Things to Know About Travel in Africa

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa

Amazing Africa
Overall, Africa has provided an amazing set of experiences that will stick with me forever. It can obliterate your faith in humanity one minute, then transport you into a euphoric state that restores all faith the next minute. It is a lesson in the best and worst of what humanity has to offer. It will give you a new found love for all that you have back home, while making you envious of locals for their simple, no stress kind of lifestyles. It is a land of beautiful contradictions that is well worth seeing for yourself!

Africa Time
One thing to keep in mind is that time is a different concept on the African continent. While people in other places are watching the clock and busily rushing around to get through their never-ending lists of things to do, Africans are ignoring clocks and taking it easy. This means that Africans always have time to chat and connect with people. You can see this in communities, where everyone greets everyone they pass in the street and everyone in the community looks out for each other.

The lack of regard for time creates a situation that most from outside the continent might not be used to; excessive waiting. While schedules do exist in North Africa, they’re rarely adhered to. In West Africa, schedules are almost non-existent and most forms of intercity transport require a wait. It could be an hour, it could be a day, but however long it is, it’s a great opportunity to talk to some locals. You can guarantee they will be eager to talk to you!

Animals
You will see a lot of animals roaming around African towns that you just won’t see in any other places. Goats are like the dogs of Africa. Many people have them as pets and many are strays that just wander around looking for food. Cows can also be common in more remote areas and you can guarantee that they’ll want to cross the road at the exact moment that your car enters their area. But you won’t mind, because you’ll be on Africa time.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. Border Goat K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. Cows

In Northern Africa, you may see a few donkeys being used as beasts of burden, while a few West African countries have some boars wandering around. Strangely enough, these animals seem to have a bit of road sense and tend to not randomly run onto roads. They also tend to be fairly docile and will barely take any notice of people walking near them, so they don’t pose any safety risks.

Transport

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. Intercity Van
Inter city van

Buses, vans, shared taxis and mototaxis are available to take you where ever you want to go at almost any time of the day or night. Each type of transport has its own pros and cons. Buses are by far the most comfortable mode of transport but are generally not available for long distance travel in all but a few countries. Vans and shared taxis are the most common forms of transport for longer distances throughout West Africa. They can be quite cheap, but they can also be quite uncomfortable!

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. Intercity Taxi
Intercity taxi

While in buses, you would have your own seat, in vans and shared taxis you would be sharing seats. For example, a small hatchback style car would have 6 people, not including the driver, squeezed in; 2 in the front seat and 4 in the back. A larger wagon style car would carry 7 people; 1 in the front, 3 in the back seat and 3 in another added seat behind that. A Landcruiser would have 10 people crammed in; 2 in the front, 4 in the back, then another 4 on bench seats in the luggage area. Depending on the country, a 12 seater van may have anywhere from 12 to 32 people inside, plus the ticket guy riding along on the back.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. City Taxi
City taxi

Mototaxis are normally the most prevalent form of transport through borders as you go deeper into West Africa. Sometimes border roads are so bad that they are essentially impassable for cars, or at least that’s what the Mototaxi drivers will tell you. Sometimes the lack of cars in the area and the condition of the road kind of backs up what they’re saying.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. Mototaxis
Mototaxis waiting for you

There is a fourth mode of transport that appears to only exist in Sierra Leone and Liberia, called Keke or Kekeh. It is essentially the African version of the Tuk Tuk and is generally the cheapest way to get around cities, as drivers will charge a per person rate, as opposed to a flat hire rate.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. Sierra Leone Keke
Sierra Leone Keke

Safety
With over-sensationalised media reports and travel warnings issued by many countries, it can be hard to know whether travelling in Africa is safe or not. Personally, from a safety point of view, I don’t think travelling in Africa is different from travelling in any other place. There are problems everywhere and it always helps to be mindful of your surroundings wherever you are.

Let’s talk about travel warnings for a bit. Obviously, governments think they are issuing these in the interests of their peoples’ safety, but often they are issued based on outdated and/or exaggerated information. This tends to create fear and worry, which leads to needless itinerary changes. Also, the people issuing the warnings have probably never been to the countries they post the warnings for. You wouldn’t want to learn a language from someone who doesn’t speak that language, so why take travel advice from someone who hasn’t travelled?

Of the 13 African countries I travelled to on my recent trip, 9 had current ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ warnings, with one of those having a ‘reconsider the need to travel’ warning. The last one, incidentally, turned out to be the most amazingly friendly country where I never felt anything but completely safe. I also managed to pass through the rest of the countries with no incident. Do your own research and contact locals in the places you intend to visit; they are in a much better position to tell you what it’s really like. They will probably show you some awesome African hospitality when you arrive too!

Even if you’re travelling alone, you’re never alone in Africa. Almost every car ride or outdoor walk produces new friendships, which will endure long after you’ve returned home. Locals will help you out of the goodness of their hearts, to make sure you’re safe and don’t get ripped off by people who just see a walking dollar sign instead of a person. These same kind-hearted souls will call you weeks or months later just to check that you are okay. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from travelling through West Africa was that when the focus isn’t on money, humanity prevails. On the flip side of that, when money is the focus, corruption prevails.

Corruption
Parts of Africa are almost infamous for their corruption, but the corruption presents itself to visitors in different ways, depending on the country. It can range from a light-hearted, cheeky attempt to convince you that you need to pay for an entry stamp, to out-right extortion where a passport is held until money changes hands. Of course, corruption can run much deeper than what takes place at borders.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. Anti-Corruption Sign

Sometimes the level of corruption in a country’s government is painfully evident in the lack of infrastructure and services within its cities. Other times, roadblocks are set up for the express purpose of pocketing other peoples money. It can be extremely disheartening, but be thankful you only have to deal with it for a short time; some Africans have to deal with it their whole lives.

Languages
Most of the countries in the North and West Africa regions were colonised by the French and therefore mainly speak French. Arabic is also widely spoken in the Northern region, but as you move into the Western region, you’ll begin to hear a variety of local languages, sometimes several within one country. Locals from different language groups in the same country will often use French as their medium for communication.

It would most definitely be advantageous to have some knowledge of French when traversing these countries, but that’s not to say that it’s impossible to make it through without. Just be prepared for a little more frustration than usual, but it’ll help you find new ways to communicate without words. There are English speakers here and there, so you could get lucky.

Accommodation

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. Outdoor Amenities
Outdoor Amenities

I stayed with locals for my entire trip, so I can’t comment on the condition and price of hotels in West Africa. Most locals live in very simple houses with no running water, so bucket showers and non-flushing outdoor toilets were very common. Some places even had outdoor amenities without roofs, where you could shower under the sky.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. More Outdoor Amenities
More outdoor amenities

Just For Fun
Now, just for a laugh, I’ll leave you with my version of the Africa song and some trip stats –

I hear the taxi beeps tonight
Along with people hissing to get my attention
It doesn’t matter if it’s right
Kids keep stretching out their hands for a donation
A young man stopped me along the way
Saying welcome to my country, please take my phone number
Here, time moves in a different way
There’s no hurry, let’s just wait a while

Border officers try to bribe you on the way through
Sellers of water and peanuts will gather around you
And then it rains down in Gambia
Taking away all the power and the internet

The wild goats wander ’round at night
Taunting the tied up donkeys longing for some company
That’s when the time is just right
For friends to gather in the dark for BBQs or tea on a rooftop
Outside it’s cooler than inside
And everyone’s always glad you’re there

Border officers give their phone numbers to you
Transport is squeezy and some roads are atrocious too
But then it’s calm down in Cote d’Ivoire
Sit back, relax and enjoy your tea

African Trip Stats
50,000 goats
11,000 kilometres in 235 hours (averaging 49.8km/h)
60 days
50 bucket showers
28 cars/vans in 11 countries (6300km, 100h)
13 countries
15 motorbikes in 6 countries (280km, 4h)
11 buses in 4 countries (1550km, 30h)
8 coaches in 2 countries (2830km, 45h)
3 trains (740km, 16h)
3 car carrying ferries
1 regret; not finding Wakanda.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 6 Things To Know About Travel in Africa. Travel Map
Look at all those pins!

Kenya

Jambo!
My host, who was also a pastor running an orphanage in a low socio-economic suburb of Nairobi, was waiting at the airport for me. Unfortunately, I had walked straight past him without noticing and couldn’t connect to the WiFi to find out where he was. It wasn’t long before a helpful local gave me his phone to call my host, who actually happened to be standing right near me the whole time.

I realised rather quickly that I was a world away from West Africa. East Africa had it’s own kinda vibe going on! While walking to the car from the terminal, I was greeted many times with ‘Jambo’, the Swahili word for hello. As I was hungry, we went into the city to get some food. The roads on the way in all looked immaculate and I was interested to see that Kenyans drove on the left hand side of the road. My host told me it was because they were once a British colony, but the 2 ex British colonies I’d passed through in West Africa had switched to driving on the right hand side in the 1970s.

The city looked very vibrant and the faint buzz of distant music from unseen nightclubs could be heard. On the short walk from the car to the food place, I was accosted by at least 3 kids trying to get money from me. My host jumped into action and tried to shoo them away from me. Once safely inside the food place, I was delighted to find that it wasn’t much more expensive than similar places in West Africa. As a major tourist destination, I had expected Nairobi to be much more expensive.

Outside the orphanage

With my hunger satisfied, I made my way to the orphanage, where all was quiet, as it was fairly late by the time I finally got there. When I woke up in the morning, the older orphans were going about their chores, while some of the younger orphans were equal amounts of curious about and cautious of me. One little girl was watching me from behind a door when I wasn’t looking. She would duck behind the frame when I looked her way, then peer out again when she thought I wasn’t looking. This became a little game that we played while I sat down for tea with the family.

Like many places in Africa, Kenya loves tea. It’s as much a drink as it is a ritual. It seems the family that runs the orphanage couldn’t start their day until they’d sat down together for their morning tea session. I was invited to join them and was surprised to find that they added milk to their tea. While Kenyan tea is nice, it’s a bit weaker than in other places, so I was happy with just one cup.

Playing Football

While waiting for a second pastor, Peter to arrive, I went outside to mingle with the kids. Perhaps they had been told it was how they should greet foreigners, but they seemed to love shaking hands, which was infinitely adorable. Even my little friend from earlier had offered her hand, when she saw other kids doing it. When Peter arrived, he guided me to the area where I could catch a Matatu, or local bus. I was told he would also accompany me to the Nairobi National Park, to make sure I got there safely.

Getting Around
As in many other places in Africa, there seems to be a kind of zone system in place, where buses can only travel a certain distance. This meant that I had to change buses 3 times to get to the vicinity of the national park. At the second change, Peter advised me that the church had only given him 200KES (โ‚ฌ1.7) for transport. Each Matatu costs about 30-40KES, so taking me all the way to the park would’ve meant that he might not have been able to get home later. I didn’t want him to be stranded, so I indicated that he should continue on to his university and I could make my own way from there.

Inside a Matatu

Matatu Music

Kenyans love their music loud, no matter what time of day it is, even when taking public transport. Stepping into a Matatu is like stepping into a moving nightclub. Not only was the music pumping, but there were also disco lights flashing and videos playing. I was able to get a Matatu to drop me off within a 10 minute walk of the park entrance, where warthogs and children have right of way.

Park Entrance

Hakuna Matata
Earlier in the day, my host had tried to explain the meaning of Hakuna Matata, to which I had replied, “It means no worries, for the rest of your days”, in song, of course! He seemed genuinely shocked that I knew what it meant. See, movies can teach you stuff! Jokes aside, it definitely seems to be the Kenyan mantra. Not one person I encountered was worried or stressed about anything. Everyone was always available and eager for a chat. Even just buying an entry ticket could lead to an in-depth conversation.

National Park Entry Ticket

After spending a fair amount of time chatting to the woman who had greeted me in front of the ticket booth, the staff graciously allowed me to leave my pack in their office so I could do the ‘Safari Walk’ unencumbered. I was also assigned my own personal guide, Martha who was very friendly and full of information. She took me around the circuit once, then said I was free to do the circuit again on my own time. In between the different animal zones, Martha was only too glad to provide insights into life in Nairobi.

Safari Walk
The Safari Walk involved following a more or less circular path with smaller paths coming off it that lead to areas where you could view animals roaming around. Or in the case of the lions, you could barely catch a glimpse of them resting as far away from the viewing area as possible. Some animals were more curious than others, especially the rhino who pretty much walked from the other side of her zone, to the fence near where I was standing, just to see what was going on.

Curious Rhino

Although there were people around, the place was not at all crowded. That allowed me to spend a bit of time alone in each area, to give the hiding animals a chance to show themselves. In the Cheetah zone, the mother was hiding off in the far corner and the young ones were in another area only accessible to staff. I gave up on the mother coming closer and started moving on, when one of the staff stopped me and asked if I was scared of cats. I wondered why he’d asked, until he offered a special close up encounter, just for me, (of course!) which was supposed to be super secret. So shh!

Cool Cat

The young cat seemed to not care that I was standing right near him, but I guess that’s what happens when a wild animal is raised with humans around. On my final walk around, the hippo that had been hiding when I first passed, was now comically trying to drink water from a pipe. The poor thing seemed to be struggling to get it’s head in the right place to allow the water running from the pipe to flow into his mouth.

Thirsty Hippo

Super Supportive Staff
When Martha had guided me through the walk on my first time around the circuit, I’d told her I planned to walk the 6 or so kilometres to the main road where I could get a Matatu to the airport. By the time I got back to the entry/exit area, Martha had relayed that information to another staff member, who knew the Matatu system much better than I did. She advised me that I could get a Matatu from the road just outside the park, which would take me to the main road. She then explained in detail, where the Mutatu ‘station’ was in relation to where I would get dropped off and wrote everything down for me when I said I wasn’t sure if I could remember it all. What a lovely lady!

Matatu Instructions

With the hour that the kind lady had saved me, I decided to check out some more of the park. I was thinking about going to the animal orphanage, but I wanted to ask the gate attendant some questions first. The attendant happily answered my questions, then proceeded to spend the next hour talking to me about my trip, in between checking tickets, of course! The overall atmosphere of the place was amazingly relaxed and the ‘no worries’ attitude was definitely rubbing off on me, so much so that I lost track of time and almost left too late to make my flight.

Time to Go
Sadly, the time to depart had arrived, so I made my way to the disco bus, I mean Matatu stop. The bus was already at the stop and luckily the driver waited for me to cross the road so I could get on it. A short walk from where that Matatu dropped me off, I found the Matatu station, which was actually just a whole pile of Matatu’s parked on the side of the road.

Matatu Station

Different buses seemed to have different prices, so I just hopped in the cheapest one, but as the driver was nowhere in sight, I had to wait a while. A group of young guys noticed I was in the bus by myself and decided to come over and talk to me. They then hilariously tried to convince me that I needed a strong African man in my life. It was even more amusing that they were super disappointed when I wouldn’t give any of them my number.

Toll plaza with pedestrian security check

As I could see the airport area approaching, I realised the reason this Matatu was cheaper than the others; its drop off point was on the highway, about a 10 minute walk from the airport area. On the walk I passed through the airport toll plaza, where they had a special security checkpoint set up for pedestrian traffic. I guess a lot of people alight at the highway exit, as I did.

By the time I got to the airport, I still had an hour before my flight departed, but there was a huge line of people just trying to get into the airport to check in. As I’d already checked in and had a boarding pass, the kind security officer let me jump the queue, allowing me to get to the gate with plenty of time to watch the sunset on both Nairobi and my African adventure. I’ll be back Kenya!

Sunset over the ‘Pride of Africa’

๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ชNairobi Summary๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช
In a few words โ€“ Hakuna Matata
Language – English and Swahili
Currency – Kenyan Shilling (KES)
WiFi availability – ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ
When I was looking for it, I was able to find WiFi quite easily, but sometimes had problems connecting.
Transport – ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—
๐Ÿš Mutatus, or disco buses, are available everywhere in the city area and run frequently. At 30-50 KES (โ‚ฌ0.26-0.43) per ride, they are also very inexpensive.
Roads – ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ
The roads in Nairobi were pretty amazing.
Scenery – ๐ŸŒณโ›ฐ๐Ÿž๐Ÿ–๐ŸŒณ
Nairobi has a variety of different landscapes, from grasslands to jungles.
Prices – ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ
Great for the budget conscious traveller.
Checkpoints
I didn’t encounter any checkpoints in Nairobi.
Border efficiency – ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ
Despite not having a record of my pre-purchased evisa when I entered the country, immigration officers were polite and chased up my visa details with only a short delay. Exiting was a breeze.
Corruption level – No coruption was evident
Overall – ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Benin

Border Bribes
After walking a short distance from the Togo immigration area, I got back on my friend Taotao’s bike and we rode to the Benin side. Taotao came into the immigration area with me and acted as the liaison between myself and the officers. He told them that I was just transitting through, as I already had a flight out booked. We were ushered into an office where a guy, let’s call him Mr Wants-money-for-nothing, advised us that he would issue me with an 8 day transit visa for 30,000CFA (โ‚ฌ45). All the information I’d received beforehand had indicated that the visa was only 10,000CFA (โ‚ฌ15).

Mr Wants-money-for-nothing then offered another alternative. He would give me the 10,000CFA visa, but I would have to pay him another 10,000CFA on top of that. Taotao negotiated him down to 5000CFA, which is still half the price of the transit visa, but I feel I lose a little bit of integrity each time I’m forced to play this corruption game. I couldn’t have been happier that this was the last country I’d have to do that in.

Although I’d gotten off to a good start and had managed to avoid having to pay corrupt people until about halfway through West Africa, the last 3 countries really screwed me over on that front. In the end, I was forced to take part in just as much corruption as I’d managed to avoid, for a final score of –
Kez = 4; African border corruption = 4.

Cruising to Cotonou
I was out of the immigration area in less than 10 minutes, then Taotao took me a little bit further up the road and found a car to take me to Cotonou, for 2000CFA (โ‚ฌ3). After saying our goodbyes, Taotao headed back to Togo and I got in the car. There were only 2 other people in the car at that point, but the car didn’t stop to wait for more people, so I was relieved that for the first time in Africa, I wasn’t going to be squeezed in.

Unfortunately, that relief wasn’t very long lasting as we picked up 2 more people 20 minutes later. Well, the extra space was nice while it lasted. They had decided to bring along a live chicken and a live goat with them. They just put the animals in the back with the luggage, which seemed a little cruel, but I guess the trip was only going to take an hour. Apparently, the goat agreed with me as it spent a lot of the ride making made some awful sounds that I didn’t know goats could make. At some points, it sounded so much like a baby crying that I had to look back and check that they hadn’t put a baby in there.

The car dropped me off on the side of the major arterial road through Cotonou, just in time for the sunset. The driver kindly called my host, Coffi and I waited for him to pick me up. As the area I’d been left in was a major drop off area for intercity cars, about 50 motorbike taxis offered me lifts. It’s easy to tell the motorbike taxis from normal motorbikes, because all the taxis wear bright yellow vests, to indicate they’re for hire. This definitely makes things easier for people who don’t know the city.

Cotonou at sunset

Cool, Calm and Chatty in Cotonou
For the first time ever, I was presented with a fairly unique problem. When I woke up in the morning, it was raining. The rain itself wasn’t the issue, but my hosts place only had an outdoor shower with no roof. While showering in the rain seems like a novel idea that I wouldn’t have any problem with, the issue would come when trying to get dry! I decided the best idea was to wait out the rain.

Open air shower

That was fine, because it gave me a chance to chat with Coffi and his family. His English wasn’t very good, so we did have some difficulties understanding each other, but he was always smiley and willing to try. I think he really enjoyed having someone from outside of Africa to share things with. His family were also absolutely adorable and helpful. Coffi’s two younger sisters happily cooked breakfast for me each morning and were always busy doing things around the house.

My Benin family

I’d asked a few people living in Cotonou where all the fun places were and what were the best things to see. Every reply seemed to indicate that there was nothing to do except see the beach. Luckily, I wasn’t staying far from the beach, so Coffi and I went for a walk along the beach, where we saw some of the local small fishing boats and a stage being set up for the Urban Vibes Festival that was soon to take place there.

Beached fishing boat

As it appeared that I had now seen all there was to see in Cotonou, I decided to head to the nearest WiFi depository and relax while catching up on the real world that I’d been almost completely detached from for the last few months. The only area in the whole city that really offered WiFi was near the airport, which was also close to where I was staying.

The suburbs

The airport area had a completely different look to the rest of the city. I’d speculate that the reason for the difference was all about keeping up appearances. As most visitors that enter the city would do so via the airport, they clearly wanted to give the best first impression they possibly could. I’d encountered mainly dusty roads in the rest of the city, but this area had nice, new sealed roads lined with trees, as well as manicured gardens on roundabouts and median strips.

Near the airport

While walking through the airport area, I did come across a few things that I found rather strange. Firstly, the drainage system on the shiny new airport road seemed to consist of concrete pavement that had people size, square holes at regular intervals along it. This meant that any pedestrians had to weave from the pavement to the road and back again several times. Secondly, there was a very old disused plane, with a Benin flag on the tail, that was falling apart, within the airport area. Definitely not a shining example of Benin aviation.

People size pavement hole and disused plane

To get my WiFi fix, I ended up at the hotel across the road from the airport, where the staff were super friendly and the food was surprisingly cheap, as long as you stayed away from the buffet. The staff pretty much let me sit there the whole day after ordering only 1 meal. There wasn’t really anyone else there, so I guess there was no need to move me on.

Random roundabout artwork near the hotel

While at the hotel, some locals came to visit me for a chat. The first one was an interesting local man named Solomon. It turns out that he had lived in Istanbul and knew one of my friends who had also once lived there. We chatted for a while, mainly about how divisive different religions are. He had some very strong opinions on this! After he left, a friend of someone I’d met in Ghana came to see me with his friend. My Ghanaian friend had apparently spoken so highly of me that they just had to meet me. We had a nice chat before parting ways.

I had heard from a few people that there was a huge mall in Cotonou, but I found out that this ‘huge mall’ was in fact just a small complex consisting of about 10 shops which included one huge supermarket. I wouldn’t have even noticed it was there if I hadn’t recognised the name ‘Erevan’ which was the name of the supermarket in the complex. It is quite interesting to see what qualifies as a ‘mall’ in different West African countries.

Leaving West Africa
After spending the last 2 months traversing nearly 12,000km by road through 14 countries, I was glad to finally be travelling on a plane! The Cotonou Airport was a lot smaller than I expected it to be. In fact, there was only 1 duty-free shop past the immigration area and one gate after the security check. Luckily I had some snacks and had managed to get through security with a half-full bottle of water.

The whole secured area at Cotonou airport

Before I got to the secured area, West Africa had one more obstacle to throw my way. A narcotics search by a particularly rude, un-uniformed officer who didn’t bother to introduce himself or what he was doing. Obviously bored with his life, he decided to practice his English by picking on the only foreigner in the airport. Awesome. At least he didn’t want any money and let me go as soon as he realised that my bag contained exactly what I’d told him it contained, clothes. With a sigh of relief, I was glad to say, “Bye bye, West Africa!”

East Africa awaits

๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฏBenin Summary๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฏ
In a few words – nothing to see here
Language – French and local languages
Currency – West African Franc (CFA)
WiFi availability – ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ
The area around the airport seemed to be the only place where WiFi was available.
Transport – ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—
๐Ÿ Bikes seem to be the popular transport option and the high visibility yellow vests that the mototaxi drivers wear makes them easily recognisable.
๐Ÿš˜ Shared taxis are also readily available and seem to be a little less squeezy and in slighty better condition than their counterparts throughout West Africa.
Roads – ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ
It appears that despite some pretty obvious corruption, Benin has fairly decent roads and infrastructure.
Scenery – ๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿ–๐Ÿœ๐Ÿ–๐Ÿœ
Benin is pretty much just beaches and dust with the occasional tree.
Prices – ๐Ÿ’ฐ
Benin is great on a budget. Street food is relatively cheap and even meals from the airport hotel are reasonably priced.
Checkpoints – I didn’t encounter any checkpoints in Benin.
Border efficiency – ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ
There were little to no queues and immigration formalities were completed within 15 minutes on both entry and exit, including bribery negotiations.
Corruption level – โš โš โš โš 
Border corruption was clearly a thing!
Overall – ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Togo

The Road to Lome
After a short few minutes on a bike from the Ghana side, I reached the Togo side of the Wli border. There was no power in the small room where the immigration formalities were to take place, so the officer was checking my passport by torchlight. Once they realised there was no visa in my passport, because I was expecting to get a visa on arrival, they said they couldn’t issue the visa on arrival at that time, but the bigger border a little way down the road could help me.

Another officer came out from a room behind where we were and the 2 officers spoke to each other in French for a bit. I presume they were discussing the situation because they eventually told me that they would give me permission to enter Togo and I could get the visa in Lome. Well, that was totally unexpected! I’d never heard of anything like that happening before, but was glad that it did, as it saved me some back-tracking.

I then got back on the bike again to climb up a windy, broken up road. I’m sure there would’ve been a lovely view had my trip been during daylight hours. The hill seemed to go on forever, but that could’ve been because it was completely dark and there was nothing more interesting to focus on. I was so glad when the road finally started leveling off because after that point, it was all downhill and I was able to catch glimpses of the lights from far off towns through the trees. I’m not sure exactly how long it took to get the 25 kilometres to Adeta, but it was probably about 40 minutes.

Once in Adeta, the motorbike guy found me a van to Lome that was ready to go, for 1500CFA, (โ‚ฌ2.3). That was incidentally the same price that my Ghanaian friend George had told me to pay for the motorbike. The motorbike guy had either forgotten the set price, or thought that he could get more money out of me, so let’s just say there was some banter back and forth about the amount I would pay. The van driver ended up moderating and getting the motorbike rider to agree to the set price, because he wanted to leave.

The van didn’t look too bad from the outside. It was loaded up with stuff, so there was only room for 4 people. The driver didn’t speak too much English, but he was very nice and kept checking if I wanted anything. Once the van started moving, it became obvious that this trip was going to take a long time as the van struggled to gain speed. It seemed that the highest speed it could manage was about 60km/h. Mind you that’s an estimate based on my offline map app, because none of the meters on the dash of the van worked. It’s a good bet that the van wasn’t very mechanically sound, but hey, it’s Africa, so that sounds about normal! I’m not sure if the slow speed was because of all the weight or the mechanical problems. It was probably a bit of both, to be honest. Luckily, Lome was only 140km away, so it took just under 3 hours to get there.

Once I got to Lome, I had to take 2 bikes to get to Tsevie, the town where I was staying, which was 35km from Lome. Of course they charged extra because it was night time. The price during the day would’ve been 500CFA (โ‚ฌ0.8), but they were trying to charge 2000CFA (โ‚ฌ3). I found a guy who was willing to take me for 800CFA (โ‚ฌ1.2) because he was going that way anyway. So about 40 minutes and 2 almost swallowed bugs later, I finally made to it Tsevie and met my host Anoumou. We stayed in his office for the night, where he repaired and sold electrical goods, because it was quite late by the time I got in.

Tsevie

Main Roundabout in Tsevie

Tsevie, pronounced kind of like che-vee, was quite a small town. It had only one sealed road, which was the main road through the town. All other roads in the town were dirt roads that seemed to be arranged in perfect grids. Many places, including my host’s place, had outdoor amenities including long drop toilets and open-air showers with only walls, but no roof.

Tsevie’s only traffic light

In the morning, Anoumou woke me up at about 6:30 to walk to the family home to meet everyone. We sat around in a sheltered outdoor area in the front yard of the property and chatted about many things. They were very interested to know more about what I’d seen and done on my travels through Western Africa and what my thoughts were on the place. As Anoumou was busy with work, his older brother Edem was tasked with taking me around.

Edem gave me a bit of a history lesson on the area, which included a chalk representation of a map of the area. Historically, Togo was a much bigger state, but a huge division of the western part was ceded to the Dutch during the second world war, then eventually taken over by Ghana years later. This is why Togo is now only around 100km wide. He also bestowed an African name upon me, which was somehow worked out from my day of birth and gender. You may all now call me Akou.

History lesson

Getting The Visa
We made our way to the police station, where another adventure in corruption began. I was a bit taken aback by this, because my initial impression of Togo had made me think it was less corrupt than it’s neighbour to the west.

Firstly, they charged 500CFA (โ‚ฌ0.8) for a badly copied fiche, or information form. The form was stamped with the date, so it couldn’t be copied and used on another day. If you made a mistake on the form, or if they weren’t happy with how you’d filled it out, they’d make you pay for another. Then after lining up for an hour, they said they wouldn’t accept the application because it was almost their break time. They told us to return at 14:30. It was only 11:30.

After getting some WiFi and something to eat at a nearby hotel, we returned before 14:30 to a line outside the complex, which of course meant more waiting inside. An officer finally came out and took us to an office upstairs, but when he knocked on the door there was no one there, so he took us back outside to wait.

The visa was only 10,000CFA (โ‚ฌ15), but they wanted to charge me a penalty (ie: bribe) of 100,000CFA (โ‚ฌ150) on top of that. I think I almost had a heart attack when that figure came up. There was no way in hell I was paying a bribe that was 10 times more than the cost of the visa!

Let’s be corrupt under the ‘Stop Corruption’ sign!

The first officer, who had informed us of the price, wouldn’t budge and said we had to go see the guy issuing the visa and negotiate with him. We somehow got him down to 20,000CFA (โ‚ฌ30), which was still way too much! The problem was, they had my passport and weren’t going to give it back until I paid them something, so I was once again forced to participate in African bribe culture. It was demoralising.

The price of corruption in Togo

Once the negotiation was over, despite the fact that he had my passport right in front of him, the officer told us to come back at 10am the next day, because it wasn’t like they’d already wasted enough of my time. It was 4pm by that point and we’d gotten there at 10am. On the way out, the first officer inquired about the outcome of the negotiation. When told, he said, “We’re too nice to you”. Hmm, I would’ve used other words.
Kez = 4, African Corruption = 3

With the closing of another corruption ordeal, I was feeling relieved, but also very hungry. I met my friend Taotao, who bought along his rasta friend, at a restaurant across the road from the police station. Taotao had planned to take me to a local club, to listen to some local music and see how the natives spent their nights. I was looking very forward to this, until Edem decided that he couldn’t let me go off with someone else because I was his responsibility.

Taotao and friends

You could say that I was seriously annoyed by that. Nevermind that I’d travelled to 64 countries around the world, plus 13 countries in West Africa by myself. This dude that I’d only just met, had decided that I needed him to take care of me. I wish I could say it was the first time I’d encountered this attitude in Africa, but alas, it was not. It was the first time that it had affected my plans though.

Luckily, Taotao was very understanding about it and organised to meet me again the next day after I had picked up my passport. So when I woke up in the morning, I packed all my things up and made it clear to Edem that he should just drop me off at the police station and I would go my own way from there, as I didn’t want to miss out on seeing anything else because of someones misguided sense of duty.

The City and the Road to the Border
At the police station, I finally got my passport back after waiting an hour for who knows what. Once that was done, I met Taotao who then took me on a tour of the city, with a couple of stops at places I’d said I wouldn’t mind seeing. He also helped me find a small Togo flag from a roadside seller, who seemed to be the flag guy. He grabbed a bag from underneath a shelf and seemed to have flags in there from almost all of the surrounding countries and a couple of European countries. I’m guessing he was the main supplier for people wanting to show which team they were supporting for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

As the capital city, Lome is the largest city in Togo, but it’s also much smaller than the capital cities I’d passed through in other West African countries. The central district has a population of less than 1 million, which makes it feel a lot less crowded and congested than some other cities. This gives it an almost cosy feel.

Palm tree beach

It’s also a coastal city, so you can see the beach from quite a few places within it, but apparently the beach that is the most popular, is also not the easiest to access. That didn’t really present a problem for me as I knew I’d see a lot more beach on the way to the border because the road follows the coast.

More Beach

Taotao said that there wasn’t really too much of the stuff I wanted to see in the city, so we continued towards the border, again with a few stops on the way. The first stop was Lake Togo, which was not far from the coast. On the opposite side of the lake was a settlement called Togoville. Togoville relies heavily on fishing and trading. Small ferries regularly cross from there to the side that I was on. There must’ve been news that one of these ferries was due soon, as some men on my side had lined up some things near the shore for quick loading when the boat arrives.

Lake Togo

A short distance away on the coast side of the road was the UNESCO listed Maison Wood, or Wood House. Despite its delightful sounding name, the place was used for a sinister purpose; illegally trafficking slaves for almost 20 years around the mid 19th century. The house was not made of wood, but instead named after the slave trader who owned it and kept slaves in a cramped cellar underneath it while they awaited the journey to their new masters across the sea.

Wood’s Slave House

The third and final stop before the border was an area buzzing with activity. Just after a bridge, the river flowing underneath it went out to greet the nearby sea. Small local fishing boats sat docked in the calm water near the river bank, whilst people on the dock sold freshly caught fish from wicker baskets placed on small concrete pylons.

Resting fishing boats

Further along the pier, people sipped drinks under blue marquees at the waterside. Even with all the activity in the area, it seemed like a pretty peaceful and reflective place. It was interesting watching the ocean waves break at the mouth of the river. I honestly could’ve watched it all day, had the time being available to me.

The river and the sea

A short while later I was at the border, where I had to get off the bike and walk through so that my passport could be checked. Taotao said he would meet me behind the building to take me through to the Benin side. This immigration area was a little confusing, even though they had signs to indicate where to go, all the signs were in French. I walked to the closest window I could see, hoping that it was the right one.

I think the immigration guy went through and looked at every single stamped page in my passport, cause he seemed to take a while to stamp it. After receiving the stamp, I had to walk through another area, which I think is where they were checking people’s bags, but the man just waved me through. I found Taotao and got back on the bike for the short ride to the final West African country I would visit, for now.

๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฌTogo Summary ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฌ
In a few words โ€“ wait me, I’m coming
Language – French and local languages
Currency – West African Franc (CFA)
WiFi availability – ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ
It may require a short walk, but it is possible to find semi-decent WiFi.
Transport – ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—
๐Ÿ Bikes, bikes and more bikes! They were generally the locals’ transport choice.
๐Ÿš˜ Shared taxis were also quite prevalent, but were slighty more expensive than the mototaxis.
๐Ÿš Minivans seemed to be exclusively available for intercity trips and were relatively cheap.
Roads – ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ
Aside from the terrible road near the border, roads in Togo seemed to be fairly smooth and acceptably maintained.
Scenery – ๐ŸŒณโ›ฐ๐Ÿž๐Ÿ–๐ŸŒณ
Togo has mountains, waterfalls, trees, lakes, rivers meeting the sea, dusty towns and beaches. Something for everyone really.
Prices – ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ
Great for the budget conscious traveller.
Checkpoints
I didn’t encounter any checkpoints in Togo.
Border efficiency – ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ
Despite the fact that there were no queues at either border I passed through, I spent about 30 minutes at each one while officers chatted and looked at my passport.
Corruption level – โš โš โš โš 
Although not at Guinea level, corruption is alive and well in Togo.
Overall – ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Ghana

Border Bribery and Bullies
Upon entering the immigration area, I saw a large sign above the doorway leading to the processing area that said,

It is illegal to offer bribes to immigration officials.
It is illegal for immigration officials to accept bribes.

As I hadn't seen signs like this at any other borders, I wondered why there was one there. It wasn't long until the answer to that question became painfully obvious. Right underneath that sign, officers were taking bribes from everyone passing through. Each bribe was 2000CFA (โ‚ฌ3), which is not a large amount, until you consider that hundreds of people pass through the border each day.

The Nigerian I was with suggested that when asked for my passport, I should place 2000CfA on top of it when handing it to an officer and the officer would ignore the fact that I didn't have a visa and just let me in. The problem with was that I just couldn't do it. So I handed them my passport and they said I had to pay for a visa on arrival, which is of course, exactly what I was expecting. What I wasn't expecting is that they would double the price.

I negotiated hard to get the price down and the Nigerian even suggested to them that they just take 2000CFA from me, but as they now had a chance to get a lot more money than that, they declined. So once again I was put in a position where I had to line someone's pocket to get through a border, which is definitely the most frustrating thing about travelling through West Africa!

Another downside to doing things the right way and not stuping low enough to feed the corruption is that you get ignored. The simple process of getting a visa and entering the country, which should've taken 10 minutes at the most, considering I was the only foreign national at the border, became an hour and a half ordeal. You see, the officers saw fit to stop processing my entry whenever anyone with a bribe approached the window. There was a steady stream of people coming through who were prioritised over me.
Kez = 4; African Border Corruption = 2

Getting to Cape Coast
By the time I finally got out of the border area, I still had a 2 hour journey ahead of me. A weird young boy approached me as I was exiting and said he would help me find a bus to Cape Coast. He tried to hold my hand, at which point I told him that I didn't need his help and could find the bus myself. He wouldn't accept that and followed me to the station, then started asking me for money.

Eventually, the bus company people stepped in, as they could see and hear that I clearly wanted the guy to leave me alone. Due to the long processing time at the border, I'd missed the direct buses to Cape Coast, so I had to pay the full fare of 60 Cedis (โ‚ฌ10), to get to Accra, even though I was only going to Cape Coast, which was several hundred kilometres before Accra. Yes, it was very overpriced, but it was also airconditioned and roomy, which was nice.

The roads in Ghana seemed to be very smooth and well maintained. The buildings also seemed to be vastly different to what I'd seen in the rural areas of other countries. I even saw some rubbish bins at random intervals, which are not really present in other West African countries. So it seems that despite the corruption, Ghana has managed to keep its development level above that of other countries in the area.

Not far along the road, we encountered an immigration checkpoint, where the officer, apparently named Innocent, declared himself my new best friend, gave me his number and told me to call him should I need anything while in Ghana. He was actually quite hilarious and definitely improved my mood after the border debacle.

Something I found rather strange on the way to Cape Coast, was the random placement of huge shipping ropes across the road at odd intervals. I presume they were there to slow cars down, but they seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, not near any towns or areas where people could be endangered by speeding cars. They were very effective though.

Once I finally arrived in Cape Coast, I had a wonderful chat about the day's adventures with my lovely host Eric. That was just what I needed before I went to bed to sleep it off.

My home in Cape Coast

Cape Coast
First order of the day, after freshening up, was to get some food. That was apparently more easily said than done, considering the ingredients used and style of cooking that is popular in the area. We did eventually find somewhere that had the right kind of food and was willing to cook it in a healthier way. It was a bit of a mission, but the end result was delicious! With full bellies, we headed to the city to have a look around.

Palm Tree Beach

For the first time in Africa, I got to see some castles. Obviously, they were left over relics from a time before Ghana was an independent country. The Cape Coast Castle is actually a coastal fort that was used as prison, back when slavery was a thing. A walk around the outside brings you to a small inlet between rock formations where the waves break near the base of the castle. It's also an amazing place to sit and take in the awesomeness of nature.

Cape Coast Castle

Cape coast has a very friendly vibe to it. With less than 200,000 people living there, it's a pretty small city, by African standards. Some of the hallmarks of other African cities, like noise and traffic congestion, are pretty much not existent there, making it a lovely place for a leisurely walk. It also seems that nowhere in the city is more than a 10 minute walk from the coast. I guess that's why it has 'Coast' right there in the name!

Before I left the city, I was unlucky enough to see a man walking around with no pants on. He seemed to be known as the local crazy dude, as no one really even batted an eyelid when they saw him wandering around half naked. I saw many other interesting things on my walk around, but none topped what I saw written on some random guys shirt - All professionals can boast, but the teacher taught them all. That's right folks, you'd all be lost without your teachers!

After a great few days in Cape Coast, I paid the 10 Cedis (โ‚ฌ1.8) fee then hopped in a van in the evening for the 2 hour journey to the capital, Accra.

Accra
I arrived at my host's house, in a community about 20km out of the city, just after 8pm and was ready for a shower. Until I discovered that the shower was outdoors with an open-air roof and therefore had no light. Instead, I chatted with the family until bedtime.

Once morning came, I was ready to try this outdoor bucket shower thing, because what other choice did I really have? I must say that it was kind of interesting being able to look up at the sky while showering, but on the flip side, you have the chance of getting sunburnt whilst showering. Also, because of the sun, you do dry a lot more quickly than you would in a normal shower.

Now feeling fresh and clean, sort of, I was ready to explore the city. It only took an hour or so to get there in 3 different cars, because the traffic was at a standstill almost the entire way. After sitting down for so long, I was glad to be able to walk around and stretch for a bit. I made my way to the waterside area and it wasn't long before someone stopped me for a chat. His name was Richard and I pretty much know his entire life story now.

The Waterside

When I walked towards a restaurant not long after, a guy called Cesar greeted me and said he was very happy to see me. He advised me that the restaurant was vegetarian, which was exactly the opposite of what I was looking for, so he kindly offered to show me a place at the art centre just down the road, with WiFi!

Art Centre

Once we got there, the WiFi wasn't working, so he took me to his stall on the other side of the art centre, where I meet his older brother who was very insistent about Guineans being criminals. The older brother then went off to find a small Ghanaian flag for me while I chatted to Cesar for a bit.

After the brother came back with the flag, Cesar took me for a walk to a shopping centre up the road where I could find WiFi. On the way there, we walked past some important sites, including Independence Square, (or Black Star Square), which looks like a big open-air semi stadium near the water and the Black Star Gate or Presidential Avenue, positioned on the roundabout adjacent to the Square. Cesar gave me a bit of a history lesson about the square and what it's used for.

Once we made it to the shopping centre, Cesar left me, presumably to go back to the work he'd been ignoring for the 3 hours he'd been helping me. While in the supermarket, I bumped into a lady from the US that I had met earlier that week at the Ghanaian Embassy in Cรดte d'Ivoire. It seems she'd also opted for getting the visa at the border, as she didn't want to wait for the visa to be processed.

We chatted for a little while and relayed our border experiences to each other. As bad as mine had been, it seems hers had been slightly worse and included getting kicked out of a car for not having a visa. Oh dear. It turns out we're both teachers on our summer holiday who'd decided to make the trip to Africa. I guess it really is a small world after all.

Upon leaving the shopping centre, I was offered a Chinese massage, to which I responded, "I live in China". That caused the man offering to giggle then walk away. I then decided that I wasn't keen to sit in hot transport with the horrific traffic congestion taking place all around me, so I decided to take a long walk back to the community I was staying in. On the way, I found a sign to Deeper Life.

Many people stopped me along the way, to say hi and ask me where I was going, but when I had walked about 80% of the way, a guy started walking with me, because he felt that I shouldn't be walking alone. After the obligatory small talk, he said, "What Would you say if I said you were attractive?" and I replied with, "You'd be about the 152nd guy in Africa to say that!". He really wasn't expecting that response, but it didn't stop him from trying to suggest other things.

In the end, he gave up on the idea of anything else happening and just wanted to make sure that I got back to where I was staying safely. This involved him walking several kilometres in the opposite direction to which he had originally been going.

The Road to Hohoe and the Waterfalls of Wli
My host, who was supposed to help me get to the bus station, had disappeared without saying anything. Luckily his friend was available, so he took me to the station to get a car to Madina where I could get a bus to Hohoe. The small town of Wli is not far from there and that's where the waterfalls are at. The bus driver seemed to deliberately find the crappiest road to get to Madina, so it took over an hour. As it was only 5km away, I literally could've walked there faster. Once at the station, I found the bus to Hohoe for 30 Cedis (โ‚ฌ5). The 200km trip took just under 4 hours, because as had happened in previous countries, the road got horrible within 100 kilometres of the border.

The nice part of the road to Hohoe

Once in Hohoe, I was able to find a shared taxi to Wli, home of the waterfalls, at the same station where the bus had dropped me off, for only 10 Cedis (โ‚ฌ1.8). The driver was very nice and when I told him I needed to change some money before I'd be able to pay him, he said I could just get in and he'd stop at a bank for me. Changing money at a bank should be easy, right? Apparently not in Ghana!

Firstly, they took a photocopy of my passport then made me wait for 15 minutes, because.. Africa. By this time, other people in the taxi were coming into the bank to ask what the hell was going on because obviously, we all wanted to get going. Once they finally served me, they wouldn't accept my home address and said that I had to have an address in Ghana, which of course makes total sense when I'm on the way out and I don't live there, sheesh. The driver said I could just use his address, but the bank people wouldn't accept that. They said it had to be my address and didn't seem to understand the concept of a traveller not having an address in the country. Clearly, it was a lost cause, so we got back in the car and left.

The road to Wli was absolutely horrific, because all the terrible roads in Africa seem to be near borders! At least it was only a 30 minute drive and once we got there, the driver's friend George met us to help with the currency problem. He took me to the hotel near the waterfall, which was run by a lovely German couple. George had suggested that they might help me to change some of my Euro to the local currency, so I could pay the taxi man. After I told them about what happened at the bank, they commiserated with me about how things are done in Ghana, then happily changed my money. I found out that they had lived in Ghana, running their hotel for over 20 years. The area was absolutely lovely, so I could see why they wouldn't want to leave!

Wli

As we were walking to the park entry for the waterfall, George told me that while I was inside, he would organise a motorbike to take me through to Adeta on the Togo side of the border, where I could get a car to Lome. This meant I could enjoy the waterfall without having to worry about my next move. Fabulous!

Park Entrance

The staff at the park entrance were super cruisy and pleasant. They let me leave my bag with them so I could enjoy the hike unencumbered, then they even offered me a free guide. I think that was probably more so that I wouldn't wander off into an area that I hadn't paid to see, because they'd told me it was too late in the day to go into one of the areas.

My guide was a young boy named Ric. I found out on the walk that he was not a real guide, but just a high school kid trying to make extra money during the holidays by pressuring people into giving him tips. He did tell me that the local name for the falls was Agamasta, which means allow me to flow. The waterfall was lovely and even had a rainbow accompanying it! What was strange is that the super powerful waterfall was cascading into a small calm lake.

Waterfall and rainbow

When I got back to the entrance, George was there waiting for me and true to his word, had organised a motorbike to take me through to Togo. Before heading to the border, he took me to his friend's guesthouse, so I could get some WiFi and let my host in Lome know that I was on the way. George had been a massive help and had asked for nothing in return. What an awesome guy.

Sunset in Wli

At the border, the officers were very friendly, but they took a weirdly long amount of time filling out my departure card for me and looking through my passport. Perhaps they were marvelling at the amount of pages that were full with stamps and visas, or perhaps they were just bored and wanted to keep me there as long as they could, so they had someone to talk to. Either way, they kept me there for over 30 minutes and I was the only person crossing in that whole time. When they saw who my motorbike taxi man was, they advised me that he was a 'good man' and not to worry. I wasn't worried anyways, but it was a lovely sentiment.

๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ญGhana Summary๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ญ
In a few words โ€“ corruption and rainbows
Language - English and local language
Currency - Ghana Cedi (GHS)
WiFi availability - ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ
WiFi was fairly easy to find but didn't always work to expectations. Or at all.
Transport - ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—
The spaciousness of the transport in Cรดte d'Ivoire seemed to continue into Ghana. Vehicles were still crowded, but at least everyone had their own seat.
๐Ÿš Minivans seemed to be the most widely available mode of transport for both intercity and inner city transport. The going price was around 30 Cedis (โ‚ฌ5) for about 200km if the road was bad, or 10 Cedis (โ‚ฌ1.8) for 150km if the road was good. It was around 3-5 Cedis (โ‚ฌ0.5-0.9) for inner city routes.
๐Ÿš˜ Squeezier shared taxis were available for shorter trips at around 10 Cedis (โ‚ฌ1.8) for a 30-40 minute drive.
๐Ÿ Motorbikes were used near the border area, because apparently the border roads were not suitable for cars. It seems they start with a very high price but can be negotiated down a lot. They generally only take CFA for payment.
Roads - ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ
The roads were surprisingly smooth throughout most of the country, until getting close to the border area.
Scenery - ๐ŸŒณโ›ฐ๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿž๐ŸŒณ
With rainforest covered mountains and waterfalls accompanied by rainbows, Ghana definitely takes the prize for most amazing scenery in West Africa.
Prices, - ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ
Most things in Ghana are fairly reasonably priced, making it a great place for budget travellers.
Checkpoints - ๐Ÿ›‘
I only encountered one checkpoint in Ghana, where the officer seemed more interested in a chat than a document check.
Border efficiency - ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ
There was absolutely no sense of urgency at Ghanaian borders unless you were willing to hand over the bribe they were subtly (not subtly) asking for.
Corruption level - โš โš โš 
Corruption is most definitely present, but seems to be concentrated in border areas, so the rest of the country is quite pleasant.
Overall - ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Cรดte d’Ivoire

Once I’d passed through immigration on the Liberia side, I walked across the bridge into Cรดte 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 Cรดte d’Ivoire, a guy was trying hard to get me to take his bike to Dananรฉ. The first price he told me was 10,000CFA, (โ‚ฌ14) 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 (โ‚ฌ3), but he said he couldn’t go below 3000CFA (โ‚ฌ4.5). We eventually settled on 4000CFA (โ‚ฌ6), less than half the price. I can still barter like a boss!

Another lovely road

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 Dananรฉ, he took me straight to the bus company. After I paid the rather exorbitant 8000CFA (โ‚ฌ12) 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!

Bus ticket

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 Dananรฉ 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.

Sellers running towards the bus

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 Dananรฉ 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.

Now this is more like it!

Cรดte 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.

Two lanes become three

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 (โ‚ฌ0.3).

Local farming fields

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.

A quiet Sunday in Abidjan

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 –

Could this be the most aptly name chili sauce ever?

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.

My pot!

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 Cรดte 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 (โ‚ฌ8) 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 Cรดte 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.

๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Cรดte d’Ivoire Summary๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฎ
In a few words โ€“ friendly, but overly security conscious
Language – French and local languages
Currency – West African Franc (CFA)
WiFi availability – ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ
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 – ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—
๐Ÿš˜ 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 (โ‚ฌ2.30), 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 (โ‚ฌ3).
๐Ÿš Cรดte 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 – ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ
The roads in Cรดte d’Ivoire covered the full range, from shockingly terrible to amazingly smooth and well maintained.
Scenery – ๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿž๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿž๐Ÿ–
Green and dusty with an occasional beach.
Prices, – ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ
While still relatively easy to travel through on a budget, Cรดte d’Ivoire is a little more expensive than some of its neighbours.
Checkpoints – I did not encounter any checkpoints.
Border efficiency – ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ
Border crossings were quick and easy.
Corruption level – 0
No corruption was evident. Cรดte d’Ivoire seems to be a lot less corrupt that other West African countries.
Overall – ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Liberia

Welcome to Liberia
After crossing a bridge on the back of a bike, I was on the Liberia side of the border, where at first the immigration point seemed very relaxed. A nice officer named Anthony, greeted me with, “How are you today?” Then asked me some questions and called my host to speak to him. He took me to a building across the road where another officer, who said he was the Director of Immigration asked me some more questions, then apparently took issue with the fact that I was travelling by myself and no one was meeting me at the border. Why that would be a problem, I have absolutely no idea.

After looking up the definition of tourism, which in essence is someone travelling to a place to sight-see, (you know, exactly what I was doing!), he decided he was going to send me back to Sierra Leone to get a visitor visa, because if I was staying with a local, I wasn’t a tourist and couldn’t enter on a tourist visa. Umm, what now?

This was despite him showing me a WhatsApp message from the consulate in Sierra Leone, with my passport details, telling him I was coming and to let me enter. He also called my host to speak to him, then said he probably couldn’t let me in because my safety was their problem and they couldn’t guarantee it if someone wasn’t here to collect me. I think I’ve been pretty good at guaranteeing my own safety so far.

I’m not proud of what happened next, but the early start and the long day of travel had taken their toll on me and I broke down. It was at this point that the first officer, Anthony told me, when the other officer was out of the room, that I shouldn’t worry, I’d be let in. Apparently, the other officer should’ve never said he’d send me back, as I have a valid visa and there was no reason not to let me in.

The whole saga ended with my host’s mother calling the Comissioner of Immigration, who then in turn called the Director to tell him to let me in. The director then tried to re-itterate the, โ€œWe’re doing this for your own safety” argument, to which I politely disagreed when asked for my opinion. I let him know that I’m aware of the risks of entering any new country and my safety is my own responsibility, citing the fact that I’d travelled to over 70 countries by myself with no incidents. He didn’t disagree and replied with, โ€œWelcome to Liberiaโ€. Umm, alrighty then.

Part of me was thinking that this may have been a subtle bribe request that went too far. Maybe he thought that if he threatened to send me back, I’d offer money to solve the problem. Something that Anthony, the nice officer from before, said also compounded that thought. After he helped get me into a car heading for Monrovia, he stated explicitly that I shouldn’t hand over any money at any checkpoints on the road, just my passport, if required. I can’t be sure if he was trying to imply something there, but I’ll take the win anyways!
Kez = 4; African Border Corruption = 1

Monrovia
Once in Monrovia, I told my host I needed food, but he thought it was more important to walk to his place in the community to meet all his family first. I was pretty hungry by the time I finally got some food, so I got through it fairly quickly. My stomach felt better after that, but I then realised I was super tired and told my host I just wanted to sleep, but he kept putting me on the phone to his friends and family. It was only after I actually fell asleep talking to one of them that he let me retire for the night.

The community

By the time I got to bed, I had a thumping headache. When I first laid down, I kept getting bitten by some kinda bugs. Then, all through the night, the girl sleeping in the bed with me kept rolling over and hitting me, or almost pushing me off the bed, which meant I was constantly walking up, so the headache just wasn’t going away. I spent most of the night awake because of that. The headache had finally gone by the next time I woke up at 6ish. Not the best way to spend the first night in a new country.

My main aim after waking up was to go to the Cote d’Ivoire embassy first thing, then see some of the city and find some WiFi. I’d advised my host the night before of what I wanted to do, but he instead took me somewhere else in the city so he could see one of his friends. We had to get another 20 minute taxi and walk 10 minutes to the embassy, so even though I’d aimed to get there at 9am, I didn’t make it until 12pm. Africa time strikes again!

Most coveted selling spot?

While running around from place to place, I had gotten small glimpses of how things were in the city. It seems people were selling stuff everywhere and using what ever was available around to display their stuff. I bet there’s some stiff competition to get some spots! The traffic is a also pretty crazy. At times it seems that it would be quicker to walk than sit inside a hot car in traffic breathing in the fumes from cars in front.

Busy street

Thankfully, the lady at the embassy was super nice and despite the fact that she didn’t really speak any English, she let me use the WiFi to get some information I needed for the visa. She also let me pay the visa fee in Euro instead of US$. She said she had done these things specially to help me out and it was a one-off. Of course I was super grateful!

After we left the embassy, we continued on to find some WiFi, but my host kept saying that there wasn’t any around. I showed him my map, which was indeed showing WiFi in the area. He admitted that he knew of places that had WiFi, but didn’t want to go to them because we had to get a taxi back to his place before 4pm, otherwise there would be no taxis available. That was something he hadn’t mentioned earlier and I’d presumed I’d have the whole day to do stuff. He then took me to an internet cafe, which of course, I couldn’t use my laptop at. In the end, I found a bar with WiFi and we went there.

The bar was called The Basement and when we approached a lovely lady inside, she ushered us to an office upstairs, where a nice man running an NGO said we could sit down and use the WiFi. I ended up talking to the man and he told me a bit about his organisation, which aims to elevate the poor in Liberia and stop them being taken advantage of. After telling him about the volunteer work I do in Hong Kong, he decided that we should network. I find it funny that anyone would want to network with me, but sure, let’s do it.

Once leaving the bar, we were back in my host’s community, with no issues by 5pm, less than an hour after we’d gotten transport. My host disappeared for hours as soon as we got back, so I think he’d lied about there being no taxis and just had something he needed to do in the area. I actually would’ve liked to have seen some more of the city, so I was a little disappointed. I was also bored. There really wasn’t anything to do in the community.

Luckily my host’s brother, Speedo, took me for a walk in the local area, where of course everyone knew him. While walking, he asked me if I’d ever played pool right as we stopped near a tin shed. I wondered why he’d stopped walking when he asked the question, but the entire contents of the shed we’d stopped near were a pool table and pool players! I stopped and had a game, then we continued walking, despite the guys in the shed trying to entice me to play just one more game.

Lake behind the pub

We continued on to a pub on a lake which had a rickety wooden bridge running across it, to a house in the middle. We were going to sit down there, but the loudness of the music was not conducive to conversation, so we walked to another bar about 50 metres away, on the same lake. The music there was at a much lower volume level, so it was easy to sit down and chat. This pub was run by one of Speedos friends and he said that he’d deliberately kept the volume lower than the other place so people would find it a little more chill and be more likely to hang out there. It seemed to be working for him.

View from the pub

Chilling was certainly what most people were doing there! I’d say at least half the people there were passing around joints and a few were drinking some weird mixture of cough medicine and Coca Cola to compliment the joints. The rest were drinking beers while sitting on plastic garden chairs or retired office chairs in the sand. What a life!

The Long Way To The Border
I returned to Cote d’Ivoire embassy around 11am to pick up my passport and even though it wasn’t supposed to be picked up until after 2pm. I was hoping that the nice lady would hand it back earlier so I could be on my way to the border. I was right!

With passport in hand, I headed to the garage at Red Light, where I could get the car to the border. I was there by about 12:30 and bought my seat for L$2500(US$16). This was another small car with six people squeezed in, meaning I was again sharing a front seat that was only meant for one person. Luckily the girl I was sharing with was also small like me, so it wasn’t as uncomfortable as some previous rides.

Red Light Station

Sounds of Red Light

By the time they sold the last seat in the car, it was 2pm, but because of the terrible traffic near the garage, it took us over 30 minutes to get out to the main road. Everything was going fine until about 200km from the border when an awful scraping noise started coming from the drivers side of the car. It turns out the tread from a badly re-treaded tyre had started peeling off and hitting the wheel arch. The driver got out his knife and started trying to cut off the affected area, until I suggested that it would probably be safer to just change the tyre. He agreed and said that was why he brought along 2 spare tyres.

Roadside tyre change

We were back on the road within 20 minutes, but that stop had probably taken away our chances of reaching the border before it closed at 6pm. We then stopped at a town called Gompa, about 85 kilometres from the border, for the driver to get the shredded tyre replaced. It was around there that the road turned to crap. This was the second country in a row where road conditions worsened within 100 kilometres of a border; I hope this doesn’t become a trend!

By the time we reached an immigration checkpoint 50 kilometres before the border, it was already dark. The guy outside was really rude and demanded that I get out of the car and go inside, where 2 much nicer guys asked me a few questions, but didn’t even look at my passport. Another lady from the car was also told to go inside, but she didn’t speak English, so the officers had her in there for ages, with the driver trying to relay to her in French what was going on. I found out later that she’d actually overstayed in Liberia, but they let her keep going because they were only a checkpoint and couldn’t really stop her.

About 11 kilometres before the border, we hit a long line of stationary trucks and cars. As we got out of the car to investigate, we found a rolled truck stuck in a gully next to a bridge it had broken while trying to drive across. Now this was a problem, as this was the only access road to the border. Some people had made a fire and laid down blankets to settle in for the night, but luckily there was a car on the other side of the bridge that was willing to take us to the border, for a small fee, of course!

Broken bridge

It was after 11pm by the time we got to the border town. A guy from the car took us to the local hotel, so we could sleep. When we found the manager, he said that he didn’t have any rooms left, but he wouldn’t send us back out into the rain that had just started pouring down. He would instead put a blanket down on the floor for us to lay on. Sometimes you just take what you can get.

I was woken up at 6am and proceeded to the immigration building, where after answering officers’ questions about where I was going next, they all declared that they wanted me to take them with me. This was a pretty chill border where it seems the officers spent more time chatting than stamping passports.

๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ทLiberia๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ท
In a few words โ€“ crazy but chill
Language – English and local language
Currency – Liberian Dollar (LRD)
WiFi availability -๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ
It isn’t so easy to find WiFi and locals don’t really have much of an idea where it is, as most use the data on their phones. Once you do find WiFi, it may not be the best.
Transport – ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—
๐Ÿš˜ Squeezy shared taxis are available for intercity travel, with their less squeezy, zone restricted cousins available for inner city travel.
Kekehs (tuk tuks) are also available, for a slightly lower cost, on a zone system.
Roads – ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ
Country roads in Liberia range from absolutely awful to terrible, whereas the city roads range from terrible to okay.
Scenery – ๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿž๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿž๐Ÿ–
The Liberian countryside is very green and wonderful to look at. There are also a few beaches near the coast.
Prices, – ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ
Great on a budget.
Checkpoints – ๐Ÿ›‘
I was only encountered one checkpoint, but others in the car advised that the checkpoint only operates at night.
Border efficiency – ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ
Upon entry and exit, it seems like most officers are more interested in chatting than completing immigration procedures in a timely manner.
Corruption level – 0
Although locals voiced their concerns about instances of corruption within the government, there didn’t seem to be any aimed at visitors.
Overall – ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Sierra Leone

Welcome to Salone
Due to the uncomfortably squeezy ride on crappy roads from Conakry and all the dramas that came up when trying to leave Guinea, I was a little bit frazzled by the time I got to the Sierra Leone side of the border. Luckily, my saviour for the night, Ms Kadie, was passing through and must’ve seen I was in a bit of a state. Her first words were, โ€œDon’t worry, I’m a Sierra Leone immigration officerโ€. From there, Ms Kadie led us through the checkpoints to a house a little way down the road, where the man with the stamp lived.

After my travel buddy Efuah, who had shared the front seat with me all the way from Conakry, and Ms Kadie explained the situation to him, he berated me a bit for travelling at night by myself. Efuah said that she was travelling with me, so it was okay. His tone changed markedly after that and he started joking around a bit. He went off somewhere, to the stamp depository, I presume, then returned with my stamped passport ready to go. While he was gone, myself, Efuah, Ms Kadie and another lady from the complex were chatting and they reassured me that I had no need to worry, as I was in Sierra Leone now. They were right.

One major difference change between Guinea and Sierra Leone, was the quality of the roads. About 10km before the Sierra Leone border, the road went from absolutely horrid, bumpy, potholed disaster zone, to lovely, smooth sealed awesomeness. I was wondering how this happened on the Guinea side, because I had not seen roads anywhere near this good when travelling through the rest of Guinea. Efuah informed me that this zone was part of an area that Sierra Leone stupidly handed over to Guinea. Well, that explains it.

Once done at the border, we continued on motorbike to Kambia, where we got a shared taxi to Freetown. Even though we had 5 people squeezed in, the ride was much more comfortable than the previous one, because the car and road were in much better condition. Everyone in our multinational taxi was so friendly and we all ended up chatting the whole way. It turns out that not only was it Efuah’s birthday, but also the birthday of another guy in the taxi, Andy from Nigeria. We all exchanged phone numbers at the end of the ride. By that time, all my stress was gone and Sierra Leone had definitely welcomed me the right way.

As Efuah had been so instrumental in helping me to navigate the border, I invited her along to have lunch with my host, Alusine and myself. Getting there was confusing and required a ride in a minibus, a Keke (local name for a Tuk Tuk) and a taxi. It seems that Kekes, taxis and minibuses have zones and once you reach the end of one zone, you have to walk a little to get another form of transport in the next zone.

New friends

I took a little walk along the beach afterwards and even though it was right next to a main road and full of people enjoying the weekend sun, there was something tranquil about it.

Beach

Public transport in the city of Freetown can get rather interesting. It seems that guys put DVDs into the players in the buses, with the express purpose of selling them to passengers on the bus. A lot of the DVDs seemed to consist of 80s and 90s music videos, which I’d kinda be getting into when they’d skip to the next song, or take the DVD out of the player because someone had purchased it. Judging by the price the guy was selling them for, they’re clearly illegal copies.

View from near Leicester Peak

As any good hiker would, I found the highest hill in the city, Leicester Peak, and walked up it. When I started the walk, it was a lovely sunny day, but by the time I got halfway up, I had entered the mist which had almost completely engulfed the view I was looking so forward to seeing. Oh well, it was still a nice walk and I did get a great view for about 2 seconds!

View halfway down the hill

After working up an appetite walking up and then back down the hill, I couldn’t think of anything better than roadside grilled meat to satisfy my hunger. The guy cooking it even let me pick the piece that I wanted grilled up and informed me that it was super fresh, having just come from the butcher a few hours ago. Mmmm!

Meeeeeaaaaat!

Now, Alusine and his extended family had been very welcoming. If I wanted anything, all I had to do was ask and someone would fetch it from a nearby shop. I had many chats over tea with different members of the family and they were always so interested in learning about my travels through other African countries. It seems I made a huge impression on one of the youngest members of the family. After only meeting him once, he ran across the yard to greet me with a big hug when I came back from exploring one day. So adorable!

Things were just as warm and friendly outside Alusine’s house. I had noticed every time we walked from the house down to the main road, it seemed like everyone knew Alusine and he knew everyone. People were constantly greeting him and asking how he and his family were doing. There was such a strong sense of community there, like everyone looks after everyone and everyone helps everyone out. It’s very refreshing when compared to other places, where people only have time for work and stress, not other people.

I’d also noticed a lot of funny stuff written in many places, mainly on the back of taxis, buses and Kekes. Here are just a few of those ‘quotes’ –
Pee Sounds (the actual name of a company. Why??)
Don’t trust human, trust in God
The land of powerful mixture
God time is the best
This property is not for sale offenders will be prosecuted
Unity is strange
God bless Islam
Nothing blessing gas gas
Clear rejection is better than fake promise

The Road To Bo

I’d decided to cut my trip to Liberia into 2 sections and stop in a town closer to the Liberian border, after hearing that the road gets quite bad and the trip would take a lot longer than I expected. Alusine took me to the roadside where I could get car heading towards Bo. I was loaded into a van and we were all ready to go, except for one small problem, the driver couldn’t start the car! We ended up swapping to a much smaller car which pretty much squeezed the same amount of people in, so that was another fun ride. We finally left around 2:30pm.

While on the road, it started raining, so the driver closed the windows and turned on the air-conditioning! I didn’t even know that existed in West Africa! By the time I made it to Bo it was nearly 7pm and raining quite heavily. So I just went straight to my hosts place and had a relaxing chat in the dark, because I presume the rain had taken out the power.

Safe in the dark with my host in Bo

On to Liberia
I got myself ready and made it to the station at about 7:30am to get a car to the border for 90,000 Leones (โ‚ฌ9). That was a bit more than expected, but I didn’t really have any other choice, so I squeezed into a Landcruiser that had to be push started, with 9 other people. The bench seat in the back was actually the least squeezy, so the ticket seller had reserved a seat there for me. The only issue was that, even though I’m short, my head was almost touching the roof.

We had to wait a while for the final passenger to come along and didn’t get on the road until 9:30am. They told me it’d take 4 hours to get to the border, but we got through the first 40km in about 40 minutes, so I was feeling hopeful about making it sooner, as there was only another 120km to go. Of course, this is Africa, so there would surely be something up ahead to slow us down!

Not far down the road, we had to stop for roadworkers clearing the road of debris, presumably from the previous nights rain. The guy directing traffic was wearing a high visibility vest with ‘Henan, China’ written on it in Chinese characters. That was literally the last place I was expecting to see Chinese characters! Also, another Chinese thing I never expected to see in West Africa; BBQ Chicken feet!

BBQ chicken feet

Further down the road, some kids jumped on roof of the car and rode along with us. The car stopped to let them off, apparently in the middle of nowhere, but then after we had cleared a police stop, they reappeared and jumped back on. Seemed like they were in for the long haul. They got down again for another police stop, but we were in the line of sight of the police stop when the kids got down and back up, so it seemed they weren’t even trying to hide what they were doing anymore.

Boys riding on top of the car

We eventually came to a river where we had to wait for a rickety old wooden ferry to take us across. It was already making a trip from the other side, so I ate some deer stew from one of the roadside sellers while waiting and watching a truck driving off the ferry almost capsize it. That seems safe.

Totally safe ferry

Despite the small wait for the ferry, we were still making pretty good time, with no major delays. That was until we hit the terrible road and the driver decided to stop and change a tyre. There were several small stops after that, not completely sure why, but probably just because it’s Africa.

About 40km from the border, we hit Zimmi, where they had a little immigration tent set up. This was not the actual immigration point, just an immigration check where they record people who come through. Of course, the officer couldn’t pronounce my name, but it was funny that even after being told the correct pronunciation 3 times, he actually thought he had it right, which made his colleagues laugh quite heartily.

Another terrible road to a border

The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful and it was still light by the time I got to the garage near the border. It had taken just over the 4 hours predicted by the guys at the garage. Now the border is actually a walkable distance from the garage, but a policewoman that had been in the car from Bo with me, called a motorbike to take me there. The border officers were very relaxed and the formalities were completed in less than 5 minutes, then I was back on the bike to cross the bridge to the Liberian border where my next adventure awaited.

๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฑSierra Leone Summary ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฑ
In a few words โ€“ let’s have a chat
Language – English and Kriol
Currency – Sierra Leonean Leone (SLL)
WiFi availability -๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ
Decent WiFi is available if you know where to look or have locals to help you.
Transport – ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—
๐Ÿ Motorbikes are generally used around border areas and cost around 15,000 SLL (โ‚ฌ1.5).
Kekes, (called Tuk Tuks elsewhere) are available for inner city travel for around 1500 SLL (โ‚ฌ0.15) per person, per zone.
๐Ÿš˜ Shared taxis are available for inner city and intercity travel. The inner city ones run on a confusing zone system that is much easier to negotiate if you’re with a local. The taxis in Sierra Leone tended to be more modern than the ones in previous countries and didn’t cram passengers in.
๐Ÿš Semi-squeezy vans and 4WDs are available for intercity routes for around 30,000 SLL (โ‚ฌ3) from Freetown to Bo and 90,000 SLL (โ‚ฌ9) from Bo to Jandema, near the Liberian border.
๐Ÿš Public buses and minibuses operate on inner city routes. They are very cheap at around 1000-1500 SLL, or โ‚ฌ0.10-0.15, depending on the zones travelled. They’re fairly comfortable too, as long as there is airflow from the vehicle moving. They can become like saunas when stuck at a standstill in traffic.
Roads – ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ
The roads are lovely and smooth throughout most of the country, until within 100km of the Liberian border, when they inexplicably turn horrid.
Scenery – ๐ŸŒณโ›ฐ๐ŸŒณโ›ฐ๐Ÿ–
The port of Freetown is very green and mountainous, with some beautiful beach areas. The scenery in remote areas is very tropical and aesthetically pleasing.
Prices, – ๐Ÿ’ฐ
Sierra Leone was pretty cheap, even compared to other West African countries! It’s probably the cheapest country for roadside snacks, with a small bag of roasted peanuts costing only 500 SLL (โ‚ฌ0.05) and a 200g serving of freshly cooked meat priced at 4000 SLL (โ‚ฌ0.40).
Checkpoints – ๐Ÿ›‘
I only encountered a few checkpoints within a couple of kilometres of each other near the Guinean border. I think they normally ask for a small payment, but we didn’t have to pay because we passed through with an immigration officer. There were a few police stops on the way to the Liberian border, but they just seemed to ask the drivers where they were going, then let us pass.
Border efficiency – ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ
I was the only foreigner passing through the border on the way in and out, so I was able to make it through in under 10 minutes. Most of that time would’ve been spent chatting with officers, rather than waiting for immigration clearance.
Corruption level – Aside from the few checkpoints straight after the Guinean border, there didn’t appear to be any corruption aimed at separating locals or visitors from their hard earned money.
Overall – ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Guinea

After a short ferry crossing of the river that constituted the border between Guinea-Bissau and Guinea, we got back in the car and drove about 20 mins to get to the Guinean checkpoint near a village called Foulamory. Once there, we had to go into a hut where the guy told me to leave if I didn’t sit down, even though there were no seats left. I said I’d wait for my passport, so he passed it to another guy who looked through it then gave it back to me. Of course, there was no signage, but I had to walk to the police post at the other side of the village to get stamped. The versions of my name the immigration officers are coming up with are getting more comical the further into Africa I travel!

Travel – Guinea style

In many of the villages along the road, I saw signs for a project by China Aid to bring TV to remote villages in Guinea. Something about that did not sit well with me. These are villages dotted along remote dirt roads with no running water and possibly no electricity. Besides the fact that electricity is essential for running TVs, accessibility to water and reliable electricity should definitely be higher priorities.

Welcome to Guinea

As we continued along the way, people would stop what they were doing and kids would point or wave excitedly at the car as we drove past. By 4:30pm, we’d made it to Koumbia and a slightly better, but still quite horrible road. The driver said we would make it to Conakry that night, but I was dubious about that as we still had about 100km of bad road. Plus I was sure there’d be more than a few stops as well.

A better road

At one such stop, I had some unidentified meat. The driver said it was beef, but it most definitely was not. It wasn’t goat meat either, so I really have no idea what I consumed, but that’s all part of the experience! The dirt road continued and we made another stop to offload some stuff at Wendou M’bour, a small town before Bokรฉ, at about 8pm. While waiting, I noticed that every time I moved, I had 3 kids creepily following me wherever I walked. I guess they don’t see many foreigners. A little bit further on from there, just after the road finally became sealed, we hit a police roadblock and with it, any hopes of reaching Conakry that night.

Sealed roads do exist in Guinea!

Unexpected Overnight Stay On The Road
Apparently, there had been some fighting and strikes in the town up the road, initiated by an anti-government group. The police had closed the road for miles in either direction, apparently for safety. Fair enough, but it was a little annoying that they wouldn’t give a straight answer as to when the road would re-open. There were about 10 cars stuck in the blockade and a Guinean woman from one of the other cars, who was moving to Dakar, started talking to me about the things like this that Africans have to deal with every day. After telling her about my trip, she told me I was a very strong woman and she was glad I’d taken enough of an interest in the area to want to travel so far overland.

When it was obvious that the block would be in place for several hours, people started laying down on the road to rest, but I headed back to the van and laid down on one of the seats to rest for a bit. Luckily only the driver and 2 other people travelling with me had the same idea, so I had the whole bench to myself.

At least the moon was looking good

Around 7 hours later at 6am, the driver ushered everyone into the van and we started moving again. There was a good chance we’d make it to Conakry in the morning! But of course, we didn’t, because this is Africa! With other stops, we ended up getting to Conakry at about 2pm. It had taken 4 days for me to get there and I must say that the city was very unimpressive. Everything seemed to be twice the price of other West African countries and there was almost no infrastructure.

Welcome to Conakry

Conakry
Any roads that were sealed, were full of car-sized potholes and in severe need of repair, but most roads were dirt or mud and lined with massive piles of rubbish. This meant that the smells got quite interesting at times. I even saw one pile of rubbish that was at least as tall as a house, right next to a market where people were selling food. I definitely wouldn’t be buying food there.

The traffic was also absolutely terrible, probably due in part to the terrible roads. It took 40 min for an over crowded taxi to take us about 8km, which was only about half of the distance to the Medina. I had to change taxis at that point, because they have some kinda weird transport system where taxis only take you as far as they’re willing to go, then make you get another taxi. The problem with that was that several people were already waiting for taxis in that area, so getting one was almost impossible. I decided that I didn’t want to wait around, so walked about a kilometre down the road where I was finally able to get another overcrowded taxi to take me the remaining 4km to the Medina.

Medina

The Medina was super crazy. It was hard on the ears, the eyes and the lungs. Any parts of the path on the side of the road that wern’t covered in rubbish, were taken up by people selling their wares and the occasional beggar. This meant that you generally had to walk on the road, but of course drivers didn’t like that, so the constant beeping was almost deafening.

The Road to Sierra Leone
I somehow found the taxi I needed to take me to Freetown, Sierra Leone but it was way overpriced at 60,000 Guinea Francs (โ‚ฌ6) + 20,000 (โ‚ฌ2) for my small bag. I was not okay with paying extra for my bag, but the driver was a bit of a dick and he wouldn’t take it for less than 10,000(โ‚ฌ1). This price was even more ridiculous when you take into account that fact that the car was at least 40 years old and didn’t look like it had been maintained any time in the last 20 years. It was in such a state of disrepair that I had real doubts that we’d make it. There wasn’t even a key, the driver just started it by hotwiring it.

Hot wired

The car was only small, yet we had 6 passengers squeezed in there. That meant I was sharing the front seat with a lovely Sierra Leonean lady named Efuah. It was also her first time in Guinea and we started chatting about our experiences in Guinea and how we both couldn’t wait to get to Sierra Leone. She also advised me that the car was only going to Pamelap, which was before the border. That made me even more annoyed about the amount I’d paid, to not even get halfway to my destination. It was also annoying that the driver had told me the car would go the whole way through to Freetown.

Thankfully Efuah knew how things worked and graciously took me under her wing to make sure that I would get across the border and into Freetown okay. I had no idea what was coming though and it really made me sympathise with the anti-government groups constantly fighting against the Guinean government.

Roadside Bribery
The police have set up many stops on the road to the border, where they charge people who don’t have a Guinean ID card between 5000-10,000 Guinean Francs (โ‚ฌ5-10). Almost no one has this ID, probably because it costs a stupid amount of money to get one. That means that these compulsory bribes are not just targeted at foreigners, but also at Guineans. Even our driver had to pay at each checkpoint. There was no discussion, you either paid or they didn’t let you through. Our driver actually drove straight through one of the checkpoints without stopping to pay, but I think he just got lucky that the officer was distracted and too lazy to do anything but blow his whistle.

Road to the border

This is a prime example of how a corrupt government can screw over its people and infrastructure. These police officers just sit at these checkpoints all day, collecting 35,000-70,000 (โ‚ฌ3.5-7) per car, or 60,000-120,000 (โ‚ฌ6-12) per minibus. Even if only one car and one minibus came through each hour, that’s 95,000-190,000 (โ‚ฌ9.5-19) per hour. There are definitely more cars passing through than that though. We passed, or were passed by, at least 8 other cars or minibuses on the stretch where the checkpoints were, so a modest estimate would have these government workers syphoning hundreds of Euro a day from the pockets of their people, while the rubbish piles up on under-maintained streets. I have never been more disgusted by the actions of government workers in my life.

When we arrived at 8pm, after 5 hours on increasingly crappy roads, the border was ‘closed’. The immigration guys, who were clearly still working, told me the border was closed so I’d have to wait there until morning, or pay 20,000 (โ‚ฌ2) for an exit stamp. As Efuah was with me and helping me negotiate with the guys, I decided to just pay so I could finally get out of the country that was annoying me more and more by the second. The guy with the stamp, who I might add was a greedy freaking douche canoe, decided he wanted to add his own cut of 35,000 (โ‚ฌ3.5) to the already ridiculous bribe. I was so disheartened to have to give into to such corruption, but I also couldn’t spend another minute in such a corrupted place.
Kez = 3; African Border Corruption = 1

In Summary
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ณGuinea๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ณ
In a few words โ€“ Rampant corruption and rubbish lined streets
Language – French and local language
Currency – Guinea Franc (GNF)
WiFi availability – ๐Ÿ“ถ
WiFi was almost impossible to find
Transport – ๐Ÿš—
๐Ÿš˜ Over-priced and over-crowded shared taxis are available for inner city and intercity trips. Inner city taxis run on a confusing zone system that means you’ll have to swap taxi 2 or 3 times to get to where you want.
๐Ÿš Over-priced, but slightly less squeezy vans are also available for intercity trips
Roads – ๐Ÿ›ฃ
Roads in Guinea are terrible. Aside from a couple hundred kilometres of road between Boke and Conakry and a 10 kilometre stretch of road before the Sierra Leone border, all roads in Guinea are barely maintained dirt roads.
Scenery – ๐ŸŒณ๐ŸŒณโ›ฐ๐ŸŒณ๐ŸŒณ
Green, green and more green! I was mesmerised by the endless greenery and rolling hills while driving through remote areas of the country.
Prices, – ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ
Guinea seemed to run on a different mantra to the rest of West Africa; half the service, twice the price. It was by far the most expensive country I encountered, with prices for most things being around double those in Senegal for about 70% less product.
Checkpoints – ๐Ÿ›‘๐Ÿ›‘๐Ÿ›‘
Most of the country was free of checkpoints, until the road to Guinea-Bissau. The checkpoints served a different purpose than they had in other countries; they were specifically set up to extort money from people.
Border efficiency – ๐Ÿ›ƒ
Borders are confusing to navigate as there is absolutely zero signage, you generally need to rely on the driver of your vehicle to point you in the right direction.
When entering from Guinea-Bissau, there was only one immigration officer to process a whole carload of people and he had no sense of urgency.
Corruption level – โš โš โš โš โš 
Overall – ๐Ÿ‘Ž

Guinea-Bissau

After a very quick and smooth border crossing between Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, our trip continued rather uneventfully, onto the capital, Bissau. The frequency of young kids selling cashews at speedbumps increased exponentially on our approach to the city and Bissau seemed to be an interesting mix of shiny new buildings and tin sheds.

Bissau

Trying to Get From Bissau to Guinea
I’d been given information by a hotel in Bissau that I could get a car straight to Conakry for 6000CFA, around โ‚ฌ9, so I made my way to the local garage to organise the trip. Once at the garage, a man named Bato told me there was no direct car to Conakry and that I needed to go to Gabu, a town in eastern Guinea-Bissau, and get another car from there. He helped me find the car and gave me directions for what to do when I got to Gabu, along with his phone number. He then asked for money, which I didn’t give him.

When the driver was ready to go, he told us to get in the car, but 2 passengers had walked off somewhere. That meant we were just sitting in a stuffy, hot car waiting. After a few minutes, I got back out, cause it was too hot to handle. The guys who’d wandered off, finally came back and were told off by the driver and other people in the car, so they turned to me, the only person that didn’t yell at them, and said sorry. Then we finally left. I’d been told it was 4 hours to Gabu, but it only took 2.5. Underestimated journey time? That’s a first for Africa!

Gabu, Guinea-Bissau
Gabu seems to be a tiny little town that pretty much just consists of dirt roads lined with people selling things, taxis, a mosque and a garage. There isn’t even a bank. Once there, a guy that was in my shared taxi from Bissau tried to help me find a flag, then went to get a car to where he was going.

Gabu

I found the car to Conakry. It was probably the most expensive ride yet at 12,000CFA (โ‚ฌ18), but I’d been misinformed by my hotel in Bissau that it would be 6000CFA (โ‚ฌ9), so that’s all I had. The bus guys, plus some others that spoke bits of English, rallied round to help and see how I could get to Conakry. They eventually decided that the driver would let me pay the other half when I could get some cash out in Guinea. Great, crisis averted.

They also advised that the trip from this region of Guinea-Bissau to Guinea could take up to 24 hours, for around 500km, due to the bad roads between there and Bokรฉ. Most of that would be spent on the first 200km as the road is good for the last 300km to Conakry. Oh well, all part of the adventure that is Africa!

Unexpected Stop In Gabu
So 4pm rocks around and we still needed another 8 people for the van to be full enough to leave Guinea-Bissau. The van guys decided that we wouldn’t be leaving today, so ‘the boss’ took me back to his place to sleep for the night and they promised me they’d find the people to fill the van in the morning.

By that time, there’d been a bit of rain, so the ground was getting a bit muddy and chickens were hiding under vehicles to shelter from it. The rain subsided for a bit, but then came back with a vengeance. It rained heavily for hours, which didn’t bode well for the next day’s trip. There was a good chance the roads would be super crappy, or even impassable. Awesome.

Oja, the boss’s son who speaks a little bit of English, came to ask me what I wanted to eat. Shortly after, the boss arrived with some lamb belly! After dinner, some girls came in and started talking to me. They didn’t know much English, but we all knew a little bit of Spanish, so that was the fall back language when we couldn’t understand each other. They were asking me about my trip and one of them, who inexplicably hated Mauritania, wanted me to take her back to Hong Kong.

They taught me some French and I taught them some Chinese, before one of them started showing me some music videos from artists in Senegal, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. I don’t think the music was really my kind of music, but to tell the truth, most of the video clips were quite hilarious and the clothes the artist were wearing were pretty unique.

Gabu, Guinea-Bissau – Day 2
When I woke up, the boss man took me back to the station to wait for the seats in the bus to fill up. We were finally ready to go around 11am. It was then that the driver decided he wouldn’t take me cause he was scared of possible anti-government strikes near the border area. I’ll state for the record here that he didn’t give a crap about the Africans in the van, just me. There was about an hour of arguing that ensued, where half the bus tried to convince the driver it was alright, but the driver, who was acting quite irrational by that point, wasn’t having it.

I asked a guy who spoke a little bit of English and had been helping me all day, if there had been any strikes that hit any vehicles and he said no. He added that the problem was that the driver had probably not gone to school and therefore had irrational fears about going to jail if something happened to a foreigner in his car. Well, okay then.

The next van to Conakry was due to leave the next day. The driver from that bus who was a lot less irrational than the previous driver, came over and said he would take me, no problem. When I stated that I’d already waited a day and my friends would be worried about me, (because by this point, I hadn’t been in contact with the outside world in almost 2 days), all the guys around guaranteed it would leave that day. I didn’t really believe them, but what other choice did I have?

After waiting many hours, there were still 8 vacant seats, so leaving that day was looking more and more unlikely. The boss man took me to get some eggs and a random guy in the shop bought me another 2 when I’d finished the first 2, even though we couldn’t have a conversation because we shared no common languages. You can tell a lot about people by what they do for strangers.

By 16:30 there were still about 5 vacant seats and it was obvious we wouldn’t be leaving that day. The boss man took me back to his place again and I was really starting to wonder if I’d ever get out Gabu.

Back at the boss’s place, another family member that I hadn’t met the night before, started talking to me. He’s one of the few people in the town that has finished school and is interested in studying further. He’s actually quite passionate about it, but he can’t do it in Bissau because he said the universities aren’t good enough. He wants to study overseas, but said it’s very difficult to get into and pay for an overseas education when you’re from a developing country. It’s sad that a higher education isn’t available to someone so eager to learn.

Gabu, Guinea-Bissau to Conakry, Guinea
The next morning, the van was finally full and ready to go, so I made my way back to the garage and after a few goodbyes, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we actually started moving.

The boss man and family member

After a few hours driving on pretty crappy roads, we stopped in town little town called Pitche for Guinea-Bissau immigration clearance, then we turned onto a dirt road, which was actually in much better condition than the ‘sealed’ road we’d been travelling on from Gabu. About 20 minutes down the road from there was a small river, which also happened to be the border between Guinea-Bissau and Guinea.

Dirt road to the border

A small ferry crossing was required, but the ferry was on the other side of the river, with no operator in sight. Some of the guys from our van, plus the driver, just stood near the river bank and keep yelling until someone came and started moving the ferry to our side of the river. The whole process took a little while, so we had to wait a bit.

The ferry was basically just a floating platform that moved along a kind of zipline across the river. Some idiot on the ferry tried to grab my phone from me because he thought I’d taken a photo of him. The thing is, I was just holding the phone and the screen wasn’t even on. Mind you, they’d been trying to take pictures of me when they thought I wasn’t looking, then tried to deny it, so whatever. After about 5 minutes of the ferry guys pulling the cable to move us through the water, we were across the small river.

On the ferry

In Summary
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ผGuinea-Bissau๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ผ
In a few words โ€“ dirt roads and boars
Language – Portuguese
Currency – West African Franc (CFA)
WiFi availability – ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ๐Ÿ“ถ
There are some big hotels that have pretty decent WiFi and will generally let you into their compound to use it if you say you need it to contact people.
Transport – ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš—
๐Ÿš˜ Guinea-Bissau saw the return of the squeezy shared taxis like the ones in northern Senegal, but for a higher price.
๐Ÿš Less squeezy 4WD vans were available for longer trips where the roads were less than great.
Roads – ๐Ÿ›ฃ๐Ÿ›ฃ
While there were sealed roads on major routes from the Senegal border to Bissau, they didn’t seem to be very well maintained until you got closer to the capital. After leaving the capital, there were a lot more dirt roads and they were often better to drive on than some of the sealed roads.
Scenery – ๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿž๐Ÿ–๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿž
Guinea-Bissau was almost completely green, aside from a few beaches in the central areas of towns and cities.
Prices, – ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ
It was a little more expensive than the countries proceeding it, but still good for a budget conscious traveller. Roadside snacks cost around 700 CFA (โ‚ฌ1) and meals at restaurants could be found for around 3000 CFA (โ‚ฌ4.6)
Checkpoints – I did not encounter any checkpoints in Guinea-Bissau.
Border efficiency – ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ๐Ÿ›ƒ
The borders I passed through were small and easy to navigate without signage. I probably spent less than 5 minutes at each one.
Corruption level – No corruption was evident.
Overall – ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘