article. For my part, I did enjoy writing it. Tell me in the comments which country you would like to visit between Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Tanzania, and why? I’ll be pleased to read and answer you!

Have a good one, cheers!

 

 

References

List of Ethiopian Airlines destinations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Ethiopian_Airlines_destinations

Safety in Ethiopia. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/ethiopia/safety

Safety in Rwanda. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/rwanda/safety

Safety in Tanzania. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/tanzania/safety

Tanzanie|Santé et sécurité. https://www.routard.com/guide/tanzanie/1011/sante_et_securite.htm

Tanzania Tourism. https://www.tanzaniainvest.com/tourism

Steve Rutikara

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