Guinea- Sierra Leone

14 days,  December 07- January 08




Kind of travel: Alone in a 100% independent travel

When: 24th Dec07- 05th Jan08

How I moved: shared taxis and minibus reach most of the villages and the main roads are paved, but still travelling is a pain since one seat is at least for two people (and maybe with one child)

Freezing or baking?: Dry season (Dec- Jan) is the best period of the year to visit the country. It's hot (24-28 C) and a little humid, but never unpleasantly

Where I slept: no shortage of cheap guesthouses, however electricity and running water are unreliable

What I liked: the 100km by motorbike through the remote area from Kabala (Sierra Leone) to Faranah and the tasty Guilluxe beer!!

What I disliked: the bribing culture spread everywhere, the awful Conakry and the 8h travel pressed like hell being 4 people in the front row of a Peugeot 505

How much daily: 250km by shared taxi 7$, a double room 5-8$. Amazingly I found the food as costy as accommodations (chicken and rise: 5$)!! Averagely it makes around 25-30$/day

Dangers/ hassles: Three risks: malaria (I took Lariam), the strikes against the dictator Contè and the main one, the car crashes.

What to bring: a flash lamp, a mosquito-net and a handy French dictionary


[Entering from Sierra Leone]

In Kabala I organised the 100km motorbike trip across the remote region of Sierra Leone bordering with Guinea. The next day I left early, and it was a loooong day. (read about it)
More than a road it turned out to be a trail, where few parts were diffult even by a powerful motorbike. Changing bike at the border and passing several check-points I made it to the Guinean town of Faranah where I took a shared taxi to Mamou (3h)
From here easily I reached Dabala, a good place where to settle down to do some walks in the Fouta Djalon region. This is a bucolic hilly area plenty of waterfalls, easy tracks and several possibilities to sleep in the villages.
From Mamou it took terrible 8 hours packed with other 4 people on the front seats of a Peoguet 505 to get to Conakry. Here, after experiencing the tear-gases shot by the militaries to some riots against the dictator Condè, I flew back home.






It could be I didn't spent that much time in the country, it could be I used it more as an harbour to my real destination Sierra Leone, it could be I've some prejudices on the ex-France colonises (sorry I'm a human being), it could be at that time there were a lot of strikes and riots against Contè, but frankly I didn't get mad for Guinea Conakry. The green hilly trekking area of Fouta Djalon won't disappoint you and generally I didn't experience all the bribing I was expecting, but there was something dodgy in the way people were approaching me. Anyway the main concern for you will be the stability of a country really ready to engage a civil war against his dictator.
Now it's safe, but keep updated!


Funny stories




To take public means of transport in Guinea is an adventure, and it can happen to see drivers being half way between a mechanic and a wizard.
I was on a crowdy minibus getting from Conakry to Freetown. The travel had already had its surprises: request of bribes at the check points, smashed chickens attempting to cross the road (really!), but its best happened when I noticed the driver was slowing down. He seemed worried about something , so, instead to running like hell on the bumpy dusty road, he was going like a normal sane driver: in Africa this is impossible, that's why I was sure something was wrong. The minibus stopped for a moment. A young guy lied down sliding under it. He fumbled for ten minutes, but at the end he didn't' seemed satisfied of the result. The minibus left , then it stopped leaving again but just for few hundreds meters. The problem seemed to be at the transmission of the steering wheel, and consequently it couldn't follow the sharp bends. The driver and few guys spoke a little bit. They seemed to have found the solution. The minibus speed up, till the first curve, then it slowed down something like 10km/h, one of the guy got off running aside the vehicle and with fast and repetitive knocks BY HAND he was turning one of the wheels. Obviously he had to be very fast to avoid the hand got crushed between the wheel and the road. Once the bend was done, the guy got on again till the next one.

I was a little pissed off on the way from Mamou to Conakry, since after having sweatly conquered the front row of a shared taxi, I realised there were three people (adults, not kids!!!) sharing the seat with me!! It should have been a 5 hours journey but it took 8!!
Almost immediately after leaving Mamou I understood something was wrong with the car. The driver was stopping frequently, looking around for a house, asking for some water and filling the overheated radiator. It was clear there was a leakage in that shitty radiator.
Almost half way from Conakry we had to surrender it wasn't possible to proceed in such conditions. The driver decided he had to fix it, but I was wondering how??
The car stopped in front of a stall, and the guy bought a 'super-attack glue'. Then he took the only two keys he had: a screwdriver and a monkey wrench. I thought there was no way to dismount the radiator (with the fan, all the piping, and the front cover of the car) only by such tools, but I was wrong and after 40min, the radiator, which all the other parts, were on the ground. Amazingly he unscrewed all the nuts, that didn't fit with the monkey wrench he had (almost all!!), just hitting them with the screw driver!
"Now he his going to weld the radiator" one of the passengers told me.
The driver took the glue and mixed it with the sand. Then he 'welded' the damaged fins of the radiator just coating them by such mixture.
He remounted everything again (I've no clue how he could tighten the nuts) and after 2 hours the car was ready to leave.
Great job man!!





You cannot get directly at the airport, but anyway providing the yellow fever certifiacte and the copy of the flight tickets I got a 3 months multiple entry visa for 150euro from the Italian consulate in 3 days.



The Guinea Francis the local currency and the chance ratio at the time of the travel (Dec07) was:
1 USD= 4100 GNF. (buying GNF)
1 EURO= 6100 GNF (buying GNF)
You can change money almost everywhere and you can pay bigger amounts (ie accommodation) directly in $, but you risk to be cheated with the change ratio




The yellow fever certificate is mandatory to get the visa. I had it attached to the passport so I cannot say if they border guards really require it. Anyway I wouldnt' see the point to take the risk to travel without being vaccinatinated.
I took Lariam against Malaria. Be aware that it's a risky country as concerns Malaria, on the other hands if you travel in the dry season (Nov- April), having a mosquito net, wearing long pants, long sleeve shirts and abounding with insect repellent you can avoid the famigerated Lariam profilassys.
Take into consideration to buy Malarone instead of Lariam, although it's a daily dose (Lariam weekly) and more expensive, it doesn't give Lariam side effects.
If you r gonna staying for a long period in the country, obviously you have to do your counts among risks, money and side-effects!

Morevover I had the usual vaccinations: Ephatite A, B, Typhus, Tetanus, Meningitis.
I hadn't any problem with the food or the drinks, never drinking tap water, obviously.




Bottle water
Always check if the bottle is well sealed. Twice it happened to me to get an already opened bottle, I guess they refill with normal water.

If you r sensitive to the night noises, take into account the position of the generator choising your room. Nertheless your window can probably be next to the neighbour generators, so ear plugs could be the only solution

Guide and info
The best source of info I found is the Sierra Leone section of the West Africa 6th edition, 2006 Lonely Planet; it's 30 well done pages. Also the 14 pages of the Africa 2007 Lonely Planet are concentrated but fundamental. Then it comes the TT forum, essential to be updated about the safety in the country

Bribes from soldiers at the check points turned out to be not so bad as I thought. For sure border points are the shittest places from this point of view (from every point of view) but keep always some change with you. Corrupted soldiers don't give change :-)

On taxi de brousse
Avoid seating in the front row, since it means both to be packed with other 4 people (4 NOT 3!) and in case of car crash (probable!), you will be the first to be shot outside the car, passing trought the windshield.