30 days in West Africa - solo female
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Jun 3, 2012 1:41 PM Last Post By: mattlv
Jun 1, 2012 6:35 PM
30 days in West Africa - solo femaleHi all,
I am an experienced solo backpacker who's done Asia. the Middle East, and South America on her own and am looking for a new adventure. I have a 30 day vacation this year in Nov/Dec and am planning on going to West Africa. I don't speak French, so I think I'll stick to the English-speaking countries.
What do you think are my best options to see the most but be practical in 30 days:
Option 1: Fly in and out of Accra and do Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, and maybe Togo.
Option 2: Fly in to Accra and out of Dakar and do Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and The Gambia.
Thoughts on the best route? Other tips for travel in this part of the world?
Jun 1, 2012 7:12 PM
Jun 1, 2012 7:45 PM
2Yeah, sorry, I should have specified: mostly English-speaking since obviously Senegal speaks French. But would it be that bad to try to do a week or so in Senegal without French?
Jun 1, 2012 8:40 PM
3You need to work on the language thing. It's not that Sengal is French-speaking: it's that Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin are ALL French-speaking. What's more, the English-speaking countries are full of people whose first and sometimes second languages are not English.
Once you've got that under control, you might as well choose where you want to go, then focus on making it happen--you'll wish you spoke French in a lot of areas, but it won't be the end of the world that you don't. Just do some studying of the usual 20 or 50 or 100 words and try your best. Isn't that what you did in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America?
I'd vote #1 by a wide margin, but there are a whole raft of other possibilities--including Mali (currently problematic, but a favorite with good reason), Guinea (another favorite), Cote d'Ivoire, and more. I found Senegal not so interesting, and although I'm not dead opposed to The Gambia like some who post here, there's not much to it for most travelers.
Hope that's helpful.
Jun 1, 2012 11:35 PM
4Keep it simple. O1 has more than enough to keep you entertained for a month and is an easy loop. As said, learn basic "tourist French" and you'll get by.
If you are adamant on O2, consider Ghana - BF - Mali - Guinea - Senegal. It is not so busy and there is some great scenery but can be rather harsh on your butt!
Jun 2, 2012 1:58 AM
5For just thirty days, why not visit Ghana properly? While it is only one country, it is vast and has many different places and lots of contrasting experiences.
Apart from landscapes, one of the main reasons for visiting this part of the world is just hanging out with local people and chatting. Since my French is only basic, I really missed out when in Benin and Togo (and I'm sure that it would be the same in the other Francophone countries).
Unlike many other posters here, I really liked my time in The Gambia, but since that was for work (with just one day for tourist-type things) my experience might not be a reliable guide on this.
Jun 2, 2012 3:30 AM
6I'd definitely go for Option 1; because as #5 says, I'm one of those posters who doesn't like The Gambia!!!
I think it all depends how fast you travel; I'd do #2 in the time but .. that's me. You could explore Ghana & then go to Burkina & pick up a VTE (Visa Touristique d'Entente) & use it for just Togo or Benin too dependant on how you feel & the time you have left.
Great area to explore ... what do you want to do/see?
Jun 2, 2012 8:34 AM
7Thanks for the replies everyone!
1. If I did option 2, what would the route likely be and how long on a bus would I have to spend? How are buses in these areas?
2. Is November/december a good time to visit?
3. If I did option 1, what would the route be like?
4. What are the opportunities like for getting out of cities and spending some time in the villages?
Thanks for sharing all of your insights. I think I'll have to learn French, but I have 6 months. Fortunately I've spoken the language in almost every other place I traveled, so besides some parts of south east Asia, this will be a first.
Kira, I picked west Africa because I really want to absorb the culture and the people. I can see animals in the zoo, so I voted not east Africa right now, and south Africa is too big to do in my time frame/it's too developed. I like roughing it. :)
Jun 2, 2012 9:09 AM
8O2 - the simplest route is probably Accra - Ouaga (10 hrs by good, a/c bus) - Bobo (good road, adequate buses, 4 hrs) - Mopti (overnight, rough road, small bus) - Bamako (good road, decent bus, 8hrs) - Dakar (a/c bus, good road, 36 hrs). I did the reverse route but there are other options of course. Plenty of interest to keep you going for the month.
O1 - several routes to avoid backtracking, various border crossings available, plenty of village/small town options. I suggest you study a good guidebook (I like Rough Guide) and decide.
Jun 3, 2012 9:59 AM
9More than enough to keep you busy for a month just in Ghana.
No need to learn French and only 1 visa to organise.
Jun 3, 2012 12:40 PM
Jun 3, 2012 1:41 PM
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