A Travellerspoint blog

May 2019

TOGO - the heat...


View 2019 Benin - Togo on ToddP's travel map.

BENIN-TOGO trip
I struggled to plan my visit to Benin and Togo because there is such a lack of information in comparison with other more visited places in the World. Also being ex-French colonies would explain why the majority of the travellers would be from the French speaking world and would not leave many reviews in English. Even the information for visa processes varied depending on the source of information. In Togos case even the embassy in Europe could not confirm the requirements for visa on arrival at the border check-point. Hmmm

These are pure cash societies so plan accordingly. We could not even pay for the hotels on a card (however € was accepted a few times). We knew this prior to travelling so it wasn’t a surprise for us at least. Banks do exist and they’re the best place to be actually during the day as the air-conditioned room is a nice escape during the heat of the day for half an hour or so. :)

It is Africa and both are developing countries with very few tourists so I should have had some reasonable expectation to all of the above when planning :)
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TOGO
"What's in Togo? Why Togo?" Who knows...let's explore it

DAY 4
It’s day four of our trip and we are at the border crossing arriving here from Grand Popo in Benin. As we did not have our visas secured in advance and no confirmed information of what’s required, we had a potential risk that we might have issues here. We had all forms printed from the London embassy website, pictures taken, confirmation of the return flight, etc. but this was completely unnecessary.
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Only Yellow fever cards were checked. We were given immigration forms to fill out and after moving from one desk to another and after a few stamps the formalities were over. We just paid the visa fee in cash and we were free to go. Another final check by an officer outside and we are free to explore Togo. Not even a picture was required.

We walked for a few hundred metres to the top of the shared taxi queue and we agreed to be taken to Agbodrafo village on the N2.

AGBODRAFO
This was our stop for a Togoville visit. We walked to one hotel on the lake which we knew was expensive, but we thought we’d chance our arms and they might do us a ‘good deal’ while we were there. :) This was not the case and we walked out. Guess what?- there was a moto outside who agreed to bring us to our next option along the beach. We were thrilled as did not have to walk in this heat.
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After weeks and weeks of research and chats on WhatsApp I had a tour guide organised in Togoville who would show us around. After my research it was confirmed that the chief of the village will not let anyone walk around on their own and a local guide is required.

The lady from our hotel brought us in her car to the lakeside (we stayed at the beach front) where we managed to negotiate a boat ride across the lake (1.000CFA each one way). Our guide was waiting for us in town and walked us around for an hour or so.
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On the way back it was the same and we agreed the same price for the boat. In Agbodrafo we walked around the village, visited the slave museum (guided around by an older guy who only spoke French) and walked back along the coast.

The room had AC and we were happy enough to pay 25.000CFA which included one breakfast (another breakfast was extra 2.000CFA...I think). We even had our dinner here, which wasn’t cheap but we were that bit far out of town and did not fancy trekking in to the village.
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DAY 5
Our next stop was Kpalime which required us heading in to Lome first and getting another shared taxi north. The hotel staff brought us on the bike to the main road and we were in a shared taxi in no time. 1.200CFA pp did sound like a reasonable fare to Lome.

The driver asked where are we going and said that he will bring us to the right place in Lome for us to catch the next car for Kpalime. When we arrived in the ‘station’ area, this was when the fun started. He would not give us our bags unless we paid him another 1.000CFA for the extra journey from town to here. We argued that it’s too much and a lot of people got involved, and everyone was talking to everyone. Long story short we were not happy but we paid him the 1.000CFA and got our bags (not a big deal as I was ready to give him a tip anyway for the extra journey).

The next car was ready to go and 2.000CFA pp agreed and off we go again.

KPALIME
This was a much bigger place than expected. As we had nothing booked we got off in the middle of town and thought this was a good start. Our French let us down and instead of some lodging it was the city hall. Oops.
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We took a moto-bike to get us to our next option. We managed to book a room in the hotel for the night.

I had a contact for a guide and messaged him that we are here. Received no reply from him so we wandered off in to town for lunch and a haircut.
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Talk about the heat!!…and the trip to the waterfall did sound like a great option for a swim. Thought we’d try a taxi as it was 40min away. Taxi driver got as low as 15.000CFA and would not take us for our offered fare of 10.000CFA. We knew it was too cheap and it was the first time on this trip that someone refused to take money. So we took two motos who agreed to bring us there and wait for us. Was a great idea as the road is NON-EXISTENT. Seeing is believing! While cars did drive there (I don’t know how) it would have taken us hours to get there and back.

On the way we paid some local tax at the side of the road of 2.500CFA total (official receipts and pink ticket given) and another 1.000CFA pp later on as well as an entry ticket to the waterfalls (less official and more local hand written paper issued). :)

Both moto drivers walked with us all the way down the steep steps to the waterfall and the next second, we all swimming together under the waterfall. A French group were just about to leave so it was nice and quiet around. This was a refreshing experience… :)
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DAY 6
KPALIME

We had few options in mind for the day like trekking Mt Agou or trekking Mt Kpalime. As I’d heard nothing back from my contact I asked the hotel reception to recommend a guide the previous evening. We met and discussed prices and all options (this was more complicated than it had to be, but after half an hour we got to understand each other). We decided to go to Chateau Viale (7.500CFA each instead initial price of 15.000CFA) and skip any of the walks as it was super-hot.

Met the guys with their motos outside the hotel and then we learned that we need to get another permit to enter the area from the local county council – 5.000CFA total. We had no choice. So we went to the local county offices with the lads, who asked the security to enter the office, discussed all with the PA of the big boss, we paid the money, paper issued, signed and stamped, brought to the big boss and brought back to us. We were on our trip finally.
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Was a good road all the way with a couple of road blockades were we had to stop. The first one was fine and our permit was checked and we were free to go. The discussion at the second one took much longer than the first one and I only can guess that some money was expected. We definitely had no intention to pay anyone as our ‘tour’ was all inclusive and we had the official paperwork ready. The lads clearly weren’t prepared to share their earnings either and somehow, we were free to go.
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We liked Kpalime as we found this great restaurant that had a full western style menu (ie printed sheet with food and prices on it and even options for dessert) and also a great bar that had a live band playing. Good fun!
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DAY 7
We need to get back to Lome for the final leg of the trip. Same old story – car on the side of the road and price agreed of 2.000CFA each. We were on our way…or so we thought. We circled in town for some time to pick up extra people. Then out of town a big discussion took place saying that we should pay for an extra seat as the demand is high (according to our driver there should be 4 people at the back). We nearly got out of the car as we did not agree to pay extra. Etc Etc Etc – extra person in the car and we are finally on our way to Lome (driver +1 at the front and 4 at the back). Slightly annoyed, but at least we are moving finally.

LOME
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Before leaving Kpalime we booked our hotel in Lome so we did not have to trek around the city to find a place to stay. After arriving at the familiar parking lot in Lome we took a moto from the side of the road who brought us to the beach front location of our hotel (400CFA each).

Glad we were allowed to check in early as this was such a nice place and we just lounged at the pool area. We enjoyed the swim immensely…
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DAY 8
Time to explore the city. There’s not much to it but we had all day to kill before our midnight flight back.

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Similar to the set-up in Cotonou (Benin) the airport shuttle was included in the room rate and the service was exceptional with AC and all. What a nice touch.

Goodbye TOGO!

Posted by ToddP 04:11 Archived in Togo Comments (3)

BENIN - "yavo...yavo"

32 °C
View 2019 Benin - Togo on ToddP's travel map.

BENIN-TOGO trip
I struggled to plan my visit to Benin and Togo because there is such a lack of information in comparison with other more visited places in the World. Also being ex-French colonies would explain why the majority of the travellers would be from the French speaking world and would not leave many reviews in English. Even the information for visa processes varied depending on the source of information. In Togos case even the embassy in Europe could not confirm the requirements for visa on arrival at the border check-point. Hmmm

These are pure cash societies so plan accordingly. We could not even pay for the hotels on a card (however € was accepted a few times). We knew this prior to travelling so it wasn’t a surprise for us at least. Banks do exist and they’re the best place to be actually during the day as the air-conditioned room is a nice escape during the heat of the day for half an hour or so. :)

It is Africa and both are developing countries with very few tourists so I should have had some reasonable expectation to all of the above when planning :)
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BENIN
Everywhere we went we were greeted by shouting voices not only children but adults as well "Yavo! Yavo!" which is "White Man!". Did not bother us as we were told that this not an derogatory remark...and after all we were a 'white man' that stood out in the crowd. :)

DAY 1
COTONOU

At arrival in Cotonou airport we were greeted by a nice bunch of immigration officers. As we did not have an eVisa in advance we asked for visa-on-arrival (VOA). That did not surprise anyone and we just had to wait until everyone from the flight cleared immigration. Yellow fever cards were checked of course. We were escorted out to the office to get the VOA (actually had to stop at the currency exchange as all payments to be made in CFA only). The officer did not mind waiting for us while we exchanged the €. In the office all was straight forward and after answering a few questions (“How long?”, “Tourist?”) visas were added to our passports and we paid all visa fees as expected (10.000CFA).
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If you do book a hotel in Cotonou at anything from €50 a night upwards the airport transfers are normally included. This was a fantastic service as it was late in the day and in an unknown place it was good to have someone waiting for you.

DAY 2
COTONOU – PORTO NOVO – GANVIE – COTONOU

The next day after a simple breakfast we were met by our tour guide for the day. After weeks and weeks of research and chats on WhatsApp this was booked with all details arranged. The tour included Cotonou city – Porto Novo – Ganvie and back to Cotonou. With the car and all guides for the two of us it came to €130. The only extra was our lunch but everything else was included.

PORTO NOVO
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GANVIE
We took a private boat (part of the tour) and we were brought around the water village of Ganvie. This is a fantastic experience to see anything like this. Stopped at a local but very ‘touristy’ place for lunch and a few souvenirs. This was the MOST EXPENSIVE meal we had on our entire trip so please be warned.
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COTONOU
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Could this be done on your own- off course, but on our day one we wanted to see as much as possible and this definitely did that for us. We didn’t waste any time on the day trying to find anyone to get us around, which was great. Off course we paid for this privilege ????

DAY 2
COTONOU to OUIDAH

After another uneventful breakfast (I see a trend coming here) and with our bags we took a zemidjan (a motorbike taxi) from the side of the road to bring us to the Place de l’Etoile Rouge where we could get a shared taxi to Ouidah. We zipped through all the traffic and paid 300CFA each for this ride. What an experience! The guidebook warns about zemidjans for not being safe, which by European standards is probably true. But at the same time the streets are busy, and they do not ‘fly like crazy’. No you don’t get a helmet, but you are in a very different world.
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We asked around who might be going to Ouidah as there was no apparent place where the shared taxis are parked. We learnt our first Benenese lesson that someone knows someone and someone owns something (even the actual location of the kerb) and within seconds there was a shared taxi going to our location with other people in it. Magic. After a few, but straight-forward negotiations, we agreed on a fare of 1.000CFA per person. Then the driver was looking for 2.000CFA, but after us stepping out and not agreeing to pay a dime extra he was OK to continue further on the trip.
Along the road the car stops if there is a fare and more people get on board. Max capacity at the front is the driver + 2, at the back is 3 (however we had a trip with 4 of u at the back once). Personal space is a rare commodity, but for a couple hours out of your life it’s manageable.
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OUIDAH
We truly liked this place. Was good to be out of the madness of Cotonou and experience a more tranquil place in Benin. We had an idea where to stay, but after getting there and finding out that they were full (only 6 rooms in the place) we were recommended another auberge. We walked there, agreed on a fan room for 10.000CFA + petit dejeuner simple for 1.500CFA each and got ourselves settled. The auberge was on the main road (RNIE1) which is bit out of town, so we just used zemidjans again to get around (300CFA each a ride). Not a big deal.
It was scorching hot during the day and standing on the beach beside the Gate of No Return felt even more sad thinking about all the slaves that had to walk to here from the town in this heat to ‘start’ their journey across the Atlantic. Journey of No Return…
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DAY 3
OUIDAH to GRAND POPO

We were on the way to Grand Popo. At this stage we knew the ‘system’ and just stood at the side of the road looking for a car heading our way. Another gentlemen was standing there with all his cargo looking for a ride (but going to a different place I think…To be noted- our French was limited so our understanding of what’s going on even when someone explains was that bit limited ????). I think he stopped a car going our way. Don’t ask why or how- car just stopped and we agreed a price of 1.000CFA each and we were on our way.

GRAND POPO
It’s a small place and not much to the town. But the beach front location is a beautiful one with the sound of the waves crashing to the shore. We found a lovely local bar/restaurant that served very cold drinks and very good food at local prices. Win win here!
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DAY 4
GRAND POPO to the border crossing of TOGO

We needed to get to the border and try to cross in to Togo. All the same again and another shared taxi from the side of the road (800CFA each).
We got off just shortly before the border as we had to change some € in the bank (another cool down in the air-conditioned office!) and walked the last few hundred meters to the actual border check.
No issue leaving Benin as the officers just looked at the visa and stamped our exit and wished us all the best.
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Now we were in no man’s land and hoping for the best to secure a VOA in Togo.
Goodbye BENIN. Off we go…

Posted by ToddP 05:36 Archived in Benin Comments (4)

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