West Africa is the western region of Africa. In the north the region is bounded by the Sahel, and in the south and west by the Atlantic Ocean. The most densely populated area of Africa with many places to see.
|| Benin |
A safe and easy country for travellers to visit; birthplace of the Voodoo religion and former home of the Kingdom of Dahomey
|| Burkina Faso |
Landlocked country that is very off the beaten path for visitors
|| Cameroon |
Sometimes referred to as Africa in Miniature, the terrain includes rain forest, desert plains, mountains and high plateau
|| Cape Verde |
Tiny Atlantic island group off the coast of Senegal
|| Cote d'Ivoire |
Formerly something of a jewel in the West African crown, this nation has taken huge steps backwards due to recent religious driven conflict
|| Gambia |
Tiny coastal nation popular with European package tourists and birdwatchers
|| Ghana |
A stable country with great potential and a rapidly growing tourist destination; massive Lake Volta and the former home of the great Ashanti Kingdom
|| Guinea |
Some great hill scenery (the Switzerland of Africa), major rainforests and Atlantic beaches, ravaged by decades of political turmoil.
|| Guinea-Bissau |
A former Portugese colony which has been through lots of struggle since independence and is little visited by travellers.
|| Liberia |
Strong ties to the USA due to the slave trade, this country has been through murderous conflicts, and should not be considered a tourist destination.
|| Nigeria |
A country made wealthy from the discovery of large Oil Reserves, albeit long-hobbled by political conflicts.
|| Senegal |
The most westerly country on the African mainland, and a something of a transition zone between the West Africa and North Africa
|| Sierra Leone |
Some of the best beaches anywhere in Africa and huge potential for tourism; however the aftermath of brutal conflict in the 1990s still looms large
|| Togo |
A small, sleepy country that is home to no less than 40 different ethnic groups
Sometimes Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Chad are also considered as West African states.
For a great rundown on all things a backpacker should know about West Africa check out www.amateursinafrica.com
Mostly due to the colonial past of the continent, common languages spoken in the region are French, English and Portuguese.
The African highways connect many cities in West Africa with Nigeria being the main hub.
Flying from other African cities can be dangerous as many airlines have a very poor safety record. Check this first before choosing to fly with an airline.
In order of size here are the main airline hubs.
- Lagos Airport - Serveral flights per day to London. Less frequent flights also to other main cities in Europe
- Dakar Airport - Many flights to to Millan, Madrid, Brussels and Paris
- Accra Airport - Many flights to UK (Manchester, London, Glasgow) as well as Frankfurt.
- Abidjan Airport - Flights to Paris, Brussels and Dubai
Generally it takes time - and a whole lot of patience - to move around in West Africa. The roads are not all in great conditions and many roads aren't paved. Always be sure to have an extra day or two in the end if you are going somewhere since planning is very hard when the transport is unreliable.
Go to Benin if you´re interested in voodoo because this is where it originates. There should be plenty of opportunities to go to voodoo festivals and fetish markets.
Mali has Dogon-country which is a world heritage site.
Also go to Timbuktu/tombouctou - the city known from Donald Duck magazines - and Gao which contains yet another world heritage site.
If you're interested in meeting some of the world friendliest people go to Burkina Faso or Ghana.
Don't drink tap water unless you have a cholera vaccination which also protects you against tourist diarrehea.
Make sure your water bottles are sealed and not just refilled with tap water. It can be hard to see.
West Africa is probably the one place on earth where you should protect yourself in every way from mosquitoes. Do not sleep without a net and do not go without malaria-medicine.
Also you need a yellow-fever vaccination to enter most (if not all) of these countries.
Remember to check all of your other vaccinations because many other might be necessary (meningitis, typhus, cholera, rabies).