6 things to know before touring West Africa by road

The idea of going on a road trip out of Nigeria to other West African countries can be exciting for adventurous people but, while people travel every day to other west African cities such as Cotonou, Togo, Accra and Douala, either by public buses or private cars, very few of them are prepared for the experience they eventually face on the road. They leave excited and return discouraged, determined never to go on another road trip.

The truth is, travelling to other West African countries from Nigeria by road can actually be rewarding as long as you keep these things listed below in mind and prepare yourself for them. To help you prepare appropriately, here are 6 things every traveler must know before setting out on this journey.

Your Nigerian Passport and Yellow fever Card are essential

Most people assume that they can just freely travel from Nigeria to neighboring West African countries without their International passport as they are all members of ECOWAS nations and have their visa waived, but that is not the case.

Every traveler is expected to provide their passports for stamping, as well as the Yellow card for proof of health before they are allowed to pass the border. Travelling without these documents can ruin your trip with border delays and denied entry.

Adult diapers will not work

Most cross-country trips can take from as long as 5 to 24 hours, depending on where you are going to and where you take off from.

A lot of travellers are skeptical about using the toilet on the bus, stopping by the roadside to ease themselves or using public toilets along the way, so they resort to wearing adult diapers. Unfortunately, adult diapers are of no help when travelling outside the country to West African countries. Not only will it be utterly uncomfortable, thanks to the long distance and bumps on the way, it could arouse undue suspicion from the officers at the border or even the NDLEA staff.

It is cheaper to change currencies before setting out

The Naira is only relevant for buying and selling within the country, and so, you will need to use the currency of whatever country you are visiting to be able to make purchases there. As a result, you have to ensure you visit any bank of choice or ‘bureau de change’ to trade the money you need for the trip before you set out. Some would advise that you wait till you get to the border before you change your money, but the truth is that the exchange rate at the border is always higher and less beneficial. You best bet is the bank. Alternatively, you can decide to use your ATM card if your bank allows that, but the charges for such transaction are also usually very high.

There is are different time zones

We may all be West African countries, but different countries operate in different time zones. For instance, Nigeria is 1hour ahead of Ghana and Benin Republic. Ensure you research to note the time difference between Nigeria and the country you are visiting, that way it is easy for you to keep track of time.

Also, some people are affected when they migrate into different time zones. If you are one of those, you may want to prepare yourself and pack whatever remedy you need to keep your body in check.

You will cross most borders by foot

Before setting out on your trip, ensure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes as aside from several stops that the bus will have to make for you to stretch your legs and buy food, you will have to cross most borders by foot.

For most of these borders, especially the Ghana border, it is a long trek which will be very difficult if you are not prepared for it. It is advisable to carry a small handbag where you can keep your valuables, so that when you are crossing the border, you only need to hold it and leave the other entire luggage in the vehicle.

Prepare to stay offline for most of the trip

The beauty of a road trip is taking random pictures and posting them online on making instant videos for Snapchat and Instagram.

If you are travelling out of Nigeria to West African countries, you may not be able to do these as the roaming rates are very high. Sending a text from Togo alone is as high as N300 per text message and the data rates are outrageous.  Also, unless you are an MTN subscriber you may not even have access to any of the mobile networks. The only way out may be to buy a new SIM card that works in the country you are visiting at the border and insert it on your phone.
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