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Hi there!

I'm Margaret, a female traveller from Nigeria, and welcome to my personal blog , TheAjalaBug.com.

Here, I document my adventures in travel and life experiences generally. Hope you get inspired!

Exploring West  Africa as a holiday destination

Exploring West Africa as a holiday destination

The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa, for he has so much to look forward to - Richard Mullin

Africa is one big continent, with West Africa as a major part of it. The West African sub-region as defined by the 15-member countries of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) has an estimated population of 371 million people with 51% of this attributable to Nigeria. Similarly, the GDP of ECOWAS is estimated at US$541 billion of which 70% is attributable to Nigeria. Clearly, this is a subtle invitation to Nigeria, where the magic happens. ECOWAS mainly comprises Anglophone and Francophone economic systems, a reflection of its colonial legacy. Previously, there were civil and/or military conflicts in pockets of the sub-region but that has reduced a great deal.

However, there has been relative peace and stability in the last decade which reflects the increasing good governance in the sub-region. West Africa has countless ethnic groups which implies that there are several hundreds of languages and distinct dialects, however, English, French and/or Portuguese comes in handy depending on your destination.

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West Africa is known for pristine beaches, thriving art, music, distinctive cultures, fascinating landscapes, impressive structures, ancient architecture, deep transatlantic slave history, wild nightlife, breathtakingly sights (e.g. waterfalls), unmatched nature and dizzying array of cuisines. There is something exciting for everyone, from the food tourist, to the history buff, sightseer, and beach lover.

One uncommonly spoken attraction for West Africa as a preferred destination amongst travelers is its people. There is no gainsaying that the people are upbeat, delightful, real & authentic, and that is the highlight of visiting West Africa. Every day you open your hearts to explore the unbeaten paths of West Africa, you create beautiful memories and will most certainly return home buzzing about the life-changing holiday experience.

OTHER REASONS TO CONSIDER WEST AFRICA AS A HOLIDAY DESTINATION.

1.    It is off the tourist trail

There are fewer people visiting West Africa than America, Europe or even other parts of Africa. This has an advantage on the flipside and that is there are fewer crowds at popular sights and tourism is untainted. By nature, the less explored, the more interesting the travel story.

2.    Value for Money

With a stronger currency like the Dollar or Pounds, you have a better advantage in West Africa which means that everything becomes extremely cheaper; from the food, to transport etc. This also means that aside from being able to splash on luxury, you can consider (when possible) giving back to the local communities.

3.    Volunteering Opportunities 

While West Africa is an amazing destination for holiday, like any other developing region of the world, it is faced with economic, social and environmental challenges. You can volunteer (if possible) to teach, build, create arts or sports coach etc. This is an easy way to make an impact and leave a place better than you met it. There is so much pride and satisfaction that can be derived from volunteering.

4.    Opportunity to visit multiple destinations

For many holidaymakers, visiting any part of Africa is a huge decision, consequently making the most of the trip is utmost priority and this is the sweetener of exploring West Africa as a holiday destination. There are connecting road networks, albeit not perfect, between some countries. For instance, you can travel easily and by road as well from Senegal, to Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone before heading east through Ivory coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria. This route can afford you the opportunity of exploring multiple countries in West Africa at once. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for some other areas in the region where there are poor flight/vehicle connections.

Overland tripping across West Africa is also favorite for most foreigners and returnees who want to experience the incredible sights and enjoy an adventurous journey. Remember a change of plan or the unexpected is inevitable. That said, it is important to plan but also be flexible to accommodate any eventualities, like any other trip.

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5. Less Visa processing hassles

Visa policies in each of the West African country varies but not complicated. As an ECOWAS passport holder, you would be able to visit West African countries without visas, however, other passport holders may require visas to visit some West Africa countries, so please confirm the most recent visa requirements before departing your destination or home country. As at today, the below table is a snapshot of visa requirement for ECOWAS, US and UK passport holders.

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In a bid to manage travel expectations while exploring West Africa, remembering that the region is still saddled with the challenges of inadequate infrastructure, I must state that I find it unrealistic to expect luxury at an affordable price. Comfort and luxury travel come with a price so be prepared to sacrifice comfort for the experience (if you are on a tight budget). That said, exploring West Africa as a holiday destination is worth it.

HELPFUL TRAVEL TIPS

Holiday cost: The cost of exploring West Africa depends on personal preferences. Class of flight, choice of accommodation, mode of transportation, dining choices, community giving back, places being explored etc.

Safety: Apply the general travel precautions while travelling but it’s important to mention that the media has greatly overstated the dangers of travelling in the region. Like I mentioned in the beginning of the article, there is political stability in the region and crime risks are lower.

Insurance: If possible, take a travel insurance before travelling to the region. Even if you take every precaution with your safety and health, no one has a crystal ball and you never know what could happen.

Vaccinations: Many countries in West Africa have vaccination requirements prior to entry. Often, Yellow Fever is the only immunization that is required, but speak to your doctor on all the important vaccine shot necessary. I would recommend vaccines to keep you safe from Malaria as well.

Behavior:  Come as you are and be yourself but remember to avoid confrontation. One way of avoiding confrontation is agreeing on the price of a good and service before anything else. Also, like everywhere else in Africa, avoid any public economic, religious or political discussion. People here, especially in Nigeria don’t appear to be open to an opposite view on matters in these areas.

Packing: The weather is typically either sunny (hot) or rainy (wet). Wear loose clothing, but nothing revealing. Also, try to ask for permission when taking photographs. Above all, be polite. People tend to react to the same level of energy you give.

West Africa has soul and it is mesmerizing. It is an untapped holiday destination but for people with a sense of adventure and an open mind. Don’t settle on my words; Go and experience it for yourself and try not to fall in love like I did.

FINAL WORDS

Hope this PHD looking proposal paper is of benefit to someone considering taking a trip within West Africa. Thank you all for coming to my Ted talk on reasons you should consider West Africa as a holiday destination.

Till my next article, I remain Margaret.

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