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The Rough Guide to West Africa (Rough Guide Travel Guides) Paperback – 13 Sep 2003

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1296 pages
  • Publisher: Rough Guides; 4th Revised edition edition (13 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843531186
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843531180
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 561,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description



Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Where to go

If you have the time, by far the most satisfying way of visiting West Africa is overland, traversing the yawning expanse of the Sahara, arriving in the dry northern reaches of the Sahel - these days most likely in Mauritania - to the ravishing shock of an alien culture, and then adapting to a new landscape, a new climate and new ways of behaving.

Choosing where to go is no easy task: the region offers so much and Africa repeatedly confounds all expectations and assumptions. In the main section of the guide, the individual country introductions give an idea of what to look forward to. However, at the risk of reinforcing stereotypes, it's possible to make a few generalizations about the feel of the countries. Of the eleven Francophone, ex-French colonies, the three nations most dominated by French culture and language are Cameroon, Senegal and C(tm)te d'Ivoire; these can also be the more expensive countries to travel in, and their relatively Westernized cities are inclined to be hustly. Senegal is an obvious choice as a base from which to launch travels: facilities are much better than in many parts of the region and the verdant Basse Casamance district has a remarkable network of village-based accommodation (but see the boxed warning, p.xiv). C(tm)te d'Ivoire provides a melange of the traditional and modern, African and French. Cameroon - which is English-speaking in the west - blends magnificent scenery and national parks with an extraordinary richness of culture, running the whole African gamut from "Pygmy" hunting camps to Arabic-speaking trading towns and taking in the colourful kingdoms of the western highlands.

Vast, land-locked Mali is blessed with the great inland delta of the Niger River and, again, striking cultural contrasts - the old Islamic cities of Gao, Timbuktu and Djenn (on, or near the river), and the traditionally non-Muslim Dogon country along the rocky cliff of the Bandiagara escarpment. Other Francophone countries include the narrow strips of Togo and Benin, the latter being especially easy-going and fairly undeveloped as far as tourism is concerned; the laid-back, former revolutionary republic of Burkina Faso; and the remote and dramatic expanses of Mauritania and Niger. Perhaps the most impressive of the pays francophones, however, is the republic of Guinea, with only a thin overlay of European culture and an extraordinary vitality released by the end of dictatorship.

Four of the West African countries are former British colonies, divided from each other by the speed of the French invasion in the nineteenth century. The Gambia is an easy place to set out from, a winter holiday destination that's small and personable enough to feel accessible for the least adventurous visitor. The distinctive personality of Ghana provides flamboyant cultural experiences and its splendid, palm-lined coast, dotted with old European forts, a handful of good wildlife sanctuaries and official encouragements to the tourist industry, make it one of West Africa's most promising countries to travel in. Sierra Leone, at one time hugely likeable, has always been a more demanding destination. It has some of the best beaches in the world - only minutes away from the raffish tumble of Freetown - but the devastating civil strife of recent years rules out any recommendation to visit for the present. Nigeria, despite its new, ostensibly democratic government, seems barely awake to its tourism potential. There are, however, big travel incentives inland - in the fine uplands of the plateau and the old cities of the north, to mention just two areas. It's a hard country to come to terms with, but once you're away from the slightly psychotic manifestation of Lagos, and the hubbub of one or two other big cities, there's no denying the overall ease and even tranquillity which accompany travels here. The same cannot be said for Liberia - a former vassal state of the USA, nominally independent since 1847 - which is struggling to make any recovery after a decade of civil conflict, confusion and economic breakdown.

The former Portuguese colonies are West Africa's least-known destinations. The Cape Verde Islands are immediately beguiling: volcanic outcrops and desert islands in the mid-Atlantic, with a scenery and lifestyle that make them hard to leave. Guinea-Bissau has its own island highlights - the Bijagos - luxuriant green forests in the warm, inshore sea, as different from the Cape Verdes as it's possible to imagine. At the time of writing, however - August 1999 - the army's mutiny, the widescale destruction of Bissau city and the installation of a new government, make it hard to predict travel conditions in the new millennium.

Guidelines for travel

The first recommendation in all this, is to give yourself time. It's tempting to try to cover as much of this fascinating region as possible. But the rewards become thinner the faster you go and, beyond a certain pace, the point of being there is lost in the pursuit of the next goal. While it may be hard to stop completely, or just to limit yourself to a small corner, that is precisely the way to get the most out of your trip - and, incidentally, also how to put the most in. In such a poor region, the idea of some kind of reciprocity is one worth keeping: everything comes back to you in the end. Patience and generosity always pay off; haste and intolerance tend to lead to disaster.

If you're travelling alone - and it's really the best way if you want to get to know West Africa rather than your travelling companion(s) - it may be useful to know about the main travellers' crossroads in the region, where you might team up for a while or swap experiences: Nouadhibou at the edge of the desert, Bamako or Mopti in Mali, Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, Cotonou in Benin, and Busua or Accra on the Ghanaian coast.

More than ever, with so many countries undergoing tumultuous change, it's important to keep your ear to the ground before travelling on to the next country on your itinerary. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This version has been updated but when I recently travelled from Brighton down to Capetown on a motorbike I made space for this book and I wasn't disappointed. It has good detail on plenty of major and minor towns, festivals, helpful details on currency, culture and things to see. The maps are extremely helpful too and I was sad to not have a similar guide once we'd left Cameroon!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8a7df21c) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a7eafc0) out of 5 stars Necessary but not sufficient 25 July 2000
By Ellen Winters - Published on
Format: Paperback
This Rough Guide offers thorough, helpful information for travelling around West Africa, including events, hotels, restaraunts, cutoms, traditions, safety precautions, language reference, etc. I especially liked the fact that each time CFA's or other currency were mentioned, their dollar equivalents were also calculated. The Lonely Planet Guide does not do this. Also, this Rough Guide is organized better and easier to read than the Lonely Planet. The problem with the Rough Guide, though, is that while it gives all the necessary information to get around, it does not offer any subjective advice that the naive West Africa traveller would want to know. For example, The Lonely Planet guide gives the same information as this book about a campsite in Niamey, but adds that it is ugly, with few trees, and many people have been robbed there. That is something I want to know. I certainly found all the necessary information in this guide, but it is still insufficient in many ways.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b35df9c) out of 5 stars Not the best investment 28 Mar. 2002
By Andrius Uzkalnis - Published on
Format: Paperback
At the moment, there are two main contenders on the market with comparable books on West Africa: Rough Guide and Lonely Planet. Neither is perfect.
Rough Guide may feel a bit more professionally-made, and has been made on a bigger budget too, but it suffers from terminally boring writing style.
I said this before and I`ll say it again: if people who write guidance for your tax returns were to write guidebooks they would probably come up with similarly uninspired language.
The book does not offer the same level of self-righteous (and often annoying) rhetoric about evils of capitalism as Lonely Planet. I find this aspect commendable: some of us want the travel guide to give us facts and not explanations for whom to vote and what to think.
However, on balance, I have to admit that Lonely Planet is better resarched and more accurate, and also less bulky. If you have plenty of luggage allowance and money's no object, buy both, otherwise, stick with Lonely Planet.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ac9b738) out of 5 stars Good book for planning multicountry itineraries 4 Jan. 2006
By James S. Dodds - Published on
Format: Paperback
As most of the reviews point out, the battle here is between Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. I bought them both, as I usually do before a big trip, and after studying them both will take the RG. They are both good in terms of information on hotels and restaurants, I just found the layout of RG a bit better. Cultural and travel basics are better organized up front, the maps are larger and much clearer, and the references to the maps in the text easier to decipher. But for me the big plus is that the RG contains much better information about moving between countries, and information about specific transport options from area to area - boat, bus, train - is much more detailed. If you are planning a multi-country itinerary the RG is, IMHO, much better. They are both equal in terms of info, I think, I just feel like for me RG got the details right.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a7ed378) out of 5 stars Decent But Not Great 2 Dec. 2002
By Zekeriyah - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Rough Guide series is nice, if sometimes odd, for understanding what to do and what not to do in particular countries or regions. Usually, its best to get both Rough Guide and Lonely Plaent and compared the information between the two, just to avoid any unfortunate occurances. But thats just me. Anyway, this book basically covers travel in West Africa: Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Gambia, Cabo Verde, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon. Theres basic travel information, as well as notes for getting into and out of each country, and things you can do while your there. Maps, religious information, notes on social mores, currency info, food and so forth are all covered throughout the book. There are also some useful phrases in French (the most widely spoken language in West Africa), as well as some phrases in Hassaniya Arabic, Mandinka, Bamana, Twi, Susu, Hausa, Yoruba and other indigenous languages.
Fans of Afro-Pop should check out the back of this book, which is full of cultural references. There are lists of significant books, movies, musicians and songs. Sure, it is a bit dated, but some old favorites are included on the list who are well worth checking out. In fact, I should restate that, given the mercurial nature of African society, it is pretty likely that many things in this book have changed since it was published. Before doing anything in this book, you might want to look it up online or something first.
HASH(0x8a7ed504) out of 5 stars Very good travel book 4 May 2013
By Cameljok - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a must have for anyone looking to travel to West Africa. It provides a lot of useful travel tips to help you along your way.
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