The independent republic of the Ivory Coast (or Côte d'Ivoire)lies on the south coast of the bulge of West Africa, consistingmainly of a vast plateau (except for mountains in the northwestextremity), hemmed in by five other countries and the AtlanticOcean. Once, its main cities of Abidjan and Yamoussoukro wereshowpieces of the continent, politically stable and economicallysound, attractive not only by dint of the physical beauty thatabounds in the country but also boasting a rich culture.
In 2002 an armed rebellion split the nation, and although apeace deal between the rebels and the government was brokered in2003, implementation was difficult and a further peace accord hadto be signed in 2007. There has been relative stability since 2010when Alassane Ouattara became president; although the beginning of2017 did see some political upheaval. Most western governmentsadvise travellers to steer clear of the western region of thecountry bordering Liberia, due to the risk of violence by the localmilitias.
Tourists that do brave the political situation can experienceattractions in the Ivory Coast like one of the last remainingvirgin rainforests in West Africa at the Tai National Park, anunspoilt wonderland of huge trees, gurgling streams and abundantwildlife. Then there is the impressive Cascade Waterfall, locatedin a bamboo forest in the lush region around the town of Man, whichalso hosts the intriguing annual Festival of Masks with performingstilt-dancers.
The cities are also worthy experiences. The capitalYamoussoukro, a unique city in Africa, boasts a full-sizedbasilica, reminiscent of St Peter's in Rome. The stunningcathedral, an internationally-rated golf course and multi-lanehighways that disappear into the jungle, were built courtesy oflong-term president Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who bestowed all thesegifts on his hometown.
The largest city, Abidjan, has a cosmopolitan flavour lent to itby its large French and Lebanese communities. Abidjan presents anattractive aspect, set on a lagoon and boasting high-rise buildingslike the spectacular Hotel Ivoire. The city has its landmarkcathedral too; St Paul's was built in 1985 and was consecrated bythe Pope. The city has a vibrant nightlife and bustling atmosphere,offering a few good museums for sightseeing and a rainforestreserve called Parc du Banco for shady relaxation.
Despite political unrest and societal challenges, Ivory Coast isundoubtedly a country of great beauty and potential.
The Ivory Coast has a number of interesting attractionsavailable for sightseeing. Abidjan itself has the Parc du Banco onthe outskirts of the city, where visitors can experience therainforest's flora and fauna. Inside Abidjan city is the HotelIvoire, which is a glamourous place to stay. St Paul's Cathedral isanother site within the city of Abidjan worth a visit forsightseeing tourists.
Further afield, visitors can see the capital city (by name only)of Yamoussoukro, which is famous for multiple-lane highways leadingstraight into the jungle, or city streets and blocks all laid out,but with no houses or structures lining the streets. Yamoussoukrois also famous for the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace ofYamoussoukro (Basilica Notre Dame), which is roughly based on St.Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. The town of Man is also well-knownfor its fabric and the traditional masks on sale, as well as forits surrounding waterfalls and beautiful natural scenery.
Tourists looking for a little entertainment in Abidjan shouldhead to the area of Treichville, a small commune located in thesouthwest of the city. Full of bars and restaurants, as well as arace course, swimming pool and sports park, this is the area inwhich visitors are most likely to run into other tourists or expatsbased in Abidjan. While visitors should check with their hotel onthe safety situation before stepping out at night, Treichville iscertainly the place to go if they want to sample some of the city'ssurprisingly vibrant nightlife. The market is worth a visit duringthe day, as it offers an array of interesting and affordableitems.
Designed by Italian architect Aldo Spirito and covering amassive 14,625 square feet (4,500m square), this cathedral isreputedly Africa's second-largest church building and can seat morethan 3,500 people. Pope John Paul II inaugurated the cathedral in abeautiful opening ceremony in August 1985. The tower itself is saidto be a figure of St Paul, while the buildings behind the towerrepresent his robes. The interior of the cathedral includes anumber of beautiful stained-glass tableaux. The building alsooffers spectacular views of the city that tourists can enjoy.
Yamoussoukro is the official capital of Ivory Coast, though thisseems to be in name only. The city is a five-hour drive fromAbidjan and appears to be one of Africa's strangest capitals. Pavedstreets and street lamps were built in preparation for the buzzingmetropolis Yamoussoukro was supposed to be; however thisdevelopment never came to pass, meaning streets now exist withlittle to nothing between them. The city's main attraction is theunforgettable Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro(Cathedrale Notre Dame de la Paix or Basilica Notre Dame). Largerthan St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Yamoussoukro's basilicais the largest Christian church in the world. It was roughly basedon the Vatican's St. Peter's, and even though the Basilica of OurLady of Peace seats slightly fewer people than St. Peter's, it hasa taller dome and a larger surface area. The stained-glass windowsare also exceptionally beautiful. The Basilica Notre Dame wasconsecrated by Pope John Paul II.
Man is a small town situated to the west of the central regionof Ivory Coast. The town is known as the best area to buy thefamous Yacouba masks, as well as beautiful traditional fabrics. Manis part of Dix-Huit Montagnes Region and is an important markettown lying between mountains, including Mount Toura and MountTonkoui (the two highest in the country), and La Dent de Man,popular with hikers. Mount Tonkoui towers over the town at 4,000feet (1,220m) and is quite a challenge for avid climbers. There arealso a number of rivers and waterfalls, such as La Cascade, whichis set in a bamboo forest close to the outskirts of the town.
The Parc National de Tai (Tai National Park) is undoubtedly themost staggering natural attraction the Ivory Coast has to offer.One of the last remaining areas of virgin rainforest in the wholeof Africa, the Park was inscribed in UNESCO's list of WorldHeritage Sites as far back as 1982. The spectacular primary forestis filled with trees that reach up to 150 feet (46m), blocking outthe sunlight, and allowing for a dark, dank, and dense undergrowthto flourish. The park is also home to no less than five species ofmammal included in the 'red list' on endangered animals: pygmyhippopotamuses, Olive Colobus monkeys, leopards, chimpanzees andJentink's Duikers.
Located about an hour away from Yamoussoukro, the Parc Nationald'Abokouamekro (Abokouamekro National Park) is an up-and-comingIvory Coast tourist attraction of great promise. Covering over21,000 hectares of verdant grassland, criss-crossed by rivers andpunctuated by towering trees, Abokouamekro National Park is also animportant game reserve, offering refuge to the region's threatenedwildlife. Visitors can gaze in wonder at the seemingly endlessrolling green vistas, and be on the lookout for rhinos, giraffe,buffalo, hippos, monkeys and more.
Abidjan, like the rest of Ivory Coast, enjoys a tropical monsoonclimate. Temperatures in this coastal city tend to remain in theregion of 70°F (21°C) to 90°F (32°C) year-round. Abidjanexperiences the majority of its rain during the monsoon months fromMay to July. October and November can be wet months but the averagerainfall for the rest of the year remains minimal. Humidity isgenerally high, particularly from January to June when temperaturestend to remain constant at about 86°F (30°C). The best time tovisit is during the cooler and drier months between November andJanuary.
The coastal region, where temperatures stay fairly constantbetween 73°F to 80°F (23°C to 27°C), is dry for most of the year,experiencing an intensely wet rainy season between mid-May andmid-July. In the central forest region of the country, however, itis continually wet and humid. The hottest part of the country isthe northern savannah, where temperatures can reach 90°F (32°C).The north experiences a long wet season from June to October.
There are a few good places for tourists to eat; from localcheap and cheerful spots with brochettes (kebabs) and beer, toLebanese and French restaurants. Although leaving their hotel atnight can be unsafe for tourists, Le Plateau is worth visiting ifthey do venture out for a late lunch or early dinner. The area hasa small selection of restaurants.
The official currency is the West African CFA Franc (XOF),divided into 100 centimes. The CFA Franc is linked to the Euro at afixed rate of exchange. New notes were issued in 2004 and onlythose issued by the Bank of West African States (Banque des Étatsde l'Afrique de l'Ouest) are valid currency. There are a few ATMsin Abidjan but most will accept only Visa cards. It is unwise touse an ATM that is not guarded. Credit cards are accepted in thelarger hotels and more established restaurants. Most shops requirecash.
The official language of Ivory Coast is French but morethan 60 native dialects are spoken.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Plug types inuse are round pin attachment plugs or round pin plugs andreceptacles with a male grounding pin.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least sixmonths beyond the period of intended stay, and require a visa toenter the Ivory Coast.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid for sixmonths beyound the period of intended stay. A visa is required.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond the period of intended stay, and require avisa to enter the Ivory Coast.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond the period of intended stay, and require avisa to enter the Ivory Coast.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond the period of intended stay, and require avisa to enter the Ivory Coast.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for at leastsix months beyond the period of intended stay, and require a visato enter the Ivory Coast.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least sixmonths beyond the period of intended stay, and require a visa toenter the Ivory Coast.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond the period of intended stay, and require avisa to enter the Ivory Coast.
All foreign passengers to the Ivory Coast must hold proof ofarranged accommodation, return/onward tickets, and the necessarytravel documentation for their next destination. Note that a yellowfever vaccination certificate is required to enter the Ivory Coast.Visitors will need to get an e-visa prior to arriving. The processis straightforward and is done completely online.
NOTE: It is highly recommended that travellers' passports haveat least six months' validity remaining after the intended date ofdeparture from their travel destination. Immigration officialsoften apply different rules to those stated by travel agents andofficial sources.
There are a variety of health risks prevalent in Ivory Coast,and a yellow fever vaccination is required for entry; immigrationofficials will check this at the airport. Cholera is present inrural areas, and malaria is widespread even in urban areas. Typhoidand Hepatitis A vaccinations are also recommended. Meningococcalvaccine is recommended for travel between November and June.HIV/AIDS is widespread and Dengue Fever can occur, so travellersshould pack an effective mosquito repellent. All water should besterilised before use, and milk, which is unpasteurised, should beboiled. Travellers should avoid dairy products and ensure meat iswell cooked and eaten hot. Fruit and vegetables should be cookedand/or peeled before consumption. Medical treatment in Abidjan isof reasonable standard, but private care is expensive, andfacilities outside the major towns are very limited. Medicalinsurance with provision for repatriation is essential.
A service charge is usually added to hotel and restaurant billsin Ivory Coast. Where it is not, a tip of 10 to 15 percent isacceptable. Taxi drivers usually expect 10 percent.
The political situation in Ivory Coast is volatile anddemonstrations can occur unexpectedly. Travellers should take carein public places and avoid crowds. If visitors decide to travel tothe Ivory Coast, careful personal security arrangements should bemade due to high levels of anti-western sentiment. Violent crime ison the increase, including armed break-ins, car jackings, muggingsand hold-ups in restaurants. Evening rush hour on Abidjan's Charlesde Gaulle Bridge is particularly dangerous.
Visitors should be meticulous in respecting the numerous armyand police roadblocks. Police and security forces can be excitableand undisciplined. Particular care should be taken in the north andwest of the country, where there have been frequent clashes. Alltravel to the 18 Montagnes and Moyen Cavally regions should beavoided. In the area between Duékoué and Odienne, armed elementsare often under the influence of drink or drugs, which makes themparticularly unpredictable. Travellers should be aware of con-menand touts when arriving at Abidjan airport. The bridges crossingthe lagoon in Abidjan should be avoided by those on foot. Taxis,except for metered orange taxis in Abidjan, are risky and oftenunroadworthy. Buses are overcrowded and best avoided. Sea bathingis dangerous as strong sea currents are present, and drownings arecommon.
Photographing military or government installations is forbiddenin Ivory Coast. Homosexuality is illegal. Dress is conservative formen and women. Shorts, tight clothing and strapless tops arefrowned upon anywhere except on the beach.
Business in the Ivory Coast is fairly formal with punctuality amust, though more casual cotton suits are acceptable attire.Business is often conducted in French, but translators are readilyavailable. Greeting and acknowledging each person present with ahandshake is important. Business hours are usually from 7.30am to12pm, and 2.30pm to 6pm on weekdays, and from 8am to 12pm onSaturdays.
The country code for Ivory Coast is +225. The outgoing code is00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UnitedKingdom). City/area codes are not required and all phone numbershave eight digits.
Travellers to the Ivory Coast do not need to pay customs duty on200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 25 cigars or 250g of tobacco;one bottle of wine and one of spirits; 500ml eau de toilette and250ml of perfume. Currency should be declared.
Tourist Office (Office du Tourisme), Abidjan: +225 2025 1600
Ivory Coast Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 7970300.
Ivory Coast Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7201 9601and +44 20 7235 6991.
Ivory Coast Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 (613) 236 9919.
United States Embassy, Abidjan: +225 2249 4000 and +225 22494594.
British Embassy, Abidjan: +225 2244 2669.
Canadian Embassy, Abidjan (also responsible for Australia): +2252030 0700.
Abidjan's public transport system can be difficult to navigate.There are a number of different taxis operating in the city: Orangetaxi cabs operate throughout the city and are the most expensivebut also generally the safest option; taxis of other coloursoperate only in specific areas, are usually shared, and tend to bemuch cheaper. Taxis are rarely metered and a fare should benegotiated before getting into the vehicle. Motorcycle taxis alsooperate in Abidjan, and although cheap, they are best avoided dueto safety concerns.
Buses operate along fixed routes in Abidjan, but are oftenovercrowded and plagued by petty theft, especially at bus stations.Ferries travel across the lagoon. Car hire is available at theairport, although self-drive is not recommended as roads can bechaotic and difficult to navigate. Often the best option forvisitors is to hire a vehicle with a driver. Mobile App taxiservices like TaxiJet (similar to Uber) are also an option fortravellers looking for convenience and safety.
Abidjan is not known as a tourist Mecca, but there are a coupleof interesting sites to visit while in the city. It is a spread outcity made up of a handful of districts but a good place to start atour (probably the only place) is Le Plateau. Starting at Laza Dela Republique and heading into the Tourist Information centre inthe Air Ivoire Building will give visitors a good idea of what canbe seen in Abidjan. From there they can walk up Blvd De laRepublique. Travellers will pass the flea market on the left-handside of the road and will find places to eat, but they shoulddefinitely take some water along.
Visitors who stay on this road will make their way to theCathedral St. Paul. This modern imposing Cathedral is certainly oneof the major landmarks in Abidjan. Built in honour of the Pope in1985, the architecture is meant to symbolise the form of Jesus,though with hints of elephant tusks, the symbol of Cote D'Ivoire.The National museum is a short walk from the Cathedral. Travellerscould make a day of this or at least half of one if they take theirtime.