#1 6-14-2017 1:21 AM

Apurva_N
Apurva
New Delhi, India
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Wanderer
Posts: 389

West African Dangers

Taking on from a recent post here, and my last post too, I wanted to know of any recent experience people have had about the dangers looming in West Africa? Any information would be very welcome. And specifically:

1. Terrorism and kidnapping: Any current information on the safety situation in Mali, Mauritania and Burkina? From my research on the net and talking to a few embassies, Bamako in Mali is as safe as London or Paris these days - you can never rule out a terrorist attack, but one shouldn't be unnecessarily paranoid either. On the other hand, northern Mali, including that traveler fantasy land of Timbuktu, is certainly not advisable or safe. Similarly, in Mauritania, it seems Nouakchott is safe enough, but not eastern Mauritania or the borders with Mali or Western Sahara. So I was thinking of a couple of days each in Bamako and Nouakchott in these countries, but nothing else. Any latest updates?

2. Diseases: Ebola is officially supposed to be over in West Africa, though it has surfaced in DR Congo now. In any case, I'm not going to the three most effected countries - Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. But does anyone know if the neighbouring countries of Senegal, Ivory Coast and Mali pose any risk at all? My research says, not really. The greater risk is from mosquito-related diseases like malaria, dengue and zika, and water-borne diseases. The whole region is endemic and poses a real threat. Well, I guess I'll carry mosquito repellants, sleep in hotels with nets, and take care to cover-up, as also use only bottled water, eat carefully, and not go swimming in lakes and beaches. I haven't heard of effective vaccines for the strains in West Africa, and prophylactics have side effects. Any advice, or country-level precautions?

3. Corruption, harassment, street crime, visa hassles, transport horrors and miscellaneous dangers: I gave up the idea of going to Nigeria, Niger, and some other countries based on this. I'm now planning on Ghana, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania and maybe Ivory Coast. Any country-specific advice?

Again, thanks a ton in advance to anyone with any advice...

Last edited by Apurva_N (6-14-2017 6:29 AM)

 

#2 6-14-2017 2:34 AM

danly
Perth, Australia
Couch Potato
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Re: West African Dangers

Highway along Nouakchott and Nouadhibou is relatively safe and under army control. Obviously the more inland you go, the risk increases.

You are correct re Mali. As fabled as Tombouctou is, the road there can be dangerous, and I have heard reports from my mates in the region that it's still quite bad.

Currently no documented Ebola outbreak in Sengal, CDI or Mali - but as have pointed, anything is fair game. Take malaria prophylaxis and appropriate vaccination (YF, typhoid, cholera et al). Prophylactics have side effects yes, but getting the disease can be much more fatal. I strongly suggest malarial prophylaxis - and urge you to strongly consider this!!!

No specific country advice. My experience was that Nigeria had the most visible corruption. Cameroon wasn't too far behind.

 

#3 6-14-2017 3:27 AM

Apurva_N
Apurva
New Delhi, India
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Re: West African Dangers

Thank you a lot, Danly. Agree with most of the things you've said. I'm going to talk about the malariia prophylaxis to my doc. The last time I took it, on my trip to Central/East Africa, I landed with a bad stomach there. But probably it's necessary here.

 

#4 6-14-2017 3:46 AM

sarahelaine
Sarah Elaine
Manchester, England
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Globetrotter
Posts: 5952

Re: West African Dangers

For dangers, I tend to trust the UK FCO travel advice- it errs on caution but as a general rule it's accurate. I did once travel through a zone where they advised no unnecessary travel but that was when I had been in-country six months and after extensive research.

For health, there's a uk nhs website "fit for travel" that I would tend to trust. Again, they err on the side of caution, but it's worth mentioning that NHS doctors cannot make any personal profit from prescribing someone you do not need so there is no incentive for that website to up-sell. For what it's worth my husband is a tropical diseases specialist doctor, and we take malaria prophylaxis. We did for the whole six months we were in Uganda. It's always controversial on this site and people are very critical of that decision, but at best malaria is like severe flu and that's bad enough where we take protection. Malarone had a lower side effect profile if you can afford it and if it protects against the strains in west Africa- I have not checked if it does- talk to a qualified doctor, one with an interest in travel if you can- about that. Dengue mosquitos fly in the daytime, rather than at night like the mosquitos that carry malaria, so it's worth taking day time precautions too- there is no known prophylaxis for dengue. Most biting flies are attracted to dark colours, which is why if you look at my developing world travel blogs I'm more often than not in loose light clothes. I'd also say that water based parasites are an issue throughout Africa, including in some swimming pools, and often not diagnosed by doctors in the global north because they never see them. So if you have any fever within two weeks of returning home, or any consistent bad stomach after you come off anti malarial get it checked out and emphasise your travel history. Also, make sure your travel insurance covers you for repatriation.

Ebola and other haemorrhagic fevers (Marburg etc) emerges in hard to predict patterns throughout Africa- it crosses from animals to humans in anywhere there's significant contact with jungle animals. I wouldn't let it put me off but I would keep an eye on the news from the countries your considering. All of them will have news sites, and WHO and MSF/DWB have websites and social media pages that would carry alerts.

Last edited by sarahelaine (6-14-2017 3:54 AM)

 

#5 6-14-2017 3:52 AM

sarahelaine
Sarah Elaine
Manchester, England
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Globetrotter
Posts: 5952

Re: West African Dangers

Also, one thing that's never considered is traffic, which as it happens is the number one killer of development workers and travellers to africa. Motorcycle taxis in particular are the most dangerous form of transport in the world. Not much you can do to avoid this, other than bear in mind that traffic laws are loosely enforced, be extra careful even on quiet roads (possibly especially on quiet roads) and wherever possible avoid travel after dusk.

 

#6 6-14-2017 6:00 AM

Apurva_N
Apurva
New Delhi, India
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Wanderer
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Re: West African Dangers

Sarah, thank you so much for the detailed advice. Much appreciated.

I did check the UK FCO site and it does ask one to avoid unnecessary travel to the places I'm planning in Mali and Mauritania - but since I'm doing only a couple of days each, and avoiding the places where it says 'no travel at all' (the red portions), I guess it should be okay.

Your suggestions on the health aspects are very useful - I think you and Danly have convinced me that Malaria prophylaxis is a good idea in this region despite the side effects. Sarah, could I request you to ask your husband what the best would be for the countries I'm travelling in - given that he specialises in tropical diseases and that you both travel to Africa? The docs I asked here say the malaria strains in West Africa are quite different from the ones elsewhere - so the medicines available may not be that effective.

 

#7 6-14-2017 6:11 AM

Apurva_N
Apurva
New Delhi, India
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Wanderer
Posts: 389

Re: West African Dangers

sarahelaine wrote:

Also, one thing that's never considered is traffic, which as it happens is the number one killer of development workers and travellers to africa. Motorcycle taxis in particular are the most dangerous form of transport in the world. Not much you can do to avoid this, other than bear in mind that traffic laws are loosely enforced, be extra careful even on quiet roads (possibly especially on quiet roads) and wherever possible avoid travel after dusk.

Totally agree. I've particularly been warned of the mototaxis in Togo, and I'm generally going to avoid them to the maximum. I'm actually going to avoid overland travel a lot on this trip given that it'll be hot and rainy in July - so quite messy. I'll mostly be flying, but I will have to take taxis/public transport within countries, and there are at least a few inter-country stretches that I'll have to do by land, including Accra-Lome-Cotonou, and Nouakchott-Dakar. I also plan to go from Nouakchott to Atar in Mauritania by land to see the real Sahara, and to take the world's longest train (an iron core carrier that's 2 km long and has just one or two passenger cars) - but I'll probably skip the train given the hazards it involves (lots of dust and cold from the desert).

 

#8 6-14-2017 7:19 AM

sarahelaine
Sarah Elaine
Manchester, England
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Globetrotter
Posts: 5952

Re: West African Dangers

Apurva, I'm afraid he's not allowed to offer specific advice to strangers on the internet- I have to be very careful to say things like "we take it" and not "he recommends".  But there are maps in the internet that allow doctors to look up which strains of malaria are prevalent in which places. All I can say is to ask a quialified doctor who can assess the strains that exist in your destinations and preferably has access to your medical history. Good luck smile

 

#9 6-14-2017 8:48 AM

Apurva_N
Apurva
New Delhi, India
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Wanderer
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Re: West African Dangers

I understand, thanks Sarah.

 

#10 6-14-2017 1:04 PM

Apurva_N
Apurva
New Delhi, India
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Wanderer
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Re: West African Dangers

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-benin- … KKBN195247

Talking of traffic danger in W Africa - straight from the press.

 

#11 6-15-2017 12:14 AM

ulis
Uli
Vienna, Austria
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Re: West African Dangers

In Mali you will most likely not find public transport north of Mopti, similar in Mauritania, Ebola is not a problem at the moment but take Malaria prophylaxe, Traffic is not worse then in India.

 

#12 6-15-2017 12:14 AM

ulis
Uli
Vienna, Austria
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Wanderer
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Re: West African Dangers

Photography can become a serious problem, any sort of official building, bridge, or anyone in uniform. Got a problem by making a picture of the (historic) post office in Bamako, and an other one by making a picture of a Cafe in Conakry (a police man was sitting on a bench before the Cafe, I didn't see him).

 

#13 6-15-2017 12:32 AM

Apurva_N
Apurva
New Delhi, India
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Re: West African Dangers

Thanks, Uli. I am only planning on Bamako in Mali and Nouakchott and Atar in Mauritania - these I assume will have transport? Are taxis safe/expensive in this region?

 

#14 6-15-2017 12:44 AM

Apurva_N
Apurva
New Delhi, India
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Wanderer
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Re: West African Dangers

One more question, Uli/Danly. As I'm going for a conference in Ghana first, I'll have a small pull-on piece in addition to a daypack by way of luggage. Do you think this would be okay or will it pose problems in taking public transport like shared taxis or buses along the route I'm finally planning - Accra-Lome-Cotonou (by land), Cotonou-Abidjan-Bamako-Nouakchott (all by flight), Nouakchott-Dakar (by land/ferry) and I fly out of Dakar. If you think that extra piece of luggage could be a hassle throughout, I could leave it in the Accra hotel I will initially be in, do the trip, and return to Accra and fly out from there. What do you think?

 

#15 6-16-2017 1:02 AM

ulis
Uli
Vienna, Austria
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Wanderer
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Re: West African Dangers

The less luggage the better, a daypack is usually free anything else will cost extra, Nuakshott Atar and Senegal border will be most likely by bush taxi (Taxi Brousse), there usually a Mercedes (124?), 4 passengers, Mauritania border to Dakar (and the other frankophone countries) usually a Peugoet 504 or Renault 21 up to 11 passengers! (You can buy 2 seats if you want.
In case you want to go from Atar to Chinguetti ask you accomodation about security.

Last edited by ulis (6-16-2017 1:08 AM)

 

#16 6-16-2017 3:12 AM

Apurva_N
Apurva
New Delhi, India
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Wanderer
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Re: West African Dangers

Thanks again, Uli. So it seems okay to carry both pieces of luggage - at most I may need to book two seats on the shared taxis?

Last edited by Apurva_N (6-16-2017 3:13 AM)

 

#17 6-16-2017 7:46 AM

ulis
Uli
Vienna, Austria
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Wanderer
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Re: West African Dangers

It's possible but much more easy without the trolley, if there is a possibility to send it back from Ghana I would do it (postoffice or DHL maybe), don't worry about not enough clothings to change and if there are important things they are safer by mail. Also don't expect any transportation to be on time (my bush taxi from Senegal to Conakri did take 36 hours instead of 20, one driver only, and 12 passengers).

 
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