#1 4-30-2017 7:53 AM

Apurva_N
Apurva
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Western Africa in July

Hi everyone.

I'm likely to go to a few western African countries this July, starting in Accra, Ghana. I'm planning ~3-4 weeks and, other than Ghana, hope to visit nearby countries like Benin, Togo, Lagos in Nigeria, and maybe Ivory Coast. I'm open to other countries in the region too instead of these, if the time and routing allows - e.g. Burkina Faso - or a cheap flight to explore a different region of Western Africa (like Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania up north, or Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and São Tomé and Príncipe southwards). I've traveled a fair bit in Southern, Eastern and Northern Africa, but not in Western Africa (barring Morocco). So the idea is to see as much of this region as possible in a first 'taster' visit, rather than see any one place in detail - for the latter, I'd rather come back to the place I like after this first trip. I'm also not looking at any specific themes for my trip (like adventure sports, museums, etc) - the idea is to get a first general feel of the place, on a reasonable budget, and at reasonable level of comfort, given that it'll be hot in July and I'll have 2-3 weeks after Ghana.

To those of you who've been there, my main question is what routing and transport would you recommend?

As of now, I was thinking of travelling by land from Accra eastwards, through Lome and Cotonou, to Lagos, then catching a flight to Abidjan, and then travelling back to Accra by land, from where my flight home is. Or, after Lagos, I could fly to another region instead of Ivory Coast, as mentioned earlier, see that for a week or so, and fly back to Accra. What would you suggest in terms of the best places to see and ease of routing?

A couple of allied questions.

Though Ebola is apparently not a threat in the region now, and I anyway don't plan on the three most affected countries - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - do any of the other countries I'm considering pose a risk?

Any major, specific, dos and donts for the region? Sights not to be missed, specific accommodation or food recommendations, or transport and safety tips? I've heard that the capitals in this region offer the best for a first visitor, and that buses/shared taxis for short runs and flights for longer distances are the best bet.

Many thanks in advance...

Last edited by Apurva_N (4-30-2017 7:58 AM)

 

#2 4-30-2017 12:43 PM

DAO
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Re: Western Africa in July

For Togo and Benin, just go to the market in Accra and ask for the mini-buses to Lomé. For a few extra dollars (still very cheap) you get an air-conditioned vehicle and your own seat. Lomé to Cotonou works a bit the same, but a few less mini-buses. The only issue I had making the return journey was the Cotonou to Lomé journey. Transport goes early and I was running late. I had to pay for 2 seats to get the car to take me. Still economical.

Around Lomé  and Cotonou is all taxi motos. A 250 CFA coin gets you just about anywhere that is a relatively short journey.

Have fun!

DAO

 

#3 4-30-2017 12:45 PM

DAO
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Re: Western Africa in July

AH, have a look at Arik Air for flights. I flew them Accra-Lagos-Ouagadou.

 

#4 4-30-2017 1:16 PM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

Thanks, DAO. That is helpful - at least getting from Accra to Lomé and Cotonou seems fairly straightforward.

 

#5 4-30-2017 8:08 PM

ulis
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Re: Western Africa in July

Was traveling last year from Gambia to Ghana (2012 from Morocco to Nigeria), Vueling has cheap tickets from Barcelona to Dakar, Accra and Banjul, from India Ethiopian or Kenian Airways might be your best bet. Local airways are rather unreliable last year some people got stuck by that, Arik Air was recently taken over by the Nigerian Government.
Most former French countries have long distance bus companies (some are quite good and border crossing with other ex Friench coutries, but Guinea is mostly shared taxi 12 people in a Peugeot 505 Familiale!)
Land border from Ivory Coast to Liberia and Guinea was (and most likely still is) closed, at the Nigerian land border we where asked for bribes (but didn't give), the other borders had no problems and usualy onwart transport waiting on the other side.
Food was better in the French countries (best in Senegal worst in Lagos), but will be difficult if you are vegetarian.
Museums, the Musée International du Golfe de Guinée in Lome was very good, some in Ghana like Elmina and Cape Coast and Grand-Bassam in Ivory Coast where alright, others where in a bad state

 

#6 4-30-2017 8:13 PM

ulis
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Re: Western Africa in July

Both trips i have as a blog saved from VT, but as i was traveling while VT was closing i didn't have the time yet to put pictures and make some corrections.

 

#7 4-30-2017 9:06 PM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

Thanks Uli. I also went through your blog and there were some useful pointers there. How long did you take for this trip from Gambia to Ghana?

 

#8 4-30-2017 9:31 PM

ulis
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Re: Western Africa in July

It was about 7 weeks starting February 21 back home end of April after some days in Morocco and Spain. You have to be quite flexible in these countries...

 

#9 5-1-2017 2:44 AM

ulis
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Re: Western Africa in July

Have updated my West Africa blogs a bit now, maybe it helps

 

#10 5-1-2017 6:29 AM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

ulis wrote:

Have updated my West Africa blogs a bit now, maybe it helps

Thanks smile

 

#11 5-2-2017 12:15 PM

Jen1107
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Re: Western Africa in July

I don't have any tips on routing or transport, but I have been to Lagos.

- I really enjoyed the Lekki Conservation Centre. I wrote a review here: http://www.travbuddy.com/Lekki-Conserva … re-v826289
- Victoria Island is a nice area
- There are some nice beaches, but they're constantly changing so I'd ask around for recommendations when you get there.
- The slave point in Badagry is supposed to be an informative site. I haven't been there yet, but it's on my list for next time.
- Nigeria has a big movie scene, so maybe check out a Nollywood film.

As far as food, my favorites are jollof rice (you could compare it from country to country as there's a bit of a difference and each country says they make it the best), meat pie, suya, kilishi, and puff puff. Egusi soup isn't bad but I tend to avoid it as I dislike its smell. They have a few restaurant chains...Mr. Bigg's used to be good, but I've heard it's gone downhill. TFC (Tastee Fried Chicken) has good food. As of January they still had good yamaritas.

Safety: Expect to pay bribes or at the very least be hassled. I've never been harassed/followed anywhere as much as I have in Lagos. Your experience may be different. I haven't used public transportation there, but I was told even locals avoid the big buses as they aren't safe. Minibuses are safer.

Have a great trip! smile

 

#12 5-2-2017 12:31 PM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

Thanks for those tips, Jen - very useful. I have a clearer picture for Lagos at least, and what to do there. The safety part is a bit worrying - I would've thought that bribes are common while crossing borders but it seems from what you say that they may be a concern even in the city itself. And are the big buses not safe due to accidents or crime?

 

#13 5-2-2017 6:03 PM

danly
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Re: Western Africa in July

Travelling between Ghana-Togo-Benin-Nigeria is easy enough by Bus (ABC bus is a good company), given the close distances. Getting visas may prove trickier, especially Nigeria. The route is one well travelled, but you may have a few issues on the border (especially the Benin/Nigeria border at Seme). I didn't have any issues myself, but I've heard of a few bad ones (++ corruption).

Lagos is a hectic city - but the nightlife is actually very fun! Lagos can get quite expensive, especially if you're going to be spending a lot of time on Victoria Island (more affluent). Agree with Jen, Lekki Conservation Centre is great.

I'd strongly recommend Badagry, much more subdue and learning about the Slave Trade (there is an excellent museum(s)) and walking the slave route was a fascinating and worthwhile experience.

 

#14 5-2-2017 9:16 PM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

Thank you, Danly. Those suggestions help. It seems ABC buses are the way to go on that stretch, and one would probably be best off getting visas in advance. Thanks too for the Badagry recommendation - I'll try and build that into the itinerary.

 

#15 5-2-2017 11:33 PM

ulis
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Re: Western Africa in July

was asked for a bribe at the Benin/Nigeria border and the Niger/Nigeria border, but after some arguments we didn't have to pay (stay calm in such situations). In Lagos we tried to solve the problem of the blocked credit card of my companion (was not possible in Lagos, only later in Lome), stayed for that reason very short. Cheapest room we found was a brothel (€ 30 and the biggest bed i have ever seen, the girls didn't bother us), arriving in Lagos by bus there was someone who claimed being police (conartist?) and insisted of bringing us to our hotel, we got rid of him by having a breakfast in the terminal area, otherwise i didn't see anything dangerose.

 

#16 5-2-2017 11:41 PM

ulis
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Re: Western Africa in July

Visas for Ghana an for Nigeria are a problem, Ghana definitely better from your residence country, for recommendation book a hotel with booking.com, you can cancel that without cost, for Nigeria it might be more easy from neighboring countries, the other West African countries are not so difficult (but these things change...).

 

#17 5-2-2017 11:46 PM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

Thanks again, Uli. Certainly looks like bribes are the order of the day in Nigeria. Hopefully the other countries will not be that way.

 

#18 5-2-2017 11:49 PM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

Uli, I see that you have also been to Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia. Any tips on these?

 

#19 5-3-2017 2:16 AM

pfsmalo
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Re: Western Africa in July

One thing nobody has mentioned is July is the worst at the beginning of the rainy season. A lot of roads in the north of Togo and Benin may be washed out and impassable. No problems on the coast road though. I am not at home at the moment but after the coming weekend I can let you have some addresses for hotels in Togo and Benin and also Mali if you're heading that way too.

 

#20 5-3-2017 2:32 AM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

Thanks, Paul. Yes, any recommendations for Togo, Benin and countries in that region would be great.

The weather seems to be a dampener sad
I can't get away from July as I have a conference 11-14 July in Accra but I'm flexible about travelling to the other countries either before or after this. Which will be better? Also, will any of the other regions I mentioned (either Mauritania, Gambia and Senegal, or Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and São Tomé) be relatively better?

 

#21 5-3-2017 3:13 AM

pfsmalo
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Re: Western Africa in July

Mauritania is dry most of the time, of the others I've been to, Senegal shouldn't be too damp, although road infrastructure behind the coast isn't great if it is wet. If you're interested in the slave thing, you have the Ile de Goree,(short ferry trip from Dakar) to go see, which was a large dispatching centre for slaves. I believe the grandfather (great-grandfather ?) of Alex Haley, of Roots fame went from there. Ouidah in Benin also has a slave trail, whilst Grand Popo just over the border from Togo is a centre for Voodoo. Scratch around in the markets, you may see a little more of voodoo icons and stuff used there.

 

#22 5-3-2017 5:15 AM

ulis
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Re: Western Africa in July

Apurva_N wrote:

Uli, I see that you have also been to Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia. Any tips on these?

In Senegal i did like Saint-Louis, a nice old town, falling apart a bit, for beach Cap Skirring, the food, some Art Deko buildings in Dakar, but Dakar if full of instant friends be careful. Mauritania the Chinguetti and Atar area had some problems at the time, we didn't go, the coastal towns are not very interresting. Gambia has some nice beaches, mostly package tourists (on my last trip i did see tourists only in Gambia and in Ghana, in 2012 there where also some in Mali and Togo). Beside of Mali (but last year in March it was not possible to go to Mopti) Guinea was in my opinion the most interesting place, but next to no touristic infrastructure and traveling around is hard work, the most easy was the coastal area of Ghana, with several slave trading forts.

 

#23 5-3-2017 5:32 AM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

Thank you, Uli, that helps.

 

#24 5-3-2017 5:33 AM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

pfsmalo wrote:

Mauritania is dry most of the time, of the others I've been to, Senegal shouldn't be too damp, although road infrastructure behind the coast isn't great if it is wet. If you're interested in the slave thing, you have the Ile de Goree,(short ferry trip from Dakar) to go see, which was a large dispatching centre for slaves. I believe the grandfather (great-grandfather ?) of Alex Haley, of Roots fame went from there. Ouidah in Benin also has a slave trail, whilst Grand Popo just over the border from Togo is a centre for Voodoo. Scratch around in the markets, you may see a little more of voodoo icons and stuff used there.

Thanks, Paul. I'll look forward to your accommodation and other recommendations.

 

#25 5-5-2017 8:42 AM

Apurva_N
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Re: Western Africa in July

ulis wrote:

Visas for Ghana an for Nigeria are a problem, Ghana definitely better from your residence country, for recommendation book a hotel with booking.com, you can cancel that without cost, for Nigeria it might be more easy from neighboring countries, the other West African countries are not so difficult (but these things change...).

I found out and it seems, for Indian nationals at least, the French embassy here handles visas for some West African countries, e.g. Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ivory Coast, etc. Ghana and Nigeria have embassies here. Many don't need visas or give visas on arrival, eg. Togo, Senegal, Gambia and São Tomé. Any idea if it's easy enough to get visas for Benin and Equitorial Guinea from neighbouring countries?

 
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