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The safest countries to visit in Africa – West Af’ Edition

First off, I want to warn you before you go further in this article: I really apologize if this article turns out to be long, but if I breathe (and I barely exaggerate) it’s because I travel. Each year, there is this need–not to say addiction–I have to leave the city, the region or, if possible, the country I live in. If you want to kill me, you already know what to do: prevent me to travel. That simple. LITERALLY. OK now that it’s clear, let’s start, shall we? ????

Whenever I tell most of my friends or acquaintances, African or non-African, that my favorite travel destinations are in Africa, the common reactions I receive from them are quite funny. Some, on the one hand, look at me with despair, as they see in front of them a reckless person whose final goal is to die young and honorably (lol!). Others, on the other hand, step a little back and give me that curious and surprised look, as if I just told them I climbed the Everest naked without resting.

Why? Because Africa, and I will never stress it enough, has been and is still being portrayed as a dangerous–if not war-torn — and poor continent and traveling in such an “unsafe” continent can seem to many people’s eyes a suicidal operation. This is why I created this series of 5 articles on the safest places to visit in Africa, with the aim to prove you wrong and show you what you’ve been or are missing out, because NO! Africa is not unsafe, with many of its countries being way safer than many others located in other continents questionably privileged by the Western– especially African-descent –tourists.

Short story time: West Africa first charmed me when I was still a child and my parents started playing Ivoirian movies on their small TV at their workplace. It continued to do so, as I got in touch with its welcoming people, tasted its yummy dishes, and walked in its dynamic & intimidating cities. 

Without further due, let me introduce you to the list of the countries I will talk about in this second article :

  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Senegal

Ghana

Ghana is home to one of the most historically rich countries in Africa, maybe in the world. The Ashanti empire, one of Africa’s most powerful and organized ones, was mostly located in modern Ghana. The country is also known for its strong cultural identity, but also for being the birthplace of panafricanism. Who never heard of Kwame Nkrumah, the movement’s father? Did you know it’s the continent’s first independent state? Visiting this country will give you the opportunity to chill with one of the most welcoming people in Africa. AKWAABA!!

Ghana is generally a peaceful and stable country. Crime is low, but it shouldn’t keep you from exercising common sense in one of the safest countries to visit in Africa. To ensure you the best trip of your life, don’t leave your belongings unattended at the airport and your hotel room, and beware of manipulators who may try to empty you, emotionally or financially, through several stratagems. Also, watch your pockets when going into crowded areas and avoid to walk alone at night, especially in some of the capital’s neighborhoods, such as Jamestown.

Senegal

Senegal, also known as the country of the Teranga, is a whole gem!! Goree Island, the stunning beaches and fishing villages in Mbour Region, Saint-Louis’ colonial architecture, the Lompoul Desert, and the Retba Lake are a few places and landmarks, but so beautiful, this West African country has to offer. No wonder why with so much choice, Senegal is one of the most visited country of the continent. For my part, I had the chance to visit this awesome country two years ago, and I can confirm:  it IS a paradise on earth! I mostly stayed in Dakar, Senegal’s capital city, and I completely fell in love with the Senegalese warmth and hospitality, and those characteristics determined my overall experience in the country of the Teranga.

At the Lake Retba, in Dakar Region

During the month I spent there, I wasn’t a victim of any serious incident. Indeed, I would take the public transportation and walk alone at night, and nothing would happen to me. I would also walk fearlessly in crowded areas, but once reality–or should I say a car–hit me (it wasn’t my fault though). Some precautions my cousins living there advised me to follow were to watch my pockets and, to not trust everyone approaching me (My reckless ass didn’t always follow that rule, but I guess God kept me, please don’t try this at home), and to not expose my valuables at the sight of everyone. For the rest, exercise common sense and you should be good.

You can easily tell that I love palm trees. I really can’t help it, I’m (not?) sorry

The Gambia

Come visit The Gambia, the smiling coast of Africa! Despite being the continent’s smallest country, it’s privileged with its magnificent and golden beaches extending on 80 kilometers of coastlines, fishing villages, nature reserves and national parks, and its awesome tropical climate. Enjoy the cultural diversity of one of the safest countries to visit in Africa, with its well established tourism industry.

The Gambia is a tourist-friendly state, serious crime being fairly rare. Pickpockets in crowded areas, such as markets, public transport, taxis, and isolated beaches, and around tourist centres do occur, so you might want to watch your valuables. Avoid walking alone at night and exercise common sense.

Fun facts

Transportation is quite easy to find and cheap. By personal experience, I had the chance to get into a taxi-brousse from Dakar to Saint-Louis, a pretty much disorienting, challenging and immersive experience to say the least. A taxi-brousse is basically this small 7-place Peugeot with no AC, in which you’ll definitely feel squeezed because there’s no way the car leaves the station unless it’s full–just pray you don’t find yourself seating between two stinky people. Chill though, as not all means of intercity transport are like that. Things tend to change for the better as competition becomes more present, and by better I mean, better comfort and service, cheaper prices, safer vehicles, professional drivers, etc.

West Africa is home to hundreds of languages and cultures. Since colonization, the region’s countries’ borders haven’t moved, leaving several ethnicities within the same country, despite their cultural differences. This reality gave little choice to those people, requiring them to live together and find a common language they would share. Some like Ghana and The Gambia, because of their British colonial past, chose English, and Senegal chose French for the same reason, even though in reality the Senegalese understand themselves in Wolof.

Obviously, one will not be surprised to notice, considering the region’s cultural and linguistic diversity, that West Africa is very diverse in terms of climate. It’s not rare to find a country with two or three climates. For example, Senegal has two climates, a desert climate in the northern part and a tropical one in the southern part. However, both of those parts admit different temperature patterns, because Senegal has a large coastline and is very influenced by the winds blowing from the ocean and the mainland, making it seem like there are two more “climates”. By getting more inland, you have very hot temperatures, and by getting towards the coastline, you have fresher temperatures. This phenomenon is similar in other West African countries.

Conclusion

This was my second article (out of five) of my series about the safest countries to visit in Africa, in which I talked about one of my two favorite regions of Africa–the other one being East Africa–WEST AFRICAAAA!! Guys, you simply can’t understand the loooove I have for that region!! Too bad it remains one of the continent’s most shunned regions because it has so much to offer! You may wonder now why you never heard anything about the information I just dropped–and it’s okay that’s why I’m here lol–because YOOO I can already tell you: You’ve been missing out on this whole gem!! West Africa CAN SIMPLY NOT be slept on!! NEVER. *PERIOOODT* 

Congratulations if you made it here, I really hope you enjoyed reading this article. For my part, I did enjoy writing it. Which country would you visit between Ghana, Senegal and The Gambia, and why? Also, do you agree with my ranking? If not, which other country-ies should be on that list and why? Happy 2019 by the way. May God bless you infinitely! I declare health, wealth, success in any form, children (ok no I’m trippin’) and everything you desire and/or work for (as long as it’s legit lol). Much love!

 

 

Steve Rutikara

2 Comments

  1. I would love to visit Senegal. I’ve heard such wonderful things & I honestly feel like I’m missing out on so much. I need to travel, I need to explore. Your blogs are encouraging me to want to save up and gooooooo. I would love to visit Ghana and Nigeria too. People from there are such energetic people. I want a piece of that too LOL !!! Happy new year to you as well. Wishing you wealth and a whole lot of healt. Oh, and a lot more travelling 😉

    • Thank you Ikirezi for your comment and wishes!! Africa is indeed worth to be visited, with each of its regions being unique. You should definitely visit the countries you cited, the fact that one of them is not mentioned in my article shouldn’t stop you from visiting! And yeah hehe we all need this Nigerian and Ghanaian energy ;)!!

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