Hi Reddit! My name is Oscar Scafidi and I am a professional travel writer, with a focus on Sub Saharan Africa. I have lived, worked and travelled in 30 African countries and am currently based in Tunis, Tunisia. I love travel in "difficult" destinations. In the past this has included: investigating piracy in Somalia for my Masters thesis, road tripping in Iraq, hiking the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan, climbing Jabal Haraz in Yemen, driving a 1973 Land Rover Series III from London to Liberia, kayaking 1,300km along Angola's longest river and driving from London to Russia and back via Abkhazia in a Volkswagen camper van with my brother!

This year I am writing my fifth book, the Bradt Travel Guide to Tunisia, and will be bringing you all along for the ride on my new YouTube channel: Scafidi Travels

I am keen to answer any questions you have on what it's like to be a travel writer, how I earn enough to pay the rent, how it is possible to write a guidebook during covid-19, how to get into the business as well as anything else you might want to know about. AMA!

Proof this is Oscar Scafidi answering your questions: Here is a Tweet I sent out from my Twitter account, @ScafidiTravels: https://twitter.com/ScafidiTravels/status/1349283959180578816

Proof I am a professional travel writer: Checkout my profile over at Bradt Travel Guides: https://www.bradtguides.com/author/oscar-scafidi/

Proof I kayaked, hiked and waded 1,300km along Angola’s longest river: Checkout our Guinness World Record here: https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/419505-fastest-time-to-travel-the-kwanza-river-by-kayak-canoe-team/

Or our documentary film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIfnrQJVDVo&t=

Or my talk at The Royal Geographical Society in London here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4P0QOe-t_c&t=

I hosted an AMA back in 2018 about my kayaking adventure down Angola's River Kwanza and am keen to make this one a similar success! https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/7yeyqp/i_am_oscar_scafidi_in_july_2016_i_kayaked_and/

[EDIT 16:00 GMT+1] Got to run out for an hour or two, but will be back to continue answering your questions after. Thanks for all your interest so far!

[EDIT 18:20 GMT+1] I'm back online! Will work through all the questions now!

[EDIT 21:35 GMT+1] I am signing off for the evening. Might check in one more time before going to sleep. Otherwise, I promise I will answer all your remaining questions tomorrow morning. Thanks so much for all the interest and support!

[EDIT 01:45 GMT+1] Back briefly!

[EDIT 09:00 GMT+1 Saturday 30 January] Back online this morning for an hour to answer any more questions.

[EDIT 14:15 GMT+1 Sunday 31 January] OK I think I have now addressed all the questions asked, so that's the end of the AMA! If I missed one for whatever reason, please give me a shout on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BradtTunisia or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/oscarscafidi/ (or even here on Reddit) and I'll be happy to chat. Thanks again for all your interest and support. Oh, and if you haven't done so already, please subscribe to my YouTube channel! https://www.youtube.com/c/ScafidiTravels

Comments: 217 • Responses: 98  • Date: 

LESSISMORE123440 karma

What are the things that you like about Tunisia compared to other African countries you visited?

Scafidi_Travels73 karma

There are a few aspects of Tunisia that make it stand out compared to other places I have visited on the continent:

- I like the unique culture here. It really doesn't feel appropriate to lump Tunisia into the MENA category, as it does not feel much like the rest of the Middle East (or even nearby countries like Morocco). This applies to some more surface-level stuff like language, national dress (and to a lesser extent, food), but also to the less obvious elements like the political sphere, gender roles and attitudes towards outsiders.

- The incredible wealth of archaeological sites, often completely empty of visitors, is like nothing else I have ever seen. Having studied archaeology at university, this is a huge draw. It's also probably why so many of the videos on my channel back in 2020 focussed on these sites.

- The road infrastructure. I drive thousands of kilometers for work to explore the country, and it's refreshing to not be dodging potholes all the time!

- The overall security environment. I know that there are parts of the country that are not safe due to insurgency / porous borders, and others that are currently affected by rioting, but overall it is nice to not have to worry too much about being robbed at gunpoint when travelling around the country.

- I love that Tunisia is a cheap place to live, although I am aware that one of the reasons for this is the controlled currency, which makes life hard for many Tunisians.

- There's a great entrepreneurial spirit amongst young people that I have met, who are battling the bureaucracy and setting up some really interesting companies / initiatives. Lots of Tunisians have reached out via social media to help with my writing project, and I really appreciate that.

- The variety of landscapes within the country is also a big draw, both personally and professionally. It makes my job of selling Tunisia much easier if it can offer snowy pine forests, wind-swept dunes, rugged mountains, amazing Mediterranean beaches etc., as this draws a more diverse crowd of tourists.

LESSISMORE123419 karma

Thanks for your feedback. I agree Tunisians have a great entrepreneurial spirit, they are very passionate and can be extremely innovative. Life is definitely cheaper for someone coming from "outside" even though it can be quite challenging for most Tunisians. Thanks again for your reply and hope you enjoy the rest of your visit here. Cheers!

Scafidi_Travels19 karma

Thanks! I intend to live in Tunisia well after the guidebook project is finished. Imagine I will not leave until 2023 / 2024. This place is awesome.

Bashir_Chitown22 karma

Hello Scafidi and welcome to Tunisia ,if you are interest I can arrange for you to meet DEBO the underground artist movement that range from graffiti, Music and other forms of Art that is trying to keep the idea of revolution alive and try to protect people's wright to the way of life they desire https://www.facebook.com/debomoov/

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

This sounds great! Please message me so we can link up!

sanders2020dubai19 karma

How can one become a travel writer?

Scafidi_Travels35 karma

Let me break it down into five top tips for you! You can watch all this advice as a video on my channel if you prefer! Covid-19 has made getting paid to write about travel much more difficult, but all of this advice is still valid:

  1. Be specialised
  2. Be an expert
  3. Watch your digital footprint
  4. Be creative in your sources of funding & pitch widely
  5. Keep your expenses low by getting free stuff!

Be specialised

Pick a niche that you are interested in and stick to it. That might be a specific region (which for me is Africa) or it could even be as specific as one country. You might decide that you are really keen on writing about international cuisine, or Middle Eastern culture or fashion in Japan or ultra-luxury travel. It doesn’t really matter. There are thousands of ways to view and write about the world. But if you pick an area that you are passionate about, that will show through in your work. If you are consistent in focussing on that area, then you will attract the kind of engaged following that you want, and it will make you easier to find for commissioning editors and other clients. Most importantly, if you carve out a niche, you will build up another really important attribute in your work, which is expertise.

Be an expert

Readers want to hear from experts, not people who parachuted in for a week, or did most of their research online. You have to be honest with your audience and expertise is difficult to fake. So do your research, speak the language, live in the place, engage with the other people in the same field as you. Becoming an expert doesn’t necessarily have to cost money, but it is going to cost you time. This is a process you can start in school: take the creative writing courses, pick up the languages you think will be useful, learn to take feedback and edit based on that feedback.

Expertise is what makes you stand out when applying for a job. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a commissioning editor: they must get thousands of emails every year from people wanting to get paid to go to Thailand or Paris or some other popular tourist destination. So why should they pick you? What makes you more qualified than the other applicants to talk on that subject? If you can answer that question clearly and confidently (without coming across as too abrasive) then you’re one step closer to getting paid to travel. I was recently asked by an Angolan Ministry to help them devise a tourism development plan for a river in their territory called the Kwanza River. Why did they ask me? Partly because I’ve written a guidebook to their country and partly because I’ve kayaked along that river. In their eyes at least, that makes me an expert!

Scafidi_Travels28 karma

Watch your digital footprint

One way a commissioning editor is going to gauge your expertise is by Googling you, and checking out your social media presence. The term for this is your “digital footprint”. A lot of employers look at this now. I can’t emphasise this enough: your digital footprint is your CV / resume.

So, if a commissioning editor Googled your name tomorrow, what would they find? What would they see on your Twitter account, or your public Facebook posts, or your Instagram or Snapchat stories? And what does this say about you?

What about your LinkedIn profile? BTW, I have received loads of work offers through people searching for “Equatorial Guinea” on LinkedIn, so if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, please set one up immediately!

So how can you curate your digital footprint, and make sure potential future employers see what you want them to see, not some embarrassing post from years ago that might cost you a job?

The first thing you can do is be sure to post new content that is in line with your personal brand. If you’re claiming that you’re an expert on Thailand, then the first page of Google search results someone sees after typing your name should probably be your travel articles about Thailand!

My entire first page of Google search results is my professional profiles from my publisher and LinkedIn plus a load of stuff about my travel writing, my documentary film and links to my books. You can see that my footprint is pages and pages of content relevant to my job. Google even lets you edit your own Knowledge Panel over on the right there if you get verified with them (which is a pretty straightforward process).

The second thing you can do is delete stuff that doesn’t fit with your personal brand. Social media stuff is pretty easy: just delete the post / Tweet / story (if you are the author). If you are not the author then things get a little more complicated, especially if you’re not an EU citizen.

If you’re an EU citizen you’re in luck: you have the right to be forgotten, which means if you ask Google to take negative personal information about you off their search engine, they have to comply. Just search for their Personal Information Removal Request Form or EU Privacy Removal form, fill it out and they should de-link the offending page from your name in the search results.

If you’re not an EU citizen then it’s more complicated, but you can pay services such as DeleteMe to adjust or remove your digital footprint. There are plenty of good guides here on YouTube if you want to follow one.

Bottom line: Google yourself, and make sure you’re happy with what you find!

Be creative in your sources of funding & pitch widely

Research trips can be expensive and the pay doesn’t tend to be very high for travel writing gigs, so you need to be creative to stretch the funds that you do have and get the job done to a high standard.

At its simplest, you want to get paid as much as possible for each trip, while keeping your out of pocket expenses as low as possible.

Starting with the pay, you want multiple commissions on each trip (so stack up your jobs). If somebody is paying you $300 for a photostory about the architecture in a capital city, who else can you persuade to pay you for different bits of work while you are there? A few hundred dollars is not much, but if you can stack up five or six of these commissions while on assignment, then the trip begins to be profitable.

Also, pitch and sell your work widely. It’s not just magazines and travel websites that will pay for your writing and pictures. What about doing some copy writing or photography for a travel company that offers this destination to their clients? What about contacting companies that run travel advice websites or Apps? Maybe advertisers? What about the Ministry of Tourism in the host country themselves - could you do something for them while you are there? You’re going to get a lot of rejections, but the more relevant pitches you send out, the better your chance for success.

Keep your expenses low by getting free stuff!

Now onto the expenses: it’s rare to get a job as a freelancer where a client is willing to pay your travel expenses (amazing as this may sound). Bradt Travel Guides don’t give me a Gold expenses card to spend on 5* hotel rooms and lobster dinners. They’ll agree a flat fee with you. Whatever you don’t spend on expenses, you get to keep as pay. In this situation, the less you spend the better! So contact service providers and shamelessly ask them for free or discounted stuff. Hotel rooms, vehicle rentals, anything really, as long as you can articulate a clear benefit to them. In 2018 I got unlimited free internal flights across Angola with the national airline TAAG. What did I have to do? Write to the head of the company and ask. Why did they agree? Because the national airline realised that what I was doing (encouraging tourism in their country) was beneficial to their business model. So find people that can help to bring your expenses bill down and ask them for help!

Until you’re established it’s going to be very difficult to persuade a business to give you free products. So until then, air miles anc credit card points are your best friend. Now I’m going to do a whole separate video on collecting these (because I’m obsessed). But put very simply: there are plenty of ways to collect air miles that don’t involve flying and you can use air miles and credit card points to drastically reduce your travel and accommodation costs while on assignment, which means you get to keep more of the money the client gave you to get the story done.

There are hundreds of great websites out there that give you advice on collecting these points. As a former UK resident I like Head For Points. Other good resources include The Points Guy, God Save The Points and the FlyerTalk forums.

dkunze7 karma

Having the credibility of Brandt goes a long way (along with your background)..but have you found that 'influencers' are making it harder for you in this area? Meaning, do you have to do more work now to get your freebies than before? I work in travel marketing and get messages weekly about 'let me come for free and I'll feature you on my podcast/instagram/youtube..." Most of these people have zero true influence and I have just tuned them out.

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

I think the Bradt name helps me here. There is no chance they would give me any free stuff if I just said I have a YouTube channel with 500 subscribers! Yes, influencers have definitely made this aspect of the job harder, but we don't get many influencers heading to most of the places I go in Africa!

snooysan3 karma

I just want to say that being a travel writer was my dream job as a kid!

I'm doing something else now, but it's cool to see someone actually living the travel writer life!

Scafidi_Travels1 karma


Classic_Anxiety_656413 karma

How is your daily life in Tunis, Tunisia different/similar to a typical local's life?

Scafidi_Travels20 karma


- I imagine I travel around the country a lot more than your average Tunisian person. I have been to 21 of the 24 governorates so far, and will be ticking off the last three as well as re-visiting many of them again this year. By the time the book is done later in 2021, I hope to have been to every major city / town / tourist attraction in the country.

- Being self employed and without children or an extended family in Tunis, the structure of my work day and work week would likely seem a bit odd.

- I get the feeling Tunisian police treat foreign drivers differently to how they treat the average Tunisian driver.

- Up until covid-19 hit, I imagine I got on a plane out of the country more frequently than your average Tunisian person.

- I cannot speak Derja, so I have to get by with French or English or Italian!


- I have just as much difficulty getting official permits and other bits of paper from various ministries as Tunisians do! Here's a good example from recently.

- I train at a local sports club, which seems to be a popular thing to do here.

- I spend a lot of time in shisha and coffee joints, which also seem very popular!

- I love the great outdoors, camping etc. and try to get out of town on free weekends. Randonnée seems to be a big thing here!

rab777hp6 karma

Can you speak more on using French/English/Italian? I speak all three and hope to visit Tunisia one day- is it like Morocco where most speak French or do you use all three most days?

Scafidi_Travels6 karma

Most people speak French. However, many of the young people also speak English and would much rather speak to you in English! Italian tends to be used only by the older generations, which is useful sometimes, as older people tend to be the ones in charges in the ministries etc...

Tunisoft_SKIDROW11 karma

I am Tunisian and have been following your work since you started writing the Bradt Travel guide for Tunisia.

I'd like to ask you how did you find Tunisian daily life, what are the main differences between other countries you've been working in for an extended period of time ?

Scafidi_Travels12 karma

Thanks for supporting my project!

Overall, the main difference I find is that Tunis is the easiest place in Africa I have ever lived. This tends to be a controversial view when I share it (both with expats here and with Tunisians), but I guess it's all about context.

Before moving to Tunisia I lived in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Madagascar is the poorest country in the world without an active conflict going on. So the development levels there are very different to Tunisia, when it comes to quality of healthcare, availability of food products, the state of the infrastructure and cost of flights out. I loved my time in Madagascar, and would like to go back soon, but life was much more difficult there than it is in Tunisia, especially when I got sick!

Likewise, I lived in Luanda, Angola, for the period of time when it was the most expensive city in the world for expats to live in. By comparison, Tunis was ranked by Mercer this year as the cheapest city in the world to live in, of the 209 cities they surveyed. Again, I loved my five years in Angola, but I did not love the $100 watermelons! I understand that the artificial currency peg on the Tunisian Dinar causes many problems for many Tunisians, but it makes Tunis a much more affordable city for those with access to foreign currency.

I also lived in Khartoum, Sudan 15 years ago. Again, it was a wonderful experience, and the Sudanese are some of the most welcoming people I have met in Africa. But Khartoum was not an easy place to live, in terms of water and power outages, Malaria and the difficulty of travelling around the country due to the travel permit system and security concerns.

Overall, I find Tunisian daily life to be safer, more affordable and easier to meet my needs in terms of finding anything from food to car parts, than anywhere else I have lived in Africa. I love it!

Jonafushi9 karma

Who is the most interesting person you've met while travelling and why?

Scafidi_Travels26 karma

I've met lots of fascinating people on my travels:

Met Dave Conroy "Canadian Dave" who was on a crazy solo cycle tour around Africa back when I was in Namibe, southern Angola in 2013. His story of quitting the rat race and living on the road was so fascinating we invited him to speak to the students at Luanda International School!

Met the Angolan Vice President Bornito de Sousa back in 2019 on a book launch in Luanda, Angola. You might expect that he would have to be some kind of Frank Underwood-type political operator to get to the powerful position he has, but he was actually a really down-to-earth, welcoming man. We had a chat about my kayaking expedition while pretending that there weren't film cameras everywhere! He actually found about about me from his Twitter account and invited me to the presidential palace to say thanks for promoting Angola in my writing!

I'll finish with my friends in Somalia from 2011 (read the story to see why their names are left out). They were brothers trying to earn a living as fixers in one of the most hostile parts of Somalia (Galkayo and the Puntland coastline, which at the time was full of pirate gangs). Cannot imagine what it must be like to grow up in that environment, but they were making it work, and we are still in touch today!

Minako-Metsuko8 karma

What are some dangerous/unexpected situations you have gotten into?

Scafidi_Travels15 karma

A quick top three:

  1. Getting attacked by hippos while kayaking and hiking 1,300km down Angola's longest river. You can check out that scenein our document of the trip Kayak The Kwanza (I have timestamped it for you).
  2. Getting lost in a minefield in the no-man's-land between the Wester Sahara and Mauritania. Not sure I ever wrote an article about that, but it was part of a wider journey in a 1973 Land Rover Series III from London to Liberia. You can read about the final sections of the trip here. I also have a playlist of very bad 2007 cameraphone footage from that trip here.
  3. My entire trip to Somalia in 2011, especially our time in Galkayo when there were running gun-battles happening outside our compound. Story here.

Minako-Metsuko6 karma

Woah, well your life certainly isn’t boring.

Scafidi_Travels6 karma

In those three particular incidences, I was wishing it were a little more boring (especially with the hippos!)

LouQuacious2 karma

How’d you like Mauritania? I’ve been hearing good things.

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

I enjoyed Mauritania, but this was a long time ago (in 2007). We drove the length of the country, from the border with the Western Sahara to the border with Senegal. Nearly got blown up on the way in, getting lost in a minefield, which the border guards were not impressed with. Nouakchott wasn't much to look at, but we like it for our brief stay. There's a playlist somewhere on my channel of very grainy 2007 cameraphone footage from that trip: https://www.youtube.com/c/ScafidiTravels

heyinspiration7 karma

How do you see your career evolving in the wake of Covid-19 and heavy travel regulations?

Scafidi_Travels5 karma

Apart from covid-19 greatly slowing down my progress in terms of writing the new Bradt Travel Guide to Tunisia (1st Edition), the global pandemic hasn't made all that much difference to my career. In an effort not to put all my eggs into one basket, I have three major sources of income: travel writing, political risk & security consultancy and education (specifically, teaching secondary students a wide variety of Humanities subjects).

A reduction in income from travel writing can be made up for by increasing the amount of teaching I do (and wow, there is a massive amount of demand for online tutoring right now). Although I have not actually done this, because I am mainly focussed on my Bradt project right now.

Likewise, the global pandemic has made little difference to my political risk and security consultancy, which focusses mainly on Lusophone Africa. If anything, clients are asking for more information about the unfolding situation, and how it will impact their investments in Angola / Mozambique etc.

Speaking more broadly, I think the global travel industry is going to take many years to recover from this, and as a result, people who rely on travel writing for 100% of their income and going to need to work a lot harder or diversify their income sources.

concreteandkitsch7 karma

Hi Oscar - thanks for doing this AMA! We chatted a couple of weeks ago on twitter, and I’m excited to ask you some questions!

  1. What personal characteristics lend themselves to being a successful guide book writer?

  2. How much fluency in language is necessary to successfully write a guidebook? Especially thinking of destinations where English is less likely to be spoken.

  3. In places like Angola and Eq. Guinea (I imagine you traveled in both before visa restrictions were eased), what are some of the more difficult bureaucratic hurdles you’ve had to overcome? (I mention these two specifically over Tunisia because of their government’s notoriety around tourism, though I did watch your video on drone permits in Tunisia!)

  4. Do you keep multiple income streams while writing travel guides and if so how do you manage the balance?

  5. What parts of the guide book writing process are the most onerous to you?

  6. Any tips on pitching less visited nations? I’m interested in writing a guide for Mauritania but am concerned about it’s commercial viability. How did you end up convincing Bradt that Equatorial Guinea needed a guide?

Thanks so much for your time in answering these questions, Oscar!!

Scafidi_Travels5 karma

Thanks for joining the AMA!

  1. You need to be comfortable working independently for long periods of time, and self-motivated. Your publisher really won't hold your hand throughout the process. You also need to be very organised with your logistics in terms of gathering information efficiently. I guess you also need a weird blend of being comfortable travelling alone for long periods of time, but also being comfortable constantly interacting with strangers in a foreign country to gather the information you need!
  2. I think quite a lot. I would not be comfortable writing a guidebook to a country where I did not speak at least one of the official languages reasonably well. Perhaps it could be done in parts of the world where English is spoken more widely...
  3. In Angola I did not have too many issues because I had an employer in-country taking care of a lot of the bureaucratic procedures for me. For Equatorial Guinea it was extremely difficult to persuade them to even let me into the country. There was no such thing as a tourist visa at the time (I mean, it existed on paper, but I don't think they ever gave them out). Persuading the authorities that I was not a journalist or a spy was a lengthy process. I think it took 6 or 7 trips to the embassy in London over the course of 6+ months and a lot of paperwork, and I still didn't have my visa the week before I was due to fly out. Very stressful! Once in-country, things were equally difficult, as I then had to apply for a separate photography permit, tourism permit (!) and then contend with the suspicious questioning of various security forces, having my camera and phone taken from me at gunpoint etc. A real hassle.
  4. Yes I do. Not sure I manage the balance very well at times TBH. Generally speaking, if I am focussing on a guidebook I do not take on any more teaching or tutoring projects, and I refuse or sometimes outsource new consultancy work via my risk consultancy companies (just keeping the weekly / monthly reports going for pre-existing clients). Luckily I have partners who can help with this!
  5. Making the maps is a TOTAL pain! This is my fourth guidebook for Bradt and I still haven't worked out a good workflow for making it easier. I use GPS tags on MAPS.ME on my phone while I am walking around, but turning it from that into something that the cartographer can then develop into a finished map takes hours...and each book has 50-75 maps.
  6. Bradt have a fixed pitching document you need to fill out, which includes questions on the commercial side. You need to identify (and quantify) the potential audience for the guidebook. This includes both groups of people in-country and those outside. The more research you can do on this the better. For Equatorial Guinea, the hope was that it would be commercially viable mainly through sales to expats in-country (oil and gas industry) as well as the government themselves picking up thousands of copies to promote the country as part of their big tourism push at the time.

runeatdrinkrepeat7 karma

So I’m an American who has lived in West Africa. I’ve worked and lived in developing countries on three continents, and have traveled to over 30. I’m also white and female. In my experience, traveling is an entirely different experience for women (especially when traveling alone), and objectively much more dangerous. Do you account for gender differences in your travel writing, and how?

Scafidi_Travels7 karma

I agree that it's definitely a different experience. We have a large security section in each of our guides that discusses the various risks you may face, and then how these risks might change depending on who you are. The advice is informed by Bradt's in-house experience, various embassy security teams and my own views. I always need to canvass for opinions from female travellers / expats with experience in-country when putting this section together, as I might not have the same experiences being male.

runeatdrinkrepeat2 karma

Thanks so much for the response. Glad to see you account for the difference in experience and perspective!

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

No worries! I was supposed to have a meeting with a European embassy security expert a few weeks ago about this actually, but have had to reschedule due to covid-19.

Lolo_Lad_216 karma

I’ve always wanted to travel Africa and fully intend on doing so.

What should one expect? Is it dangerous? Is it cheap?

Scafidi_Travels14 karma

Africa consists of at least 54 countries, so it's a very diverse continent! There are definitely parts that are dangerous (off the top of my head, I wouldn't suggest heading to southern Somalia or the Central African Republic or even certain parts of Cape Town). But then, there are plenty of places that are very safe!

Likewise, cost of living (or visiting) varies wildly across the continent. The rent on my apartment when I lived in Luanda, Angola was $9,000 per month, whereas my rent in Antananarivo, Madagascar (on a larger property) was closer to $500 per month. My economy ticket to get to Luanda from London (a 7 hour direct flight) was over GBP1300 when I flew out in 2009. But for me to get from London to Johannesburg, South Africa a few years ago cost only GBP400 (a 12 hour direct flight).

For a good indication of cost of living across Africa, check out something like the Mercer Cost of Living Index. Amazingly, Tunis is ranked as the cheapest city in the world for expats to live in, of the 209 cities surveyed. A lot of the items they look at are useful indicators for tourists on how expensive a visit will be.

The cheapest places I have been in Africa are rural Ethiopia and rural Sudan. You can definitely get by on a few USD per day in these places, but you will not be travelling in luxury!

For a better idea of what to expect if you visit Tunisia, check out my YouTube Channel!

TilionDC3 karma

You payed 9000usd per month in rent? Not even new york is that expensive.

Faithful_Functor3 karma

Oil and limited housing stock, it’s wild!

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

It is indeed!

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Thankfully, my employer did! It could have been worse: I had a friend paying USD25,000 a month for a house with a small garden...

AhShur-Lookit6 karma

What’s one meal you’ve had that you can’t stop thinking about? Where and what was it?

Scafidi_Travels18 karma

Great question! In 2013 I went on an epic road trip from Luanda in Angola to Douala in Cameroon, passing through Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon and Cameroon (but not Equatorial Guinea, as they wouldn't let us in!)

Anyway, we were out in the middle of nowhere in southern Gabon, and our taxi driver stopped to get lunch by the side of the road. A guy was selling some bushmeat that he had caught from the jungle and cooked on some coals. We tried to ask the guy (who only spoke broken French) what the animal was, but he did not know the name in French or English. So there proceeded a twenty minute game of charades, where we acted out different animals and he said yes or no. Our main aim was to establish that it wasn't any kind of monkey meat, as Ebola is endemic in that area. We also weren't keen on eating anything endangered like Pangolin...

To this day, we still have no idea what animal it was, although he told us it was common (definitely not endangered), the government allowed hunting of it, had four legs, had hooves, had little horns, and was about the size of a cat...

SecularMantis2 karma

Duiker, perhaps?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma


Fathelicus6 karma

What tunisian foods do you like so far? I suggest going to Chez Hattab in downtown Tunis and getting a plat tunisien

Scafidi_Travels7 karma

Thanks for the suggestion, I'll be sure to check out Chez Hattab!

So far, I really enjoyed the berzguen in El Kef and the crazy variety of local cheeses I tried in Beja. Down in Tozeur they served me the only camel I have ever eaten that tasted half good, which was impressive.

When I am home in Tunis I eat a lot of brik and also love all of the seafood down in La Goulette. I also cannot get enough of baguette farsi when I am out and about!

Fathelicus4 karma

La goulette is amazing isnt it! My family lives all over tunis area but main in Radès so we go to la goulette a lot to eat. Cant wait to go back to tunisia

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

Yes, it's great! I read that at one stage it had more Italians in it than Tunisians or French citizens. You can really feel it in the general vibe of the architecture. Can't wait to write a section on the history of that place for the guidebook.

ShinjukuAce2 karma

I was in Tunis for four days in 2002 and they put mechouia on everything. I just remember chicken mechouia, frites mechouia, salad mechouia...

Scafidi_Travels4 karma


Everyone loves a bit of mechouia! That and tuna.

djazzie6 karma

I’m a freelance writer and US expat living in France. I’d love to be able to write travel articles, particularly about stuff that’s off the beaten path (beautiful hidden beaches, small out of the way restaurants, cute villages, etc.). I usually do business writing, but I’ve never done travel. How can I get a gig like that?

Scafidi_Travels14 karma

Getting paid for online travel writing was already very difficult, and covid-19 has only made this worse. It would be good to build up a portfolio of your travel writing that is easily accessible online (free of charge) and well publicised, to show to potential clients. I wrote for many years free of charge on adventure travel sites like https://polosbastards.com/ before I got any paid gigs.

I have a long video on my channel with tips on how to get into travel writing, but to give you a very short answer: you need to be hyper-specialised in terms of your focus, and you need to target potential clients who are making money directly from readers of your article (so for example, in-flight magazines or writing copy for adventure travel agencies is usually quite profitable).

4wdnumbat5 karma

How is covid affecting African countries? We never hear any news about it there.

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

People are dying of covid, but not nearly in the same numbers as in the more reported cases of Europe or the USA. I think this is partly to do with many countries in Africa having very young populations (which confers a certain level of natural immunity), along with very few people getting up into the 80+ highest risk categories. In many places, Malaria and other diseases are sadly a much bigger killer.

Some countries in Africa have just copied the European models and gone for harsh, sustained lockdowns and other control measures. Many development organisations are skeptical that these approaches are appropriate in a developing-country context (there's a good World Bank report about this here). Also, there have been problems with human rights abuses by security forces enforcing the new measures.

DC_Van5 karma

How did your career as a travel writer start? Was it a gradual transition from another niche?

Scafidi_Travels6 karma

It was a gradual transition from being an international school History teacher (with a focus on African history). If you would like to see this response as a video, check it out here on my channel.

How did I get my first paid writing gig?

In 2007 I drove a 1973 Land Rover Series III from London to Liberia down the west coast of Africa. That trip down West Africa ended up paying for itself quite quickly. When we got back to London I wrote to a load of Land Rover enthusiast magazines, asking if they wanted a write-up of our adventure. Our trip was pretty unique, as most sensible overland trips tend to go in a fully kitted out new Land Rover, not a 34 year old vehicle!

A number of magazines from the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa wrote back and said they wanted a write-up, offering between £250 and £550 for the text plus photos. Next thing you know: I am officially a professional travel writer! BTW: there is no chance you would get paid these amounts today!

How did I get a job writing for Bradt Travel Guides?

Before moving to Sudan in 2006 I remember noting that Bradt Travel Guides were the only English-language guidebook publishers that had a travel guide to Sudan. A couple of times when I was travelling around the country, a random Sudanese person would see me holding the guide, reach into his pocket and produce the author’s business card. “Mr Clammer” Paul Clammer! I met him when he was here!” This attention to detail and dedication to researching the country in-depth really set Bradt apart in my mind.

Now in July 2009 I moved to Luanda, Angola (again, a great topic for another video). Before going I wrote to Bradt and asked if they wanted me to write them a travel guide to Angola. They wrote back and said thanks but no thanks: we are just about to publish our first edition. So when the first edition came out, I was amazed to see that one of the authors, Sean Rorison, was an author on Polo’s Bastards, an adventure travel website that I also wrote for. I reached out to him to find out how he had got the job with Bradt and he gave me some really helpful advice. He also noted that he would not be in Angola to update the guide once Bradt wanted a second edition in 2012, so I should contact them and put my name forward and he would act as a reference. Fast forward three years, and Bradt did want a second edition, so they contacted me and I wrote it over a six month period in collaboration with the other previous author, Mike Stead. It was successfully finishing this Angola update with Mike that convinced Bradt I could be trusted with my own book, so in February 2014 I got the commission to write the Bradt Guide to Equatorial Guinea (1st Edition). And then in 2018 I got to write the new Angola 3rd edition.

Now the process is pretty simple: I pitch the country, and if Bradt like it they give me the contract to go and write the guide!

arithmetok5 karma

  1. Where in the world are you now? (Olá from rural Portugal!)
  2. What's your writing routine? Word count per day?
  3. Can you dig deeper into 'hyper-specific niches'? I'd love to see some other examples. e.g. I'm a woman who uses long-term travel and cannabis to regulate her mental health. Hyper specific enough?

Scafidi_Travels5 karma

Boa tarde!

  1. I am in Tunis, Tunisia.
  2. Depends where in the project I am. I tend to divide the book up by geographic chapter, then subdivide my time over the coming month into pre-trip research / on the ground data collection / writeup. I can hit thousands of words per day, but at the same time, might write nothing because I am in a ministry all day trying to get a permit. It totally depends!
  3. That sounds like a great niche! Now you need to go and find some potential clients, like magazines and businesses, who might pay for your copy. LinkedIn, Instagram and Google are your best friends here. I guess my niche up until moving to Tunisia was writing travel guides about places in Africa that tourists don't tend to visit (or conflict zones / post-conflict zones), so that should encourage you in terms of getting some money out of the long-term travel+cannabis+mental health angle!

arithmetok5 karma

I’m very encouraged! Thank you for the answers!

In your experience, what questions does profitable travel copy answer?

(Besides So What? and Who Cares?, of course)

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

No worries!

I think good copy answers "how do I...." and "is this feasible / practical / doable / safe". In fact, I often get told off by my editors for focussing too much on the practicalities of whatever trip I am talking about, and not using enough descriptive language! But if your words can give someone the confidence to head out and try something they wouldn't otherwise have tried, I think that's good travel writing.

JM6455 karma

Hi Mr. Scafidi,

How did you find living in Angola?

Were there things about culture in Angola that were shocking to see/learn/experience?

Is there a day or event that really marked your time there?

Scafidi_Travels4 karma

Hello! Do I take it from the Mr Scafidi that you are a former student?

There were definitely significant differences between the culture in Angola and the cultures I grew up in back in Europe (or the culture I had previously lived in, in Sudan). But nothing too shocking. I was really intrigued by the Angolan concept of confusão, which is used in so many contexts! Ryszard Kapuściński, an outsider, talked about it a lot in his 1976 book Another Day of Life, which I loved.

In terms of events that marked my time, I met my current partner in Angola (we have now been together for almost 9 years, and since lived in four countries). I also learned to speak Portuguese there (just about), which has made a huge difference to my work!

MeowasaurusRex6665 karma

How do you manage travel and maintaining relationships with people from home or abroad?

Also good luck in Tunisia! We had some friends visit and it sounds amazing!

Scafidi_Travels8 karma

Before the pandemic, managing travel and maintaining relationships was pretty easy. It just meant that I was on a plane a lot, racking up those airmiles! Although I have been based in Africa for many years, I jump back and forth to Europe a lot to see friends and family...which is often stressful as I absolutely hate flying! I'm also quite good at staying in touch digitally, via WhatsApp and Zoom etc.

But the pandemic has made this approach impossible, and really highlighted some of the shortcomings of the expat / digital nomad lifestyle. I have taken one set of flights in the past 14 months, and have not seen my family members since 2019. I imagine I will not fly back to Europe until June 2021 at the earliest, and I am unsure even of that, given the current development of the pandemic.

But it's not too bad. Tunisia is a great place to be "stuck" and I have a lot of writing work to focus on. Overall, I am glad that I have been based here and not in the UK or Italy (my home countries) throughout this pandemic.

fbm295 karma

what do you think about the young generation compared to the old one in Tunisia?

Scafidi_Travels6 karma

Most of the people from the private sector that I have interacted with as part of this writing project (thus far) have been in the 20-40 age bracket, which by my standards puts them in the "younger generation" category (perhaps people will disagree though!) Many of those people have been impressively entrepreneurial when it comes to exploiting new elements of Tunisia's ever-developing tourism market (or industries directly related to tourism). They have also been very collaborative which I love. It makes my job as a writer easier, and ultimately, it makes the finished Bradt guidebook a much better product. Also, it's very handy that so many young people in Tunisia speak English!

Much of what I have said above also applies to some of the members of the older generation I have met in the private sector, including hoteliers and association leaders, who realise that Tunisia's package holiday tourism model is broken and probably cannot be fixed after covid-19 is gone. They understand that they need to evolve to survive. They are also very pragmatic, and have offered me some invaluable advice on working / doing business in Tunisia. Also, I love that many members of the older generation can speak Italian with me!

Ultimately, regardless of the generation, the people that have made a choice to stay here in Tunisia, despite the difficult business environment, are to be commended for trying to build something successful in the tourism sector. I hope the new guidebook helps promote Tunisia as a tourism destination for 2022-23!

missaoui22495 karma

As a person who specializes in writing about countries: How do you see the country moving forward? How hopeful are you? What makes you pessimistic? Also : how do you see the tourism sector? What do you love/hate about it?

Scafidi_Travels8 karma

I am very hopeful for Tunisia's prospects when it comes to tourism. The Revolution followed by the Sousse and Bardo attacks really set Tunisia's tourism industry back. As West Europeans refused to return, hotels tried to replace their clients with Russian and Algerian package holiday-makers. However, beach package holidays are not really a sustainable way to generate tourism revenue, and even less so if you are not hosting higher-spending Europeans / Americans / Japanese etc. I think covid-19 is basically going to kill the package holiday model in Tunisia. In its place I hope to see the emergence of higher-value, lower-impact activities such as cultural tours, desert treks, camping, hiking and mountain biking, ecotourism, archaeological tourism etc.

I love that Tunisia's has such a variety of landscapes and experiences to offer visitors. It really has some unique advantages, even over regional tourism powerhouses such as Morocco and Egypt that operators need to do better exploiting. For example, the Star Wars sites here need to be developed and marketed much more, as they are unique to Tunisia. Likewise, the Punic and Roman archaeology rivals anything in Italy, but the lack of crowds (even pre-covid) should be a bigger draw. Proximity to Europe is also a massive benefit: a huge, wealthy market right on Tunisia's doorstep.

Not sure I hate anything about it, but as in many areas, work needs to be done to streamline the bureaucracy in the sector. To make it easier for people to invest, for new market entrants to come in etc. Also, Tunisia needs to do more to market its unique tourism offering to the world. Hopefully my new guidebook contributes to that in some small way! Oh, and maybe Tunisair could work a little more on ensuring that incoming tourists land with a positive impression of the national carrier (and by extension the country).

quizza6164 karma

I understand packing for specific environments but what are the “must brings” that go with you everywhere?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Here is a photo of my day pack when I head out writing. Items I take everywhere include: encrypted USB with copies of all essential documents (passport etc.), lots of hard currency, a GPS-enabled device, decent boots and a good knife.

quizza6161 karma

Thank you for your reply and an example. Much appreciated. Safe travels

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

No worries, glad it was useful!

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

No worries!

it8mi24 karma

Thanks for doing this. Looks hopeful that you’re still taking questions.

Tunisia sounds very nice from what you say! I’ve also heard good things about Senegal, the Rift Valley region, and Madagascar. If you’ve been to those places can you offer some comparisons? Are they hard to access? How’s local transportation? Did you ever feel threatened? How’s the culture?

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

I have been to Senegal and Madagascar, but have not been to the Rift Valley (although I have been to other parts of Ethiopia).

Senegal is much more developed than Madagascar in terms of road infrastructure. It's also much cheaper to get to given the connections to Europe. I was not a fan of Dakar when I went, but it's definitely a very large, developed metropolis. The north of Senegal is beautiful. Loved the coast at St Louis, and also the Casamance region in the south (but check the security situation before going). Culture is very West African, from the food to the music to the amazing wrestling tournaments!

Madagascar is a unique destination. Feels a lot more like Asia than Africa, and you can really tell than it was originally settled from the east (migrants from Borneo area) rather than from across the Mozambique channel. Here is a playlist of some of my favourite trips in Madagascar: the paradise island of Nosy Be, surfing in Anakao, exploring Fort Dauphin (Tôlanaro). Culture is completely different to anywhere else. You should check out some of the stories about the big island on the Bradt website.

No issues in terms of feeling threatened in either location, although a group of kids tried to pick pocket us in Dakar!

tomatoboobs4 karma

I really love experiencing transitions of culture and geography when I travel. Especially on extended trips. I’ve been thinking about Western Africa. Starting in Morocco and heading south to Nigeria or further to the Congo region. Any combination of countries in Africa that are fairly easy to cross borders and experience this?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

I imagine East Africa is the easiest to cross borders through, given that most overlanders tend to gravitate to the Cairo to Cape Town route. West Africa used to be the same due to the Dakar Rally, but that has changed now due to the security situation in the Sahel Region.

I did Morocco to Liberia back in 2007 and it was amazing. Story here.

xPositor4 karma

My wife wants us to drive our 20 year old Defender from the South of England down to Capetown. Yes or No? I've done a lot of work across SSA, so my first reaction would be no - but would do you think?

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

I'd say YES! Heading down the East African coast would be amazing. Although you'd need to skip northern Mozambique right now due to the ongoing insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province. When are you thinking of doing this?

xPositor2 karma

! Thanks - Timing rather difficult at the moment - time will tell but I guess we have plenty of time to plan!

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

Yes, and many of the hotels and other businesses you patronise on the way down will be very happy to have you! Imagine you could pick up some absolute bargains when things open up again in terms of transport and accommodation...

AlwaysFent4 karma

How long do you usually stay in a country before you wrote the book and whats the first things you do once you've arrived?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

This depends. I lived in Angola for 3.5 years before writing the Bradt guidebook there, so hopefully I knew what I was talking about by the time I started writing! I signed the contract to write the Bradt Guide to Tunisia after 7 months of living here. Initially I was going to work on a guidebook to Guinea-Bissau, commuting back and forth between Tunis and Bissau. Lucky I didn't do that in the end, given the current global travel situation!

First thing I tend to do once I've arrived is walk around my neighbourhood and find the local watering holes and decent places to get food.

Rollswetlogs4 karma

What’s your academic background (or pending that, how did you break into the industry)? What could writers be doing it times of no-travel (such as now) to create content or practice their writing skills?

Scafidi_Travels14 karma

What did I study? I studied History & Archaeology at Oxford University for my undergraduate degree, then did a PGCE (teaching qualification) at Exeter University in Secondary History, the studied Warfare in the Modern World at King's College London Department of War Studies for my Masters. All of that involves a lot of non-fiction writing!

How I broke into the industry: I have a ten minute video about this on my YouTube channel. To cut a long story short: I started writing free of charge, mainly on a website called Polo’s Bastards. Polo’s Bastards is run by editor Lee Ridley and founding publisher Rob Wood. Their tagline is Goin’ where we ain’t supposed to, and it’s basically about travel in difficult and dangerous destinations. I’d been an avid reader of the site well before they ever agreed to publish any of my material. The first piece of mine they published was about a road trip I completed the summer after returning from living in Sudan in 2007.

In July 2007 my friend Mark and I bought a 1973 Series III Land Rover for £750, drove it to the car ferry port in Newhaven and set out on an adventure down West Africa to try and reach Nigeria. In the end we never made it to Nigeria, getting as far as Liberia before giving up due to the rainy season destroying all the roads. As you can imagine, it was quite an adventure, taking us through twelve countries and the Sahara Desert.

This was exactly the kind of ridiculous adventure the readers of Polo’s Bastards loved. Turns out the readers of Land Rover magazines loved it to, and I made a few thousand pounds (GBP) by writing articles about the trip for them and selling my pictures. These were my very first writing gigs.

What would I advise during the pandemic: There are plenty of ways of recycling or repackaging your content during the pandemic to produce new travel articles that don't require any additional travel on your part (like listicles and highlights and recommendations for what people should do after covid-19 is under control).

But I think the most productive thing to do would probably be spending your time learning a new language! Languages have made a massive difference to my ability to successfully work and travel around Africa. Pick up Rosetta Stone or something similar while they are doing massive lockdown discounts. With a bit of nifty VPN work I think I picked up lifetime access to all languages on Rosetta Stone for under $300.

RedVelvetJoy3 karma

Hello! How do you normally take your coffee and which African country has the best coffee thus far? Thank you!

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

I like strong coffee with milk and sugar. Ethiopia definitely does it best!

maroxtn3 karma

I have been following your youtube channel for a while, and what impresses me the most about your work is how good you are in digging and finding interesting places.

I'm Tunisian, and learnt more about my country from following you. After all it is your job, and you are good at it.

My question is, how would proceed on finding interesting locations if you start cold in a new and different country?

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

Thanks, I am glad you are learning more about your beautiful country. A few Tunisian friends have said similar things to me, so I must be doing something right!

I generally find interesting places through a mixture of scouring older travel guides / satellite photography / online forums with recommendations / historical articles and journal articles / people contacting me on social media and recommending them. Then I have a rough plan for exploring an area before I hit the road. But when I get there, often local advice changes the plan, and I do a lot of driving around to new places based on spotting random things that look interesting or having them pointed out to me. It's probably not the most efficient way of doing it, but it's definitely thorough. It's also great fun, as I love exploring in my 4x4!

daxingaz3 karma

Which part of Africa you have visited that you like the most?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Hard to choose a favourite! I tend to find that the places I spend the most time in I end up loving the most, and these tend to be the lesser-visited, least "touristy" parts. So Angola is probably top of my list, along with Madagascar and Sudan, as I lived in all these places for long periods of time, rather than just visiting. But I also really want to go and live in Mozambique and Tanzania soon, so perhaps they will get added to my list in the future!

IamTheMooshy3 karma

What are your positive thoughts when you hear Scotland ?

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

I love Scotland! My brother lived up there for a few years, so have spent a fair amount of time up there, hiking and exploring the coast. Also took my family to Orkney once which was a great adventure. Oh, and I went to Edinburgh's Hogmanay once...remember back when we were allowed to mix in large crowds?

Miserable_Bugger3 karma

I’m driving from the UK to Cape Town, and will be coming down the west coast from Morocco. Is there a viable crossing through the DRC, to the east coast?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Ha, there is a crossing via Lubumbashi, but not sure how viable it is unless you have a beast of a 4x4 and a lot of mechanical knowledge. Check out this epic tale of driving the other way, from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa, and decide if that's the route for you!

If you're doing UK to Cape Town, much more traditional (and easier) route is to head down the east coast via the Anglophone countries.

Various-Big-7873 karma

What are the other four books you've written?

PiresMagicFeet3 karma

Did you get to Zita?

I excavated there for a summer investigating roman and carthaginian ruins. Fascinating place

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

No, where is Zita? Sounds like I need to hunt it down if it's a major site. I've definitely been to a fair few archaeological sites here!

PiresMagicFeet3 karma

Southern Tunisia on the trade route from Carthage to Tripoli, I wanna say 8 to 9 hour drive down from Carthage

I'll check those out!

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

Please could you send me the GPS locations? Would love to check it out!

PiresMagicFeet2 karma

I cant give the exact coordinates, but it's close to tatouine and across from djerba.

There honestly isnt much there, the excavation is still fairly new and it's been stop start due to tensions

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

OK I'll ask around when I'm next down there...which will hopefully be next month, covid-permitting!

hasnayn1233 karma

I'm too afraid to ask, but how does one makes money in a field like this, like who pays you, and how do you afford such travelling?

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

If you want to travel and fund it exclusively through travel writing, it's a lot of work these days! At its simplest, you want to get paid as much as possible for each trip, while keeping your out of pocket expenses as low as possible.

Starting with the pay, you want multiple commissions on each trip (so stack up your jobs). If somebody is paying you $300 for a photostory about the architecture in a capital city, who else can you persuade to pay you for different bits of work while you are there? A few hundred dollars is not much, but if you can stack up five or six of these commissions while on assignment, then the trip begins to be profitable.

Also, pitch and sell your work widely. It’s not just magazines and travel websites that will pay for your writing and pictures. What about doing some copy writing or photography for a travel company that offers this destination to their clients? What about contacting companies that run travel advice websites or Apps? Maybe advertisers? What about the Ministry of Tourism in the host country themselves - could you do something for them while you are there? You’re going to get a lot of rejections, but the more relevant pitches you send out, the better your chance for success.

I am paid by Bradt Travel Guides to write the Tunisia guidebook. They give me an advance, which I use to cover my expenses while in-country, then I get paid another amount when I deliver the finished manuscript, then I get paid every six months that the book is out in royalties. But I also fund my travel via other writing jobs, and also via my risk consultancy business, which is discussed in a few other answers on here!

LadyShadow3 karma

Mr. Scafidi

I have some oddly specific questions... 1. Do you plan on visiting all of the African nations? 2. Do your books discuss any if the lesser known tribal cultures of Africa, or have you had any interaction with tribes that make little contact with the civilized African world? 3. Are your guidebooks geared towards people getting a more realistic experience of the culture (not doing canned tourist activities that anyone that grabs a brochure at the airport would find out about) and if so, which is your favorite one?

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

Hello! Do I take it from the Mr Scafidi that you are a former student?

  1. Yes, definitely. Hopefully covid-19 is under control soon, and I can get back to exploring the continent! Would love to have been to all 54 African nations over the next ten years.
  2. There is a section in my Equatorial Guinea and Angola books on the different ethnic groups in the respective countries. However, I do not think there are many groups in these two countries that make little contact with the "civilized" African world. The closest might be the tribes such as the Herero in southern Angola / northern Namibia, but even they are pretty integrated into (or at least have access to) modern society now. I also went to a Bayaka village in the Central African Republic, but again, even if they lived in the forest, they had frequent contact with the capital Bangui and the Western influences there.
  3. Definitely. I am not a big fan of canned tourist activities, especially canned cultural activities. The easiest way of getting a more realistic view of the culture is to go out and experience it directly, so my guides aim to give people the information (and maps) to be confident heading out and exploring without a guide or travel agency. I like outdoor experiences, especially involving animals. One of my favourite activities I have taken part in is heading out with the anti-poaching patrols in Gabon and Goma, DRC to look at the gorillas. Amazing way to spend your money, contributing to those conservation efforts.

LadyShadow2 karma

How does a tourist get to go out with anti-poaching patrols? Is this something one can do in most countries? I assume there are anti-poaching patrols for different endangered species but I never thought of this as a way to support or to see the animals.

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

In Gabon and Goma these are both organised activities in order to raise funds for the anti-poaching efforts. It's actually quite expensive to get a permit to do this. I think I paid USD250 in the DRC, but that is still cheaper than the USD800+ you pay just over the border in Rwanda.

Scadidi693 karma

Why didn't you just drive to Luanda instead of Kayaking? Would have been a lot drier and less hippos.

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

Excellent question. A lot of the fishermen we met on the journey also kept asking why we didn't just get an engine to speed up the whole journey....

Cahootie3 karma

I have a dream of kinda retracing my grandfather's travels across Western Africa, because it's the one continent I have the least experience with and I'm really fascinated by it. I love going off the beaten track, so I guess I have two questions:

  1. What is the best way to travel across Africa if you plan on going through multiple countries in one go? I assume that airplanes are probably the easiest and most reliable, but half the fun is just going through areas and see what they're like. I loved travelling through Mongolia in an old Soviet jeep (with a driver), but I guess that driving brings risks of its own.

  2. What are some really underrated or unknown things that you think one should visit anywhere in Africa? I've started just marking every interesting landmark or attraction I stumble upon on Google Maps, so when I do end up travelling to Africa I hope I can have some destinations marked out ahead of time.

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

This sounds like a great plan (and sorry about the slow response!)

  1. There are two approaches to this: you can do it by plane, meaning you can line up all the flights and all the visas in your home country before leaving. Makes it a bit more predictable in terms of timings, but kind of takes a lot of the fun out of it. Or you can get a visa for the first country, then travel overland and hop countries, getting one visa at a time (arguing with many an embassy in an African capital about giving you a visa for the neighbouring country as a non-resident foreigner!) This is a much better way of meeting people and seeing parts of the country you wouldn't see on an organised tour or by just visiting the capital. But then you may be taking your life in your hands with the local road conditions and driving standards in the shared transport!
  2. I love Lusophone Africa, and think many of those countries fly under the radar in the English-speaking world. Check out São Tomé and Príncipe: an absolute paradise, and very easy to reach via Luanda, Angola (which now does an easy e-visa). Likewise Cabo Verde and Mozambique. The least visited is probably Guinea-Bissau. While Bissau has a certain faded colonial charm, it's really the Bissagos Islands that you want to check out!

mog-pharau2 karma

Do you write travel guides for Africa assuming no-one has been there before, or do you write in a style assuming they already know a lot about the areas you visit? I ask because it seems that someone so familiar with the vast area may overlook some obvious things that first-time visitors might not expect. Thanks!

(I know you're a travel writer, but you mentioned you work for a travel guide company. If I waaayyy misunderstood, I'm sorry.)

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

The general assumption is that Bradt guidebook readers are quite independent travellers, and have some experience of travelling off the beaten track, but that they have never been to that particular country. So no, I cannot assume too much prior knowledge in terms of the history or geography or culture of the country. Means the first few chapters of the books need a lot of research, to ensure that they are detailed enough to give a "crash course" in essential information on the country.

fighting_astronaut2 karma

How's life going?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Good thanks! How are you?

fighting_astronaut2 karma

I'm fine. Nice to know you're doing good too. How was last year for you?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Last year was good. The covid-19 situation slowed down my work and meant I couldn't see my family, but life in Tunisia doesn't sound too bad during the pandemic compared to life in Europe, so I cannot complain.

LunDeus2 karma

Did you ever consider starting your own travel guide? If yes, why didn't you?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

I did. In fact, it might be possible to do via a crowdfunding publisher like Unbound (the people who published my Kayak The Kwanza book). But Bradt are a very old and very experienced travel publisher and they bring a lot to the table in terms of industry experience: editing, printing, cartography, the legal side. Not really things I want to be dealing with!

ExpandingLandscape2 karma

Just one question: Just how much fun are you having basically living a Life of adventure and travel, and writing about it?!?!?

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and advice!

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

It's great fun! I'll never be very rich doing this, but it's definitely enough to meet my needs and save a bit for retirement. But it's not all fun...the actual writing bit is kind of intensive. Lots of staring at a screen. It's not all making fun highlight videos for my channel!

Of course, I'm having less fun now that covid-19 has kicked in. But that has affected me far less than others, so I cannot complain!

henry_west2 karma

You mentioned archaeology in another response. My question to you is: are there any surviving ruins or artifacts from the Vandal kingdom that existed there in the fifth century?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Very good question! I have not come across any exclusively Vandal remains yet on my travels, although I hear the Roman site I visited in Haïdra in this video also has Vandal graves somewhere nearby.

henry_west1 karma

Thanks for your answer, I realized as soon as I posted my question that there wouldn't be any Vandal structures because they never built any because they were operating out of conquered Roman areas.

It's just such a pivotal place in the ancient world with not one but two challengers to Rome operating out of Carthage, its hard not to be fascinated by it once you start learning the history of the area.

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

Yes, the Vandals are definitely a group I need to do some more reading on in order to be able to accurately highlight them in the context of the guide!

Surroundedbymor0ns2 karma

Did you make it to Nigeria and if so what was your experience?

I lived in the southeast with a few families in 2005. All my friends and family tried to talk me out of going, but I was drawn to the place. Everyone I met treated me well, a few tried to recruit me to help with their 419 scams ;) I enjoyed spending time in the villages around Christmas. It’s seems a large part of the country shut down and even the overseas relatives come back to party and enjoy life for two weeks.

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

Sadly not! Closest I ever got was Equatorial Guinea / Cameroon to the east and Liberia to the west. Wuld love to visit one day soon though, as I have met many Nigerians up to all sorts of things across Africa and they speak very highly of their homeland. Sounds like you had a blast there, good work for ignoring the people who tried to talk you out of it!

isurvivedrabies2 karma

yeah how do you feel about yuppies traveling to africa, especially countries like mali, sudan, somalia...etc?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

I have no problem with anyone travelling to Africa, even yuppies, as long as they make a positive contribution to the local economy and don't post nonsense on social media that promotes negative stereotypes.

LouQuacious2 karma

You climbed many mountains in Africa? Been getting into country high points and Africa’s are almost all fascinatingly unique ecosystems. Think anyone would be interested in a travel guide to country high points?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

I'm not much of a climber to be honest. But I've been up Mount Nyiragongo in the DRC (an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,470m). There are also a fair few tall hills here in Tunisia near the capital that we have climbed on weekends (like Jebel Ressas - check out us getting lost in the mineshafts here).

ShinjukuAce2 karma

Where is the best place for a safari?

What’s the most interesting city to visit in Africa?

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

I think Namibia is by far the best self-drive safari location in Africa. Much cheaper and less crowded than in East Africa, with most of the same animals. Check out our recent trip there here!

Can't select just one interesting city. Check out Luanda, Johannesburg, Dakar, Khartoum, Tunis, Bangui, Freetown, Malabo....all very cool! OK, maybe not Bangui right now...

Mrblackwolf0072 karma

how much are you bullied cuz of your name in high school?( it's "ask me anything" after all !)

Scafidi_Travels5 karma

Not at all. My high school was like 60% foreign kids, so there were a lot of weird names floating around. There was even another Oscar. Besides, it was a lot easier to make fun of my ridiculous hair at the time!

y4rich1n2 karma

hello mr scafidi !! have you ever visited Libya ?? if so ,, did u enjoy it ?? i would love to hear abt ur trip there !! ~ ☆

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

No I have not. Although now that I live next door to Libya and there are direct flights to Tripoli from Tunis, I will be visiting soon!

Shanks_Yagami2 karma

So, when u started on this path, how did u dealt with the idea of having no permanent residence. What will u do when u will grow old. Do u have a family if not will u start one. What about friends, traveling seems a bit lonely path, sure, one finds new people, make new friends but a week later u are in some new place, a week later new people, new friends. Can u talk a bit about that? Im an aspiring traveler and i think about this a lot. Thanks in advance.

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

I always have a permanent residence, usually in the place I am focussing on for my work. I spent a solid five years in Angola for example, and hope to spend a similar amount of time here in Tunisia. But you're right, there is a lot of travel away from this residence.

I do miss my friends back home, but before covid-19 we had a pretty good system in place of doing a few big get-togethers every year (usually around summer and Christmas). Plus I am quite good at staying in touch digitally. If anything, this has improved due to covid-19. We now make more of an effort to have a weekly Zoom chat / online poker session!

Being an immigrant / expat is hard for some people, as you have to move and start over every few years in terms of making friends and networking. But I don't mind it, and stay in touch with many of the people I befriended in my previous location.

I don't have children and am not sure I would want to have them living this current lifestyle. Not sure it would be a great lifestyle for kids! When I grow old I imagine I'll continue doing what I do now, perhaps basing myself somewhere like Portugal for part of the year and somewhere in Southern Africa for the rest of the year. Depends on my health and financial situation I guess!

05-1_REDACTED2 karma

Have you witnessed anything horrific if so what's the story?

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

Nothing horrific, but certainly a few things I would rather not see again: I have now passed a lot of fatal road traffic accidents having driven thousands of kilometers across the continent. Also witnessed multiple cases of police brutality that were disturbing. The worst is seeing some of the paedophile sex tourists who come to poor countries such as Madagascar looking to exploit the local population.

mrjake1182 karma

I lived in Mali for a couple years and I'd love to hear your impressions of the place, if you've been. They're such a fascinating blend of being the most hospitable, jovial, and warm-hearted people I've ever met, while also being extremely poor, very conservative, and having little awareness of the world around them. Overall though my time there was fascinating so I'm curious if you have thoughts.

I also wonder what you thought of what we called the one-pagers, the countries or regions that only got one page in the big visitor guides and they basically just said, don't visit without a heavily armed escort. Do you feel like trips to those notorious areas, if you took any, were worthwhile, worth the danger and effort to go there?

Lastly, what was the most inexplicable, alien, or supernatural thing you experienced in your travels, that just made you think that this was a memory that will last lifetime and an event that would never happen anywhere else?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

I have never been to Mali, although I lived in Sudan (Khartoum), and imagine the hospitality, combined with the poverty and conservative elements were likely very similar. I too found this fascinating, given how many people associated Sudan with terrorism, due to the government harbouring Osama Bin Laden from 1991 to 1996. In reality, Khartoum was the safest city I have ever lived in, and we never faced any discrimination for being Western, or because the Sudanese government was having problems with Western governments. Quite the opposite: people would cross the street to come and greet you and find out what you were doing there. The government used to turn the internet off for days at a time, cutting off almost all access to the outside world. It was a very isolated place, but it did not feel alien. People still liked to go out and enjoy themselves in the usual ways: smoking shisha with their mates, going to football matches etc.

I think it is worth going to a "one pager" if you have a valid reason to go. Wanting to boast about being somewhere dangerous on social media or boost your credentials as an "adventure traveller" probably isn't a valid reason. I went to Somalia for academic reasons, but also to help expand my risk consultancy business, and I am still working with connections that I made on that trip, so I feel like that was worthwhile. I really like Drew Binsky's latest trip to Afghanistan. Completely lacking in the usual sensationalism, and with a genuine desire to tell the stories of Afghan people living their everyday lives.

As for the most inexplicable, alien, or supernatural thing on my travels...I'm going to have a think about this question and come back to it tomorrow, I promise!

danedebeau2 karma

But late to the conversation, but having travelled so much of Africa in the past few years, what do you think is holding Africa back from becoming a true world leader as a continent economically and culturally?

And although it is such a broad continent with so many varying cultures, what are the commonalities you see that might enable groups/nations/societies to find common grounds to create a foundation for the next generation?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Wow, that's a very broad question. Essay-worthy!

I actually discuss this with my Humanities students quite frequently. There are many historical and economic reasons why parts of Sub Saharan Africa are disadvantaged today. You could look at the artificial borders, imposed by colonialism, and how they encourage irredentism and create political units that are not viable. Also, the transport infrastructure, especially railways, which is all geared to export primary commodities for shipping to Europe, rather than encouraging intra-African trade, which would greatly boost economic development. Western corporations exacerbate this issue by feeding corruption to ensure that they are able to have cheap access to Africa's raw materials, while little value is added to these exports on the African continent. Western financial institutions also exacerbate this issue by encouraging "structural adjustments" that are not suited to an African context, and promoting protectionist trade policies that make it hard for African countries to access Western markets. That's a few ideas, but there are many more!

In terms of commonalities, I think there a strong element of entrepreneurialism across Africa, which I guess you would have to develop working in such a difficult business environment. This is what I hope will build a strong foundation for future development: young people building new African companies using the skills and networks they often develop while working or studying abroad. Kind of like reverse brain-drain! African governments need to do a lot more to encourage their diasporas to come back home and bring their skills with them.

FCU-hoppa2 karma

Late to the party, but maybe you'll see this. I am certainly am no travel writer, but I did see and live in about 40 countries in the last decade, sometimes a couple of weeks, sometimes months. Last summer my SO and me experienced the greatest adventure yet; a baby. Post covid this little boy is going to be part of the lifestyle and Tunisia is high on the list since it is close, accessible and interesting. The only unknown is this kid I have.

I know they simply adore little kids in basically all of northern africa but do you have any insight into simple stuff like diapers and baby formula? I'd rather not travel like the caravans of old 😁

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

You're right that people absolutely love children here, so your kid will be welcome wherever you go! Not too sure on the diapers and baby formula front I'm afraid, but I know that the Carrefour supermarkets here are very well stocked. You could probably check their stocks on their website: https://www.carrefourtunisie.com/

Or you could join one of the many Expats in Tunisia / Expats of Tunisia / Expats en Tunisie Facebook groups and ask there. People tend to be very helpful!

earthdwelling2 karma

Is there a specific budget that you're afforded when paying for hotels and such? Or do you basically have free reins because you're trying to write about as much as possible?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

I get given a fixed amount of money by Bradt, which represents an advance on my royalties from the book. So I need to spend less than the advance while covering the whole country! But I am also sometimes able to get free hotel rooms in the higher-end places, as they want the advertising in the guidebook.

btsofohio1 karma

Do you disclose in the guidebook that you’ve gotten free nights? What do you do if it turns out to be really subpar?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

No I don't, although I do on my channel. There might be some blurb in the front of every Bradt guidebook, but I don't specifically indicate it. If it turns out to be bad, I say it's bad (or possibly even leave it out of the guide altogether). Bradt trust us to not let our professional judgment be influenced by freebies!

SnooOwls98452 karma

I'm interested in getting a real feel of Africa whilst remaining relatively safe. If you were to pick 5 African countries to visit to get a good feel for Africa in general which would you pick?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

If you want established tourism infrastructure, a variety of African landscapes and good security, I'd say: Ethiopia, Tunisia, Namibia, Senegal and Botswana.

SnooOwls98452 karma

Thank you very much, Tunisia has been on my list since I visited Egypt a few years ago.

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Come and visit! Check out my highlight video from last year to give you some ideas.

SnooOwls98452 karma

I intend too. I'll watch your video later on this evening

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

Great, thanks for the support!

Dapper-Onion-12631 karma

Are the Roman ruins worth all the bureaucracy to get a work visa?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

Well, if you come and visit you won't need a visa to see the Roman ruins: visa free for tourists for 90 days for most passports! Despite the issues getting my residency permit, yes, it was all worth it to be able to explore this amazing place.

updootmineplez1 karma

Can u put my name in the Travel guide for no absolute reason?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Afraid not, but there is an Acknowledgements section that I write, so if you contribute something that gets put in the guide I might be able to help!

slatar1 karma

What about religion and spirituality in Tunisia and the parts of Africa that you've visited?

Scafidi_Travels3 karma

Religion does not seem to be as heavily integrated into public life in Tunisia as it is in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, based on my limited experience. It's definitely not a secular country, but people in the north and coastal areas of Tunisia seem to have a more progressive interpretation of Islamic doctrine.

My general experience across Africa is that religion and spirituality are a much more important part of daily life than back home in the UK. Probably more similar in Italy, especially southern Italy where my family is from!

Nomadic-Quill1 karma

Are you hiring?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

Unfortunately not, sorry!

doingbasiclifeprep1 karma

what make these place "difficult" as you say?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

Difficult to get the official visa to visit / difficult to get transport there / high costs (sometimes) / some form of insecurity / limited access to medical treatment / corruption etc.

Occams_Razor421 karma

Hi thank you so much for doing this!

1). When you were getting your masters, how did the school not freak out and try to stop you when you said you were going to Somalia? As an undergrad myself, my university would probably flip if I said that I was going to interview a gang leader or something lol

2). As someone who has to take a couple of meds due to depression (technically I could survive cold turkey but they do help). Would it still be doable to travel/live in "unique" places, I dunno how good the pharmacies in Africa are tbh

3). What made you interested in visiting impoverished and possibly violent places? Is it kinda an adrenaline junkie thing, or is there more to it?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

1) I didn't tell my university, as the Ethics Committee would never have signed off on it. In the end, I was unable to include any of the interviews with pirates in the finished thesis, but my interviews did inform my analysis, so it was a useful trip.

2) I'm not sure about access to specific medications TBH. Some countries in Africa are very developed though, and basically have the same stuff as you'd fine at home. Others, not so much. The only bonus about some of the lesser-developed places is that the concept of a prescription is a bit loose, so you can often self-prescribe. This definitely saves time before a big trip if I need malaria medication...not that I'd necessarily advise doing this!

3) It is definitely exciting to visit places with an element of danger, but no, I don't think it's an adrenaline junkie thing. I just want to see and understand places that don't get many visitors, rather than relying on broad and often outdated judgments from other people. Plus I enjoy the logistics of managing the risks.

Shahidyehudi1 karma

How was your time in South Africa?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

I love South Africa, despite its reputation for being dangerous (which I guess it is in some locations, due to the crime rate). I have been to a few parts of the country over the past decade, including Cape Town, Johannesburg, deep into the Free State and even up to Limpopo to a private rhino farm. I am keen to go back next year to see a friend that I met in Angola and drive over into Mozambique via Kruger National Park (which is amazing!)

TilionDC1 karma

Why is a white person traveling through Africa to write travel guides? In my experience, white tourists get treated a lot differently from colored tourists. Do you agree?

Scafidi_Travels0 karma

I don't think skin colour or nationality should impact on whether you get a certain job.

Africa is a continent consisting of at least 54 countries, so it's very diverse in terms of the way tourists are treated and the levels of racism people experience. I have found that your nationality makes more of a difference to how you are treated than your skin colour, especially in countries where there are both white and black African populations. Western foreigners do tend to get treated better than other tourists (or even local people) in some locations, which is pretty crazy.

-YaQ-1 karma

How dangerous is africa?

Scafidi_Travels4 karma

Africa consists of at least 54 countries, so it's a very diverse continent! There are definitely parts that are dangerous (off the top of my head, I wouldn't suggest heading to southern Somalia or the Central African Republic or even certain parts of Cape Town). But then, there are plenty of places that are very safe!

Captain_Ezreal1 karma

Was it difficult when you started your journey? What made you be able to continue?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Which particular journey are you talking about? Kayaking Angola's River Kwanza?

gavinsco1 karma

Have you bought $GME?

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Sadly not, I hear it's going to the MOOOOOOON!

phoenixbbs1 karma

How "at risk" are you when traveling through drought / famine areas of succumbing to it yourself ?

Scafidi_Travels1 karma

Not at all. I have the privilege of being healthy and having access to logistics networks, medical support and other outside assistance that the people there do not have. Also, I am not sure I have deliberately travelled through an area with an active drought or famine. Not convinced my presence would contribute anything positive in that context, as I am not a journalist or aid worker.

phoenixbbs2 karma

My view is probably skewed by the constant charity adverts telling us how bad things are over there :-(

We're inundated with several per advert break in the UK with blatant emotional blackmail about conditions and dying children.

Scafidi_Travels2 karma

Yes, it's a shame that this is the only aspect of Africa that some people see. Things are very bad in some parts of Africa, and I don't want to downplay that, but Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia. Here in Tunis we are closer to Finland than we are to somewhere like Darfur or southern Somalia...