Bargaining for purchases at Cameroonian markets is expected, and is part of the good-natured interaction with vendors. Always ask the price before taking a taxi or engaging a driver for longer journeys, and check with a local whether it's a reasonable amount. You may be able to negotiate a deal when booking a hotel room.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Douala and Yaoundé both have reputations for petty crime, especially in the crowded central areas.
- Scams and official corruption are a way of life in Cameroon; keep your guard up and maintain a sense of humour.
- It's theoretically a legal requirement to carry your passport with you at all times. In practice, the police rarely target travellers.
- Roads pose a risk, with plenty of badly maintained vehicles driven at punishing speeds.
- The north of Cameroon is out of bounds following Boko Haram's insurgency; check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information.
Cameroon's electricity supply is 220V and plugs are mostly of the European two-round-pin variety. You'll find a few three-pin sockets in English-speaking areas.
Embassies & Consulates
A number of embassies and consulates are located in Yaoundé. Australians and New Zealanders should contact the Canadian High Commission in case of an emergency.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Emergencies facilities are severely limited in Cameroon, and these numbers really only apply in big cities. In rural areas, you have to rely on local help.
|Cameroon's country code||237|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Visas are required for all travellers and must be bought prior to arrival in Cameroon. At Cameroonian embassies in neighbouring countries, visas are issued quickly for around US$85.
You are not allowed to take the following out of Cameroon:
- Weapons and ammunition
- Knives and dangerous weapons
- Wild and domestic animals
- Counterfeit money and goods
- Pornographic content or materials
Applications in Europe and the US will require a confirmed flight ticket, a letter of invitation authorised by the Cameroonian police, yellow-fever vaccination certificate and proof of funds (minimum £1000/US$1250). A standard visa is valid for three months.
You can obtain visa extensions at Cameroon's Ministry of Immigration in Yaoundé, where one photo plus CFA15,000 is required.
Visas for Onward Travel
Visas available in Yaoundé for neighbouring African countries include the following:
Central African Republic A one-month visa costs FA55,000 and takes 48 hours to process.
Congo A 15-day visa costs CFA50,000, three months costs CFA100,000. A local invitation is required and processing takes 48 hours.
Equatorial Guinea Does not generally issue visas to nonresidents or people with an Equatorial Guinean embassy in their home country.
Gabon A one-month visa costs CFA50,000; unlike at many Gabonese embassies, a hotel reservation is not required at the Cameroonian office.
Nigeria In Yaoundé, a one-month visa costs CFA45,000 to CFA60,000 and takes 48 hours to process, and you'll need a local invitation.
Cameroonians are largely laid-back in their communications, but it's worth bearing in mind a few rules.
- Greetings may be extended and elaborate, and elders are greeted first.
- If you're visiting a Cameroonian home, bring fruit, beer or whisky, though you should avoid alcohol if it's a Muslim home.
- Some Muslims do not shake hands with people of the opposite sex.
- If you are eating communally with your hands, always use your right hand.
Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon and prosecutions have taken place. Sadly it is inadvisable for gay couples to openly express their sexuality.
Internet access can be found in any Cameroonian town of a reasonable size. Connections range from OK to awful, and costs average CFA300 to CFA600 per hour. Fancy hotels are the best bet.
If asked for a bribe by a police officer or security guard while in Cameroon, the easiest approach is to agree, bearing in mind that bribes are supplementing low salaries.
Drug use and possession is likely to result in a prison sentence.
Cameroon is a highly militarised country, and you should avoid taking photos of government buildings, ports, airports, military personnel or police.
The purchase or trading of ivory and the capture, sale or killing of protecting animals is prohibited, and penalties are severe.
- The Cameroon Tribune is the government-owned bilingual paper, which appears daily in French and weekly in English. The weekly bilingual Le Messager is the main independent newspaper.
- Most broadcast programming is government run and in French, through Cameroon Radio-TV Corporation (CRTV). TVs at top-end hotels often have CNN or French news stations.
The currency is the Central African franc (CFA), pegged to both the West African franc and the euro (at an unchanging rate of CFA655.957). Cash is king, especially in remote regions – bring plenty of euros or US dollars.
All Cameroonian towns now have ATMs, tied to the Visa network. It's a good idea to withdraw money during bank hours, as cards can become stuck in the machines and need to be extracted. Banks won't generally offer cash advances on credit cards. Western Union has branches throughout Cameroon for international money transfers.
Banks regularly refuse to change travellers cheques, and charge around 5% commission when they do.
Moneychangers on the street in Douala and Yaoundé will change money at good rates and without taxes or commission, but there's always an element of risk to such transactions. Express Exchange moneychangers change US dollars as cash; there are branches in many towns across the country.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com
- Hotels Tip CFA1000 or so for help with bags.
- Restaurants For decent service, 10% is customary.
- Taxis Tips are not expected, but add one for good service.
Banks From 7.30am or 8am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday.
Businesses From 7.30am or 8am until 6pm or 6.30pm Monday to Friday, generally with a one- to two-hour break sometime between noon and 3pm. Most are also open from 8am to 1pm (sometimes later) on Saturday.
Government offices From 7.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday.
International post is fairly reliable for letters, but international couriers should be preferred for packages – there are branches in all large towns.
New Year's Day 1 January
Youth Day 11 February
Labour Day 1 May
National Day 20 May
Assumption Day 15 August
Christmas Day 25 December
Islamic holidays are also observed throughout Cameroon; dates change yearly for these.
Smoking is banned in public places in Cameroon.
Taxes & Refunds
There is no arrangement for tax refunds in Cameroon.
Cameroon's country code is +237. For international calls out, dial 00 then the relevant country code.
All Cameroonian telephone numbers have nine digits. Mobile numbers begin with 7, 8 or 9. There are no city area codes in Cameroon – all landline numbers begin with a 2 or 3.
It's easy to buy a SIM card for an unlocked mobile phone to make local calls while in Cameroon. MTN and Orange are the main national networks.
Local time in Cameroon is GMT/UTC +1.
- Public toilets are very scarce – on long journeys expect to pee by the side of the road.
- Take toilet paper and hand sanitiser for any non-hotel toilet.
- Old-school hole-in-the-ground toilets are not unusual.
Formal tourist information is not readily available in Cameroon, though there are some useful small independent agencies and cooperatives which we've listed in the relevant location.
Travel with Children
Children will undoubtedly be welcomed with open arms in Cameroon, though you will not find baby-change facilities, and pushing prams on the busted pavements is likely to be a challenge. You often see Cameroonian children on buses, but bear in mind that these are crowded, often hot, and loo breaks are few and far between.
Limbe Wildlife Centre Get your little ones up close to drill monkeys and other primates, saved from the bushmeat trade.
Mefou National Park More appealing rescued primates, including gorillas.
Kribi's beaches Sun, sea and sand on the southwest coast of the country.
Powered wheelchairs are almost unknown in Cameroon, and the country's broken pavements make travel extremely difficult for disabled visitors. But local help can make a visit possible, and an affordable option is to pay someone for assistance with lifting. It is easy to find reliable drivers through recommendations from your hotel.
You'll find many international projects such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and WWF with volunteer programmes in Cameroon, whether you're interested in school-building projects or the environment.
Weights & Measures
Cameroon uses the metric system.
Foreign workers need a work permit before receiving a salary in Cameroon. Permits can be obtained from the Délégation Générale de la Sureté Nationale (DGSN) in Yaoundé.