The 5 Best Places for African-Americans to Travel

BY ONEIKA RAYMOND

The top 5 destinations for brothers and sisters seeking adventures abroad.

It’s no secret that one of the unofficial aims of my blog is to encourage black people to travel. I have over 650(!) posts on this blog chronicling my adventures through 6 continents; from Amsterdam to Zanzibar and Zacatecas to Agra I try to show people like me that international travel is not only possible, but can be easily integrated into a lifestyle (with a little sacrifice and advance planning, of course). Given this, I was thrilled when I opened up my inbox last spring and saw an invitation from American television network TVOne to share my top 5 destinations for African-American travellers on air. As I’m always game to share the good word about travel, and particularly passionate about increasing travel within my community, I said yes immediately!

Now, I have to admit that I had to think long and hard about which destinations would make the list.  I wanted to select not only a geographically diverse set of places, but also places that have some sort of connection to black or African-American culture. Why these parameters? Well, as a black person of Afro-Caribbean descent, I always think it’s cool to go a city or region that has explicit links to my own background and history– I love finding a bit of “home” abroad (like I did in St. Lucia). However, it goes without saying that human beings usually travel to discover “the Other”;  beyond the sights, we crave contact with cultures and practices that are often polar or diametric opposites to our own. As such, this was also something I took into consideration when thinking about which destinations would make the cut.

So which places did I choose?

Brazil

Frei Antonio Vieira, 17th century missionary and preacher, once said that Brazil has “the body of America and the soul of Africa”.  Indeed. South America’s largest nation has the world’s largest population of black people outside of the African continent, and the world’s second biggest black population after Nigeria. It is not surprising, then, that Brazilian culture is heavily shaped by the enslaved Africans that were brought there during the slave trade. From the food, to the music, to the lovely shades of brown skin present in Brazil’s streets, the African diaspora is felt and seen everywhere.  Add in a plethora of beautiful beaches, a weak currency, and epic scenery like Sugarloaf Mountain, and a Brazilian getaway is a no-brainer for the African-American traveller.

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Paris, France

If the Eiffel Tower and the views from Montmartre weren’t enough to make  you pack your bags with a quickness, perhaps retracing the steps of late greats like James Baldwin and Josephine Baker will push you to visit. They, along with many other African-American entertainers and creatives, found both inspiration and adulation in the City of Lights. This great migration across the Atlantic to French soil reached its height in the 1920s and 1930s, with the aforementioned Montmartre becoming a popular hangout spot for these artists, writers, and singers. Interested? Walking the Spirit tours offers a comprehensive exploration of Black Paris on foot so you can learn more about this compelling part of African-American history. IMG_3510

Tokyo, Japan

I’ve said before that Tokyo is probably the weirdest and most intriguing place I’ve ever been: its freaky fetish culture, bizarre fashion, and penchant for animatronics sharply contrast its Zen Buddist philosophies and respect for tradition and high culture. But what some guidebooks fail to highlight is the megacity’s deep appreciation for (and appropriation of?) hip hop and dancehall reggae musical genres: nightclubs playing this music dot the neon-lighted landscape. My friend and I hit up reggae club Garam in Shinjuku-ku, and were surprised to come across die-hard dancehall enthusiasts who both looked and sounded the part (Sean Paul, take note). One is just as likely to find B-boys as Harajuku girls in their wanders around town!

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Tanzania

A visit to the African continent is a must for any African-American seeking to understand a bit more about their roots, and a visit to this East African nation in particular promises a sojourn chock full of sun, sand, summits, and safari.  From the peaks of Kilimanjaro, to the plains of the Serengeti, to the island paradise that is Zanzibar, Tanzania has long been on my list of places to visit, regardless of your colour or creed. 18879_847499547232_3334719_n

Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The Etihad Airlines error fare that sent a flurry through the black travel community last Christmas has seen a number of African-Americans suddenly add the United Arab Emirates to their bucket lists. Cheap plane tickets notwithstanding, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are spellbinding destinations well-suited for first-timers to the Middle East. As global cities that are more cosmopolitan and less strict than their Gulf neighbours, they offer a window into a culture dominated by opulence and luxury. Impressive superlative sights like the Burj Khalifa, extreme activities like dune bashing, and a rollicking nightlife make these emirates well worth a visit.

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Do you agree with my choices? Peep the video of my appearance on TVOne below!

5 Best Places for African-Americans to Travel

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75 Comments

  • LOL @”Sean Paul take note” Dutty oh! Good list. I think my Top 5 would be Thailand, Malaysia, Finland, Paris and Brazil.

    Reply
  • I love most of your choices and have been to Dubai, Abu Dhabi & Paris!
    Though I love travel, a dislike of long haul (well, anything more than 7 hours) flights means I may skip Brazil & Japan but Tanzania is on my list.
    Mine may be the only voice of dissent but I did not enjoy Paris despite it’s beauty and history, I found it overcrowded, too expensive, surprisingly dirty & the locals were rude. I found that if you did not speak French some of the locals were dismissive or downright nasty.
    So one I would not be visiting again.
    Great post!

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  • Excellent blog and and even better video Onieka! I’ve been following your blog for at least three years now and have enjoyed just about every post. I’m really gonna have to start researching those glitch fares. I have a friend who takes advantage of them and I’ve been meaning to get connected so I can too. I guess I’ve just been procrastinating. But, I am determined that, within the next year I’m going to travel somewhere internationally. I’m curious…………………..what do you think about many of the international travel packages that are advertised on Groupon and Living Social all the time?

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  • I loved traveling in Tokyo and Rio myself. I personally found Paris difficult to navigate due to my lack of French, but it was a lovely city. I have only been to Dubai on a 14 hour layover, so I cannot really speak much for my experience there as the time was too limited, and I have yet to get to Tanzania.

    My 5 (in terms of level of comfort, not specifically a connection to my roots) would be: Florence, Italy (loved that city); Johannesburg, South Africa; Japan (all of the cities I have been to in the country have been wonderful); Munich, Germany; and Bermuda.

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  • For African Americans there should be more than one African country on your list. I believe all African Americans should visit a West African country because this is where most of our ancestry comes from. Doing so, will teach us more about ourselves and empower us in the world we live in.

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    • Careful at sounding judgmental. The great thing about being unique individuals is exactly that. Uniquely individual. Your opinions are not necessarily our opinions, and our opinions are not necessarily your opinions. Therefore, never be surprised when what you think is a must and/or empowering for our culture is the polar opposite thought/idea from someone else of our culture. Edify, not judgmentalize.

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  • All your tips are great Oneika especially Brazil and Japan. My son is obsessed with everything Japanese at the moment so I give you a huge thumbs up!

    I’ve been to France of course but I’d say that because travel is all about learning, culture and history, I tend to advocate travelling to destinations of “the other” so I strongly recommend Asia, Europe and Africa.

    p.s. If you’re African-American, don’t expect Africa to be “home.” It isn’t. And you won’t be treated like a long lost cousin either, you’ll be treated as foreign and “white” which I always find hilarious LOL!

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    • I honestly think she knows this. I think many of us who travel figure this out very early on.

      It all depends where you go, your attitudes, and more importantly, how you present yourself. I check my “Americanism” at the door, especially when it comes to people of color. I have been successful thus far.

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    • My husband and I just returned from visiting a friend in Kigali Rwanda, and it was great. We’ve also visited several countries in Southern Africa, including Lesotho, Johannesburg and Capetown SA, Swaziland, Botswana and Zimbabwe. We have had positive experiences in every African country we’ve visited. Rwanda was special and we were greeted as family. We do plan to visit Senegal and Ghana but we are concerned about the air quality since my husband has asthma. We’ve been to Rio and Salvador Bahia Brazil, and we especially loved Salvador Bahia. While we have enjoyed visiting countries in Europe and Thailand, we prefer countries with significant black populations. I enjoyed reading this Blog.

      Reply
  • Hi Oneika!! Since I stumbled upon your blog a month ago, I’ve been HOOKED! I’ve always wanted to travel but would always come up with excuses of why I couldn’t do it at the moment (time, my job,money etc.) But I knew they were only excuses. This blog has given me the encouragement and push I need to take the leap outside my comfort zone. So THANK YOU for sharing! For my first trip outside the U.S., I plan to travel to Brazil. Do you have any tips for how to travel smart and cheap going there? Best place to find inexpensive tickets, best accommodations?

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  • Congratulations on the guest feature on TVOne. That’s awesome! I remember coming home from Paris thinking about all the Black creatives who made Paris their home like Richard Wright, Nina Simone, James Baldwin and how I need to return and retrace their steps like you said. I’m also excited to see Brazil on your list since I’ll be heading there in November. I look forward to witnessing this Afro-Brazilian fusion.

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  • Great list! My goal for the next two years is to focus more on Africa. I’ve spent so much time doing Asia. It is so hard to get what I am looking for with my Africa trips for the right price and flights. I don’t want any safaris or township tours.

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  • I just got back from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It was my first trip to the Middle East. And as you described, this beautiful region with such a diverse culture is just perfect for Middle East newbies. It was certainly an eye opening experience for me. 🙂 Aside from the August heat, it was absolutely amazing! 🙂

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  • Interesting post. Nice touch linking to countries that have “relevant” cultural or historical ties to African Americans or ones that are diverse, however I find that some African Americans have had not so pleasant experiences in the places that you listed (especially Japan or Dubai) due to their race/ethnicity. Their experiences could be the exception to most travelers but it’s something to take into consideration. Unfortunately POC have to think about that when travelling: how they will be perceived or treated, even more so if it’s not a major city or “touristy”.

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  • As a Caucasian male, I really enjoyed reading this list. Having been to Brazil before, I can totally see where you are coming from. But, I was surprised that Paris made the list.

    Having been four times, I can see how the City of Lights can be appealing to romantics, foodies, and history buffs.

    However, Paris came off as a bit pretentious to me where any foreigner (regardless of colour or social status) could feel a bit of an outsider.

    Almost anywhere you go in the city, you can still sense the class divide between the rich and poor (e.g. Champs Élysées vs. Montmartre, the Louvre vs. Notre Dame) that has always plagued France’s history.

    I know you can say the same about cities like Rio de Janeiro, London or NYC, but at least you can clearly identify their Middle Class neighbourhoods. I don’t really see that in Paris, though.

    Get outside of the city, and the rest of France seems far more warmer and inviting.

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  • Good day my own significant other! I must declare that pros and cons incredible, great created and include roughly all significant infos. I would like to notice much more posts such as this SEO Lake Placid .

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  • So glad my home, the UAE, made the list. Most people who visit me here soon realize why I made it my permanent home.

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  • As a Afro-Caribbean American, I found London to be so awesome that I’ve been 3 times and am going with my family this Christmas (time #4). I think London is also one of more accessible foreign cities for a new traveler. I recommend it.

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    • I am so glad you commented on visiting London Caitlin. I have wanted to go and visit the country side and the coast but had not seen much about the best places to stay.

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  • For Europe, I would recommend Amsterdam over Paris. It is also multicultural, easy to get around and full of historic and cultural sights. The people are also a bit friendlier. I enjoyed my trip to UAE and would return.

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    • definitely not. It’s notoriously unwelcoming for POC – not always ‘in your face’ but I certainly did not feel comfortable when I travelled there.

      (search for its long-favored tradition of Zwarte Piet, or ‘Black Pete’, for a view on how deep-rooted this is.)

      Reply
  • I am a black woman in my late 20s, and thinking about living abroad with my boyfriend. We are both US citizens. From your experience what are the best countries to live in as a black person?

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    • It’s hard to say because that will depend on your source of income once you move. Ghana has new policies for AA’s who seek to relocate there. Costa Rica has a friendly expat policy also. Barbados has the highest average income for blacks worldwide outside of the US and schools and healthcare is free and it’s a majority black country.
      Seychelles, Botswana and Namibia would also be good choices as they are more westernized and have malls, good stores and minimum level of crime.

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  • Hello, dear, traveling the best place is my passion.I think Dubai is the best place to enjoy one’s holiday. Dubai is famous for the Burj Khalifa and many shopping malls. I know there have some issues but this is not a big issue to fulfill our dream.

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  • As a black Canadian,63,I’d like to know which countries would be great retirement destinations for blacks.

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  • Nice list Oneika ! About the Paris part : apart from past african american history , Paris also have a big african and carribean community that travel (and history) books like to forget. There is a walking tour of the Black Paris, its worth doing.

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    • Agreed! I visited when I was in the Military and it was way too dirty for me (Paris)

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  • Besides savior, there are many other beautiful places in Brazil, such as Praia do Forte and Porto Seguro. It is worthwhile to visit them!

    The next time you come by, be sure to visit!

    Reply
  • Yay for Brazil! We are from different cities in Brazil and living in Australia for the last decade, we are currently travelling the world and we were really happy to find your blog! 🙂
    Glad your loved Brazil and enjoyed yourself there! Such a great country to visit 🙂
    Anyways, great to connect. Keep travelling,

    Love,
    Nomaddictives

    Reply
  • By your name, I believed you related to west Africa mostly Nigeria but surprised to see of all the places you have mentioned you felt that Nigerian is not good enough for people to visit and this is what feeble me most about the kids we are having in the westen world. The other race project the continent in a bad light to the rest of the world but you who has this position to change all that to the black race in the west, all you doing is moving from France to Japan and trust me I do not have problem with those places but they not representing you to world as you doing now. One of your blogger said is going to Ghana and Senegal but the air quality and what does that tell you ? That our people need knowledge and you are in that position now to help sell your own to the world (Africa) the same thing Obama did, there is no tangible thing Africans will attribute to his 8yrs in the office. Black people wise up if you do not blow your trumpet nobody will blow it for you . Enough for the wise and when the times to show Africa now is the village people they will be showing but all those places you made mentioned of have villages.

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    • Sentiments aside (speaking as an indigenous Nigerian with nearly 40years lived across Naija)… when Nigeria truly becomes tourism worthy, it would make the list.

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  • Love your articles. Just wondering if you have any suggestions for young, single women spending the holidays alone. Trip ideas that’s cost effective .

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    • Livs, that’s a great question. Please post if you’ve found out some places for single black women to visit. I generally travel alone and would love to explore my roots more.

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  • Nope – I do not agree with your selections.
    Tanzania
    Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
    In mid-2016, the government initiated an unprecedented crackdown on the rights of LGBT people and their advocates. Senior government officials threatened to arrest gays and their social media followers and to deregister organizations “promoting” homosexuality. They banned the distribution of water-based lubricant, raiding and closing drop-in centers and private clinics that provide services targeting key populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, and people who use drugs.

    In December 2016, Dar es Salaam police raided a workshop on HIV prevention among key populations, and briefly detained eight participants. In Zanzibar, police detained nine men for several days on suspicion of homosexual conduct, and subjected them to forced anal examinations, a form of torture.

    In March, police arrested a man, 19, suspected of homosexuality based on his Instagram posts and subjected him to an anal exam. Several activists were arrested for holding meetings. In July, President Magufuli stated that “even cows disapprove of” homosexuality. In September, Zanzibar police arrested 20 people at a workshop for parents of key populations and accused them of homosexuality.

    Several organizations reported that the crackdown has resulted in HIV-positive men failing to access their anti-retroviral treatment, while other MSM have stopped accessing testing and preventive services.
    UAE
    According to the Ansar Burney Trust (ABT), an illegal sex industry thrives in the emirates, where a large number of the workers are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, especially in Dubai. This complements the tourism and hospitality industry, a major part of Dubai’s economy.[219]

    Prostitution, though illegal by law, is conspicuously present in the emirate because of an economy that is largely based on tourism and trade. There is a high demand for women from Europe and Asia. According to the World Sex Guide, a website catering to sex tourists, Eastern European and Ethiopian women are the most common prostitutes, while Eastern European prostitutes are part of a well-organized trans-Oceanic prostitution network.[220] The government has been trying to curb prostitution. In March 2007, it was reported that the UAE has deported over 4,300 sex workers mainly from Dubai
    Male guardianship in the UAE prevents women from making autonomous decisions about marriage. Article 39 of the Personal Status Code states that a male guardian must conclude any marriage contract a woman enters into and has the power to request an annulment of the marriage.[158] Men on the other hand can marry up to four women. Article 56 makes it obligatory for women to “obey” their husbands.

    The law in the UAE provides that a man may unilaterally divorce his wife, whereas a woman who wishes to seek a divorce must apply for a court order which is only granted on limited grounds.[159] These include failure of the husband to provide maintenance, his disappearance, or sexual desertion of his wife, or because he has been sentenced to imprisonment for a term that exceeds three years.[160]

    There is an alternative for women to dissolve their marriage found under article 110 of the Personal Status Code, or khul’, if the husband agrees to it in return for a financial settlement, however this means a woman relinquishes her right to the mahr – or the dowry she received as part of the marriage contract.

    As to custody of children, women are considered physical guardians, they have the right to custody up to the age of 13 for girls and 10 for boys. But if a woman chooses to remarry she automatically forfeits her right to custody of her children.

    Furthermore, under article 71, women who leave their husbands can be ordered to return to their marital home.

    Violence against women[edit]

    Marriage[edit]

    The UAE has no specific laws on domestic violence. Under Article 53 of the UAE’s Penal Code the “chastisement by a husband to his wife and the chastisement of minor children” is permitted, within the limits set by Sharia law.[161] In one case the Federal Court sanctioned a husband’s beating of his wife so long as he did not leave physical marks, and in another case a man was ordered to pay a fee for taking it too far by leaving physical injuries on his beaten wife.[161]

    Furthermore, there is growing concern at the UAE’s lack of action against domestic violence. Human Rights Watch has documented three cases where it was alleged that police discouraged UK nationals from reporting cases of domestic violence.[162]

    A woman in the UAE can lose her right to maintenance from her husband is she refuses sexual relations with him without a valid excuse, thus marital rape is not a crime

    Reply
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