June 10, 2005 7:25 AM   Subscribe

This may be a long shot, but does anyone have any travel tips for Cameroon they could share with me? I'm going there for two weeks for work and my boss basically told me "stay in the hotel, it's too dangerous to go travelling around there." I hate the idea of not seeing the country, and I wonder whether this is true, and if so, whether there's some kind of organized tour I could take over the weekend. I'll be based in Douala.

I googled, and Douala sounds like a pretty depressing place itself. But there are some other sites I'd like to see if possible, such as Waza national park and Kribi and maybe Mount Cameroon. I'm just not sure how to do so safely! I'm a small white woman who will be travelling alone.
posted by hazyjane to Travel & Transportation around Douala, Cameroon (5 answers total)

I spent a week in Cameroon last year on business. Have to admit that my trips beyond the hotel were fairly limited and the ones I did take were always in company. Cameroon is pretty much off the beaten tourist track in terms of lonely planet etc so there's not a huge amount of advice there. Cameroon was named the most corrupt country in the world by transparency international back in 1998, 85th out of 85) it has now crawled up to 129th out of 145. I met a couple of South African men who were a quite a bit more adventurous and fairly happy to go out clubbing but they had a lot more experience of Africa than me and still travelled as a pair. It may be possible you can find some people to hang out with stemming from business and the hotel should be able to get a taxi for you and direct you to some decent restaurants, etc. Asking at the hotel will also be able to get you taxi tours etc. Note that you should be on some pretty powerful anti-malarials, which you should start taking ahead of time. Everyone I've ever met has told me to stay away from Larium (and this goes x10 if you have ever suffered from depression), I did this, but the stuff I was on (sorry name escapes me) still made me pretty paranoid, which is undesirable if you're in circumstances where you might feel threatened anyway.
I had heard the place was bad for corruption but hadn't expected to see my name on a list when I arrived, to be taken aside and asked for a 'little present' by the customs officer. I played dumb and they didn't get threatening. I was told that dodgy police road blocks can be expensive but I didn't leave the capital so have no direct experience of this.
Cash: Have some low denomination dollars with you when you get there, someone will likely claim you and act as your bag carrier when you get off the plane, they're happy to be paid in central african francs, dollars and maybe euros at a push, no pounds sterling!
On the way out you need to get an exit visa at the airport, be sure to keep enough CASH in LOCAL CURRENCY for this, it was 10,000 francs when I was there (about 15 euro IIRC). (I also had to get some form of dubious stamp to take wood out of the country which also cost me 10,000 but suspect this was a scam.)
Have to go, will add to this on monday if I think of anything useful over the weekend.
posted by biffa at 8:02 AM on June 10, 2005

I notice from your profile that you're not in the States, but the U.S. State Department's consular information sheet still might be useful to you.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:35 AM on June 10, 2005

hazyjane: send me an email at A friend of mine lived in Cameroon for a few years and he very much likes to help out people thinking of going there. If you send me the email, I'll give you his email address so you can ask him questions.
He's not a member of MeFi so he can't directly respond to this posting.
posted by NoMich at 8:52 AM on June 10, 2005

You might find this guide by the Library of Congress helpful, as well as the general entry in the CIA World Factbook.
posted by AlexanderBanning at 10:05 AM on June 10, 2005

Bah, others beat me to the CIA World Factbook and's consular information sheet. Perusal of these reveals that, in comparison to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, Cameroon looks like a paradise. However, they do recommend not going about after dark.

Bear in mind that Africa is in the grip of an AIDS epidemic that's unimaginable to our gentle Western minds. 35% of persons in western Africa may be infected - more in urban areas. Don't have sex with prostitutes. Don't have unprotected sexual contact with anyone.

Do not allow anyone to use a needle on you in Africa. Needles are in short supply and are frequently re-used; sterilization may not be attempted, or may be performed inadequately. Keep away from coughing people (airborne transmission of multi-drug-resistant TB), and bring mosquito repellent (malaria, although it's not really the season for it.)

And for God's sake don't go swimming in the freshwater lakes, unless you want to return to find yourself become "Case Report A" in some poor med student's parasitology lab.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2005

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