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Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) has always been at the centre of West Africa's rich trading routes, having become most prosperous when the French established themselves here. The country is known for its stunning natural landscape which is replete with rich African flora and fauna. By car, visitors can head to Comoe National Park and Abokouamekro Game Reserve to experience Africa's wildlife, but travel to some parts of the country is presently advised against.
While the road network covers around 42,250 miles, is quite good and extensive by West African standards, driving here can be problematic for a number of reasons. Local drivers tend to ignore speed limits, signals and lane demarcations. Driving is unsafe at night as roads are poorly lit, with pedestrians and bicycles paying little heed to traffic. Many vehicles are poorly maintained and lack functioning lights.
Driving licences: a UK driving licence or any valid foreign driving licence can be used, but it must be accompanied by confirmation of validity, issued by the embassy of the driver's country of origin.
Which side does Côte d’Ivoire drive on: the right.
Rural areas: 50mph (80kph) to 75mph (120kph)
Built-up areas: 34mph (55kph)
Alcohol limits: as in the UK, 0.08 per cent.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: mandatory for all passengers.
Mobile phones and GPS: there are no laws banning the use of mobile phones while driving, but this practice is advised against. GPS maps are available for use in the country.
Cost of fuel in Côte d’Ivoire: more affordable than in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: petrol stations only accept cash payments. Major credit cards can be used for car hire.
Insurance: is obligatory and should be included with car hire.
Traffic and parking: as security is an issue in the country, visitors are advised to park only in safe and secure areas. Drivers are advised to make sure doors are locked, even while driving. Traffic can be chaotic in the large cities.
There is a north to south railway line travelling from the port city of Abidjan, the de facto capital of the country, passing through Bouake in the central region and the large town of Ferkessédougou in the north. It continues to Ouangolodougou, which is further north and close to the border with Burkina Faso, and on to Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. While the ride can prove to be an adventure, schedules and fares are inconsistent and more importantly, the train passes through unsafe regions dominated by rebels. Travellers must keep abreast of safety and security issues if attempting to travel by train.
Orange or red-orange taxis are available in the main cities. These taxis ply routes within cities and are different from the other coloured cabs that ply routes within certain neighbourhoods. They are inexpensive and easy to find. Some have some form of meter but almost always it is necessary to agree on a price before travel. In Abidjan, a cab ride from the airport to the city costs around £6. However, depending on how well you haggle, this rate can be brought down to £3. Taking a cab at night is highly inadvisable.
There are cheap and generally reliable buses in some of the main cities, but they can be extremely crowded at times, with some bus stations overwhelmingly busy. Unless you are used to travelling in West African countries, they are best avoided. Visitors using buses must remain vigilant for pickpockets. In Abidjan, there are shared cabs which perform the function of buses.
There are no regular ferries providing inter-city services connecting the main ports on the country's southern coastline. There are two main ports in the country: Abidjan Port, the largest container port in West Africa with facilities for fishing vessels, and San Pedro Port, a deepwater port in the southwest. However, visitors in Abidjan can cross the lagoon by ferry to take in the city's skyline.
The main international airport in Côte d’Ivoire is Felix Houphouet-Boigny International Airport, also known as Port Bouet Airport. It services the city of Abidjan. Two airlines connect Europe to Abidjan: Air France, which flies from Paris-Charles de Gaulle, and Brussels Airlines, which flies from Brussels. National carrier Air Ivoire ceased operations in 2011 so no domestic air services are presently available.
Tourists visiting Côte d’Ivoire will begin their travel in Abidjan. It served as the capital during the rule of former president-for-life Felix Houphouet-Boigny when the city was at its most prosperous. While Abidjan is no longer the capital, it is still the country's largest and most significant city, with lots of restaurants, hotels and museums.
There are a number of Atlantic beach resorts in the south of the country, many of which are still in the development stage. Close to Abidjan are the coastal towns of Assouinde and Tiagba. Then, there is Grand-Bassam, a coastal town which has retained some of its French colonial charm, having been the capital of the French colony until 1896.
The centrally located de jure capital city of Yamoussoukro is also worth a visit for its lively markets and the grand Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, the largest Christian church on the entire planet.
Exploring the countryside is a popular tourist activity. Visitors can arrange guided tours within Comoe National Park (northeast) where the main attractions are lions, hippos and waterbuck. Abokouamekro Game Reserve (near Yamoussoukro) is another popular wildlife spotting destination.
The coastal areas of the country experience an equatorial climate, with things becoming tropical to semi-arid as you move north to the inland regions. The dry season is from November to May, while the wet season is from June to October. The tail end of the dry season is when temperatures are usually at their highest, in some cases up to 40°C. In general, temperatures average from 25 to 32°C. In northern areas, the climate is much more extreme. The early part of the dry season is probably the best time to visit.