It’s mid-February and after announcing my next trip back in January, I find myself getting ready to fly back to England after only completing part of my trip. Sometimes life has other plans for us and you have to just give in and surrender to a change in course.
After not being able to get my Cameroon visa in London due to not having the correct paperwork, I tried again in Cote d’Ivoire and was told that I needed to be a resident of Côte d’Ivoire to apply for a visa. Even with locals protesting that I was traveling on a tourist visa, I was still refused.
Having experienced West Africa bureaucracy it appears that slipping an official a bribe is the best way to get visas here. As a woman traveling alone I obviously didn’t feel comfortable doing this or would even want to take part in something that I believe is unethical. Instead I went to the British Embassy for advice and was told that they weren’t really able to help.
Not being able to speak French (my pocket guide didn’t really help much) and facing constant problems getting around in taxis (a local lady and her mum helped me out in the end), filled me with anxiety.
Even if I had slipped the official $20 would I still encounter the same problems in Cameroon for my other visas that I needed? Not having the additional funds to fly around Africa to try other embassies I had no choice but to give in. I was unable to fly to Cameroon to meet my friend and start the next tour.
The anxiety that I felt over those few days was not a pleasant experience. Travelling should be fun and something that you look forward to not something that fills you with dread. But, the decision had been made for me. I had to make alternative plans and fly home.
There are so many variables when you travel that you can’t always get it right but each place teaches you something different. After spending six and a half weeks in this African region here are my lessons learnt travelling to West Africa.
People and Interactions
Taxi drivers may be illiterate and unable to read maps. You need to know a landmark for them to know where you’re going (i.e. the name of a pharmacy that they may recognise).
Don’t expect customer service.
Don’t be friendly to the guys in Ghana. As soon as they have your number (even if you only booked with them through Airbnb or Uber) they will continue to call you or even turn up to where you are staying.
When locals start…