- What to pack?
- Health Tips
- When to Go
- Arriving at Conakry airport
- Taking photos
- General Comments
- Hotels in Dakar, Senegal
Please visit the Who is Going to Guinea. page to let us know you’re traveling and can carry letters for parents and friends of volunteers!
These tips are direct quotes mostly from parents of PCVs who have been to Guinea. Not every tip will be helpful to every traveler! Click on the desired link below:
We assume you’ll only be in Guinea short term. If not, check out our packing suggestions for Peace Corps Volunteers. It’s a much more thorough list, and you’ll undestand better what is and what items are and what items are not available in Guinea.
You should definitely get the one and only available map of Guinea. We don’t make any money on this. We”re only promoting it because it’s useful!
One parent writes: We took soft sided suitcases, but when I go again, I’ll take a backpack. There are very few roads to wheel suitcases on and then you just have to carry them. We found backpacks better. Good clothes for Dakar/Paris were in a suitcase we left at the Labé house to pickup on our return from the village of Sannou. The less you pack, the better you’ll feel ,because you have to lug it everywhere and taxis charge for each bag on board as well as for the passengers.
Another says: Suitcase limits are 50 pounds now either way. We were “almost” charged $600 extra by Air France because we had checked the limit in bags plus we each had two carry ons. Put you purse inside of the carry on and keep the carry on small as possible (40 lb. limit). And, you are only allowed one.
Bring a day pack.
Take a good camera, comfortable pants and loose shirts (it is humid/hot even in the rain).
For shoes: Tevas work well. If you plan on hiking, running shoes are better than hiking boots cause they are lighter. Bring comfortable shoes (dirt road and paths have lots of rocks) that you don’t mind getting muddy or full of red dust. Same holds for clothing.
You don’t need to worry about taking all the right clothes, as you can get cheap used clothes in the local market.
We brought a polaroid camera and this was an incredible hit with the locals, don’t show the polaroid until you’re getting close to leaving or you will be constantly asked for pictures. We left the camera at Labé house, so if anyone wants to use it, they are welcome to do so. You will need to bring film.
We brought book lights for ourselves and left one for our volunteer. It gets hard reading with a candle at night. Headlamps are also useful for the same reason. Many prefer the ones with LEDs.
Collared shirts are important because the people expect you to be dressed up at some level. I also brought a large hat which helps with the sun.
I suggest bringing an old wallet with an expired credit card and a minimal amount of cash. This way, if you get confronted and have to give up a wallet, you can give that up without experiencing any loss.
We bought a chocolate mousse mix from REI. All you did was add water and had a dessert. This was a God send in the village. I would recommend bringing this or similar items to enliven the meals at the village. I would also bring small cans of tuna fish which you will also appreciate if you are in the village.
One parent writes: We took cash only, on a tip from another parent and they were right. We used the money belts and changed money at the hotel in Conakry and in the bank in Labé. There is a Western Union there in Labé, as well. No Traveler’s Checks and the one time I tried to use my credit card in Conakry, it didn’t work because of the electricity going out.
One traveler writes: We did use Master Card to pay for hotel rooms at the the Riviera in Conakry but this was a mistake. The hotel will gladly take your card but before they process the transaction (by hand – not electronically) they manually convert the bill to Euros and and then send it through who knows where to actually get the processing done. We felt it cost about 30% extra to use plastic.
One parent writes: You won’t want to bring travelers cheques, bring cash, just stash it all over your body! You’ll be amazed at how creative you can be! Credit cards only work in Conakry and only in the expensive places.
Another says: We found that $1,000.00 per person was more than adequate for our two week stay. We took U.S. $100.00 bills. We had this changed into Guinea Francs by our daughter who went to currency changers on the downtown streets of Labé. and Conakry (leaving us behind because she could get a better rate if there wasn’t a group of “tourists” hanging around while she negotiated.) Exchange rates are negotiable with these folks and you get much better than the going bank rate.
And another says: For money, take US cash or EUROs. These can be exchanged at the banks or on the black market in Guinea. You are right, traveler’s cheques are useless. Since you are coming through Mali, probably Bamako, which I did also, I found the Hotel Le Compegnard (sp?) would take VISA and US traveler’s cheques. It is also has an association with Hotel Le Refuge which operates through Hotel Le Compegnard. One Bank (sorry I don’t remember the name) had an ATM in Bamako where I used my VISA card to get CFA’s. Use this information as you like. They are both located not far the the Bamako Peace Corps House. I’m sure you will do as I did and give any “leftover” CFA’s and Guinean francs to your PCV. They can use them, but once you leave Africa, they are useless to you. No bank in the US will exchange the money for you.You will change 5 CFA’s (Mali money) for Guinean francs at the border. At least they did for us. CFA’s can also be exchanged at banks and on the black market in Guinea.
I also took about $1,000.00 with me because I wasn’t sure how much I needed. I left $700.00 behind with my son. If you stay at the hotels, of course it will cost you more. The Hotel Camayenne runs about $125.00 per night (in NOV 99), it is where all the diplomats stay while they are in Conakry. It’s a touch of home away from home. I would say that there are no hotels at your friend’s site. I would attempt to save $3,000.00 for my airfare and $500.00 for spending.
“I believe that my mom spent about $500 excluding airfare for an 8-day trip. She stayed in my village, Tougué, for a few days, so our only major expenses were souvenirs and hotels in Conakry and Dalaba. ”
Before leaving, call your credit card companies and tell them where you’re going to be. Otherwise, you may find that your card will be refused in either Guinea or Senegal.
I had prescription medication along and never was questioned or challenged. I carried it in the prescription bottles in which they were dispensed. I also had a letter from my physician concerning my need for them. No one ever asked to see the letter. Over the counter medication should be in its original containers. Don’t put things in other unlabeled bottles, or mix things up.
Throughout the trip, we took low grade antibiotics which I think helped greatly in fending off disease. We also brought prescribed Lomotil which also helped a lot when sickness came on.
Trim your nails; long nails are a source of infection.
We continuously used anti-bacterial solutions for our hands. I think this helped us avoid illness. You are constantly shaking hands with people which is a source of potential infection
We used Malarone as anti-Malaria protection. After spending a lot of time on CDC and other web sites, we decided it had the least side effects, it was easier to remember to take a pill once a day than once a week, and cost was covered by our health plan.
Take lots of food with you (light-weight packages), but don’t take much luggage. We wore, pretty much the same clothes the entire time we were there. One becomes much like the PCV natives, quickly. Remember, what you put on that luggage check-in counter you’ll be carrying with you the entire time in Guinea! I would suggest taking clothing that you can toss out or leave in your PCVs village. This way you can return with a case full of fabric, mementos, stuff your PCV has purchased and will want you to take home with you, and the enormous amount of mail PCVs need sent home.
“Drink only Coyah (bottled water), take a camel back of water, and take some food (snacks) every where you go, you never know when you will get stuck someplace.”
“As far as water in Guinea goes, there are plenty of places to buy bottled water, just watch the seal. Be sure it is solidly sealed. Don’t do as the PCVs do and buy water and funny little juice baggies from children and women on the streets. The veteran PCV stomach is made of iron and has lots of little things in it to eat up the bad stuff in the liquid (shudder)!
“Rainy season (our summer) is good except the roads might be in worse condition. Still, if you’ve got more than just a couple weeks to spend there, it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.” In June (early rainy season) road will not be in as bad condition as in August, when they might be more washed out. April is the hottest and driest time of year.
May/June turned out to be a good time to visit. It was end of dry season and beginning of rainy season in the Fouta. This meant that the countryside was turning green, mango, avocado and banana were in full bloom and delicious, the small rains kept the red dust in check but the pot holes and mosquitoes had not yet taken over.
If your PCV is a teacher, they will be off school from June – August.
The Guinean airport is one of the worst in the world. It can be a bit overwhelming. You will first go to a checkpoint to show your passport, visa, and WHO card. Woe to the traveler without the right documents! Then you go to the section to claim your baggage. People will try to get you to let them take your bags. They’re not stealing them (usually), but want to get paid to wheel the cart for you. If you have a lot of bags, you might want to accept this. I wouldn’t pay more than $1-$2 for this. PLEASE don’t pay more, or you make it more difficult for all the other travelers They’ll take advantage of your naïveté. You can also wheel a cart yourself, you don’t have to pay them. On your way out, you pass by a desk with grumpy looking people in uniforms. This is customs. Be sure you know what you have and if it should require customs charges. They will often ask for some money ($5 should do it), and just let you through. That’s often easiest. Otherwise, they might go through your bags and ask for stuff. This is worst case scenario. I usually just said “peace corps”, waved an ID, brought my bag on the table in a gesture of cooperation, and they waved me on. Smile, and look dumb.
Continental and Provencal both around $28. Continental atmosphere and friendly staff was slightly better at Continental, but many PCVs go to Provencal.
Hotel Independence is better than both, right downtown, beautiful rooms, pool on roof.
Soifel Teranga Hotel was expensive but accommodations were fantastic, even had hair dryers in the rooms. THere are only rooms with one bed. The rooms were around $100 or more and then in Dakar they gave us a Peace Corps discount bringing it to $90. Olympic size pool along the beach, wonderful but expensive restaurant overlooking restaurant, friendly and helpful staff.
Sofitel is supposed to be clean and basic.
I understood that you have to be careful when use a camera, people do not like to be in front of camera. I saw you took a lot of pictures, please comment.
I took a lot of pictures because I lived in a village, knew the people, and could as them in their own language if it was ok. Each was a difficult negotiation. Often, people will let you take their picture if you promise to give them a copy. That’s not a bad deal, if you have the money, and can remember where you saw them. Be respectful. Ask first. Learn how to say “Can I take your picture” in the local language, and they’ll love you and take you in. Actually, if you learn any local language at all, they’ll give you anything you want. It’s the key to friendship. I’m talking about merchants and local people, not the educated people at the factory.
One traveler says: “In retrospect, nothing was that bad and all the advice from this newsletter was very good. Everyone has their own spin on what was helpful. Most women said don’t take too many clothes, but I wish I had stuffed more t-shirts in, at least to feel fresher. It’s hard to achieve that without running water! I think Purell was invented for Guinea. The little village was far more tolerable, despite the lack of amenities. Everyone was so nice. ”
Have your PCV prepare a back-up plan for arrival in case they’re not there to meet you at the airport.
On the cultural issues theme – just remember to clear your throat if you hear someone approaching the latrine while you are using it and to stay away if you hear someone clearing theirs as you approach.
Don’t try to see too many places – pick a few and stay there. Traveling takes a long time and can be exhausting.
Please offer to carry letters or small packages. Hand-couriers are invaluable means of communication between parents and PCV’s. Send your travel dates to saabrian @ yahoo.com for inclusion on the list.
With respect to bathrooms, I suggest you all start practicing squatting as low as you can to the ground. Remember, lower is better. The real natives can squat with their feet flat on the ground. Good luck.
As far as traditions or customs – one thing they do constantly in a very friendly manner is greet you over and over again. It is rude to pass someone without greeting and shaking their hands. You may also expected to bring small gifts and your friend can tell you what to bring.
Make sure any taxi you get into has working doors and a complete exhaust pipe and that the windows go up. If you encounter a roadblock, do not give up your passport.
We were only hit up once for a bribe – that was at the airport just after we arrived and we were trying to get out of the building with copious amounts of luggage – duffel bags of “stuff” that we had brought over for our daughter and other volunteers. One of the “security guards” began to do a “search” of the bags for contraband, but before she got too far another one who appeared to be a supervisor came over and asked us why we were coming to the country. Our daughter explained she was with the Peace Corps and those were the magic words. The supervisor reprimanded the first person and let us go. Our daughter was very strict with us – not allowing us to pay a bribe or give up easily when we were dickering for an item we wanted to purchase because she felt it would set a bad precedent for those who would follow.
If you get a chance, visit Doucki — the only ecotourism spot in the area — near Pita. Hassan speaks English, French, Pular, and other African languages. His hobby is hiking. He built some “cases” (round houses with thatched roofs) and leads the best narrated hikes ever to great canyons, rainforests, and waterfalls. It was physically challenging, but Hassan sizes you up before selecting the hike. He provides good food, tea, and wonderful hospitality in a breathtaking part of the Fouta. Ask him to make the “green banana dish (one of the best dishes we had in Guinea and a treat for vegetarians).