Solo Travel in West Africa: An Unforgettable Adventure
Traveling solo in West Africa can be a bit daunting, but it's also an incredibly rewarding experience. From the bustling streets of Accra, the mountains of Freetown and to the beautiful beaches of Dakar, this region of the world is full of surprises. Here are some tips and insights on how to make the most of your solo travels in West Africa.
BEFORE YOU GO TO WEST AFRICA
Do your homework!
West Africa is an incredible place to travel, it is beautiful but raw and chaotic so make sure that you research the destinations you plan to visit in advance. Read the latest government travel advice (eg USA, UK, Australia, etc) and confirm where you will be able to get consular assistance. Learn about the local customs, traditions, and laws to avoid any cultural misunderstandings.
Make sure you vaccinations are up to date
Get vaccinated for common diseases like yellow fever, typhoid, and hepatitis A. Consult with a travel health professional or your healthcare provider for the latest vaccination recommendations. At a minimum, you will need a International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP), also referred to as the “yellow card,” is the official, internationally recognized document that travelers use to document proof of vaccination for diseases included under the IHR and Covid Vaccination Certificates to enter and exit most countries.
Travelling to West Africa is an incredible experience, but it is important to make sure you have the necessary paperwork to enter each country. Many countries in West Africa require visas for entry, which can vary in price and processing time. It's always a good idea to check with the embassy or consulate of each country you plan to visit well in advance of your trip to make sure you have the correct documents and are aware of any travel restrictions or advisories. Some countries also require proof of yellow fever and covid vaccination, so make sure to check the vaccination requirements as well. With proper planning and preparation, you can maximise the chances of enjoying a smooth and stress-free trip to this amazing region of the world.
In saying this, all overland border crossing will try and find a 'problem' with you passport, visa or vaccination certificates and will try and stall you until you pay a 'fine', then everything always seems to sort itself out. The correct documentation will minimise the chances of you having problems at the border. For more information on the how to get Visas for West Africa, check out our travel guide.
Cash is King
Bring enough cash in local currency to cover your expenses. ATMs may not be available in some areas and maximum withdrawals can be as little as $40 USD at a time, plus credit cards are not be widely accepted either. I had to pay cash to get on a last minute flight because they didn't have a card machine.
Purchase travel insurance that includes medical coverage and emergency evacuation. Make sure to read the policy carefully to understand what is covered and what is not. You may be in a road accident, get malaria or dengue fever, bitten by a monkey or Tumbu Flies (like I did). To add to this, I would also get fully comperehsive insurance which would cover you for stolen items and lost luggage (my bags got lost on a flight from Sierre Leone to Liberia). I cannot stress enough, that I would not travel to this region without travel insurance.
Copy your documents
Carry a photocopy of your passport, visas, and other important documents (medical certificates, etc) with you at all times. Leave the originals in a safe place, such as a hotel safe. Having a copy will also help in the instance that you lose the originals, as there is a lot of red tape when doing anything official in this part of the world.
Religion is an essential part of daily life in West Africa, with Islam and Christianity being the dominant religions. Traditional African religions also continue to be practiced in many communities, with beliefs centered around the worship of ancestors and the spirits of nature.
Voodoo is a religion that is practiced in many West African countries, including Benin, Togo, and parts of Ghana and Nigeria. Voodoo is often associated with ritual practices, including animal sacrifice, spirit possession, and the use of charms and talismans. However, these practices are only a small part of the religion, and most voodoo practitioners do not engage in them.
West Africa has a reputation for being unsafe, but with common-sense precautions, you can stay safe while enjoying your travels. Always be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or carrying expensive electronics. It's also a good idea to research the political situation before you travel and avoid any areas with a history of conflict or instability, along with any virus or epidemic outbreaks.
Trust your gut
Finally, always trust your instincts and be aware of your surroundings. Solo travel in West Africa can be rewarding and exciting, but it is important to stay safe and vigilant.
GETTING AROUND IN WEST AFRICA
The best way to get around West Africa is by public transportation. Buses, minibusses, and shared taxis are all common forms of transportation and are relatively cheap. However, be prepared for long journeys and frequent stops. If you're looking for a more comfortable way to travel, you can always hire a private car or take a domestic flight. For more information on the different type of transport in West Africa and how to Get Around, check out our travel guide.
ACCOMMODATION IN WEST AFRICA
Accommodation options in West Africa range from budget hostels to high-end hotels. If you're on a tight budget, hostels and guesthouses are a great way to meet other travelers and make new friends. Airbnb is also becoming increasingly popular in many West African countries, so you can find a range of private rooms and apartments for rent. For more information on the different type of accommodation in West Africa, check out our travel guide.
Traveling solo in West Africa can be challenging, but it's also an incredibly rewarding experience. From the friendly locals to the stunning scenery, there's so much to see and do in this region of the world. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can have an unforgettable adventure that will stay with you for a lifetime. For more information on our favourite places to stay in West Africa, check out our travel guide.
ACTIVITES IN WEST AFRICA
West Africa offers a wealth of experiences for travellers looking for adventure, culture, and natural beauty. From bustling markets to stunning national parks, there are endless possibilities for activities and day trips in the region. Other activities and day trips in West Africa include hiking through the lush forests of the Ivory Coast, exploring the traditional villages of Burkina Faso, walking through the castles of Cape Coast in Ghana, birdwatching in Gambia and visiting the stunning beaches of Sierra Leone. No matter what your interests are, there are endless opportunities for adventure and exploration in West Africa. For more information on our favourite things to do in West Africa, check out our travel guide.
PEOPLE OF WEST AFRICA
The people of West Africa are a diverse group with rich cultural traditions. The region is home to over 300 different ethnic groups, each with their unique customs, languages, and beliefs. Despite the differences, the people of West Africa share many commonalities, such as their love for music, dance, and storytelling. In West African societies, community is highly valued, and people often come together to celebrate important events and rites of passage, such as weddings, funerals, and initiations. Family ties are also very strong, and extended family members often play important roles in the lives of individuals.
The people of West Africa are known for their warmth, hospitality, and resilience in the face of challenges. Their vibrant cultures and traditions have survived through centuries of colonialism, slavery, and economic struggles, and continue to thrive in the modern era. Despite their struggles, facing poverty, living through civil wars, and epidemics, and even with little education, most people will speak multiple languages and try to go above an beyond to help you.
We hope that this West Africa Travel Guide, helps you during your travels to this incredible region of the world!