The Ivory coast is an excellent place to find out more about Africa's history art and culture, the tense political situation has unfortunately made it somewhat difficult to take advantage of all that the country has to offer. The country is also blessed with some fantastic natural beauty including the Comoë National Park which is the largest in Africa.
The FCO currently advises against any non-essential travel to the Ivory Coast due to a tense political situation in the country. Reconciliation talks suffered a setback in September 2003 when the rebel movement suspended its participation in the government of national reconciliation. A comprehensive ceasefire has been holding but the situation remains tense particularly in areas west of Daloa and around Yamoussoukro which are not fully under governmental control.
- Currency: CFA Franc (CFAFr) = 100 centimes
- Time Zone: GMT
- Language: French
- Telephone Services: Country code +225, International access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: Not present
The Ivory Coast has a largely tropical climate. There are four distinct seasons with the dry seasons occurring during December to April and August to September. The two rainy seasons run during May to July and October to November. The temperature is hot all year round reaching a peak around February and March.
Things to see and do
Abidjan is the biggest city in the Ivory Coast and until 1983 was the capital of the country. The city is however informally considered to still be the capital city, a fact shown by its bustling atmosphere and enormous population. There is a considerable proportion of French ex-pats which has lead to the city acquiring the nickname of the "Paris of West Africa". Sights worth seeing include the spectacular Hotel Ivoire which is an enormous hotel complex containing swimming pools, an ice rink and even a cinema within its confines. Also of interest is the St Paul's Cathedral whose tower boasts the best view in the city. The cathedral was built in 1985 and was consecrated by the Pope himself. When the city gets all too much there is a fantastic rainforest reserve just out of town called the Parc du Banco which is one of the essential sights of the region.
Yamoussoukro conjures up images of typical European beaurocracy with its unfinished roads, deserted eight lane highways and concrete block dwellings. This result was achieved when President Houphouët-Boigny came to power in the sixties and subsequently began spending enormous sums of money developing his native village. The most extreme and beautiful example of this insane spending spree is the three million dollar Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix which is an exact replica of Rome's St Peter's Cathedral. The basilica was constructed in only three years and the fantastic stained windows were hand made in France. The city's nightlife is impressive with a good range of bars and nightclubs and a lively population to make a night out in this city unforgettable.
Note that the current political situation makes travelling alone after dark somewhat dangerous due to criminals which take advantage of the political tension. Always walk in a group and take a taxi wherever possible.
Air Ivoire runs a domestic air service between Abidjan and all major towns. Although this may be prohibitively expensive for short journeys it is useful when combining the Ivory Coast as part of a larger African Tour.
There is a rail link between Abidjan and Ouagadougou, happily this is one of the most efficient rail links in Africa and runs daily trains stopping at Bouaké and Ferkessédougou. Fares are generally cheap with the "rapide" service which only runs as far as Bouaké costing about a third less than the full express train. Children under 4 enjoy free travel while those between four and 9 pay half fares.
The roads in the Ivory Coast are very good by African standards and there are numerous bush taxi's and bus services available. There are small privately owned buses available cheaply for short distance travel, they are generally well maintained as well as comfortable and affordable. For longer journeys there is generally at least one company offering a coach service with air conditioning.
There are a reasonable number of hotels in major cities, particularly in Abidjan which boasts several of international standard. In general most towns will offer three classes of accommodation ranging from luxury right down to economy which are pretty basic. Hotels are busy so it is advisable to book your stay in advance.
There isn't much bed and breakfast or hostel style accommodation available in the country and due to the current political climate we would recommend travellers to stay in a reputable hotel rather than the more tradition lodging used by backpackers.
Healthcare in major towns is up to international standards if not western ones. You will be required to pay for any medical care you receive so comprehensive travel insurance is essential. In addition it is recommended that you purchase a policy which will cover the cost of repatriation if necessary.
Vaccinations are required for yellow fever, cholera and typhoid when visiting the Ivory Coast. These can be obtained from your local GP who should also advise you against any other vaccinations which are recommended. There is a serious malaria risk in the country, even in urban areas. There have been reported cases of resistance to chloroquine so mefloquine is the recommended treatment. You should consult your GP about malaria and its treatment before you take any medication however.
All water should be treated as potentially contaminated and should be sterilised before use for any purpose. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled before use, dairy products should be avoided due to the high probability of having been made from improperly sterilised milk. Meat should be well cooked all of the way through and eaten hot, fruits and vegetables should be washed and where appropriate cooked or peeled before consumption.
Air Ivoire runs the domestic air service in the country
Africa Guide offers some good travel advice for those visiting the Ivory Coast