Africa > West Africa > Côte d'Ivoire
the coastal lagoons area around the de facto capital of Abidjan
|Northern Savanna (Bouaké, Comoe National Park)|
the largely Muslim area held in the civil war by rebel "New Forces"
|Southwestern Forests (Taï National Park, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve)|
the tropical wet forest area inhabited by the Kru people bordering Liberia
|Eastern Plantations (Yamoussoukro)|
the partially cultivated area between Lac de Kossou and the border with Ghana
- 1 Abidjan – The administrative center; other countries maintain their embassies there.
- 2 Korhogo – Rebel HQ; otherwise idyllic, bursts with commerce during Feb–May because of flowing cotton and cashew trade.
- 3 Aboisso – Important milestone on the route connecting Abidjan and Ghana trade route
- 4 Bouaké – The second largest city
- 5 Dabou
- 6 San Pedro – the second port city
- 7 Yamoussoukro – Although it has been the capital since 1983, it is not the administrative centre.
- 8 Grand-Bassam – A coastal town full of colonial charm, often a retreat for local Ivorians seeking to escape the city life of Abidjan on the weekends.
Three National Parks are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
|Currency||West African CFA franc (XOF)|
|Population||24.2 million (2017)|
|Electricity||230 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, Type E)|
|Time zone||UTC±00:00, Africa/Abidjan|
|Emergencies||180 (fire department), +225-185 (emergency medical services), 110 (police), 111 (police), +225-170 (police)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Côte d'Ivoire was home to several states including the Kong Empire, Gyaaman, Baoulé, and the Sanwi until it was colonised by the French in the late 19th century.
Close ties to France since independence in 1960, the development of cocoa production for export, and foreign investment made Côte d'Ivoire one of the most prosperous of the tropical African states, but did not protect it from political turmoil.
In December 1999, a military coup - the first ever in Côte d'Ivoire's history - overthrew the government. Junta leader Robert Guei blatantly rigged elections held in late 1999 and declared himself the winner. Popular protest forced him to step aside and brought runner-up Laurent Gbagbo into liberation. Ivorian dissidents and disaffected members of the military launched a failed coup attempt in September 2002. Rebel forces claimed the northern half of the country, and in January 2003 were granted ministerial positions in a unity government under the auspices of the Linas-Marcoussis Peace Accord. President Gbagbo and rebel forces resumed implementation of the peace accord in December 2003 after a three-month stalemate.
Elections were finally held in 2010. The first round of elections were held peacefully, and widely hailed as free and fair. Runoffs were held 28 November 2010, after being delayed one week from the original date of 21 Nov. Laurent Gbagbo, as president, ran against former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. On 2 Dec, the Electoral Commission declared that Ouattara had won the election by a margin of 54% to 46%. The majority of the rest of the world's governments supported that declaration, but the Gbagbo-aligned Constitutional Council rejected it, leading to a political crisis and then a Civil War, which ended in 2011 with Gbagbo's arrest.
Tropical along coast, semiarid in far north; three seasons - warm and dry (Nov-Mar), hot and dry (Mar-May), hot and wet (Jun-Oct). The coast has heavy surf and no natural harbours; during the rainy season torrential flooding is possible.
Mostly flat to undulating plains with mountains in the northwest. Most of the inhabitants live along the sandy coastal region. Apart from the capital area, the forested interior is sparsely populated. The highest point is Mont Nimba at 1,752 m (5,748 ft).
Côte d'Ivoire has more than 60 ethnic groups but the Baoule are the largest ethnic group.
All ECOWAS countries, as well as Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Seychelles, Chad, Singapore and Philippines citizens may enjoy visa free to Côte d'Ivoire on arrival. Other visitors are able to apply for an E-Visa online beforehand, which pre-approves travelers and allows them to receive three-month visas on arrival at Felix-Houphouet Boigny International Airport in Abidjan. Please consult the E-Visa website for further details and to apply. Cost of the visa is €73 (as of Jan 2019). Alternatively, the following countries or territories listed as those whose citizens may obtain a visa in Côte d'Ivoire embassy or consulate without prior consultation of the Minister for Security [dead link]
The Felix-Houphouet Boigny International Airport has daily scheduled flights to and from Paris with Air France and Brussels with Brussels airlines. There are also regular flights to other African capitals. The airport is a modern facility and increased security has shaken its old reputation as a place for travellers to be ripped off.
There are weekly trains from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Abidjan, operated by Sitarail. Travel time for the full journey is scheduled for 36 hours but delays are the norm. The train does not feature couchettes or sleeping cars so it's an rather uncomfortable journey.
It is ill advised to try to enter Côte d'Ivoire from Guinea, Liberia, Mali, or Burkina Faso. The Ghanaian border is fairly secure. If you enter at Elubo, you can easily catch a shared taxi to Aboisso and then a bus to Abidjan. There are about ten military check-points between the border and Abidjan so have your documents ready. If you do not have proper documentation of your inoculations at the border you will be forced to pay a small fine and they will give you an injection at an on-site clinic.
Buses run daily between Abidjan and Accra. The service is offered alternating between the STC (Ghana) and its Ivorian equivalent.
Intercity travel in Côte d'Ivoire is usually more comfortable than travel in neighbouring West African countries. The roads are generally in good condition and the bus service is relatively modern. The downside is the very frequent military checkpoints which add hours to a trip. Though the stops are a hassle, Ivorian soldiers tend to be quite professional and don't hassle non-French Western travellers. Soldiers in Ghana, for example, are much more likely to demand a bribe than in Côte d'Ivoire. Most Western governments recommend that their citizens steer clear of Côte d'Ivoire. This should be taken particularly seriously by people who are not travelling on French passports. An Ivorian soldier's attitude towards you will change very quickly when and if you explain that you are not French.
Travelling around Abidjan is easiest when you have your own vehicle. The roads are very good and the traffic rules are obeyed to the T, except some taxi drivers who steer everywhere on the road. Lane discipline and traffic lights are followed with rigour.
Taxis are a great and easy way to get around in Abidjan. Just look for an orange coloured car and flag it down. Fares are very cheap: USD2–4 depending on the length of the journey. Always bargain before you get into the taxi. Overall however, they are reasonably priced, unlike in Accra.
The official language is French, which is widely spoken and the main language of most urban areas. There are also around 70 native languages: important ones include Anyin and Baoulé (related to Twi), Attié, Bété, Dan, Dioula, Guro, and Senari. English is not spoken outside of major international hotels, so basic French proficiency is essential to getting around.
Fine beaches, tourist villages, rainforests and wildlife preserves are the principal attractions of Côte d'Ivoire.
- Taï National Park has the largest tropical rainforest in West Africa.
- Comoë National Park is the biggest and best-known national park in Côte d'Ivoire. It has plenty of wildlife including birds, elephants, giraffes, lions, monkeys and antelopes.
- Football: the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations is hosted by Côte d'Ivoire 23 June - 23 July 2023, with 24 national teams participating. Venues are not yet determined but are likely to include Abidjan, San-Pédro, Yamoussoukro, Bouaké and Korhogo. The new national stadium, opened in 2020, is Stade Olympique d'Ebimpé (capaity 60,000), and internationals are also played at Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny (capacity 50,000); both are in Abidjan. The top tier for club competition is Ligue 1, with 14 teams, and a playing season Oct-May.
Exchange rates for CFA francs
As of January 2022:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The currency of the country is the West African CFA franc, denoted CFA (ISO currency code: XOF). It's also used by seven other West African countries. It is interchangeable at par with the Central African CFA franc (XAF), which is used by six countries. Both currencies are fixed at a rate of 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs.
The West African CFA franc is to be renamed the "eco" by the end of 2020. It would continue to be fixed to the euro.
ATMs are generally available at banks in urban areas and accept both Visa and Mastercard.
Good eats are cheap and you can find very good restaurants in Abidjan. You should get a vaccine for Hepatitis A before coming but even street foods are fairly clean. Try the national dishes like "garba", "alloco" and "attiéké". Alloco is simply fried plantains, mostly accompanied by a spicy vegetable sauce and boiled eggs. L'attiéké, grated cassava that look like couscous but taste slightly, is often served with grilled fish and vegetables (tomatoes, onions, cucumber) and a must-try. Braised fish and chicken are also very good and can be found on every corner. The most established chain is Coq Ivoire. When you order, make sure that you let them know whether you want the intestines. You can always ask for extra vegetables, especially avocados, which are amazing during the season. Another speciality is the excellent "shoukouilla" a blend of charbroiled meat. For the ones who are not adventurous you can find the Hamburger House or the French restaurant at the Sofitel Hotel. Kedjenou is a spicy stew and is very popular.
Bidul Bar, Havana Club and others are in Zone 4 or Zone Quatre. If you do go, be aware of prostitutes that will want to talk to you. Other places are in Treicheville and Cocody but you should have private transportation or a cab. Note the recommended security precautions in the "Stay safe" section of this article.
Côte d'Ivoire experiences periodic political unrest and violence in northern regions, and it is recommended to contact your embassy or consult other travellers about the present situation prior to travel inland.
The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth office as well as the US State Department advises against all but essential travel to the western regions of Dix-Huit Montagnes, Haut-Sassandra, Moyen-Cavally and Bas-Sassandra of Côte d'Ivoire at this time.
Most of the crime committed in Abidjan is by unemployed youth. Should you ever feel in danger it would be wise to seek the help of a middle-aged man. This older generation is often very contemptuous of young criminals and will likely help you out if you are being hassled. Generally Ivorians will recognize the dangers to foreigners in their country and will often be very protective of naïve travellers. This is especially true in the Abidjan neighbourhoods of Treichville and Adjame.
On 14th March 2016, militants killed at least 16 people in a gun attack on a Grand Bassam beach resort about 40km from Abidjan. The attack was claimed by al Qaeda (AQIM). Côte d'Ivoire had been previously listed as at risk of attack by militants and security had been tightened.
If you drive at night do not stop fully at lights or signs. Be aware of car jackers. Keep a brisk pace so they cannot carjack you. Travellers from the West might also want to take a security detail with them when visiting bars and night clubs.
HIV/AIDS had once reached epidemic proportions in the country but has since seen huge improvements with an adult prevalence of 2.7% as of 2016.
Tap water is generally not drinkable. Stick to bottled water.
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you're planning to travel to Côte d'Ivoire during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
Although the country was previously referred to in English as "Ivory Coast", the country has requested that it be called "Côte d'Ivoire" (the equivalent in French). Pronouncing it "Coat di-VWAR" is close enough for an English-speaking person.