Once purchased the tickets for our journey, we started to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin.
To apply for visas you need a helping hand already there, a reference agency, so the first step to do will be that, unless you have planned and purchased the journey in Italy.
As you know, we referred to Jolinako Eco Tours to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin. They, besides to make low cost professional tours, have that little European feature thanks to Cindy, the Dutch joint owner who married Apollo, a Ghanaian guy. The best to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin.
The couple works very well: on one side it’s very easy to interface with an European girl because she knows what we expect, on the other one her Ghanaian husband knows how to move through the country to avoid and solve any problem.
Cindy immediately sent us the invitation letter and Apollo’s passport, which were essential to apply for the several visas.
Contemporarily, if you haven’t done it yet, you have to go to the Centre of Travel Medicine of the Local Health Unit in your town to vaccinate against the yellow fever, which is compulsory to enter these countries and many other ones in Africa. It is an important passage to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin.
I make a digression about the Centre of Travel Medicine that here in Alessandria is really efficient. The person in charge patiently explained to us everything we needed and took an appointment for two meetings to make all the vaccines.
Don’t underestimate the aspect of vaccinations. Leaving without vaccinations to such destinations is irresponsible, above all if you have your children with you. Make you well explain everything so you can make full awareness choices.
In Italy there’s the Ghana Honorary Consulate in Brescia. It was the first one we referred to there. It’s enough to see the website under the heading “services” and there’s a whole page dedicated to the tourist visa application. There’s the list of the documents to show, a phone number to call and an email address of reference.
Plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin looks like to be very easy. Once prepared all documents, I phoned to know prices and a very kind woman asked me all questions necessary to make sure about the visa typology (single or multiple), according to the journey’s program, the travel period, the itinerary…
The amount of the multiple visa to Ghana was 100€, plus the amount for the carrier to give the consulate all documents and make them collect to give us back passports. Plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin isn't cheaper.
You think that in those days the Consulate was closed since it was on holiday and however 4 days were enough to get back passports. Each traveller knows well how terrible it is the feeling to give one’s own passport to a carrier when the flight ticket is already in one’s own pocket!
Apply for the visa to Togo it wasn’t difficult. We referred to the Consulate in Rome. A very kind female clerk inform us about the procedure: the amount is about 50 Euros each passport and here, too, we have to add the amounts for the carrier. They require about 10 days to issue it and we are informed that dispositions were changed so it isn’t possible to apply for it entering Togo but it has to be applied for compulsory in Italy before leaving.
Unfortunately this won’t be right: not only at Togo borders you can apply for the visa entering Togo, not only it will cost less than a third if you’ll do it there, but with your visa issued in Italy you’ll have probably an endless series of problems at the frontier, like it happened to us.
People will start to say it isn’t valid, that it is expired, that it isn’t original, they won’t be able to read it, to interpreter it…so at the end you’ll have to pay to enter however almost always.
At the last frontier crossed we were said they let us pass only and exclusively if on our return to Italy we would have informed the Embassy of Togo that their way of issuing visas is wrong and that we would have made them modified. Welcome to Togo!
Here our odyssey began. Start looking the direct phone numbers of consulates and embassies. There will be many. We decide to call Rome. When finally we are able to talk to them (it’s possible to call them only a few hours a week) they redirect us to Turin, saying it’s nearer and that we have to refer there. They don’t say us the visa amounts because we have to ask in Turin.
We call the Consulate in Turin at the phone number on the website, a mobile phone number. They don’t want to have any to do with carriers. The only way to get the visa – and they do it to help us! – is to come to an agreement with a man who often pass by Alessandria.
These are the ways to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin. He arranges to meet us at the station, he informs us the visa amount is 70 Euros each passport and he will never tell us his name. This seems almost a blind date: he text to us and he says to us how he’s dressed.
We haven’t any other choice but give him our passports by this way. Days fly by, the expiry date scheduled flies by, the mobile number to call keeps saying to us to stay calm.
The departure date is getting near, with an annexed journey abroad we had to cancel because we haven’t our passport since they were gone over a month! By the mobile phone they keep saying to us to stay calm and that we had still time (4 days with a long holiday in the middle) and that our visas were already issued by the Embassy in Rome and passports were arriving to Turin.
Our calm starts to totter. We decide to phone the Embassy in Rome. When finally we are able to talk to them, they inform us that our passports were never passed by there so they asks us who we gave them to.
They inform us the Consulate in Turin haven’t been existed anymore for years. Our astonishment is boundless: it exists a website (evidently the domain keeps to be paid), with a phone number from where people answer and give info. We were sent some emails by that domain to ask us for further documents…
The Embassy said to us nothing better but what we did, giving our passports after have contacted that consulate which doesn’t exist, is called “negligent entrustment”! Yeah, you got it right!
They bounce the ball saying to us to call two legal firms in Turin (they give us their names and phone numbers). Of course, the people of reference are out of office, are attending a meeting, are busy, et cetera.
When at last we are able to talk to one of them (according to the website he deals with other type of suits related to the town planning), we ask him by what right he deals with visas to Benin. His answer is unbelievable: “I make the Embassy a favour”!
Our odyssey goes on and I don’t tell you more. At last we are able to get back our passports in time to leave. We don’t know the name of the man who give them to us nor who held them.
We only know – there is no limit to the worst – that our visas were issued by the Consulate in Naples, with entry days completely unlike we applied for and above all we know the date of the visa issue is over a week subsequent to the date when we get back our passports!
Were the delays due right to this? Or do they want to direct people to the agency? Who knows… Keep in mind that to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin. Welcome to Benin and welcome to Africa!
The currency exchange, Euros or Dollars, presents no particular problems. At least under this point of view planning the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin is very easy. But not all banks make also the currency exchange. Usually it is indicated outside or you can refer to the Forex Exchange.
Change at the bank can be very annoying. As it often happens in some countries, they will make you fill a lot of documents, they will photocopy your passport (often, to save paper, they will photocopy it on A4 cut in half sheets, with a consequent extension of the operation’s slowness) and they’ll make you waiting. The wait could be really very long. What’s the only advantage? Usually offices have air conditioning!
Keep in mind in Ghana the exchange occurs more or less as it happens in any other country in the world. On the contrary, in Togo and Benin things are a bit different. They both use the same currency, the CFA Franc, which is used in even 14 countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Niger, Gabon, Senegal.
The exchange to Euro is fixed at 655,957 (an old guidebook of several years ago reported the same value). It is a fixed exchange both for purchase and sale. Unless there is a different preventive specification – please, if you have different needs, ask for them and specify them well before! – the exchange for foreigners usually occurs by 10.000 denominations notes.
At the bank you will be able usually to get a part of your exchange by low-denomination notes without any too problems: in the Forex Exchange is more likely they haven’t the whole amount you want to change and/or they have it only in high-denomination notes.
It exits also another possibility: change on the road. Yeah, you got it right. Maybe don’t do it alone and make you advise. Anyway, along the road you often will run into people with wads of money in their hands. They will change money to you, quickly and in a flash in a few seconds, with no problems and without any documents. The art to manage in Africa reaches incredible creativity levels but sometimes it makes life easier to who has to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin.
Our perplexity was about how they could earn. When we asked for clarifications, the explanation wasn’t so clear. The only thing we are certain of is that often these people make changes from high-denomination notes to low-denominations notes and in this case they do it with very high commissions, even over 10%.
Keep in mind the 10.000 notes will be for paying hotels and restaurants but you won’t be able to give the change back to go shopping at markets, at shops or along the road, where low-denomination notes are absolutely de rigueur.
Then to have all sorts of “coins” will help you a lot both for tips and negotiations, when often to make give you the change of the price agreed upon could be particularly difficult.
The topic is hot but to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin we have to consider it. We are talking about countries with very high corruption rates. Just to give you an idea, in the latest place-list Italy placed 60th, Ghana 70th, Benin 95th and Togo 116th.
Among the three countries Ghana is the most modern one, the richest and the most developed one. The “bureaucratic matters”, too, are solved in a quicker and easier way in comparison with the other two countries.
Benin is the poorest country among the three but I must say that, in accordance with the place-list, our worst experiences were in Togo.
At every customs you will be stopped for endless time, even if there will be only you.
The people in charge (that at the most little frontiers have difficulty in reading and writing) will fill huge big books with the most useless possible imaginable data (included profession, maybe astonished due to the fact Valeria was still a student since she’s 15).
They’ll start to dig their heels in presumed inaccuracies with a unique aim: to tap you for money. No other ways exist. The time they’ll make you waste, waiting there in the sun, will be only and exclusively for asking you for money to pass, without shame.
They will ask you for it as a gift, as an added visa, for elusive inexistent mistakes and with any creative excuses. Imagine that at our entry into Togo they asked us for it in expectation of the fact our visa would have expired!
The only comfort is that fortunately the amounts are very low, but they have to be considered when you are planning the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin.
On the contrary, as regards police, the story is even more curious. You have to know that not all uniformed people are authorized to ask you for documents and/or passport. Often you’ll run into policemen (we met them above all in Lomé) who will stop you only because you are white people. For them is a synonym of getting money.
The most part of them cannot read nor write, some of them will ask you for ID because they don’t know even the difference between ID and passport. Other ones will ask you fro passport. You always refer to your driver or your guide: who isn’t authorized ask for it only to get money out of you and he won’t give it back to you until he won’t have reached his own aim. Sometimes to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin can be stressful!
You think in Ghana we were stopped by police with one of the usual excuses and the policewoman started to insist arrogantly that she wanted to come to Italy and we had to help her.
In front of us, all puzzled, she started to ask the men of the group if they wanted a second wife in Italy. Of course you have already guessed the end of the story to be able to go, haven’t you?
In Togo we were strolling through a local market when were called by police (yeah, they didn’t come towards us actually a boy made us understand that we had to go towards them) to tell us we couldn’t go through the market alone. The police made us accompany to the car by a boy that once arrived asked us for money…for him and for the policeman!
In Benin at a little frontier nobody was there. We pass and once reached the town we have to look for the proper offices to register ourselves. That day was a holiday and the proper offices were deserted. We come back the day after and they raised objections because we are late.
It may have been a chance, but at the end it was the only place where they didn’t ask us for money!
On the contrary, at the southern frontiers, along the coast, we found the passages easier. Long, very long, but even cheaper! Here it’s easier to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin and the relative passages.
The entry into Ghana from the Accra airport was quite long, but not impossible (just to give you an idea, a lot of times we spent more time going out the Malpensa Airport on our return home at 5pm!).
There are several steps of checks, from passports to visas, to yellow fever. We met people to whom were asked impossible cautions money. What left us gaping most was that for bicycles by which people wanted to cycle through the country: two thousand Euros! But they were assured it would have been given back. We don’t know how it ended, but it’s another aspect to consider if you want to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin by bicycle or other means.
Pay attention when you collect your luggage since you’ll be besieged by people (someone uniformed, too) who will ask you for money for any reasons. They will pretend to check luggage without having any right to do that or they’ll want help you to carry luggage (taking advantage of your tiredness and your daze) and help you in any services not required. Please, keep your eyes open!
The Accra airport hasn’t Wi-Fi. The air conditioning works very well. Also the check-in are very long: keep in mind that for our flight leaving at 9pm it was possible to check-in only at the airport and not online from 5pm to 8pm. Here, too, procedures are very long.
I reported in this post several problems and aspects to pay a lot of attention to when you travel to Ghana Togo and Benin.
These are problems that people who travelled to Africa and to many other less developed places in the world know well. They are common. My aim isn’t certainly to scare or not recommend the visit, but simply to help travellers (maybe who are novices) to plan the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin. And arrive prepared and aware. Only by this way you can enjoy a very beautiful journey and a wonderful experience.
You never read this things on the web and I think that talking about a destination means to do it by a fair way, with merits and flaws. Planning the journey to Ghana Togo and Benin and travel to these countries isn’t like to travel to Norway or way or Canada.
By now, travels are – fortunately – at everyone’s reach but travelling unprepared and as irresponsible people, without keeping in mind a series of real risks (starting from vaccines) can cost really a lot. I think to have also a sort of responsibility towards you who, read me, follow me and that here look for info: clearness and fairness, even if they are a bit uncomfortable, like in this case.
The thing that most annoyed me was about the police. Not the economical aspect (that it was modest at the end) but corruption, joined to that sort of abuse of power and arrogance. Perhaps because they are elements that we still find too often (if yet by absolutely different forms) too many times also here in Italy when we refer to police and public administration!
That said, I repeat that these are travels and destinations that will make you come back much different. These are travels that will be very good for you and for your teenager kids from the educational point of view.
If by these descriptions I have a bit discouraged you, certainly by the photos of this post I’ve made up for. I also recommend you to read this post about the reasons why you have to set out on this journey and tell me looking at those wonderful turtles you have not desire to leave immediately!