West Africa isn’t a popular travel destination but it is actually a golden treasure waiting for explorers to enjoy. There is no dull moment in West African countries. This is evident from the bustling Albert market in The Gambia to the picturesque Yankari Game Reserve in Nigeria. Adventure seekers and anyone who wants a raw, thrilling local experience should not skip West Africa. If you ‘re planning a West African holiday, this post was written just for you.
Quick Facts About Top West African Destinations
It’s alright if you haven’t selected a travel destination yet. These facts about top West African destinations should help you make a choice.
- Gambia: visit The Gambia to get connected to nature and relax on golden beaches. This country is small but certainly mighty.
- Ghana: West Africa’s ancient golden city is an ideal location to learn African history, relax, and enjoy genuine and rich African culture.
- Nigeria: the giant of Africa is an excellent destination to enjoy the beautiful scenery, tremendous lifestyle, and bustling nightlife.
- Ivory Coast: West Africa’s hidden gem is an incredible spot to enjoy amazing food. It is home to scenic beaches and some of Africa’s most historic parks.
- Cape Verde: the astonishingly beautiful Cape Verde is a great choice for island lovers and mountain climbers.
10 Essential Things To Keep In Mind As You Plan
Choosing your travel destination is only a small part of the job. While preparing for your trip, there are some critical facts you should know. This information will help you plan better so there are fewer problems when you arrive.
Before You Arrive
- Knowing some French will be helpful: nine of the eighteen West African countries are French-speaking. Thanks to colonization! You will find that the indigenous people in these areas hardly speak any English. Basic competence of the French language will do you a lot of good when you must communicate with the locals.
- Pack everything you need: you won’t easily find what you need in a regular store. It is essential that you pack everything you will need on your trip to avoid disappointments. Men might easily find essential clothes in local stores but women must pack every need before traveling.
- Malaria is real: malaria is a real problem in many West African countries. You must protect your body against it or it might hit you hard. Take malaria preventive tablets before you travel and always wear protective clothing and use mosquito nets when you sleep.
When You Get There
- You might be lonely if you travel solo: do not expect to meet other visitors on your way. Depending on the season you travel, there may not be many West African travelers at a given time, and it’s normal to be the only foreigner for miles. Ghana and Senegal have more foreign visitors than other countries but you will be lucky to meet other travelers elsewhere.
- Wi-Fi may not work properly: want to communicate with friends at home and upload nice pictures on your trip? Don’t depend on wi-fi in West Africa or you might not be able to stay connected to the rest of the world. A great alternative is purchasing a local sim card and loading it up with a data plan. One reliable network provider available in many West African countries is MTN. You can purchase an MTN sim card on arrival at the airport. Load it up with a few GB of data and you can stay connected.
- Water is expensive: most of West Africa is hot and humid. You will need a lot of water to stay hydrated but pure drinking water is not cheap. Get ready to pay $1 or more for a liter of drinking water in West Africa. A good alternative is to bring your own trusted water filter for convenience.
- Dress appropriately: when it comes to fashion and style, most West African countries are conservative. The hot and humid West African weather calls for light and airy clothing but you must dress cautiously. You will stand out like a sore thumb if you’re dressed in shorts and a crop top. Pack long pants and decent shirts, especially in most Islamic countries.
Dealing With Locals
- Punctuality is a myth: West Africans complete tasks and show up for meetings at their own time. This phenomenon is popularly known as “African time”. Be prepared to exercise patience when dealing with the locals. It is not uncommon to wait 45 minutes for your driver to arrive or 3 hours for your dinner. At least the extremely delicious delicacies prepared in West Africa will be a consolation prize for the long wait.
- Bribery is very common: many areas of West Africa are notorious for bribery and corruption. It is a way of life for the people and they have grown accustomed to it. Workers and operators in positions of power can demand money for services that should otherwise be offered free. Oftentimes, they will try to make you pay some trumped-up charges to be compliant. If you don’t plan on paying bribes, simply build up your patience. Stand firm, and remain polite to the locals when such situations come up. Here are some more ways you can be polite to Africans.
- Religion is part of everyday life: Christianity and Islam are the major religions in West Africa. Besides them, many religions are widely accepted and practiced. The people are very tolerant of other religions and you won’t have a problem practicing yours. However, take note that West Africans hardly separate religion from everyday life. It is normal, even expected, for both to overlap.
West Africans are welcoming and accommodating people. The general air of West African countries is very different from life as you know it in the west. Make sure to consider all of the points above to blend in and have a fulfilling trip.
Important Tips For First-Timers
First-time visitors are guaranteed a unique experience in West Africa. If you’re nervous about your first trip, consider the following tips to have an idea of what to expect.
- There isn’t a general visa yet that allows you to travel all West African countries. Make sure to check for visa requirements for each country you want to visit, and prepare ahead of time.
- Unless you have an entire year planned out to see West Africa, you can’t explore everything. There are so many things to see in West Africa. You’re going to want to focus or you will get confused when you arrive.
- Prepare an itinerary for your chosen travel destination. You can categorize according to big cities, historical sites, and wildlife.
As a first time traveler, you have no idea what to expect from the experience. All you have relied on are reviews from other people and that isn’t the same as having your own experience. Hopefully the above tips are helpful for you to enjoy every part of your trip.
Although an uncommon travel destination, West African countries have so many wonderful sights to explore. Any curious traveler should want to experience the strong character of this amiable continent. Don’t only consider your wardrobe when you’re planning your trip. Now that you know the crucial matters to focus on, have an extraordinary trip when you do travel! Come by and share your experience here when you return.