Travel mistakes you should avoid on trips to rural areas

A van stuck in Lake Mburo National park. PHOTO/RAJAB MUKOMBOZI

What you need to know:

  • Preps. Travelling to a rural area is inevitable. This could be for a work assignment, a social event such as a wedding or burial but also for vacation.
  • Whatever it is there are some mistakes you ought to avoid if you are to have a great trip, writes Rajab Mukombozi.

Recently, a former colleague at university now working for an international NGO had assignments in Nakivale Refugee Settlement camp and its vicinities. He rang me asking about the distance from Mbarara city to the camp. It was all good until his travel day when he found all roads to his destination cut off by floods at around 3pm. 

His vehicle got stuck in the muddy road and was short of options. I connected with colleagues from Isingiro District who rescued him at around 5pm. Such a scenario taught me how unprepared he was for the journey because he had only been concerned about the distance.

Poor research
Travellers to rural areas should do not do good research of their destination. Some of the urban corporates have never experienced a typical rural set up. So, they dwell on a few things such as  having enough fuel, spare tyres, cash, a fully charged mobile phone and  directions to their destination. However, you could have all the above but get stuck on the road for days on end, fail to get a place to dine or even buy food and one cannot make a call because the telephone signal is weak. 

Thus, if you intend to make such a trip to do some research about your destination. Get to know key things such as the terrain of the area, the weather conditions at the time of travel and the history of the place you are travelling to.

Over relying on one source for direction
Also, trusting directions by locals. True most locals are friendly and accommodative but when it comes to giving directions they might not be as accurate which will end up confusing you. For example, another friend was going to Kyegegwa District through Ibanda then Kazo to his destination Kyegegwa but, because of the wrong and poor sense of direction, he found himself almost reaching Sembabule District. Imagine a local telling one to drive and turn left at the given landmark but when you get there, you realise it is the end of the said road. So do not rely on the first person you come across because they could be new in the areas and not want to disappoint you. Try to ask as many as possible after every short distance to ensure you stay on track.

Ignoring advice
Another mistake to avoid while travelling to a rural area is ignoring local people’s advice. It is common that some people travelling to rural areas assume they are superior to the locals and do not want associate with the local people. 

For example, the rural people in Ankole after noticing peculiar people, they refer to them saying Abo naba Kampala (those people are from Kampala) , because of either their children who can barely speak their mother tongue and can only use English or Luganda and dress ‘a bit differently’. 

This social gap makes more travellers tend to ignore the natives’ advice yet they are more conversant with this area and could save you from wrong elements such as thieves, transport glitches for example, broken bridges and impassable roads and travel restrictions in the area. Try to be friendly and listen in.

Be sensitive about the people’s culture and beliefs
Learn about people’s culture and beliefs otherwise you may find yourself in conflict with the community you are going to. Some people do not hug, peck in public, some women are restricted from wearing trousers to certain functions. 

Be respectful, open-minded  to mix and absorb a culture in an interactive way for your stay in that area. After all, you will not be there forever. In some communities, failure to respect their culture and beliefs is as good as offensive. Endeavour to be tolerant.

Budget well
Travelling to rural areas like any other travel you need to have a budget and enough resources with you. Gone are the days when people assumed that rural settings had cheapest commodities things ranging from foodstuffs to other needs. Most rural areas are now turning semi-urban with money driving economies. While there, do not underestimate your budget because you are going to the rural area. So create your budget and stick to it to avoid frustration. 

Also try packing your own food and refreshments because you might fail to get options for the right food and refreshments while there. 

Jesca Mwine, a local tour guide in Mbarara City, advises that travellers do sufficient  preparation to include all-weather clothes, have a spare tyre, wheel spanner, and flashlight. 
Also, do a pre-travel checklist.