For the second year in a row I’ve been lucky to start of the year of traveling. This year I brought in the New Year in Paris, and set off for Cote d’ivore ( Ivory coast) days after. I managed to make 2 trips out of one via a 36 hour layover in Lisbon.
This trip was a “girls trip” to meet up with two of my very good friends ( Jeanne and Kristina) that I met in Paris while I was doing my Master’s. Since we all live in different places NYC, Kigali,, and Paris we try to plan a trip to see each other once a year. Being busy women, the biggest challenge was finding a time that worked for all of us, finding a destination that wasn’t too far to fly ( we put a limit at 16hrs flight max), not too expensive, and place we have never been. After months of back and forth we managed to narrow down a region we wanted to explore being West Africa, and agreed up Cote d’Ivoire.
With not much insight into the country, we were really excited to explore. My friend Kristina managed to work her connects and put us in contact with a friend of a friend ( Baba)that lived in Abidjan who showed us around and looked out for us while we were in town. We couldn’t have been luckier to have Baba, who greeted us each at the airport, took us to the his local spots to eat ( which were so delicious), showed us around, helped us negotiate good prices when we went shopping, and overall was just a great host to help us really discover Cote d’ivoire from a local’s perspective.
If I had to choose 1 word to describe my overall trip I would say ADVENTURE. We spent the majority of the trip in Abidjan and then we spent a few days in Grand Bassam for beach and relaxation. Throughout the trip we kind of just tried to soak in everything for what it is was and pretty much just went with the flow. The perfect example of one of our many adventures was the day we set out to make our way to the island Ile Boulay with no set plan. We made it to a port where we needed to take a boat to access the island. We managed to negotiate with a fisherman to take us across the lagoon, since the main ferry wouldn’t take us over because we weren’t enough people in his 60 seater boat. Once we arrived, we wandered around the island looking for the best beach. We ended up running into a village where everyone was looking at us like “ what are these girls doing here walking around like this.” They kindly greeted us and suggested we take a moto taxi to get where we wanted to go. Everyone was so friendly and we never ran into any huge hiccups. I could go on for days for all of the adventures from the trip, but I’ll try to break down a basic guide of the top things to DO/EAT/SHOP if you’re thinking of making a trip to Abidjan.
Cote d’ Ivoire: General Tips/ Observations:
The easiest way to get around is by taxi . I learned quickly there are 2 main types of taxis. The orange ones can go pretty much anywhere in the city ( and they are typically more expensive 1,000-3,000CFA). Where as the local/communal taxis ( color dependent of where you are), is like an uber pool. You can hail them from wherever you are and they pick people up along the way, and the price is fixed at around 200CFA (0.30euros) per person.
If you are up for a little adventure and getting around at best price. You can that “bacas”, which are shared vans that pick people up along their route, and make stops along the way for other people to get on or off. They are typically inexpensive and the price depends on the distance of where you are going. They are easy to spot, you will usually see a guy hanging out of the window, making announcements of the direction the baca is going.
Photo courtesy of: Museuniform
Where to stay:
I ended up staying in two different Airbnbs one in the 8eme tranche Cocody neighborhood of Abidjan and the other in Grand Bassam 5 minutes walk to the beach. Renting an apartment ended up being a great option to have a bit of space compared to being in a hotel room, the option to cook and having a more local experience.
If you’re looking to stay in a hotel, the following places were recommended to me:
Hotel Particulier ( Abidjan’s first boutique hotel)
Sofitel Abidjan ( 4 star luxury hotel)
Coucoué Lodge ( Hotel in Assinie Mafia)
Hotel Zion ( Hotel in Assinie Mafia)
The people are extremely kind. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. During this trip my friends and I embraced help from so many different strangers in different forms… From the fisherman who helped us get across a lagoon for a reasonable price and helped us avoid a long wait with the proper ferry. To the two guys who saw us getting ripped of by a taxi driver because it was pouring raining and offered to drop us where we were trying to go. To the guardian of our Airbnb who walked to find us a taxi in the evening and negotiate a good price to make our way to Grand Bassam for our second leg of the trip. To the the group of locals in Grand Bassam that organized a bonfire on the beach, just for us to welcome us. And the list goes on….
Travel and food go hand in hand for me. I love tasting the the local cuisine, and was especially excited to try Ivorian cuisine that I’ve heard is delicious. During this trip I must say, all the meals I ate were a huge high of the trip, there was nothing that I tried that I didn’t enjoy. And another bonus is that you can eat like a queen without having to spend a lot. I reccomend trying some of the traditional dishes like:
Poisson or Poulet Brisée
Alocco ( Fried plantains)
l’Attieke (ground Casava root that looks a bit like couscous)
Ivoiran- local beer
Things to Do/See:
Marché Adjamé, Grand Bassam( Every district has a market so you have a large choice of markets to choose from for getting fruits, veggies, and gifts like fabrics)
Grand Bassam ( Beach)
Assinie- Mafia ( Beach)
Île Boulay– ( Small island that is a little tricky to access, but once you make it there it is worth it)
West Africa makes up two thirds of the wordl’s supplier of cocao crops. Cote d’ivoire is one the leading exporters of cocoa, so it is worth to bring some back from local brands like like Mon Choco or Taffissa.
Traditional fabric (Pagne Baoulé) is hand woven in Cote d’ivoire and comes in so many beautiful colors and motifs. Grab a couple pieces of fabric, and make some pieces that are wearable souvenirs.
Here is a little photo recap of my trip…