Skip to main content

East Africa

East Africa
Click to enlarge

Our tips for a safe trip to East Africa 

The scenic landscapes of East Africa draw visitors hoping to see wild animals, in particular the ‘big five’ – rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion and mountain gorilla. The earliest human skeletal remains have been found in East Africa and the region is considered a wellspring of human genetic diversity.

Am I at risk from food- and water-borne diseases on a trip to East Africa?

Food- and water-borne diseases do occur in East Africa. You can protect yourself by making sure you have up-to-date shots for typhoid, cholera and hepatitis A. You should also look after yourself by following normal travellers’ food and water precautions.

Medical facilities in East Africa

Travel insurance is vital for a trip to East Africa. You will have to pay for any medical treatment you receive. The healthcare infrastructure is patchy, and anyone requiring complex treatment will have to be evacuated.

Great Lakes region

Lying in the Rift Valley are Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria, the second and third-largest fresh water lakes in the world. Others include Lakes Albert and Edward, Lake Malawi, Lake Kivu and Lake Turkana. Schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease, is a problem in some areas and you should seek good local advice before swimming in any of these lakes.

Will I need malaria prophylaxis for a trip to East Africa?

Anti-malarials are a must for travel in East Africa. You may be exposed to a number of dangerous diseases through mosquito bites in East Africa. These include Zika, yellow fever, dengue, sleeping sickness and rift valley fever. You should practise mosquito-bite avoidance wherever possible. Tetse flies, which carry sleeping sickness, can be found in parts of East Africa, too. See our article on Insect-borne diseases.

Is there rabies in East Africa?

Rabies can be contracted from an animal bite in East Africa and if you are going to a remote region or if you will be working with animals, this vaccination will be recommended. Children should be vaccinated against rabies as they may get bitten while playing with animals. Always seek advice from a healthcare worker if you are bitten or scratched by an animal in East Africa, even if you have been vaccinated against rabies.

Altitude sickness

Are you planning to climb Kilimanjaro? You should be aware of the risks and symptoms of altitude sickness. Ask your travel health adviser.

Are any East African countries in the meningitis belt?

Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea are all in the meningitis belt. If your visit is between December and June (the dry season) a shot against meningococcal meningitis may be recommended. The bacteria that causes meningococcal meningitis is spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets, so this dangerous disease is very hard to avoid.

What other shots are recommended before I go to East Africa?

You should ensure that all your boosters, such as tetanus, diphtheria and polio, are up to date, and your healthcare adviser may recommend that you have a shot against hepatitis B.