It’s almost time for the Christmas Holidays. So, dollars is hard to come by, Nigeria is “in recession”. Not sure, if you can afford traveling to USA/UK/Canada etc. for the holidays?
Relax, you are covered. A beautiful fact is that you don’t need a visa to visit any of these countries. For those residing in Nigeria, you have no need for visa, just ensure that your yellow card is up to date and your passport is valid. For residents outside Nigeria, please check the embassy websites of these countries.
You can choose to drive or fly to your choice country. Personally, I would recommend driving to Togo & Benin especially if you are coming from Nigeria. Just enjoy the road trip. Downside – You will be pleasantly tired.
It’s also an opportunity for newbie french speakers to practice the french language and be immersed in the french culture at first hand. Don’t worry, If you are a Nigerian, you are very resilient to culture shock.
So why these 5?
These countries have different effects on me. Let’s go down memory lane.
- Togo – This country has a sleepy feel. Each time I arrive, it’s like I did some kinda time travel or rather left the bustle of Lagos to one of the quieter states like Edo State. I always lodge in any of the hotels close to the beach. I love the feel of sand under bare feet and picking shells (surprisingly clean).
- Cote d’Ivoire – The ambience is french! You feel the immersion. It’s total. The street smells… the hustle and bustle. Have you been to their market? Just make sure you have enough CFA with you so that you can buy authentic wrappers to your heart’s content.
- Benin- This country reminds me of Nigeria! Yes, it does. Benin Republic is next door neighbor with Nigeria. You can practically stroll through the borders and voila! you are in. I once had that sensation of one foot on Nigerian soil and the other foot on Benin Republic soil. You hear people speaking yoruba, pidgin english, egun, french, and sometimes ibo language. The border is so busy especially as the port is nearby. Moving inwards to the capital, greenery greets me on both sides of the road and road officials that mildly remind me of the LASTMA (Lagos Road Officials)
- Cameroon – I almost swoon (ok, I’m exaggerating) but seriously, I love love Cameroon. That blend of English & French speaking citizens. Have you eaten their fish? or sharwama? You are missing out! Cameroon shares river boundary with Cross River in Nigeria,(see, we are practically sisters) People everywhere! I took a bus ride from Douala to Yaounde and I was reminded of the long yellow buses that ply Lagos roads. (it’s official, I reside in Lagos, Nigeria, and you my friends can tell). It was a sweaty ride because the AC’s non functional and I was stashed between 2 market women (you can laugh, I have gotten over it).
- Guinea Conakry – Dusty quiet country. Why this town? I have spent over 3months at a stretch here. (I did stay during the Ebola outbreak). It gives off the ‘forgotten’ feel till you come to the capital and you are confronted by the small size of the roads and streets. I laugh at what they call traffic. They haven’t witnessed traffic in Lagos. a couple of my Guinean friends refer to Lagos as ‘Petit London’. Yea, they can’t get over the 3rd Mainland Bridge. Guinea Conakry is a country that makes you forget all your office issues, Lagos hassle. Their currency (GNF) is so low that with $1,000 you can live the life of an Emperor.
One of the main attraction to these countries is the food. I can’t get over the cheapness of food. For those that want to maintain their weight, they can always do that. These french countries have a huge appetite for all things salads/chicken/fish. And can they eat? Gosh! A 3-course meal for lunch and you can’t understand how they are able to still have space for dinner.
As for the chilling life, their towns come to life at night. So for the party folks and wine connoisseurs, you will enjoy this to the fullest.
For those with the eye of an entrepreneur, just have enough of money with you and a native guide, you will get very good prices for excellent fabrics, bags, shoes, whatever catches your business eye.
*Sorry, I don’t have pictures because my laptop crashed and I had no backup. Lesson learnt.
Ping back to Greetings! and The Francophone Christmas for a bit of more background information.