West Africa offers an extraordinary sweep of iconic landscapes. Inhabited by an exciting diversity of people and culture, visit this beautiful region in Africa. Find in your journey experiences of stirring dunes, lush rainforests, deserted coastlines and more. Through all of it runs Africa's longest river, the Niger. West Africa is an abode to exciting wildlife that includes elephants, big cats, pygmy, hippos and more. The region is noted for some of the world's classy birdwatching tours. Our West Africa travel guide takes you to the best that West Africa tourism offers, so you get the most of your travel experience to the region.
Morocco | Algeria | Cameroon | Central African Republic
Famous For: Diverse Culture | Natural Landscapes | Coastlines | Savannah | Jungles | Waterways | Mountains | People
National Symbols: NationalFlag | Coat of Arms | National Anthem (varies per country)
Countries in West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte D'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo.
Time Zone: UTC +0 to UTC +1
Ethnicity: Yoruba, Fula, Akan, Mande, Songhai
Driving Side: Right
Major Airports in West Africa: Blaise Diagne International Airport | Felix- Houphouet- Boigny International Airport | Kotoka International Airport | Murtala Muhammed International Airport | Nnamdi Azikiwe International AirportNetwork Connectivity:
travSIM.com offers mobile data and call solutions for travellers to West Africa. Pick an option and receive a travel SIM card with easy instructions. Stay connected with family and friends on the go. Travel with the Worldwide Mobile Internet while in West Africa.
XOXO Wi-Fi is another option to rent the internet while you travel. This pocket Wi-Fi is a 4G pocket router with a good range. The network of 140 countries around the world can be networked via the service. It is secure and private with some great deals on saving.Nigeria
Pocket Wi-Fi rentals are a good option in Nigeria for high speed and reliable internet. Travelwifi.com offers a service where you can sync up to five devices in over 130 countries.travSIM.com offers SIM cards in Nigeria with fast mobile internet. Select a date for the SIM card to be activated and choose your speed from 250 MB to 1 GB. The SIM card is a prepaid card that is available at self-service portals. You can recharge the SIM card after 30 days based on the price option. Use the mobile internet SIM card immediately on arrival. Check on the data usage options, purchase prices and recharge your account as per need.
Lagos's Murtala Muhammad Airport Two has free Wi-Fi hotspot services passing through the terminal.
Broadband Internet service connectivity from companies such as Suburban West Africa, SWIFT Network, Smile Nigeria, Spectranet is available. You get affordable high speed 24/7 internet in the country.Ghana
There is a choice of six main mobile phone providers that include MTN Ghana, Vodafone Ghana, AirtelTigo. Most of the users are mobile users who buy a prepaid plan. Look for cheaper internet bundle plans and 4G connectivity. The cost of the internet is the cheapest in Ghana among the countries in West Africa. You pay less than $5 for 1-gigabit broadband internet data.
CALLING CODE: +234 Nigeria, + 233 Ghana, +238 Cape Verde
EMBASSY Of UAE: +234 9875 0270 | For more info united-arab-emirates/embassy/nigeria
Fire brigade: 112 (Nigeria), 192 (Ghana)
Ambulance: 112 (Nigeria), 193 (Ghana)
Police:112 (Nigeria),191 (Ghana)
General Emergency Number:112 (Nigeria), 112 (Ghana)
West African currency is the West African CFA franc that is used in eight independent states. These include Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Togo. The currency code is XOF and the currency symbol is CFA. The West African CFA franc exchange rate for some of the popular currencies are
Symbol:CFA (West African CFA franc)
Code: XOF(West African CFA franc)
1 XOF = 0.14 INR (West African CFA franc to Indian Rupees)
1 XOF = 0.0018 USD (West African CFA franc to USD)
1 XOF = 0.0067 AED (West African CFA franc to AED)
West African CFA franc banknote denomination: 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000
West African CFA franc coin denomination: 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 250, 500
Some of the other Western African currencies are Nigerian Naira (Nigeria), Ghanaian Cedi (Ghana), Cape Verdean Escudo (Cape Verde), and others.
West Africa history during the pre-colonial era was centred around an absolute monarch form of governance. These kingdoms or empires were unified by a common revered leader and were susceptible only to internal breakdown. Conflicts over succession weakened the various kingdoms with incompetent rulers and administration.Religious rifts with heterogeneous people led to further chaos and the risk of an external influence.
Europe contacted the region purely due to trade while the Portuguese discovered the vast African coast in the 15th century. Trade was initially limited to gold, iron rods, ostrich feathers, gunpowder etc. Soon the territory was thriving due to the slave traffic between West Africa and Europe. The end of the slave era brought along the period of the war of resistance. Europeans prevailed with their superior military and colonisation began. Civilised Eurocentric governance replaced the pre-colonial structures.
The agitation began for self-governance by the educated class in West Africa. A constitution and assurance of administration brought an end to colonisation. The administration was placed in the hands of western-educated Africans and new states were successor states to the colonial protectorates. In the new West Africa, there were two sectors of society, the king and the community. Guinea-Bissau at independence was poor, Liberia was internally conflicted along ethnic and historical lines. Governance was corrupt and there was misrule of the state. In 1980, there was the Vieira coup that added to the misrule by autocratic elements. The 1970s were struck by ethnic intolerance and economic instability.
The marginalisation of ethnic groups, environmental problems, crime, poverty and corruption was part of Nigerian politics. The military was involved in post-colonial West Africa as violence became a part of the presence of strong men. The states were ruled for personal benefits and state wealth was not attributed to the people.The civil population continued to suffer and economic aid was insufficient. Poverty and human rights violations dominated the people of West Africa and innovative political solutions are required to halt the wave of uncertainty.The post-independence era saw the formations of the current nations. West Africa history is thus divided into prehistory, Iron Age, the colonial period and finally the post-independence era.
West Africa geography as defined by the map includes the south bulge of the continent. The region extends westward to the Atlantic Ocean and is bisected by the African Transition Zone. The zone cuts across West Africa between the Sahara and the tropics. The prominent physical features are the Sahara Desert and the Niger River. Islam is a dominant religion on the north side of the zone and Christianity is followed in the south.
The Nile River is about 4100 miles long and the Congo River is the second-longest in Africa at 2922 miles. The Cameroon Highlands is situated on the eastern border. The only water source in the north of the region is the Niger River and Lake Chad which is a very deep inland.
The countries in West Africa covered by the atlas encompasses a wide range of landscapes. You can find alluvial valleys, low plateaus, rolling hills, and rugged mountains. West Africa covers approximately one-quarter of the continent with varied ecosystems and habitats. Enjoy travelling to witness a range of bioclimatic regions, vegetation, climate, soils, deserts and rainforests.
West African music is characterised by rhythm and a repeated pattern in music. The region is large with diverse West African cultural influences. Dance to the polyrhythmic songs from West Africa and juxtaposed rhythms. Home to nomadic groups and large empires, this region has diverse West Africa culture and art forms. Look out for wooden masks, beadwork, historical paintings, sculptures and more that depict the African culture of the diaspora.Food and Drink
West African cuisineincludes meat, fish (in coastal areas), vegetables, fruits (homegrown by local farmers) and more. Most West Africa foodis cooked by boiling or frying with various local cuisines in this multinational region.Must-Try West African National Dishes
Egusi (stew of vegetables, meat or fish), Thieboudienne (rice, fish, tomato sauce, opinions and spices), Moin Moin (bean pudding), Waakye (rice, beans, stew, moist gari and spaghetti), Cachupa (stew of corn, sweet potato, fish or meat), Chicken Yassa, Superkanja (Gambian okra), Jollof Rice (spicy tomato rice dish)Must-Try West African National Drinks
Ginger Beer, Pineapple Drink, Lemon Grass Drink, Poyo (palm wine), West African Ginger Drink (ginger roots, lemon juice, cloves, sugar, cinnamon and sugar)Hospitality
Feel welcomed in West Africa, a land with an intriguing mix of culture and customs. People are friendly and show respect to elders. Greetings are with a 'hello' or handshake.Silence is considered a part of African conversation, so don't be alarmed by regular pauses.African culture encourages making time to meet people and developing relationships. It is courteous to receive gifts with both hands. Enjoy the positive impression left by the friendly local people in your travels.
The best time to travel to West Africa is between October and March. The period has drier weather with mean temperatures in West Africa of around 18Â°C. Enjoy exploring the wildlife as animals cluster around waterholes. Watch out for the harmattan season from December onwards. The dusty Sahara winds create haze and dryness. So, don't forget to pack your lip balm and moisturisers. You could also time your trip to coincide with the Voodoo Festival in Togo and Benin or the Masked Dance Festival in Burkina Faso. Avoid travelling in the rainy season as most places are a washout except Ghana due to paved roads.
Located in the Western Area National Park, this beautiful sanctuary was set up for rescuing and rehabilitating endangered primates.Enjoy the daily tours offered by the sanctuary with the friendly staff guiding you, as you watch rescued chimps. There are several walking trails as well with Atmospheric Lodges stays offered. Relax in the leafy, waterfall framed hideaway overnight amid the dense rainforest of Africa.
Best Time to Visit: Dry season
Entry Price: $9.78 (adults)
Visit the splendid palace, constructed in the early 20th century. The German colonial modelled architecture was built by Sultan Njoya. Explore the museum artefacts that include the feathered cloak, beaded buffalo masks, ancient documents, drinking horn from a skull and more. Also, look out for the ceremonial drum housed in a bamboo hut carved with a double-headed serpent. Opposite the palace is the main mosque and market.
Best Time to Visit: October to March
Osun Sacred Grove, Osogbo outskirts
Located in a large area of rainforest is the beautiful sacred grove which is the shrine of Osogbo, the River Goddess. Witness the many stunning sculptures by Suzanne Wenger, an Austrian sculptor who visited here in the 1950s. For a fee take a tour of the area where alligators, snakes and monkeys wander freely. The Sacred Grove lies on the outskirts of Oshogbo on the Osun Shrine Road.
Best Time to Visit: October to March
This conservation park helps African wildlife and protects rhinos, giraffes, antelopes, monkeys, buffalos and more. Take a safari tour and absorb the eco-park wildlife up close. Also enjoy a boat ride in Somone Lagoon, a natural habitat for birds. The reserve is one of the top attractions in Senegal to visit. Stay in one of the hotels in Dakar overnight and drive to the Somone Lagoon to enjoy the scenic views.
Best Time to Visit: Dry season
Entry Price:Based on the tour
An unmissable gastronomic adventure awaits you in the Accra Markets. Take a 2-hour tour and taste exotic food with the flavours of West Africa. The guide will take you around the buzzing street markets as you taste the region's dishes cooked in various styles. Delve into piping hot stews, grill and delicacies. Experience a Ghanaian cooking masterclass if you can and enjoy a ride in a tro-tro (shared taxi). Don't miss your shot of liqueur and discover various cooking traditions.
Best Time to Visit: October to March
Entry Price:Based on the tour
If you can make time to visit a few other places in West Africa are,
Most Popular Regions and Cities to Visit in West AfricaLagos, Nigeria
Lagos is a city with an enormous art and music scene to explore. It got its name from the Portuguese word for the lagoon. Lagos has been a Yoruba port and an important political centre. It was Nigeria's capital until 1991. Visit the many beach resorts and boutiques. The city is noted for its nightlife, Freedom Park and many other attractions.
Visit For: Lekki Conservation Centre, Lagos Boat Cruise,Praia do Camilo, Ponta da Piedade, St. Anthony`s Church, Nike Art GalleryThe Gambia
This is the smallest country in West Africa with golden beaches and scenic lagoons. The Gambia offers amazing reserves, vibrant history and an abundance of wildlife. See rare animals in Bijilo Forest Park among others. Get in touch with nature in this amazing destination.
Visit For: Abuko National Reserve, Gambia National Park, Bijilo Forest Park, Cape Point, Kotu BeachGhana
The gateway to immerse and learn about African history is in Accra, the country's capital. Absorb African culture in a region hailed as West Africa's golden child. Accra also offers beautiful beaches and luxe hotels. Don't forget to wander the fascinating museums and shop for souvenirs in the marketplaces.
Visit For: Kakum National Park, Cape Coast Castle, Mole National Park, Elmina Castle, Labadi BeachCape Verde
Located on the west coast of Africa, this is a gorgeous country to visit. Indulge in amazing seafood, visit the local markets and relax on the splendid beaches. Visit Salinas de Pedra de Lume, the Salt Lake to try a mud bath. Cape Verde is an archipelago of 10 islands and several islets.
Visit For: Pico do Fogo, Buracona, Barlavento Islands, Sotavento Islands, Praia da AtalantaIvory Coast
This hidden gem gives you picture-perfect beaches that are palm-lined. Bite into tasty cuisines such as poulet braise and kedjenou. Comoe National Park has lions, waterbucks, hippos and more,whowander the habitat. A great attraction for a family outing. Ivory Coast has stunning scenery with Abuja, the capital to explore.
Visit For: Tai National Park, Como National Park, St. Paul's Cathedral, Parc National du Banco
Other famous places to visit in West Africa
Enjoy the cultural and spiritual festival in honour of the river goddess. The festival happens in late August in Osogbo. People appease the goddess for two weeks with music, drums, singing and dancing. In return, the goddess offers grace to the community, as is believed.
Location: Osogbo, Nigeria
Date: Late August
The famous festival is held annually in early or mid-May. The main event attracts jazz performers from around the world. Enjoy the music at the Quai des Arts or an open-air stage in Place Faidherbe. The town of Saint-Louis has fringe events as well. The event is a great tourist booster as jazz lovers gather here in large numbers.
Location: Saint Louis, Senegal
Date: Early or mid-May
Gerewol is an extraordinary beauty contest and a spectacular pageant. Men parade wearing makeup and dance to win the heart of a lady. The festival is held in September among the Wodaabe people. This ancient group of cattle herders enjoy the colourful festival in West Africa.
Date: Early or mid-May
The amazing Masks Festival is an unmissable event. Villages in the Bobo Dioulasso region organise a ceremony. Masks of various animals are made that acts as intermediaries to the Gods. The locals call for good rains as the life in the village transforms into a colourful spectacle.
Location: Burkina Faso
Date: End February to beginning March
69 days after Ramadan, the Islamic festival of Tabaski occurs. This cultural event features colourful processions of cavalry. It is also called Eid-al-Adha, a spiritual festival celebrated by the Muslims. It is also called the feast of sacrifice and is celebrated all across West Africa.
Location: West Africa
Date: 1 September
Other festivals/events celebrated in West Africa
All travellers must have a valid passport to apply for a West African visa. The passport needs to be valid for six months beyond the date of return. The passport must have at least two consecutive blank pages for each country of travel.Visa-on-arrival/eVisa/Visa free entry
Visa Entente allows you to travel between Niger, Benin. Togo, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. The Conseil de l`entente is a regional corporation between these West African countries. Getting a visa for each country is expensive. The Vis Entente is a multiple entry visa valid for 60 days as long as you are within the Entente zone. The Visa Entente should cost around $119.76 but varies greatly depending on where you get the visa from.
Visa-on-arrival/eVisa/Visa-free entryNigeria Citizens of the following countries can obtain a visa on arrival/evisa/visa-free entry into Nigeria;
The Nigerian tourist or business visa is granted by the Embassy and is valid for 6 months for a stay of 7 to 90 days per visit. However, there is no guarantee that the Embassy will accept your request for a travel visa. Visa issuance remains at the sole discretion of the Nigerian Embassy. The cost can be anything between $160 to $180 as of 2020 and varies based on your country. The processing time is anything between 6 days to 2 days.
Transit visa is available to all citizens except those from ECOWAS countries. They do not require a visa to enter Nigeria since the county has entered into visa abolition agreements.
Depending on the country you are visiting in West Africa you will need a valid entry visa. It is best to get your visa before the travel begins as some airlines will not let you board without a visa in hand.
Flights reasonably connect the major capitals in West Africa to each other. Smaller capitals may require stopovers and inconvenient connections. Royal Air Maroc has its headquarters on the grounds of Casablanca - Anfa Airport. It is a large Moroccan national carrier that connects many cities to Casablanca. Ghana Airways was the national carrier of the Republic of Ghana but ceased operations in 2004. Plans are ongoing to revive it in partnership with Egyptair. Air Afrique was a pan African airline owned by many West African countries but does not operate at present.
Remember, although airports in some capitals are large some smaller cities may have a single-shed terminal. Also, check the safety record of airlines before travelling at www.airsafe.comBus and Bush Taxi
Buses connect major cities. It helps transport travellers between neighbouring countries. Bush Taxi is often the only reliable means of transport in rural areas.Car
Due to poor road infrastructure road travel is difficult. Roads deteriorate especially in the rainy season and hiring a car may not be a good option.Train
Trains network the various destinations and operate between Burkina Faso, Benin, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Togo, Senegal and others. There are networks between Abidjan and Ouagadougou as well as Dalar with Bamako on the international circuit.
Flying between capitals in West Africa may take time as the region's poor connections can be a hindrance. It is easier to fly via Morocco or Belgium although travel time may be extended. The Gambia is a popular tourist destination and is served by many airlines from Europe. Air Cote D'lvoire is another airline to consider that networks via its hub in Abidjan and onwards. Popular international airlines that fly into the region are China Eastern Airlines, Emirates, Thai Airlines, Air China, Philippine Airline, American Airline and more. Most connections between Europe and West Africa are via Casablanca with Royal Air Maroc.Via Road
You could take the Trans-West African coastal highway that links 12 West African coastal nations by road. There are also feeder roads that link Mali and Burkina Faso. Lagos - Dakar Highway, Lagos- Nouakchott Highway among others are alternative routes to consider. Trans- African Highway 7, Dakar- Lagos Highway joins TAH 1 to connect East Africa to West Africa.Via Sea
West Africa expedition cruises offer an incredible variety to discover the west coast of Africa. Crystal Expedition Cruises, Silver Sea Expeditions and others are great choices. Just a West Africa cruise is pretty rare although it is a part of the itinerary while travelling between Europe and the Southern Hemisphere. Shorter voyages start from smaller ports or end in ports such as Accra in Ghana or Dakar in Senegal. Transatlantic cruises start or end in West Africa.
The Central African country is often known as 'Africa in miniature'. Visit the country for its cultural and geographical diversity. Mount Cameroon, Dja Faunal Reserve, Waza National Park among other attractions are a must-visit.Morocco (4754.8 km from Nigeria)
Marrakesh Medina, Hassan II Mosque, Bal al- Mansour, Oudaias Kasbah among others are the top attractions to see in Morocco. The Sahara Desert is a famed attraction along with the gorgeous beaches by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.Algeria (1332 km from Niger)
Algeria is the largest country in Africa with the main attraction being the Sahara Desert. Try Algerian Merguez, a heavily spiced sausage. Discover oasis, buy a gorgeous Ghardaia carpet and wander the zig-zag alleyways. Hike around Tassili N`Ajjer. Visit Djemila for stunning Roman settings and more.Distance Between Places of Importance in and around East Africa
Central African Republic (1378 km from Nigeria), DRC (2056 km from Nigeria)