Frequently Asked Questions
Is each trip run separately or will people be getting on and off?
We have one truck and two crew (us!) so we run the 3 trips southbound from Senegal to Burkina Faso – have a short turnaround period to work on the truck – then start the northbound back from Ghana to Morocco. The southbound and northbound routes are split into 3 trips each, as detailed in The Trips. The reason we do this is because most people can’t get the time off to do the entire trip or just want to do a particular part of the route.
Breaking the journey into different sections allows people to come and go at various points. We expect that there will be a mixture of people doing single sections of the trip along with some doing 2 or 3 – so there will always be a good balance of old and new faces from trip to trip.
* Discounts apply if you are booking more than one trip – please contact us for more information
Is it safe?
Have a read of the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice for the countries we intend to visit. If you don’t feel comfortable with any of what you read then our trips might not be for you. There are inherent risks associated with overland travel to some of the areas we intend to visit but bear in mind that the FCO advice tends to be very cautious and can sometimes overstate the risks.
If the FCO issue a warning to ‘avoid all travel’ to a particular area or country on our route we will take heed of this and make a contingency plan. At the time of writing there are no ‘avoid all travel’ restrictions in place for any of our intended route.
We have researched our routes thoroughly and are continuously checking the situation with the FCO, other travellers passing through and local contacts on the ground. We continually do the same once we’re on the road. Please note that we will not hesitate to change our route should we have any doubt about security.
It is worth noting that many other overland operators run trips through countries in North, East and Southern Africa, the Middle East, and Asia which are currently subject to FCO travel warnings. West Africa is a part of the world moving on from a troubled past and is actively promoting tourism in many places. There has never been a better time to visit the region!
I travel on an ‘unusual’ passport – is that a problem?
Not a problem, as long as you are eligible for the visas you’ll need for the trip! Nationalities outside of the European Union/Australia & New Zealand/North America should thoroughly research the visa application process for each country – and notify us as early as possible so that we can help advise as best as possible that all the visas are possible to obtain.
Is the itinerary likely to change?
All itineraries are suggested only. Our routes are challenging and some parts will be exploratory so considerable flexibility is essential. Delays and changes of plan do happen: they are part of the reality of overlanding through the developing world where tourism is in its infancy. Be it bad weather, adverse road conditions, border closures, corrupt officials, bureaucracy, mechanical hiccups or out dated information,we will have to adapt our plans according to the circumstances. Please read the OVERLANDING: WHAT TO EXPECT section for more on this.
What first aid equipment and help is there?
The truck is equipped with a professionally compiled first aid kit which is stocked with everything you are likely to need on the road. We have completed a first aid course and are able to provide help and advice when necessary. We recommend that you bring your own first aid kit and use the group kit if you are short of something. If you do need to use something from the group kit we ask for it to be replaced. As a reminder you should also bring any personal medication you require for the whole duration of the trip – getting prescription drugs on the road is possible in the major cities but it is advisable to bring a complete supply from your home country to avoid problems.
What about visas?
You are responsible for your own visas but we will advise you which VISAS you need to obtain in advance and which ones we should be able to arrange on the road. We will provide you with the necessary copies of our vehicle documentation/letters of guarantee/hotel confirmations etc in good time, it is then up to you to obtain the visas.
We suggest using the services of a travel visa agent to help with this process. It does cost a bit extra but will save you endless time and stress in the long run. Though we don’t specifically recommend them one such travel visa agent is called Travcour and on their website you can select the country or countries you are visiting from the drop down menu to get the most up to date information.
Visa requirements do change, often with little or no notice at all, so it’s important to get up to date information before you travel. If necessary we will supply letters of guarantee at no extra cost, but if a letter of invitation is required for a particular visa there will be a small charge for this.
Please note Overlanding West Africa will not be held responsible for the failure of a passenger to obtain the necessary visas in advance or those we intend to obtain en route.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes. Travel insurance is compulsory. It is your responsibility to arrange suitable adventure travel insurance for the duration of the trip with benefits that cover personal accident, medical expenses, repatriation, loss and damage to personal effects. We recommend a minimum cover of £2,000,000 for medical and repatriation expenses. In the event that you do not have suitable travel insurance, you will not be allowed to join the trip.
In addition, we recommend that you have insurance cover at the time of booking incase you/we have to cancel the trip for whatever reason.
What is the ‘kitty’?
The kitty is a group fund paid at the start of the trip in cash and is in addition to the trip price you pay. It is a central fund and is monitored by you and the crew. The kitty pays for all your accommodation, meals whilst camping and all activities listed as included. The kitty system is unique to overlanding – it is flexible and you can see exactly how your money is being spent.
The kitty shown on the website is an estimate. You will find details on what’s included in each trip kitty price by visiting the particular trip page you are interested in. Near the top of that page just above the trip map you will see a link entitled ‘WHAT’S THE KITTY?’ (a red button). We will inform you of any changes to the kitty closer to departure – we have tried to be very cautious in our estimation so we don’t expect it to increase.
Your kitty payment will be collected when you arrive for your trip, usually on the first day of the trip at the initial joining meeting and must be paid in cash. We ask that the kitty is paid in either Euros or American dollars.
Please note that if you are on a combination trip made up of more than one single trip your kitty will be collected in stages and not in its entirety at the start of the first section.
How much spending money should I bring?
In a lot of the countries we travel through the tourist industry is in its infancy so there isn’t too much to spend your money on. Saying that though, we try to make our trips flexible to allow people to do what they want when we visit places rather than making it too restrictive – so there will be opportunities for optional excursions/trips at most places we stop along the way.
The week-by-week itineraries detailed in The Trips should give you an idea where the options for activities are. We think that €10 – €20 Euros a day would be sufficient as an approximate ‘spending money in addition to kitty’ figure. But obviously personal spending can vary a lot depending on the individual and how much you want to eat out in restaurants, drink alcohol, buy souvenirs, upgrade to rooms, and use email etc. It’s better to over-budget than under-budget.
With regards to what form of money to bring – it is best to bring a mixture of forms of payment. Certainly you do not want to totally rely upon ATM’s – they often don’t accept foreign cards. Paying with a credit/debit card is also very unreliable. We advise you to bring a VISA card if you do want to withdraw cash, as Cirrus/Maestro/Mastercard/American Express are often totally useless in the region. As a general guide you should bring plenty of cash, predominantly in Euros and American Dollars. Traveller’s cheques are an option if you want to cut down on how much cash you carry but please note that they are becoming almost impossible to cash these days.
IMPORTANT: When bringing cash with you for the trip, please ensure the notes are as new as possible. Old, torn, and dirty notes will attract poor exchange rates, as will those with writing on them. Larger bills (i.e 50 and 100 notes) attract the best rates. With American dollars, pleased ensure all notes are post-2003 with the bigger sized head on the reverse. Notes from before 2003 are often refused due to the high number of forgeries.
What is the maximum size of the group?
20 passengers + 2 crew. At times there may also be a local guide on Aminah with us.
What’s the usual group split in terms of sex, age and nationality?
In terms of nationality, the bulk of our passengers come from the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, USA, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland. We occasionally get passengers from Iceland, Japan, Spain, Greece, Italy, Brazil and South Africa.
Ages over the years have varied from 18 up to 80, though the majority of our passengers tend to be anywhere between their late 20’s and early 60’s.
The average male/female split is very hard to predict, but on average we seem to attract slightly more females than males, so around a 55%/45% split.
What will the weather be like?
The weather will be predominantly hot and humid, with rainfall varying from short outbursts to heavy downpours. Weather graphs for West Africa are useful as a guide, but the rainy season is notoriously unpredictable in the region and can sometimes drag on longer than predicted. We have timed the trips to avoid the worst of the rainy season so we hope it will be relatively dry for the majority of our journey. Nights can be cool in some places, notably in the Fouta Djalon in Guinea and northern Sierra Leone, as well as at night in Western Sahara and southern Morocco.
What about drinking water?
We encourage you to bring your own water bottle (Sigg or Nalgene bottles or something similar) to refill from the 350 litre water tank on the truck. We keep the drinking water tank topped up as we go and treat it with Micropur. Buying water in plastic bottles creates a huge amount of waste, and they often end up over the edge of a hill no matter how responsibly we think we have disposed of them.
How can I recharge electrical gadgets?
We have fitted leisure batteries for running the fridge, lighting, and charging points. There are 2 cigarette lighter charge ports that provide 12 volt DC output (similar to what you have in your car, so you can charge camera batteries, mobile phones, MP3 players etc), and a 230 volt AC inverter with a UK 3 point socket for charging more power hungry units like laptop computers.
Please note, you will only be able to charge your items on the truck whilst the engine is running and the leisure batteries being charged. Keeping the fridge running is the priority. You should take advantage of charging opportunities when we have access to power points in campsites and hotels.
What guarantee do I have that you will not just run off with my money?
We are too small an operation to join the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) and offer financial protection. But you can rest assured that we have invested a lot of money and a huge amount of our time, blood, sweat and tears in this venture to make it work. The overlanding industry is a small close-knit community and everyone knows us – so you don’t need to worry about us doing a runner! We are a UK registered limited liability company and have been successfully running trips for quite some time.
Please read our Testimonials page to read some of the many positive comments passengers have written about us.
I want to go, what do I do next?
Fill out our Enquiry Form and we’ll get in touch. We can hold you a space on whatever trip(s) you are interested in and send through a booking form (and a medical questionnaire if required) for you to return to us with your deposit. Once we have all this we’ll confirm your place on the trip and email you further information about the trip/meeting points/schedules/visa procedures and more detailed advice on what to pack for the trip etc
If you cancel, your deposit can only be refunded if someone takes your place. If the trip is cancelled (most likely due to security issues) your deposit will be refunded in full.
We will keep in regular contact with you in the lead up to the trip – as we’ve said before we are a small operation and like to keep things personal.
What accommodation is provided? Will I have to share with other members of the group?
For all of our trips, accommodation works on a shared basis. We tend to bush camp most of the time – occasionally staying in guesthouses, campements (campgrounds, where there is sometimes the opportunity to pay extra for a room) and hotels when we’re in cities. The group is normally split into pairs/couples who will share a tent or room for the duration of the trip. On longer trips you can swap if it’s not working out! We provide heavy duty safari-style two person dome tents that have an inbuilt ground sheet and mosquito screens. You will be expected to share a tent with another member of the group. If you like you can bring your own tent with you.
Do I need to be physically fit?
There are plenty of opportunities on our trips to take hikes, walks and bike trips so a level of fitness that allows you to enjoy these types of activities would be beneficial. However – a positive attitude and an open mind are more important than being super-fit. Whilst any person that leads a normal, active life should be able to cope with the rigours of life on the road in West Africa – overlanding does require a degree of mental stamina/endurance!
Conditions can be trying – the heat and humidity combined with bad roads and pushing the truck can make even a seemingly inactive day on the truck tiring! If some early starts and daily jobs like cleaning, unloading/loading bags, setting up and breaking down camp, cooking and washing up sound like too much to handle then perhaps this isn’t your kind of trip.
Please bear in mind that if everybody contributes to the working of the trip through their daily job, things get done much more quickly and run that much more smoothly. Once the group get into the swing of things it often only takes a few minutes out of the day. In addition to some early starts there will also be plenty of chance to relax, unwind, and enjoy the magic of the region!
What about my personal belongings and money?
The truck has a hidden lockable safe on board where you can leave your passport and money. This is entirely at your own risk – Overlanding West Africa takes no responsibility for any valuables put into the safe. However, please note that only the crew have the keys to the safe so you can rest assured it will be looked after.
What are the rest of the group like on the trip?
We can let you know a breakdown of passengers nationalities by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The only rules are that you must be at least 18 years old and if you’re over 65 you have to fill out a medical questionnaire and have it signed by a doctor. Some people book their trips either with friends or partners, but about 90% join our trips as individual travellers. If you are travelling on your own, we will pair you up with a tent mate of the same sex when we camp and the same goes for twin or shared rooms in hostels or hotels – so there is no need to go it alone!
We will set up a Facebook group around 3 months before the trip starts so you can get in touch, get to know each other and ask lots of questions.
How far ahead should I book?
It’s hard to say precisely, but it’s advisable to book most trips at least 6-8 months in advance to guarantee a seat. The visa procedures for some of the countries we visit can take up to 3 months so you need to get organised well in advance and also bear in mind the flights are often considerably cheaper the further in advance you book.
I’m a vegetarian – Will I be catered for?
If you are a vegetarian, or have any other specific dietary requirements, please inform us when you make your booking. We will always do our best to cater for particular dietary needs. However, you need to be aware that in many of the countries we travel through, the range of ingredients available to us can be limited.
What type of luggage should I bring?
A conventional backpack/holdall is recommended for your stuff – 70 to 90 litres maximum. You’ll be unpacking/packing pretty much every day so the easier it is to access the better – a ‘base camp’ style holdall with backpack straps is ideal but some people prefer a more conventional top loading backpack with access zips – it comes down to personal preference in the end. We also recommend you have a 15-20 litre day pack to carry your daily essentials. You don’t need the latest flashy expensive kit – just something simple and durable.
Do you sell flights?
No. We are a ground transportation operator only and are not insured to get involved in booking flights for you. Flight prices can be greatly affected by factors such as where you are in the world, what time of year you are flying, your route, and your age. There are many on-line travel agencies with very competitive fares and also airline fares are often considerably cheaper the further in advance you book so please bear this is mind when booking your trip with us.
What if I can’t cook?
Don’t worry about it. There is always someone around who can help. It’s not a Michelin 3 star gourmet experience and most people are so hungry living in the outdoors all day they won’t be too fussy! You will be in a group of either 2/3/4 other passengers for cook duty, depending on the overall size of the group.
Where is the best place to get medical advice before travelling?
From your doctor or travel clinic. The internet is a good place to do some background research but DO NOT RELY ON IT. It is vital to seek professional medical advice well in advance of your trip.
Do I need to take malaria prophylaxis?
We are not qualified to give you medical advice on what drugs you should take. You should therefore seek advice from your doctor or travel clinic, letting them know where you will be travelling. Please note that you will be in a high risk malaria zone for pretty much all of our trips.
I’ve never camped before, is this for me?
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been camping before – what’s more important is your attitude. You’ll be camping pretty much every night – so you’ll soon get the hang of it. We are fully equipped with sturdy tents that are easy to erect and we’ll help you out and show you how to put them up. The only thing you’ll need to bring along is a good sleeping bag and ground mat.
Am I suited to group travel?
We recognise that some of our travellers will have never been on a group trip before and for some people it may seem that you will be ‘stuck with the group’ the whole time. You will inevitably spend a considerable amount of time together as a group but we do not attempt to instil a ‘group ethos’ by constantly arranging activities for the group to do as a whole. We recognise that people often want the freedom to do their own thing when they get the chance so our style and itineraries reflect this. We believe that passengers should have the freedom to go off and see what they want to see, not what we think they should see.
What advice can you give me in regards to photography whilst on tour?
We ask that photos are taken with the utmost respect, as some of the local communities we pass through are camera shy and may not want their photo taken. There are also many areas where photos/video cameras are forbidden such as border posts, airports, military installations as well as some bridges, dams, historical sites and museums. Listen to the crew when they point these areas out otherwise you may lose your camera, get arrested or worse still get the whole group arrested.
For a general idea of what you need to bring this list provides a guide:
- A decent sleeping bag
- Thermarest style mattress or compressed foam camping mat.
- A day pack is useful for short hikes in the countryside, wandering around cities, etc and also for keeping inside the vehicle for items used during the day
- 2 sets of comfortable travelling clothes (light, easily washable cotton clothes are best)
- 1 set of casual but smart clothes for evenings out. Women should bring a skirt that covers their knees and a scarf for visiting places of worship
- 2 pairs of shorts
- Sun hat or warm hat if trekking
- 1 pair of sunglasses
- Warm sweater/fleece
- 1 waterproof jacket with hood
- 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes or boots
- 1 pair of sandals or flip-flops/thongs
- 2 small towels
- Wash kit
- Clothes washing detergent, small scrubbing brush & washing line (just a length of cord)
- Head torch/flashlight with spare batteries & bulbs (only the 3 standard sizes of round 1.5v batteries are widely available en route)
- Passport photos (average of 2 per country for which visas will be applied for en route)
- Good water bottle at least 1 litre
- A pouch or money belt worn inside your clothing, or unobtrusive pocket sewn into the inside of a pair of loose fitting trousers, is a must.
- Alarm clock
- Pocket calculator (useful when exchanging money)
- Multi-purpose knife (if you are going to use it)
- Cotton sheet sleeping bag (or sheet folded and sewn up on 2 sides). It will help keep your sleeping bag clean, and can be used on its own on warm nights.
- Mosquito net – The tents supplied by us have mosquito netting but your own net is useful for hotels/hostels and if you are sleeping out under the stars
- “Wet Ones” (moistened tissues) and hand sanitizer gel
- Toilet paper – this can be purchased almost everywhere en-route but one roll is worth packing
- Assorted sized plastic bags – protects clothing and equipment from dust and damp