guinea conakry travel update
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Nov 15, 2012 3:17 AM Last Post By: vedicaudio
Sep 15, 2012 5:03 PM
guinea conakry travel updateAm trying to plan my next trip destination, likely leaving Vancouver in January.
Would welcome any up to date info re Guinea Conakry. Have read re troubles in August. Recognize lots can happen before January, but hoping to hear from someone who's been there of late. What I think I understand is that Conakry can have issues of crime and security, but that outside the capital is OK as long as one is not near some borders. I am a cycle tourist, would plan to fly in and out of Conakry (or perhaps from a neighbouring capital like Bamako, assuming Mali is OK), but immediately head for outer parts of country.
Also reading up on Cameroon as possible destination. Only have 5 weeks, so my ambitions are limited. Thanks all,
Sep 16, 2012 6:34 AM
I was going to start a new thread to sum up my recent experience in Guinea, but I saw your post, so I will post here instead. Towards the end of the post I will give details on road conditions and cycling suitability.
I left Lungi-town, Sierra Leone in late July. My destination was Dakar, and I was traveling with a road bike, a touring model bicycle, with 700x35C tires. I only intended to cycle on tarred roads, or short distances on gravel roads, so whenever I mention taking public transport, my bicycle was loaded on top of the vehicle, tied to the "porte de baggage."
Because of the road construction in Sierra Leone, I took a boat from Lungi-town to Mapotolo (N 0.02500, W 013.26690) which is very close to the Guinea border. There was a checkpoint manned by a couple Guinean soldiers, but my passport was not stamped. On the Guinean side, I took a public minibus to Coyah, via a rough dirt road which passes through Daragbe and joins the main Freetown-Conakry highway just after Pamelap. There were quite a few military checkpoints on the dirt road, but they were relaxed and hassle-free compared to what I saw throughout Guinea on my previous trip in February-April 2012.
Amazingly, after the final checkpoint between Pamelap and Forecariah, I did not see another checkpoint until I was approaching the Senegalese border on N.5 after Koundara. Since I had been amazed by the frequency of checkpoints during my earlier trip, I started to ask people what the deal was after I had left Kindia for Mamou and still hadn't seen a checkpoint. The story I got from everyone was pretty consistent: A driver of a private vehicle stopped at a checkpoint near Mamou, and showed the soldier his paperwork. All of his papers were in order, but the soldier still demanded a payment (of 5000 or 10000 francs). The driver refused, an argument ensued, and escalated until the soldier shot the driver dead at point-blank range with his weapon.
Because of this incident, the government removed all checkpoints on the main roads, leaving only those near border crossings. The result of this is that Guinea has now become a joy to travel through. The primary function of the checkpoints had been to extract bribes from drivers, and generally make the lives of passengers miserable, as your passport, visa, entry stamps, and even vaccination card were thoroughly examined every 50 km. Passengers who didn't have documentation were required by taxi drivers to pay extra based on a calculation of how much additional hassle they would cause. This is all gone now, making travel much more efficient and pleasant.
Presumably, this could also open up the doors for criminal activity, and perhaps even banditry, but I'm not aware of any problems so far. I felt very safe in Guinea. The people who changed money for me were honest, the hotels felt secure, it just seemed like a place with very little crime. (I'm talking about the country as a whole, not including Conakry, as I never went there). The people in charge of the "syndicat" (labor union for drivers) at taxi parks are generally a pain to deal with, as they are always trying to stuff as many people in a car before it leaves without any regard to passenger comfort. And of course, when you do see police or military, they don't take any nonsense. But overall, I would say tension is quite low in Guinea for the moment.
So back to the route: Here is a rundown of road conditions as of August 2012:
Coyah - Mamou. Tarred, but in progressively worse states of disrepair as you go east. Relatively heavy traffic, with lots of petrol tankers. Road is narrow. Cycling not recommended.
Mamou - Dalaba: Tarred, but in pretty bad shape. Steep (uphill going north). Less traffic than Coyah-Mamou. Cycling with road bike not recommended.
Dalaba - Labé: Beautiful tar with no more than 5 small potholes the entire way. Gorgeous scenery. Very light traffic. Cycling with road bike highly recommended.
Labé - Boumehoun: Rough, mountainous dirt road (just a few miles of tar coming out of Labé). Gorgeous scenery. Light traffic. Cycling with mountain bike highly recommended.
Boumehoun is just a tiny village in the middle of nowhere (N 11.93870, W 013.13698), but it is notable because it's where the tar currently picks up.
Boumehoun - Koundara: Beautiful, brand new tar. Road bike!
Koundara - Manda, Senegal: Beautiful, brand new tar. Road bike!
I haven't been on these roads since April, so here are road conditions as of April 2012:
Mamou - Dabola: Potholed tar. Cycling not recommended.
Dabola - Kouroussa: Absolute disaster of a road. Avoid at all costs.
Kouroussa - Kankan: Old tar, with potholes patched over. Won't be a smooth ride on a road bike, but should be fine with anything else.
Kankan - Siguiri and on to the Malian border: Beautiful brand-new tar. Good scenery. Light traffic. Cycling with road bike highly recommended.
FYI, if I were you I would look into flying to Dakar as well. It's usually a lot cheaper than flying to Conakry, Freetown, or Bamako, doesn't require a visa, and the road from Dakar all the way to the Guinea border heading to Koundara is in pretty great shape. You can take a taxi from Dakar to Tambacounda in 6 hours for $25 including your bike as luggage, and start cycling from there, or easily get another taxi to the Guinea border itself.
Sep 16, 2012 8:49 AM
Sep 16, 2012 3:11 PM
3Vedicaulo - thx for an excellent update, and some nice ideas, like considering launching from Dakar. The bike I would take on this trip if I go this route would be an off road tourer - slower on paved roads, but I'm usually in no big hurry. Safe journies.
Sep 17, 2012 12:31 PM
Sep 17, 2012 1:25 PM
Sep 25, 2012 8:11 AM
Nov 8, 2012 3:45 AM
7Cash is King in Guinea, if your quick with your exchange and a smile to go with it it's easy, they do not ask for bribes it's a donation as they don't get much support from Conakry. Don't argue get it over and done with fast and don't let any of the other military involved.
I've lived here for 5 years and travel consistently from Conakry to N'zerekore and KanKan.
I wouldn't take a bicycle from Kissidougou to N'zerekore bad bad road.
Also Mamou to Kouroussa is a nightmare, from there to KanKAn and Mali no problems.
Conakry is OK I have no problems at all, the people are good and there is OK food available. Accomodation is very expensive and not that good, Novotel, Riviera and Mariador are the best but proces are elevated due to mining company personnel paying big dollars. However everybody is leaving as the government can't strike a deal with anyone.
Hat you have to worry about is the elections in December, expect problems, I might even have to leave for a few weeks...
Keep looking for travel updates for it blows up they will impose a curfew and the military will have the right to do virtually anything they want with you and you will be severely restricted or even stranded.
Other than that...its all good
Nov 14, 2012 11:36 PM
Just read your post on cycling in Guinea. My wife and I are looking to do a 4-6 month cycle tour somewhere in Africa, and the leading option so far is to start in Dakar and follow the coast to Liberia, and then perhaps to Burkina Faso. Lately I got very discouraged when I learned that most travel insurance will not cover us if traveling to a country or region that has a travel warning, such as Guinea, and various border regions along the route I described. I know some people travel without insurance, but I don't know if that suits us, it seems risky. What are your thoughts on this - do you have another solution? Also, regarding flights (we're in Vancouver, Canada), I've heard there are cheap flights to Dakar sometime from Europe, do you have any leads on this?
Another thing I'm unsure about is how wide to go with the tires. I can go to 2'' but my wife's bike (a 700c) will probably only take 35 max, which might not provide a comfortable ride if there's a lot of rough gravel roads. We might have to get her another bike. You mentioned you were riding 700c x 35 - did you find that this limited you?
Nov 15, 2012 3:17 AM
I was definitely limited by the bicycle I had--not only by the tire size, but also the fact that it was a road bike. The 35 tires were a good choice in that they allowed me to carry a decent load of 20 kg or so, and to go for short distances on gravel/dirt roads (like to get to my hotel 1 km down a dirt road), while not having too much friction with the tarred roads that I was using the vast majority of the time.
I think when it comes to this region, you've got to make a decision: either you mostly want to cycle on unpaved roads, in which case you'll bring 2 mountain bikes with shock absorpers and big knobby tires, or you mostly want to cycle on tarred roads, in which you'll bring 2 road bikes with 700c x 35 tires, and have to occasionally load your road bikes onto vehicles or trains to fill in gaps where your bikes are not suitable for the road conditions. You'll be extremely limited in your routing, but you can cover a lot of ground quickly, and see some beautiful scenery from these main roads, particularly in Guinea. Obviously, your mountain bikes will work on tarred roads as well, it just depends whether you can tolerate the sound of the tires...
I think most people with the aim of touring for touring's sake would choose the mountain bike option. My intention was just to get from Freetown to Dakar with my bicycle so that I could take my bicycle on a plane to Mauritius, which is where I was actually interested in "touring." Mauritius is mostly tarred roads, hence the road bike choice.
In any case, I think it would be advisable for you two to have the same type of bike, otherwise your preferences and enjoyment levels will probably diverge quite a bit, especially over 4-6 months, and I think the point is to do this thing together, right?
I'm not aware of any problems with using travel insurance in Guinea, but perhaps that is a Canadian thing? Maybe Mali would be problematic, but who has a travel warning against Guinea?
I would highly recommend that you check out some of the websites of some of the couples who have cycled through Africa for their advice on routes and equipment. A couple such sites are:
There's others that I don't have the URL for now, but I'm sure some searching would turn them up.
As for flights, there are lots of cheap flights into Dakar and also Banjul, not only from Europe but from New York, and perhaps other East Coast cities. If you decide to buy two separate tickets to get there, I would search on Kayak for the dates you want from the following cities (keeping in mind that airlines vary greatly in what they charge for bicycles, and that South African Airways is the only one offering free transport of bicycles...it's worth checking the price for IAD-DKR on South African):
If I had to bet, I would bet the cheapest way from Vancouver to Dakar including bikes would be to cycle down to Seattle, ship your bike (with UPS or FedEx) from Seattle to Washington. You fly from Seattle to Washington, collect your bikes, and then check them in as luggage on a South African flight from Washington to Dakar.
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