Nov 212013

Got to the airport, check-in was nice and easy, and the line for security and passport control were non-existent. So far, this was definitely the most modern and well-kept airport I’d seen in West Africa. It was clean, good facilities, and everything seemed to, for lack of a better word, work.  Wandered around for a couple of minutes, before heading to the lounge.

The lounge was a multi-airline lounge, and it looked like my Brussels Airlines flight would be sharing it with Air France tonight.  The attendant brought over a small plate of finger snacks, and offered me a drink.  It was warm, so I asked for a bottle of water…when she brought it, she asked for my lounge invite and marked it.  Seems you only get TWO drinks, and I’d used one of mine on a bottle of water.  Eventually she did say you could BUY more drinks if you wanted, but only two were included.  Why can’t Brussels and Air France pay for their business class passengers have drinks?  Poor image in my book.

There was one other major shortcoming for the lounge – a lack of outlets.  I’d arrived early and managed to get one to charge my phone, but many others were wandering looking for them.  I think there were a total of maybe 4 or 5 for the whole lounge.  Having consumed my water, free glass of wine…and another glass of wine I sweet-talked my way into, I decided to wander the airport for the 45 minutes left before boarding.  It grew old pretty quickly, and I decided to sit at a gate cafe and people watch.  You can’t really tell well in this picture, but those are discoball-studded silver stillettos.  I know that’s what I always wear to fly.  Wasn’t going to post this picture, but it also shows a bit how the airport is really rather nice as well.



Another shot of the gate area:



Soon, it was time to board,which was done through a jetway.  A rarity in west Africa!

Brussels Airlines flight 231
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (ABJ) to Brussels, Belgium (BRU)
Depart 22:50, Arrive 07:25, Flight Time 6:35
Airbus A330-300, Registration OO-SFU, Manufactured 2000, Seat 5K

On board, and welcomed with a flight of bubbly…and thanks to a friendly flight attendant a second.

IMG_1371 Continue reading »

Nov 172013

Slept in a slight bit, but not too much thanks to what was rapidly becoming a very, very warm hotel room. 24C in the morning. Enjoyed a couple pain au chocolate for my last day in Africa, and then headed down to grab a mid-morning taxi to the centre city to walk around and explore a bit.  It was a short, 10-15 minute ride, and then it was time to explore.  With no plans of how to get back, this promised to be an adventure.  When I’d shared plans for this trip with people I knew who’d traveled west Africa recently, Abidjan was the one place they cautioned to be a little careful.  The recovery from the recent war is still somewhat fragile, and there’s a bit of tension.

I had the taxi drop me off at the Place de la Republique, where I snapped a couple of shots:


IMG_1315 Continue reading »

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 »

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!