Guinea Conakry Travel Guide
: Guinea Conakry is for a lot of things (food and accommodation and hotels) about 3 times cheaper than Senegal and Guinee Bissau. Credit cards are most probably worthless in Guinea. You will have to change cash CFA or euro. The closer we got to Conakry, the better the rate was (and don’t forget to bargain over the rate with street changers !) :
* in Sareboido and Koundara
: 5000 CFA = 18600 GF, 1 euro = 2200 GF
* in Labé
: 5000 CFA = 19100 GF, 1 euro = 2500 GF
* the Oanda currency converter
quoted 2186 GF per euro, but because of the black market this should rather be considered as a minimum rate !
- climate and rainy season
: we were in Guinee during rainy season. Being one of the rainiest countries in West Africa we expected the worst, but it all was quite OK as long as you stay away from the coast. It seemed that every kilometre we got away from the coast already gave considerable less rain. In Koundara it rained once a week and in Labé almost every day. Mali-ville was again better, maybe once every three days rain.
: there are rumours that there is a ferry Conakry – Dakar, please let me know if you found out more about it.
: Guinea Conakry has some very corrupt officials and police, so try to avoid contact with them. We met some travellers which the harbour police in Conakry had taken their passports and only wanted to give them back if they paid a 5000 GF fine. An army officer ordered in a rude way money from me to fill up his car tank, fortunately my girlfriend came to save me and charmed him apparently enough so he dropped his request.
- the Guinean bush taxi’s
: the famous sept place Peugeot 504 or 505 has been completely reinforced in Guinea to carry excessive loads. Most of the time they take 10 to 11 passengers inside (children not included), a load as big as the car itself on top and above that there are mostly 2-3 passengers on the roof and sometimes one balancing on the back bumper ! Thanks to the ingenuity of the Guinean technicians and the care of the drivers we had no breakdowns. In Senegal cars were less well kept and although they took only 7 passengers there, we had more breakdowns.
- electricity and water
: there seems to be no electricity in the whole country (even Conakry was said to be already 6 months without power). If you want a hotel with electricity you will have to pay a lot or accept that they combine their hotel activities with a bar/disco/cinema and whorehouse to get the generator cost paid back. Streets are dark at night and shops lighted with candles. Torches and batteries are for sale everywhere and a necessity. Remember: no electricity means also no fan ! You will also get used to bucket showers as there is in almost all places no running water.
- small village markets
: every small village, even if it consists only of a bunch of huts, has its own weekly market (you can see the empty shacks the rest of the week). Ask the shop keepers in the big city if you can go with them to see such a market. As the sellers mostly have to make a long and often rough trip to get to the village, the market starts at about noon.
: there are only telephones in the regional capitals and we found only internet in Labé. The phone service is expensive but cheaper than in Guinea Bissau.
: we visited in Kifaya a small medical centre where there was one doctor to help the surrounding villagers and offered him some of our medicines. Tetracycline, Amoxicillin, Brufen and Sedergine (aspirin) are widely available in Guinea and even sold on small markets. If you want to offer something to these medical centres, it is better to take specific antibiotics, sterile compresses, drugs against high blood pressure, isobetadin, … In the market of Labé there is a very well stocked pharmacy.
: we bought bicycles in Gabu (see Guinea Bissau travel report). There are bicycle repair shops everywhere in Guinea Conakry, but we did not see any shops which were selling new mountain bikes as there were plenty in Gabu. Most people have old style Chinese bikes here. It is very common to transport bicycles on the roof of the bush taxi’s (roads can be quite steep for cycling), but you better protect the frame very well with the black rubber straps which are sold cheaply everywhere. We put a layer of rubber on the whole frame after we saw the deep scratches following a first unprotected transport on the roof. Taking your bike on a bush taxi should not cost more than half of the passenger fare, remember always to bargain over luggage fares, which are (compared to passenger fares) not fixed.
- to see
: a hot and dusty town with a bit of a market
: head to the main square (where you can find also the good omelettes of the café Oriental) after dark and search for the woman which makes a delicious potato and avocado salad, finally something else and more healthy than riz et sauce !
: no internet, you will have to wait till Labé !
- accommodation and hotels :
* Hotel Najama
(or something like that), behind the Total station and close to Hotel Gangan, is also dancing, bar, cinema and prostitution place, which means that they have most of the time electricity. There is a water tap in the garden and buckets in the shower. They charge 10000/dbl. At the entrance you can get delicious bouillon soup in the evening for 1000 GF.
* Hotel Gangan
, seemed to be closed when we were there.
* Koundara – Labé
: 16000GF (+7500 GF for bicycle and luggage), there are a lot less bush taxi’s during rainy season and only one a day goes to Labé. Because of the low amount of passengers we were waiting with a half full car from 8am until finally at 4pm a sept place from Senegal (Kedougou) arrived with enough passengers to fill up our car. The trip Koundara – Labé takes at least 10 hours over a rough road, so be prepared for a hard ride. There are food stalls (riz et sauce) in Bensane (from here you enter rainy area again !) and Kounsitel and after 4 hours you arrive at the BAC in Koumbia, a car ferry with place for 2-3 cars which makes its last crossing around 8pm. After that time you have to stay somewhere in the small village nearby and get food in the food stalls along the road. After the BAC the Fouta Djalon mountains really start with steep climbs and descents over a very bad road through the woods.
* Koundara – Conakry (via Boké)
: only once a week on Monday during rainy season.
- to see
Koundara - Kifaya : by bike
: there are very few villages along the way as you pass through the National park Niokola Bandiar, take enough water and food with you. The road consists of hard red earth with a bit of washboard and potholes, but perfectly feasible by bike. There is very little transport, two cars an hour in the morning, nothing in the afternoon. Apes, snakes and varanas can be seen along the road. The hut village of Kifaya lies 5km behind the big antenna (relay for the telephone of Koundara).
: very cosy village of huts, no stone houses here. On Wednesday there is a small weekly market. No telephone in the village. It rains only once a week here and the rainy season is only three months long. Monsieur Diola likes to offer foreigners a place in a hut and is very friendly. You can also stay in the house of the National Park Guard monsieur Ba, about one km past the village. Both speak very well French and are engineers. We paid monsieur Diola 10000 GF for accommodation and hotels and food.
- the city
: lies at 1000m high wish gives it a fresh (and at night even cool : 18°C) climate especially in rainy season. Expect in rainy season not more than half a day of sun every two days, but it rather heavily clouded than really showering the rest of the time. Labé has everything you (as a Westerner) were longing for : electricity, running water, internet and even mobile phones.
- walks around Labé :
There are several very nice walks to do around Labé, although the surroundings of Mali-ville (only 3.5 hours away by bush taxi !) are much more impressive. Labé lies on a plateau and there are no real mountains visible from the city, it looks quite flat. As Labé is quite big it takes also a while before you are out of town when walking.
* Hotel Tata
organises walks and is a good place for information. This rather upmarket “tour group hotel” charges the following for excursions : guide (4000 GF pp), tent (5000 GF per day), GPS (15000 GF per day), a night in a village (2500 GF per day), porter (3000 GF per day). They sell (2000 GF) copies of 3 “do it yourself”-tours : Chutes de la Sala in Labé, Chutes de Kambadaga and Falaises de Doucki in Pita. These papers give detailed direction guidelines and GPS-coordinates, but unfortunately you need transport to get to all 3 as total distance covers more than 40km.
* Environmental centre
: there should be such a centres which lies somewhere behind Tata and has made a regional map (unfortunately scale 1:200.000) with some walks and treks indicated on it. A copy of the map hangs out at Tata as well.
* Kolima mountain
: a very nice area which we saw indicated on the above mentioned regional map. This mountain is visible from Labé and recognisable at its nose-shape. It takes about 3 hours to get to the panoramic viewpoint on top of it. The surrounding area is very lush and full of low woods, rivers, paths, beautiful bamboo bridges and friendly hut villages. The 1250m high mountain is separated by a broad ravine from Labé, so seen from the city it does not really looks like an impressive mountain. If you have time left you could return via the Sounsoure waterfall, which is on the other side of the ravine and visible from the viewpoint on top of the mountain. To get there you could try to ask for Koalima (stress on the first syllable), but many city people don’t seem to know the place and will just send you anywhere. It is very hard to get on the right road out of the centre (we made a big loop), but I suppose that the shortest way to the mountain is via the road on the right of the pharmacie des ecoles, when you come from the Sotelgui antenna’s. We returned back from the ravine via a huge antenna which can be reached by going right the next street after the street with the arrow “Petit musee du Fouta” if you are walking in the direction of the stadium. Please let me know if you have tried this and if this really is the right road to Kolima, we searched 3 days to find it and are still not sure.
* North in the direction of Mali-ville
: we spend a day walking from Labé in this direction, but it was not worth it, it takes a very long time before you are out of town, the landscape stays flat and there are no huts, only stone houses along this first part of the road.
- accommodation and hotels
: as we spend quite a lot of time in Labé we could really search for the best hotel and stayed finally in three of them. Most hotels seem to have a number of very run down (no water, no electricity) old rooms which they rent out for 10000/dbl and some modern rooms (with electricity and bathroom with hot running water) for 20000/dbl.
* Hotel Salam
: our last and most beloved stay is one of the many average hotels in town, but the magnificent hotel cook made us stay longer than we planned. Chef Mamadou Bilo Bari has worked in restaurants in France, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire and makes next to his menu on special request delicious dishes. He is VERY flexible and can make a lot more than is indicated on the menu. After having tried his, a bit rough but huge, portions of European food, he made some really wonderful African dishes for us (for about 5000-7000GF). He also perfectly followed or whish to use as much different vegetables as he could find in the dishes. Every morning at breakfast we discussed with him what he could make in the evening.
* Hotel Tata
(www.tatasenegal.com) : as we arrived in the middle of the night from Koundara and the big gate of the budget Hotel de l’independance was closed we ended up in this hotel (gates where closed here as well but some friendly drunk Guineans helped us waking up the guards). Rooms are very clean, new, with electricity (backed by solar power in case), mosquito net and bath with hot water, but they were a bit expensive for us at 40000/dbl. They also have 4 huts or case’s (for two persons) where you can “enjoy the real African life”, but 20000/dbl is very overpriced (they are worth 5000 GF) for a humid hut without power (!), with a bucket shower and two very basic beds. For the real village life you should head for the villages themselves. Huts will have the same basic luxury as the ones in Tata, but the surroundings are a lot nicer and people are happy with 2500 GF.
* Hotel Provincial
: we stayed here one night in the hope to see the traditional Peul live music on Friday evening, but there was only a disco … Apparently the live music performances are mainly outside the rainy season on their Sunday matinee in open air. As this place is about 3km out of town and prices are same as everywhere (10000/dbl for very run down rooms and 22000/dbl for rooms with electricity and hot water) there is no reason to stay here except when you are sure there will be a live performance. If you are sensitive to the noise of the generator you could also stay in the Hotel Saala next door.
: the rate of 2500 GF for a euro which you get in the market is very good.
: there are two internet cafés in town, one close to the station
: there is a very well stocked pharmacy in the market, a pack of Halfan costs there 8000 GF.
- transport :
* Labé – Mali Guinee
(also called Mali-ville) : there are no bush taxi’s from the main gare routiere in the centre, you have to go 3km northwest out of town to Gare Routiere Daka, there are about 3 Peugeots a day leaving for Mali-Guinee (on Monday and Thursday double as much), 9000 GF pp, bicycles 2000 GF, it takes only 3.5 hours to get there as the road is in quite good condition.
* Labé – Basse Santa Su
: there is a daily bush taxi to The Gambia ! This bush taxi is full of traders going to Banjul, which is one of the mane trade centres in West Africa.
- to see
Mali-ville or Mali-Guinee
: a very nice village surrounded by mountains and perfect to walk, there is no internet, but there is telephone, money exchange is possible in a shop (but rates will be better in Labé) and it is less rainy than in Labé, which makes it even in rainy season possible to walk.
- tourist office
: a retired teacher has started this very helpful private tourist information centre, it is also the only place we found which sells postcards (in Conakry there are probably more), the ONT map of Guinea is on sale for 15000 GF and indigo batik is sold at good prices.
- accommodation and hotels
* Campement Bez
: most probably the best place if you are coming to do some hiking, this place lies 7km out of town right under the impressive rock “la dame de Mali”. It is owned by the retired teacher of the Mali tourist office, which can arrange transport to the campement.
The road from Mali-ville (Guinea Conakry)
to Kedougou (Senegal)
You have the choice between the main road and a walking track
(which skips the border post). Both roads are going through a magnificent mountainous landscape which is perfect for hiking. We cycled on the main road, as we wanted to sell the bikes in Senegal, but this was a bit of a mistake. Although prices are lower in Guinea, there are a lot less mountain bikes on sale than in Senegal so you will get more money in Guinea. The main road was also too rough for biking and there were enough villages along it to find every night a place to stay, even when walking. When the main road was already so beautiful, we can only imagine how wonderful the walking path must be. For cyclists : the road Termesse – Madina Wora is also in horrible condition.
The main road
Even this main “road” is very nice for walking as well, but a bit too steep and rough for cycling with luggage (we did it but had to walk a lot). It is the worst road I have ever seen in my life. It consists of hard red earth and is on places very steep, with big stones sometimes over sharp rocks and it has sometimes deep channels in it from rain showers which turn the road into a river. Sometimes it really looks like a dried out river bed.
- Transport on the main road
The only motorised transport on it are solid Berliet jeep trucks and a few villagers on motorbikes.
* Berliet trucks
: We saw one Berliet during the three days we spend on this road and it had a hole in a tire the size of a football. It takes them normally about 24 hours to do the 120km. For the villagers this is the only way to get to the city. An extremely rough drive from Mali-ville to Kedougou costs 15000 CFA (or GF, we are still not sure). The truck is rented by a small number of salespeople for 250.000 CFA return, they try to get some extra money by picking up villagers. You will sit with about 25 villagers on bags full of baobab roots and next to bags full of oranges whose smell makes you easily vomit. On the way back to Guinea the truck is full of bags with cement and rice.
: For jeeps it must be a really very difficult challenge to get through, we did not see any, but heard villagers tell about the problems Paris-Dakar drivers had when they struggled to get through a few years ago. In rainy season the 5 or so rivers which you have to cross are also very deep to get through. Trucks have fewer problems for that.
: seems to be a good option as they can brake on the engine which is a lot safer than with bicycles. Villagers said they could do the whole trip from Mali-ville to the border (90km) in 6 hours, but this is probably a bit exaggerated.
: We had a very hard time on the bike. When the road went down it was too steep and full of big stones to go for it, especially with locally bought steel bikes, which weighed with luggage probably 50 kilos. We had new brake rubbers which were after one day completely gone ! Uphill it was sometimes so steep that we had to push one bike at a time. Don’t believe the locals if they say that the road is easy and the whole time downhill ! Some of the 5 rivers we passed were seriously deep and wild (rainy season), but passable if you looked a bit around for the best spot and did one bike at a time.
: a good option, but the walking track is most probably more suitable as it makes a shortcut and brings you really away from the road.
- Lougé : this is the border village (a bunch of huts), make sure you have a mosquito net here, as the number of mosquitos is spectacular here.
- I have some more info about the villages along the way, I will put it here online soon.
Please contact me by email if you need the information now.
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