We're now in Ziguinchor, on our way to Guinea-Bissau, after taking the ferry from Dakar. There were dolphins jumping in the Casamance River. The notoriety of the border crossings between Mauritania and Senegal aren't fiction. So make sure your documents, including proof of vehicle insurance, are all in order. You'll find that many children in French-speaking Africa will ask, "cadeaux, cadeaux." Sometimes officials, including police, will seek "cadeaux" to help speed you on your way. This can occur on city streets, as well as at borders. The amounts can be subject to negotiation. Money talks. So be prepared.
Thanks so much for your updates I have been reading them with great interest.
Hopefully a few of us will follow in your foot steps in a few months.
We are planning an Odyssey from UK to The Northern Cape, Norway, then drive down through Romania and get a ferry across to Tangier, Morocco down to Dakar Senegal. Some of us in 2 wheel drive vehicles some in 4 wheel drive vehicles. Thanks for the advice Berner256 and ukrichyg.
I am currently on the road to Dakar in a Toyota Land Cruiser. We started three days ago from Marrakech. We're now in Icht, where surprise, surprise, there is Internet access at the Auberge Borj Biramane. It will be easier if you follow the Atlantic coast. That's where we're headed tomorrow. You'll encounter problems the further south you go in Africa. Some countries aren't advisable for travel right now. If you bring your vehicle, make sure it's in tip-top shape. Bring two spare tires. Also, try to change your oil every 4,000 instead of 5,000 miles. That's the recommendation of drivers who regularly make the trip over the desert, including ours. Make sure your shocks and springs are in good shape. When driving on sand, let some air out. Then use your air compressor to restore it once you're on hard surfaces again. Hope this helps.
Your posts have provided very good advice, and I like to keep up to date with things, as things often change as far as information on governments in West Africa.
I finished traveling last month with adventurer Alberto Nicheli of TransAfrica. We went from Morocco to Western Sahara to Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. We traveled a lot off road, including tracks in the desert; and through the wetlands of southern Senegal, which still is patrolled by troops (at military checkpoints at night, dim headlights and turn on the interior light, otherwise the soldiers get jittery). Nicheli, 61, who lives in Lome, Togo, has traveled throughout the Sahara and West Africa for more than 30 years. At the moment, he advises against travel in Mali, Niger and Guinea-Conakry. Others living in West Africa that I spoke with also advise against traveling in Guinea-Conakry, not only because of the Ebola outbreak there, but also because of bandits.
There are a lot of old Land Rovers in West Africa. But terrorists and bandits prefer pick ups (preferably Toyotas), which are fast and easy to shoot from. We encountered a few ancient Land Rovers in the desert, but no pick ups, to our relief.
People are friendly and helpful. We walked and talked. A knowledge of French is helpful.
Africa is an amazing place. This was a trip that had everything ... mask dances, fetishes, ancient Islamic texts, waves of tall grass, dunes, sand storms, birds, saltwater hippos, dolphins, green sea turtles nesting, with hatchlings scampering to the sea; and more.
So don't be deterred. But be prepared. You'll have an experience you won't forget.
One more thing. I can't stress how important it is in preparing and making photocopies of "la liste" to give to police and others at checkpoints. This is particularly so if traveling with other people. The list should include vital information contained in passports, plus date of entry into the country, profession and visa number (if available). At many checkpoints, you pass out a copy of "la liste." The officials may look to see who's inside the vehicle; and wave you on. If you don't have "la liste" they may ask to see passports and perhaps other documents. At some places, they also will have to record the data. This is a hassle you don't want.
Also, handing over documents is an invitation to handing over a bribe to an official, particularly if you want to get them back expeditiously to get on your way. Generally, the amounts are between 500 and 2000 XOF. Sometimes you can negotiate. Locals pay, too. For example, police can stop overloaded vehicles, which are a common sight. Checkpoints may be more numerous on market days.
On the whole, those at checkpoints are friendly. Most will simply wave you on once you give them a copy of "la liste." So be prepared.
Horizons Unlimited (Hubb Horizons) is a useful Web site. There are a lot of places in the world where traveling by motorbike is a good alternative because of road condition and other factors. We met a father-daughter duo on motorbikes in Western Sahara; and again at one of the border crossings between Mauritania and Senegal. They were from Slovenia; and traveling for two months in West Africa. Earlier this year, I met an Austrian traveling by motorbike in Georgia and Armenia.
[ Edit: Edited on 05-Nov-2015, at 23:12 by berner256 ]
Exploring Africa with your own wheels takes some doing, but is a wonderful way to see the continent.
Absolutely just back from a driving holiday round Kenya and Tanzania, I'm desperate to get to West Africa though, has anyone been to Gabon before it looks amazing. Is it easy to get a vehicle in and out of the country?
I have a UK friend who just left for 6.5 months in Africa. Part of his plan is to travel from Rwanda to the DRC (he already has his visa); and Gabon.
I'm looking to return to West Africa later this year.
From my experience, driving in West Africa is not quite the same as driving in East Africa.