Dec 20, 2018

Ivory Coast – the border crossing tips you need

Ivory Coast is a stone throw away from Ghana but with several failed attempts to visit, I left Hong Kong with a visa in hand determined to enter this beautiful country. “This is our gift to you for traveling in Africa,” said the immigration officer who handed me my passport with a 1-year multiple entry Ivory Coast visa free of charge.  He was fascinated by my journey across the continent so we chatted for a while as I shared images of other African countries I had visited. This exchange took place in Abidjan towards the end of my 12-day journey across Ivory Coast. I had a fantastic time exploring a few cities there so with plans to return shortly, I decided to secure a visa for re-entry prior to my departure. I will later share my wonderful memories and recommendations for Ivory Coast but I will start with my challenges entering the country so you won’t get stuck at the border as I did.

Early one Saturday morning, I left Accra and headed west towards the Ivory Coast border with a private driver.  I had no clue that I was about to embark on the most eventful border crossing of my West Africa tour. I could have caught  STC bus which I have mentioned in an earlier post for 160 Cedis ~ 30 USD from Accra to Abidjan but I would have fewer stories to tell had I taken the straight road.  My plans for a road adventure with 2 other travelers fell through so I continued on solo since the driver was already reserved.

While on the road, I marveled at the beauty of Ghana’s Western Region and made multiple stops to capture the scenery along the way.  Around 9 hours (and way too many photo stops 🙂 ) after leaving Accra, we arrive at Elubo only to learn that the border was closed. “Why is the border closed and it is only 7 pm?” I asked.  Apparently, I was asking the wrong person. My driver had frequently traveled between Ghana and Togo but this was his first time traveling to Ivory Coast.  He was unaware that unlike the Ghana/Togo border which closed at 10 PM, the Ghana/Ivory Coast border closed at 6 PM each day.  (The hours have since been extended to 8 PM so keep this in mind as you plan your road journeys) My driver was unable to continue with me the following morning so he arranged accommodation and hired a local driver to complete the journey.

The following morning, my new driver accompanied me by foot across the Ghanaian side of the border only to be held up once again as I attempted to cross into Ivory Coast.  I had presented my passport, my Ivorian visa, and my yellow fever vaccination card which were the requirements listed on the government’s official website.  I was directed to a border clinic and was advised that a meningitis vaccine was a requirement for everyone commuting by road. I had received clear instructions from my doctor to avoid being vaccinated at the borders so I requested a translator to better understand the information that was being presented in French.

After a long time trying to negotiate my way across the border without this vaccine, it became clear that the agent was not going to allow me to proceed.  I reluctantly agreed to be vaccinated since my only alternative was to hire a new driver to return to Accra by road. The rest of the journey was hilarious! If I share the details of how I had to change drivers again, how we ended up in a mini badjan (tro tro /dollar van /matatus/ kombie or whatever the shared passenger vans are called in your city. haha) filled with passengers with my 2 suitcases sticking out the back, you will say I made it up!  Luckily, I have footage and can laugh about this journey for some time to come. 🙂

Road trips are the most cost-efficient way of traveling across Africa but consult someone with experience Overlanding Africa for information not readily available online. Leverage your network for local contacts and get your meningitis shot and other required vaccination done before you leave your home country if you are not up for being vaccinated at the border. For those of you traveling to or living in Ghana, you can get to Ivory Coast for a reasonable price. I’ve paid a bit more for a private driver (balling on a budget 🙂 ) but once you are in Ghana, you can go to Tudu in Accra Central to get a shared taxi or use a bus company leaving from close to the roundabout by Makola Market to have the opportunity to experience another beautiful African country for very little money.

Highlights of my wonderful time in Ivory Coast and more border chronicles will be coming right up in my Africa Travel Series!

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