A Traveler’s Report on West Africa

At times people ask me why there aren’t more African countries in The World’s Cheapest Destinations. After all, the per capita GDP is next to nothing, right? Shouldn’t it be cheap to travel there? With more proof that “poor country” and “cheap travels” don’t directly correlate, down below is a great dispatch from West Africa.

A lot of the travelogue-type travel blogs out there are mainly meant as a way to keep in touch with friends and relatives. A few, however, go beyond that and consistently discuss discoveries along the road with flair and insight. One of the better ones is HoboTraveler.com, quoted from below. You can sign up for his newsletter and get it in your e-mail box, or just bookmark the site. I edited out his “Pros,” on West Africa, which include good workmanship skills, screens on the hotel windows, cleaner rooms than usual, and touts that at least laugh while they’re trying to screw you. Here’s the rest.

“I am slowly learning to accept new problems in travel, I have never encountered in nine years and about 75 countries of travel. Travel always presents differences of life, a new culture and unique problems. Every country is special, every person is one of kind, and every culture is unique.

There are some common cultural characteristics of the five West African cultures I have visited.

Niger
Cote d’Ivoire
Ghana
Togo
Benin

CONS

1. Why is the price of food double or five times the price of USA or Europe? I am in the top 20 poorest countries on the planet, and the food is the most expensive.

2. Why are rooms double or triple the cost of Asia, South America and Central, and the same as Hostels in Europe?

3. Why does 99 percent of the culture think I should give them money, with nothing in return? Where did they learn this?

4. Why are the men bullies?

5. They would give me their sister if I would help them travel to America and live. (I told one, we don’t own people, slavery has stopped.)

6. There are Motels in Africa, I need a car to get to the Hotel. Hard to walk.

What I love and is a big pleasure about West Africa is there are not many people. The land is not developed, it is raped maybe, but there are very few people outside the cities. Wide open spaces, and most appears ready to be farmed. The place is an oasis of un-explored places for tourist or travelers to explore. I think I need a tent…

I am vowing to accept West Africa the way it is, I will not try to save, change, lecture, or tell them, and I want to say, “Do not ask for money, grow up, have some pride.”

I will just say, “Non”

This reminds me of India; after you get very good at getting rid of the beggars, accept that the place is a pigsty, dirtier than you can ever imagine, then the place is nice.

I was told before I entered India what to expect, I read or was a little aware of the idea of Africa,
– Give me MONEY. –

I can now say or understand it in French; I have doubled my annoying understanding of what they want.
– Donner l\’argent –

I now assume almost anyone, without exception will say, or put his or her hand out and say, “Give me that.” I had this girl from Mali buy a cap for a child, then look at me,
– Pay for it. –

I think often of harsh comments I am more than willing to make about countries. However, if I am to criticize my own country, I must be just and criticize other countries equally, not pulling the punch, like somehow they are not capable of being equal.

West Africa is a dreamland in many ways, I can see thousands of untapped possibilities for Africa, every kilometer of land I cross, I see an Entrepreneurs dream come true…

I will spend Dollars, converted to CFA,and contribute to the economy of West Africa, what a great way to help.

Life is Good,
Le Vie cest belle”

Andy of HoboTraveler.com

Comments
  1. Dave

    My thoughts exactly. Africa isn’t exactly a cheap or desirable place to visit in my opinion. Granted, i’d sure like to go drive around the desert in a land rover and shoot at big animals, but thats about it.

  2. salimatou

    I don’t know if things have changed significantly since I did a month-long circuit in the same countries that this writer discussed, but I had a significantly different experience in 1999.
    After living in Niamey for 5 months, another female friend and I traveled around the same region, and had a wonderful time. Yes, you have to get used to being asked for money all the time because we are American and therefore relatively rich, but once you can get over that, we found people to be extremely warm and helpful. In order to escape the constant barrage of proposals of men trying to get a visa to the States, we came up with the explanation that each of already had multiple husbands (Islamic polygamy reversed). This seemed to satisfy the guys, and if not, at least they got a good laugh out of it.

    We ate street food, which was never more than the equivalent of $2-3 per meal (usually much less). We stayed in hostels or hotels that were $10-$15 average (which was on the higher end of our budget), and generally clean.

    This is not to say that we didn’t have our moments of being ripped off (specifically by a tour guide in Dogon country in Mali), but we made it through all the above countries, plus Mali and Burkina Faso, without paying a single bribe at the borders or being harassed by anyone once we made it clear we weren’t just going to marry them or give them money. I haven’t found panhandlers in my hometown of New York City to be as understanding.

    I guess I would disgree that West Africa isn’t a desirable place to travel. My dream is to go back someday.

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