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Old 15 Aug 2011
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Crossing Northern Africa

Hello everybody,

would like to get some people's advice. I'm currently working in Zimbabwe and in January 2011 I'd like to go back to Belgium/Europe by land using public transport. I'm planning to go through western Africa and then Nigeria - Benin - Burkina Faso.

What could be a possible way to cross northern Africa by public transport? Anybody with experience in this? Advices?

Thanks very much in advance!

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Old 16 Aug 2011
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What do you mean by "cross Northern Africa?" Mauritania to Morocco to Spain? Morocco to Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt? Niger to Algeria to France? Etc.

This is not a public transport forum, although someone might answer your question here if you're more clear about what you're asking. It's also worth knowing that such questions are routinely asked and answered on the Lonely Planet (Thorntree) Africa forum.

Hope that helps.

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Old 16 Aug 2011
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For what it's worth, Nigeria, Benin, and Burkina Faso (and onwards via Mauri and Morocco) do have some kind of public transport; but it's mostly the same terrifying minibuses and shared cars that you have probably seen in southern Africa.

The Bamako-Niger railway is, apparently, better categorised as "an adventure" rather than "practical transport from A to B". I really wanted to use it last year but I didn't have enough days spare in my schedule.

Travelling this way is likely to pose some challenges. It's achingly slow, there may be some surprising costs, and consulates are likely to be baffled by the idea that a visa applicant plans to travel in the same way that locals do. Oh, and forget about booking bus tickets online or paying with plastic :-)

I can't speak for the more central countries like Congo (somebody else here surely can) but my understanding was that they posed even bigger problems for anybody trying to travel across them rather than just fly over them.
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Old 19 Aug 2011
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Originally Posted by Steven vdb View Post
Hello everybody,

What could be a possible way to cross northern Africa by public transport? Anybody with experience in this? Advices?

Hey Steven
I've been up and down that route several times and have met many independent travellers (mostly European) who were doing exactly what you want to do, only in reverse though...

Your biggest headache will be visa's, as most of the time you have to visit the capital city of the country to get a visa for the next one - which is time consuming, but part of the adventure of traversing Africa...

Quite a few people I met were Hitch-hiking - as they were irritated with sitting on the back of trucks/trains/matatus etc...

As for an adventurous route, I suggest:
DRC (Lubumbashi to Kinshasa)
CAR (if there is enough flow in the Congo River, take a ferry upstream to Bumba - 2 to 3 weeks, then pirogue across the border and truck to Bangui)
Burkina Faso

As for public transport, the most difficult will be DRC and Mauritania.
The rest - do what the locals do - hitch a ride with a truck (they do it with livestock!)

In Capital cities, try hook up with Couchsurfers - who are only too happy to share everything with you...

I hope you speak some French.
Good luck!
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Old 22 Aug 2011
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Thanks everybody for the advises so far.

My question more specific: which is today a recommended route to pass through Northern Africa safe:

Burkina Faso --> Mali --> Mauritania --> Western Sahara --> Morocco

or: Burkina Faso --> Mali --> Algeria --> Spain


What is the situation today in Mauritania with Al Qaeda militants, in North Mali? And in Algeria? In Western Sahara?

Any people with current experiences/knowledge?

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Old 22 Aug 2011
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Hi Steven,
By far the biggest security concern on those routes is Northern Mali, so forget Mali - Algeria.
Burkina - Mali - Mauri.....is the only sensible option right now (and for a fair while yet i suspect)

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Old 26 Aug 2011
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Originally Posted by Niva Say Never View Post
Burkina - Mali - Mauri.....is the only sensible option right now (and for a fair while yet i suspect)
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