Close ties to France since independence in 1966, the development of cocoa production for export, and foreign investment made Côte d'Ivoire one of the most prosperous of the tropical African states, but did not protect it from political turmoil.
In December 1999, a military coup - the first ever in Côte d'Ivoire's history - overthrew the government. Junta leader Robert Guei blatantly rigged elections held in late 1999 and declared himself the winner. Popular protest forced him to step aside and brought runner-up Laurent Gbagbo into liberation. Ivorian dissidents and disaffected members of the military launched a failed coup attempt in September 2002. Rebel forces claimed the northern half of the country, and in January 2003 were granted ministerial positions in a unity government under the auspices of the Linas-Marcoussis Peace Accord. President Gbagbo and rebel forces resumed implementation of the peace accord in December 2003 after a three-month stalemate, but issues that sparked the civil war, such as land reform and grounds for citizenship, remained unresolved.
Elections were finally held in 2010 with the first round of elections being held peacefully, and widely hailed as free and fair. Laurent Gbagbo, as president, ran against former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. On 2 Dec 2010, the Electoral Commission declared that Ouattara had won the election by a margin of 54% to 46%. The majority of the rest of the world's governments supported that declaration, but the Gbagbo-aligned Constitutional Council rejected it and then announced the country's borders had been sealed.
The presidential election led to the 2010–2011 Ivorian crisis and to the Second Ivorian Civil War. After months of unsuccessful negotiations and sporadic violence, the crisis entered a critical stage as Ouattara's forces seized control of most of the country.
By Apr 2011, pro-Ouattara forces had penetrated Abidjan and street-level combat between the two sides led to the capture of Gbagbo and the situation has now stabilised. However, many governments are still advising their citizens against travel to Côte d'Ivoire even though several thousand UN peacekeepers and several hundred French troops remain in Cote d'Ivoire to support the transition process.
Tropical along coast, semiarid in far north; three seasons - warm and dry (November to March), hot and dry (March to May), hot and wet (June to October). The coast has heavy surf and no natural harbours; during the rainy season torrential flooding is possible.
Mostly flat to undulating plains; mountains in the northwest. Most of the inhabitants live along the sandy coastal region. Apart from the capital area, the forested interior is sparsely populated. The highest point is Mont Nimba (1,752 meters).
Three National Parks are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
All non CEFA country citizens visiting Côte d'Ivoire must obtain a visa before arrival. The process is online at the Official Website for Visa. It does not appear that citizens of the United States can apply for a tourist visa over the internet at this time, whether that is due to poor website design or national policy is not known. Americans looking to travel to Côte d'Ivoire should contact the embassy in Washington D.C. directly .
The Felix-Houphouet Boigny International Airport has daily scheduled flights to and from Paris (Air France), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines) and Brussels (Brussels airlines). There are also regular flights to other West-African capitals. The airport is a modern facility and increased security has shaken its old reputation as a place for travellers to be ripped off.
The train journey between Abidjan and Ouagadougou usually takes around 30 hours and costs 30'000 CFA for a one-way second class ticket. Trains are packed with people and luggages as well as the incidental goat. Seats are rather uncomfortable. Nevertheless, this is an amazing experience that's well worth the price and back aches. Be aware that pickpockets are very common on this train, especially when you're an obvious tourist. Never leave your luggage unattended and don't go showing your newest smartphone or Breitling.
It is ill advised to try to enter Côte d'Ivoire from Guinea, Liberia, Mali, or Burkina Faso. The Ghanaian border is fairly secure. If you enter at Elubo, you can easily catch a shared taxi to Aboisso and then a bus to Abidjan. There are about ten military check-points between the border and Abidjan so have your documents ready. If you do not have proper documentation of your inoculations at the border you will be forced to pay a small fine and they will give you an injection at an on-site clinic.
Buses run daily between Abidjan and Accra. The service is offered alternating between the STC (Ghana) and its Ivoirian equivalent.
Abidjan has a beautiful evening ride on the lagoon in the city for tourists. It might not be breath taking, but is a very good pleasure trip. Daily, hundreds of Ivorians take the lagoon route to reach offices on the port side.
Inter-city travel in Côte d'Ivoire is usually more comfortable than travel in neighbouring African countries. The roads are generally in good condition and the bus service is relatively modern. The down side is the very frequent military check-points which add hours to a trip. Though the stops are a hassle, Ivoirian soldiers tend to be pretty professional and don't hassle non-French western travellers. Soldiers in Ghana for example are much more likely to demand a bribe than in Côte d'Ivoire. Most western governments recommend that their citizens steer clear of Côte d'Ivoire. This should be taken particularly seriously by people travelling on French passports. An Ivoirian soldier's attitude towards you will change very quickly when you explain that you are not French.
Travel in Abidjan is the best when you have your own vehicle to travel around. The roads are very good and the traffic rules are obeyed to the T, excepting some taxi drivers who steer everywhere on the road. Lane discipline and traffic lights are followed with rigour.
Taxis are a great and easy way to get around in Abidjan. Just look for an orange coloured car and flag it down. Fares are very affordable: US $2-4 depending on the length of the journey. Always negotiate before you get in the taxi, but they are overall reasonable (unlike in Accra).
The official language is French, but there are 60 native dialects as well. The most widely spoken is Dioula. Other native languages include Hamdunga, Loftus Africanus, Gigala, Oloofid, and Ulam. But one cannot survive without French for longer time duration. And business travelers need French on their tongue to close any small deal.
Tourist villages, beaches, and photo safaris are some of the main tourist attractions to see in Côte d'Ivoire.
You can also climb a beautiful mountain called, 'Mount Nienokoue'. It is 230 meters tall and consists mainly of forest and exotic animals. There are many breathtaking views.
You can buy traditional wooden masks, they all have spiritual meanings and can be either good or bad.
Good eats are cheap and you can find very good restaurants in Abidjan. You should get a vaccine for Hepatitis A before coming but even street foods are fairly clean. Try the national dishes like "garba", "alloco" and "attiéké". Alloco is simply fried plantains, mostly accompanied by a spicy vegetable sauce and boiled eggs. L'attiéké--grated yams that look like couscous but taste slightly sour--is often served with grilled fish and vegetables (tomatoes, onions, cucumber) and a must-try. Braised fishes and chickens are also very good and can be found on every corner. The most established chain is Coq Ivoire. When you order, make sure that you let them know whether you want the intestines. You can always ask for extra vegetables, especially avocados, which are amazing during the season. Another specialty is the excellent "shougouilla" a blend of charbroiled meat! For the ones who are not adventurous you can find the Hamburger House or the French restaurant at the Sofitel Hotel.
It is recommended for visitors from the west to visit bars and night clubs with security. Bidul Bar, Havana Club and others are in Zone 4 or Zone Quatre. If you do go, be aware of prostitutes that will want to talk to you. Other places are in Treicheville and Cocody but you should have private transportation or a cab. If you do drive at night do not stop fully at lights or signs. Be aware of car jackers. Keep a brisk pace so they cannot carjack you.
The better place to stay is the Tiama Hotel. Quite expensive but safe. There is a wonderful hotel called Licorne in Deux Plateaux. They have a pool, great restaurant, and wireless internet. The rooms are clean and charming. Prices are 18-30,000 CFA per night. They are located behind the Total Station, around the corner from Pako. Ask anyone where Pako is, and you'll be able to find it from there.
Most of the crime committed in Abidjan is by unemployed youth. Should you ever feel in danger it would be wise to seek the help of a middle-aged man. This older generation is often very contemptuous of young criminals and will likely help you out if you are being hassled.
Generally, Ivoirians will recognize the dangers to foreigners in their country and will often be very protective of naive travellers. This is especially true in the Abidjan neighbourhoods of Treichville and Adjame.
HIV/AIDS has once reached epidemic proportions in the country, but has since seen huge improvements with an adult prevalence of 4.7%.
Although the country was previously referred to in English as "Ivory Coast", the country has requested that it be called "Côte d'Ivoire" (the equivalent in French). Pronouncing it "Coat di-VWAR" is close enough for an English-speaking person.