Read / lees in : Nederlands
After escaping from the claws of the Gambian security forces for the second time, I could go visa hunting in Dakar/Senegal. By doing so I discovered that I underestimated traveling through Africa a
bit lot. My preparation is best described as: ‘Oh, I’ll just wing it’. That has up to now, much to my own surprise, been a very successful tactic. In part because we Dutch have the second best passport in the world. We need to arrange a visa for only thirty three countries before travelling to them. The majority of those countries however are African. To get a visa normally you go to the embassy to fill out a form, hand over a photo and you hard earned money, and that’s it. But here it’s not always that simple. A trip through West Africa therefore requires a carefully put together visa planning. Sensible people that make this trip prepare for it for months or even years, and depart with the necessary visas already in their passports! If only I were sensible.
It’s a puzzle
The visa policies of various countries is, to put it mildly, rather incoherent. The Ghana embassy in Dakar for instance only issues visas to residents of Senegal. That resident rule may not be applicable in other Ghanan embassies. Or you just need to be lucky with the employee you happen to have to deal with, and with which side of the bed he came up on that morning. On top of that the requirements for the application and supporting documents vary per branch as well as the prices. For that reason I skipped Ghana for example. Why would I go through all that trouble to visit the second dirtiest country in the world, when I can also just drive around it? Anyway, as I said, I was totally unprepared. But luckily other people had already solved the puzzle. So I could just copy the easiest, and most of all cheapest (you’re Dutch or you’re not), route along the various embassies from the professionals. That just left me with one problem, namely Nigeria. A country that you can’t just bypass like Ghana. And Nigeria only issues visas through the embassy in your own country. That even forces people to fly back home!
But fortunately Don Guido sent a bunch of good spirits with me that clear the path for me everywhere I go. Because of them I heard, just in time, that the Nigerian visa was available again in Ouagadougou/Burkina Faso. That news came on the morning I was supposed to pick up my visa for Burkina Faso. And I was able to change my transit visa (3 days) application into an application for a normal tourist visa (30 days), at the very last moment. That would give me enough time to apply for the Nigerian visa there. Also I received, again not a second too late, the message that Cameroon was going to stop issuing visas to overlanders. This because overlanders have to go through a region in Cameroon where a civil war is being fought out. In the end I left Dakar with the visas for Mali, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. As I said, I picked up the Nigerian visa in Burkina Faso, Togo issues visas in the border and Benin through a website. So if the good spirits could just guide me through the front lines in Cameroon everything could very well end well. Unless I overlooked something else of course.