Ask Lonely Planet: African safari off the beaten track

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Africa's diversity offers a wide range of experiences for travellers. Photo / Jim Eagles
Africa's diversity offers a wide range of experiences for travellers. Photo / Jim Eagles

I'm thinking about going on a trip to Africa. What countries do you recommend as both safe and less visited by tourists? What health precautions do you recommend?
- Abbo van Neer

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater write:

Africa is an extremely diverse continent, the sum total of around 50 countries, tens of thousands of ethnic groups, and landscapes that span the full spectrum of the natural world's repertoire. The adventures you can experience there are just as wide-ranging.

While it's not always an easy place to travel in, most of it is far from the hellhole racked with civil war, plague, famine and crime often portrayed in the media.

The New Zealand Government's travel advisory website provides status reports on each country.

Similar sites in Australia and Britain include additional information.

According to these sources, countries where "normal safety precautions" should be exercised include Benin, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, and Togo.

Travel to the following countries, among others, is not recommended at this time: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The World Health Organisation website also has information for travellers.

Don't forget to take out comprehensive travel insurance, including emergency evacuation.

Once you're in Africa, drink only well-sealed bottled water and soft drinks. If you are unsure of water quality, boil it. In high-risk malaria countries, cover yourself up and use insect repellent.

Italian language for beginners

My sister and I are going to work in Italy for three months in the vineyards and we do not know much Italian. I am taking a beginner's course, but how much will we need to know to get by and not appear rude?
- Kate

Unlike many other European countries, English is not widely spoken in Italy.

Of course, you'll manage in the main tourist centres, but in the countryside and south of Rome you'll need to master at least a few phrases.

This will enhance your experience considerably, especially when buying food from markets, or dining in restaurants where there are often no written menus.

Lonely Planet publishes the comprehensive Italian phrasebook and handy Fast Talk Italian for the essentials. The Italy guidebook also includes a language section with basic phrases and key words.

If you make an effort to converse in the mother tongue, most folk will go out of their way to help you.

In bocca al lupo! (or "into the mouth of the wolf!").

- NZ Herald

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