Friday, October 3, 2014



In this blog, I am continuing to do 'research upon the parts of the Dark Continent (meaning sub-Saharan Africa) which do not suck.  In this I am trying to figure out the big question, should I go there to live for awhile or just bugger back off to Cambodia/Thailand to stay.  Or, head to Africa then later bugger back off to Cambodia.  Or Europe.  There is just no telling.

Although I personally consider this fairly tedious, I am sharing it with everyone for three reasons:

1.  Professional travelers never share this sort of thing.  Ever.  Probably because not only is it tedious but I suspect many of the big time ones have staffs of people which take care of this.  I have no staff.

2.  People keep asking me 'How do you figure out where to go next?'  Here it is.

3.  Inspirational.  It is my hope that people see this and begin thinking "Even though I am way too busy/poor to have a vacation, it would be fun to begin planning one as though I am going to go."  This is called 'dream building'.  Until people actually start to do this, there is no chance their 'someday' travel will come true.  If I had a dollar for every time someone told me "I'd like to visit other countries" and didn't plan it out despite my urging, I'd have a shitload of dollars.   I don't.  If you want to change that, see the 'paypal donate' button at the bottom of the page.


Botswana - No visa required.

Burkina Faso - one city in here  ranked as a very expensive city. "US citizens only are eligible for a five-year, multiple-entry visa for US$100".  Note this is a maybe - does it mean that you can go stay there for five years?  It should but more research is needed.

Djibouti - one city in here;ranked as a very expensive city. "...USA for 10.000 FDJ (about US$55). If you plan to enter by land you have to arrange for visas in advance. Visas can be obtained from neighbouring countries and where no Djibouti embassy exists, they can often be obtained from the French embassy. The types of visas include: Entry (visa de séjour); Tourist (visa de tourisme); Business (visa d’affaires); and Transit (visa de transit). - visas look to be a pain in the ass here, but not an insurmountable one.

Equatorial Guinea - "US citizens do not require a visa, but do need the following to present when entering EG: 2 visa applications, 2 passport photos, bank statement noting a minimum of $2,000 in your account, & proof of smallpox, yellow fever, & cholera vaccinations."  That's a maybe.  I don't normally carry around bank statements, for obvious reasons.  Yes, the reason is shame.

Ethiopia - " to obtain entry visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, and at the airport in Dire Dawa. In July 2012, the fees for visa-upon-arrival was US$20 or EUR 17, regardless of whether one is applying for a Tourist, Business or Transit Visa. The procedure is relatively quick and painless...Those entering by land will face EXTREME DIFFICULTY in obtaining a visa at a nearby overseas consulate (e.g. Kampala, Cairo) as there is a policy of not granting visas to non-residents...Thus, the only true way to gain a visa if in Africa is by flying in, or posting your passport back to your home consulate. Be warned, that Ethiopian consulates are currently upholding this policy with no negotiation."

Gabon - Libreville ranked as a very expensive city. "The fee for a visa to enter the country is typically 70 euros. The visa can be purchased on arrival in either euros or in the local francs in the right hand line upon exiting the plane. Reportedly, as of August 2010 this is no longer possible and personnel arriving to Gabon must have a valid visa upon arrival or they will be sent back. Recently, many international arrivees in Gabon claim that the visa fee has increased and they paid almost 122 Euros for a 3 month one-time entrance visa and more for multiple entrances."

Madagascar - "Any tourist from any nationality can enter Madagascar with an initial tourist visa if staying no longer than 30 days...This type of visa can be obtained on arrival..."

Malawi - "Most visitors from industrialized countries, including the United not require a visa to enter Malawi. A tourist visa lasts for 30 days, but be careful as they sometimes only write '7 days' on your passport stamp upon arrival at the airport. A tourist visa can be renewed for an extra 30 days twice (for 5000 Malawian kwacha each time) or for 60 days all at once for MWK10,000 at the immigration offices."

Morocco - no visa; been there, done that. Consult blog before going back if I return.

Mozambique - "In August 2014 the US Embassy in Maputo has advised all travelers[2] to obtain a visa prior to arrival, because the visas on arrival will no longer be available." It looks complicated but not horribly expensive.

Namibia - no visa, 90 days.

Rwanda - "A passport is required to enter Rwanda and a certificate of vaccination for yellow fever is normally required to return back to the country of origin." - 90 day free visa.

South Africa - Cape Town and Johannesburg might be cheap. No visa needed, 90 days.

Swaziland - no visa, 30 days

Tanzania - "A Tourist Visa costs back US$50 or US$100 for a three-month single entry and a three-month double entry visa, respectively. The visa can be obtained upon landing in Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and ports of entry. Be advised that the wait can be especially long if your flight arrives at the same time with other international flights. Visas are valid for the duration from the date of issuance. However, obtaining a visa before arrival is highly recommended. Holders of a US passport can only obtain a US$100 multiple-entry visa."

Togo - "A week long visa will cost you 10,000 CFA at the border. An extension costs 500 for up to three months (however, they are more likely to give you a 30 day extension). American citizens can extend their visa for one year, for 300CFA." 10,000 CFA is $20.

Tunisia - free, no visa, 90 days

Uganda - "Visa Fees: Single Entry for 3 months US$50; Multiple Entry for 6 months US$100; Inland Transit US$50"

Zambia - "Zambian visa policy is best summarized as confusing: there is a bewildering thicket of rules on who needs visas, whether visas can be obtained on arrival, and how much they cost. Local border posts also apply their own interpretations. Due to recent political turbulence in Zimbabwe, Zambia has been cashing in on the unexpected boom in its tourism industry, with visa fees hiked and the previous visa waiver program canceled: you're now expected to pay in cash on arrival at the immigration kiosks. The upside is that once customs has figured out what category you're in, actually obtaining the visa is rarely a problem and a rule of thumb is that most Western visitors can get visas on arrival...Current visa prices are US$50 for a single-entry and US$80 for a multiple-entry visa for all nationalities and is valid for 3 months; US passport holders can only apply for a multiple-entry visa, but it is then valid for 3 years."

Zimbabwe - "Visa fees at the port of entry for Category B nationals are as follows: US$30 (single entry), US$45 (double entry), US$55 (multiple entry) - a valid passport, travel itinerary, return/onward journey ticket and cash payment must be presented. Note that Canadian citizens are able to obtain single entry visas only on arrival at a cost of US$75, whilst British and Irish citizens pay higher fees for a visa on arrival (US$55 for single entry and US$70 for double entry)."

For the next round of cuts, I went back to Wikitravel.  Opened up all the cities listed on the main page and scanned the 'sleep' options within, looking for places to stay.  If a city doesn't have anything listed under 'sleep' this generally means tourists don't stay here and whatever you find is likely to be expensive.  Generally speaking, the prices listed on Wikitravel are much cheaper (sometimes unrealistically so) than sites like hostelworld or hostelbookers.

Although everyone has their own pricing preference, I'm looking for something around ten dollars per  night.  The lower, the better.  The more over that, the worse.  A special note.  When you are putting things like Mozambique currency to USD into Google, the search seems to confuse Google.  Any time it is confused, it gives you Euros to Dollars.  No clue why this is the default but it can really mess you up if you think Mozambique uses Euros instead of Meticals.  Putting 'coinmill' in front of the search takes you to their ugly - but accurate - site.  To get away from as much math as possible, I just put in ten dollars and see what that comes out to in local currency.

About $30.

Botswana - Average seems to be around $40 per night, well out of my price range.

Burkina Faso - Seems to be more reasonably priced though I notice much talk of mosquito netting.  Around $10-15 at first glance.

Djibouti - Oddly none of the cities listed had anything listed for hotels.  This tells me that this entire country may be 'unexplored'.  Some people read this as a challenge, I read it as 'no tourist infrastructure'.

Equatorial Guinea - Pretty much nothing listed.  Suspicious.

Ethiopia - Looks affordable.

Gabon - The few places listed appear to have outrageous prices, 50 to 100 euros per night.

Madagascar - Aside from being an island (bad), on Wikitravel it seems there are some possibilities close to $10 per hour but most rapidly approach double that.

Malawi - Most places seem very pricey but there are a couple that may be very reasonable.

Morocco - My memory is it is overrated.  Seems as though it was so so on the interest part but you paid a bit more than it was worth.  If I have to go back due to expedience or convenience, I'd need to look hard into renting a room somewhere instead of the usual rentals.

Mozambique - Crazy expensive.  $100 per night doesn't seem to get you far.

Because apparently just reading Logan gabble on and on gets tedious.

Namibia - Expensive.

Rwanda - Iffy.

South Africa - Possible.

Swaziland - No sleep prices listed.

Tanzania - Depending on the city, many affordable places to stay.

Togo - Not a lot of places to sleep listed.

Tunisia - Already did the research on this place, found three cities that look reasonable.

Uganda - Got the impression it might be OK but WT leaves me unsure.

Zambia - Bit on the expensive side but possible.

Zimbabwe - Looks expensive.

This amazing picture of Africa is brought to you just to break up the sections.

Burkina Faso - Seems to be more reasonably priced though I notice much talk of mosquito netting.  Around $10-15 at first glance.  Nothing listed on hostelbookers/hostelworld.
Ethiopia - Looks affordable.  hostelbookers/hostelworld start at $15

Madagascar - Aside from being an island (bad), on Wikitravel it seems there are some possibilities close to $10 per hour but most rapidly approach double that.

Malawi - Most places seem very pricey but there are a couple that may be very reasonable.  h/h freakishly expensive.

Morocco - My memory is it is overrated.  Seems as though it was so so on the interest part but you paid a bit more than it was worth.  If I have to go back due to expedience or convenience, I'd need to look hard into renting a room somewhere instead of the usual rentals.

Rwanda - Iffy.  h/h - pretty much one place listed - for the whole country.

South Africa - Possible.  Looks reasonable even on h/h.

Tanzania - Depending on the city, many affordable places to stay.  Decent on h/h.

Tunisia - Already did the research on this place, found three cities that look reasonable.

Uganda - Got the impression it might be OK but WT leaves me unsure.  h/h looks expensive.

Zambia - Bit on the expensive side but possible.  h/h looks OK.

Before someone gets on and says "No, Zimbabwe is actually very reasonable!"  These are just the 'with the information I have right now' cuts.

The information I got from hostelworld/hostelbookers allowed me to put a yellow flag on a couple more countries.  Now the map has been whittled down to the 'final format'.

Now, we look for groupings.  Since I've no real interest in 'sun and surf' (and islands are a pain in the ass to get to), Madagascar is probably not on the menu.  The closest other four countries remaining are (in order of possible visit) South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

The next step is to find the connections.

Separating South Africa and Zambia is a 'yellow zone'.  This may mean that a bus would be possible between the two without being shot.  Zambia and Tanzania likewise are touching so a bus is probable there.  Sadly, Ethiopia is an island in a sea of gray so it would have to be a flight there as I've heard ships may be a tad bit risky.

My current thinking is that I could either get to JNB (Johannesburg airport) via TUN (Tunisia, Tunis) or possibly travel to IST (Istanbul) but I'd rather avoid that right now.  For much of the world, IST is the hub.  Or, possibly Dubai.

If you can find these airport hubs and use them, tickets get cheaper.  Because it's useful - and it's picture time to keep people's brains going, here are the major hubs within Europe:

Of all these, Turkey is the best placed even though the airport feels a bit sleazy 

Here is Africa.  Don't worry about the picture overload unless you start to feel like fapping because pictures on the internet = fapping.  Resist!

From what we see here, there are a few airports on the northern coast and a couple in South Africa.  That's about fucking it.

Getting from Ethiopia to Istanbul, $300+

Attempting to figure out the price between Ethiopia and South Africa caused Skyscanner to repeatedly shit itself.

Not just a one off thing.

Given how long it took for the Ethiopian Air site to load, I'm imagining the aircraft may be outdated.

Or weird.

 From ADD (Ethiopia) to JNB (South Africa) on Ethiopian Air is...  Well...  Their website sucks ass.  I have no idea.  It seemed to hang on the search and the calendars were cut off after the first two weeks.  My attitude of the planes may be spot on.  Doesn't mean I won't fly it though...

According to and Ethiopian airlines going from DAR (Tanzania) to ADD (Ethiopia) is about $500.  That pretty much kills chances of going to Ethiopia.

Disappointing as I'd have enjoyed eating Ethiopian food.  I've done it a couple times before at a restaurant in Blacksburg, VA and it was pretty good.  Yes.  You read that right.  I will go to a country I can afford just to eat their food.

So lets concentrate on the other three countries.

I came across a very interesting page which contained train routes through the southern part of Africa.  Personally, I like traveling by train.  When traveling by train in less developed countries, first class - or as close as you can afford to get to it - is the way to go.  In addition to the comfort and safety, you generally run into more educated people.  This means there is a much larger chance they speak English.  Helpful and interesting.  Border crossings via train also tend to be much more lax and you don't have to put up with as much airport silliness.    The various first class express train costs seem to be between $35 and $65.


Apparently, Qatar airways can fly from JNB (Johannesburg, South Africa) to REP (Siem Reap) for less than $600.  This is very comforting to know.  If I get tired of/don't like Africa, I can go to one of the places that I know I enjoy for the winter.


The next blog we will be getting into the nitty gritty of the three remaining countries to discover what we can about them, getting to them and riding around in them.

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