Eight (8) Lessons I Learnt Transiting Through an African Country – The Ivorian Edition

Lesson Numero Uno 

– Verify the length of your layover for transit flights

I got my tickets for a random trip to the USA for less than $750!

C’mon,

there was no way I was passing up that kind of deal.

(LagosAbidjan *operated by Air cote de voire* – Newark *operated by Ethiopian Air*)

I’m the girl who gets to her transit –already in the airport– and only then realizes that she has an 11 hour layover.  

So this time?

I made sure to check the length of my layovers. And they were less than 3 hours in total. I was geeked. I had definitely found good deal.

However,

in-between booking and ticketing.  

And because Nigerian banks are basically synonymous with payment challenges when banking abroad,

*insert rolling eyes emoji*

the ticket I finally got had a layover of about 23 hours in Abidjan.

Imagine my initial shock,

I was shook!

I tried everything to change my ticket to one with a better layover time. But to my chagrin; it was going to cost me an extra $250.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

There was NO way I was going to cough up money I didn’t budget for when the trip was already sporadic for my bank account.

Lesson Number 2

– Always check for the country’s specific requirements 

I got to Nigeria’s International Airport; Murtala Muhammed (MMIA) at about 3:30pm. Only to realize that I needed to present a yellow fever vaccination card.

Apparently, Cote D’voire is also considered a West African country –I really didn’t know this then– and all African countries require this evidence of vaccination

*annoyed/confused emoji*.

I had been to South Africa earlier in the year, and I had gotten a yellow fever vaccination card for the trip, I was familiar with the requirement. But unfortunately, because I didn’t know it would be necessary for this trip; I had left my card at home.

To cut a long story short.

Leave your Yellow fever vaccination card in your passport

If not,

it’s going to cost yah!

*cha-ching!!!*

Lesson Number 3

– If you’re going to a new country, make sure you; research, research & more research!!!!

I knew I needed a hotel for my overnight stay over, so I looked to the reviews on Expedia for some sort of direction.

There were some things I wasn’t willing to compromise on, like complementary airport pickup and drop off. Complimentary breakfast –“continental” hello! 

And lastly,

WiFi; this might seem odd, but you’d be surprised at the number of  budget hotels that don’t offer connectivity services as an add on.  

It was a bit tedious for me. I eventually settled for a budget friendly hotel that claimed to provide all three of my requirements.

Fake News !

The only thing I got for free was the Wi-Fi.

That barely worked.

In my room.

From of my personal experience, I’d advise you just go bougie or go home.

The amount I paid commuting to and from the airport to the hotel would have been enough for a 5 star hotel in Abidjan

I essentially didn’t save much.

So just stick to the airport, or brand named hotels. In Abidjan, those would be, the Hilton, hotel Ibis, or the other airport hotels. No point wanting to have the local experience if so much discomfort would be involved.

Lesson Number 4

– If you live in West Africa, Learn to speak French

On arriving at the airport in Abidjan, I was hit with a rude awakenening; my French was just not going to cut it.

Okay, to be fair, I wasn’t the most attentive in my secondary school French classes. Thankfully I had done some research on how to get around in Abidjan. I wanted to get my Dora on and explore a few parts of Abidjan before catching my flight later on the next day.

From my research I  knew Uber rides weren’t a thing.

Apparently, Uber has been struggling to penetrate the Francophone market in Africa for a while now.

They have their own ride sharing app,

and obviously,

it was in French.

A language I can barely comprehend.

*what a downer*

(if I had a better level of understanding French.  I’d have saved so much money).

I walked straight to the information desk asking for help with directions to my hotel.

My hotel had already called me earlier before I had arrivedto inform me that they would, in fact not be picking me up to and from the airport. So much for the paid for complementary airport pickup and drop off.

I showed someone at the help desk my hotel address and an airport taxi man was called for me.

Lesson Number 5

– When it comes to haggling prices in Africa, it’s all the same, haggle!!!

In Africa, prices are not set in stone, be like your Yoruba mum, for every price you’re given, divide it into 2, then take one half and split into 2 again, that’s your starting price. Basically, split it into 4 and start haggling from one portion or potentially get scammed.

In my prior research I had learnt that  airport taxi’s in Abidjan are expensive. Beating and haggling the price down was essential for a budjet friendly trip. One of the articles I read talked about a new bridge with a toll cost of 50/500 francs, which would have been N32.4/N324 or $0.089/$0.89.

*this little detail came in handy later*

The taxi man could only speak French so I had the lady at the help desk translate for me. I know a few French words but not enough to have a full on conversation.

He told me the hotel was a far distance from the airport, making my ride an expensive one that would cost me 20,000CFA  roughly N12,960.58 or $35.70. My quick-witted Yoruba brain immediately kicked in and I retorted with 10,000CFA  roughly N6,480 or $17.85. The Taxi driver kept stressing the distance, and he brings up an expensive toll gate he has to pass.

I had him where I wanted him!  

And I said;

 “I know that toll gate now, its 500CFA” 

At this point he knows i’m on to him.

He smiles and says 15,000CFA. 

I don’t budge.

He keeps taking it down, and I continue to stand my ground.

And then he finally agreed to 10,000CFA.

Yay!!!

I had won….

Or so I thought.

Lesson Number 6

– Observe everything! Africa is beautiful and unique!!! (Take pictures)

On the drive to the hotel, I noticed everything. There were beautiful trees lined up, like I had seen in Calabar and in Cape Town. The hustle and bustle in downtown Abidjan were very similar to the sounds you’d hear in Asaba. And the business district reminded me of inner Marina in Lagos Island. All the sights were amazing to behold the breathtakening scenery was a joy to see. 

I was so stuck in the sights that I forgot take any real pictures

*insert crying emoji*.

None would have done it justice. But I promise you,  Abidjan is a beautiful city.

Lesson Number 7

– lesson 3 again – research, SPEND MONEY ON YOUR HOTEL!!!

The Hotel was trash.

It was trash!

Not because the bed wasn’t comfortable. Or because the room wasn’t nice. It was trash because they didn’t deliver on their promises.

I just can’t.

I became friendly with a guest at the hotel, an English-speaking Sweetie.  She became my unoffical Abidjan translator and was extremely helpful when I needed to communicate with the hotel staff.

  • Another reason why the hotel was so trash – no resident staff could communicate with me or translate  They all spoke. French. 

Apparently, she met this local Ivorian man online. They fell in love, so she came to Abidjan to see him. Seeing the dynamic between them, I couldn’t help but think home girl was about to get scammed.

I did what I could.  I sha told her to be weary.

The next day, I woke up ready to explore the city. However, for some reason,  I didn’t think to get a Sim card.  I had initially planned on roaming my phone like I usually do when I leave Nigeria to travel abroad.

On stepping out, I realized I needed google translate to effectively communicate and my internet service provider wasn’t working in Abidjan.  

That really put a damper on my ability to explore.

Lesson Number 8

– Explore your new city!!!

I asked that a taxi be called to take me to the airport, and the agreed fare was

*drumroll please*

3,000CFA, but I paid 4,000CFA, that is N2,592.12 or $7.14.

(Flashback: OMG!  I was definitely tourist scammed at the airport). This fare covered exploring sites on the way to the airport and I took full advantage. 

All the Ivorians I met –save the airport driver– were all nice and helpful, and I really did enjoy the trip.

I learnt that Cote D’voire is such a beautiful country and I’d definitely be back for a longer layover *wink Wink*

Signed,

Lady Voyage

FUN FACT

Dideir Drogba’s face is plastered on almost every ad in the city.

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