Howdy folks. It’s time for ‘City Rumble’ to take a little breather before we hit the next round, and so I thought I’d take a closer look and give my personal tips for travel to a country in West Africa which I really enjoyed exploring. It’s destination – Cameroon! And although travel there comes with caveats at the moment, and I am obviously going to write about travelling there when Covid is not a real concern which is not just right now, I do think it’s a really worthwhile place to visit and rewarding too, perhaps in less obvious ways than some countries. I would say it is my favourite country (that I have been to) in West Africa. So come along and let’s look at what you need to know before heading off to Cameroon!
Cameroon is a country in West Africa, sort of just below the western bulge if you will with borders with Nigeria, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the rarely visited Central African Republic, and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Flying in most flights from outside West Africa are likely to land you in Douala, the biggest city with over 3.5 million in the great metro area. I personally flew with Swiss Air when I went there, Air France is another European airline to fly to Cameroon as is Turkish Airiness and Emirates but they might not be flying there at the moment. Royal Air Maroc usually has good connections to West Africa.
Flights are usually not particularly cheap to West Africa, Royal Air Maroc is often one of the cheapest. You may find some cheaper fares with airlines LIKE Air Arabia, if they are still flying, but you are probably going to have to accept that, even in times of no Covid, $600USD is a decent fare to this part of the world.
As for land connections, well keeping in line with the usual methods of transport – shared taxis and mini-buses, you can cross to most of the neighbours including Nigeria and Gabon. Equatorial Guinea I believe can be tricky to get a visa for, but if you have one it’s not difficult to cross the land border, but bear in mind Equatorial Guinea is partially island, partially mainland Africa, and I think the island is the more interesting place to go. I hear people cross to Chad, well not so much these days but it is possible but I couldn’t tell you on CAR and crossing into the Congo from Cameroon is from the east and south-east and that is for the truly intrepid.
Before heading to Cameroon check with your doctor about what diseases you will be exposed to. The biggest worry in West Africa is definitely malaria though, and Cameroon is not exception. O your research before you choose anti-malarials, they all have side effects and personally I would choose to keep well clear of Larium. You need a yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter Cameroon.
The people of Cameroon speak native languages and depending on the region usually French or English. The southern part was French-controlled for many years, and the northern part – a much smaller part – was British controlled. Hence the way languages are used and appear in Cameroon. In regards to this, to two halves don’t always get along and there has been some tension, fighting and worse in the north in the last few years. Keep our ear to the ground and possibly avoid this area. I know that it’s an amazing part of the country, but better to be safe than sorry.
Cameroon was the most expensive country I’ve visited in West Africa, and West Africa on the whole is not a very cheap part of the world to travel. I’m not saying it’s Western Europe prices, but certainly Africa and especially West Africa does not compare to South-East Asia, India or even parts of the Middle East (eg Iran, Egypt) when it comes to what you need in your daily budget. Food and ground transport isn’t that expensive, it’s hotels which really charge a lot for what you get and if you compare it to other parts of the world, well, you will certainly feel that you are not getting value for money. A budget room us going to be at least $30USD. In Kribi I paid more than that for a real bare-basics room – air conditioning though – for example no toilet seat in this place!
The currency I the Central Africa Franc. It’s used widely amongst the French-speaking West African nations, however there are multiple versions of it depending which region, and say the CFA in Burkina Faso is not used in Cameroon, despite the exchange rate being identical. 1USD = 543CFA, 1 Euro = 656CFA which I believe is a locked in rate. – As in it doesn’t change, the CFA us tied to the Euro. Exchanging money is not an easy or fun exercise. Firstly, forget traveller’s cheques, I brilliant brought some and didn’t get to exchange any whilst I was there. Euros in cash is easily your best bet. I changed pounds and USD but it was all a bit shady done in the back seat of a car after I couldn’t exchange any at the official changers.
The climate’s humid and hot almost the whole year. Or humid and very warm at other times. The humidity does keep the temperature down to some degree. I went in the middle of July, noticing a gap in the high rainfall of this time of year on the climatic chart. I was lucky, there was two days of rain but otherwise cloudy and never more than around 27-28 degrees. It was actually really good weather and I think the coolest time of the year. When it did rain, boy did it RAIN! And in August there is a lot of rain most days so perhaps keep clear of that month in particular.
I travel with a friend, and I think this is really worthwhile in this part of the world. Travel is not so easy in West Africa, there were some buses but a lot o travel was by shared taxi and the like. Which can mean negotiating, getting squashed, having your pack sit in fish water for a whole journey (actually happened) and very uncertain departure and arrival times. Having someone with you is great because you can support each other and keep positive because there are plenty of frustrations, but you are still in one of the most beautiful parts of this world. Also to share accommodation costs.
I flew into Douala and out of the capital Yaounde. The flight out still stopped in Douala on the way back to Zurich, but I often find it a great idea to fly out of a different location to the one from which you arrived.
Douala arrival hall was something else. I arrived at night and the baggage carousels are just before the exit. It’s quite mad and touts came up to me whilst I waited to collect my bag. Personally I choose not to go with the people who approach you, I like to find someone just waiting patiently as I find they are kinder and less likely to rip you off. The airport is super close to downtown Douala. I stayed at the Minotel there, and could see the airport from my window.
Check Out – First Taste Cameroon – Douala
Once you do make it to Cameroon, what is there to do? Well, Douala is a great starting point however it is not a city which will keep you busy for long in terms of things to see and do. It is however the place to sort out whatever you need to sort out in terms of exchanging money and perhaps booking some onward accommodation. If there is something you need to buy for your travels, you’re best bet to find it is here. Also possibly if you are flying out from Douala it’s a good place to buy souvenirs. It’s often limited in West Africa but multi-coloured material is popular, and there are carvings and the like to buy. Your best bet too for posting anything home from here I guess.
Following the trail I took it was a bus south to Kribi, a place I highly recommend. Again, and this is the case with much of Cameroon, it’s not because there’s a lot to do. You can see the Chutes des Lopes, a waterfall, and there you can take a boat up the river into the jungle (which in all fairness is pretty cool and for a second I felt ever so slightly intrepid, which of course I’m not) and visit a pigmy village. Otherwise spend some time explore and chilling, it’s very photogenic and people were okay with being photographed if asked first.
See also – Sunday Spotlight – Kribi
Yaounde is the capital and it’s not an unattractive city. It’s got a little colonial part which is rustic in a good way, and then there’s an open air museum I couldn’t get inside because it was closed but it had a load of traditional dwellings and looked interesting. There are a few other places that look interesting – the ‘Blacktitude Museum’ for example, monuments, churches etc.
The rest of where I went is in the northern part, the ‘Anglophone’ part of Cameroon, so this is the part you need to check before you go. Limbe is not so far into the areas with problems. However it has been touched – there was an attack on a school in November 2020. This is home to a wonderful wildlife primate sanctuary there which looks after primates that were rescued from poachers. You can see the oil rigs just out on the bay, and the botanical gardens there are nice for a short visit. Not a bad spot to climb Mt Cameroon too you should be able to find a guide to take you there in Limbe.
Do check out – Cameroon in Crisis
What is left is the beautiful Bamenda and Ring Road Area, further north and an area really affected by attacks in the last few years. The ring road is as the name suggests a circular road linking many towns/villages. It’s a beautiful area, there are some amazing waterfalls, you can take public transport if you like or maybe walk parts of it. Of course, not a place to go whilst there are any tensions, attacks or fighting.
All in all Cameroon is a great country, and there is more to it obviously – it’s not a small country and I only had two and a bit weeks there, and so what I’ve covered is only from my own experiences. It might be a country you consider as and if things improve with the Covid situation over the next months and years. Here’s hoping they do and here’s hoping for the people of northern Cameroon that disputes are settled and peace returns to such a beautiful part of the world!
Thanks for reading today, take care, and May the Journey Never End!