Africa is, for the most part, a cash society. Credit and debit cards can be used in some of the major cities, tourist resorts, and modern hotels, but it is never guaranteed, and you should always have other means of payment. Local circumstances can also dictate refusal of card acceptance, for example power cuts are a regular feature of many countries, and during these times they cannot process card payments.
The best use of your card is for drawing cash at ATM machines. Most airports and main cities have these, and they will generally be the way of obtaining local currency at the most favourable exchange rate.
Haggling is a way of life in Africa . Fixed prices are rare, and everything is worth only what people will pay. For most travellers coming from nations where bartering is unusual, it can be quite nerve-wracking to begin with, but you’ll soon become accustomed, and even enjoy it. The trick is to decide how much you want to pay to begin with, and start with an offer much lower. The seller will laugh, and make a ludicrously high counter bid, and so it goes on. Its always done in good humour, and becomes almost like a game. But take a moment to think, as its easy to get drawn in to haggling over small amounts to get to the final agreement, only to realise afterwards that if your were to convert the amount you disagreed over to your own currency, it would represent a couple of the smallest coins in your pocket! It’s also worth remembering that you are on a pricey foreign holiday, and they almost certainly need those few coins much more than you do.
Each country has its own local currency, so if your touring it can be an annoying necessity to keep changing it as you cross borders. American dollars are widely accepted, although be prepared for rip-off exchange rates in many places.
It’s hard to generalise when dealing with such a vast continent, but for the most part shopping in Africa falls into two main categories. There are the modern, western style shopping centres, which are increasingly appearing in major cities and tourist areas. And there are the endless market stalls, small shops, and roadside sellers, that range from the reasonably well stocked store, to those which are just a rickety table beside a dusty road selling a few items of home grown produce. Each country has the obligatory range of items aimed at the tourists. Some can actually represent good value for money, especially in central and western Africa . It’s also worth exploring the markets and local shops, as many bargains can be had compared to western prices.