Traveling to developing countries: How to plan your trip
For those who don’t know yet, I am traveling to every country in the world. My travels won’t just consist of tropical beaches and Europe’s famous sites. In fact, my favorite style of travel is heading off the beaten track. I have and will be traveling to developing countries. In fact, in just two days I am heading off to the most difficult regions thus far. I am heading to Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somaliland. I have written this article to share the lessons I have learned in organizing this trip.
Research your Visa requirements; then research again
Before I even started my trip 11 months ago, I had researched the Visa requirements for an Australian visiting every country. For all three countries, I need to obtain a Visa. Both Ethiopia and Djibouti was apparently a Visa on arrival. It was only 2 business days prior to leaving I learned that Djibouti no longer offers a Visa on arrival as of the 1st November 2017.
Frantically I have made a few phone calls. I am currently in Johannesburg and according to the trusty internet, there is a Djibouti consulate in Johannesburg. This is not the case. The number available online will get you to a Dental Warehouse. I also drove to the address provided only to find out that it has been a year since the Djibouti consulate was located there. This was at 3 pm on a Friday afternoon. With no further information online I have one option left. This is to get my Visa in Addis Ababa in the one business day I am there. So all will not be lost.
This is where it gets tricky. Somaliland is not a UN recognized country. There are only three “embassies” worldwide. In London, Addis Ababa and Djibouti. There is very little information online and it is reported that it will relocate frequently. The most recent information was in January 2016.
I will indeed have a challenging Tuesday ahead trying to obtain 2 visas before my flight at 4 pm. Fingers crossed this can be done. Initially, I had felt confident. I had researched all the Visa requirements but had not researched again. My advice would be to call each and every embassy and confirm that a Visa on arrival is still obtainable. Do not trust the information online. Get in touch with a reputable Hotel and ask for further information.
Do not trust Google Maps for driving distances: TIA
Most my travel will be via air. This is because I have limited time and do not want to risk getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. I have seen enough of rural Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia) to be aware the roads are not what Westerners are used to. What Google Maps will tell you is 4 hours is, in fact, will be an 8-hour journey. Double or in fact quadruple the time it will take to get from Point A to Point B.
You will need to account for public transport only leaving once full. If there are 20 seats on a bus there need to be 40 bums to fill them. Then there are unexpected breakdowns and waiting for a replacement vehicle. If you are crossing the border you may also have some difficulties with Immigration. The roads are often unsealed and in some instances, you will need a 4wd.
How do I know this information? From prior travels, reading others accounts online for journeys I wanted to take and speaking to others who have been there. This is the exact reason I have opted to fly.
Do not rely on search engines like Skyscanner and Google Flights
I have become so used to relying on them to get the best price. Little did I know smaller airlines are not included in the search. The cost I was getting for the few internal flights was as much as three return trips to Ethiopia. Only when I asked a friend where is the best site to search for flights he informed me my trusty search engines are useless. The best place to go is to look up the Wikipedia page for the airport. There you will see the routes and airlines operating from that airport. You will then need to visit the site for each individual airline. Another important point would be to research the airline safety history. The last thing you want is to hop on a flying coffin. I have also been prepared to see goats as fellow passengers.
One of the more tricky routes I have is from Djibouti to Hargeisa. There are only three airlines flying this route and 4 days a week. Furthermore, they will only fly if there are enough passengers. This may be a gamble and my backup is getting an overnight bus from Djibouti to Hargeisa. Male travelers who have taken the overnight route from Djibouti to Hargeisa would not recommend this option to solo female travelers. To me, this is an adventure I eagerly look forward to.
Speak to fellow travelers
What you imagine in your head will often be completely off the mark. I have built a few connections and am in a few travel communities. This support has proven invaluable. When traveling to developing countries you should never rely on your expectations. I am very lucky to have befriended a few people now who have traveled to every country in the world. This has helped me work out how many days I should spend in different places. They have also shared some hidden gems with me. You can also join Facebook groups to ask any questions you may have about your trip.
Double your budget
When I first looked at what I need to budget it was a lot less. Later I learned Djibouti is certainly not a budget destination. Whether I like it or not I will have to pay the most for accommodation since the start of my journey. There will be expenses like hiring security in Somaliland which I only learned about later. Possible extra costs with departure tax. I honestly have no idea what to expect but the majority of my costs have been paid. Be prepared for the possibility of having to pay extra due to a running scam. Just hope it is not a lot.
Now enjoy your trip
If you did your homework you will be ready. I am a traveler who likes to show up to a new city with no research. I quickly learned this should never be done for developing countries. If I did no research I would not be going to Somaliland. I was under the impression it is too dangerous to travel to but after speaking to other travelers this is not the case. I am looking forward to my trip and so should you!
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