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sub-Saharan Africa Topics specific to sub-Saharan Africa. (Includes all countries South of 17 degrees latitude)
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  #1  
Old 3 Mar 2010
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Euros or Dollars

Off in a day or two, starting Algeria, then Niger, a few CFA countries and Nigeria, then following west coast Cameroon, Gabon, Congo's, Angola, Namibia to SA.

I'm assuming I will have long spells with no ATM. So should I take Euros or USD?

Or should I bank on (sorry!) finding an ATM reasonably soon in most, and just carry a small amount and/or an emergency stash?
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Old 3 Mar 2010
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Ian, Euros are definitely preferred in the old Francophone countires. And indeed will attract much better rates than the dollar. The CFA as i understand it is pegged to the Euro and is infinitely preferred to the usd.

Some smaller towns in places in Cameroon and Togo and Benin for instance wouldnt even touch Usd......however, this was when it was 2usd to 1 pound, so with the dollar doing better against the euro and pound lately Im sure they'll take them.

And take large denominations, anything below 50 will attract a poorer rate (well, if changing on the streets that is, and rates are often better on the street)....of course take some smaller bills too incase of a small cadeaux here and there.

I would say take mostly euros for the bulk of your journey (as most of it is ex francophone Africa), and take some usd too for Nigeria, Namibia, and SA.

Hope you have a great trip fella, please keep us updated esp with regards Algeria and northern Niger, would sure appreciate that.
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Old 3 Mar 2010
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ATMs

Personally i would say do not rely on ATMs as your primary source of funds.

They have them in most large towns, but not guaranteed to be working. Visa is a must in W Africa, cirrus/maestro is a bit of a pain. And the last thing I would do in Nigeria is put my card in an ATM, no chance! ;-)
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Old 3 Mar 2010
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Thanks Dave. Yes, sussed the visa situation (not more bluddy visas!).

Obviously prefer not to carry more cash than I need. My plan is to keep a float of XXX euros, and aim to replenish whenever near an ATM. I know its a very variable/personal question, but very difficult to know just HOW much to stash unless you have an idea just HOW rare a functional ATM is!

Any suggestion? Sure I'll have a very good idea after the event....
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Old 3 Mar 2010
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I reckon if you can have enough on you to get from one major city to another you'll be fine. Major city classed as a Bamako, Kumasi, Ougadougou, Accra, Abidjan, Lome, Cotonou, Ibadan, Abuja, Douala, Yaounde etc...

Smaller cities/towns maybe not....I mean Kayes in Mali is a pretty large city, as is Maidiuguri in Nigeria....plenty of banks but didnt find one with a functioning ATM.

Beauty of most of W Africa is the common currency.....so if you take out 200usd worth of CFA, no worries, you can use it in the next place.

I know its risky with cash but you'll def have to take some. Other option is Travellers cheques, again major cities as listed above you'll be able to change them (usually 2%comms, sometimes none at all, pot luck really).....I was surprised at how many places still accept them, I thought they were hardly used but theyre still fighting a slow death! If going down this route strongly advise American Express only, by far the most widely recognised and accepted.
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Old 3 Mar 2010
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I had thought euros for north, USD for south but I can't remember where I got that impression, although these views seem to support that.

One thing I had thought of was, on the assumption that the £ will drop a fair bit until and maybe after the election, getting one of those prepay credit cards. I know one of them you can load at the rate that day. It could be worse than it is at the mo, but a big drop makes the trip costs a lot more. Part of me wants to do this cos I was talked out of buying a big chunk of USD when it was nearly 2 to 1 and regret it!
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Old 3 Mar 2010
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Ian, I got ATMs at all major places and a few smaller places, no worries. The on place I had issues was Benin as I wanted to carry more and exchange at the border into Nigeria, you should always find someone to exchange cash for the local stuff. Ecco Bank didn’t like my Nationwide visa debit card and not many other banks around in Benin.

Note: CFA (XAF) you can use in Gabon and Congo also! And I stocked up in Yaoundé to carry me through, things are not as cheap as people think down here especially where you got expats but you can manage with a reserve.

I haven’t really used my cash reserves but I’m topping up my USD for Angola rather than EUR.
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Does this differ for Eastern Africa? Also ATM availabilty info would be much appreciated.
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Old 3 Mar 2010
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I've no idea about Eastern Africa...
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Old 4 Mar 2010
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Originally Posted by tmotten View Post
Does this differ for Eastern Africa? Also ATM availabilty info would be much appreciated.
In my experience, ATMs in the countries between Kenya and South Africa were much more widely available and reliable than on the western side of Africa, even in remoter northern/central parts of Mozambique. You will have no worries there.

Not sure on Zimbabwe though, I never used an ATM there due to the crazy inflation in 2008/09! Relied on the old benjamins there.
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Old 4 Mar 2010
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....as for Ethiopia, generally okay in major cities providng there is no power cut!

Sudan I never used one, and not entirely sure if any banks there would accept foreign bank cards considering sanctions placed on Sudan?? Really dont know on this one, stand to be corrected.

Egypt no worries at all, loads of ATMs
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Old 4 Mar 2010
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That's good info. Cheers. When you say between Kenya and SA considering a lot of people tend to travel through Mozambique this doesn't include Malawi?
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Old 15 Mar 2010
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Ian, I just come through Angola and USD is the currency of choice. People prefer to change 100USD at a time into Kanza. 9500Kz for 100USD on the street, just under 9000Kz for 100USD in the bank.

You’ll fine money changers for dollars in lots of countries, outside the Abuja Sheraton is lots of them and that’s where I stocked up on USD from Nigerian currency out of the ATM in the hotel.

My excess of CFA left over (I stocked up on CFA for Gabon, Congo and DRC) after taking the boat to Kinshasa border crossing I changed into USD at the border port, used the Western Union aircon office as a discrete place with the money changer to change my CFA into over 600USD, plus the guy from Western Union let me use his ultraviolet light to check the USD was good.
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