Nov 152013

Got up relatively early thanks to being early to bed, and decided to explore the hotel grounds a bit more.  Breakfast was included in my rate, and it turned out to be extremely good.  The Laico Ouaga 2000 put on quite a good spread.  Super fresh baguettes, lots of nutella, fruits, omlettes made to order and fresh-squeezed juices.  I was quite impressed.

Walked around a bit, and then caught the hotel shuttle back to the airport.  I can’t say enough good things about this hotel.  Reviews online were pretty mixed, but the rooms were comfortable, clean, and cool, fastish WiFi, free airport shuttle, nice grounds, etc etc etc.  The only negative at all was that it was a hike into downtown, but that was honestly a plus in this case.  I can’t recommend this hotel enough!

So, back to the airport, and time to try and find my passport, lolz.  My driver was kind enough to try and assist because “I know how things work in Ouaga” but I decided to brave it alone.

Inside the airport, and walked towards the door where you exit from immigration.  There were two guards there, and I told them they have my passport inside for a visa and I need to get it.  That worked, and they let me in.  Walked past the immigration booths, and straight to the counter from yesterday.  Told them I was there for my passport, gave them my name, and voila…got it back.  Did a quick check of it, and there was no visa inside.  I asked where the visa was, and they told me I didn’t need one for a one day transit.  You may go.  Back out the door, and into the departures hall.  It couldn’t be this easy…and cheap…could it?

Over to the Air Burkina counter, and no trouble checking in.  Then, it was off to official immigration to leave Burkina…with stamps in my passport, but no visa.  This is where it got entertaining.  “Ou est votre visa?”  “J’ai pas besoin d’un visa….chu en transit.”  Um, yeah, that went over about as well as a lead brick.  I tried to explain.  See, the lady inside the arrivals area kept my passport last night, because I had an overnight transit.  She gave it back to me 10 minutes ago, and told me I didn’t need a visa.  “Ok, so you leave Burkina Faso now?”  “Yes.”  Ok.  Stamp stamp, and that was it.  One hurdle down!

Then, it was security.  They, surprise surprise, wanted my passport…and started hunting for a visa.  Not finding one, they asked for it.  Time to tell the whole story again.  “Oh, American.  Barack Obama!”  Great, that again.  “Ouais, chu Americain, mais j’ai pas besoin d’un visa pour transit.”  They were a bit thrown off.   I continued to explain to them.  They’d never heard of someone getting in…and out past immigration…without a visa.  They tried a different strategy.  “Vous avez un petit cadeau pour nous?”  Um, no, no gifts for you.  Bags on the xray belt, and I walked through the metal detector.  They all just laughed, handed my passport back, and wished me a good journey.

This stop completely validated the biggest lesson my 2013 travel has taught me.  When confronted with “officials” who smell blood and want a gift or bribe, the best strategy is to stay happy, joke with them, be nice, but not give in.  Almost every time they end up respecting you, and you get out of it without paying anything.

Then…it was time to find the lounge.  Up the stairs, and look, there’s a sign!



Before you get too excited, however, let’s talk about the lounge.

On the positive side, bathrooms were clean.  Free water and Coke Zero…but working Wifi?  Hahahahah, um, no.  The chairs were pretty awesome, big overstuffed leather chairs, and the AC worked nicely.  It was overall, 75% of what a lounge needs to be in my opinion.  Only serious downside was the total lack of functional WiFi.  I waited out the last 15 minutes before boarding in the gate area, which also wasn’t too bad at this time of day.  Then, it was time to board!

Air Burkina flight 515
Ouagadougu, Burkina Faso (OUA) to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (ABJ)
Depart 12:25, Arrive 13:55, Flight Time 1:30
Canadair CRJ-200, Registration TZ-RCA, Manufactured 2000, Seat 2A

Yup, it was the same plane that brought me into Ouaga the day before.  I was curious to see if service would be any different on a slightly longer flight.  Business class was only booked to three people again, so time would tell.

Shortly after takeoff, the crew sprang into action, delivering a cold meal along with choice of drinks.  Champagne?  Of course!  Now that was quite the pleasant surprise.  For a flight that was just over an hour, I was quite impressed how Air Burkina performed!




Soon, it was time to land.  Parking, we exited the plane onto a bus, where I had a chance to snap a picture as we headed to the terminal.


Continue reading »

Nov 142013

Woke up relatively early, because although things had gone smoothly until this point, I was still convinced that airports and flights in Africa could be seriously unpredictable, so wanted to get there in plenty of time.  Check out at the hotel yielded a lower than expected bill – when I put my company’s name on the bill, they reduced it to the corporate rate which I hadn’t expected.  Saved me over 15,000 CFA – $30+ and still a free shuttle to the airport.  Can’t really beat that!

I was excited for this part of the trip.  Ever since I had heard about it when I was young, I thought Ouagadougou had to be the coolest city name ever.  I just hoped it would live up to the hype!

Got to the airport about 1.5 hours before the flight, and check-in wasn’t even open.  There were some chairs in a covered area of the airport, and just a few minutes later they opened the check-in hall.  We were the only flight leaving, and it appeared only about half full, so there would only be about 25 people checking in for the flight.  Check-in was super easy, no problems, and 5 minutes later I was clearing immigration and security which were both also a complete non-event.

The waiting room for the flight was completely empty, but there was also a “VIP” room.  It was nothing more than a couple of overstuffed chairs and sofas – nothing special, and I’d call it a nice quiet place to wait, but the regular hall was pretty quiet itself.  I suppose it was probably a bit different when the Air France flight left, but today it was nice and quiet.  A shot of the waiting hall:


An ancient Government of Niger 737 right outside on the tarmac:


Continue reading »

Sep 162013

I know, I know…I’ve gotten way behind.  A few weeks ago I was in Nigeria (country #137 visited) for a few days with a friend and I owe a trip report for that one which I promise to get done soon.  All in all, it was a great trip!

Next trip is coming in just a couple of weeks.  It started as a trip to see the same friend while he does work in two more countries (Benin and Ghana) and I figured, while in the neighbourhood, I’d see a few more places.  Now, it’s turned into a six country trip adding Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Niger to the list.  The rough plan is:

west africa map

One major challenge will be that a couple of the tickets can only be bought locally, so we will see if I manage to sort out all the plane tickets.  Of course, there’s also the issue that flights in this part of the world don’t always run so on time, so there will be that too.  Also, this assumes I manage to get all six visas on time.  It’s also the most number of airlines I’ve ever taken on one trip I think:

  1. Air Canada
  2. Lufthansa
  3. Brussels Airlines
  4. Air Cote d’Ivoire
  5. ASKY
  6. Air Burkina
  7. SWISS
  8. United

Of course, assuming everything works out….that will bring the total country count up to 143 visited…only 53 to go!