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This post was sponsored by Ghion Travel and Tours

I visited Ethiopia briefly in 2017 for just 4 days, I had just enough time to eat some of the BEST food of my life, drink amazing coffee and explore the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. It was a-maaa-zing and I knew I had to go back, so I decided to finish my year in East Africa in Southern Ethiopia, on an 8-day road trip!

Lalibela, Ethiopia

Related | Exploring the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela

The following is an itinerary for the ultimate Southern Ethiopian 8-day road trip, complete with tips and photos to help you plan your best trip. I also always recommend Lonely Planet as a resource for trip planning, as something I often use myself!

Getting Around Southern Ethiopia

Okay let’s start with the obvious: how to get around the country.

I had a private driver through Ghion Travel and Tours, but it is definitely possible to get around independently. However, with that said, I saw so many public buses flipped and crushed in ditches that I lost count, which made me thankful I hadn’t attempted to take them.

I was also glad I hadn’t rented a vehicle because some of the road conditions in the South are quite poor. There was constantly herds of cattle and goats we had to navigate around and occasionally corruption along the roads (i.e. unauthorized roadblocks). I was SO grateful for my driver Bini, who has been driving for the company for nearly 20 years, so he knew the roads like the back of his hand.

If you are interested in a guided trip, Ghion Travel and Tours is now offering a 10% discount for my readers with the code ‘THEPINKBACKPACK’.

Day 1: Addis Ababa to Arba Minch

Assuming you will be flying into Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, you will depart on your epic road trip from Addis. Leave the city at 7:00AM to avoid traffic and head south to begin your Southern Country adventure!

Your first stop is a small village called Tiya, where a UNESCO world heritage site awaits. The Tiya Megalithic Steles site contains 900 year old standing stones (picture the Ethiopian version of Stone Henge).

The stones themselves are grave sites to a pagan warrior community that once lived on this land. Along each stone, you will note engravings of swords (indicating the number of people the individual buried had killed) or jewelry (indicating it was a notable woman). I found this site fascinating and I was lucky to be the only tourist there.

After Tiya, stop for a local coffee in the next village for just 5 BIR and continue onwards. You will notice at any one time, there are herds of cattle and donkeys with carts towing parcels to and from the markets along the roads. We passed fields of lush green crops and ‘false’ banana trees.

Stop in Albara Quilto for lunch, wifi and a bathroom break at the Sera Lodge Hotel, or you could stay here overnight if you have tons of time and want to break up the journey. Alternatively, if you can wait for food you can also stop in Sodo. I purchased bananas from the road for 25 BIR and a St. George beer for 28 BIR.

Arba Minch, apparently translated from Amharic to English means 14 springs. It is situated along the SW bank of Lake Abaya, not far from the Ethiopian/Kenyan border.

Where to stay in Arba Minch

I stayed at the Derik hotel, which is literally so new that it doesn’t have a website but it was a modern and clean budget option at just 600BIR per night. It also conveniently has an Italian/Ethiopian fusion restaurant on the premises which I tried and tested (obviously) and approve of.

Derik Hotel ($)

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Dorze Lodge ($$)

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Paradise Lodge ($$$)

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Emerald Resort ($$$)

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Day 2: Arba Minch and Around

Start your day with Ethiopian coffee and a nice breakfast at the hotel and then depart for your Lake Chamos Boat Adventure!

Within the Nech Sar National Park, you can explore Lake Chamos by boat with a local guide (ask for Solomon). The cost should be around 2500 BIR regardless of the number of people in your group, or it will be included in your tour package.

Lake Chamos is smaller than Lake Abaya, but safer. Apparently, Lake Abaya is void of fish so the crocodiles are more aggressive. Lake Chamos has nile perch, tilapia, cat fish, and TONS of bird species such as storks, herons, pelicans and eagles.

I was lucky enough to see some crocodiles enjoying the morning sun, a lone hippo getting into the water and further down a pod of 6 hippos sleeping. We couldn’t get too close as Solomon said they have been known to be aggressive to the boats.

There are also some really interesting Acacia trees, which cannot survive due to the lake’s salt content, and their withering shapes made for some interesting photography.

The fisherman in the National Park on local boats are illegal, but they enter the area at their own risk of crocodile or hippo related injury/death. Their boats are made out of a soft wood which doesn’t provide much protection should an animal get close.

Pro tip: You will want to bring your sunglasses and sun cream for this boat trip. After the chilly weather in Addis, I was bundled up but quickly became hot and stripped down to a t-shirt. I was wishing I had my sunglasses and some sunscreen because that morning sun was strong! Also be sure to bring a zoom lens for your camera if you have one, as you will want to get photos of the animals and birds.

After lunch, drive up the mountain to the Dorze Hayzo village for a cultural tour. You will meet Tesfa, a local guide, who will introduce you to his family and give you a tour of his home and compound so you can learn how this tribe lives. I had the opportunity to try a traditional string instrument (krar), and attempt to weave cotton which will be later used in traditional garments like scarves and blankets.

The local bread (kocho), is made from the false banana tree roots. The dough is made by scraping the bark from the tree and put underground to ferment. When it is ready, the dough is baked over an open fire to create a pita bread or flat bread, dipped in local honey and chilli.

I had the chance to also try local alcohol made from hops, garlic, onion, barley and local grains. After taking the 3 customary shots, I then learned the liquor is anywhere from 45-50% proof — yikes! LOL.

This family also has a lodge at the back of the property called Mekonnen, were tourists can stay for the night to see traditional dancing, food and a bonfire. You can contact Tesfa at (+251952923441).

Day 3: Arba Minch to Jinka

Take a leisurely morning and then start driving! This is a long drive day, but the views will be worth it. You will want to stop along the way for photos, so make sure your camera is charged up and ready to go!

Eventually you will cross the Magu river and see views of the Buska mountain (Buska means chain) and cotton and sunflower fields in the distance. By now the temperatures are getting hotter and we peaked at 33C in the truck before we started climbing the roads up to Jinka.

Where to stay in Jinka

Jinka is a fairly small town with limited hotel options. I stayed at the Orbit hotel which is a budget accommodation situated in a motel style, with a bar and restaurant in their garden area. It was basic but clean.

Orbit Hotel ($) 

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Jinka Backpackers ($) 

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Day 4: Jinka to Turmi

Start early with a drive through Mago National Park. The park’s wildlife has mostly migrated to Kenya. Apparently there used to be lions, elephants, buffalo and antelope but now the park is limited to baboons, dikdik (small antelope) and lots of birds. My guide, Toffu, said this migration was due to lack of conservation initiatives in the country, as well as deforestation in the area by sugar factories.

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This summer I’m doing something a little different.

I’m staying in a converted farm house in a Medieval village in Switzerland!

The village of Romainmôtier, Switzerland

I’m Housesitting in a Medieval Village in Switzerland

Earlier this year I was scrolling through a housesitting app called ‘Trusted Housesitters’, which advertises house and petsitting opportunities across the globe. With an annual membership, you can apply to stay in homes absolutely free in exchange for your time to care for the home and animals (Get 25% off your membership here).

I stopped immediately mid-scroll on a particularly unique listing that caught my eye: a medieval village in Switzerland.

Romainmôtier is home to just 450 people, but its old-world architecture and abbey, reportedly one of the oldest Romanesque buildings in Switzerland, tempts tourists from all over the world. The Abbey of Romainmôtier, was built between 990 and 1030 on the ruins of a 5th century monastery.

The Abbey of Romainmôtier

After Skyping with the home owner several times to get to know each other, it seemed like I was the perfect fit for their home amongst the other applicants. With a thesis to finish writing this summer, I am happy to adjust to the slow-paced life of a small village.

My new home for the next 6 weeks is a century-old renovated farm house which overlooks a beautiful wooded area and creek. I have an Australian Shepherd and two cats to keep me company, while I spend the bulk of my time writing in the garden or hiking with the dog.

My new companion

During my first week, while walking through the quiet woods admiring fields of sheep or while having a glass of wine on a patio in the main town square, I knew I had already fallen in love with Romainmôtier.

Plus, at 30 minutes from Lausanne, 1 hour from Bern or Geneva, and just 15 minutes to the French border, I have a great home-base to explore the rest of Switzerland and France. I am beyond excited to spend my summer in Europe!

Trusted Housesitters

This is my first experience with Trusted Housesitters, but I think the housesitting opportunities they offer are the perfect solution for animal-loving travellers who want to travel slower and in a more economical way.

As I mentioned, all of the house and pet sitting opportunities on the app are free (aside from your initial membership fee) so you can avoid expensive hotels or apartment rentals while abroad. Based on this experience housesitting in a Swiss medieval village , I will definitely be looking for more opportunities to housesit in the future and would recommend the app to anyone who wants to consider house sitting abroad.

Head on over to Trusted Housesitters and get 25% off your annual membership with this link.

Would you try housesitting?

Let me know in the comments below what you think!

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Pssst…this post is not sponsored, but it does contains affiliate links.

If you purchase a membership through one of my links, I may get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

This goes towards the cost of maintaining this website and creating free content for readers like you!

Please read my disclosure for more info. 

Thanks for your support!

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I moved to Mwanza, Tanzania for one year to conduct my doctoral thesis research on gender equity, in partnership with a Tanzanian women’s rights organization.

In the time that I lived in Tanzania, I met some of the strongest women I’ve ever encountered. I learned a new language, made new friends and had some pretty amazing experiences in the Serengeti National Park and around Lake Victoria.

I also witnessed and experienced things that deeply disturbed me. I was told stories that angered me. I noticed blatant inequities and disparities. I woke the f*ck up.

I lived in Tanzania for a year. Here’s what I learned. Time is not universal

Somewhere along the way, I stopped wearing a watch. It became heavy on my wrist, suddenly restrictive. I stashed it in the back of my wardrobe, along with my passport and miscellaneous items I never used. At the end of my year in Tanzania, my watch emerged, but never regained its lustre.

Time is not a universal concept, though it often feels all-encompassing in North America. Not only with the structure it provides day to day (often pertaining to values of productivity and efficiency in our working lives), but also how it ties us to the past and future.

The present moment is a place I didn’t often visit, but my time in Tanzania enabled me to shift to a space where I could live more mindfully in the present.

In a low-income nation where poverty is striking (the average Tanzanian makes just $1USD per day), people are not as focused on the future when they are trying to secure their basic needs for today. Living in this context, I began to realize the ridiculousness of my internal sense of urgency to get from point A to point B or my insane guilt if I didn’t work hard enough on a particular day. In Tanzania, no one is expecting your immediate response on the other end of an email, there are zero judgements on how you managed your day and zero f*cks about what you accomplished.

When I lived in Tanzania, I learned that the present moment is not just a means to an end or a moment in time serving just to get me to where I’m going. The present moment is all we have. It should be the ultimate goal in and of itself.

Climate change is real

Okay this one might seem obvious, but not everyone is on board with the environmental movement yet. If you don’t believe in climate change, just ask the Tanzanian women in rural areas who must walk farther and farther each day to fetch scarce firewood and water. Deforestation and drought are very real and devastating impacts of climate degradation in Tanzania.

Not only this, but it’s those least affected by climate change who remain the most ignorant to it. Ironically, the research shows those unaffected are also the highest contributors to environmental pollution.

Enter the wealthy minority.

Did you know that high-income countries are within a global minority? Low and middle-income countries are actually the majority, meaning they constitute a bigger percentage of the global population. Yet, this majority of humans are paying the price for the actions of a small, wealthy minority. (While this resource is a little on the older side, it does a good job summarizing how minorities are more vulnerable to climate change).

It largely comes down to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, where most folks from North American and Europe don’t care because quite simply, it doesn’t impact us…yet. But it will, or if not us, our children and our children’s children.

For the good of our fellow humans, our planet and all of its species, let’s all do a big, collective opening of our eyes.

Women are already empowered

‘Women’s empowerment’ is a hot topic and development initiatives targeting females in low-income nations, such as Tanzania, have been extremely common for decades, since the UN’s Millennium Development Declaration in 2000.

Except there’s one problem: the entire concept of empowerment contains an underlying assumption that one human being can empower another.

Can we really give someone else power? This would require it to be a tangible entity.

If we can transfer power to someone less powerful than us, then what does this say about where we position ourselves in relation to those we are seeking to help?

An even bigger problem with initiatives that seek to empower women, is the implicit notion that women are disempowered to begin with. Yet most of the Tanzanian women I met were strong, resourceful and fiercely protective of their families, often doing whatever it took to provide their children with their basic needs. Regardless of level of education or personal circumstances, they found employment or started their own business.

If this drive and determination isn’t intrinsic power, what is? Women are already empowering themselves and one another. They don’t need foreigners to come in and save them.

Tourists can be entitled as F (see #5 and #6)

I can’t tell you how many times in the past year I witnessed problematic behaviour from tourists, who seemingly forget they are VISITORS to another country.

Would you be demanding, authoritative, dismissive, discriminatory, exploitative (the list goes on) during a visit to a new acquaintance’s home for tea?

No. Let’s be real, you would be exuding your highest self with your pinky erected like the freaking Queen of England. So why the stank attitude of superiority while you are visiting someone else’s country? It’s appalling.

Occasionally tourists are not aware of certain cultural norms or customs and thus may exhibit inappropriate behaviour, stemming from their own ignorance. However, I noticed a disturbing trend from expatriates who DO know better, but choose otherwise…like the Italian Bed and Breakfast owner who spoke with his Tanzanian staff and neighbours in Italian (does he realize he’s not in Italy?), the German manager of a Tanzanian resort pocketing his staff’s tips and the array of people complaining about local culture instead of embracing a new way or life or facing up to the issue being entirely one of their own.

Anglophones are linguistically challenged

Growing up in North America, I didn’t “need” to learn a second language. While my home country Canada is bilingual, I lived in a predominantly English province where French was not widely spoken, so I was virtually never in situations where I needed to use it.

Some of my first experiences traveling as a young person were trips through the USA and UK, both where I was not pushed outside of my Anglophonic bubble.

Once I finally hit Europe, and eventually Asia and Africa, I realized just how important language and the ability to communicate in another dialect is. Language after all, literally embodies history and culture. It demonstrates respect and builds rapport.

Travel and living abroad were the slap across the face I needed to realize I was actually part of a minority which could only speak one language.

It wasn’t that I expected people to speak to me in English (I always tried to learn some phrases in the local language where ever I went). But ultimately, before the days of google translate, I still needed those around me to engage in English because quite frankly, I couldn’t manage without it.

I began to cringe at the entitlement (and subsequent embarrassment) of traveling as an Anglophone.

When I lived in Tanzania, I really gave it my best effort to learn Swahili (I used Rosetta Stone and also hired a local tutor) and realized just how f*cking hard it is to learn a new language. I experienced fatigue and headaches as my brain literally stretched and evolved, creating new neuronal synapses. I observed that those whose first language is English, actually tended to struggle the most in learning Swahili; my friends from Italy and Lebanon were fluent in the time it took me to learn the basics.

Learning a new language is humbling and frustrating and rewarding. It knocks you down a couple pegs, making you aware of your ego as you make mistakes time and time again (case in point: I once tried to say ‘I am helping myself’ but accidentally said ‘I need to take a shit’….the difference of ONE LETTER).

Once you surrender your ego and stop caring about whether you make a fool of your self (even if you do accidentally tell people about your bathroom needs), fluency awaits. Learning a new language has been one of the most gratifying challenges I have ever taken on, and I will continue to learn new languages for the rest of my days.

There is nothing post about post-Colonialism

Tanzania was colonized. Oppressed, controlled, abused. If you are not familiar with what colonization is, I challenge you to educate yourself further, especially before traveling to Africa.

For now, I have included a definition here: colonization is a process whereby a foreign settler population arrives to a “new land” to establish a colony, and over time, expropriates and suppresses the Indigenous peoples of that land.

Tanzania today has become an independent and United Republic, but that doesn’t mean colonization is entirely in the past. Colonial ideology and its agendas still live on.

Just look at the typical ‘safari outfit’ tourists wear in the Serengeti (I don’t think I need to include a photo; anyone who has been to Africa knows what I’m talking about). This “explorer” outfit, complete with khaki or green garb and the wide brimmed hat, has somehow become indicative of what to wear on safari.

Yet, by wearing these clothes you are actually reiterating colonial ideology, essentially copying what was first worn by the colonizers who “explored” and conquered much of Africa. The wide brimmed hat is the direct descendant of the pith helmet, a symbol of colonial rule across the continent. Don’t be a Melania Trump.

The problem is much more than clothes though.

Wealthy foreign countries are still exploiting Tanzania for its minerals and natural resources, foreign organizations are still controlling access to financial aid and services in the development sectors, and English (while not a national language) is still dominant based on the ‘power’ it grants those who can speak it.

More recently, Tanzania (and other African nations) are provided gigantic loans or ‘grants’ by foreign countries towards infrastructural advancements. Roads, bridges, high-speed trains and skyscraper buildings are cropping up quickly, which on the surface sounds great, but at what cost?

Take Home Notes

If English is your first language, if you are from a high-income country, if you are white, able-bodied, straight, educated, male, if you are able to travel, and especially if you are ALL of these combined, realize you are privileged as F.

You were dealt a Royal flush in the card game of life.

It is uncomfortable at first to realize that you have never “seen” what’s been in front of you all along. But we can’t disrupt and dismantle racism, classism, sexism, hegemony, colonialism (the list goes on) without this pivotal piece of acknowledgement.

Acknowledgement means that we, the privileged folks, have been implicit. Just because we didn’t do something directly, does not mean our hands are clean…because from the other side of the coin, we did just that: nothing.

You and I can push back against modern-day forms of colonization (and other heinous forms of discrimination) first and foremost by showing up to the fight. We may be a few decades late (I’m lookin’ at you white folk), but better late than never.

I’m sure there are many, many more lessons which will unfold in the coming months as I continue to digest and reflect upon my experience living abroad in Tanzania, but that is all she wrote for now.

P.s. I was hesitant to write content like this due to fear that it would come across too academic, or too serious. Truthfully, it would be a huge disservice to my research participants and the Tanzanian community I lived in to not speak up and use my platform to create a dialogue on these topics. Ultimately, feel free to take my opinions and perspectives with a grain of salt, as they are just that: my opinions. I do welcome yours in the comments below.

P.p.s. I absolutely adore Tanzania and have many travel resources to help you plan your best trip (responsibly). If you are considering traveling to Tanzania, please refer to my Tanzanian content for more information.

Like it? | Click the Photo to PIN it! 

Pssst…this post contains affiliate links.

If you purchase a product through one of my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

This goes towards the cost of maintaining this ad-free website and creating free content for readers like you!

Please read my disclosure for more info. 

Thanks for your support!

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This post was originally published on the Solo Female Travel Network

Planning a Solo Trip: A Guide for Beginners

So, you’ve decided to take the solo travel leap and are now planning a solo trip? Congratulations! Your first solo trip will be one that you will never forget!

This beginner’s guide is a practical tool to assist you in planning your first solo trip, including pre-travel logistics to navigating your destination like a pro. Let’s begin!

Pre-travel Logistics 

 Planning a solo trip doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. There are however, a few pre-travel logistics to consider before even booking your trip. Don’t worry, once you get the hang of it, these things will just become second nature.

Passport

Ensure your passport is up to date and doesn’t expire for 6 months before you plan to travel internationally. Also make sure it has enough blank pages in it to accommodate new stamps and visas (I made this mistake and had to renew my passport abroad in Kenya). You will want to keep a digital copy of your passport handy or store a photocopy of it in your carry-on; in the worst-case scenario that it is stolen or lost, at least you will have a record of your identity and your passport number. 

Visas 

You may or may not need a visa depending on your citizenship and the country you are traveling to. You can often check this on your government’s travel website. If you do require a visa, you may need to apply for it in advance, so it is recommended to do this online before booking your trip, as unfortunately there is no guarantee your application will be approved.

Exceptions to this are if the visa is offered on arrival, meaning you can complete the visa application form and pay in person at immigration when entering the country. Again, this will depend on which country you are entering and your citizenship.

Finances

Considering how you will manage your finances is an important aspect of planning a solo trip. Some sources recommend calling your bank to let them know you will be using your debit card or credit card abroad, so they don’t activate identity theft protocol.

In terms of how you will actually navigate your finances while traveling internationally in a new currency, there are a few options:

ATMs

ATMs typically give the best exchange rate of the day and are usually conveniently available at airports upon arrival. However, most ATMs charge a fee for their use and some financial institutions charge their own fee; this could add up to a whopping $10 in fees per withdrawal. Check with your bank to see what your options are. Some bank accounts offer to reimburse international ATM fees, and if you are lucky enough to have this benefit, using an ATM to access money will be your best option.

Cash Exchange

Cash exchange kiosks are notorious for charging high exchange rates, meaning you will lose money just to exchange your money. You are better to directly exchange cash at your financial institution and only resort to commercial cash exchange companies if you desperate. For example, you are left with a foreign currency and need to get rid of it before returning home.

Credit Cards

If you don’t want to walk around with large sums of cash, having a travel credit card is your best bet. Look for one with a 0% foreign transaction fee so you don’t pay more for each purchase. Some travel credit cards also offer travel insurance or rewards programs, so definitely read the fine print to see what you are covered for. I use the American Express Premium CashBack card because it offers comprehensive travel insurance and car rental insurance, plus I get 2-5% cash back on all my purchases!

Planning a Solo Trip

Booking your Trip

Travel agent vs. self-planned

If you don’t have much experience traveling or creating a trip itinerary, or you don’t have the time to plan a trip, working with a travel agent can be extremely helpful. Agents can help you with everything from booking flights, to scheduling ground transfers, accommodation and tours — basically the whole package. They can also be extremely useful in sorting out issues in the event that something goes array while traveling, such as a flight being cancelled or delayed.

However, those on a tight budget or who desire more flexibility in their travel schedule may want to plan their own trip. There are a variety of budget airlines and fight search engines nowadays which can help you get to your destination cheaper, notify you of sales, or even explore all destinations across time according to cost. I usually use Skyscanner for this reason (I have an entire post on how to use Skyscanner to get cheap flights if you aren’t familiar with it).

Deciding Where to Stay

Hotel vs. Hostel vs. Airbnb

Once you have your flights booked, the next step in planning a solo trip is to decide where to stay. Generally speaking, you have three options: hotels, hostels or an Airbnb.

Hostels are budget-friendly and tend to be conveniently located in city centres near bus or train terminals. They usually have kitchen facilities and some of them even have an in-house bar! Staying at a hostel is a great way to meet other travellers and participate in group activities while traveling solo. The downsides are less privacy and the potential for noise or uncleanly shared environments. You can explore options on Hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com.

Hotels may appear to be the more expensive option, but this really depends on your destination. In some areas of Asia and Africa, a basic hotel room can cost less than a bed in a dorm room. There are lots of great websites to explore your options, such as Hoteltonight.com or Booking.com (just be sure to read the reviews to determine the accuracy of the listing). Sometimes booking a hotel directly on their website can be cheaper, so it might be worth-while to compare costs. Use this link to get $25 towards a booking with Hotels Tonight!

Finally, Airbnb has become a popular choice for travellers to find a home away from home while on the road. If you prefer to have your own kitchen or work space while traveling, booking an apartment on Airbnb might be for you. You can also rent a room in someone’s home via Airbnb, meaning you will share space with the host. Just like with anything, check the reviews and trust your gut. Use this link to get $30 off your first Airbnb booking!

Pre-travel Health Considerations  Travel Insurance

We all know that life is unpredictable so even the best planned trip can go off the rails. Travel insurance covers not only travel expenses and your belongings (e.g. your flight is cancelled, or your luggage is stolen), but also your health (e.g. you need to be hospitalized or medically evacuated). The costs associated with seeking medical consultation and treatment abroad can be very minimal in some countries or astronomical in others. It is therefore always best to be prepared and purchase travel insurance, such as a comprehensive package through a legitimate company like World Nomads, who I have used several times now.

When purchasing insurance, always read the fine print to see what you are or are not covered for and how you would be required to make a claim. Leave a copy of your insurance policy behind with a family or friend and keep an electronic copy of it in an easily accessible file in your email or on your phone.

As mentioned earlier, I use American Express for travel insurance (such as if my luggage gets stolen or lost) and car rental insurance (if I crash a rental…and yes I have crashed before lol you can read about the time I drove into a highland ditch if you are curious). The annual fee for this particular card is $99 per year, which breaks down to $8.25 per month for coverage of any travel you purchase with that card. For example, if you book a flight with the Amex, you are protected if that flight is cancelled, if you miss the flight due to a medical reason, if you miss a connection due to that flight being delayed, if your bag is lost or damaged. If you book a hotel with the Amex, you are protected if the room is broken into and belongings are stolen. The list goes on!

Vaccines

To determine if there are mandatory vaccinations required for entrance to the country you are traveling to, you may want to check the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel health website. For example, proof of receiving the yellow fever vaccine is required to enter East African countries and without your immunization card you may be denied entry. Conversely, there may be vaccines or tablets recommended for your destination, such as the rabies vaccination or antimalarial pills.

Medications

If you have a prescription medicine you need to take with you on your travels, speak to your pharmacist about getting it in bulk so you won’t run out while abroad. Also, it is important to ask for a prescription to keep with you as you may or may not need it during transit.

It is also important to consider whether your medication is legal in the destination you are arriving into. For example, some forms of narcotics are illegal in certain counties. You can check the status of your prescription medication at the CDC travel medicine website.

Avoiding Travel Mishaps

Airplane Travel

Do your research 

Airplane travel doesn’t have to be stressful or cumbersome with a little preparation. Make sure you check with your airline for their luggage requirements and fees, including the weight and size dimensions of both checked and carry-on baggage. No one wants to show up to the airport and have to pay an unexpected cost, so weigh your luggage once you are done packing (though be sure to leave some extra space for things you may want to bring home with you). You may want to read my tips on how to pack lighter if you are concerned.

If you are flying out of a large airport, check the airport website for which terminal your airline departs from and the estimated wait times. Once you start to travel more, you will come to know which airports are notorious for being chaotic versus streamlined, but for now it can be really helpful to orient yourself online before arriving to the airport.

Check-in Online

Checking in online can save stress while at the airport and also gives you the option to pick your seat on the aircraft (though often at an additional fee). Note that if you are stowing baggage, you will still need to drop your luggage off at the airline counter. Nowadays there are often electronic kiosks which print bag-tags, and a designated bag-drop line so you can avoid the check-in line all together.

If you are nervous about doing this, simply wait in the check-in line and give the staff your passport. However, if you plan to do this be sure to give yourself a full 3 hours before your international flight to accommodate for long lines.

Pack your carry-on properly

Most airports are very strict on fluids, gels and aerosols over 100ml/100g and any objects which may appear to be a weapon (e.g. scissors or knives). There is nothing more stressful than having items confiscated or your bag pulled apart by security agents. If you have personal care products in your carry-on luggage, ensure they are in bottles or containers < 100ml and inside a clear pouch or plastic bag. Reusable water bottles are fine but make sure they are empty when you pass through security.

You will also want to keep all valuables and travel documents in your carry-on. My rule of thumb is to pack my carry-on as if I know my stowed luggage will be lost or tampered with. I am therefore always prepared by having some essential toiletries and a change of clothes in my carry on, as well as all electronics, medications and forms of identification.

Read my packing guide here.

Navigation

Navigating your new surroundings can be difficult when dealing with jetlag, culture shock and language barriers. While most hotels and hostels provide city maps and can offer you further advice, you might prefer to use a digital navigation strategy. Apps like maps.me offer offline solutions to navigate, simply requiring you to download the country map before you go off wifi. I usually do this at the airport before I fly to any new country. Conversely, getting a local SIM card once on the ground will ensure you never go offline and can readily use google maps, Uber or any local transit apps.

Hiring a local guide or taking a local tour can also be great ways to orient yourself to a new city by foot, and often serve as great opportunities to find local hot spots and hidden gems.

 Safety

While solo female travel is generally very safe, it is still important to be proactive in any situation. It is therefore helpful to consider how you will take measures to protect yourself while traveling.

First, check your government website for any travel advisories for your destination and register as a citizen abroad to get direct email notifications of any emerging events. Reading about your destination can also provide useful information on local crime rates or any popular scams to be aware of, as well as helpful tips like whether public transport systems have female-only sections or how local women typically dress.

More specific safety tips will vary based on the context of where you travel, but it is always SO important to trust your gut. If something or someone doesn’t feel right, trust your inner intuition to keep you safe.

Happy travels!

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If you purchase a product through one of my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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The Pink Backpack by Thepinkbackpack.com - 3M ago

We don’t often talk about failure.

It’s a thing to fear and avoid.

Our culture inherently conditions us to frame failure as a negative; so much so that admitting our own weaknesses or limitations innately positions us at the top a slippery slope; one false move and we could lose our steady footing. So afraid of plummeting, we don’t take risks or step outside our comfort zone; we can’t admit when we are wrong or create space for new ideas and perspectives…because if we fail, we risk discrediting the persona we have so carefully crafted.

Yet, through all of our efforts to avoid failing, we forget about the process of succeeding. In avoiding our own limitations, we actually limit ourselves.

I started to think about this when the methods chapter of my thesis. As most researchers will experience (whether they admit it or not), there are a lot of challenges and tensions in the field, particularly when engaged in work within a culture outside one’s own Except no one really writes about it. There’s no dialogue on how to work though challenges with humility, but rather they are often diluted or rationalized. But by not acknowledging our struggles, we cannot fully learn from them.

Why we should embrace failure

We cannot own our true story if we only select the best excerpts to share.

I started to openly write about my experiences and how I navigated the difficulties I had encountered during my study, and realized the power of authenticity. It not only creates space for reflexivity and self-development, but for experiential knowledge to be passed on to others through transparency.

It links intention to action.

So how does this relates to social media, to blogging and to all of the platforms we use today? We all know how powerful the internet is and how it has the potential to connect us and to create change in so many ways. Yet we see this same careful curation of words and images and appearances among many leaders and influencers. Talking about failure and struggle is uncommon, simply because it is ingrained in us to strive for greatness (and the power which comes neatly packaged within it).

On the contrary, it is actually our struggles which make us stronger. Fear, grief, sadness, melancholy, uncertainty, apprehension; they are part of the human spectrum of emotions.

They don’t make us fail, they make us human.

In being authentic with my audience, I shared a most recent ‘failure’ in my spring travel update. I wanted to be real and I wanted to challenge the idea of what it means to fail by reframing my own failure as a gift.

Perhaps through talking about our struggles, we can start to see how the experience of ‘failure’ can connect us to one another, evolving what we perceived as a negative experience into one of connectivity and positivity.

There is nothing without challenge. This year and the amazing women I am working with in Tanzania have taught me that much. But isn’t that part of the process? This journey of life we are all on?

The bravest thing you can do, is to keep trying; continuing through the moments of self-doubt or the fear of failure. When you feel like life has given you every reason to give up…those are the exact moments to keep going. You may not know it, but you are on the verge of break though.

If this article resonates with you, let me know in the comments below!

You can navigate to my spring travel update here, or explore the rest of my blog by category.

Happy travels!

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If you purchase a product through one of my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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In my last travel update, I wrote about expat life in Tanzania after relocating to Mwanza to conduct my thesis research on gender equity. At that time, I had just finished backpacking solo from South African to Tanzania so I was enjoying some downtime to establish a new routine in my new home.

Overall, the experience of living abroad in Tanzania for nearly one year now has been very positive. I love the social and playful nature of Tanzanian culture, I like the challenge of learning a new language and I enjoy the low-pressure lifestyle I live here (in comparison to the past-paced culture of North America).

The beautiful lake-side location of Mwanza continues to stun me on a daily basis and I like that the city centre doesn’t feel too urban. I can walk almost everywhere and can easily find fresh produce on almost every corner, making it quite easy to stay healthy and vegan.

Enjoying a sunset over Mwanza

Interestingly, my biggest adjustments to living abroad in Tanzania seemed to be to the exact things I love about the country. At times, the fast-paced North American in me found it tough to adapt to the pole pole (slow) lifestyle and the infuriatingly slow internet. I had extreme fatigue and headaches from working in a new language and often really struggled with the noise. While I will never get used to the noise (thank goodness for good earplugs and an amazon music subscription), I learned how to speak Swahili and have become a more flexible and adaptive person.

There were a few situations that were out of my control, but they significantly impacted my work here. My ethics application for research took 4 months longer than anticipated, pushing my study back as I couldn’t start until I received this clearance. By the time I had finally received my permit, it was almost time to come home for Christmas. Then at the start of 2019, I ran out of passport pages and had to travel to the embassy in Nairobi to renew my passport. That entire process took a month, and although I did retain my passport in that time, I was unable to travel internationally from Kenya due to the lack of fresh pages in the passport. So again, that month put my study on hold.

By the time I finally started making great progress in the study, my thesis submission deadline was coming up. I knew I wouldn’t finish everything on time and risked not graduating with my class.

Shit.

F*ck.

Yet I knew that in order to remain true to the style of research I’m doing, I simply could not finish by the deadline. I didn’t want to cut corners. Although this felt like a huge failure, I chose to reframe it. Thankfully I can take an extra semester to complete the writing this fall.

I needed more time and I received it. That is a gift, not a failure.

There is nothing without challenge, yet with challenge there is growth. I am choosing to see this as an opportunity to embrace failure.

If you missed my other travel updates, you can read my announcement about moving to Tanzania or my update on expat life and finding routine.

If you’re new here, you can browse through my annual travel roundups for 20162017 and 2018 to get a sense of where I’ve been and the evolution of my blog over the last 3 years (I just celebrated my 3 year blogging anniversary in March), or feel free to read my story or get in touch on instagram.

Happy travels!

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Pssst…this post contains affiliate links.

If you purchase a product through one of my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

This goes towards the cost of maintaining this ad-free website and creating free content for readers like you!

Please read my disclosure for more info. 

Thanks for your support!

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The Pink Backpack by Thepinkbackpack.com - 3M ago

The Pink Backpack is officially 3 years old!

I can hardly believe it.

I never dreamed that when I started The Pink Backpack, it would morph into what it’s become today.

Cheers to three years!!!

If you are unfamiliar with me or my story, then allow me to introduce myself (or read more about me here).

I’m Steph, a PhD researcher and travel writer from Ontario, Canada. I started this blog during the first of a 4-year PhD program back in 2016.

Initially the idea was to share my travel stories, connect with other like-minded folks and stay immersed in the world of travel during a period of my life that I anticipated would not involve much travel.

Ironically, in the last 3 years I’ve travelled to over 23 countries, totalling nearly 50 countries across 6 continents (read about how I’ve travelled while doing a PhD debt-free).

My favourite trip during this time has been my solo backpacking trip across Africa from South Africa to Tanzania.

To see where I’ve gone, you can browse through my annual travel roundups for 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The Pink Backpack Turns Three

I read somewhere that most bloggers quit within their first year. I can totally see why. When I first started out, I had no freaking clue what I was doing, and at times it was overwhelming. I kept at it though and spent hours learning from free youtube tutorials, online courses and books from the library (you guys, I actually borrowed SEO for dummies #lol).

I was so broke that I had plastic furniture in my apartment and resorted to some pretty drastic measures to find money for traveling (read about the 7 craziest things I’ve done to afford travel).

I now have over 100 blog posts on The Pink Backpack, with nearly 1 million all time views (okay 800K, but who’s counting?). The blog has received awards, has been featured in several travel media outlets and my writing was even published in a book last year!

My point in telling you this aside from bragging rights is that you don’t need to be an expert or have capital to start something and to succeed in what you do.

You just need the passion and the drive; the determination to keep going in the face of adversity. When you want to quit, and you feel as though life has given you every reason to….those are the exact moments you need to keep going the most.

Blogging has honestly changed my life for the better in so many ways. It’s given me the tools to evolve into two things I never foresaw myself being: a writer and an entrepreneur. So, whether you continue to come back here, or you are here for the first time, thank you for reading! I couldn’t do this without readers like you.

How You Can Support The Pink Backpack 

If my blog posts have helped you to plan your own travels, if they’ve entertained you, or you just want to show your support, there are a few ways you can help me.

  • As most creatives would say, sharing our content is one of the quickest, easiest and free ways you can show your support for us! As we all know, the power of the internet is insane, and it only takes that one click for a post to go viral, which is life altering for a content creator. So, if you’ve enjoyed any of my posts or photos, please do share!
  • All of the content I provide here is completely free for you to access. The majority of it is also add-free and not sponsored, meaning I spend a lot of time doing unpaid work. I earn my income through affiliate programs, which means when you click on one of my links and purchase a product, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you are going to buy a product online either way (e.g. something from amazon), then using an affiliate link is an easy way to show your support.
  • Social media is becoming more and more important these days for bloggers, so if you aren’t already following me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, let’s connect! I’m happy to follow back, just leave me a comment so I know how you found me.
  • If you would like to help fuel my writing, you can buy me a virtual cup of coffee here.
  • Finally, if you would like to stay in touch, please subscribe to my email list. No spam, I promise….just pure travel goodness!
Top Misadventures from The Pink Backpack

#Faceplant

Now on to the moment you have been waiting for….my most memorable travel and blogging misadventures!

You didn’t think I would skip out on an opportunity to embarrass myself for your reading pleasure, did you?

Drum roll please…

Biggest Travel Fails I accidentally booked a 30,000 £ car rental in Glasgow…and crashed it.

With a transport truck barrelling towards me on a single lane road, I proceeded to drive straight into a Highland ditch in the middle of nowhere. I managed escaped unscathed, with no vehicle damage and even made a new friend in the process! You can read the full story here.

I fainted on a mountain…while hiking by myself in Colombia.

During my solo trip to Bogota year, I left the city in favour of nearby mountains and accidentally drank untreated water (oops). I woke up feeling pretty sick, but still soldiered on as it was my only day to hike. Unfortunately shit (quite literally) hit the fan halfway up the mountain.

Since I was alone and by this point couldn’t stand or sit without passing out, I had to literally lay down in the middle of the trail, periodically turning my head to vom. I don’t know how long I laid there until some poor soul found me, but it was long enough to end up with plenty of ant bites.

I got a parasite…in my leg.

Yep, you read that right…sand worms actually, in both legs. The worst part of it all, is that it was a dang selfie that did me in (isn’t it always something related to a selfie nowadays?).

I knelt down on a Tanzanian beach to pose for a photo and a week later the parasites emerged in my shins. Thankfully I was already in South Africa by this point and was able to see an awesome doctor who knew straight away what the issue was (cue obnoxious affiliate link for travel health insurance).

Unfortunately, I developed an insect phobia from this incident which still impacts me on and off (I experience anxiety and compulsive behaviours relating to bugs), but it does make for a pretty crazy story to tell and provides a great opportunity to openly talk about mental health.

I got Nitrogen Narcosis

I got nitrogen narcosis 120ft below the ocean while diving the blue hole in Belize. What is nitrogen narcosis you ask? It’s a scuba diving related condition where too much nitrogen in the blood stream induces psychological symptoms, including confusion, delirium or panic.

At our bottom depth, I didn’t know if we were actually at 120 ft or if we had more to go, so I attempted to check my gauges….that’s when I realized I had narcosis. I couldn’t figure out how to read the dials! It was like forgetting how to read time, or looking at numbers but forgetting what they mean. The good news is that we had already started our ascent by this point, and all symptoms subsided once we went up a few metres. Seriously, never a dull moment!

Biggest Blogging Fails I missed a flight during a long-haul layover

On my way to a blogging event, I missed my connecting flight…during a 6-hour layover. Say what? How is this even possible you ask? Let’s just say jet lag is not a friend to my brain and I camped out at the WRONG GATE. In a cruel twist of fate, there were two flights departing to my destination at the same time and while looking at the electronic departure board, I read the WRONG one.

Once I finally realized (it only took me 6 hours), I ran through the airport (yes I was that person #cringe). I showed up sweaty and out of breath to my actual gate and watched my plane taxi away. To make matters worse, I was wearing a poncho and floppy hat in an attempt to look fashionable (#diditforthegram) and the hat flew off my head while I was running. I am quite certain the poncho must have looked like a cape, flowing behind me as I sprinted through the terminal.

The full mortifying story is on my blog, proving why I will never be a fashion blogger.

My website got shut down for porn

My website got hacked last year and was completely shut down by my old web host for 4 days for….“inappropriate adult content”. Say what? Have you even seen my website? It’s pretty PG rated, aside from the odd bikini photo so let’s go with PG 13. When I found this out, I was shitting myself thinking that someone hacked my site and published porn, but it turned out to be a false alarm… just good old fashioned malware.

In all seriousness though, at the time this felt like such a setback. After SO much work on this website over the years, I seriously considered quitting for the first time ever….but I’m still here (obvs) and thankful I didn’t quit in the midst of a difficult moment…so let the misadventures keep on rolling!

*FYI: During this incident I switched to Siteground, who I cannot say enough good things about. If you are considering starting a blog, I highly recommend them. You can read more about how to start a blog, or use grab your own domain for less than your Starbucks latte with this link.

I accidentally posted my ex’s facebook profile pic

I was creeping the Facebook page of a guy I dated a while back and somehow accidentally (and unknowingly) pinned his profile photo to several of my blog’s Pinterest boards and group boards (damn you tailwind plug in!!!!!!!).

Pinterest is one of the blogging tasks I find super tedious, so I may or may not have been multitasking (and by multitasking I mean pinning while drinking wine and netflixing).

For reals though, since I use Tailwind to schedule pins so I don’t have to spend tons of time on Pinterest, I didn’t realize until maybe 10 days later (#thehorror).

I mean, in what alternate universe do these awkward things actually happen? What is my life? It took me hours on shitty wifi (digital nomads, you feel me?) to comb through every single Pinterest board and group board I have to make sure all of them got deleted.

Side Note: If you are reading this and happen to be an expert Pinterest VA, I clearly need your help. Please email your resume or portfolio and rates at thepinkbackpackblog@gmail.com.

That’s all she wrote

As always, this blog aims to provide authentic information to help you travel adventurously, affordably and safely. I post my crazy and embarrassing misadventures in hopes of bringing a smile to your face. If my blog posts have helped you or just given you a laugh, please leave me a comment below or find me on social media. I would love to hear from you!

Happy travels!

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Pssst…this post contains affiliate links.

If you purchase a product through one of my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

This goes towards the cost of maintaining this ad-free website and creating free content for readers like you!

Please read my disclosure for more info. 

Thanks for your support.

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This post is specific to Western Kenya so the information is suited to those traveling around Lake Victoria or coming from Nairobi. There are a few options for getting from Kenya to Tanzania via the Isebania Border: there is a direct bus by Modern coast from Nairobi to Mwanza (2000 Ksh) or you can take a series of matatus (minivan buses), shared taxis and buses from Kisumu to Mwanza. I decided to do the Kisumu to Mwanza route and am sharing all of this information as part of my border guide series, simply because I wished it was available on google when I needed it! I hope it helps you out on your travels.

Pro tip: I recommend maps.me, a mobile app which you can use offline after downloading the country map. This is really useful for getting from Kenya to Tanzania as you likely will lose your 3G network when crossing the border.

Getting from Kenya to Tanzania

During the last leg of my overland travel around Lake Victoria, I needed to get from Kisumu to Mwanza, but learned there is no direct bus. You can either go via Nairobi with a bus line called Modern Coach (but that requires you to travel quite a bit out of the way if you are in Kisumu as you would need to take a night bus to Nairobi and then a 6:00am bus from Nairobi to Mwanza) or you can take a series of matatus, shared taxis and a coach down the side of the lake into Tanzania.

Getting from Kisumu to the Isebania Border

Take a matatu from Kisumu to Migori for 600 Ksh (I went at 6:00AM to the bus stand and was the first to arrive so I got to choose the best seat up front). The bus took about an hour to fill so we left at approximately 7:00AM and arrived around 11:00AM. This is more of a long haul shuttle service than an urban matatu, so there were less stops along the way. Since I went first thing in the morning, it was still relatively cool in temperature so the journey was honestly not as bad as I had expected.

Pro tip: The roads are paved the entire way from Kisumu to Mwanza.

What to expect at Migori

In Migori you will get dropped off at a bus station where you can use a toilet and get food. From there take a shared taxi to the Kenyan border town of Isebania for 150 Ksh. Be prepared to get well acquainted with your fellow passengers as they load in a lot of bodies, but thankfully it is a short ride. The taxi drops you off in a parking lot adjacent to the border.

What to expect at the Isebania Border

First get your exit stamp from the Kenyan side. There are no signs so just go to the building on your left before the pedestrian gate (you will see security guards out front of the building).

Then you can cross the border by foot to Tanzanian immigration. It is maybe less than a 5 minute walk but again there are no signs to direct you so continue past a building on your left and you will see another building in the distance in a large parking lot. When you enter the Tanzanian immigration building you first need to scan your bag and then apply for your tourist visa (you will need to pay 50 USD cash).

Pro Tip: Both sides require your yellow fever immunization card so come prepared!

Getting from the Isebania Border to Mwanza

From the border you can walk the 500m to the bus stand, or take a motor bike taxi for 1000 Tsh. I took a bike and was glad because it was really hot by this point and the boda driver helped me find the shared taxi. At the bus stand, take a shared taxi to Tarime for 1000 Tsh. Again you will be quite stuffed in the car, but it is another short ride.

In Tarime, you can get a direct coach bus into Mwanza for 10,000 tsh. I was lucky and caught one literally as it was pulling out of the bus terminal so it would seem they depart a few times per day. The direct journey from Tarime to Mwanza took about 3.5 hours. The bus stops at the Buzuruga bus station which is a quick boda boda or dala dala into the centre of town (3000 tsh for a boda, 400tsh for a dala dala). To catch the dala dala into town you will need to cross the street at the lights and then walk towards the CRBD bank where you will see them departing (you can say “ninaenda mjini” – I am going into the city).

Overall the entire journey took me 12 hours, from 6:00AM to 6:00pm. It sounds really complicated, but I was pleasantly surprised that it went smoothly for me (though I can speak Swahili which certainly helped).

Pro tip: If you are concerned about the language barrier, I would recommend this pocket Swahili-English dictionary which has useful travel phrases, or the Rosetta Stone language program (I have a full post on how I used Rosetta stone to learn Swahili).

Tips for Bus Travel in East Africa

Bus travel in East Africa can be super long and uncomfortable depending on road conditions so I always pack my backpack accordingly with supplies (I use the Osprey Questa 27 as my daypack/ carry on).

You will want to pack food and water (though during this journey there are many opportunities to buy drinks and snacks), hand sanitizer, sunscreen depending on your sensitivity to the sun (I wear SPF 60 on my face daily).

I also recommend traveling with an external charger so you know you will have a charged phone while in transit (I use and love this one by Anker), a good book (Dark Star Safari is an interesting read for overland travel in Africa) and a BUFF (I use mine religiously to shield my hair from dirty bus seats and boda helmets).

Kisumu, Kenya

If this article was helpful, let me know in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my border guide series for more useful info to plan your trip around East Africa, or if you are continuing to travel through Tanzania, refer to my Tanzania content for helpful tips.

Happy travels!

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Pssst…this post contains affiliate links.

If you purchase a product through one of my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Thanks for your support.

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Getting from Rwanda to Uganda by public transport is totally manageable once you have all the info you need. This article is part of my border guide series, where I share useful transportation and logistical tips from my own experiences…simply because I wished it was on google when I needed it. I hope it helps you out on your own travels!

Updated: March 23, 2019: Recent political conflict between Rwanda and Uganda has resulted in several borders closing. This may impact your travels depending on your citizenship (source).

Kabale, Uganda

Getting from Rwanda to Uganda

If you’ve just done gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park (or opted for the cheaper Dian Fossey hike like I did), it is possible to cross into to Uganda straight from Ruhengeri (Musanze) without backtracking to Kigali.

Though…I will admit based on my experience, it may have been more straightforward to return to Kigali and get the Kigali to Kampala direct bus. Your decision will depend on how comfortable you are with local transport.

There are two major coach bus lines you can choose from: Jaguar Executive and Trinity Express. I used both in Uganda and preferred Trinity.

Getting from Ruhengeri to the Cyanika Border

Here’s where things get confusing…the transfer from Ruhengeri to the Cyanika border is not actually on the coach bus. The buses wait on the Ugandan side. I’m totally open to taking a matatu or motor bike to get from point A to point B, but this was not communicated to me when I purchased my bus ticket with Jaguar (specifically for a 5:00AM coach bus from from Ruhengeri to Kabale).

Weird, right?

I showed up at 4:50 AM, but the bus wasn’t there. In fact, not much was happening at the bus station at that hour. Thankfully, the lovely manager of the guest house I stayed at had insisted on walking me to the bus station and he called the Jaguar ticket office number for me.

Almost instantaneously, a well-dressed and seemingly professional guy called Jean-Paul showed up to escort me to the border. I showed him the ticket I had already paid for and he said he would be paying for my transport fare to the bus (which he did). Jean-Paul and I each took a motor bike to the matatu stand, where a minibus was waiting to fill before heading for the border. It was approximately a 15 minute drive.

Full disclosure: I still have no idea if this is Jaguar’s normal protocol. I was not scammed out of money in this scenario but it seemed odd. If you are comfortable traveling independently, you may want to just follow these directions to get to the border on your own and then purchase your bus ticket directly on the bus at the border. Your hotel is likely to know a trusted motor bike driver or taxi driver who can take you to the matatu in the morning, or drive you the full distance to the border.

What to Expect at the Cyanika Border

I had already gotten my East African tourist visa when I crossed from Tanzania to Rwanda, so the immigration process was really simple. You will walk up to the immigration window and get your exit/entry stamp and basically just cross the border by foot. It honestly took maybe 1 minute tops.

Pro tip: Just before the border crossing, there is a small shop on the left side of the road where you can exchange any remaining Rwandan francs into Ugandan shillings. I don’t recall there being an ATM at the border (it’s basically just a parking lot) so you will want to ensure you have some Ugandan currency on you when you cross over, especially if you are buying your ticket on the bus.

Getting from the Cyanika Border

On the Ugandan side, Jean-Paul called for a motor bike taxi for me to get the rest of the way to Kisoro, the Ugandan border town where the Jaguar bus WAS WAITING. It left at 8:30 AM, though I got there before 8:00 AM so I just sat on the bus waiting. There are lots of little stalls in Kisoro where you can get food and drinks while you wait.

From Kisoro it’s smooth sailing for 2 hours to reach Kabale, the gateway to Bwindi National Park and Buyonyi lake. Conversely, you can just continue on the same bus to Kampala directly for another 8 hours.

If you opt to get to the border independently, I would suggest taking Trinity Express over Jaguar. I recall seeing the Trinity bus parked at the border so it is more convenient than having to navigate further from the border to Kisoro to catch the Jaguar bus. Plus, I took Trinity Express the following day and it was a nicer, cleaner bus.

What to expect arriving in Kabale

The Jaguar bus literally just pulls into the median of the two lane highway in the centre of town and lets you off. This is actually really convenient as you can walk to where ever you are staying. The Trinity Express pulls into a parking lot across from its ticketing office, which is also on the main highway in the centre of town.

Pro tip: If you need to upgrade to a Ugandan SIM card after crossing from Rwanda, you can get one in Kabale off the main street (I used MTN). If not, I recommend maps.me, a mobile app which you can use offline after downloading the country map.

What to expect arriving in Kampala

A day later, I took the Trinity bus from Kabale to Kampala at 9:00AM, though we actually left at 10:00. The Trinity bus pulls into ‘Trinity bus terminal’ and there were plenty of motor bike taxis waiting.

Pro tip: If you plan of taking a boda, be sure the driver offers you a functional helmet (the traffic is straight up terrifying) and strap your backpack on tight (snatchings are common). Otherwise you can try an app called safe boda or just grab an Uber.

Tips for Bus Travel in East Africa

Bus travel in East Africa can be long, boring and difficult so I always pack my backpack accordingly with supplies (I use and love the Osprey Questa 27 as my daypack/ carry on).

Definitely pack food and water (I use the Platypus bottle to avoid single use plastics). Some bus lines schedule rest stops while others soldier on, so be prepared. You may also want to bring along some baby wipes or cleansing wipes and hand sanitizer (you will thank me later), sunscreen (depending on your sensitivity to the sun). I wear SPF 60 in my makeup).

I always travel with an external charger so I know I will have a charged phone in transit (I use and love this one by Anker), a paperback novel (Dark Star Safari is an interesting read for overland travel in Africa) and a BUFF (I use mine to shield my hair from dirty bus seats and boda helmets).

If this article was helpful, let me know in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my border guide series or packing guide for more useful info to plan your trip around East Africa.

If you will be continuing from Uganda into Kenya, refer to my overland travel around Lake Victoria itinerary.

Happy travels!

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The post Getting from Rwanda to Uganda: The Cyanika Border Crossing appeared first on .

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Getting from Tanzania to Rwanda by land is simple once you have all the information you need. This article is part of my border guide series, where I share useful transportation and logistical tips from my own experiences…simply because I wished it was on google when I needed it. I hope it helps you out on your own travels!

Getting from Tanzania to Rwanda

You can get to Kigali, Rwanda from Mwanza (departing at 5:30AM), from Arusha (departing at 4:00AM; transfers in Singida) or Dar es Salaam (departing at 4:00AM). I personally took the bus from Mwanza and would suggest breaking up the journey here as it is a lovely lakeside town!

Even though you are going to Kigali, the bus ticket is actually to a Tanzanian border town called Benaco, where you will transfer to the Rusumo border. The ticket costs 20,000 tsh and I used the Nyehunge bus line.

You can purchase your bus ticket the day before at the ticket office (located near Buzaruga bus station) or the morning of departure at the new bus station (Nyegezi) where the bus leaves. If you do the latter, get there early to make sure you get a spot. I would recommend going early regardless to get a window seat- you will be thanking me for this later.

Getting from Mwanza to the Rusumo border

The bus is scheduled to depart at 5:30AM but we left closer to 6:00. I arrived around 5:00AM to claim my spot at one of the windows but to my surprise, the guy in charge was actually enforcing seat numbers (usually it’s just a free for all, but this dude ran a tight ship). In this case I was very happy I had gotten my ticket the day prior as they had automatically assigned me a window.

The first stop is the Kimanga ferry, where you will get off the bus to purchase a ticket (500tsh) and walk onto the ferry. I was again shocked at the efficiency as the bus drove straight on the ferry and we departed shortly after. I had to hustle to get on board so anyone taking their time would have been left behind. We had a while on the ferry to enjoy the sunrise but were ushered back onto the bus before we arrived so we could drive off immediately after docking.

That didn’t put a dent in our 9 hour bus journey though. Once over the lake, the bus drives continuously until Benaco. A few stops are made to pick up new passengers who stand in the aisle (hence why I wanted a window seat) but no stops are official rest breaks so prepare your bladder. Definitely pack food and water (I use the Platypus bottle), though you can buy drinks, peanuts, bread and fruit from the bus windows during the brief stops. You may also want to pack some baby wipes or cleansing wipes as you will get really dusty by the window. Hand sanitizer is also a must!

What to expect at Benaco

Once at the Benaco bus station you can use a toilet located at the back or grab food or drinks from the stalls. Then you need to transfer to the Rusumo border crossing, so take shared taxi for 3000 tsh (the taxi is essentially a normal car packed to the brim with bodies). I shared one with a few mamas and their babies, so I was quickly handed a toddler to hold for the bumpy 15 min ride.

The border was a little confusing (though it could have been my sleep deprived brain) so here are all the details you need to know.

Pro tip: The Tanzanian tourist visa is not multi-entry so once you leave it is void.

What to expect at Rusumo

The first building you will see is customs to enter Tanzania. I went in to get my exit stamp and was told that this will occur at Rwanda customs across the Rusumo bridge (weird but true). You can either take a motor bike taxi across the Rusumo bridge or walk. I walked and it’s about 10 minutes downhill and then another 5 over the bridge until you see the Rwanda customs building.

You will first report to the Tanzania desk to ‘exit’, and they will send you to the Rwanda visa desk. They give you a piece of paper that says $100 USD (assuming you are getting the East African visa) and then send you to the bank window. You pay cash, receive a slip and return to the Tanzania desk for your exit stamp (no idea why you have to go there twice, but I watched him give me the exit stamp the second time I was there). The guy who gave me the exit stamp was the same man to print my East African visa and put it in my passport (like I said, confusing and a lot of back and forth between desks in the same room).

100$ and 30 min later I was off again.

Pro tip: there are no ATMs at the border, so you don’t really have a choice but to exchange money. There are money changers on both sides of the border who are slightly aggressive but gave me a decent rate from Tanzanian shillings to Rwandan Francs. I only lost about 1000 tsh (50 cents) doing this so not too bad. You will need to have your bus fare to Kigali (3,500RW), taxi fare to get to your hotel from the bus station (a boda is 1,000RW) and extra for food or drink before you depart. I purchased a bottle of Coca-cola at the border for 1500 RW.

Getting from the Rusumo border to Kigali

Almost immediately after crossing into Rwanda, no one understood my Swahili. I don’t speak French or the national language Kinyanada, so I found English worked best.

The minibus ride from Rusumo to Kigali is around 5 hours or 160km and costs 3,500 RW — we arrived around 9:00pm. People get on and off often so it is very slow but much more comfortable than the Tanzanian bus. Immediately I felt the air was cooler, the bus was less cramped and hot, and the roads were better. The last stop is the Nyabugogo bus station, but I recommend checking where the bus stations in relation to your hotel in case you can get off sooner. I took the bus to Nyabugogo and ended up back tracking via boda boda to get to my hostel because my phone had died and I couldn’t get on a map.

Pro tip: I recommend maps.me, a mobile app which you can use offline after downloading the country map. I also recommend an external charger to ensure you always have a charged phone in transit (I use and love this one by Anker).

What to expect arriving in Kigali

There are motor bike taxis virtually everywhere in Kigali and a base rate is 500-1000 RF. I found drivers here did not try to rip me off as much in Tanzania, despite the language barrier. If you have a lot of luggage or just prefer taking a taxi, you can find ones for a couple thousand RF, otherwise there are tons of motor bikes at the entrance of the bus station.

If this article was helpful, let me know in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my border guide series for more useful info to plan your trip around East Africa. If you are continuing into Uganda, refer to my overland travel around Lake Victoria itinerary.

Happy travels!

Like it? | SHARE or CLICK this photo to PIN it

Pssst…this post contains affiliate links.

If you purchase a product through one of my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

This goes towards the cost of maintaining this ad-free website and creating free content for readers like you!

Please read my disclosure for more info. 

Thanks for your support.

The post Getting from Tanzania to Rwanda: The Rusumo Border Crossing appeared first on .

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