You are going to a place where there is a very low level/small amount of tourism – open your mind, open your eyes and all of your senses. Here you are a true Explorer.
Do not expect West Africa to be like Europe, there are not as many businesses nor as many transportation or accommodation options. It may take a lot to encounter these things and you will have to talk to locals, getting out of your comfort zone. You will see that they laugh/giggle and with reason, in these circumstances, when you are stressed or frustrated about – underneath it all in many ways we are a society that is more evolved as we like to think, so we should stop and think.
Their type of attitude implicates less of a compromise/obligation, they will tell you to meet them at a certain time but then they won’t show up or they will show up 3 hours late, or they will tell you that they will go do something and it is possible that they won’t do it. But don’t get mad, be patient. This is exactly what makes the adventure more interesting. You will have to improvise!
- Required vaccine: Yellow Fever
- Visa for spaniards for 1 month in Togo is 20 euros upon arrival; Visa for Benín is 50 euros online
- The Togo visa has to be extended in the office located in Cotonou, just leave your passport, pay 1 euro and pick it up the next day. If you don’t complete this filing, then the visa will only last 7 days.
- Taxi from airport to Coconut Beach Chez Antoine (30min) = 5000 CFA francs = approx. 7 euros
- Budget = 30 euros per day
- Private room with breakfast included = 10,000 CFA francs = 15 euros
- Street food = 1 to 2 euros for spagetti / fish/ meat
- Meal at a restaurant = 5 to 10 euros large variety
- Motocycle chofer = 10 to 20 euros per day
- Best time to travel = From January to June and October to December
During my long experience as a traveler, I have reaffirmed time and time again that the information you obtain before your trip can completely change when you get there. When I insist that we need to learn how to travel and how that should have nothing to do with sticking to a strict compact plan, that I am completely against.
So, without the slightest bit of doubt what will make the experience better is listening to their music, reading their literature, learning from their beliefs…
Here I have included my musical favorites from this area that are internationally known.
- King Mensahm: Togo (traditional Ewe + Kabye + funk + reggae). It shares with us lyrics of religion, and defense of orphans and the oppressed
- Angelique Kidjo: singer from Benín (more information below)
- Bella Bellow: (known for ballads) died in 1973 at only 28 years old in a car accident
- Toofan: Togo, (new concept). They have one awards as the best African group and the best francophone group in the Afrima festival in 2017 and 2018. Here is a link to the AFRIMA, África Music Awards: https://www.afrima.org
- Jimi Hope: Togo (politics and rock). Forms a part of the group Acid Rock, and I recommend their album “Bonn to love”. He is also a painter and a sculptor.
- Peter Solo: Togo (more information below).
- Theophile Regó: Benin (more information below).
- Gangbé Brass Band: the 10 member band was formed in 1994, and combines the cultures of Juju, Voodoo and jazz.
- Zeynab Ouloukèmi Habib: Benin. The best artist from West Africa in 2005
+ More About Angelique Kidjo
This singer was born in Ouidah, Benin, but the constant political conflicts brought her to Paris where she became one of the most well known live singers in the 1980’s. Today, she has children with her husband who is a music producer.
Something fascinating – she speaks 5 languages: fon, Yoruba, Zilin, French and English. Also, she was nominated 4 times for the Grammys and she has collaborated with that biggest names in the industry. She also sang at the World Cup hosted in South Africa In 2010.
Her album Djin Djin refers to the bell in Africa that sounds at the start of a new day. In the Safari episode ofThe Simpson’s, Homer’s guide sings the Kidjo’s song “Wé-Wé“, from the album Logozo.
+ More About Peter Solo
A great example of how not doing what you like doesn’t have to mean that you are out of possibilities but rather that you lack determination. Born in Togo, he made his first guitar at 13 years old with a oil can and break cables for chords. And with that same guitar he trained himself to be a guitarist, only 2 years later he joined a band that took him on tour to the neighboring countries. With the money that he earned he moved to London at 27 years old to complete his training as a musician. There he dove into the world of gospel and developed himself as a singer to later join the group Kakarako and participated in international festivals.
+ More About Theophile Regó
He is a total legend in Benin, he began playing harmonica in his school jazz band and started his own band at only age 14. He was a great admirer of Luambo Makiadi, the father of African rumba, and moved to Nigeria to join Los Cubanos. From there, he began to travel on musical tours, joined various bands until finally in 1966 he started El Regos et ses commandos that was a fusion of traditional rhythms and American soul-funk.