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Photo by Igor Djokovic, camping above San Juan river, Arizona USA

I haven't been everywhere...
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Photo by Igor Djokovic,
camping above San Juan river,
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  #1  
Old 3 Jul 2018
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Sierra Leone to Ireland

Am currently based in Sierra Leone and considering riding back to Northern Ireland in about 18 months time. Gives me time to sort out a bike here and finish my current job. Has anyone any experience riding up the West Coast?
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  #2  
Old 3 Jul 2018
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A lot of people have done it in both directions ...

What in particular do you need to know?

Is your bike registered in SL?
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  #3  
Old 4 Jul 2018
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Sierra Leone to Ireland

At the moment I'm trying to decide whether to ship my UK registered R1200GS over for the trip or to import an older bike and register it in Sierra Leone which allows me to enjoy using it for the next 18 months while I get ready for the trip. Early days yet, but looking at a variety of options. I think 18 months is plenty time to get everything finalised for a trip I've been promising myself for many years.
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  #4  
Old 29 Aug 2018
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Hi Expat: yes 18 ninths is more than adequate to plan! I did London to Cameroon with zero plan last winter, via Senegal/Guinea-Bissau/Mali and points East if there, on my 1150GS


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  #5  
Old 3 Oct 2018
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Expat Biker.

Have just copied this from the 'Comprehensive Guide To West Africa - Without Carnet' thread. However, I did a similar trip (Ghana to UK) fairly recently...

Hello,

A friend and I have just completed West Africa (Ghana to UK), the wrong way round (South to North) and I wanted to share my visa costs/general updates.

This is for an American and British passport holder, travelling on x2 Ghanaian registered bikes. Countries include: Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain and UK.

The standard documents you will need for the borders are: passport, driving license, international driving permit, proof of vehicle ownership and yellow fever card. You will then need to produce/buy the relevant Temporary Import Permits (TIPs) and insurance (more detail below).

Finally, despite this information being accurate and current. Often West African borders can change depending on the mood of the official in charge on the day. Stay friendly and polite and you can usually get through with minimum fuss.

Ghana to Togo
Crossing: Tatale to Tabale
Visa: $15 on arrival for 7 days. However, this is no longer available (see notes)
TIP = Not needed for a Ghanaian bike
Insurance: ECOWAS Brown Card
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: We crossed East to West in Northern Ghana. The road is dirt from Yendi on the Ghanian side and mainly paved (although quality is bad for 50 miles) on the Togo side. No problems leaving Ghana – they were not interested in us or our documents.

On Togo side, visas used to be available at the border but are no longer. Buy in advance, otherwise the soldiers will want to charge you for escorting you to Kara, where you can buy the visa. If you can’t buy a visa in advance, cross Mon to Fri, as this is when the Kara visa office is open. Visas can be extended for a further $15 in Lome (extra 14 days for UK, extra 365 days for Americans). However, expect long queues and this service takes 24 hours.

Togo roads are very good and no police checkpoints.

Togo to Ghana
Crossing: Lome to Denu
Visa: N/A (already had a Ghanaian visa)
TIP = N/A (already had a Ghanaian visa)
Insurance: ECOWAS Brown Card
Carnet Needed: Unsure

Notes: I had been living in Ghana (so had the necessary visa already) and drove a Ghanaian bike. As such, the crossing was easy.

On both sides, officials were thorough on documentation checks. Road quality is good on both sides of the border. This is a busy crossing so plan for some time. Ignore any fixers (they can’t do anything for you). We were told to be careful with your personal belongings. However, with the amount of police on both sides of the border it didn’t feel dodgy to leave the bikes and gear unaccompanied.

Main roads in Ghana (in the South) are generally good. However, lot’s of police checkpoints. Be kind and friendly and you can generally get away with paying anything.

Ghana to Cote d’Ivoire
Crossing: Elubu to Ehania
Visa: €58 for 90 days from Accra – takes 24 hours
TIP: XOF20k (£27) at the border
Insurance: ECOWAS Brown Card
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: This is the main crossing between Ghana and CDI so plan for some time and a lot of bureaucracy.

On the Ghanaian side (maybe as a result of living in Ghana and owning Ghanaian bikes), the officials were uninterested.

On the Ivorian side the process was thorough. We had to go through the police, customs and immigration and all had multiple forms to complete, that required speaking to multiple people. However, everyone was friendly (not always helpful) and the process seemed legit. You will need to pay XOF20k for a TIP – we were not 100% sure it was OK but the price was on the form and we got a receipt. FYI – your bike may be searched and it will be a lot easier if you can speak French.

Roads in Ghana to the border are fine. In CDI the road is being rebuilt so we were on mud for 20(ish) miles. However, it shouldn’t take too long to finish building and then the road all the way to Abidjan will be paved.

Roads in CDI are good in the South and up to Yamoussoukro. However, in the West, they turn to mud/dirt. Checkpoints are more frequent in the trouble areas (North East and West). We were never asked for a bribe, just show your documents and you should be on your way.

Cote d’Ivoire to Liberia
Crossing: Tabou to Harper
Visa: XOF25k (£35) for 30 days in Abidjan – Takes 24 hours (but we got it back same day)
TIP: £0 (no TIP required for Liberia)
Insurance: ECOWAS Brown Card
Carnet Needed: No
Other: Crossing is at a river and you will need to pay to get across (see notes)

Notes: A more challenging border. The roads on both sides are awful (mud) and the crossing is at a river, which presents it’s own challenges.

On the Ivorian side, watch for officials trying to rip you off. We were told that you had to pay XOF15k per bike to leave the country. You do not need to pay this. You do however need to hand in your TIP form (although I don’t think anything bad would happen if you did not). The officer requesting the money was in official clothes and worked in the border offices. He will try and stop you getting on the boat and behaved aggressively towards us. In the end, with the light fading and a river to cross, we paid XOF5k for each bike but we should not have done that. Don’t make our mistake. Also, note, the Ivorian and Liberian sides do not communicate with each other as some officials make out.

Getting across is also difficult. A large, robust (for West Africa) ferry does operate. However, it is for large trucks and so the cost was very high (unless a truck is waiting and you can persuade them to share cost). As such, we went to the village and found a canoe who would take us across for XOF5k each. The canoe was old, with holes. However, clearly locals do this frequently. Yet of course there is still a risk! Even at XOF5k we slightly overpaid. As such, we told the people who helped lift the bikes in and out to speak to the canoe master for payment.

On the Liberian side, the crossing was very easy. No TIP required and friendly officials. However, the road to Harper is very bad. Very narrow, dirt and with trucks driving far too fast around blind corners. Use your horn!

Roads in Liberia are the worst we experienced. However, we did drive along the coast, often on roads not on maps. In the rainy season much of it would be impassable. That said, a new road is being built to link Harper to Monrovia (going via Ganta) and when this is done, life should be easy. Checkpoints in Liberia are frequent but friendly. Show your document and be nice. Final warning. In Monrovia, motorbikes without permits are not allowed on the main road (the Tubman Blvd). Drive on this and you will be stopped and the police will be difficult. Avoid at all costs.

Liberia to Sierra Leone
Crossing: Bo/Masama to Gonghu
Visa: $100 for 90 days in Monrovia (takes 24 hours and very unfriendly officials in the embassy)
TIP: $80 in Monrovia (you have to buy this from the embassy before entering the country)
Insurance: ECOWAS Brown Card
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: As with entering, leaving Liberia was easy. Very quick and no bribes requested. The crossing itself is a bridge, you do not need to pay to cross. The road up to the border (i.e. from Monrovia) is also paved and takes no time at all.

Entering SL was easy – but we were lucky. Initially the officials were friendly. However, we quickly found ourselves in the office of the man in charge and he was not friendly. He immediately told us we had problems with both the visa (we did) and the bike documents and started aggressively questioning us. Just when we thought we were in trouble. An official from the embassy in Monrovia – who we had befriended - walks in and he happens to be the man in charge’s brother! Problem solved. We were on our way 5 minutes later. However, it seemed like the man in charge was a dick to everyone, as even locals were being extorted for cash. The only advice we can offer is to make sure your documents are right. The embassy in Monrovia issued both of our visas wrong and maybe this is on purpose to make problems at the border? Also, please note, after leaving SL we met x2 other overlanders who said the price of a SL was $200 now. I cannot varify this.

The road from the SL border to Zimmi/Potoru is the worst we encountered on the whole trip. I wouldn’t even call it a road. Maybe a river bed! In the rainy season, this would be impassable.

Despite purchasing a TIP at the embassy, you still need to buy an additional paper for travelling in SL once in the country. Assuming it was legitimate (it seemed so as we got a receipt and the price was on the ticket) you can buy it at any police checkpoint and it doesn’t cost much (sorry – don’t have the exact price). However, you will need local currency to purchase.

As with Liberia, police checkpoints in SL are frequent but friendly. The most annoying thing is just how much it breaks your flow and how slow they can be. Apart from the aforementioned, roads in SL are actually in good condition. The riding around the Freetown peninsular is particularly good.

Buy your TIP in advance. You will be charged a lot for not having it at the border.

Sierra Leone to Guinea
Crossing: Kambia to Pamalap
Visa: $125 for 90 days in Monrovia, takes 24 hours (but we got it back same day)
TIP: $40 in Monrovia (we were strongly advised to buy this at the embassy before entering)
Insurance: ECOWAS Brown Card
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: We had heard this was a particularly tricky crossing and we arrived late in the day as the border was being closed. However, I think that worked to our advantage and we were through in less than 20 minutes.

Roads on the SL side are good. However, be warned, traffic is bad leaving Freetown. Also, the officials at the SL border forgot to stamp some documentation. We had to cross back as a result (although we did this without being stamped).

On the Guinea side, everyone was friendly enough. We already had the TIP and I would advise everyone to buy this in advance. The road to Forecariah is good (paved) but thereafter (i.e. to Conakry), the road gets bad.

Police checkpoints are very frequent in Guinea at the borders. However, in the interior, they are much less frequent. Generally in Guinea if a road is paved, it’s OK. If it’s not paved, it’s shit. Ask locals which are paved/unpaved. Side note, would highly recommend the Fouta Djallon of Guinea.

Guinea to Guinea-Bissau
Crossing: Dabiss Quebo
Visa: $100 for 30 days in Conakry (Same day if you drop off in the morning)
TIP: GNF200k (£20) in Conakry (not sure if this is a fixed price or whatever the official of the day feels like. At £20 we were happy enough to pay given how high all our previous TIPs had been)
Insurance: ECOWAS: Brown Card
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: An odd border to say the least. On the Guinea side, the road from Boke to the border is poor quality dirt, involves a river crossing, immigration is miles away from the border and the crossing itself is only a single track.

At the river crossing you should once again have the option of a larger ferry for trucks, or a canoe. However, on the day we crossed, we were told the large ferry was out of service. So once again had to pile into a dodgy looking canoe. As ever in West Africa, the locals knew what they were doing and the crossing was fine. Bizarrely immigration is BEFORE this river crossing (at least 15k from the border). It looks like any other police checkpoint but it’s where you get stamped out so make sure you stop at all police checkpoints (even if they look unmanned). Finally, as a warning to car drivers, the last mile or so of the Guinea side is single track. It would have been a lot of work to get a car through. There is supposedly another, easier crossing in this area. However, we couldn’t find it and locals didn’t know so maybe it’s mythical? Final note, don’t be alarmed by the length of the no mans land between the 2 countries, it really is that long!

On the GB side, things don’t get any more normal. You cannot be stamped in so need to drive to the police station in Quebo (1 hour away), only they don’t actual stamp your passport. Just register you as arriving in a book. Back at the border, there seemed to be some fake officials, stopping us and asking questions. However, they didn’t ask for money so it was fine with us. Finally, have money to change in Quebo. There is no cash machine until Bissau.

Main roads in GB are great. Freshly paved and quick. Police checkpoints are more frequent in the rural areas. However, we were never asked for a bribe.

Guinea-Bissau to Senegal
Crossing: Sao Domingos to Ziguinchor
Visa: Free for 90 days on arrival
TIP: XOF2.5k (£3) at border
Insurance: ECOWAS Brown Card
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: Leaving GB was very relaxed. They didn’t even look at one of our passports (and you do not need to be stamped out). Road quality was also good more or less all the way up to the border (except the last few miles).

On the Senegal side it’s a lot more chaotic but still problem free. Be warned, apart from the army, no officer we encountered was wearing official clothing – which can be somewhat disconcerting. Go with the flow, eventually you will be shunted around to the right person. A small fee is required for the paper work (TIP). However, we were given a receipt and the cost is nothing (<£4).

Roads in Casamance are generally good and we didn’t encounter any police checkpoints.

Senegal to The Gambia
Crossing: Seleti to Jiboro
Visa: XOF25k for 30 days from Bissau (only for Americans). Visa takes 24 hours to issue
TIP: XOF4k (£5) at the border
Insurance: ECOWAS Brown Card
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: A busy border crossing. Roads on the Senegal side are good. An official asked us for a bribe and out of pity we paid him a token XOF1k (<£1).

On The Gambia side, the officials were extremely friendly and always pleased to speak to native English speakers. We bought a TIP for XOF4k at the border – which seemed legit. Americans are only allowed 2 days in The Gambia without a visa. As such, we bought a visa in Bissau. However, we shouldn’t have bothered as there isn’t a lot to see in The Gambia (unless you head inland – according to others).

As we only drove through Gambia along the coast, the roads were fine. There are some police check points on the South side, make sure you stop as they are not always obvious looking. We were asked for bribes but managed to talk our way out of it (Just say Gambia is much nicer than Senegal, the roads are better etc….). The Ferry at Banjul gets very busy but motorbikes can push to the front which makes life easier.

The Gambia to Senegal
Crossing: Fass to Karang
Visa: Free for 90 days on arrival (although we already had the visa)
TIP: XOF2.5k (£3) at border (although we already had the TIP)
Insurance: ECOWAS Brown Card
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: Once again a busy border (with day trippers from Gambia entering/leaving Senegal). Leaving Gambia was easy and so was entering Senegal, although we did already have the necessary paper work as we had entered from Bissau. Road quality is good on both sides.

Roads throughout Senegal are generally very good. Particularly compared to anywhere South. Police checkpoints were infrequent but officials were friendly. They even helped us change a tire. Be warned, the prevailing Southerly wind kicks in from Dakar upwards which makes going North a lot less fun and much slower.

Senegal to Mauritania
Crossing: Diama to Diawling National Park
Visa: €55 for 30 days at the border (and an additional €10 ‘sign-off' cost)
TIP: €10 at the border (and an additional €10 ‘sign-off' cost)
Insurance: €10 at the border
Carnet Needed: No
Other: A bridge charge of €4 (paid in local currency) is also required

Notes: The infamous Mauritanian border! We bottled trying at Rosso, we had heard too many horror stories and were crossing in the dry season. The crossing at Diama was surprisingly easy. However, is only passable in dry season. The road on the Mauritanian side was not in good condition and essentially gets washed away once a year. On the Senegal side, the roads up the border are fine.

Leaving Senegal was easy. There is a café and toilets and it’s worth making use of both as the Mauritanian side takes time. You cross over a small bridge. It costs about €4 and I would advise getting hold of local currency to pay for this (and other small bribes, should they be needed). We picked up Ouguiya in Saint Louis. However, it might have been better to do this in Dakar.

On the Mauritanian side, you will be approached by fixer/s. Someone tips them off in Senegal, so they are waiting. They only charge around €10 to do everything for you. However, the man who approached us was somewhat aggressive and unfriendly and consequently, we decided we would try and cross without help. In the end, it was absolutely fine. Mauritanian officials were much more friendly than expected – although it does take time.

The visa is a flat rate of €55. However, you then need to pay €10 to have this signed off. Without doubt, this is not an official cost. However, even the locals were paying it and from speaking to other overlanders. Questioning this cost, or asking for a receipt will only cause problems so best to just pay and move on. You then need to pay €10 for a TIP and again €10 for the army to sign this off. I doubt this is also official but once again you don’t have much choice. Finally, you have to buy insurance. We negotiated down to €10 for 30 days. Once in Mauritania, you will enter the Diawling National Park. You also need to pay a small fee to enter this (another reason it is useful to have local currency in advance).

If possible, I would recommend the Diama crossing. It was easy and the road quality was not that bad. However, fill up in Senegal, as there are no petrol stations until Nouakchott. Main roads in Mauritania are good North of Nouakchott. However, non-main roads will be dirt/sand and can be very challenging. I would advise sticking to the main roads.

Police checkpoints are common throughout Mauritania. Ensure you have a fiche prepared in advance (you don’t need to add your visa number) and it will be problem free.

Finally, bikes can be lifted onto the Iron Ore Train (running from Nouadhibou to Choum and then onto Zouérat). However, don’t expect your bike (or you), to be treated well. Also, we had to sleep on top of the ore in order to stop the bikes being stolen.

Mauritania to Morocco (Western Sahara)
Crossing: Nouadhibou to Guerguerat
Visa: Free for 90 days at the border
TIP: 20DHM (£2) for paperwork at the border
Insurance: £120 for 55 days at the border
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: The road from Nouadhibou to the border is good. At the Mauritanian border, look out for fixers. Who will take your passports (acting as officials) and then process the paperwork and demand a charge. We got stung but paid in old rope we were trying to get rid of. There is a café on the Mauritanian side, worth getting something to eat as the Moroccan side can take a long time.

The crossing itself is no-mans land, technically under control of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Don’t stray from the ‘road’ – we were told there were land mines. However, it’s all completely safe and the UN are there to observe.

On the Moroccan side, the crossing takes time. The paperwork and checks are long and the Moroccans take it seriously. We even had to have the bikes x-rayed. You shouldn’t be charged for the bikes or for a TIP. However, one official did try it with us. Just inform you know it doesn’t cost anything.

Insurance in Morocco is expensive. We thought we were getting ripped off at the border. We were not. It really is that expensive throughout the country. Buy it at the border for an easy life.

Roads in Western Sahara are great but boring. Police checkpoints are frequent. Once again, a fiche will make your life easier. For Mauritania and Western Sahara, we used over 40 fiches each.

In Morocco, roads are great and you can find some really nice driving. Police checkpoints are non-existant.

Morocco to Spain
Crossing: Tangier to Algeciras
Visa: Free for 90 days at the border (Americans only)
TIP: £0 (no TIP required for Spain)
Insurance: EU Green Card at £130 for 15 days – buy from Lobagola
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: Roads on the Moroccan side are fine. Buying the ferry online or from the shops in Tangier seemed to be the roughly the same price. It’s cheaper to go from Tangier Med – which is about 45 mins away. The Moroccans once again checked our paperwork in detail and x-rayed the bikes.

In Spain, we blasted through the checks. I didn’t even need to take the helmet off for passport control!

Spain to UK
Crossing: Santander to Portsmouth
Visa: Free for 90 days at the border (Americans only)
TIP: N/A – Collect a NOVA form from the border officials
Insurance: EU Green Card at £130 for 15 days – buy from Lobagola
Carnet Needed: No

Notes: Leaving Spain was easy. Try not to arrive too late at the ferry, as we did. Entering the UK was also problem free. The bikes were not even checked – despite the Ghanaian plates. Make sure you ask for a NOVA form so you can inform HMRC you have brought the bikes into the UK.

Thanks everyone and good luck. West Africa is a great place to travel by bike and I would highly recommend it.

Happy to answer any questions people may have.

Rory
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  #6  
Old 3 Oct 2018
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Rory, you gave me a good giggle

The main border Ghana - CI - Noe has it's days, if you walk through, bypassing health, customs and just rock up to the police .. they are usually ok about it with ECOWAS registered vehicles unless you're overloaded in which case customs wants a look in!

The CI - Liberian border at Tabou/Harper has always been a nightmare, the pirogue going over has been a bone of contention for many, would be easier to cross further north to Saniquellie going west out of Danane on a rough piece of dirt road.

The biggest laugh was your mention of the 'ferry' service after immigration in Kandiafara East, Guinea before you cross to Kandiafara West (spent a night in this village years ago!) and onto Dabiss and Quebo ... I first crossed here 14 years ago and even then they said that the ferry had just broken down and was due to be repaired! It sounds as if immigration haven't got any nicer here, some guy with us was taken into a room and lashed with an inner tube ... Quebo in comparison was very relaxed and the track (walking path!!!) between the two is stunning ... love that corner of Guinea!!!
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Old 9 Jan 2020
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Sierra Leone to Ireland

Well, time for an update I ended up finding a 1981 Honda Goldwing with full Vetter luggage in Freetown. Bought it and rode that for a year, then work told me they were sending to a project in London (where I am now) so the bike got stripped and shipped back and actually got delivered to my home about 1 months ago. Now to rebuild the old girl. Had a lot of fun riding the bike in SL.


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