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Old 10 Nov 2016
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Comprehensive Guide To West Africa - Without Carnet

Guide to the west coast / (without a carnet)

*03/07/18 - Nigeria deny entry to Cameroon, check last page*

Warning: This is all personal preference and based on my own experiences. Your opinion may differ. Please don't take this guide as gospel, I have tried to do my best to give others some idea of what to expect and relative information, however you may experience differences.

Before anything else, I would personally treat the following three references like a bible:- I don't know how I can credit this guy VoodooChile but he is somewhere on these forums. I found his website (ESPECIALLY the "Beyond Borders" section) extremely helpful on more than one occasion. It gives a highly detailed account of what to do and what to expect.


Visas

Most visas for the west coast can be obtained en-route. I used an Australian and British passport, so similar passports will yield similar results. The north to south visas I obtained personally, so the information is fairly accurate as of 2016.

(Note: additional information marked with an asterix are addressed below)

NORTH TO SOUTH

Morocco - No visa required (90 days)
Mauritania - Obtained at border (30 days) = €50 - instant
Senegal - No visa required (90 days)
Gambia - No visa required* (90 days)
Mali - Obtained in Dakar (30 days) = 25,000CFA // €38 - typically next day
Guinea-Bissau - Obtained in Ziguinchor, Senegal = 1 month is 25,000CFA // €37 - instant
Guinea - Obtained in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau* (1 month multiple-entry) = 30,000CFA // €45 - same day
Sierra-Leone - Obtained in Dakar = 120,000CFA €180+ - 1 day or obtained in Conakry, Guinea - $100USD - 1 Day
Liberia - Obtained in Conakry, Guinea - $100USD EU passport, $141USD for US passport
Ivory Coast - Obtained in Dakar (1 month) = 33,000CFA // €50 - 3 days
Burkina Faso - Obtained in Bamako, Mali (1 month) = 24,000CFA // €36 - next day
Ghana - Obtained in Bamako, Mali*/ Monrovia/ Abidjan (easy) (1 month) = 25,000CFA approx // €38 - next day
Togo - Obtained at Togo border (7 days*) = 15,000CFA // €22 - instant
Benin - Obtained in Lomé, Togo (15 day multiple entry) = 12,500CFA // €19 - pick up Friday
Niger - VTE visa tourist ententé - Obtained in Barcelona, Spain = €100*
Nigeria - 05/mar/2018 MUST obtain in home country. No longer issued on route.
Cameroon - Obtained in Calabar, Nigeria (1 month) = 50,000CFA approx // €76 - same day
Gabon - Obtained in Lomé, Togo (2 weeks) = 50,000CFA // €76 - next day
Congo Brazzaville - Obtained in Lomé, Togo (2 weeks) = 60,000CFA // €91 - instant
DRC - Obtained in Cotonou, Benin* (1 month) = 70,000CFA // €106 - same day
Angola - Obtained in Pointe-Noire, Congo Brazza (5 day transit*) / Accra, Ghana* = 50,000CFA // €76 - pick up Friday in both Accra & Point-Noire
Namibia - No visa required
Botswana - No visa required
South Africa - No visa required - Update for Kiwis***
Swaziland - No visa required
Lesotho - No visa required

Total: +/- €1240 // $1300USD.

Many overlanders seems to cut directly from Senegal through Mali to Burkina Faso/Ivory Coast, which could save you a lot of money on the countries south of Mali.

SOUTH TO NORTH

This information has been given to me from someone who traveled south to north recently, crossing paths with me on the way. Some visas are much easier to get coming north, however come with a price tag to match. I strongly suggest doing a bit more research on visas south to north to get confirmation.

South Africa - No visa required
Namibia - No visa required
Angola - Obtained in Windhoek, Namibia [very unreliable*]
DRC - Obtained in Windhoek, Namibia - $100USD
Congo Brazzaville - Obtained in Windhoek, Namibia or Kinshasa, DRC - $90USD
Gabon - Obtained in Kinshasa, DRC - $110USD
Cameroon - Obtained in Kinshasa, DRC - $110USD
Nigeria - Obtained in Brazzaville, Congo - $250USD
Benin - Obtained in Brazzaville, Congo - $95USD
Togo - Obtained at Togo border, 7 days* - 15,000CFA
Ghana - Unknown or Obtain at border - $150USD
Burkina Faso - Obtained in Brazzaville, Congo - $110USD
Mali - Obtained in Brazzaville, Congo - $50USD
Ivory Coast - Unknown
Liberia - Unknown
Sierra Leone - Unknown
Guinea - Unknown
Guinea Bissau - Unknown
Senegal - No visa required
Mauritania - Obtained at border - €120
Morocco - No visa required

Potential problems or additional information:

*** VISA TOURIST ENTENTE *** - This visa can be obtained in Barcelona, Spain. It now costs €100 and takes about 10 minutes. The VTE is essentially a multi-country visa for Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Niger. You can move between these countries easily with the VTE. Please note, that people who have left the VTE zone into Ghana, have been told their VTE is no longer valid when they try to re-enter into the zone, this is only at some border posts, on any given day. If you plan to use this visa, it may be worth looking into it a bit further at which border crossings you intend to use, and recent experiences from others using the VTE there.

Mauritania visa - According to recent information, the Mauritania visa price has dropped from €120 down to €40, epic news!

Gambia visa - On arrival at border, immigration officials may try to tell you that you require a visa even when you do not. I suggest printing information from the Gambian consulate webpage as evidence to prove you do not.

Guinea visa - When applying for this visa in Bissau city, the consul may try to tell you that the minimum for a multiple entry visa is 2 months (60,000CFA) which is double the 1 month entry price (30,000CFA). I said I will just take 1 month. On return, he had put a 1 month multiple entry visa in and still tried asking for more money which I refused, he handed over the passport shortly after

Sierra-Leone visa - Did not enter this country, I have unreliable information

Liberia visa - Did not enter this country, I have unreliable information

Ghana visa - Obtained in Rabat, Morocco. Obtained in Dakar, Senegal. Obtained in Bamako, Mali. Obtained in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Obtained at Ghana Border (1-3 months). The Ghana visa can be quite tricky to obtain as no locations seem to be a sure thing. In Rabat, Morocco, the application can take 10 days +. I was told to apply in Dakar as I did not know it was possible further on, in Dakar it was very difficult, but I was able to obtain a 3 month multiple entry for 75 euro + 100 euro into the consuls pocket. While I was in Bamako, a German cyclist got her Ghana visa there for approximately 25,000CFA. I met others who got the visa in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. I also asked at the border on entry, to which I was told it is possible to get at the border for $150USD. Update: Has been reported as of 4/12/16 by user eddyboi that you can get the visa quite easily in Monrovia, Liberia for $60USD, super friendly staff, cheers eddy

Togo visa - Very easy to get at border, however it is only 7 days. Can be extended in Lomé if required however is quite expensive.

Benin visa - In Lomé, Togo, visa starts at 10,000CFA for 15 day single entry, 12,500CFA for 15 day multi, 15,000CFA for 1 month single, 20,000CFA for 1 month multi, 30,000CFA for 3 month single, 40,000CFA for 3 month multi

Niger - See VTE above

Nigeria visa - Shortly after obtaining the Nigerian visa in Bamako, people were rejected from the consulate even on European passports. It would seem they no longer issue it. The same people were successful in getting it in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, however I would try get it at home before your trip if possible, as Burkina is not a sure thing. We tried unsuccessfully to get my girlfriend a visa in Benin. if you DO try to get it in Benin or Togo, I highly recommend trying to become a resident first. Apparently this is quite easy in Togo to become a resident.Update - No longer issued on route.

Cameroon visa - Can not remember the exact amount, about 50,000CFA. This MUST be paid in CFA, not in Nigerian Naira.

DRC visa - We obtained our visa in Cotonou, however as my girlfriend could not cross Nigeria, she flew to DRC to meet her cousin. Her visa was rejected in Kinshasa airport and she was sent back to Benin as she was not a resident of Benin. We did not attempt to enter DRC again. The visa has been accepted at the Luozi crossing in DRC, however overlanders have been turned away at both Cabinda and Brazza-ferry crossings.

Angola - The 5 day transit visa was issued within 24 hours (applied on Thursday, issued on Friday). The 30 day visa costs the same amount, however another overlander had been waiting 10 days and still had not heard anything so canceled it and got a 5 day transit. We overstayed our visa for an extra 4-5 days and it was not questioned on exit into Namibia. This has been the case for several other overlanders.

It is also possible to obtain the 30 day visa in Accra, Ghana. I do not know the price or how easy it is, but if you're in Accra you might as well try your luck. Consulate is open Mon-Wed but closes at 11am, so be early. I opted out as I tried the embassy on a Thursday, and would not have received a visa until the following Friday.

Angola from south to north - very unreliable trying to get it in Windhoek, the staff are not helpful at all and will tell you it is impossible. Alternatively you can use a third party to help you, this can be more expensive however. Apparently these guys here can get the visa for you, will cost 1000R (€65) + cost of the visa

South Africa - From January 16th New Zealand passport holders will require a visa to enter South Africa. To make matters more difficult, South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs told media New Zealand nationals would have to travel to the High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand in order to submit their visa in person.


Carnet or no carnet?

Having a carnet is obviously the safest bet, however if you’re like me and don’t really care, or don’t have the money to put into this document then I can confirm the west coast of Africa is possible without this. Here I will give a brief outline of each country

Morocco - TIP required - 6 months - Free
Mauritania - TIP required - 15 days - 5000CFA / €8* (more or less)
Senegal - TIP required - 2 days(!)* extended to 15 - 5000CFA / €8
Gambia - TIP required - 7 days - 5000CFA / €8
Guinea-Bissau - TIP not required(!)*
Guinea - TIP required (!)* - duration by discussion - 5000CFA / €8
Sierra Leone - unknown
Liberia - unknown
Ivory Coast - unknown
Mali - TIP not required(!)*
Burkina Faso - TIP required - 1 month - 5000CFA / €8
Ghana - Carnet/insurance required(!)* - please read below
Togo - TIP required* - 1 month - 5000CFA / €8
Benin - TIP required - 1 month - 7500CFA / €12
Nigeria - TIP not required
Cameroon - TIP required - duration by discussion - FREE
Gabon - TIP required - 1 month - FREE
Congo Brazza - TIP required* - no real duration* - FREE(!)*
Congo DRC - unknown
Angola - TIP required** - unknown duration - €5(ish)
Namibia - TIP not required* - pay road tax - €13
Botswana - TIP not required - pay road tax - 190rand / €13 for motorcycle
South Africa - TIP not required (but recommended) - 6 months - FREE

TOTAL: approximately €100 (Road tax in SADC countries is applicable with or without carnet)

TIP Notes

Mauriania - I do not remember the price, however I think it is around 8 euro but don’t let them screw you as they will likely try. I recommend using a fixer Chiek at Mauri border after no-mans-land (please read Border crossings in general for more info)

Senegal - The TIP is easy to obtain in Diama, however it is only for 2 days and can be extended 15 days for free in Dakar (This extension can be done twice to total 30 days). They do this in St.Louis as well but it is well known for a corrupt official to try charge an insane amount for it. I recommend trying St.Louis just to see, but if there is ANYTHING fishy, just go to Dakar and get it done for free. The building in Dakar is next to the AXA insurance building near the port, the sign on the outside is something like “WORLD TOURS”, it is a few floors up. N 14'40.128 W 17’25.894

Guinea-Bissau - They say the TIP is not required (at least for motorcycle), but it is. If you get stopped by police you will be totally at their mercy. This happened to me. I would not recommend leaving customs without getting a TIP or some type of signed document to give to police in the event you’re stopped.

Guinea - TIP was not required when I entered, however I did not want a repeat of Guinea-Bissau so demanded a TIP from customs. They were extremely friendly and the chief issued me a TIP for 5000CFA. On exiting Guinea, I was asked for the TIP which I had to hand in. I recommend getting this on entry rather than risking it.

Mali - Some people have had to pay 5000CFA / 8 euro for a TIP here. Coming from Guinea in the south, I did not have to pay anything. I was told I did not need one. I did not want to risk this after what happened in Guinea-Bissau however they would not issue me one. I was stopped by the boss at customs on exit and told I needed one. He wanted me to pay a bribe. This fizzled out after a few minutes and he allowed me to leave. I recommend trying to get some form of documentation on entry rather than risking it.

Ghana - Ghana is a tricky one. Basically if you don’t have a carnet you have several options. Option 1 is you leave your vehicle at the border and collect it on exit. Option 2 is leave the dutiable value of your vehicle at the border, drive your vehicle in and collect the money on the way out from the same border. Both of these are not very practical if you want to exit into Togo. Option 3 is you get customs to help you organise an insurance guy who you buy insurance from which is approximately 1% of the dutiable value of your vehicle. If your vehicle is worth $10,000 the duty may be worth $2,000 or something. You’d have to pay like 1% of this for the insurance. I never went down this route as it was a Saturday and I didn’t want to wait so long so I rode into Togo. In hindsight I should have done the insurance route as I hated using public transport when I went back into Ghana from Togo. I am not entirely sure of all the ins and outs of the insurance, but that was how it was described to me by customs. It may vary with you, if you choose to do this.

Togo - I left my motorcycle in Togo and went into Ghana. When exiting Togo the customs guy on the computer looked at me strangely but let me pass without the vehicle. I had no idea what was on the computer. When I entered Togo again I left through the middle border into Benin. I had overstayed the 1 month TIP by about a week, however at this border it was super chill. The customs guy said “do you have any paper for me”, this took me off guard as I expected a nightmare having overstayed the TIP. I said “uh….nnoooo?”, and he waved me through no problem.

Congo Brazza - The Douane (customs) is located about 50km after the border if you’re entering from Ndende, the customs guy there waved a Carnet paper in front of me from a Chinese guy who had passed through the day before, asking me where mine was. I said I didn’t have one and I needed a TIP. He made a phone call and wrote one out for me. He slid it across the table smugly and asked for money. I said no, and produced all the free TIP’s I’d had from the last few countries and said I want it for free. He gave up pretty quickly

important - On exiting Congo Brazza into Cabinda you must go to customs and get an export permit. This sounds ridiculous and we seriously did not believe them, however once on the Angolan side this document is very important to get your Angolan TIP. On the Congo side they asked for 10,000CFA. I eventually got it for free as there was no listed price and they could not give me an official receipt.

Angola - (Cabinda) This was the most official TIP I had in West Africa. The export paper from Congo was required in order to get this TIP. I don’t remember the exact cost but it was about 5 or 6 euro (at the black market exchange rate in August 2016). We had a friend from Pointe-Noire helping us who took care of all the TIP etc so I do not know the details on obtaining this myself. Some people have not had to obtain this TIP in the past, I assume coming from DRC.

South Africa - You can get a free TIP at the border for 6 months. I strongly recommend getting this if you want to ship your vehicle from South Africa as you can not ship your vehicle without this document. You could always drive back to the border and get it, but save yourself the trip and get it on entry. Otherwise you can transit freely through Namibia/Botswana/South Africa/Lesotho/Swaziland without being asked about a TIP or carnet.




Insurance

Morocco - Unless you have a Green card from Europe that covers Morocco, you will have to buy this once in the country. I entered at Tangier Med and there is an insurance booth right outside the customs gate. I bought 10 days insurance for about 620 dirham (60 euro or something).

Mauritania - On the far side after crossing through customs you can buy insurance for 10/20/30 days. 30 days insurance costs 30 euro

CEDEAO - This will cover you from Senegal down to Cameroon (I think). You can buy it in Nouakchott (Mauritania), or at the border on the Senegal side. I highly recommend to buy this in Nouakchott. I bought insurance at the border and it was fake. It was only valid for Senegal however was sold to me as CEDEAO. Make SURE the insurance paper they hand you says CEDEAO or ECOWAS (not sure of the difference), just make sure it lists all the countries on the paper YOU have.

On arrival at Cameroon, I had no idea where to buy insurance all the way down to Namibia. Apparently in the SADC countries (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana) etc, the insurance is included in the road tax. I don’t know if this is true. But that was my total experience with insurance on the west coast



Border crossings in general

Border crossings always seem to be different, people have different experiences and some people handle them in different ways. Here are a few of my notes. Your vehicle is almost always safe at the border crossings. I was paranoid about this for a long time, but I would not worry too much about always having your vehicle in sight. Nothing was ever touched on my bike, not once. I can’t really remember many borders now, so I will only note the ones that stuck in my mind after giving problems

Entering Mauritania - I recommend using a fixer to cross after no mans land. It has a bad reputation and it’s just easier. There is a guy that came running down the hill into no mans land as soon as he spotted me on the bike, his name is Chiek. Just ask for a guy called Chiek. I paid him about 10 euro. It’s kind of annoying to part with this money but it makes life easier. Tell him at the start exactly what you’re going to pay him, tell him you’re not going to give him any more. Tell him what you expect to pay for the visa, for the TIP, and for insurance. He tried to cheat me on insurance right at the end, but overall it was pretty straight forward.

Exiting Mauritania and Entering Senegal - Use the Diama crossing as opposed to the dreaded Rosso crossing. It is easy to get to, from Nouakchott there is a turn off to Keur Macene, this is a much faster route from Nouakchott to Diama than going all the way to Rosso. The road is even better than the main highway until you reach Keur Macene where it turns into easy piste (in the dry). This is the turn off - 16°47'24.6"N 16°05'55.9”W - Do not be afraid of this road, it is good.

or on Google here

Beware: The immigration and customs on the Mauri side can give difficulties to some. Asking for and outright lying for money in order to stamp your passport or TIP is standard operations here. Do not pay. It is also not out of the ordinary to try extract a huge bogus fee if your vehicle is older than 8 years. However, this does NOT apply to temporary imports like the typical overlanders.

There is an excellent write up by Andy (Wheelie Adventurous) with other experiences on the notorious crossing found here

I suggest reading all posts. On the Senegal side, it is very easy. Just refer back to my insurance warning about the insurance at the border here. It is a scam and is not CEDEAO.

Exiting Senegal into Gambia - remember to get your passport stamped out BEFORE handing back your TIP. This caused problems for me, but eventually I could get my TIP back from customs to show police.

Entering Gambia - Many countries require a visa to enter Gambia, however Australia and the UK are not those countries, and these were the passports I was traveling on, I did not need a visa. However the immigration officials are sly and corrupt and will try to tell you that you do in fact need one. I strongly recommend printing something out before crossing this border stating that your country does not require a visa. I would also recommend noting your embassies phone number and threatening to call them, should they give you a hard time. I had to argue for about 40 minutes for them to let me through without paying for a visa. You can read that story on my blog here if you want some cringe.

Entering Cameroon - The chief HAS to be there to stamp your carnet or TIP. If he is not there, the worker bees are not allowed to do it and you will have to wait for the chief to come back. I had to sleep overnight at the border, a friend had to sleep two nights. I recommend not attempting on a weekend or public holiday. Do not try to just drive off into the country (I seriously considered it) as there is a checkpoint just at the road, and it is required to exit Cameroon.



Road conditions

Believe it or not, most of the roads in west Africa are not THAT bad. There are certainly bad sections but for the most part it is nothing to be afraid of. Be prepared for many deviations though, which is where the road is under maintenance or they are building new roads, therefore you are diverted off to temporary roads on the side. These can turn a 1 hour drive into a 2 hour drive and so on. These can often be quite bad roads, they can be sandy, muddy, have hidden speed bumps that blend in so well they’re difficult to see or there can be pools of water on them. Take that into account when you’re trying to work out timings for driving. On a motorbike it wasn’t so bad but I can imagine it would slow you down a lot in a caged vehicle.

I often rode at night, however I feel I got lucky many times, and often saw conditions of roads during the day that I was thankful I never came across at night. I would not recommend riding/driving at night simply due to road conditions. The problem is the erosion of the roads often leave giant potholes you won’t see until it’s too late. Like I said, I got lucky most of the time and hitting a huge pothole on a motorcycle isn’t always so bad.

I think what roads can be a nightmare in the wet can be not so bad in the dry, so the seasons in which you choose to do the west coast can determine how bad they are at any given time. I went through mostly dry season from top to bottom so didn’t go through days or weeks of mud. I can’t really comment on this. I would just say don’t worry too much for the roads, they’re not so bad.



Traffic

Traffic is half the battle in many west African towns. Not only can these people not drive, they’re not very efficient either and in many towns this will throw your timings off considerably. I strongly advise going around cities in transits rather than through them. Many times I was thankful to be on a motorcycle but spent often spent long periods, sometimes hours sitting in traffic that was barely moving, just to get through towns that were usually just blocked because one side of the road had a lot of water, or taxis just stop, vehicles break down, or people just park in stupid places.

Beware that they do not have any level of courtesy in many of these countries. If I had a dollar for every time someone just stopped their vehicle directly in front of me. Often without brake lights or indicators. They do not give a shit about you or any other traffic. Be conscious of this. I was hit by a car in Gambia which destroyed a lot of my camping gear which I had to fly back to Europe to replace.



Speed traps

Morocco and Western Sahara both have speed traps with speed guns. These are typically on entering towns after a 100kmp/h highway. They generally sit just after the 60kmp/h sign and will not be afraid to wave you down and hit you with a hefty fine. Anything 10-20kmp/h above the limit is about 30 euro. Above 20kmp/h is 75 euro. They will write it out all in official log books so it is legitimate.

You likely will not see another speed trap until Namibia. From Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa they are fairly frequent. In Swaziland I was caught 20kmp/h over the limit and fined 4 euro (lol). In South Africa they are a bit more serious. On all occasions I had no money and they let me go. In South Africa I think it was too much work to issue a fine to a foreign plate, however I am not positive on that. All of these speed traps let me go. Yes, I consistently sped. Sorry about that.



Accommodation

Wild camping and sleeping in local villages is only amusing for some time before you get sick of it and just want a nice shower, hang out with other overlanders or just want a few extra comforts of home. I feel there is a stigma against using apps such as iOverlander to find accommodation due to “following the same path at the rest”. I don’t buy that at all. I used iOverlander frequently to find decent accommodation and found it invaluable. These pitstops in European run or just quality campsites were highly beneficial to my own sanity. Each to their own, but there are some great places I would recommend to anyone that can be found on iOverlander.

If you don’t know where you are going, can’t find a place, or just want to stay somewhere different then a method I found worked well for me is just going and asking a local moto taxi. Tell them what you’re looking for and your price range. 9 times out of 10 they will take you to a place more or less of which you specified and you’ll only have to flick a few bucks his way for his effort. I did this many times in west Africa where iOverlander was of zero help and I could not wild camp.

Most accommodation you’ll find in west Africa will typically be around 3-5 euro to camp, sometimes higher in European run campsites. And ~15 euro for a room. In European camp sites expect to pay more for a room. Sometimes it is worth it.

If you’re looking for hotels, you can often negotiate a good price. Many of the hotels are only used by wealthy businessmen. I found this beneficial the couple of times I did stay in a hotel. For example Transcorp hotel in Calabar, Nigeria is something like $150USD per night, but I got it for maybe $30 because I was in a riding suit, covered in shit at 10pm at night. Maybe they felt sorry for me, I don’t know. It’s worth trying to push the overland tac.



Wild camping

Wild camping can be a lot of fun especially if you’re equipped for it in a 4x4 or overland vehicle and carrying amenities. It is very easy from Morocco down to the bottom Senegal/Mali/Burkina Faso, as after that the bush starts to get quite dense and it can be difficult to find anywhere to pull off the road. Actually near impossible, especially if you want to be away from people. This is where I spent most of my time in camp sites or rooms (as above). If you’re more open and social, you could probably stay in villages each night, however I personally got tired of villages real fast. The bush starts to clear again almost from southern Congo/Angola. You can literally see it on Google maps, the green strip running across Africa, it’s kind of difficult to wild camp there.

A side note is, even when you think you’re alone and there is nobody for miles (especially in central west Africa), there is always going to be people nearby. Always. Don’t be surprised if you get curious people hanging around the outskirts of where you are camped. Always. They’ll typically show up right when you’re mid way through a shit in the bush too.

Note: These people always tend to be very friendly. I was offered milk straight from the cow from people herding cows etc on several occasions



Maintenance

I can’t really speak for 4x4s or trucks, only really for motorcycles.

In general you will typically find the deeper you get into west Africa that there are tyre shops everywhere, this may not help you for tyres, but it certainly helped me for air compressors when mine failed. I’d say on average you can find an air compressor anywhere you see people. And almost certainly in every town.

There is a KTM shop in Togo that you can get a service or any work done, they also stock quality ADV bike tyres for larger wheels. I mainly saw Continental stocked there.

That said, there are many shops in every town that could jimmy something up for you or help repair something broken. I was lucky enough to have no mechanical faults with my motorcycle on the way down. As for anything more serious, there are many repair shops for Toyota etc listed on iOverlander. You’re never going to be truly screwed.

You’d also be surprised who comes out of the woodwork when you are alone, so if you fall off your bike and can’t pick it up, you run out of fuel, or just have a mechanical problem. Don’t worry. Guaranteed that someone will pass by shortly who will be overly keen to help you out. For as annoying as these people can be sometimes, they are always willing to help (typically for a small fee lol)



Useful documents to carry

In East Morocco, South Morocco and Western Sahara, you will likely be plagued by checkpoints requiring a passport check. Normally a 'Fiche' will suffice, this is a small printout basically giving all your passport details and visa details, when you entered etc. I used these templates created by Chris Scott over at Sahara Overland. They worked great.

https://saharaoverland.files.wordpre...4/12/fiche.doc

You're going to want at LEAST 40 of these, and that is no joke. There are a ton of checkpoints, if I were to do it again I'd take at least 60. I took about 20 the first time, and must have been stopped at a further 25-30 checkpoints where they took my passport for 5-10 minutes at a time. This was a lot of wasted time and extremely frustrating. Especially when you can literally see the next checkpoint 100m up the road where they do the same thing.

Take at least 20-30 photocopies of your passport.
Take at least 15 copies of your yellow fever card
Take at least 30 passport photos to use for visas
Take a good quality laminated colour photocopy of your passport
Take a good quality laminated colour photocopy of your drivers license

Take a good quality laminated photocopy of your vehicle ownership document

It's a good idea to save these as scanned copies on your laptop or something also. However do not stress if you run out of photocopies or passport photos. If there is anything that randomly exists everywhere in west Africa it is photo copying machines and people who can make passport photos for you.



FUEL

A lot of people ask and are rightly concerned about fuel when traveling through west Africa. Usually about fuel price, quality, quantity. While I am no expert of fuel, hopefully I can shed some light on the situation.

Fuel and gas stations are plentiful contrary to what you may believe. I traveled on a 23L motorcycle and in 28,000km only ran out once. Many times I spluttered into fuel stations 10-15km after my bike had hit "zero" on the dash.

There are a couple of places to watch out though. The first is when you cross from Morocco into Mauritania. I highly recommend filling up on the Moroccan side of the border due to the price of fuel in Mauritania skyrocketing. Fill all your jerry cans too. There is a petrol station right at the border on the Moroccan side however it is typical run dry, so keep that in mind. Mauritania also has serious fuel problems, I ran on unleaded petrol but I'd say diesel has a similar issue. When crossing into Mauritania, your next best bet is going to be 450km away in Nouakchott. There is a Total station about half way, but it often has no fuel. There is a sandy village about 40km from the border called 'Bon Lanuar' where they have drums of fuel, this can save you if you're in a pickle. It certainly saved me. Occasionally at police checkpoints there are locals on the side of the road with big drums, you can buy from them. Keep in mind the fuel is very expensive in Mauritania. Very expensive. Once in Nouakchott, it is common for pretty much none of the gas stations to have unleaded petrol. I believe they all had diesel but it took me a long time riding around and maybe 12-15 gas stations to find unleaded. If on a motorcycle Don't leave Nouakchott without a full tank. You're going to need at least enough fuel to get to Senegal.

The only other place that was hard to find fuel was in Gabon, there did not seem to be any petrol stations within the first couple of hundred kilometers, I believe there may have been one, but had nothing. If you're in a 4x4 you should be fine, but just keep it in mind if you're running low and heading into Gabon.

As for fuel quality, I ran a 2015 KTM 1190 Adventure R and never filtered fuel from fuel stations unless they looked suspect. I did not have any fuel issues or any blocked fuel lines or filters the entire trip. I did filter all fuel that came from any bottle, which is quite typical.

In many countries you can find fuel along the side of the road, in fact in Guinea this is pretty much the only place you can find it. The locals will buy out the fuel station as soon as it gets filled and sell the fuel at an inflated price (usually an extra 10-20c per liter). This is a good and a bad thing, good when you're low on fuel and nowhere near a fuel station, but bad that you have to pay an inflated price every time you want to fuel up.

Many fuel stations in west Africa will have a "lavage", or a pressure wash bay where you can clean your vehicle. Most of the time it is dirt cheap. Don't do it in Togo as it is expensive af.

The price of fuel is fairly consistent, almost all of it is under $1USD per liter so it's not frighteningly expensive. In some countries it is dirt cheap such as Nigeria where it is currently about 30-40cents per liter. Angola and Nigeria both have black market exports which can be found in neighbouring countries. What this means is that people smuggle the cheap fuel across the border and will sell it very cheap. So for example in Benin, you'd be better of buying fuel on the side of the road as it will be smuggled across from Nigeria and far cheaper than the fuel station.



Currency and Cash

I don't know about your bank, but mine stings me like $6-10 every time I withdraw cash in west Africa. I suggest only withdrawing in lump sums, I never had any problem carrying around a couple of hundred euro in cash. I would typically hide a bunch of it then keep enough for my wallet.

Morocco has the Dirham
Mauritania has the Ouguiya
And from Senegal south it's almost all CFA
Ghana uses the cedi
Nigeria uses the Naira
Angola uses the Kwanza
SADC use the rand (South African rand can be used in any SADC country but not vice versa)

For most of west Africa you're going to be using the CFA (Central African Franc), however a little unknown fact about this currency is that it changes between Benin and Cameroon. West and North of Nigeria you'll be using the Benin CFA, south of Nigeria you'll be using the Cameroon CFA. Nigeria uses the naira which separates them.

You can not use the northern CFA in the southern CFA countries and vice versa. even though they have the exact same value.

Remember than when you leave Benin into Nigeria, you want to have as little northern CFA remaining as it will become useless, and you will get a bad rate for it after Nigeria.

Nigeria - You're going to want to bring USD where you will get a much better rate than exchanging CFA or withdrawing from the bank. I don't know how much as I did not do this, I had no USD on me at the time.

Angola - Right now in 2016 Angola is having some serious problems with foreign currency. Angola is one of the most expensive countries in the world and will cripple an overlander UNLESS you have a fist full of USD. The USD will save your life in Angola as right now on the black market it is worth 4-5x the official rate.

How do I exchange money on the black market?
As simple as changing it with money changers at the border, however you're probably not going to get the best rate from them. If you go into town there are people on the street trying to sell you Kwanza all over the show. They'll first try to undercut you but hang in there and you'll get a good rate. As of September the official rate was 150Kwz for $1usd. This is a bad rate. You should be able to get at least 550kwz for $1usd on the black market at this time. This is likely to change at some point though. You can find it outside airport arrivals as well, just don't buy Kwanza through official exchangers or they'll rip you off.

The black market is somewhat illegal, i.e, don't do it in front of police officers, they won't like it.

Angola becomes pleasantly cheap this way and you can thoroughly enjoy the country on a much better exchange rate.



SAFETY

I don't really know if I am in a position to call this one, so I'd first like to say this is all my personal opinion and I may be way off the ball.

Firstly, I don't really buy into the "danger" stuff, but yes there are definitely high risk places in west Africa which I would not travel to at this time. These include;

Southern Algeria
Northeast/ Eastern Mauritania
Northern Mali
Northern Burkina Faso
Niger (except the capital)
Northern Nigeria especially North East Nigeria
Chad
CAR
Central DRC

That's not to say you can't go there, that's just to say I personally consider those places a bit too high risk for a holiday. You'll find some of those are just particular regions of a specific country, while I had a great time in other parts. The threat is there, you just have to use common sense, keep a low profile, don't go walking around the streets late at night and don't put yourself in danger when you don't have to. Nigeria is famous for kidnappings and in fact several Australians were kidnapped near Calabar just a couple of weeks before I went through. I assessed my own risk and decided to do it anyway. The guys who were kidnapped were targeted construction workers and ambushed, bit hard to ambush a random motorcycle with a random tourist and any random given time passing through. That's not being naive, I just didn't think the risk was too great to me.

Overall I think if you stick to the more commonly traveled route, chances are the biggest thing you're going to have to worry about is the corrupt officials.

I would also advise to keep up to date with travel warnings, there is a great website Smarttraveller.com.au or something which gives up to date information and enough content to make an informed decision on where to go and where to avoid.

Mostly, you're just going to come across curious people.



Language

In west Africa, almost from Morocco down you're going to be speaking French most of the way. Even though French is generally the official language, most of them normally speak in their native language.

Morocco is quite cool in the fact that a lot of them also speak English, but also French, Spanish and Arabic. From Morocco down, prepare for French, French, and more French

In Guinea-Bissau they officially speak Portuguese which was pretty random, and not many of the locals can actually speak it. In Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria they speak English. In Equatorial Guinea, and Angola again they speak Portuguese.

Is is a problem if I can't speak French or Portuguese? Not really. In fact sometimes it works in your favour when the police ask you to empty your bags or to give them money and you just sit there playing the dumb tourist.

For day to day communications, it's amazing what you can get across with just nouns which can often be universal, hand motions and pointing. I don't speak any French, but didn't have a problem the entire way down.

Portuguese can be a bit tricky if you don't speak anything, even if you can speak a bit of Spanish it would certainly help as they're pretty similar.

The language barrier is the least of your worries.



Health and Malaria

Again, I think this is a highly personal subject. I can only shed light on what I did personally. For Malaria, I did not take anything, I did not want to take pills for months at a time. The best thing I could recommend if you take this route is buy a good mosquito repellent. I found the moisturizer ones worked great as the spray bottles burned my skin. I wore long pants in the evening and coated my feet (wearing flip flops), arms, neck etc in it.

The whole way down west Africa I only got a handful of mosquito bites doing this, and I did not get Malaria once. This isn't to say I couldn't have got it and not at all to say it is not dangerous. It was a risk I was willing to take, I felt I was never too far from a town where I could seek medical attention if I felt the symptoms coming along.
  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Headache.
  • Sweats.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

If you choose to do the same, be mindful of the symptoms so you can recognize them before it is too late. If you choose to take pills, consult your doctor as I can not advise what to take.

My tent had a built in mosquito net like most tents.

Other things;
  • Sunblock - they just don't really have it in their pharmacies
  • Betadine - antiseptic ointment
  • Alcohol wipes - just a couple
  • Mouth wash - to avoid any kind of oral infection
  • Imodium - you'll be shitting through the eye of a needle more than once. lifesaver.
  • Paracetamol

All the other standard mini first aid stuff and last but not least
  • Condoms for all you brave fellas out there


Vaccinations

Debatable, but highly recommended at a minimum is;

Yellow fever - this is a requirement in many countries
Hepatitus A,B
Tetanus
Meningitis



Some personal opinions from the road

Favourite country

Congo - I think Congo tops my list due to the experiences I had there. I had heard so much negative stuff about it that I was almost sick with apprehension on arrival. I met some great people here, friendly people.

My motorcycle broke down in the middle of nowhere, in the bush at night, punctured tire I couldn't repair. Set up the tent with my girlfriend on a small bush trail as the bush was quite dense. A pickup truck loaded with guys came slowly down the trail in the darkness and we thought we were going to get robbed or killed. They didn't see us but the same group of guys came back in the morning, maybe 10 guys loaded over the back of the pickup. They stopped, there was nobody around to help us. Then these guys proceeded to spend the next 10 hours taking us around all through the bush trying to find a place to repair my tyre properly, they gave us food and drink, and at the end of the day once the bike was finally fixed, gave us a room with a bed in their tiny village. They gave us food to cook a meal and everything we could possibly have needed. They even paid 5000CFA to guys from another village for all the parts and didn't want to be repaid. All from people we thought wanted to kill us the night before. Can't underestimate these guys. Just when you think it's all doom and gloom, people have a funny way of surprising you.


Least favourite country

Nigeria - Had a lot of problems with the road conditions and flooding. This caused multiple problems with my tyres being punctured and rims being bent. The traffic was a nightmare and it was fairly chaotic. I didn't feel 100% secure, although in hindsight I shouldn't have worried too much.


Friendliest people

Guinea - People probably have the exact opposite experience, but my time in Guinea and encounters with local people was always positive, including police. Overall these people were the friendliest by far on the trip.


Most unfriendly people

Mauritania - Didn't feel secure here, the country is pretty baron apart from Nouakchott and the people did not feel very welcoming.


Best attractions

Namibia/Botswana - Probably not very surprising here. They've got the game parks. Unfortunately where there is game parks there is also a huge amount of tourists. I met almost nobody coming down the west coast until Nambia and then it just exploded with tourists (Ghana is an exception, tourists everywhere).


Cheapest country

Angola - Bring and exchange USD on the black market and your money will go much further. This evidently made Angola much more enjoyable for me.


UPDATE - More info below!

Last edited by Wanted; 3 Jul 2018 at 23:43.
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Old 10 Nov 2016
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Good information.
Do all countries mentioned for visas have the same rquirements regardless of the visitor's nationality. . If not, then your information may not be as useful as it might have been
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Old 10 Nov 2016
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Originally Posted by Tony LEE View Post
Good information.
Do all countries mentioned for visas have the same rquirements regardless of the visitor's nationality. . If not, then your information may not be as useful as it might have been
As I said at the start

Visas
Most visas for the west coast can be obtained en-route. I used an Australian and British passport, so similar passports will yield similar results


I can't speak for anyone on a Paki or Kyrgy passport or something like that, they'll have to research a bit harder. For European and Commonwealth passports, she'll be right.

UPDATE - As the first post has now reached the 5000 character limit, I will try to post more important information on this next post. It would have been good if TonyLEE deleted the post above, so that the post could have followed on, but it will continue here if needed.

Since making the original post, many people have been submitting their updates which can be read below. As many people have different experiences, this will have to be something constantly updated and eventually my own experience and pricing will be outdated. I am updating the prices and places the visas can be obtained, but there are some great detailed posts below from people who have had recent experiences on the road. It may pay to give it a quick skim through before making any big decisions!

IMPORTANT RESOURCE!

http://wikioverland.org/West_Africa - My good friend Dan has put a lot of effort into this website for over a year now traveling down the west coast. He has a whole lot of useful information for you here including fuel prices for each country. Dan would know a hell of a lot more about the west coast than me, and can't thank him enough for putting this information together!

Last edited by Wanted; 12 Jul 2017 at 13:47.
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Good write up.. makes me wish I was still doing my Ghana to Morocco trip.
Anyways I doubt many people will go this route but I wanted to give my limited experience..
I have a US passport and got a 5 year multi entry visa to both Mali and Burkina Faso. I obtained both at the respective embassies in Accra, Ghana.
Mali was 131 dollars and Burkina was 100 dollars.

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Just to add, I was also able to enter both Togo and Burkina without a carnet or much in the way of papers but my bike is Ghanaian registered. I got a laissez passer for Togo for 5000cfa. No one asked to see it on the way back into Ghana.

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Comprehensive Guide To West Africa - Without Carnet

Man I wish I had this info before I left! You're a #%*+ champ bro! I can say this is spot on info. Especially the one about dropping one in the bush. Cheers Rub


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Cheers Wanted, i've been following some of your other posts as i'm on a similar if cut short route. This is greatly appreciated!
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Love this post! thanks!

Is there anyone out here who knows of similar threads about this route the other way around? I would really like to get more info on where best to get visas on the west coast, coming from the south.

Any websites or links to travellers going this way would be much appreciated!

Cheers
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Originally Posted by milesalongthesea View Post
Love this post! thanks!

Is there anyone out here who knows of similar threads about this route the other way around? I would really like to get more info on where best to get visas on the west coast, coming from the south.

Any websites or links to travellers going this way would be much appreciated!

Cheers
Do you plan on doing the actual coastal route I.e. CI, Liberia, Sierra Leone, guinea, guinea Bissau? Or will you go around some?

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We are planning to do: Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania.
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Ghana - get at home (I would put a letter in with your application explaining why you want a date in advance to start your visa)

CI - apply in Accra via www.snedai.ci

Guinea - apply in Abidjan

Senegal - you don't mention your nationality, many don't need a visa but probably be able to get it in Abidjan or Conakry

Mauritania - unsure if it's available at Rosso on the border, might be worth checking some recent threads
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Updated info for this for the last few days

Cote D'Ivoire - CFA 33k, Dakar, 3 days. Easy enough

Sierre Leone - CFA 120k, Dakar, 1 day, UK Passport, think others are cheaper
Be aware, this embassy has moved (again). Now next to the Gabon embassy, not as google says. Reccomend going to this embassy in advance of application as it requires a trip to the bank to pay money in, which took time for me

Both plus a stack more embassies i found on my travels are located in iOverlander with more details where i applied/asked
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Updated info for this for the last few days

Cote D'Ivoire - CFA 33k, Dakar, 3 days. Easy enough

Sierre Leone - CFA 120k, Dakar, 1 day, UK Passport, think others are cheaper
Be aware, this embassy has moved (again). Now next to the Gabon embassy, not as google says. Reccomend going to this embassy in advance of application as it requires a trip to the bank to pay money in, which took time for me

Both plus a stack more embassies i found on my travels are located in iOverlander with more details where i applied/asked
Yo thanks for the information dude! Will try keep all this updated for future peeps
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Senegal - The TIP is easy to obtain in Diama, however it is only for 2 days and can be extended 15 days for free in Dakar (This extension can be done twice to total 30 days). They do this in St.Louis as well but it is well known for a corrupt official to try charge an insane amount for it. I recommend trying St.Louis just to see, but if there is ANYTHING fishy, just go to Dakar and get it done for free. The building in Dakar is next to the AXA insurance building near the port, the sign on the outside is something like “WORLD TOURS”, it is a few floors up. N 14'40.128 W 17’25.894
These GPS coords were spot-on, we turned in our Passavant and got our Carnet stamped yesterday (a Friday afternoon, Dec 9 2016). Some added notes:

The building is light blue and had a giant "DOUANES" in gold metal letters over the entrance, quite gaudy, also hard to miss. It is at the middle pier in the shipping port.

If you are in a car, parking is difficult. I had my wife just do laps. She eventually found a spot in the middle of the road (everyone else does this, and she was not hassled in any way) -- a moto would have zero problems with parking.

The bureau for this closes for lunch from 1:30-3pm. I arrived at 2:30 and the entry guard hooted at me in fast french, despite my 3 requests for him to speak slower. A tout caught me out and was very insistent that he could help me and kept snatching my paperwork, but I shook him off and explored on my own. I didn't see him again.

Facing the entrance doorway (guard desk to your left), you go all the way to the end of the lobby. A set of stairs is at the very end, to your right. Take these all the way up (top floor). There will be a Door at the end of the hall at the top landing with "Chef de Bureau", and a smaller sign underneath saying "All requests <== go to the Secretariat"

The secretariat door is immediately left in a narrow hallway. Because it is Africa time, the 3pm lunch ended at 3:45pm and a crowd had gathered. Also, all paperwork was going to the Chief, and his door suggests that he arrives at 10am, and leaves at 4pm, so morning is a better plan.

I was moved to 3 different departments, each time being asked to follow one of the girls who act as "runners". At the last one (Bureau of temporary importation) the Chief asked me for a copy of both my Carte Gris and Passport -- I was taken across the street (by a runner girl again) to a copy center, and was asked for 100 CFA for the copies. When I showed a 10,000 CFA note, he couldn't make change, and the helper girl took me back out with my copies -- effectively stealing 16 cents from the poor guy. Bring copies if you can.

If you don't speak french, a colored folder may be helpful, so you can "keep your eye on the ball" -- the paperwork is going to move all over the place, so it's a game of three-card monte. I had the only carnet, which is a thick and annoying document, and was easy to track in the piles of paper moving all around.

The entire process was 90 minutes for me -- 45 for the "lunch wait", 45 for the paperwork. I was never asked for anything sketchy, and it was very pro.

Because I had a Carnet, the last chief kept my Passavant. I asked him about it, and he clarified that the Carnet was now the "official" document for the car. If you are doing TIP only, this conversation may be different for you.

They are officious, but friendly if you look lost, and will answer questions warmly, no hassles here at all.


==

Other notes:

There were widespread political rallies today. We left Zebrabar in St. Louis at 7:30AM and only got to Dakar Douanes at 2:30pm, 7 hours! Plan accordingly.

The toll road A-1 is worth every bit of the 1500 CFA if you are in a car. My cheapness cost us an hour by staying on the local roads. Cards not accepted on the toll road, just like everywhere else.

Martin at Zebrabar will run your Passavant to town for you, using a service. It was 150EUR for one, 200EUR for two, and somehow 300EUR for three. Since I was #3 in our group, I opted out. If you are on a slow-roll through Senegal, this can take the pressure off. Ask about it when you first arrive.

The Passavant had no time stamp, only a date stamp, so if you crossed Diama early, you may have more than 48 hours to get to Dakar.


Cheers and thanks again OP for the info!

- Mike
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My description sucked -- here's a pic of the place from my dashcam

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Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events all over the world with the help of volunteers; we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, or ask questions on the HUBB. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.




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