Solo travel in Kenya is on the up with women leading the change. One such traveler is Rheen Ruby, A Solo female Backpacker who is single-handedly paving the way for budget travel within East Africa. Armed with her signature pair of shorts, crocks, and a small backpack, she has ventured through:-
Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zanzibar and has just ended a two-week adventure in Burundi. We caught up with her and this are her personal backpacking travel tips.
I have to say…it sucks that as women, we have to put in extra effort to somewhat guarantee our safety. Be it paying extra for cabs or sleeping in a slightly more expensive hotel or hostel in order to feel safe.
Nonetheless in my ventures I’ve learnt it’s important to not let the fear of safety, thoughts of being lonely, or concerns of getting stranded stop you from discovering yourself and the world. I encourage you to join me in exploring East Africa with these safety hacks,
- Always plan to arrive at a new destination well before dark. That way, if you are not comfortable with your hotel or hostel, you can change.
- Leave your travel itinerary with a trusted friend or family member at home and stay in touch with them should you decide to change it.
- If you feel unsafe do approach a local, someone of your choice rather than people who approach you. Consider approaching a family or couple.
2) Compensate your guide
East Africans are generally very friendly and helpful individuals and will readily drop their plans to show a foreigner around. It’s important to show gratitude by either paying for their time, fare or food. If hosted, help out with work at home and shop for the house! Don’t take people for granted!
3) Travel Documents
I highly recommend that you have all your documents in order before you even consider traveling. Ensure you have a passport/temporary pass (which should be valid for more than 6months) or your national ID when planning to cross the Visa Free* East African borders.
Look out for the vaccine requirements as well as their validity periods (at times you might be required to get your jabs within a certain period of time (E.g your jab should not be less than 10days from your travel date).
I make it a habit to visit a forex bureau in Kenya prior to my travels. This way, I have time to research and know-how to distinguish between real and fake currency. Changing currency at the border is also an option but it comes with a level of risk as brokers can easily spot foreigners and take advantage of their naivety.
By having foreign currency definitely makes it easier when it comes to purchasing items while in transit. Imagine being hungry in Kampala, Uganda and your trip ends in Kigali, Rwanda yet the only thing you have on you is Kenyan money? Disaster!
6) Mode of transport and accessibility of places of interest
Is the place you wish to visit accessible be it by road or on foot? In short, place importance in a proper itinerary and factor in how you will access the places you’ve listed.
A good example is in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, you can only access the 4-5 major historical sites by hiring a tuk-tuk for a round trip. The drivers know all places of interest and wait for you to get done before heading to the next stop. This knowledge also comes in handy with budgeting!
4) Law & Culture
Prior to visiting a new place, familiarize yourself with the country’s culture and laws. For example be it in the way they dress
During Ramadan, in Zanzibar, everyone is required to dress down and avoid being seen eating in public as this could land you in jail. You definitely don’t want to be rub the locals the wrong way.
I loved the fact that Zanzibar has zero-tolerance for sexual harassment against women. ‘Simple’ things such as catcalls have landed quite a number of men in jail!
7) Size of your luggage
Part of me thinks this is what sets us, backpackers, apart. Since I’m always on the move, having a small luggage bag is key. I mean, we don’t have the energy to move around with suitcases. The rule is to carry what you need, that’s it! Although, it does take lots of discipline to muster this art.
Lastly, do you have a local contact in the country you want to travel to? If not, how are you going to maneuver your way around? Language barrier? The common factor in all the listed points above is ‘Research’. Take your time to read blogs like wanjirus world , watch vlogs and engage any person you know who has visited the country you plan on visiting. It goes a long way in managing your budget and expectations!
Catch up on my travel diaries on insta @rheenruby
With that said, go forth and have fun exploring the world. Watch out for my next article on backpacking to Zanzibar!