Dirty Details – Travelling to Africa

If you’re travelling to Africa, or anywhere, you might want to consider the following:

TRAVEL VISAS – Visas take time and if you’re going to more than one country you need to take that into consideration.

– Google the consulate in your country for the country you want to visit. Go to their visa page and make sure you follow the exact steps to get your visa in time. It helps to write a list in point form so you don’t make mistakes; sometimes there can be five or six things you need to have the application correctly processed.

– Consulates in Eastern Canada are in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. Some countries have consulates in more than one Canadian city (like Ethiopia does). If you are from Toronto and are visiting countries with Consulates in Ottawa or Montreal you need to take courier time there and back into consideration. If you are going to more than one country with the consulate in Ottawa you’ll need to send you’re application/passport to the first (ex Kenya), get it back and then resend it to the next (ex Tanzania). The entire process could take a month.

– Some visas are only good for a specific amount of time from the date of ISSUE not the arrival date. For example, you pay $29 for a one-month tourist visa to Ethiopia and are going for 3 weeks. You’ll need to get the visa a few days before you leave. Or, pay more so it’s valid for more than one month.

– For some countries you’ll only need a transit visa to pass through on the way to another country but still, you’ll need a visa!

– Ethiopia’s Consulate in Toronto is at 3080 Yonge St #5080 at Lawrence Road. http://ethioconsulatecanada.org. It takes a day to get the visa but I’d recommend allowing yourself several days.

– Kenya’s Consulate in Canada is located in Ottawa. Kenyan High Commission at 613.563.1773/1774/1776.

– Many countries in Africa, and some in Asia (there may be other places in the world as well) enable you to get a visa upon arrival. Take your US cash and passport photos. I always check on www.tripadvisor.com for updated information and if possible I always get my visa before I leave. You never know when an office may be closed, you might have to wait for a long time and who knows what else. Imagine going all that way and not being able to enter the country?!


PASSPORT PHOTOS – First, I always carry extra passport photos with me when I travel and have often needed them. When I went hang-gliding in Rio de Janeiro I needed one for my hang-gliding card (even for one ride). In Ethiopia you need two (2) photos if you want to get a 3G SIM card in Addis Ababa for your phone. (3G is only available in Addis, fyi). It’s always good to carry extra photos.

In Toronto I get mine done with John at the address below. He’s super friendly and best of all he does a fantastic job for only $6.99 for 2 photos. It’s cash only and he’s open 7 days a week.

He is located at:

327B Spadina Rd #203




VACCINATIONS – One of your biggest expenses when travelling to Africa and some other countries are vaccinations. They are necessary to protect yourself from getting really ill or worse. Many countries in Africa will not let you in without your Yellow Fever certificate. I recommend not travelling to a destination if you cannot afford them. The best thing is that many are good for 5 years and Yellow Fever, for example, is good for 10 years. Think of it as an investment.

There is no one better in Toronto than Dr. Hii. He doesn’t give you anything that is not necessary. He sits you down and goes over each country your travelling to in detail and gives you tips you may not get elsewhere.

Dr. Hii – 372 Bay Street (Sterling Tower), Suite #401.

416.350.3555 or travjhh@bellnet.ca

An added bonus is that he has a special way of doing Hep B so that he can create immunity to it and will send you in for blood tests as well to make sure you are not wasting money if you already have the antibodies. A class act and I have gone to him for years.

For Ethiopia and Kenya we needed the following (luckily I had them all).

Yellow Fever – 10 years – $130

Typhoid – $40

Hep A – $60

Hep B – $40/dose. Typically only two are needed to create immunity.

Admin fees – range but typically about $80 for filing and consultation

DukOral – For traveller’s diarrhea. Definitely get it. $40/dose, 2 doses.


Malarone – Malaria pills. I had a friend from NYC with me when I was in Kenya in 1994 who almost died from malaria after not taking her pills properly. Definitely bring them if needed.

Dr. Hii goes over your itinerary and tells you how many you need. For example, you’re going to the required area for 5 days. You will take pills two days before arriving in it, one each day you’re there and a pill/day for the following seven days. A total of 14 pills. Most benefit plans cover them. If not they are expensive, 12 tabs is $75 without a plan.

Levaquin – If you get traveller’s diarrhea, even after taking DukOral you’ll want these pills to stop it. 3 pills is for one bout and is $22 without a plan.


Credit Cards – Forget AMEX in Ethiopia and Kenya. MasterCard doesn’t work here in Ethiopia either. I haven’t tried Visa but I wouldn’t count on something that requires a computer system to work. Also, remember that often you are charged to use your cc, 2.5% of the purchase price. Same with cash withdrawals.

Traveller’s Cheques – Typically I use these when I travel to countries where I’m unsure about credit cards but in Borneo I started to run into issues. Few banks changed them and good luck once you go out of a city. So..

Cash is king. I have never walked around with as much cash as I do here, $1000 USD at a time. I don’t like it but again, Ethiopia is safe, I haven’t had to worry and I am able to leave my bag with my driver when walking around the sites. I’m told my ATM card might work but, at only one bank and again will I find that bank in each town or city? Also, many banks in Africa and Asia require a 6-digit pin with ATM cards so ours do not work when this happens.

I was planning on using a money pouch and having it strapped to me at all times except when sleeping. But, I am on a private tour and I am able to leave my bag in the car with my driver so it’s ok. I also do not take it out in front of other people except my driver and guide) and often when buying a souvenir or paying an entrance fee they’ll pay for me and I pay them once I’m in the car.

Keep in mind it is very safe in Ethiopia and in Kenya it will be strapped to me all the time.

PHONE/INTERNET – I have had good, free wireless Internet in my room or hotel lobby in all hotels except in the mountains. You can travel with your ipad or laptop no problem.

When I travel I suspend my service with Rogers, take my SIM card out and get one in the country I am visiting. I then have a local # where people from home can reach me, I can make local calls and I can text home if need be.

SIMs are very cheap here. Unfortunately you can only get 3G cards in Addis and they only work there as well.

SKYPE – Download it, use it for calls (normal or video), texts and in fact, use it when at home.

If you download it on your Blackberry/iPhone/Android and put a credit into your account you can make any call on your phone via Skype and escape Rogers’ daytime charges. Unsure about minutes. I HATE ROGERS, btw. Hate them, hate them, hate them.

To get your phone unlocked in Toronto go to:

Ming Wireless – mingwireless.com – 416.979.8848

250 Dundas St. West

It’s $20 to unlock it versus $50 at the Eaton Centre. In fact they charged me just $35 for the unlocking, a faux leather cover and scratch guard for my Samsung Galaxy III, which I LOVE by the way.

Pulau Weh Booking Information – Dirty Details

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