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As a child raised in Southwestern Nigeria, it has always been my dream to explore the other regions of the country. That dream was partially acted upon in July, 2018 when I visited Abuja (the capital) and took day trips to Nassarawa and Niger States (2 northern states).
This time around though, I stayed in a Northern state for 4 nights! Too short but it is just a start.
- Arrived in Lagos, Nigeria at 3.30pm. An hour later, I was en-route to the domestic airport. My flight to Abuja was really delayed flight. I finally arrived in Abuja (capital of Nigeria) at 10pm.
- I took the 7am train to Kaduna. Excited because it was my first time taking a train in Nigeria or any other West African country!!! The hotel I stayed Quarter House Hotel arranged a car + driver for me. The driver picked me up from the train station. We went to the hotel to drop off my bags before proceeding to explore.
I visited the National Museum first before heading to Zaria to see the Emir’s Palace. It was an Islamic festive day so the road leading to the palace was super crowded. The palace was extra crowded.
After the Emir’s Palace, we continued to the Ahmadu Bello University to check out the Sculpture Garden at the Department of Fine Arts. The sculptures are created by students at the department and entrance is free. The sculpture garden is a piece of heaven in Northern Nigeria for art lovers.
I headed to Gamji Park after that. Gamji Park is a green space for picnics or to simply hang out. In the park is a mini zoo to semi starved looking animals.
I ended the day by hanging out with a friend I hadn’t seen since 2011 at a really cool café.
- I woke up super early to head to Southern Kaduna. It took us 2.5hours to get to Kafanchan to see the Matsirga Waterfalls. I was sort of disappointed that we couldn’t get closer to the waterfalls. There was no trail or guide. We stopped when it was impossible to go further. After that, my driver reluctantly drove me to the Nok Museum. He claimed it was way out of the way. Anyways, after getting lost, we finally get there but it was unfortunately closed. All that stress for nothing ☹.
Anyways, ended the day on a happy note because I met with one of my really good friends from Medical school in Nigeria. We haven’t seen for over 12 years.
- My last full day in Kaduna aka KD City. My day started by visiting Kajuru Castle (the only castle in Nigeria). That visit almost never happened. You are supposed to book at least two weeks in advance. I didn’t. Thanks to Mark from Motley Travels and the Travel Gods, I was able to visit. That visit was spectacular. My iPhone camera couldn’t do justice to the view.
Next up was Arewa House where the museum showcasing the Northern history is house and also the residence of Sir Ahmadu Bello (one of Nigeria’s founding fathers).
We continued to Turunku. Turunku is the hometown of one of the greatest African Queen- Queen Amina of Zaria. History puts her reign as Queen in the mid-15th century. Her palace was on a hill and the remains of her royal chair and bed can be seen. We asked a local of town to show us around and he gladly did.
Last visit of the day was to Fifth Chukker- polo club. Amazing & breathtaking is an understatement!
- I had an 8.50am flight to Lagos. This is my first flight ever with Air Peace that departed on time! It was a chilled day so I could be ready for one of my favorite cousin’s wedding the following day. Check out the blog post on Weddings + Birthday Celebrations in Nigeria to see how we turn up 😊.
This is long post. I had to be detailed in describing my experience in a country I love so much that I had to get a tattoo of it on my back :). Although, I was born and raised in Nigeria, Nigerians don’t think I’m a Nigerian. I always get the ‘You don’t look Nigerian or even talk like a Nigerian’. It used to piss me off but I no longer care.
On this trip, I visit Abuja – the capital of Nigeria, 2 northern states – Niger & Nassarawa states and Lagos. I used Uber and Taxify the whole time. Taxify is the Nigerian version of Uber. Choosing the cash option on both Uber and Taxify helped. If not, most drivers will cancel your trip.
Below is my itinerary for my 16 days visit to Nigeria aka Naija.
Day 26 (July 5, Thursday): Accra – Abuja Airbnb (3 nights) Depart Accra in the morning Arrive in Abuja at noon Relax
Left for the airport in Accra early. Flight was on time. You will be asked for your Yellow Fever Card upon arrival in Abuja. I got a taxi from the airport to my Airbnb in Maitama area. When I got to the Airbnb, I almost left immediately. The place looked cleaned but had the dampness feel to it plus the internet was not working. Since I didn’t have a local number and WhatsApp was my primary means of communication, I decided to go to the MTN office to buy data for the MIFI my dad gave to me.
Later in the day, I met up with a couchsurfer – Roberta for drinks and chat at a trendy bar in Maitama area called Traffic.
Day 27 (July 6, Friday): Day trip to Niger State Zuma Rock & Guarara Falls
I was lucky prior to my trip to have discovered Motley Travels. I found out about them on a blog post by theajalabug. I decided to try them out; I was picked up by Mark (the owner of Motley Travels) at 11am. Our first stop was Zuma Rock. We went through the Golf Club by the rock and got close to the most famous rock in Northern Nigeria. The rock is famous because you can see a shape of a face. It was also rumored that a ghost/spirit exist in the rock. The rumor led to the abandonment of a hotel building beside Zuma Rock. The workers claimed they kept on hearing ‘voices’ so Hilton abandoned its almost completed building and moved to Maitama area.
After Zuma Rock, we went on to Guarara Falls. We were the only visitor there. The hike down is easy, just going down stairs. To move closer to the Falls, you would have to climb small/medium sized, sometimes slippery rocks. My pictures doesn’t capture the beauty of the Guarara Falls. It is totally gorgeous. We took a different route to leave the Falls, this route, you would have to climb fairly steep, slippery rocks. It is appropriate to wear sneakers or hiking shoes, a small backpack or fanny pack so you can climb without interference.
Guarara Falls & Zuma Rock are located in Niger State. You can see Zuma while in Abuja, it’s just on the border of Niger State and Abuja. Guarara on the other hand is further in Niger State, about two hours from Abuja. The roads are good until you get into Niger State and encounter a stretch of road under construction. It is about a 10-15 walk down to the falls once you get to the parking lot.
In the evening, I went to an old friend’s place to watch the soccer game – Brazil vs. Belgium. It was great meeting her family and re-connecting after 5 years.
Day 28 (July 7, Saturday): Day trip to Nassarawa State Farin Ruwa Falls
Decided to take another trip with Motley Travels. My couchsurfer friend – Roberta came along. Farin Ruwa is located in Nassarawa State, it is not a piece of cake but worth it. It took 2hours 50 minutes to get to the road leading to Farin Ruwa. Then another 1 hour (road in deplorable condition) to the last village where you begin a 6km walk. You will have to walk through three streams before getting to the Farin Ruwa’s entrance.
It took us 25 minutes from the last village to the 1st stream which is knee length deep (I’m short – 5’3). 36 minutes from 1st to 2nd stream. 6 mins from 2nd to 3rd stream. 10 minutes from 3rd stream to the entrance and another 15 minutes of walking and climbing to the waterfalls from entrance. The most difficult walk for me was from the 1st to the 2nd stream – that had several places that was uphill. The 2nd and 3rd stream wasn’t deep, slightly above the ankle.
I promise you when I say the long walk (no intense climbing) was worth it. Farin Ruwa means White Water in the local language. I was impressed and beyond excited.
Note, we decided to take the longer way to the Falls, you have an option of taking a motorbike from the last village directly to the entrance but we wanted to walk J. On our way back though, we took the bike because we wanted to get back to Abuja before it got real late. We were picked up at 8am in the morning and arrived back at Abuja around 8.30pm.
Day 29 (July 8, Sunday): Abuja to Lagos Jabi Lake Park
Usman DamDepart Abuja at 5pm Arrive in Lagos at 6.30pm Shrine (only stay to 9pm)
We decided to cross out Usman Dam because it was on the outskirt of town. We (Roberta and I) met up at Jabi Lake Park. Jabi Lake is an artificial lake that a park surrounds. It was commissioned sometimes during Obasanjo presidency so between 1999-2006). Beautiful to go on a stroll, jog or run or anything active. We stopped by Coco Café, which overlooks the Lake for chat and drinks.
I got back to the Airbnb and later to the airport. The flight was delayed for 2 hours with no explanation. I’m side eyeing Air Peace! Arrived in my favorite city in the whole wide world – Lagos, AKA Las Gidi at 8.20pm.
Got home, drooped my bag, had a change of clothes and headed out to The New African Shrine to watch Femi Kuti perform. So back in University when I was in Nigeria, I used to go to Shrine every Sunday to watch Femi play at Shrine. So it felt GREAT to experience this again. Femi was going on a tour so it was my last chance anyway to watch him before he left. One of my secondary (high) school friends met up with me there.
Day 30 (Monday, July 9): Lagos Mainland Lunch at Amala Shitta 2pm (Surulere)
I wanted to relax this day so only went out to lunch at a popular Buka/Mama Put that is popular for my favorite food – Amala. Shitta is an area in Surulere. Surulere is in Lagos Island. There are several Amala joint in Shitta area but Olaiya Amala somehow became more known to people. Anyways, the food was good but way too pepperish (spicy), it felt like my mouth was on FIRE!!! The customer service sucks big time. So I most likely wouldn’t go back there.
I was told of another place in Surulere, close to Olaiya Amala called Amala Akinyemi. My Taxify driver said Amala Akinyemi had better tasting food than Olaiya so I would give that a try next time. Two of my friends met up with me there.
P.S, Buka or Mama Put means the same thing – it is a local eatery. Pretty much a local version of a fast food restaurant that focuses on Nigeria cuisine.
Day 31 (Tuesday, July 10): Lagos Mainland Nigerian Railway Compound 12noon(Ebute Metta) Yaba White House 2pm
We took a visit to The Nigerian Railway Compound. I was told there a little museum there. Railway used to be a big deal in Nigeria. It is slowly making a recovery. The guide was very helpful and gave us so much history and info. They are building a bigger museum in the Railway Compound. The Legacy Foundation did the restoration of the museum. The foundation is involved in restoring historical houses in Lagos and advocating against the demolition of historical houses. I couldn’t take great pictures here because it started raining heavily. My friend Star, her friend and my mum came along with me on this visit.
After the Railway Museum, we went to have lunch at yet another Amala Mama Put. The Amala at Yaba White House was immaculate, cheaper than Olaiya Amala and with reasonable amount of spiciness. The customer service was good. Way better than Olaiya Amala.
Day 32 (Wednesday, July 11): Lagos Mainland Kalakuta (Ikeja) 2pm University of Suya
Another relaxed day. In the afternoon, met up with my cousin – Busola to pay homeage to Fela Anikulapo Kuti. We went to his former house which is now a museum. Apparently, you are suppose to make a reservation. We didn’t know that. The security guard told us a line to use so the museum can be opened for us. The barterner working at the roof top bar in the same building opened it to us.
Since he wasn’t working at the museum. He wasn’t able to give us any information. We simply walked about the 3 level museums, taking pictures and reading from the clips to get some of the info we wanted. We ended the visit at the Roof Top Bar. We gave the bartender a tip and the security guard a tip as well for telling us what to say to get the museum opened for us.
We stopped at University of Suya close by to try out the suya. Suya is the most famous street food in Nigeria. My opinion is Nigerians in the diaspora made University of Suya popular because I have tasted better suya.
Day 33 (Thursday, July 12): Lagos Island Awolowo Museum (Epe) Lufasi Park (Lekki Epe expressway, Abijo) Freedom Park (Lagos Island) Bogobiri (Ikoyi)
A really busy day. We (my mom and I) left home on the mainland around 9.30am because morning rush hour traffic on the major bridge connecting the mainland to the island would have cleared by that time. Two hours later, we arrived at out first stop – Lufasi Nature Park. It cost N1,000/person. It is a small park but beautiful. A guide will walk you through. The animals present there are rescued animals. There’s a play area for children, an artificial lake and picnic area.
After the park, we moved on The Awolowo Institute of Research and Policy Center. Chief Obafemi Awolowo is one of Nigeria’s founding father. I grew up hearing about him, he died in 1983 – two years before I was born. His house in his home state (Ikenne Remo, Ogun State) is adjacent my family’s house. Awo as he is popularly called lived on in many people hearts. Anyways, it only felt right to pay homage to Awo. The beach is right in front of the museum!
This museum was where he was imprisoned for a month. Awo spent a lot of time going to jail. His jailers were the various Nigeria Military Head of State who were pissed at his efforts (along with others) to regain democracy of Nigeria. He was initially prisoned at a prison in Broad street, Lagos Island (now known as The Freedom Park) before he was moved to this place in Epe because they wanted to isolate him. Epe, then was only accessible by water so they thought it was a great place to hide him from the public. They were wrong, they had visitors from all over, and the people of Epe came to visit him. The then military government moved him yet again because he was receiving too many visitors. He was moved to Calabar when he was later released. We paid N1,000/person for entrance.
We moved on to Freedom Park in Lagos Island. Entrance is N200/person. I always find Freedom Park peaceful and a great place to people watch. There is always a performance there. There is an Art Gallery, a museum, food court, mini eatery and a stage on ground. There were shooting a movie when I was there. My mom left me there to go visit my grandma. I people watched until it was time to go to Bogobiri.
I was tired by the time I got to Bogobiri around 6pm so I couldn’t wait for the live music performance at 7.30/8pm. I love Bogobiri, I used to hang out here a lot when I lived briefly in Nigeria from 2012-2014. The Art around the place is fascinately. They have an hotel there as well. Thursday night is for live music. The last Tuesday of the month is for Taruwa – spoken words. Cost is N500/person for Thursday and Taruwa.
Day 34 (Friday, July 13): Lagos Lekki Market The Backyard (VI)
I went to Lekki Art and Craft Market to buy somethings. They have really great stuff there from bags (leather or Ankara) to paintings to cravings to dresses (Ankara print).
Later, met up with a friend at The Backyard. Oh, how I love this place. It has now become my second favorite after Terra Kulture to hang out. Ambience is great, décor is excellent. Food is not cheap though. We left before 5pm to beat the afternoon rush hour traffic. You don’t want to be stuck in Lagos traffic, it has the power to make you reconsider your life!
Day 35 (Saturday, July 14): Lagos Makoko (meet 8am at Makoko land) Lekki conservation park (Lekki) Terra Kulture
Another busy day. We visited Makoko – a community on water. The community has been around for almost 100 years now. It was founded by various tribes from southwest and south-south area of Nigeria. These tribes are known to be skilled Fishermen hence the need to live by the water. The name Makoko came from the word ‘Mahoho’. The community had a practice called Mahoho where they publicly shamed people caught stealing or involved in adultery before expelling them from the community. They would put those accussed of these two crimes in a boat and go around the community shouting the person’s name and the crime the person committed. Outsiders who came to the community to buy fish and other sea food saw the practice and would refer to the community as ‘the place where they do Mahoho). It later evolved to Makoko.
This community was brought to limelight when a young talented Nigerian architect constructed a floating school. All of a sudden, several foundations was created by outsiders and several NGOs began raising money for the ‘poor people of Makoko’. I don’t know if the people of Makoko identified as poor people. It didn’t seem like it. The community was refered to as a slum on water and other names that the people of Makoko did not call themselves. In turn, the people became hostile to outsiders. You can not just go to Makoko nowadays. You will permission from a community member and big cameras are not permitted. Even with your phones, be cautious when taking a picture, people do not appreciate you pointing your camera at them. They will cuss you out.
There is only one primary (elementary) school in the community. The school cannot accommodate all the primary aged children in the community. It is in need of resources and an extension. Unfortunately, the floating school collapsed. It was rumored that one of the fishermen took one of the anchor that supported the floating school hence it’s collapsed. We asked Noah, the community leader, he said the floating school was just a model that was not meant to support many people.
One of the noticeable thing is the dirt and plastic in the water. Noah – the community leader claimed there was a sewage in the area that pushed the plastic into the community. Might be true, but we saw people in the community throw their trash in the water. They don’t see the trash and plastic issue as a problem so oh well.
We stopped by to get lunch before going to Lekki Conservation Center. It cost N1,000/person for entrance and another N1,000/person if you want to do the canopy walk, which is the longest in Africa. We decided to eat our lunch in the car since the monkeys at the center have gotten too bold. The canopy walk was exciting for some of us and scary for others. Star was hilarious – almost like she was crawling. If you are afraid of height, this might be a problem.
After the canopy walk, we sat to drink coconut water while we waited for my other friends running on Nigerian time.
We ended the day at Terra Kulture. I LOVE Terra Kulture. No way, I would be in Nigeria and not go there. There is a bookstore, study area, Art gallery, restaurant and space for plays, concert and conference. Pretty much, my type of place. We dined on fried sweet potatoes, fried yams, fried dodo (plantain) and off course palm wine.
Day 36 (Sunday, July 15): Epe Epe Mangrove
We left Lekki around 10.30am and got to Epe about 1.5 hour later. Epe Mangroves – what can I say? Simply serene and peaceful. It was a canoe ride and we visited a village on the other side of the mangrove. Upon getting off the boat, I fell into a swamp knee length. For a minute, I thought – wow, so this is how I will die? Lol.
After the Mangroove, we went to the Fish Market. We bought some prawns. We wanted to buy snails, but it was so expensive.
The last stop was the local brewery, well it’s just where a guy who migrated to the area 10 years ago produces his local gin. The local gin is called ‘Ogogoro’, made from fermented palm wine.
Day 37 (Monday, July 16):
Dedicated to running errands and brieftly visiting some folks.
Day 38 (Tuesday, July 17): Lagos Mainland Jevnick restaurant- Ikeja GRA
Since I like food, met up with two friends for lunch. I tried an soup from the South-East part of the country. Delicious!
Relaxed for the rest of the day. Chilled day
Day 39 (Wednesday, July 18): Lagos Hard Rock Cafe Roots (Ikoyi)
Took my cousin along with me. I wanted to check out Hard Rock Café. It has a beach in front of it. Great view. Ambience cool. Food and drinks over priced.
Stayed only an hour before going to Roots Restaurant and Bar to meet up with a few friends. My last outing before departing Lagos. Great conversation and food. I realized why I am much happier and less prone to anxiety in Nigeria. I surround myself with strong, amazing women. That night at Roots, I felt grat being in the mix of these awesome women. I don’t have this type of support in the U.S.
Anyways, it was a great night out.
Day 40 (Thursday, July 19): Anti-social behavior loading
Pretty much, packed and finished pending errands.
Day 41 (Friday, July 20): Kunbi departs
Flight left at 1.40pm for Cairo. My parents wanted me to leave the house at a ridicously time. I HATE waiting at airport. In the end, we left at 10.30am. Got to the airport at 11am – no traffic! Flight left on time. Arrived in Cairo at 9pm.
Egypt Air has a service where they would put you in a hotel if your layover is 6 hours or longer. Well we waited 3 freaking hours for them to process this. We walked into the hotel in the airport past midnight. I didn’t have expectation for the hotel since I found out it was Le Meridien. I didn’t enjoy Le Meridien in Giza but this one is updated.
While waiting for hotel to be processed at the airport, I meyt some interesting characters. Well, let be back track to the flight from Lagos. I was seated by this Syrian guy who went to visit his girlfriend in Nigeria and vacation there. He said they met online and she is Nigerian. I asked where he lived and he said in Syria. I asked about the war and he said something along the line that Syria was ok. I was confused. He said he would connect to Beirut from Cairo and cross the border to Damascus where he lives. I subpected he wasn’t telling me the full story because it is just simply rare that he would leave a war torn proven (asd told by western media) go vacation in Nigeria and return to a country that has an ongoing civil war.
My doubt was later confirmed when we were talking about salaries in various countries. He said the salary in Syria has always be trash but in Nigeria, you can make good money. So I suspect he went to work in Nigeria and took the money home.
Now back to the airport. A Nigerian that relocated from London to Abuja in a time where most people are relocating abroad. He was just frustrated and tired of living abroad. I could connect with him on that. I wanted to exchange contact but was too frustrated with waiting.
Met a girl who was having trouble boarding her connecting flight to Canada. Canadian’s version of Border Control re-interview people with visas to Canada at Cairo airport before letting them board the flight. The girl had just USD400 with her, no credit or debit card, hotel booked & paid, told the border agent she didn’t know anybody in Canada (a lie that her Travel agent told her to say) and she was spending 20 days in Canada. The border agent wasn’t convinced because how can USD400 substain you for 20 days in a place who don’t know anybody. In the end, I don’t know what happened to her. She looked really sad and worried the last I saw her.
Met a guy going to Utah for his PhD in Ecology on a full scholarship #blackexcellence #naijasmart. This is his first trip to the U.S. I exchanged contact with him because why not.
The last guy I conversed with. Regretted that by the way. It began as a normal conversation. We actually talked about the girl with the issue with Canadian Border Patrol. He mentioned he was going to Dallas with Spirit Airlines from LGA. I made a joke about not getting to his destination. Then something changed when he asked what church I went to. I said I don’t practice Christianity or any other organized religion. He was shocked like most Nigerians. He wanted to further the conversation on that topic, I declined firmly. This was then it took a creepy turn.
I was handed over the room keys for the 10 people in our group of Lagos-Cairo flight. He asked me to give him a room next to mine. I ignored him. Unfortunately, our rooms ended by each other anyways because I had to put a mama and her kids in a room by each other. Anyways, I latched closed my room. At 5.30am, someone was knocking at my door. I don’t it couldn’t be hotel staff because I had the ‘Do Not Disburb’ sign on the door handle. I peeped through the hole and saw him. I went back to sleep. He called my room, when I picked up I didn’t say anything when I heard his voice, I disconnected the phone cord. I left my room at 7.05pm to go down to breakfast. He was waiting forme he said at the lobby. I left him there to breakfast. Took my time, he was gone when I went back to the lobby. Like most Nigerians obsessed in getting at the airport way too early, he left. Thank God. I didn’t make it to the gate until boarding started. Unfourtunately, I passed by him on the way to my seat on the plane.
So there is my theory. I believe he saw me as vulunerable, as someone he could take advantage of because I’m religionness. He probably assumed because I had no religion, I had no morals or ethics. And he probably wanted to test his limit. He has a wife and son by the way.
Day 42 (Saturday, July 21): Began the long flight to New York City (11 hours 40 minutes).
Nothing eventful. Made it safely to JFK and headed to my hotel in Newark.
Day 43 (Sunday, July 22):
Arrived in Dallas at 8.30am. Moved my stuff from the storage unit to my new apartment. And got ready for work the next day.
São Tomé is a really really small country. It used to be a Portuguese colony until 1975. The country is trying to promote tourism. Flights only goes to Accra, Ghana; Gabon; Angola and Portugal. The flight from Ghana is only 1.4 hour and about USD$270 round trip.
This was the 5th country on my 6 country adventure. I flew from Accra, Ghana with TAP Portugal.
Day 19 (June 28 -Thursday):
- I got in almost 9pm. There was a bit of a delay at immigration so I just went to bed as soon as we arrived at the Airbnb. The Airbnb was close to the airport and on the main road, opposite the sea.
Hotel: Val do Liz – 4 nights, booked via Airbnb
Day 20 (June 29, Friday): South Route for São Tomé
- The following day, I explored the South route of São Tomé and Rola Island where the equator is located.
- The South route includes City of Santana, Roça Agua Izé, Boca-de-Inferno (Hell’s mouth), Seven Waves and Micondo beaches, Pico Cão-Grande and others. Scenery is beautifulll
Day 21 (June 30, Saturday): North Route for São Tomé
- Next was the North route. We saw a few waterfalls on the road to the last village on the northern part. Some of the interesting things we saw on the northern route was the point where the Portuguese first arrived on the island, beautiful architecture, Blue Lagoon, Lighthouse, a Túnel on the way to the Santa Catarina village, largest bridge in the country on the Lembá River.
Day 22 (July 1, Sunday): Interior/Central Route
- For this route, we visited the village of Batepá (where the Batepá Massacre began), Botanical Garden, S. Nicolau Waterfall, Monte Café farm, and Almada Negreiro Restaurant.
My South, North & Central/Interior route tour was arranged by Ban Ben Non tours (https://www.banbenontours.com/tours_en.html). It was overall a great experience; I will definitely use them again
Day 23 (July 2, Monday): Bombain Waterfalls, Chocolate Factory & Calulu
- This was supposed to be my rest day but I was not too pleased that we couldn’t see Bombain waterfalls the previous day. I changed hotel to the best hotel in Sao Tomr (Hotel Pestano), they were able to arrange a driver for me to take me to bombain waterfalls – the second main waterfall in Sao Tome.
- It was a slippery hike to see the waterfalls but it was all worth it. The driver was dope; he dropped me off to an amazing restaurant when we arrived back in town to try the main traditional food – Calulu.
- Later, I visited the country’s sole chocolate factory. They gave us a tour, we got to sample some chocolate and I bought some. You have to buy a ticket in advance.
Day 24 (July 3, Tuesday): Departure
- I was scheduled to return to Accra but my flight was at night. The hotel were able to extend my check out time which allowed be to sleep in.
- I departed for Accra at 8.35pm
- Overnight in Accra
Benin, Togo and Ghana were the next countries on my 6 countries adventure. Two friends came with me on this trip. This 6 countries adventure had a theme – chasing waterfalls. I made it a point to see at least two waterfalls in each country J. Below, you would find my itinerary, cost and experience in each place we visited. Enjoy!
Day 9 (June 18 - Monday): Arrive in Cotonou, Republic of Benin Guesthouse Cocotier (2 nights) Depart Lagos at 8amish Arrive in Cotonou around 1pmish
We left Lagos around 9.30am. There wasn’t traffic and we got to Mile 2 pretty fast. From Mile 2, we took a shared taxi to Seme border. We were hassled from where we got down from the shared taxi. First the health official on the Nigerian side tried to get us to give a bride saying we didn’t have meningitis vaccine record. We politely informed them that it wasn’t required. After wasting our time for like 10mins, they let us go.
We got into the departure office to stamp our passports and we were informed that it was N500 each for a passport, we tried to negotiate it with the woman officer but she wasn’t having it. She claimed she didn’t charge us at all, that our passports were ‘Virgin Passports’ and the fee should have been N1,000 per passport. We paid and moved to the next station to ‘register’ our passport. The man said the fee is N500/passport. I asked if we could pay N1,000 for the three passport, he said yes and we did. As we were exiting the Nigerian side, another health official asked to see our Yellow Fever Vaccination card, we showed it to him and he proceeded to seize one of the cards saying there was no meningitis record on it. We sat down. He saw we weren’t scared or ready to give him any money. He let us go.
We got to the Benin side, the officer by name of Goston Nestor was a complete asshole. He said because our passport was a ‘Virgin Passport’ it will cost N3,000 per passport. I told him that was too expensive, he then said N2,500 per passport, I said we couldn’t afford it. He proceeded to ignore us, I tried negotiating with him but he stopped talking to me. He attended to others and later left us to go outside and chat with his friends. We refused to budge. An older Nigerian man went to speak with him. After about 25-30mins, he finally accepted N1,000 per passport and stamped our passports. The health officer on the Benin side didn’t bother messing with us because we were willing to stay 30mins instead of paying the inflated price/fee. He probably thought we were a useless bunch.
We finally got into Cotonou around 3.30pm. We were too drained to go to Ganvie. We had late lunch, did grocery shopping and just relaxed.
NOTE: This is my first time being hassled at the Seme border. Land borders seem to create their rule on the go. No one know if the money being collected is legal. My guess is not legal. There is suppose to be a free movement of West African citizen within West Africa (Id card or passport). The agreement is not being honored by land border officials. I’ve never had to pay a fee when arriving in a West African country by flight.
The term ‘Virgin Passport’ refers to when one’s passport has not been stamped at a land border crossing.
Day 10 (June 19 - Tuesday): Cotonou Day trip to Porto Novo & Enjoy Cotonou Ganvie Craft Market (Artesian Village)
We visited Ganvie first. We took a moto bike from Haie Vive to the boat station for 700CFA/person. We negotiated a boat to take us to Ganvie. I think we paid 16,500 CFA in total for three people. After Ganvie, we took a bike to Marche Dantopka to get a bus to Porto Novo – bus was 500CFA/person. We visited the Da Silva Museum (Musee Da Silva). Entrance is 2,000 CFA/person. The tour guide was pretty great. When we returned to Cotonou, we bought our bus tickets to Tanguieta with ATT bus company (9,000CFA/person) and visited the Art & Craft market (Artesian village).
Day 11 (June 20 - Wednesday): Tanguieta Hotel Baobab (two single rooms). One night. Paid via Jumia Travel Depart Cotonou very early around 7am (9 hours journey) Arrive Tanguieta around 4pm
We woke up pretty early so we could get to the ATT bus terminal by 6.30am. The bus left around 7.15am. We made quite a few stops along the way for the bus to drop off packages. We got to Nantitigou around 7pm and at 9pm to Tanguieta. That made it a 14-hour journey!!!! The stretch of road from Nantitigou to Tanguieta was really bad.
We had a light diner at the hotel when we arrived. We attempted to arrange transportation for the next day to see the waterfalls and to get to Kara, Togo.
I had zero expectation for the hotel but I was impressed. It seems recently renovated.
Day 12 (June 21 - Thursday): Arrive in Kara, Togo Hotel: Hotel Marie Antoinette (Paid via Airbnb. Two rooms. One night) Tanangou Waterfalls National park (if not expensive) Chutes de Kota waterfalls in Natitingou (one hour away) Depart for Togo (I think the border crossing is an hour away)
Because of time, we decided to cut out the National Park. We left the hotel around 7am to Tanangou waterfalls via motorbike. It took about 1.5hour to get there, we paid 3,000CFA/person for roundtrip. The hike to the waterfalls was easy but slippery. It cost 1000 CFA/person for entrance.
When we returned to the hotel to get our stuff, the driver that the manager arranged for us to Togo was there. The driver insisted on 30,000CFA total to take us from Tanguieta to the other waterfalls in Natitingou before dropping us off to another driver in Djougon who will then drop us at our hotel in Kara, Togo.
We arrived at Chutes de Kota waterfalls in Natitingou, entrance was 500CFA/person. The hike was not as easy as Tanangou because of more climbing but still considered easy. After the visit, we went on the Djougon where we got into another car with the assumption that it would drop off at our hotel in Kara. Border crossing was a piece of cake. No one asked us for money, no one said our passport was ‘Virgin Passport’ & no one said we needed to have meningitis vaccination proof on the yellow fever card.
Getting close to Kara, the driver asked us for our final destination, we told him the name of the hotel again. This jerk then denied that the other driver didn’t mention to him that he had to drop us off at our hotel. We told him the deal and confirmed to him that he was there when we were asked for final destination in Djougon. He didn’t say anything after that but proceeded to drive us to the bus/shared taxi park in Kara saying we would have to pay him an extra 2000CFA for that. We refused. After a while, Shola went to negotiate with a motor bike – it was 300CFA per person for the ride to the hotel. We left the jerk’s car and went off.
The hotel wasn’t even far from the bus park – less than 10 minutes. At the hotel, we made arrangement for how to get to Koutammakou for the next day, looked for where to eat and just relaxed. It took us a while to find good food, in the end, we settled for what was available.
Day 13 (June 22 - Friday): Arrive in Kpalime Hotel: two nights at La Paillote (Paid via Airbnb. 2 rooms booked) Day trip to Koutammakou Depart to Kpalime
We left the hotel around 8am to Koutammakou, almost 3 hours journey one way. The owner of the hotel arranged the driver for us, we paid 15,000CFA for a round trip. On getting to Koutammakou, the prices wasn’t visible, they claimed it was 10,000CFA/person for a guide (which is mandatory) plus an additional 1,500CFA/person entrance fee. In the end, we paid 10,000CFA in total for guide/entrance thanks to Shola’s negotiation skills.
Koutammakou is a UNESCO heritage site and a total of 36 villages. The people migrated from Burkina Faso after fleeing pressure to convert to Islam. Their ancestors sought refuge in the mountains before building the beautiful 3 level houses.
After Koutammakou, the driver took us back to Kara, we asked how to get to Kpalime. He said he knew a driver that would take us. It cost 5,000CFA/person for a shared taxi that sits 4 people at the back and two in front. We decided to pay 20,000CFA for the 4 back people so we can be comfortable. We asked if the driver knew our hotel in Kpalime, he said Kpalime was his route so he knows it well. We began the journey at 1.30pm. We were stuck in one-hour traffic jam not long after we left Kara. The driver stopped several times to chat with his friends without excusing himself.
He tried, not once but two times to put another passenger in the back seat to make it 4 people after we have agreed to pay for the sit! We refused off course. He decided to be petty when we got to Atapame at 6.30pm, he stopped his car at a park and asked a man to come speak to us in Yoruba. The man said the driver said he didn’t know the way to Kpalime. Lies! In the end, we refused to give him the 20,000CFA. Another driver at the park was arranged to take us and we would give him the money when we got to Kpalime. In all, we were delayed 1 hour in Atapame. Finally, we made it to Kpalime in one piece at 9.30pm.
The hotel was cozy but no WIFI or hot water for shower L.
Day 14 (June 23 - Saturday): Kpalime Sightseeing - 3 waterfalls, mount Agou
In the morning, Star & Shola went into town to buy breakfast & a Sim card so we could access internet. There in town, they met a Rasta who would act as a guide and take us to Kpime waterfalls for 1,500CFA in total for guide fees. The owner of the hotel also introduced us to a tour guide – his prices were ridiculous – something like 10,000CFA/person as guide fee plus transportation cost. We elected to use Rasta.
Rasta came for us at 12noonish, we adjusted the plan to include Wome falls. Everyone said Yikpa was too far. We went to Kpime first, motor bike ride cost 1,000CFA roundtrip to Kpime. The entrance is 1,000CFA/person. The hike had a bit of steep climbing but not impossible. After Kpime, we went back to Rasta’s shop to drop off Star. It was around 3.30pmish. Unfortunately, it started raining really heavily so we had to postpone Wome to the next day.
Because of time, we decided to cross out Mount Agou.
Day 15 (June 24 - Sunday): Depart to Hohoe, Ghana Hotel: Comfort Stay - Paid via Airbnb. One night. Two rooms booked. Arrive in Hohoe, Ghana Wli & Tagbo Waterfalls if time. If not, visit next day
Since it rained heavily and we were unable to go to Wome the previous day. We went there in the late morning. It took about an hour on motorbike to get there mostly because of the really bad road. We had to pay a 2,500CFA permission fee at the military post and 500CFA/person entrance fee. The motor bike cost 2,000CFA/person roundtrip.
Wome is a beautiful place. The walk is not long but there are 177 high uneven stairs. After Wome, we went back to town to get a shared taxi to Hohoe. We were pronouncing it Ho ho but the town is actually pronounced ho-hoi. Because of the way we pronounced it, people assumed we were going to Ho (pronounced ho ho). We didn’t know this; hence we were put in a shared taxi going to Ho at around 5.21pm. After we crossed the border at Kpedze, we got into a car we thought was going to Hohoe. We only realized the mistake when they took off the sign on the bus that had Ho.
Anyways, we were told that we couldn’t get a bus going to Hohoe that we would have to go to Ho. We got to Ho at 6.25pm and waited until 6.50pm at Ho bus terminal, we got a bus going to Hohoe. We arrived in Hohoe at 9.20pm.
Day 16 (June 25 - Monday): Depart to Koforidua, Ghana Hotel - Ages Lodge: Paid via Airbnb. One night. Three rooms Arrive in Koforidua
Luckily for us, we were able to arrange a taxi service with the taxi driver that dropped us off to our Airbnb the previous night. We agreed to 90 cedis for the driver to pick us up in the morning, take us to Wli and Tagbo falls and drop us at the Hohoe bus terminal. He came to pick us up to Wli Waterfalls first. The entrance for Wli is 50 cedis for the 3 hours hike to the lower and upper falls. Wli has two falls – you can walk to the lower one and view the second one after a really steep climb.
It’s 40 mins easy walk to the lower falls which is absolutely gorgeous. Then another 30mins uphill walk to the viewing platform for the second falls. I found that uphill walk quite difficult. Twice, I had to sit because I felt extremely dizzy and nauseous. Maybe because I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast the previous day but it was a hard hike for me. Made it to the two-viewing platform and started the descent.
After Wli, we went to Tagbo Falls. The entrance was 20 cedis for Non-Ghanaians. It is a 45minutes walk from the entrance. Another beautiful place. Because our driver was on Ghanaian time, we set out to Wli later than we wanted and he was 2hrs late in picking us from Wli to Tagbo. This meant we didn’t get to Hohoe bus garage (almost an hour drive from Tagbo to Hohoe bus garage) until 7pm. We were able to get on the last bus to Koforidua at 7.07pm. Arrived at our hotel in Koforidua at 1am.
Day 17 (June 26 - Tuesday): Koforidua sightsee & depart to Accra Hotel: Downtown Osu - Paid. Booked via Airbnb. Two nights. Two beds Boti Waterfalls Akaa Falls Asenema falls Umbrella Rock Aburi Botanical Garden on the way to Accra Arrive in Accra late
The hotel helped us arrange a taxi to take us to Boti and Akaa Falls. The idea was the taxi would drop off at the Koforidua bus terminal after Boti and Akaa Falls then we would get a bus going to Accra and get off at Asenema which is in Akpong on the way to Accra. Anyways, the taxi driver didn’t know the way so we ended up in Akpong where Asenema Falls. We took that opportunity to see Asenema Falls, it’s by the road, only a 5 mins walk. There was no fee.
After seeing it, the driver was given the right directions to Boti Falls. Cost was 20 cedis for Non-Ghanians and 10 cedis for Ghanians. Easy walk, you will have to go down 255 stairs but you don’t feel it. Really beautiful. After the Boti, we took the easy way to Umbrella Rock. You can elect to do a 45mins hike there or a 10-15minutes drive so we took that option. After the drive, you would still have to walk about 10mins.
Driving back from the Umbrella Rock, we stooped at Akaa Falls which is on the same road. We paid 10 cedis in total for 2 people. There was no price listed and we claimed to be Ghanians. The walk is similar to that of Boti but not up to 255 stairs. We were the only ones at the Falls.
Because of time, we decided to cut Aburi Gardens from the list. We made our way to the Koforidua Bus Station and began the 2hrs or so journey to Accra – our last destination J.
Day 18 (June 27 - Wednesday): Accra, Ghana Sightseeing
We didn’t do any sightseeing in Accra. All three of us had visited Accra several times before. We just relaxed, did laundry, eat and celebrated the end of this adventure.
Day 19 (June 28 -Thursday): Departure * Kunbi departs for the airport around 12.30pm * Star & Shola departs for Lagos in the morning
Star and Shola left the Airbnb around 5.30am to begin their road trip back to Lagos. I slept in and left around 12noon to the airport for my flight to Sao Tome and Principe.
My Overall Review:
I knew that I didn’t want to do this trip solo which was why I invited two friends. One couldn’t make it and the other – Star, invited her other friend Shola. It turned out to be a great trip with them. They have mad negotiating skills especially Shola. She was in charge of negotiating taxi fares. Star was in charge of food. I just chilled Lol. Shola was nicknamed the mountain goat because she climbs just like a mountain goat lol. We created great memories.
The worst experience on the trip was the experience at the Seme border and the driver situation from Kara to Kpalime, Togo. But they weren’t experience that had the ability to ruin a trip. The big cities of Benin, Togo and Ghana but challenge yourself to see the other parts of those country.
Thanks for reading J
When I confirmed my trip to Egypt, I wanted it to be special since I was crossing off a bucket list item. Below is my itinerary and review. Remember, the review is a result of MY experience. You should still do your own research and use it to make an informed decision.
7 days, 6 Nights: Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Alexandria & Wadi El Rayan
Day 1 (10th of June, Sunday): Arrival + Giza Pyramids + Flight to ASWAN Arrive to Cairo airport at 11am in the morning. We drive to Giza Pyramids & Sphinx. Transfer back to the airport for flight to ASWAN (Flight booked by Jakada) Overnight in Aswan [Helnan Hotel booked by Jakada].
Review: Flight landed on time, I did not check in a luggage and immigration was fast. Visa is USD$25. After seeing the Pyramids, Sphinx and visit to two shops, I was left with PLENTY of time before my 10.15pm flight to Aswan.
What I would do differently next time:
- Schedule a visit to the Bazaar or somewhere else as a just in case if we have lots of time left.
- Not buy stuff I don’t need. At the Oil shop, I felt obligated to buy something because they were nice. After 10 hours of flying, I felt afterwards that I let my guard down. Although, I only bought 1 small size of a mixture of oil (for $55 –negotiated from $90) that is supposed to treat eczema. I will update if it works, if not, the shop owner will get a massive side-eye lol. I also bought two painting for $70 made from Papyrus paper. Those I actually liked and do not regret buying. Update 1: at the airport duty free, they do sell the papyrus paper painting for really cheap, however, they are machine made vs. handmade.
- I should have booked a different hotel. Helnan hotel is a 5 star hotel that in my opinion is living in past glory. The room was freaking outdated. Excellent customer service but the rooms was more like motel 6 #firstworldproblemsiknow.
Day 2 (11th of June, Monday): Abu Simbel Transfer to Luxor. Overnight in Luxor [Hotel booked by me – Hilton Luxor].
Review: I loved the vibes in Aswan even though I was just there for a few hours really.
What I would do differently next time:
- Pick a different hotel or go with Airbnb for a local experience.
- Add other sites in addition to Abu Simbel
- Stay longer in Aswan and see other sites, interact with locals and meet up with couchsurfers. In Aswan, I saw many Egyptians that looked like me and I was very interested in socializing with them. This was when I regretted having a set itinerary. I will definitely come back to Aswan.
Day 3 (12th of June, Tuesday): Luxor Hot Air Ballon ride, Valley of the Kings, Clossal of Memmon, Valley of the Queen, Karnak & Luxor Temple. Fly to Cairo (Flight ticket booked by Jakada). Overnight in Cairo [Le Meridien Hotel booked by Jakada]
Review: I don’t like to say something is a Must Do because really nothing in life is a Must Do. I’m glad I decided to do the Hot Air Balloon ride, first time and I LOVED it.
What I would do differently next time:
- Maybe stay one more night at Hilton. The hotel was AMAZING, Top Notch and everything a 5 star hotel should be. Although I booked the cheapest room for USD$72/night, I was not disappointed.
- Also cramming the West and East Bank tour of Luxor in a day was a bit too much. I felt jaded after the second temple I visited. It didn’t help that it was 100F. So spacing it out might work better for you.
- I should have advocated for myself when my guide somehow decided to cut off Valley of Queen from the itinerary –saying it wasn’t really that important. I felt that should have been my decision after seeing the site. I let it go because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Day 4 (13th of June, Wednesday): Day trip to Alexandria. Pompey's Pillar, Fort Qaitbay, Catacombs, Roman Amphitheatre, The Alexandria Library. Overnight in Cairo [Hotel booked by Jakada – Le Meridien].
Review: I thought Alexandria was meh. Great for history buff I suppose. I was actually looking forward to it because of the historical nature. The highlight was the library – massive! I also liked that I was done with sightseeing at 6pmish. Gave me time to relax.
What I would do differently next time:
- I think Alexandria would be a better use of time if you were actually immersing yourself in the local culture & staying for a longer period of time. The library was dope though. Glad I went, probably would skip on my next trip to Egypt.
Day 5 (14th June, Thursday): Al Fayoum Oasis and Wadi Rayan Overnight in Cairo [Hotel booked by Jakada – Le Meridien].
Review: It wasn’t a big waterfalls but I still LOVED it. There are two waterfalls side by side. Worth a day trip. It was about a 2 hours’ drive from Cairo.
What I would do differently next time:
- Nothing. I loved how the day’s activity was short. Gave me time to relax afterwards :).
Day 6 (15th of June, Friday): Cairo City Tour Egyptian Museum, Citadel & Coptic Cairo Overnight in Cairo [Hotel booked by Jakada – Le Meridien].
Review: My day started at 9am and by 1.30pmish, I was back at the hotel. The museum is massive with original artifact found from tombs. The section of the boy king was the most fascinating to me. Note, they are building a new museum, which should be opened by next year.
Coptic Cairo is also interesting – there are several churches including the famous hanging church and the cave in the church where Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus hid for a few months while fleeing Herod.
I didn’t get to see the Citadel because I was told it was overcrowded. It was the day after Ramadan ended so there were many people especially children out. At the museum, a large group of young boys (about 12yrs old) was denied entry because the guards thought they would destroy the museum. Stupid & sad because they could have assigned a museum guide to them.
What I would do differently next time:
Nothing.Ok, maybe learn a few phrases in Arabic so I can interact with the many children that approached me (not for money). I loved how that every group of young girls I came across asked with gestures if they could take a picture with me or touch me/my hair and WAITED for my response. I happily obliged. They reminded me of my former 5th & 6th graders. Cute!
DAY 7 (16th of June, Saturday): Final Departure Transfer to airport. Flight departs at 7.45am in the morning.
Included in the tour package
- Includes all sights mentioned and fees
- Guiding all the sights
- Private tour no sharing
- 1 night Accommodation at Helnan Hotel in Aswan
- 4 nights Accommodation at Le Meridien in Cairo
- Domestic tickets (Cairo-Aswan & Luxor-Cairo) and all ground transfers
- Lunch during the tours
- All tax and services
- International flights
Overall Review: Proud of myself for making this trip a reality. It has always been on my list. I will definitely revisit. Do not let others (including me) project their fears on you. Remember that this review is MY experience & yours might be different. Therefore, in the end, You Should Do You!
What I would do differently next time:
1. Use different hotels in Aswan & Cairo. For the price of upgrading to 5 star accommodation, I could have gotten a better room on Airbnb or somewhere else. If you are looking for luxury, Le Meridien in Cairo and Helnan in Aswan are not it. Go with Hilton Luxor, they are top notch.
2. Use Couchsurfing to hang out with locals to get a more balanced experience.
3. Be more assertive. See next section for more on this.
4. Put in a free day to explore on my own (with couchsurfers or people from my FB travel group).
What I Wish I knew before visiting:
- Have my Resting Bitch Face on as soon as I deplane. It is very much needed in a place where it seems like some people seem entitled to receive a tip. No, I am not talking about tipping for rendering a service. I am speaking on when someone gives you unsolicited advice or directs you to take a picture of something you probably don’t care about then turns around to ask for a tip. Or when the cleaners at the airport toilet follow you and hassle you for a tip. The guides at the temples/sites will hassle you as well, even let you enter prohibited spaces or take pictures even though it is prohibit for a chance of getting a tip. No, thank you in Arabic doesn’t always help. Resting Bitch Face & no eye contact prevents them from even approaching you. I had mine on by day 3.
- Still on tipping – have smaller bills for when you feel like you are being pressured into tipping in situation where no services was rendered.
- Second hand smoking will get to you. Smoking is not restricted for outside so it is common that someone will be smoking inside beside you.
- It is ok not to buy stuff (especially ones you don’t need) at every or any shop you are taken to. I said no to a shop in Luxor because honestly I had no need for the cravings they made. I felt bad for like 20 minutes because one of the old men cravers gave me a gift of a special stone. Afterwards, I was glad I didn’t waste my money.
- Is Egypt safe? I felt safe throughout the trip. Strong military/police presence and tight security at all major hotels and tourist sites. Also several checkpoints on the road. Makes sense to stay updated as we live in a forever-changing world.
- Safe for solo females? IDK. I had a guide with me every time I left the hotel. I was left alone to explore more at one of the temples in Luxor. I was followed for like 10 mins by a perverted old man. At another temple in Luxor, one of the old men (guide) asked to take a picture with me, I obliged, and he proceeded to put his hands on my butt. Now, I don’t know if this was an accident or intentional but I do know that I felt uncomfortable and left to meet up with my guide ASAP. For my own sanity, I have elected to either roll with locals or use a guide when I visit countries that several women had complained about being harassed.
- Do you really need a guide to explore Egypt? No, you do not. It might actually be much cheaper if you just book everything yourself and take local transit or do those small group tours. I chose not to. In the past two years or so, my anxiety has gotten to a level that its affects my daily life. Therefore, to have a sense of peace, I chose to pay extra for a guide. If it’s your first visit and you don’t speak Arabic or are solo, having a guide might be much more beneficial though.
- What guide/tour company did you use and would you recommend them? I used Jakada Tours. Before deciding on them, I had contacted Habibi, Memphis, OMG Tours, Lady Egypt & Deluxe Tours. I didn’t like the generic small group tour package they all offered. I sent them all a draft itinerary for a custom tour. In the end, I went with Jakada because of word of mouth praise from two FB Travel Groups I’m a part of. I’m glad, I went with them, Ahmed Fayed – the owner is pretty cool. When we agree on the itinerary, I made a 20% deposit via Western Union and paid cash on arrival for the balance. He was my guide in Cairo, & for day trips from Cairo. In Aswan & Luxor, I had a different guide with the same agency. Some tips, you should be very explicit in what you want, ask clarifying questions and communicate any issues you have. I also like that Ahmed did not make me feel that he was solely doing this for a tip. He genuinely made me feel comfortable. I also liked that he is able to read his client & adjust his approach as needed. I would recommend them & use them again.
- What hotels should I stay in? Definitely not Le Meridien in Cairo or Helnan in Aswan if you are looking for a 5 star/luxury hotel. The view from the two hotels is dope though & customer service is excellent. Hilton Luxor to treat yourself because why not. Use TripAdvisor to view how the hotel rooms looks like (pics taken by travelers) & to compare prices, try Airbnb.
- Is the water safe to drink? IDK. I drank bottled water but used the water from the faucet to brush my teeth. Bottled water is super cheap.
I think I covered everything. Feel free to leave your additional comments/questions in the comment section.
Thanks for reading. 🙂
So, this question is always being asked of me. Sometimes, I know it is being asked from a place of curiosity. Often times though, this question leaves me feeling some type of way!
I started traveling frequently in 2008 when I gave myself a graduating gift to Guatemala for a 2 months language immersion. That trip opened my mind to the possibility of making travelling a priority. Because I made traveling a priority, I am able to afford it. So, no, I’m not a sugar baby, my father is not an oil typhoon and I am not wealthy yet. Below are 10 things I do to afford traveling or save while traveling:
- Budget – I have a budget that tracks my money. I know where my money goes so I am able to restrain myself from unnecessary spending which means more money in my Travel Fund Account. This means, you wouldn’t catch me at the mall buying stuff I don’t need.
- Travel Fund – Every month, I transfer money to my separate travel fund account. Usually if I have money left from other expenses, I transfer it to my travel fund as well.
- Layovers – I make the best use of my layovers. Here is what I mean, this summer, I decided to fly home to Nigeria with Egypt Air because I know they would have a layover in Cairo, Egypt. I extended my layover to a week for $15 extra – winning, because now I’m able to see Egypt and as well as going home to Nigeria. Another time, my flight from London, UK to Dar es Salam, Tanzania was with Air Seychelles which had a few hours layover in UAE and Seychelles. After I got my ticket on Kayak, I emailed Air Seychelles to extend my layover in UAE for 5 days and Seychelles for 5 days as well. They did this without an additional charge. Same situation with Air Marco this past December. I wanted to visit Senegal and Air Marco had the cheapest flight with a layover in Morocco. I extended the layover off course. That way, you are able to see multiple countries in one trip.
- Maximizing your time in the region. When I travel in the summer, I usually use this opportunity to visit multiple countries in close proximity. I figure, it would be cheaper for me to visit those countries while I was close by than for me to make it an entire separate trip. So, when I visited Senegal in December, I used that opportunity to visit The Gambia. This side trip added an extra USD $300 for transportation from Senegal to The Gambia. Still cheaper if I would have had to fly from the U.S to The Gambia. Same as last summer, added Denmark as a side trip when I visited Sweden. I should have added Norway as well but time constraint. I got to see Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda as side trips from Tanzania. Also a few pacific countries as side trips from Indonesia.
- Selecting Accommodation – my choice of accommodation had changed significantly since I started traveling. I usually mix up my options.
- Couchsurfing – in my early and mid-20s, I used Couchsurfing extensively. For those of you that don’t know what it is, it is a platform that allows you to sleep in the homes of locals or people living in the country you are visiting for free. I had a great time when I used Couchsurfing, it allowed me to build a network of friends across various countries. Now I no longer use this platform to stay in people’s houses partly because I’m slightly bougie now and I get real moody quite often, so I only use it to meet up with people. Which still helps me save people because locals know where to take you.
- Hostel – I mixed staying at dorm rooms in hostels with Couchsurfing in my early and mid-20s. Those two were my primary means of accommodation. It was great while it lasted. I usually stayed in all female dorm when I could and I chose hostels with AMAZING reviews on hostelworld.com. I still stay in hostels nowadays but I have upgraded myself to private rooms with bathroom en-suite, mostly for the same reasons I no longer use Couchsurfing to stay in people’s houses.
- Airbnb – this is what I primary use now. Depending on my mood, I might rent out the entire apartment but most frequently, I rent a room. I don’t have to interact with the host if I don’t want to.
- Hotels – I rarely use this. When I do, I prefer Holiday Inn or Hilton. However, on longer trips, I always treat myself to staying at Hilton or Sheraton at the middle and end of my trip.
- House of a friend or friend of a friend – I was more open to this in the past. I stayed with my friend’s mom in Cocha, Bolivia once. Her son, my friend from grad school was traveling in Europe. She treated me like her daughter :). Now, I hesitant now especially when the friend has kids or are married. I simply don’t feel comfortable and I want my vacation to be as comfortable as it can be.
- Organized tours vs. doing it yourself – I used to completely go on sightseeing adventures by myself, it was way cheaper. Nowadays, I mix it up but I lean more to hiring a car and driver/guide because I don’t feel like navigating stuff by myself. Either ways, I research and select what I can afford.
- Gifts/Souvenirs – I rarely buy gifts for people. When I do, it’s usually $5 max earrings or magnets. My philosophy is if you want gifts go to those places yourself or buy from Amazon (there’s usually a China made version of it anyways). Bottom line, I’m not buying you a gift #sorrynotsorry. This money goes to experiencing the country instead. I limit souvenirs buying, usually because I have no space to put them in anyways – I’m #TeamCarryOn for life. Plus, I move a lot and have had to give those souvenirs away. So, I rarely buy now.
- Credit Card/Debit Card – I have a Charles Schwab account which lets me withdraw money from any ATM with no fees at all. I also have a Chase Sapphire credit card that accumulate lots of points that I can redeem for travel. I am still new to acquiring the knowledge to better maximize those types of cards. All I know is for 41,000 points I was able to purchase a roundtrip ticket from Dallas to Boston and book two hotel nights at the Hilton.
- Flights – while I try to stay loyal to Star Alliance or OneWorld sky teams, I wouldn’t blink twice before buying a ticket that is significantly lower than airlines within my loyalty programs. I use Skyscanner, Kayak and Google Flights mostly to search for tickets. I have gotten lazy over the years in ensuring that I am paying the absolutely lowest fare to get to my destination. In addition, I have no problem volunteering my seat for vouchers. That’s more funds for travel to me.
- Travel Advise – this can cost you money. I don’t take advise from people who don’t travel or people who haven’t been to the particular destination that I’m going to. I don’t particularly care about what the cousin of your best friend’s sister experienced in destination x.
These are the 10 things I can think of now. What other ways do you save for travel on while travelling? Please share your two cents…
Until next time!
I had originally planned on taking this trip in Nov 2016 but I moved it up. I wanted to see the Iguazu Falls from both the Brazilian and Argentinian side on this trip. Currently, Brazil waives visa for US citizens and other nationalities from June to September because of the Olympics. Argentina has suspended the exit reciprocal fee for US citizens until further notice. With these two waivers in place, attaching Iguazu Falls to my Paraguay trip made sense financially if I went now instead of Nov.
I arrived in Asuncion at 1am on the 29th, went straight to bed as soon as I arrived at my hostel – El Nomada. Later that day, I explored the old town area which is walking distance to my hostel. The center is nothing fancy, just a few plazas and historical buildings. I also purchased my ticket to Cuidad Del Este for the next day.
I arrived at my hostel in Cuidad Del Este around 2pm after a 6 hours bus ride from Asuncion. The hostel was pretty basic. Glad I was staying for just the night. Cuidad Del Este is interesting in that it borders Argentina and Brazil. It is a 20 minutes car/bus ride to Brazil and about an hour to Argentina. Pretty cool, right?
The owner of the hostel was very helpful in assisting with planning the activity for the day and giving me tips. I decided to go visit the waterfalls in Cuidad Del Este – Salto de Rios Monday Waterfalls. It costs 20,000 Guaranis for entrance fee and another 10,000 Guaranis if you want to take the elevator to the other viewing platform. There is a trail where you can bike or walk. It’s a beautiful way to spend the day. After that, I went to eat lunch and around 4.30pm, I headed to the Itaipu Dam.
All visitors to the Dam must go through the visitor’s center where they take down your information. Foreigners must come with their passports. I was lucky that a tour was just about to start when I arrive, it is a free 45 minutes tour in Spanish of the dam. The Dam produces about 80% of the electricity used in Paraguay and contributes 17-20% of that used in Brazil. Both Paraguay & Brazil maintain the dam. Every Friday and Saturday, there is a musical show and illumination of the dam starting at 6.30pm. I waited for this. The music performance was by a local group. At around 8pm, we all boarded the bus (provided by the dam) to go see the illumination. Beautiful!
The next day, I took a taxi from Cuidad del Este, Paraguay to my hostel in Foz do Iguazu, Brazil for USD$18. The taxi stopped for me to get an exit stamp for Paraguay and entry stamp for Brazil. I didn’t do much sightseeing this day. The next morning, I went on a group tour to the Argentinian side of the falls with rd fall travel agency. We arrived around 10am and didn’t get back until 6pm. It was an amazing day. I had visited the Argentinian side in 2012 but only went on the trail to the Devil’s Throat.
This time, I re-visited the Devil’s Throat and did two more trails – the superior and inferior circuit. Fantastic is all I can say! After completing the three trails at around 3.20pm, my new friend (Andrea) and I went to do the boat excursion. The boat takes you up close to the waterfalls, I loved it. Because it was a last minute decision, we obviously didn’t have change of clothes so we were soaking wet! I decided to buy change of clothes at the souvenir store. It was a great way to spend the day.
The following day, I did two things – explore the Brazilian side of the falls and do the helicopter tour of the fall. I took the public bus to the National Park and got off at HeliSur’s office which is 5 mins walking distance from the National Park by the way. The helicopter tour cost USD$120 for a 10 minutes tour. Expensive but worth it. I was lucky to be sitting in front by the pilot so my view was not obstructed. My fear of height is slowly disappearing :). After the tour ended, I simply walked to the National Park.
The Brazilian side also offers a boat excursion. Unlike the Argentinian side, there is only one trail here – leading to the Devil’s Throat. Here at the Brazilian side, you do get up close to the Devil’s Throat. There are several viewing platform but the closest is the one with the bridge across the falls. Loved it.
I left Brazil the following day to return to Paraguay where I had to catch my flight to the US.
End of vacation.
6 Lessons I Learned From This Trip
- It makes sense to see the both sides of the Iguazu Falls. Plan on spending the whole day at the Argentinian side and 2-3 hours at the Brazilian side.
- Although it is very easy to sneak in and out of the Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay from that border area, don’t do it.
- I found men in Paraguay annoying. I encountered plenty catcalling which made me take taxis everywhere. Off course not all men in Paraguay are assholes, I just happened to meet a lot of the assholes.
- You can pay with dollars almost everywhere in Paraguay. At the border towns, four currencies are at your disposal – US Dollars, Brazilian Reals, Paraguay Guarani and Argentina Pesos.
- Puerto Iguazu has more accommodation options than Foz do Iguazu.
6. Don’t miss the tour of Itaipu Dam. You can take it from the Brazilian side or the Paraguay side.
P.S. Paraguay was the only country I haven’t been to in South America, well until last week. So officially, I have visited all the countries in South and Central America :).
Nowadays, you can travel Maldvies on a budget. Not a shoestring budget like in Southeast Asia or Latin America. There are numerous blog post on how to travel Maldvies for cheap. My favorite is one written by OneikaTheTraveller on Huffington Post, you can check it out here. Also simply google ‘Maldives on a budget blog’ and you will be presented with several blog posts on how to travel Maldives on the cheap.
Initially, I was going to follow the tips on traveling there on a budget but I came across blog posts from female travelers talking about harassment from local men on local islands. Two posts stayed with me – one by Simply Nomadic and the other on street harassment. To be honest, these posts made me reconsider. I do understand that many women visit Maldives without any incidences, however, most women that visit are with their spouse. Maldives is not yet a solo woman destination.
Also, I thought about treating myself. Maldives was my last destination in the region, I’ll only be in Maldvies for 3 nights/4days before heading back to the Americas. I have been traveling for the past 8 weeks. Why not pamper myself and cross out a bucket list item? With that in mind, I decided to skip staying at a local island on a budget and instead stay at a resort.
I used Booking.com, TripAdvisor.com and Google to find the right resort for me. I was able to narrow down based on price and interest to Holiday Inn Resort, Bando Resort and three of the Cinnamon Resorts (Hakuraa Huraa, Dhonveli and Ellaidhoo-Maldives). For what I wanted – Over-Water Villa; Bando, Hakuraa Huraa and Dhonveli were way more expensive than Ellaidhoo. Actually, Holiday Inn, Bando and Hakuraa Huraa were double the price of Ellaidhoo while Dhonveli was USD$200 more. So, I went with Ellaidhoo Cinnamon. Note, all of these resorts requires either a sea plane or speedboat transfer from the airport.
Because my flight arrived late – 9.45pm, I had to spend the night in Hulhumale – the reclaimed island where the airport is located. I stayed at UI hotel in Hulhumale for the night. It cost USD$45/night and included breakfast. It wasn’t luxury rather a basic accommodation option. They have excursion/tour options. Due to miscommunication between UI Hotel and Ellaidhoo, I wasn’t able to get on the 8am speedboat transfer the next day. I had to wait for the 2.30pm transfer. It was a rough 90 minutes boat ride to the resort. All worth it on arrival. The resort is small – 112 rooms, gym and spa.
I opted for full board so all my meals and water was included in the room rate. With this option, you only have to pay for alcoholic beverages. For the rest of my 2 nights/2.5 days at the resort, I didn’t do anything but write this blog and chill. I needed this vacation from traveling heavily for the past two months. I pretty much took care of me.
Click my YouTube page to see the video of the resort.
4 Tips for Travelling in the Maldvies
- Maldvies can be done on a budget. Google “Maldives on a Budget’ for posts on how to do it.
- If you decide to stay at a local island instead of a resort, please research local island options thoroughly especially if you are a solo female traveler.
- Maldives is a strict Islamic country. You can only wear bikini at a resort or selected beaches at local islands. Alcohol is only available at the resorts.
- Leave your pornographic materials, sex toys and dogs at home. They are prohibited in the Maldvies. See below list of items prohibited by the Maldives government.
After research this destination, I decided it was best for me to rent a car & driver to visit the cities I wanted to. Using recommendations from this blog post, I contacted Mr. Hasantha (email@example.com; 0094723427049) a few days before my trip for prices and availability. He responded within a day, we agreed on itinerary and price.
I arrived in Colombo at 11pm on July 16th, went straight to my hostel – Drift BnB. The driver from Mr. Hasantha picked me up at 9am the following day, we had breakfast and began the 100 mile (161km) drive to the first stop – Dambulla. I slept for most of the ride so I can’t speak about the scenery. We had lunch before going to the Cave Temple. I got a big shock when I arrived there – there were lots of monkeys. If you know me, you know I passionately dislike monkeys. And I read a lot about these sites, none of the blog posts mentioned the presence of monkeys!
Anyways, I summoned the courage and started on the steep climb to the Cave Temple. While walking up, several local men attempted to approach me. Before you ask, ‘oh, what were you wearing?’, I was wearing long loose pants and short sleeve t-shirt!! After a while of this uncomfortable instances, a white couple observing these foolishness asked me to walk with them, it helped.
The cave temple is beautiful, several statues of Buddha in various positions and sizes. Coming down from the cave temple, I saw monkeys attacking people that had food with them. After the cave temple, we went on to Sigiriya – which is just 30 mins drive away. We arrived at our second stop – Lion’s Rock Fortress. I opted to pay for a guide because Mr. Sam (my driver) told me there were monkeys there as well. Mr. Sam contacted a guide for me, the guide was amazing. I would recommend you use him if you visit the Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya area. He name is Bandara & number is 077-825-6963.
To get to the peak of the Rock Fortress, you have to climb 1200 steps. Sounds intimidating, right? You can do it. I stopped several times to catch my breath. But it was all worth it. The view is great as well. We were struck for 30 minutes when trying to get down because of hornets’ attack. When that was cleared, we were allowed to go. I spent the night in Sigiriya, the guest house I stayed in was fantastic! The owner and his family were pleasant and the food was delicious. Do check out The Otunna Guest house on your next visit to Sigiriya.
The next day, we proceeded to Kandy – a 56 mile (90km) drive. We stopped at a Spice Garden, where they school you on various tea, spices and herbal plants. You also get a semi-free head and neck message. I ended up buying a spice tea. Next stop was the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Also lots of monkey here as well and I saw there grabbing flowers from those people bringing flower offerings to Budda. I didn’t quite understand the temple of tooth relic, maybe I used have used a guide. After the temple, we have lunch at an amazing restaurant in Kandy. The view is spectacular.
After lunch, we began the 47 miles (76km) drive to Nuwara Eliya. We
stopped at the Glenloch Tea Factory and Ramboda Waterfalls. The Glenloch tea factory exports most of its tea but they have some available for sales in Sri Lanka. To see the Ramboda waterfalls, you have to go through the Ramboda Falls Hotel. You can’t swim there, there are two viewing platforms. Stunning waterfalls!!
We drove past what looked like the good hotels and ended up in the shit hole of an hotel I was to stay at. It was late and I was tired. Pls do yourself a favor and not stay at Glen Fall Inn in Nuwara Eliya. It was gross. We left around 9.30am the next morning. Before driving back to Colombo, we stopped for a bit at the Lake in Nuwara Eliya. It is a pretty town with lots of colonial buildings. The weather is way cooler than the rest of Sri lanka. No monkeys!! :). On the drive back to Colombo, we stopped at two other waterfalls – Devons and St. Clair, they are 10 minutes drive apart. No swimming, just viewing platforms.
We arrived in Colombo around 6.30pm, the end of my 2 nights/3days trip to other parts of Sri Lanka. I had two more nights in Colombo. The following day, I had a TukTuk tour at 4pm, so I went to the Dutch Shopping Precint area before going to the meet up point for my tour. Nice place to chill.
The Colombo city tour started promptly at 4pm, the tuktuk was beautiful, we got lots of stares. We stopped at the biggest Hindu temple& biggest Buddish temple in Sri Lanka, the floating market, tea shop, a local eatery, independence square and independence shopping arcade. It was a great way to explore Colombo’s highlight. Definitely, check them out for your Colombo City Tour – TukTuk Safari Sri Lanka.
The next day – my last day in Sri Lanka, I went to Mount lavinia Hotel to spend the morning since my flight was at night. There’s an access to the beach but you can’t swim there because of strong current.
5 Tips for Sri Lanka
- If you don’t want to bother with navigating public transport, renting a car with driver services will be your best shot. Also if you are traveling with your family or a solo female traveler, you might want to consider this option. The service includes, the driver, all fuel/gas, parking fees, driver’s food & accommodation. You will have to pay entrance fee for the sites you visit, your food and accommodation.
- Booking.com has the most selections of places to stay in Sri Lanka. Go through the reviews, you will find something great in your price range.
- If you are a black woman, the local men will stare at you endlessly. They will even follow you around. Sometimes a smile might do the trick but other times, you need to say NO firmly and give them the death stare.
- If you are like me and deeply frighten by monkeys, well, they have a lot in Sri Lanka especially in places like Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy. Get a guide if you can and don’t have food on you.
- Women, I know we shouldn’t be judged by how we dressed. However not everybody understands this. You might want to wear above the knee and no strapless or sleeveless clothing while in Sri Lanka especially if you are a solo traveler. Also most temples will not let you in dressed like that.
P.S: If you need a car/driver service in Sri Lanka, contact Mr. Hasantha at firstname.lastname@example.org; 0094723427049. I was satisfied with his service. Like with everything, you will need to communicate what you want to see or do, they will suggest places, you can accept or reject the ideas.