Once I’d passed through immigration on the Liberia side, I walked across the bridge into Côte d’Ivoire. After getting my passport stamped, which took less than a minute, I had my first on arrival request, from a doctor stationed at the border, to see my yellow fever vaccination card. There must be a lot of non-vaccinated people going through that border if they’ve posted a doctor there!
As I walked further into Côte d’Ivoire, a guy was trying hard to get me to take his bike to Danané. The first price he told me was 10,000CFA, (€14) but I wasn’t willing to pay that much, so he asked me how much I would be willing to give him. I said 2000CFA (€3), but he said he couldn’t go below 3000CFA (€4.5). We eventually settled on 4000CFA (€6), less than half the price. I can still barter like a boss!
Getting to Abidjan
The road was a pretty terrible dirt road that had plenty of twists, turns, dips and bumps. My motorbike guy drove like a crazy man and barely even slowed down for the numerous bumps and dips along the way, so it was an extremely uncomfortable ride that my back hated me for. Upon arrival in Danané, he took me straight to the bus company. After I paid the rather exorbitant 8000CFA (€12) fee, I hopped on the bus to Abidjan at about 9am. Thankfully we weren’t squeezed in like we had been on previous transport and it was the first vehicle that I’d been in for a month that didn’t have a crack in the windscreen!
They already had a full load and the motor was running by the time I got my ticket, so I thought we’d be leaving soon. You’d think by this point, I wouldn’t be expecting so much in Africa. Of course, we didn’t leave until about 30 minutes later. Then we were only on the road for about 5 minutes before we stopped just outside of town. The area we stopped at had many piles of what looked like smoking sand. I could only guess that it was some kind of rubbish dump. Luckily, we only stopped for a few minutes to load something onto the roof.
A little later, we stopped at a checkpoint and the driver just seemed to be having a chat with the people there, while they didn’t actually check anything. We then stopped 15km out of Danané for some reason and then again in another town called Bangolo for the first of 2 fuel stops. I guess the bus guzzled a lot of fuel.
It was amusing watching women and kids running from out of nowhere, at each stop we made. They were all running to be the first to the bus for the best chance of selling their wares to passengers. They were pretty much selling the same things in every town. Mangoes, bread, eggs and cold drinks.
The road was sealed the whole way, but there were ridiculously large potholes everywhere, which meant a lot of slowing down and driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid them. At various points along the way, local kids could be seen trying to fill some of the gigantic potholes in the road with sand. The poor kids were fighting a losing battle, especially seeing as they had to move off the road every time a car got near.
Suprisingly, the road got worse as we got closer to Yamoussaokro. Which I thought was strange considering it’s supposed to be the (political) capital. The 420 kilometre trip from Danané took about 8 hours, so I was thinking that the 230 kilometre trip to Abidjan might take about 6 hours, which would put back my arrival time to after midnight. Luckily, almost as soon as we left the city, the roads got remarkably better. So much so, that it was almost like being on a European highway. That 230 kilometre trip took just over 2 hours, even with a couple of stops! After the roads I’ve endured lately, I would rate it as amazing.
Côte d’Ivoire is also the first country in West Africa where I’ve seen people riding bicycles along the side of the road. Perhaps because they have the only roads in Africa so far where it seems semi-safe to do so. Mind you, once you get into the city, the traffic would make it a lot more difficult. There’s so much traffic in fact, that drivers create their own ‘third lane’ on 2 lane roads.
One thing that seems to be universal here, is the thought that the place is dangerous. As a visitor just passing through, I guess I can’t really make judgments about such things, but I honestly haven’t seen or heard anything that has made it feel any less safe than in any other countries in West Africa. The only thing I’ve found mildy offensive is the strong smell of urine when walking along some streets. It seems men will just go to the toilet wherever they feel, even if people are within their line of sight.
Walking Around Abidjan
My bag had taken a bit of a beating on this trip, so when I saw a shoe repair shop while walking, I stopped in to get it stitched up. The very friendly man inside the stall kept trying to have conversations with me in French, even after me telling him, in very bad French, that I didn’t speak French. Maybe he was telling me about how proud he was of his son that went off to college, who knows. But he was done in a few short minutes and it only cost me 200CFA (€0.3).
I then walked on to an area close to the water, along what I thought would be a hiking trail, but ended up being a road to people’s houses. Whoops. I still got to see some interesting views on the way, including local farming fields, abandoned buildings and cows being cows.
As I continued along, I noticed that the city is very quiet on a Sunday. I’d say that about 70 percent of the shops that I saw were closed and even the roads seemed to have a lot less cars on them. I guess Sunday is a rest day. Or a wedding day. I passed about 3 marquees in different areas of the beach where people seemed to be all dressed up like they’d been to a wedding, but were just chilling and dancing to local music.
I was starting to get hungry, as I’de been walking around most of the day and got so lost in my own world that I’d forgotten to eat! It was lucky then that I somehow stumbed upon a cute little establishment where the staff were friendly and spoke English! I was ushered upstairs to an interesting open-air bar area where they fed me a lot of free tea. Before I made it to a seat, the guy at the souvenir shop tried to sell me this –
As I approached the bar, one of the workers started talking to me and it turns out he was originally from Mali and was very interested in what I thought about some of the other West African countries I’d visited. We ended up chatting for hours and he noticed how much I liked the tea, so just ended up telling the staff to give me the pot. It was then that I found out that I have a tea limit. Three quarters of a pot, incase you were wondering.
I didn’t actually want to leave, as I was loving the laid back atmosphere of the place so much, but as it was already way past midnight, I was getting very tired. While I was walking along the road after leaving, a taxi stopped and offered me a free ride home, because he’d seen a drunk man near me and was worried for my safety. Awfully nice of him, but he also took the opportunity to tell me that I should love Jesus, because he will provide for me. I adivised him that I was doing a good enough job providing for myself, haha!
Getting to Ghana
As it was a day before Independence Day, there were many people selling Côte d’Ivoire flags. One of them approached me and we started the barter dance. The fact that we didn’t share a common language didn’t stop the negotiation and I walked away a short while later with a small flag for half of his initially stated price. Yay me.
Not long after seeing a dude taking his lawnmower for a walk along the side of the highway, I was at the Ghana Embassy, where I was told a visa would be waiting for me, after my host had completed most of the process on his end. Unfortunately, the people at the embassy were the opposite of helpful and said I would have to wait for it. It was at this point that I was advised that I could just pick up a visa at the border, so I headed for the Gare du Bassam Bus Station to get a car to the border.
As I got to Gare du Bassam a guy approached me and asked where I was going. He then took me to another bus station that only had one service to Ghana a day, which had already left. We then had to walk back to where we’d started. The cheeky git then asked me to give him something for taking me on that unnecessary walk. Yeah, right.
It seemed like this wasn’t really a bus station, just more of a place where cars to various places gather to pick up passengers. I got in a car where the driver had agreed to let me pay the 5000CFA (€8) for my ride at the border, where I could get some money changed. For some strange reason, there were no banks or money changers open in the area, despite it being a weekday. This car wasn’t too bad and we weren’t squeezed in, which was a lovely bonus!
The road was generally good, but there were a couple of short sections about 30km out of town where it was terrible. It got good again and stayed that way for the rest of the journey to the border. I started talking to a Nigerian guy who was sitting next to me in the car and he ended up helping me through the border.
We slowed down significantly on approach to the border as random lots of speed bumps started popping up on the road about 60 kilometres from the border. Once we got within a kilometre of it, there was a huge traffic jam, with cars at a standstill. We were about to get out and walk, but then the cars started magically moving again. The driver and the Nigerian’s daughter waited in the car while we proceeded on foot to the immigration point and exited Côte d’Ivoire with no drama. The car was waiting for us outside and drove us to the Ghana side, where a new adventure was about to begin.
?? Côte d’Ivoire Summary??
In a few words – friendly, but overly security conscious
Language – French and local languages
Currency – West African Franc (CFA)
WiFi availability – ????
Abidjan has a few big modern shopping centres as well as some small cafes with decent WiFi. These places are normally quite easy to find, but people will always help you if you need it.
Transport – ????
? Shared taxis are available on a zone system, but the zone system seems to be a lot more simplified than other countries and drivers will charge you the shared price of around 1500 CFA (€2.30), even if you’re the only passenger. Taxis are colour coded according to the zones they work in, with the red taxis being able to take you point to point, for a slightly higher fee of around 2000 CFA (€3).
? Côte d’Ivoire was the first West African country I encountered that had fairly roomy intercity buses, but they were also quite a bit more expensive than those in other countries.
Roads – ???
The roads in Côte d’Ivoire covered the full range, from shockingly terrible to amazingly smooth and well maintained.
Scenery – ?????
Green and dusty with an occasional beach.
Prices, – ???
While still relatively easy to travel through on a budget, Côte d’Ivoire is a little more expensive than some of its neighbours.
Checkpoints – I did not encounter any checkpoints.
Border efficiency – ????
Border crossings were quick and easy.
Corruption level – 0
No corruption was evident. Côte d’Ivoire seems to be a lot less corrupt that other West African countries.
Overall – ?????
Next up: Ghana
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