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Friday, December 31, 2021

Welcome Africa Episode 3 (Lodging)

Welcome back Africa! It is probably the biggest call to make for any visitor upon arriving a destination. Where do I stay? How long do I stay? Seasoned travelers use all sorts of guides to help them make the right choice. From online booking sites, to peer reviews and even local fixers, visitors absolutely want to pick a decent and affordable place to live in. They also consider price, distance from city centre or to stadiums and other places they plan to visit.

You don't want the nightmare of power failure (without a backup generator), you don't want low water pressure (and having to use a bucket), no internet access, the TV having no remote or mosquitoes keeping you awake all night. Remember we are in the tropics.

10 days to Africa's showpiece football tournament in Cameroon, trust me the window of finding a decent place to live in grows smaller by the day and prices are going in the opposite direction. The official delegations for the most part have booked most of the top hotels. Leaving the individual traveler  (fans, tourists) with either the expensive suites, or very few other options to grapple with.

Overall all of the host cities have a handful of luxury hotels. 

Best Western Plus, Douala
Ribadou Hotel, Garoua
Krystal Palace, Douala

The list cannot be exhaustive, in Yaounde you can live in StarLand, Hilton, Boun's, Mont Febe, La Falaise, Merina, Djeuga Palace. 

In Douala- Pullman, Onomo, La Falaise (Bonapriso & Bonanjo), StarLand, Krystal, Best Western Plus.

Bafoussam- Zingana, Talotel, Guins Palace, Alitel, in the area Tagidor Garden, La Vallee de Bana

Garoua- Tour D'Argent, La Benoue, Ribadou, Shalom, Motel Plazza, Dreamland, Plateau

Limbe & Buea- Atlantic Beach, Marcsons, Savoy Palmz,, in the area Splendeur, Mountain Hotel, Plaza

My advice- most of these hotels are probably booked by now or have very limited space left.

United Hotel, Mbankomo-Yaounde

That leaves you with lots of new hotels blossoming here and there, and others refurbished, that do not feature on the top booking sites. Yaounde, Douala and its environs for example have seen a flurry of new hotels constructed over the past five years. These hotels are certainly not shortlisted by the Local Organizing Committee for official delegations and you stand a higher chance of getting space there. In Yaounde I can think of Franco, United (Mbankomo, City Centre) GFAC, Felicia. In Douala, Vallee de Princes, Akwa Palace, Ibis, Princes des Galles, Lewat, In Limbe Musango beach hotel, Holiday Inn, Miramare View, Ocean Breeze, Lk, Fini...

My advice- search more in this category, the newer the hotel the better.

As a rule of thumb, moderate Cameroonian hotels are poor at maintenance,  so try to go for a recently opened hotel. If possible make a quick check of the room before booking. Also consider access when choosing a hotel. However some really comfortable hotels could be found in areas with poor access. This simply means, you shouldn’t give up on a hotel because it is off a main street. Some really comfy hotels are hidden in neighbourhoods with earth roads. My Advice: Don't judge the book by its cover.

Onomo Hotel, Douala

Atlantic Beach Hotel, Limbe

While this post, gives you a quick overview of what is available in terms of hotels in the host cities, remember that you can also find some chic Air BnB's in the major cities of Yaounde and Douala. This will be a perfect lodging option if traveling in a small group.  My Advice: Check for Air BnB if you are with friends or acquaintances.

If you have a solution for transportation, you could actually live in nearby towns around the host cities and travel into town for the games. The Littoral, South West, Centre, West and North regions have several beautiful towns near the host cities with some breath-taking tourist attractions. In the North you could have a memorable time and stay at Ladgo lakeside (67.8km away)  and go to Garoua on match days. In the Centre region you can stay at Sanaga Camping Beach (62.4km away) and travel to Yaounde for the Group games. In the Littoral, you can live in the beautiful Atlantic city of Kribi (170km away) and watch games in Douala. In the West region you can live on the highly demanded Petpenoun estate (43km away) and watch games in Bafoussam. While Limbe is easily accessible from Douala and Buea.  My advice: Look at nearby attractions and lodging and take into account traffic delays when moving on match days.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Welcome Africa! Episode 2 (Transport)

 Hey, it's been a bit quiet in here. A rollercoaster of events have kept me glued to work, but I always keep to my word. When heading to a new destination, we usually plan where to stay, what to eat, what to wear, and which places to visit. The experienced traveller would agree that mobility is a crucial and often neglected bit of the puzzle.

Travel in and around Cameroon is essentially by road, air and rail. The reality on the road changes significantly in terms of comfort and price depending on several factors. Where you are? Which time of the day it is? Which agency you are using? 

Of the five host cities, only Limbe does not have an airport but it is just an hour and a half from Douala by road. International flights will get you directly into the economic hub Douala, and the capital Yaounde. Touchdown in Douala or Yaounde the two main ports of entry could offer a completely different reality from landing in Bafoussam or Garoua. Domestic flights will connect you to most of the major cities in the country.

Expect yellow taxi cabs in Douala and Yaounde for international arrivals. A trip from the airport  into town costs approximately 17 USD (10.000CFAF). There are also some private shuttle services provided by private companies (more comfortable and more expensive) and in some cases bus shuttle services provided by hotels. My advise- arrange for pickup upon arrival.

Commuting in Yaounde and Douala, expect cabs to carry at least four passengers as the drivers operate on a permanent pick and drop basis, constantly trying to fill their cabs and thus make more money. An average trip can cost 250 CFAF (less than half a dollar) but this is negotiable. People usually pay more if their distances are a bit long (above 5km). It can be cumbersome and time-consuming, but trust me it is also the perfect meeting place with the community. There could be rare cases of robbery on these cabs. Hiring a cab for an hour could cost 3000 CFAF (about 5 USD). My advise- hire a cab and ride with people you know.

Commercial motorcycles are very popular, in the busiest city Douala, and in the outskirts of the capital city Yaounde (some zones are restricted). Bafoussam and Limbe have a fine balance of cabs and bikes, while Garoua is mostly dependent on bikes. Prices are usually negotiable. My advise- avoid bikes if you can.

For inter-city travel most bus companies operate hourly trips between the major cities. Yaounde to Douala costs averagely 8,000 CFAF (14 USD). The train service operated by the Cameroon Railway Corporation is also an option with its new express train with five intermediate stops.  First class passengers pay 10,000 CFAF (17 USD). My advise- bus and train are slower but quite safe. 

As I mentioned earlier domestic flights serve most of the main cities. Despite a small fleet, the national carrier regularly serves regional capitals. Connecting Yaounde and Douala in the South of the country to Garoua, Ngaoundere and Maroua in the North. The Bafoussam airport has also been recently refurbished. My advise- book your tickets early.