Africa is truly an undiscovered continent. Unlike other regions saturated with tourism, most of Africa remains untouched. With beautiful national parks, diverse cultural experiences, and friendly people, you should visit Africa at least once in your lifetime.
Whether you’re going on a safari or want to see the pyramids of Giza, we’ll show you the best time to visit Africa.
We’ll also show you the worst time – when you should avoid traveling. Plus, we’ll give you some insider tips on saving money when traveling to Africa and more.
Why You Should Visit Africa
Many people don’t visit Africa, but that’s a mistake. Africa is one of the most beautiful and diverse regions of the world. It features some of the best national parks in the world, including game parks in South Africa, Kenya, and Namibia.
Africa is very diverse. For example, in Kenya alone (one of the top tourist destinations in Africa), there are more than 150 ethnic groups and 42 officially recognized tribes, each featuring its own culture and cuisine.
There are also over 60 languages spoken by various groups in Kenya alone. There are also a few distinct African regions, and they are all different.
For example, North Africa includes Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and other countries. There, the primary language is Arabic (although the dialect varies), and you’ll experience a unique culture and see historical sites.
Then there’s East Africa, which you can further break down into various sub-regions. For example, the Horn of Africa includes Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia. Ethiopia has one of the best and most fascinating cuisines in the world and a unique culture.
There is also the Swahili-speaking area, including Tanzania, Kenya, and part of the DRC. However, the culture can vary significantly between different parts of the Swahili-speaking African region, such as between Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Mombasa and Nairobi in Kenya.
There is Southern Africa, which includes South Africa itself, Namibia, and neighboring countries. West Africa undoubtedly receives fewer visitors, although The Gambia, Ghana, and Senegal see reasonable numbers of tourists.
Central Africa, which includes countries like Burundi, Central Africa, Republic, Chad, and Cameroon, doesn’t receive many visitors at all. The continent also features some of the best beaches in the world.
Especially along the Swahili coast in regions like Kenya and Tanzania. The Swahili coast is a melting pot of Arab, Bantu, Portuguese, Indian, and other influences. You can see that in the cuisine, language, culture, and people.
There are other beaches as well, such as Mozambique (on the southeastern coast) and The Gambia. No matter where you go in Africa, people are welcoming and friendly.
Overall Best Time to Visit Africa
The overall best time to visit most of Africa is from October to March, but the best time to visit North Africa is from May to June.
This question is a little tricky because Africa is a large continent with 54 countries. You can’t lump the whole of Africa together, as the different regions are far apart, both geographically and culture-wise.
Throughout this article, we’ll break things down into four regions and two tourism types:
- North Africa
- East Africa
- Southern Africa
- Western Africa
- Safari/game parks
- Beach and coastal adventures
Let’s start with North Africa. When people visit North Africa, they typically visit Morocco, primarily Marrakesh, and Egypt, where people usually go to see the pyramids of Giza near Cairo.
Note that North Africa is above the equator. That means it follows the weather patterns of Europe, especially Southern Europe. The best time to visit North Africa would be in the spring, from April to June. Autumn can also be a good time.
During the winter (December and January, for example), Cairo can get pretty cold. It might not snow, but you’d be surprised by how frigid it can get. In the summer, on the other hand, North Africa can be blazing hot.
Let’s move on to East Africa. If you’re visiting East Africa, you’re probably going to Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, or Tanzania. If you’re going for beaches and coastal adventures, it’s best to go from September to January. That’s the dry, hot season – it’s actually summer there.
If you go in June, for example, you’ll be visiting in the heart of the rainy season, when it rains a lot and can get chilly. Note that December and January have rainfall too.
However, things get a little more complicated if you’re going on safari. On the one hand, you want to avoid the rainy season. On the other hand, you probably want to see the great wildebeest migration, which follows rainfall patterns and alternates between famous national parks.
If you want to see the great migration, it’s best to speak with a tour operator who knows the prediction for the current year and can help you get the best chance of being in the right spot at the right time to see the herds moving.
Otherwise, it can be pretty tricky to see it. If you’re visiting Southern Africa, remember that it is below the equator, and weather patterns are opposite that of North America and Europe. Thus, the best time to visit is from November to March, whether you’re visiting Cape Town or going on safari.
After that, it can get pretty cold. For West Africa, aim for October to March, which is the dry season. The rainy season can make traveling difficult, especially if you plan on overlanding between countries.
Cheapest Time to Visit Africa
The cheapest time to visit most of Africa is from March to June. The least expensive time to visit Africa is the opposite of the most popular time. It’s only logical, after all.
During the rainy season in East Africa and West Africa, and during the respective winters of Southern Africa and North Africa (which are opposite each other), the flights will be much cheaper.
Furthermore, lodging will be much more affordable, as many hotels will be desperate for guests. If you want to save money, you can brave the cold and rainy weather of the different regions and go during unpopular times.
Remember, each year is unique. During some years, the rainy season might not have that much rain, and you’ll enjoy sunny, warm days most of the time. During other years, you may have torrential rains almost daily, depending on the region.
Least Busy Time to Visit Africa
The least busy time to visit most of Africa is March to June. The least busy times to visit Africa are also the worst times for a trip. However, it does depend on where you’re going.
If you’re visiting Zanzibar in Tanzania, you’ll find the months of April to June the least busy, as that is when it rains buckets – it’s the monsoon season. You may even see flooded roads, although there will also be dry and sunny days when you can enjoy the beach.
The busiest times are often December, especially around Christmas and New Year. Many people travel on safari during those times.
Furthermore, if you’re going to a beach destination like Zanzibar, you’ll find many locals from the mainland on vacation. At the same time, that’s the best time to go if you want to partake in festivals, meet people, and go partying.
Worst Time to Visit Africa
Generally, the worst time to visit Africa is during the rainy season. In some areas, it can get pretty cold in addition to rainy, such as around Nairobi in Kenya.
Remember, infrastructure in Africa, especially West Africa, is not always very well-maintained. Roads between cities and even within cities aren’t always paved very well. When it rains, it can get pretty muddy.
At the end of the day, though, it depends on your preferences. If you hate crowds that much, you might avoid traveling to Africa for New Year.
Things to Consider
If you’re traveling to Africa for the first time, it’s essential to plan your trip correctly. Even if you are a seasoned traveler, there are some things you should know. Here are our top tips for traveling to Africa:
- Plan in advance. Flights to Africa can often be expensive. The cheapest routes are between Europe and Morocco, as budget airlines like Ryanair fly there. However, round trips from the United States can cost well over $1,000. Booking early can help you save money.
- Look at flights. Other cheap routes to Africa include flights from Europe (primarily Southern Europe) to West Africa, mainly Dakar, Senegal, and Banjul, The Gambia. You may also find cheap flights from Europe to Egypt.
- Few direct flights. There are a few direct flights between the United States and Africa, including South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, etc. Booking a direct flight can cost more, but it allows you to save time compared to stopping over in Qatar, Turkey, or Europe.
- Know the local languages. In many parts of Africa, the national language is English, along with an indigenous language. In former French colonies, mainly in West and Central Africa, people speak French. Portuguese and Arabic are the main languages elsewhere. In Kenya and Tanzania, it could help to know some basic Swahili.
- Research safari companies carefully. Many tour operators offer safari tours, but make sure to go with one with excellent reviews and years of experience in the industry. Such a company will do all it can to keep you safe, provide you with knowledgeable guides, and ensure you have the best experience.
- Dress accordingly. Not all of Africa is hot. Some regions are pretty chilly. Research the weather where you’re going.
- Stay safe. In major cities, avoid walking in isolated areas at night. Stay in a secure hotel or an Airbnb in a gated community with a guard, especially in dangerous cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg.
- Research each city’s neighborhoods before booking. Unlike Europe and parts of Latin America, the city center isn’t always the best place to stay. The CBD (Central Business District) in cities like Johannesburg, Nairobi, Kampala, and Dar es Salaam are commercial hubs that are often more dangerous than other parts of the city.
- You can fly around cheaply. Once you’re in Africa, you can find cheaper flights within countries or between countries from smaller airlines. Ask your tour guide to give you recommendations.
- You can also use buses and minivans to get between cities. Other options include renting a car, hiring a private driver, buying a vehicle, and overlanding with it.
- To get around within cities, download Uber. Other apps may also work, such as Bolt, which you may be familiar with if you have traveled throughout Europe. Motorcycle taxis are common in many parts of Africa, and you can catch them from street corners, but they aren’t always safe.
- You won’t be camping. Camping isn’t very common in Africa, although options do exist. Hitchhiking is not something people are used to, so don’t expect to get around that way. Fortunately, transportation is usually cheap.
- You can go out. Cities like Lagos, Cape Town, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Accra, and Kampala have excellent nightlife. However, always watch your drink when you’re out, and be careful of pickpockets, especially in crowded venues.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have questions about visiting Africa? Here are answers to some common questions we see from readers.
How many days are enough for Africa?
Typically, you should aim to spend at least 5-7 days on safari if you want the best chance of seeing the widest range of wildlife. If you plan to stop in Cape Town, Zanzibar, Victoria Falls, Mombasa, or any other popular destination, add another 3-7 days. As a general rule of thumb, aim for 1-2 weeks.
What part of Africa is best for travel?
East Africa and Southern Africa are the best, as tourism infrastructure is the most developed, and there are many national parks and game parks. While North Africa is touristic as well, you’ll miss out on a great cultural experience and the opportunity to see beautiful and diverse wildlife.
What is the safest African country to visit?
According to the Global Peace Index, Mauritius is the most peaceful and safest country in Africa. According to the RCG Safety Index, which ranks countries using factors like crime and other hazards like road deaths, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Morocco are also among the safest countries to visit. South Africa, on the other hand, is one of the most dangerous.
What do I need to know before traveling to Africa?
It’s essential to have an open mind before traveling to Africa. Even if you’ve traveled around the world, Africa will likely be like nothing you’ve experienced before.
Why is traveling to Africa so expensive?
Traveling to Africa is more expensive than traveling to Europe, South America, or even Asia. There are a few reasons for this, one of them being the lack of many direct flights from the US. Furthermore, there aren’t as many budget accommodation options as in Asia or South America.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Africa?
The best time to visit Africa is from October to May unless you’re visiting North Africa, which you should visit from April to July. But regardless of when you go, however, you’re bound to have a memorable trip. Happy travels!