Cameroon

Africa > Central Africa > Cameroon


Caution COVID-19 information: Visas are only being issued for essential purposes, and you must submit a recent negative COVID-19 test with your visa application.

In addition, all new arrivals in country must obtain a negative PCR test result dated no older than three days before travelling. Passengers from some countries will also be tested on arrival. Cameroon's land and sea borders are restricted, but flights are operating.

(Information last updated 26 Nov 2021)

Cameroon (French: Cameroun) is a country in Central Africa.

Known as "Africa in miniature", the country is known for its geological, linguistic, artistic, and cultural diversity. Some 250 languages are spoken in this mid-sized country and the country has been colonised by three European countries — Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

Regions[edit]

Cameroon regions map.png
  Adamaoua
Adamaoua is the place for mountain climbing
  Coastal Cameroon
Coastal Cameroon is where you can visit beaches
  Northern Cameroon
A religiously mixed area
  Northwest Highlands
An English-speaking region that is in a state of war as of 2022.
  South Cameroon Plateau
Home to the capital, Yaounde, and the main entry point for the traveller.

Cities[edit]

  • 1 Yaoundé – the vibrant, bustling capital city of the country. Predominantly French-speaking.
  • 2 Bafoussam (French-speaking)
  • 3 Bamenda (English-speaking)
  • 4 Buea (English-speaking)
  • 5 Douala — the economical capital of the country. It handles Cameroon's international trade. Predominantly French-speaking.
  • 6 Garoua (French-speaking)
  • 7 Limbe — a peaceful coastal town with numerous black sand beaches. Predominantly English-speaking.
  • 8 Ngaoundere (French-speaking)

Other destinations[edit]

Cathedral in Yaounde
  • 1 Dja Faunal Reserve is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • 2 Korup National Park Korup National Park on Wikipedia this is some accessible lowland rainforest accessible through Mundemba (where trips can be organized at tourist informational office) with primate and reptilian habitat. (Rough road between Kumba and Mundemba.)
  • 3 Mount Cameroon Mount Cameroon on Wikipedia, the highest mountain in West Africa
  • 4 Ngoketunjia in the North West Province is a bastion of culture and tradition
  • Lake Oku (Inside the Ring Road)
  • Oku Village
  • Kumbo (English speaking)
  • Waza National Park, is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, located in the Far North region of Cameroon.
  • Don i tison - a former German military post on a peak near Bafia

Understand[edit]

LocationCameroon.png
Capital Yaoundé
Currency Central African CFA franc (XAF)
Population 24 million (2017)
Electricity 220 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, Type E)
Country code +237
Time zone West Africa Time, UTC+01:00, Africa/Douala
Emergencies 112
Driving side right

History[edit]

The territory of present-day Cameroon was first settled during the Neolithic period. Portuguese sailors reached the coast in 1472. Over the following few centuries, European interests regularised trade with the coastal peoples, and Christian missionaries pushed inland. In the early 19th century, Modibo Adama led Fulani soldiers on a jihad in the north against non-Muslim and partially Muslim peoples and established the Adamawa Emirate. Settled peoples who fled the Fulani caused a major redistribution of population.

The German Empire claimed the territory as the colony of Kamerun in 1884 and began a steady push inland. With the defeat of Germany in World War I, Kamerun became a League of Nations mandate territory and was split into French Cameroun and British Cameroons in 1919. The French carefully integrated the economy of Cameroun with that of France and improved the infrastructure with capital investments and skilled workers.

The British administered their territory from neighbouring Nigeria. Natives complained that this made them a neglected "colony of a colony". The League of Nations mandates were converted into United Nations Trusteeships in 1946, and the question of independence became a pressing issue in French Cameroun. France outlawed the most radical political party, the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC), on 13 July 1955. This prompted a long guerrilla war. In British Cameroons, the question was whether to reunify with French Cameroun or join Nigeria.

On 1 January 1960, French Cameroun gained independence from France under President Ahmadou Ahidjo, and on 1 October 1961, the formerly British Northern Cameroons became a part of Nigeria, while the formerly British Southern Cameroons (since renamed Ambazonia) united with its neighbour to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon.

Bismarck Well in Buea

Climate[edit]

Varies with terrain, from tropical along the coast to semiarid and hot in the north. If you are going during the summer, plan on lots of rain every day. It might be cold up in the mountains, especially at nights.

Holidays[edit]

  • 1 January: New Year's Day & also Independence Day
  • 11 February: Youth Day
  • 1 May: Labour Day
  • 20 May: National Day
  • 15 August: Assumption
  • 1 October: Unification Day
  • 25 December: Christmas Day

Get in[edit]

A map showing the visa requirements of Cameroon, with countries in green having visa-free access

Cameroon is not a country you can just come to. There are few visa-free arrangements in place, thus everyone needs a visa to enter the country. Citizens of Mali, Chad, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria don't need a visa to enter the country.

Cameroonian visas tend to be expensive. The Cameroonian Embassy in the United States charges US$93 for a tourist visa, so plan and prepare accordingly. As a general rule of thumb, the longer you intend to stay, the more expensive the visa will be. A one-year visa will cost you between US$100-300.

Cameroonian diplomatic staff recommend that you submit all relevant documentation in advance, and it normally takes up to a week to process any kind of Cameroonian visa.

Visa[edit]

Bridge across the Chari River separating Chad and Cameroon

Visa Types:

  • airport transit visa for airport transit;
  • visitor visa for visiting friends and family in Cameroon;
  • business visas for work-relating activity in Cameroon;
  • tourist visa for tourism purposes;
  • student visa for studying abroad and learning at the universities;
  • employment visa for taking up work in Cameroon; and
  • permanent residence visa, which is issued if you a marry a Cameroonian.

Requirements vary from country to country, but you are normally asked to submit the following with your visa application:

  • A copy of your passport
  • Two passport-sized photographs.
  • A copy of your travel itinerary.
  • A copy of your vaccination certificate and proof you've been vaccinated against yellow fever.
  • A copy of your bank statement.
  • A copy of your hotel reservation.
  • A letter of invitation that has been legalised by the Cameroonian police (if you intend to stay in the country for up to three months)

Warning:

  • The Cameroonian Embassy in the United States warns that if you do not submit your travel itinerary, your visa application will be rejected.

Then, depending on whether you are requesting a Visitor Visa or a Tourist Visa, you will need:

For a visitor visa:

  • A letter of invitation (for a visitor's visa) and a reservation confirmation from your hotel (for a tourist's visa). If you need a visitor visa, the person you're visiting must create the letter invitation, and get it approved and stamped by the local authorities before sending it to you. The letter must state that you have a place to stay during your trip (e.g. the home of your hosts). If you're staying in a hotel, a hotel reservation will suffice.
  • The Cameroon High Commission in Pretoria charges ZAR1191 for a visit visa (December 2021)

For a tourist visa:

  • A consular letter from your bank stating your current balance. It must be signed by the bank for it to be valid.
  • A reservation confirmation from your hotel.
  • Check the Cameroon Embassy website in your country of residence (or closest) for more up to date info.
  • The Cameroon Embassy in London now asks £100 for a tourist visa.

By plane[edit]

International airports are Douala International Airport (DLA IATA) and Yaoundé Nsimalen International Airport (NSI IATA)

Douala International Airport

Cameroon can be reached via:

Sometimes airport staff, or just hangers on, try to help with the luggage in order to get extra euros/dollars from travellers. They'll ask for around FCFA 1,000.

By train[edit]

By car[edit]

By bus[edit]

By boat[edit]

It is probably possible to travel by boat from the island of Bioko (Equatorial Guinea).

Get around[edit]

By plane[edit]

Camair-Co operates as a national carrier and on domestic flights.

By train[edit]

Rail services operated by Camrail, run from the capital, Yaoundé, to the port city of Douala and the northern city of Ngaoundéré. While bus service is quicker and more reliable to Douala, the overnight train is the best mode of ground transport to the north. Check for current schedules and pricing.

By bus[edit]

Bus with air conditioning.

Between the major cities you can get a ride on modern, comfortable buses, sometimes with air conditioning. Away from the larger centres you will most likely end up on the ever present Toyota bush taxis. These are slightly elongated Toyota minivans that can hold up to 20 people (or more if necessary) along with their luggage piled up on top. Safety can be a concern with dangerous roads, overworked, drunk or hungover drivers and poorly maintained vehicles the norm. However, other than extending your stay an extra day or two in bad weather your options are limited.

Buses rarely leave at a set time. Instead, they wait until they are full and then depart. For buses later in the day, sometimes they never fill up. When this happens, the operator will normally set you up with a bush taxi to take you to your destination. If you do not want to take the bush taxi and are persistent enough, the operator will normally refund your money. The point is that you should leave plenty of time to get to your destination, because sometimes the wait will take hours and you are never guaranteed a departure.

By car[edit]

Gendarme regulating traffic in Ndokoti

Rental cars are available although very expensive. As paved roads are rare away from the major cities of the west and northwest areas of the country, a 4 x 4 is a necessity when travelling to the east or central areas of Cameroon. The roads in the north are paved between cities and even the dirt roads tend to be in decent condition due to the lack of rain.

You can hire a private car and have its driver take you to places of your choice. Expect to pay around USD60 per day to the driver and foot the gas bill. The driver will also expect you to provide food and accommodation. But you can bargain.

These days, due to bad roads and congestion, motorcycles are a common form of transportation. The driver can take you wherever you want and they can be the only alternative to remote villages that do not have paved roads.

Talk[edit]

See also: French phrasebook

The two official languages of the country are French and English. Of the two, French is the more useful language (understood by 80% of Cameroonians and the first language for many Cameroonians) and will get you far.

English is spoken in areas close to the border with Nigeria. To most Cameroonians, it's a second language, but it is a first language for 10-20% of Cameroonians.

German is a highly popular foreign language. Some 300,000 Cameroonians are proficient in the language. You're likely to find a German speaker in Yaoundé.

Some 270 languages are spoken in Cameroon, but many of them are endangered.

See[edit]

Visit the Limbe Botanic Garden, Benedictine Museum of Mont Febe, National Museum of Yaounde and the Kribi. These are famous attractions in the city of Yaounde, meant for tourists.

National parks[edit]

There are a total of sixteen designated protected areas in Cameroon. The more important are:

  • Bénoué National Park, established in 2001, dry forests of Anogeissus leiocarpa are widespread in this park. The park has rocky outcrops, woodland and some bodies of water. During the dry season, November to May, wildlife flock to the waterholes. Mammals include hippos (in herds), baboons, isolated elephants, bushbuck but also particularly endangered species such as the African wild dog, the manatee and the giant eland.
  • Campo Ma'an National Park – at 2640 km², just before the border to Equatorial Guinea, is directly on the Atlantic consists of largely untouched rainforest. Gorillas also live here. The construction of an oil pipeline nearby and the ban on hunting have put the three pygmy tribes living here in serious distress. The sanctuary can only be reached via 150 km of bad roads from Kribi. It is doubtful whether a tourism infrastructure, which was still missing in 2017, will be created. At least one “hotel” financed by the WWF has already fallen into disrepair. The official fee for the park is CFA 5000 per person plus CFA 2000 per vehicle. Guides whose price should be 10,000 CFA can quickly charge for several hundred dollars for a tour.
  • Dja Wildlife Reserve a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site within a 5260 km² loop on the headwaters of the Dja River. Almost completely untouched tropical rainforest. In addition to a number of primate and monkey species, there is also a variety of amphibians and reptiles. Traditional hunting is allowed for the pygmies living here.
  • Waza National Park (Parc national de Waza) in the basin of Lake Chad, the core of which was already designated in 1934 and is now a biosphere reserve. Probably the most animal-rich park in the country with classic African big game: lions, elephants, giraffes and some cheetahs. Buffon's kobantelopes are common. (Rhino, Cape buffalo, and hippopotamus are extinct here.) The vast grasslands of eastern Waza National Park flood during the rainy season. The western part varies in density, mostly forested with acacias. The not uncontroversial construction of the Maga Dam has affected part of the park, while the reservoir has developed into a breeding ground for water bird species that are affected by the increasing drying up of Lake Chad.

Do[edit]

Buy[edit]

Money[edit]

Exchange rates for CFA francs

As of January 2022:

  • US$1 ≈ CFA580
  • €1 ≈ CFA660
  • UK£1 ≈ CFA780

Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com

The currency of the country is the Central African CFA franc, denoted FCFA (ISO currency code: XAF). It's also used by five other Central African countries. It is interchangeable at par with the West African CFA franc (XOF), which is used by six countries. Both currencies are fixed at a rate of 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs.

ATMs[edit]

Mastercard and Visa ATM withdrawals are possible in many banks - for example, SGBC - which can be found in most major cities. All Ecobank ATMs in Cameroon have cash withdrawal with Mastercards and Visa cards.

Shopping[edit]

Some good ways to spend your money include local handicrafts in Marche de Fleurs (Douala - Bonapriso quarter) and on fresh fish and prawns in Youppe village close to Douala (early morning).

Unless you are in stores and restaurants, you must bargain for everything. Demand 20-50% of the first price requested.

Eat[edit]

Food in Cameroon

Signature dishes

Poulet DG with fried potatoes
  • Poisson brézè: barbecue fish
  • Ndole: slightly bitter vegetables with peanuts, fish, prawns or beef. Often considered the national dish
  • Poulet DG: chicken with sauce
  • Tripes: tripe in tomato or peanut sauce
  • Sauce arachide: peanut sauce with rice and meat
  • Brochettes: barbecued skewers
  • Kilichi: dried beef
  • Mbol: black vegetable sauce served with kilichi, beef in some other form or prawns
  • Nkui: brown vegetable sauce eaten with corn couscous
  • Bush meat: from monkeys to snakes, perhaps a bit too exotic to visitors
  • Mielie meal: maize porridge

garnishes include:

Fried plantains, fish, onions and miondo
  • Koki: white bean dumplings
  • Banane plantain: grilled, steamed or deep fried plantains
  • Couscous maniok: cassava couscous
  • Couscous de mais: polenta-like corn-based couscous Polentaähnlicher Couscous auf Maisbasis
  • Frites de pommes: French fries
  • Pommes: fried potatoes
  • Bobolo: steamed cassava bars
  • Miondo: thinner version of the former

moreover:

  • Safou fruits, barbecued or boiled

Drink[edit]

Always check “best before” when buying a bottle - some drinks are way out of date.

Coca-Cola is available everywhere. For something different try one of the flavourful TOP sodas. They are much sweeter than most European or North American sodas but they are very tasty.

Cameroon is rich with choice when it comes to good beer due to its past as a German and later French colony. Bottled Guinness can be found everywhere although in the heat, try one of the excellent lighter beers such as Castel, Beaufort, Mützig, Isenbeck, Satzenbrau or 33. These are inexpensive and excellent in the heat. Castel Milk Stout is an excellent choice for those who like darker beer. Outside of the cities you will sometimes be hard pressed to find them chilled (due to a lack of electricity).

Sleep[edit]

In more rural areas prices vary wildly depending on demand and local economy. It is not uncommon to find comfortable accommodations for FCFA 4,000-5,000 per night.

Because of the overvaluation of the local currency, accommodation in Cameroon is only slightly cheaper than in Europe, Hotels in the major cities will range from FCFA 7,500 to FCFA 50,000. Western standards can only be expected in the luxury segment. Camping is possible, but should be avoided if possible due to the security situation in the country.

Most hotels do not accept credit cards. In the hotels below 4-star, hot water is not always available (either not installed or the installation is defective). Hot water can be ordered in buckets in the hotel (give a small tip) and can also be self-supplied with a stick kettle (about 2000 CFA) and a bucket.

You can have your dirty laundry cleaned in all hotels. Either there is a service provided by the hotel (more expensive) or you ask the hotel staff (cheaper) who will do this for you with additional income. Remember that this is a hand wash, which is less suitable for delicate garments (intensive scrubbing). If you want boiled linen, this must be ordered separately. Laundry must be ironed if it is dried outdoors.

Work[edit]

University of Buea campus

Although significant employment and economic opportunities exist, there are many challenges associated with working in the country. Weak infrastructure, political instability, an inefficient bureaucratic system, a lack of transparency, and low salaries do not make the country a highly popular place to work in.

If you or your company intends to sell products to Cameroon, know that almost all business transactions require senior-level government approval. Sure, it may seem cool and exciting to involve the Cameroonian government in your business, but corruption and political influences may make it impossible for you to enter the Cameroonian market. It's suffice to say that personal connections matter greatly here.

Many NGOs are situated in Cameroon. If you have a background in politics or international relations, working here won't be such a bad idea. Cameroon is a great place to understand the African way of life and develop your French language skills.

Stay safe[edit]

Travel Warning WARNING: Due to an ongoing civil war between the government and Cameroon's anglophone population, the security situation in the Northwest Highlands is volatile. Many governments also advise against all travel to areas within 30 km of the borders with Nigeria, Chad, and the Central African Republic.
Government travel advisories
(Information last updated 18 Apr 2022)

As is the case in any developing country, you should do whatever you can to blend in with the local population. What this means is that you should avoid presenting yourself in a way that would get others to think you are affluent or wealthy, and you should most certainly avoid isolated areas and travelling alone at night.

As long as you apply a modicum of common sense, your visit to Cameroon will be hassle free.

Crime[edit]

See also: Travel in developing countries

Cameroon's crime levels are fairly high, even for a developing nation. There have been reports of carjackings, armed robberies, banditry, and the like.

Petty theft is common. As obvious as it may sound, avoid flashing objects like cameras, mobile phones, laptops, and the like; muggers are fascinated by them. In the unlikely event you are robbed, do not fight back or else you might end up being dragged into a violent fight.

Taxis often operate like buses, picking up all sorts of people along the way. While this may be an interesting experience to some, some taxi passengers have been robbed and attacked by other passengers. Some countries, such as the United States, forbid their diplomatic staff from using Cameroonian taxis. If you must get around a city, only use trusted, pre-arranged taxis. Your hotel may help you with this.

Car theft and carjackings are serious problems. In 2000, the US Ambassador to Cameroon almost became a carjacking victim. If you are driving around in your own car, don't leave anything in your car; this may deter smash-and-grab robberies.

Corruption is a serious problem in Cameroon and has been described as "Cameroon's worst-kept secret". The police are notorious for being highly corrupt and woefully ineffective, and the locals themselves do not trust them at all.

Terrorism[edit]

Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group, is active in Northern Cameroon. The group is known to implement a very harsh form of sharia law and they have kidnapped all kinds of people for ransom. If you absolutely must visit Northern Cameroon, it is strongly recommended that you go with an armed escort.

Political unrest[edit]

Cameroon is a politically troubled country. Demonstrations against the government are common and they can turn violent rather quickly.

You should do all you can to avoid political protests, demonstrations, and marches. Don't feel tempted to act like a hero (take photos of protests, helping out injured protestors, and so on); you might lose your life or get severely injured.

If you feel a protest is about to take place, evacuate the area immediately. Always assume that roads can be blocked during political protests and that public transportation services will be affected.

During your stay, it is strongly recommended that you regularly monitor local media. Information is your best friend.

Civil conflict[edit]

Since 2017, the Northwest Highlands region has been in a state of war. Anglophone separatists, who feel marginalised and written off by the Cameroonian government, aim to create a new state called Ambazonia. The security situation in the region is extremely volatile and some 500,000 people have been internally displaced by the conflict.

In December 2021, dwindling water resources lead to clashes between farmers in Chad and Northern Cameroon.

Photography[edit]

There are no laws forbidding photography in Cameroon, but taking photographs of government buildings, military installations, and public facilities can land you in serious trouble with the authorities. If in doubt, always ask.

LGBT travellers[edit]

Travel Warning WARNING: Cameroon is a very dangerous destination for gay and lesbian travellers. The cultural, societal, and legal abhorrence against the LGBT community is well-documented and far-reaching, and many Cameroonians consider it morally acceptable to beat up, torture, intimidate, threaten, and harass members of the LGBT community. If you are LGBT, it is recommended that you do not travel to Cameroon.
Government travel advisories

Homosexuality is frowned upon by the vast majority of Cameroonians. LGBT Cameroonians often face discrimination and are often ostracised by society.

Under current laws, same-sex activity is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and there are no laws and policies in place that protect the rights of members of the LGBT community.

Identification[edit]

In accordance with Cameroonian law, you must have ID on you at all times. Some options to choose from:

  1. getting a copy of your passport (front pages and visa pages) legalised at a police station.
  2. a resident card (go to the local frontier police station).

Stay healthy[edit]

As Cameroon is a developing country, health care facilities are poor and are much below western standards. In addition, you should expect a language barrier at healthcare facilities if your French-language skills aren't good enough.

Yellow fever is prevalent in the country. You are required to get vaccinated against it before travelling to the country.

Malaria is prevalent. To lower your chances of contracting malaria, regularly use insect repellent and consider draping a mosquito net over your bed. You may also want to consider getting vaccinated against the disease before travelling to the country.

Avoid drinking tap water, even in restaurants. Only stick to bottled water.

The country's HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among adults is at 3.2%. The situation has been getting better since the early 2000s, but still, be safe and be aware of your surroundings.

Respect[edit]

It is very common for people, including people you've never even met before, to greet people around them. You will easily observe that it's common for people to exchange greetings and say things like "good morning", "how's your health", "how is your family", and so on. Don't be fazed or surprised by this; this is how the Cameroonians get to know others, and you can very easily make a friend or two by following suit!

Social etiquette[edit]

  • Always make it a point to greet and acknowledge people wherever you go; not doing so is considered extremely rude. As a foreigner, you might get some leeway, but still, greet and acknowledge people to not stand out like a sore thumb.
  • Cameroon is a hierarchical society, which means respect for elders is very important. When visiting a Cameroonian home, it is customary to greet the oldest person first. If you're waiting to enter a building, allow someone older to go in first. If you're on public transportation, give up your seat for someone older than you.
  • Always use your right hand when shaking hands, bringing something to someone, and so on. The left hand is considered unclean in Cameroon. It would be considered impolite to use your left hand to offer something to someone.
  • Cameroonians typically eat with their hands. Never use your left hand to eat a meal.
  • People often lower their heads when greeting someone senior (age or position) to them. Making direct eye contact with them would be seen as rude manners.
  • If you've been invited to a Cameroonian home, do not show up empty-handed. In addition, do not ask your host to give you a tour of their home.
  • In Cameroon, family takes precedence over everything else and it is the main focus of the Cameroonian social system. It's common for extended families to live together and it is common for Cameroonians to hire their relatives because they consider it important to provide for their families. Also, do not be surprised if Cameroonians excuse themselves from important meetings to attend to family matters. One shouldn't take that as a sign of disinterest.
  • As is the case throughout Africa, you should never beckon a Cameroonian person directly, even if they have done something wrong in your opinion; the Cameroonians are very sensitive to being beckoned directly. As a foreigner, your words might have an even greater impact.
  • Although Christianity is the dominant religion, Cameroon is, by law, a secular state. The country is a rare example of religious​ tolerance. ​You're unlikely to cause offense by discussing religion, but always approach the subject with respect.

Sensitive issues[edit]

  • The Anglophone War, treatment of Anglophone Cameroonians, and Ambazonia are highly divisive and controversial subjects. Anglophone Cameroonians have a long history of conflict with the government and depending on who you talk to, you may end up igniting fierce, passionate debates.

Connect[edit]

To make local and international calls you need to buy a pre-paid SIM card. Check if your cell phone has a compatible GSM standard (Africa/Europe) - if not, in addition to a SIM card you probably need to buy a new phone. "MTN" and "Orange" are two major telephone companies in Cameroon.

It had been possible to find Internet access all over the place, but the speed was often slow. In 2017, all Internet access was shut down in the largely-anglophone western portion of the country.

National post service is considered to be unreliable.

This country travel guide to Cameroon is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!