Africa for first-timers: Two weeks as mzungu

Africa for first-timers: Two weeks as mzungu

At the end of March, I had an unbearable need to book a flight ticket to somewhere. Somewhere I have never been. I dreamed about going to Africa for a really long time and this time I finally did it. I book a trip to Tanzania. Somehow Tanzania stroke me as an ideal country for first-timers in Africa. three months later there I was.

Africa for first-timers: my first experience

Zanzibar airport
View from a coffee shop on Zanzibar airport


Even though I went to Tanzania at the end of June, my very first experience began at the time when I booked my ticket at the local airline. I booked it through the agent because the price was cheaper there. But to be honest, I had so much better experience communicating with the Tanzanian airline itself. It was enough to ask for something and in two hours I usually got an answer and solution. I slowly started to picture Tanzania as a really developed country.

Not that I would be completely wrong, but let’s just say that Zanzibar airport looks exactly how I would picture African airports. The building that looks more like a stable rather than airport in the middle of palm trees and one big runway. After arrival, I got to have some time at the airport because I had to wait for another plane to my final destination.

Do you know how in most airports you have a lot of coffee shops and restaurants, also a lot of nice toilets? There were two here. And they looked really African with all the trees and palms and everything like this around. It was so different. Even very different than Peru.

Tribals, tourists and other people I have met

Africa for first-timers
“TIA” is one of the first sentences to understand in Africa for first-timers

What I didn’t know when I arrive was the fact that everyone here has a tribal and that tribal has its own stories and languages. And later they learn Swahili and after that, they learn English. If they learn English, they would almost insist that every tourist is talking at least a little bit of Swahili. The good thing about this is the fact that Swahili seems to be quite easy so at least I didn’t feel like an idiot the whole time.

One of the first thing that I have noticed is that when it comes to streets, locals are moving like water. They would get all-around in any way possible to make their way through. So you might feel like someone is constantly trying to take your bag or something but for most of the time, it is not the case.

Another thing that fascinated me is the fact that locals are living with two main phases. The first one you will hear is Hakuna Matata. Which means “no worries” as the Lion King movie told you. “Can I have breakfast early?” “Sure, Hakuna Matata!” This drove me crazy when we stand in a traffic jam on our way to the airport. But hey, I made it, so Hakuna Matata.

The second phrase that I heard a lot was “This is Africa you know?” This phrase you usually hear when something stressful is happening or if things are not going your way. Once I booked a tour to Prison Island. So the guy went with me to the docks and started to argue with local fishermen on who is going to take me there and back. It didn’t look like he is good at it and at some point, he just turns around and said “This is Africa you know? A lot of talking!”

Africa for first-timers: Tourists

Hakuna Matata!
Hakuna Matata!

There are two kinds of tourists that you would find anywhere else. The luxurious ones and the backpackers. But there is also extra kind. The people who volunteered here and then they are traveling around. They usually know some Swahili and they are eager to fight more for prices. If you are in Africa for the first time, these are the people you need to find. They know the cost and they would tell you where to go and how to orient yourself around chaotic towns.

Overall, they are great to have them on your trip. The only annoying thing is that you can no longer complain. I didn’t like the toilet in a lot of facilities in Tanzania because I’ not used to squat. Well, they have seen worse so no complaining about this. They have also seen more trash, ate worse food and these kinds of things.

The white things we do

In Europe, we don’t have that many people of color. Of course, there are some but I have never heard that this is white of me. I usually heard that something is Eastern European of me. So this was my first time.

The funniest story I got from this was when some kids in the local village showed me a chameleon that they just found. I said that it is nice and that back in home, we would keep them as pets in terrariums. Well, that is very white of us to keep lizards, often dangerous ones in the house. They laughed and just said that here in Africa they would run from these animals so they don’t understand our need to keep them inside. I can get behind that logic, I wouldn’t understand that either.

Africa for first-timers: Conclusion

Africa for first-timers

There are a lot of things that surprised me during my first time in Africa. But most of them were positive. From the very nice people to amazing nature and everything around. I would really recommend Tanzania to everyone as a really safe country to go for first-timers. Feels like after that I got braver and already planning my next adventure to some other African country.

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5 Replies to “Africa for first-timers: Two weeks as mzungu”

  1. I’ve only been to North Africa. Right in the middle of it, I can well imagine that some things would also surprise me very much.
    Thanks for the pictures and the inspiration.

  2. This is so interesting! I’ve never been to Africa, but it’s definitely on my list. I would love to see a beautiful sunset in Africa. This post was really interesting because you mentioned a lot of things I don’t know, like the “Hakuna Matata” and “This is Africa” phrases. Great job! I’d love to read more about your time in Africa!

  3. I have never been to Africa but do want to go at least once in my life. I am the type of person who will read every “Africa for the first time posts” so thanks for writing yours! And I LOVE Blood Diamonds!

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