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Ivory Coast - Travel and visas
Visitors of practically all nationalities require a visa, which must be applied for in advance at the Ivorian diplomatic mission (embassy or high commission) in your country of residence, where one exists. If there isn’t a mission in your country you will have to contact one in the country nearest to you and travel there to obtain the visa after completing the online application process. Most Ivorian embassies require applicants to go onto www.snedai.com and download and fill out a biometric e-visa application form. Single-entry visas are valid for one stay up to 84 days from the date of entry. Multiple-entry visas are valid for the same period of time. Via the website applicants must then pay US$55 and select a date for an appointment at the embassy.
Airlines that fly to Ivory Coast include Air Côte d’Ivoire, Air France, Brussels Airlines, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Royal Air Maroc, South African Airways and Tunisair. Currently there are no direct flights to Abidjan from the UK, USA or Canada, so passengers from these countries usually have to change in Brussels or Paris.
Ivory Coast has borders with five nations: Ghana to the east, Burkina Faso to the northeast, Mali to the north-northwest, Guinea to the northwest and Liberia to the southwest. Crossing African borders can be a stressful experience, given the long delays and opportunists trying to sell you unneeded services or following you around in the hope of a handout. Whenever possible, try and take a bus or train from Abidjan (or other major cities in Ivory Coast) direct to the capitals of these countries, in order to minimise such hassle.
Petrol stations are ubiquitous – even in rural areas – and fuel is inexpensive by international standards. Aside from the illegal checkpoints, there are tolls (péages) charging tiny fees on the main roads connecting Abidjan and the major routes around the country. The telecoms company Orange has erected helpful signs on roads all over Ivory Coast indicating the direction and distance in kilometres of significant towns and cities. The only car rental agencies operating in Ivory Coast are restricted to Abidjan. For the most part, you pay for a car with chauffeur whose expenses you will have to pay, including the cost of his petrol to return to the office if he is dropping you off further afield. If you opt for self-drive, the price is likely to be far higher due to insurance.
For as little as US$75, you can book a ticket with Air Côte d’Ivoire from Abidjan to the five other major cities in Ivory Coast: Bouaké, Korhogo, Man, Odienné and San Pédro.
The fastest and cheapest means of covering long distances is by air-conditioned bus. They are comfortable by Western standards, with cushioned seating, decent amounts of leg room and – in some cases – reclining levers. The service will stop a few times on the way for 15- to 30-minute meal and toilet breaks. The only real downside is the loud music and film soundtracks (if there’s an on-board TV), but the driver will usually turn the volume down a little if requested politely. A bizarre idiosyncrasy is that passengers are not permitted to store their luggage on the shelves above the seats (that were surely designed to store luggage) for, supposedly, ‘safety reasons’.