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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.