Benin-Togo-Ghana: 11 days, 10 nights
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
The Road to Benin….
My vacation in the Republic of Benin was a much needed one. After 3.5 months in Nigeria, I really needed a time out – Benin was it! I went overland from Nigeria to Benin. It was my first land border crossing in Africa and I was sort of nervous. But it went well. I didn’t have to do much; the international bus I took from Lagos to Cotonou got our passports stamped. I guess that is one of the benefits of the ECOWAS agreement between West Africa countries. The journey took 6 hours. I did not go alone; my Nepali friend came to visit in Nigeria so we went to Benin together.
Cotonou is my favorite city in Benin thus far. Although it is not the capital, it has way more things to do than Porto Novo (the capital). We stayed in a nice guesthouse in Cotonou – a room with double bed cost 12,000 CFA per night, bathroom is shared. We did a lot in Benin. We took day trips to various cities including Ouidah, Abomey, Porto Novo and Lake Gauvie. The good thing about Benin is that these cities were between 1-2 hours apart.
One of the most impressive sights I’ve seen so far in my travels was in Benin – in a city called Gauvie. This city is located on a lake, that is the houses, schools, churches, mosque, salons & everything is built on the lake. Even the market! In the market on the lake, women showcase their wares in their canoes and folks come to them to buy. The history behind the village on the lake is phenomenal. During the slavery era which the Dahomey kings participated fully and captured people to be sold into slavery, many villagers escaped and founded a village on the lake. This prevented them from being captured since the Dahomey soldiers were forbidden from going close to lakes, rivers and streams.
Other activities I enjoyed included visiting several museums, the point of no return and the former Dahomey kingdom of Abomey. I was also happy because things were so cheap in Benin. I felt like a millionaire every time I exchanged my Nigerian Naira to the Benin CFA. I don’t speak French but language wasn’t much of a barrier since I spoke Yoruba (my native language & also a widely spoken local language in Benin).
We met up with a couchsurfer; she is so beautiful and cool. She went to the city of Ouidah with us and along with the Senegalese guys we met at the guesthouse, we went ‘clubbing’. I put ‘clubbing’ in quotation because apparently in Benin, people prefer to drink than dance. So there is not much of a club, it is usually a bar or lounge with a little dance floor space.
Two things unique to Benin – (1) Fuel/Gas/Petrol is sold on the side of the street. They are put in jars of various sizes on a table. I saw only two or so gas/petrol station and these weren’t your typical station. It was just one pumping machine in a small craved out section by the street. (2) Taxis are rare to come by. The preferred mode of transport is the zem (motorbike).
In all, I enjoyed my one week vacation in Benin and I hope to return soon.
I will still blog about my experience in Nigeria since my move in Sept 2012. So much has happened and I’m not quite sure how to begin writing. But I promise, I will post something in the next 2 weeks.