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Wild, Weird, Wonderful West Africa

Travel to West Africa
West Africa and the Maghreb, occupies a region of Africa which is exceptionally diverse in terms of geography, climate and culture. It’s an area normally neglected by tourists, but for the traveller keen on exploring beyond the well-beaten track, the region can provide a rich and rewarding experience.

Geography
Occupying roughly around one fifth of Africa’s total surface area, West Africa consists mostly of low-lying plains, of less than 300 metres above sea level, with isolated high points in various countries along the southern edge of the area.

Culture
Travel to West Africa is marked by the eclectic cultural experiences you will encounter. West Africa is home to more than 40 different major cultural groupings, with many more, smaller groups. Many different languages are spoken, including Arabic, French, English and a great variety of indigenous local languages.

Social Conventions
With such a large and diverse range of backgrounds among the people of West Africa, many travellers are concerned about matters of accepted behaviour and convention.
Having some idea of what is acceptable and what is not before embarking on travel to West Africa will be highly beneficial for the traveller hoping to make the most of their West African experience.

Greeting Conventions
In West Africa, it is considered rude to speak to someone without properly greeting first. The people of this region generally place importance on the shaking of hands, and always with the right hand, when meeting and greeting.

Food Etiquette
Always share whatever you are eating with whoever is near to you. It is considered very much impolite to eat in front of other people without offering.
Remember that when you travel to West Africa, the left hand is the “dirty hand” , reserved for tasks of personal hygiene, so don’t touch food with your left. It is also considered impolite to sniff food that has been given to you. In many West African cultures the act of sniffing is taken as a gesture of disgust.

Dress
Generally, West Africans are quite conservative in their dress style. It’s advisable when you travel to West Africa to dress modestly and wear loose, non-form-fitting clothes that provide generous cover. Remember, West Africans wear shorts as underwear. Also remember that the baring of flesh may well be treated with contempt and even minor displays of nudity are frowned upon. Interestingly for western visitors, here breasts are often not considered to be offensive, while legs and buttocks are.

Getting Around
Travel to West Africa is renowned for the authentic transportation modes encountered by travellers. One of the most common forms of transport in West Africa is the Bush Taxi. This unique form of overland travel will amaze travellers not accustomed to it, but equally it will frustrate with its many inefficiencies. For longer distance travel, properly organised overland tours are a good option since they are more likely to bring together groups of people with a common agenda of experiencing the distinctiveness of travel to West Africa.

Climate
In most of West Africa, temperatures are generally high from October to February, at their peak from March to May, and lower from May to September. The weather is dominated more by rainfall than by temperature though, so make sure you take proper consideration of the dry and wet seasons when planning West African travel, bearing in mind that different conditions suit different activities.

Matters of Money
Many of the French-speaking countries of West Africa use the CFA (pronounced say-far) as their currency.
Unlike many other parts of the developing world, travel to West Africa is not really very cheap, although it is possible to travel on less money than you would need for Europe or the United States. The most cost-effective and indeed the most enjoyable way to shop, is from the markets where local food and crafts can be bargained for. In these markets, bargaining is the key. The first price offered is seldom the final price, so negotiate a price you think is more reasonable.

Credit cards are very seldom accepted and while the major centres have banks or facilities will allow you to exchange traveller’s cheques.
Travel to West Africa can present unpredictable and perhaps intimidating conditions for the unwary traveller but by being properly informed of the nuances of the various regions, or being accompanied by individuals who know the area, the entire experience will be far more pleasant. Travellers will be delighted by the cultural contrasts and vibrancy of the region and will be treated to an experience to last long in the memory.

Travel to West Africa with Oasis Overland
The crew from Oasis Overland have an extensive knowledge of Africa, the Middle East and South America.

Travel to West Africa is best encompassed in the epic trans-Africa tour from Oasis Overland, which visits Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, DRC, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

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