Many of the destinations that we offer aren’t necessarily the easiest places to travel through, and it’s fair to say that they won’t appeal to everyone. Many people are discouraged by the idea of long days on dusty roads, or several nights of camping, or other, often necessary, elements of travelling in remote regions. When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home.
There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. Having said that, there are a few things we’d recommend to make a trip easier:
When you’re stuck at a roadblock in Gabon, having your documents checked for the umpteenth time by a young soldier holding your passport upside down, getting annoyed is probably the least productive thing you can do. Sure, it’s frustrating, but remember that the man in front of you probably hasn’t seen a western tourist on this road for several weeks, and for the moment you’re providing some light entertainment. Losing your temper because you’re hungry and really want to get to the restaurant for dinner isn’t going to help – quite the opposite. Our recommendation? Smile, co-operate, and if it looks like it’s going to take a while, find a nearby restaurant or bar, have a beer, talk with the locals, and make it all part of the experience.
It might sound obvious, but read up on where you’re going beforehand. Some understanding of the politics, culture and history of a country not only adds to your appreciation of it, but helps you avoid too many unpleasant surprises. Why has that man just decapitated a chicken in front of me? Oh yes, it’s perfectly normal in Benin.
If you’re travelling to somewhere like Nigeria, then don’t expect it to be full of jaw dropping monuments like the Taj Mahal, or carefully polished experiences designed to wow the tourists. Often the destinations that we offer aren’t so much about the UNESCO sites or stunning museums – they are about experiencing the best of local culture, and without the presence of mass tourism, this is usually spontaneous, and often unstructured. Sometimes the best experiences consist of wandering into an old quarter of the city, meeting local people, exploring the markets and getting to grips with local life, rather than being shepherded from one ‘sight’ to another. Think of these sights as part of the trip, rather than its raison d’etre, and you’ll have a better time.
The nature of the destinations we travel to often means that it’s not possible to absolutely guarantee that something will happen. In countries where the tourist footfall is light, this can manifest itself in many different ways. Perhaps the museum won’t be open when it should be – despite the fact that you’ve phoned ahead to tell them you’re coming. There’s no fuel available for the boat trip – the boy who was supposed to get it hasn’t come back yet. The village where you’re supposed to see fascinating traditional buildings has had a bereavement and decided they won’t be welcoming visitors after all.
The beauty of travelling in places that receive very tourists is that your encounters and experiences are authentic – but that can often mean things don’t go as planned. The tourist industry here is not polished, and despite best efforts services can be unreliable. This isn’t Western Europe or the USA.
We love the destinations that we travel to, but we realise they’re not for everyone – sometimes they’re tough and frustrating places. But above all, they’re real – you won’t find plastic representations of local culture, or manufactured experiences, here. You see them as they are, warts and all, and in the process learn about the world’s cultures in all their glorious diversity.
If you are interested in any of our trips and would like to talk through in detail what it will be like, please do ring our experienced and friendly team on 01473 328546, or you can email us here.