It is mid-February and following announcing my subsequent trip back in January, I locate myself receiving prepared to fly back to England following only finishing portion of my trip. From time to time life has other plans for us and you have to just give in and surrender to a alter in course.
Following not becoming in a position to get my Cameroon visa in London due to not getting the right paperwork, I attempted once again in Cote d’Ivoire and was told that I required to be a resident of Côte d’Ivoire to apply for a visa. Even with locals protesting that I was travelling on a tourist visa, I was nevertheless refused.
Obtaining seasoned West Africa bureaucracy it seems that slipping an official a bribe is the most effective way to get visas right here. As a lady travelling alone I of course didn’t really feel comfy carrying out this or would even want to take portion in one thing that I think is unethical. Alternatively I went to the British Embassy for assistance and was told that they weren’t actually in a position to support.
Not becoming in a position to speak French (my pocket guide didn’t actually support considerably) and facing continuous troubles receiving about in taxis (a regional lady and her mum helped me out in the finish), filled me with anxiousness.
Even if I had slipped the official $20 would I nevertheless encounter the very same troubles in Cameroon for my other visas that I required? Not getting the added funds to fly about Africa to attempt other embassies I had no option but to give in. I was unable to fly to Cameroon to meet my pal and commence the subsequent tour.
The anxiousness that I felt more than these handful of days was not a pleasant practical experience. Travelling must be entertaining and one thing that you appear forward to not one thing that fills you with dread. But, the decision had been produced for me. I had to make option plans and fly property.
There are so a lot of variables when you travel that you cannot generally get it correct but every location teaches you one thing unique. Following spending six and a half weeks in this African area right here are my lessons learnt travelling to West Africa.
Men and women and Interactions
Taxi drivers could be illiterate and unable to study maps. You need to have to know a landmark for them to know exactly where you are going (i.e. the name of a pharmacy that they could recognise).
Do not count on consumer service.
Do not be friendly to the guys in Ghana. As quickly as they have your quantity (even if you only booked with them via Airbnb or Uber) they will continue to get in touch with you or even turn up to exactly where you are staying.
When locals commence operating and shout “just go,” you need to have to just go. This occurred to girls I met who went to a nightclub and have been told to “go” when the police turned up.
You will be stared at on the beach, particularly in a bikini.
Do not take photographs in markets with no asking permission otherwise you could get a hostile response even if you are not taking photographs of folks.
When a shop seller says “just come and take a appear,” they will nevertheless stress you to get one thing.
It is standard for a taxi driver to cease and ask various folks for directions even when you have currently clarified that they know exactly where they’re going.
Asking for a price tag is a game. Count on to continually have to barter for taxis.
Count on children to shout out ‘white person’ in their regional language when they see you.
You could get questioned as to why you are not with a man and then be anticipated to be hunting for a man there.
Do not be shocked if a seller is asleep. If you want to get one thing you could have to wake them up.
Electrical energy can reduce out sporadically. Take a transportable charger with you to re-charge your telephone or camera.
If you want comfort you have to spend for it and go for four/five star accommodation.
You could not get a sheet for your hostel bed and will have to use a sleeping bag liner or sarong as an alternative.
Do not count on hot water. You will also need to have at least two showers a day in Ghana / Benin / Togo / Cote d’Ivoire. It is sweltering! The south of these nations are much more humid and the additional north you go the drier it is.
You get a much better price with € in some nations rather than US $.
Supermarkets are a rarity in Benin and Togo.
Restaurants – as we know them – are a luxury. Count on regional ladies to be cooking on the side of the road.
Vegetarian does not actually exist. Verify what meat you are consuming as it could be bush rat.
Maintain all of your alter. Modify is like gold dust in these nations.
You can get sim cards from street sellers and anyplace that you see a significant colourful umbrella with the name of the telephone provider. Just don’t forget to unlock your telephone ahead of leaving property (in contrast to me!) otherwise sim cards will not perform.
For French-speaking nations you need to have French!
Airports want to see your yellow fever certificate. Leaving Ghana airport you could have your temperature checked ahead of reaching the immigration desk.
Only take regional buses in some of the nations if you do not thoughts becoming squashed in like a sardine.
It can be more affordable to fly back to Europe than in-amongst nations in Africa.
Do not book the least expensive airline (hello Camair-Co!) exactly where you could have to wait at the airport for six hours to then be told that your flight is cancelled and to come back two days later to then locate it delayed once again! Verify airline testimonials ahead of you book and go for a much more reputable airline if you have the money.
South African Airways are astounding!
Overlanding camping trips are not a vacation and can really feel like a college trip. If you like independent travel you could struggle with the notion based on the tour organization.
Travelling in West Africa for longer than a month can be exhausting.
Gin and Pastis are ridiculously low-cost. You can get bottles from £2!
Your hair will get fluffy. Take hot oil for defending your hair against the humidity.
Do not take a yoga mat for sleeping on while camping (it presents no assistance whatsoever but it is valuable for yoga!)
Do not count on to be in a position to jog anyplace unless you wake up incredibly early ahead of the 30 degree heat sets in, and not in a city exactly where there could not be pavements.
Do not swim in the sea along the coastline. The currents are actually powerful so you can only paddle. If you do paddle, young children will attempt and swim up to you and touch you when you are in the sea.
Security & Bureaucracy
Count on to get stopped and fined on the spot if you are driving.
Be cautious going to nations major up to and throughout elections.
Verify Foreign Workplace assistance in case of any instability. On my very first trip we have been meant to finish in Burkina Faso. Due to growing instability and violence in the nation we had to reroute twice back to Ghana following receiving the visa for Burkina.
Book changeable flight tickets in case you need to have to make modifications with the unpredictability of this area.
And most importantly – Embassy officials will make points up just to count on a bribe or throw a celebration on a Friday afternoon and not method your 24 hour visa that you paid for. Get visas in your property nation ahead of you go. Do not be anticipated to be permitted into embassies either. I had to stand in a make-shift tent outdoors the embassy in the sweltering heat and wait for them to come out and verify my paperwork.
And finally… practically nothing will go to program
West Africa is absolutely one particular for the adventurous solo. It throws a lot of challenges along the way and can be frustrating. As a British lady travelling alone there have been various occasions when I had to remind myself that this was a cultural practical experience and to believe of all the positives (think me this was tough at occasions).
But West Africa has also taught me to be humble, has place me back in touch with what’s critical and produced me appreciate almost everything I was taking for granted.
Is Central Africa any unique? I’ll quickly locate out as I fly back out at the finish of March to join my pal for the final portion of my African adventure (visa permitting of course).
Definitely this is just my practical experience of West Africa. Have you been to West Africa? I’d appreciate to hear your practical experience of the area in the comments under, thanks x
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