The region of West Africa is attracting an increasing number of tourists each year, and the amount of travellers that will frequent this diverse and eclectic landscape is expected to rise into the near future. Some of the most stricking aspects of West Africa are the disparate climates, the unspoiled natural scenery and the wide variety of cultures. as with any foreign region, safety should always be a concern and while many will consider West Africa to be a relatively friendly region for most types of travel, a few key tips can help make any journey both enjoyable and stress-free.

The region of West Africa is attracting an increasing number of tourists each year, and the amount of travellers that will frequent this diverse and eclectic landscape is expected to rise into the near future. Some of the most stricking aspects of West Africa are the disparate climates, the unspoiled natural scenery and the wide variety of cultures. as with any foreign region, safety should always be a concern and while many will consider West Africa to be a relatively friendly region for most types of travel, a few key tips can help make any journey both enjoyable and stress-free.

Acquire a Basic Understanding of French

Teacher in Africa
Photo: Julien Harneis / Flickr

Due to prior colonial rule, French is the most widely spoken language in West Africa. This is exceedingly important because in many Francophone countries, little English is spoken. If a trip is planned in the future, it is a good idea to enroll in basic French courses that have a pronounced emphasis on travelling. The native peoples will appreciate the effort and be more likely to help with whatever your needs may be.

Avoid Less-Travelled Routes Whenever Possible

Road, Mozambique
Photo: Rosino / Flickr

This tip has less to do with any dangers involved as it does with the condition of many local buses. Smaller buses and other vehicles are notoriously uncomfortable and will often times take more roundabout routes that can serve to eat into your backpacking time. Instead, plan your route ahead and try to find the areas serviced by the more comfortable and modernised buses should the need arise.

Expect Less Travellers

Tourist, Kilimanjaro
Photo: Stig Nygaard / Flickr

Although West Africa is becoming increasingly popular as a backpacker’s delight, there are still considerably less foreigners than would be encountered in Europe, the United States or South America. Thus, West Africa may not be the ideal destination if you desire to meet others like yourself.

Carefully Plan a Budget

Exchanging Money
Photo: Bindalfrodo / Flickr

Exchange rates may fluctuate wildly and certain services in West Africa such as hotels and transportation can prove to be surprisingly expensive. Therefore, outline a budget well before the trip is planned. Also, online searches can offer a wide choice of low-cost airlines that will help divert more money into the backpacking vacation itself. Upon arrival make sure to have extra cash safely at-hand; although many locations now contain cash points, they do not always work.

Be Wary of Scams

Kids in Ghana
Photo: geezaweezer / Flickr

It is an unavoidable fact that some countries in West Africa are well-known as attempting to fleece tourists and backpackers for money. For example, always ask for the price of a certain good or service before ordering. This is particularly relevant in restaurants, as they will often charge up to 50% more of the price when possible. Similarly, try to avoid areas in smaller villages that seem to host beggars. Should a foreign backpacker happen upon such an environment, he or she will invariably be approached by these individuals. Also, these same areas can also play host to pickpockets and other thieves. This is not to say that every village and outskirt should be avoided but rather, keep a vigilant eye open and do not linger in these areas.

Travel in the Early Morning or the Late Afternoon

Sunrise, Namibia
Photo: enricod / Flickr

The midday sun can be brutal in West Africa, so it is advisable to travel when the sun’s rays are less powerful. In fact, many of the local buses tend to leave extremely early in the morning and very few are available at midday. The sun can feel especially severe when backpacking, so it is recommended to follow the schedule of the buses and avoid such high temperatures.

West Africa is indeed a region that boasts unrivalled beauty and an interesting culture. This handful of tips can help guarantee that you can enjoy a safe and memorable backpacking trip.

Categories: Africa

0 Comments

Staying Safe When Backpacking Around West Africa

  1. This is as comprehensive as it can get.

    The problem with West Africa is that the propagandist media has painted a picture of chaos and destruction everywhere, which is at least twice as dangerously painted than it really is. Of course, there are few instances of loot , but no country is immune to it, is it?

    West Africa, though exploited by multi national companies, still has a lot of heritage and legacy which is not plundered.

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