Visas required to travel to Western Africa
Travelling in Western Africa will introduce you to some of the most beautiful countries: Cape Verde, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Togo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, the Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal as well as the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
Obtaining a visa for travelling through the countries of West Africa can be an adventure on its own, especially as embassies change visa requirements at a moment’s notice. Ensure that your visa is valid before making any travel bookings.
Your passport is required for approximately 10 working days (per visa). If you have to apply for your visa in advance, you may be required to attend the embassy for an interview. If the embassy is not in your country for your type of visa, your passport will be sent abroad to the next closest embassy. This means that your passport will be away from you for longer than the approximate 10 working days. Most West African countries may not have an embassy in every country as it is expensive for their budget. Entry to most countries in West Africa is a standard procedure. However, some countries do have more difficult visa processes, which include Sao Tome` & Principe, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Important steps for your visa application:
- You will need a valid entry visa. Depending on the country you are visiting, this is not necessary if the visa is available on arrival. However, some airlines will not let you board without a visa on hand, so it is best to get your visa before your trip starts. Obtaining visas for Nigeria and Ghana can often prove to be difficult for most travelers.
- If you have visited Israel, it is in your best interest to obtain a new passport before your visa application.
- Carry at least 2 passport photos for any additional visa application required whilst travelling in Western Africa, as well as payment converted to US Dollars or Euros. Visa photos requested are usually between 2 and 4 sets in black and white or colour.
- Speak to your travel agency about providing you with a letter of guarantee with your itinerary in support of your visa application. They may charge you an additional fee if a letter of invitation is required for your type of visa.
- Have an updated international vaccination booklet. This must include proof of vaccination for yellow-fever.
- Your passport must have at least 2 pages per country that you are visiting. You will need 1 page for entry/exit stamps and 1 page for the visa. In addition, your passport must be valid for 6 months (minimum) after your date of departure from your trip.
- Consider networking with fellow travelers you meet whilst on your trip, as they can provide the most recent information to most visa/ passport difficulties you may face along your route.
- Double check your documents at every step of application, as it is human to err. Government officials may accidently forget a stamp or record an incorrect date on your documents. Once you are satisfied, commence with planning your travel bookings.
- Finally, visa requirements vary widely for citizens of every country. The cost increases for a Nigerian visa of an American citizen, compared to a British citizen.
Handy tip when applying for a Visa for Africa:
Due to a country’s fiscal control, the import and export of local currency is mostly restricted to smaller amounts. In this regard, travel with as little cash in your wallet as possible and try to divide your money within your other luggage. Some officials may try to extort your cash through inventive currency regulations. Make sure to carry a credit card explaining that you do not travel with a lot of cash, as you rely on purchases via a credit card.
Best practice when applying for Visas to Africa:
For all enquiries and especially for complicated visas, it is best to visit your visa agency to ensure a smooth application process. This is especially ideal if you are visiting several countries during your trip.