I got into Dar es Salaam after a wonderful introduction to East Africa in Seychelles. My Couchsurf host picked me up from the airport. Another couchsurfer from Japan was staying with him. We chatted and she gave me tips on the other countries I would be visiting. I stayed in Dar (the capital) for 3 days before leaving to Zanzibar. While in Dar, I met up with three other couchsurfers and one of them gave me a tour of the city center. He is a tour guide, speaks great English and very knowledgeable. We had breakfast at the Fish Market and visited a few of Dar’s historical sites.
I also went to the craft market – varieties of things to buy at a very decent price. In my opinion, the craft market in Tanzania is the best in the region in terms of varieties and price.
I took the ferry to Zanzibar, it was a comfortable ride. I was picked up by my AirBnb host, we walked to the place and I was extremely disappointed with the place. I felt uncomfortable and immediately went out in search of another accommodation. Two hours later, I moved to a hotel called Keki’s house. It cost $45/night and only cash payment was accepted. The staff and manager made me feel comfortable. In fact, that night I was invited to a beach party an hour away from StoneTown by the manger. The beach party was at Ngalawa Beach Resort, a beautiful place own by a friendly Canadian couple. The food was delicious and they played mostly Nigerian music :).
I went on a walking city tour with the tour guide from Keki’s house hotel. I also had my hair done by a Massai guy. I watched the sunset from some of Stonetown’s finest rooftop restaurants. I meet some great and not so great people. I had great and some not so great experiences in Zanzibar. Overall, I’m glad I had a chance to visit this historical town.
This East African country stole my heart. Definitely, Kenya is my favorite country in East Africa. It felt like home coming. I was accepted as one of them as soon I landed at the Mombasa airport. I went straight to Diani beach, Diani is about 45mins from Mombasa town, all would have to cross via ferry. Diani was very quiet, I can see why most people would love it there. This is villas, hotels and guesthouse galore. I spent a night there and the next day I went to explore Old Mombasa town. Nothing much here except the Fort Jesus and old neighborhood surrounding it where you can find colonial styled buildings. I took the night bus to Nairobi, something I wouldn’t do again. It was a long bumpy and uncomfortable 10 hours ride to Nairobi. The bus wasn’t at its cleanest, the roads was in very bad shape. No sleep on that bus.
Next morning, I arrived in Nai (short for Nairobi) smelly and tired. I settled into the Airbnb I stayed effortlessly, one would think I’ve lived in Nai before. The house was in a perfect location, the wi-fi at the house was excellent, and various restaurant and bars close by.
Some of the things I did in Nai was going to the Elephant orphanage, Giraffe center, Kenyatta International Conference center and a tour of the city center. The best part was hanging out with folks from Nairobi.
Kenya especially Nairobi felt like home. Nairobi is now on the list of places I would love to live in.
I arrived at Entebbe from Nairobi. Entebbe is about 30minutes to Kampala. People thought I was Kenyan :). I got to my couchsurf house mid-day and was not feeling the vibe I was getting especially from her brother. I usually stay with females living with their family but this host never mentioned a brother living with her. Anyways, the next day I convinced my host to go with me to a site that has this amazing tree. The tree is supposed to have supernatural powers. I’m obsessed with trees so I wanted to see. The tree was pretty big and interesting looking. The guides there sucked pretty bad though.
I left the cousurf place the next day because the brother was really creeping me out. I moved into an Airbnb place that was pretty awesome. I decided to visit Jinja to see the river Nile. I did a sunset cruise and enjoyed the view from the hostel. The view is dope. I returned to Kampala and did the best city tour ever. The tour was with a motorbike, it is safe and all. We stopped at various places including the King’s palace, Gadaffi’s Mosque and the Bahai Temple. I loved the tour!
I was sad to leave Uganda. The food here tasted wayyyyyyy better than that in Tanzania, Kenya or Rwanda. It has flavor.
The last stop on my 11 country trip. I know for most of us, when we think of Rwanda, we automatically think Genocide. But there are many other aspect of Rwanda. I didn’t know what to expect when I took the 10 hours bus ride from Kampala, Uganda. I was picked up by the Airbnb host, I was able to get a sim card before getting to where I would be staying. Compared to the other countries I visited in East Africa, Rwanda is so laid back.
It is also most likely, the cleanest country in Africa. You can eat off the ground, it’s that clean. The country is experiencing an ongoing transition from Franco-phone country to Anglo-phone country so more people speak English now. I met up with two expatriate friends and a couchsurfer. I visited three genocide memorial sites. I saw way too many skeletons. My tour guide took me to two of these sites. He lost his family during the genocide.
I attended part of the film festival as well. I did an overnight trip to Lake Kibuye. The hotel I stayed at had an amazing view! I did an hour boat cruise of the lake – awesome experience. The bus ride was ok, the roads were in great condition. The view in Kigali is a killer especially at night. The city is surrounded by mountains. I would visit again.
As a kid, when we traveled as a family, my mother did all the packing. We would pack everything and anything. My mother’s motto was to pack for all situations. So each person ended up with two luggage and a carry on. Fast forward to 2008, when I took my first solo trip. I went to Guatemala for two months and I had a large suitcase, carry on and backpack. Guess what, I didn’t even wear more than half of what I packed. I also learned that over packing made traveling inconvenient. Since then, I have improved on my packing skills (still not an expert). For instance, when I backpacked across Colombia and Central America for a year, I had only a 60 litre backpack. Since then, I only travel with an 18inches carry on and a small backpack.
So you might wonder, how do I decide what to pack? Mostly, the weather of my destination decides this. I mostly pack a pair of skinny jeans, leggings, a nice dress, one or two dressy tops and a few casual tops and my medications (I have allergies and sensitive tummy). I also pack along a party shoe, scandal, flip flop, good walking shoes, a good book (I exchange it when done for another one), contact lenses and essential toiletries. A pair of sunglasses always come in handy especially when you have contact lenses on. Prescription sunglasses are other alternative for those that prefer not to use contact lenses. However the two things that I ALWAYS pack with me are a sarong and my phone.
Sarong is vital especially for the budget traveler. The differences uses of Sarong:
- I use it as a towel – traveling with a towel takes up space so I opt for a Sarong.
- At the beach – since I don’t travel with a towel, my sarong serves the same purpose at the beach
- As a scarf
- As a covering sheet for chilly nights – I get cold real easy so sometimes when I stay in hostels, I’ve had to use my sarong at night because I was cold.
- Recently, I had to wrap my sarong around myself in order to enter a scared site in Uganda
The best part about the sarong is it weighs nothing hence can fit in your bag. Also when used as a towel, it dries quickly since it is made of light fabric.
My phone (this includes the charger, universal converter and power bank). Typically, I am not a phone person but when traveling, it makes my life easier. How I use my phone abroad:
- I have an unlocked phone so I can get a sim card when I arrive at most countries for equivalent of USD$2. This makes it easier to coordinate with my local contacts and friends.
- I don’t have a camera so my phone serves as my camera.
- My favorite part is the apps (Google Map, AirBnB, Couchsurfing, Currency Converter & WalkLogger).
- Google Map: I struggle with directions so my phone comes to my aid. During my travel in Nairobi, Kenya this July, locals I asked for directions were unable to give me exact directions so I turned to Google Map and Voila, I get directions to where I’m going. I remembered the time a taxi driver in Istanbul tried to take a longer route to get more money off me, Google Map saved the day. I simply turned on the map and politely asked why he wasn’t taking that route. The expression on his face was priceless.
- I recently started using AirBnB on my two months summer trip. I would send a request for a place in Mombasa, Kenya while I was traveling in Zanzibar, Tanzania a while before my trip to Kenya. The app made this possible.
- Currency converter app made it very convenient for me. This summer, I planned to visit 11 countries with varying currencies and exchange rates. It also helped when exchanging money (making sure I wasn’t getting cheated) or when buying something.
Note: using my phone while traveling is convenient for me, first because I use T-Mobile and with its global coverage, I have access to free unlimited texts and data in about 100 countries. For the countries not included in T-Mobile global coverage, I use the data package for the local sim card I purchased.
What are your two must have items when traveling?