• Guinea,
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  • Guinea
    © iStockphoto.com / Jorge Alvaro Manzano
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Travel to Guinea: exploring the heart of West Africa

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
From heavenly beaches to the splendours of the Guinean forest to Mount Nimba , the highest point in West Africa and a UNESCO's World Heritage site, Guinea is a perfect summary of West Africa. Numerous ethnic groups that are proud of their own language, customs and ancestral traditions live together in this former French colony. In this country where tourism is unknown, travel to Guinea is more of an exploration.

Travel guide

Natural Regions:

Burundi is divided into four natural regions: the mountain zone, the savannah, the forest area and the coastal region. The mountainous province of Fouta, or Middle Guinea, is partly composed of the Fouta Djallon, whose highest point is Mount Loura, reaching an altitude of 1500 meters. The green landscapes and waterfalls hidden in the wild forest offer an enchanting spectacle to the few lucky visitors who travel to the heart of the country. Among the regions remarkable waterfalls one particularly worth visiting is Ditinn Kambadaga. Liana bridges criss-cross rivers in the region. Dalaba, about 350 km from Conakry, is a small town where you can contact the tourist office to enquire about nearby hiking trails. You should be aware that a guide can be very useful if tackling certain trails, as it is very easy to get lost. The savannahs are located in Upper Guinea, the forests in the North of the country. The Guinean coast is home to some truly extraordinary beaches (For example Bel Air). About half an hour by canoe from the capital tourists can explore the islands of Roume, Kassa and Tamara. Accommodation takes form in the shape of rudimentary but very cosy huts, which fits perfectly with these mysterious islands ripe for exploration.

Conakry:

Guinea's capital, Conakry, is a city of constant expansion. Not only do the glass, modern buildings draw a sharp contrast with the rest of the country, it is also home to about a fifth of the population. The city is composed of five municipalities. St. Mary's Cathedral and the Great Mosque are two sites worth visiting buildings. Conakry nightlife is known for being very lively, however be sure to take precautions such as not travel alone after dark. During the day you will find numerous markets which offer traditional food and handmade souvenirs.

"Water Tower":

Guinea proudly boasts the nickname "Water Tower of West Africa". The region's high rainfall feeds lush vegetation and numerous rivers such as the Niger and Gambia, both of which start in Guinean land, before traversing the rest of West Africa.

Our Editorial team's advice

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warns that violent demonstrations are possible, particularly in the run up to the Presidential elections in July. Maintain extreme vigilance, monitor local media and avoid large gatherings. Following the outbreak of the Ebola virus the (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to Guinea, except for those involved in the direct response to the Ebola outbreak, due to the narrow commercial options for flights and the impact of the outbreak on medical facilities.

The only tour operators who are interested in Guinea as a destination are those that specialise in extreme vacation spots for example Nomade and Atalanta.

Guinea's official language is French, although several African languages are also spoken throughout the country, such as Soussou and Malinké. English is spoken primarily in border areas with Liberia and Sierra Leone. We recommend organising your trip to Guinea during the period between December and April. June to October is considered the rainy season, we recommend avoiding traveling to Guinea during this period as the rain makes the roads virtually impassable and so movement within the country very difficult. As far as the temperature goes, it remains relatively stable throughout the year, fluctuating between 25 and 30C. July and August see the most significant drop in temperature, while December, January and February as considered as the driest months in the region.

With Guinea's remarkable natural beauty it is understandable to want to preserve the experience with a few photos. However if you wish your photographs to contain people do not forget to ask for their permission prior to immortalising them in your smartphone. Also avoid photographing official buildings and military sites as this is prohibited. If confronted by the local authorities remember to remain calm and on no condition raise your voice, you may be met with an unexpected and violent reaction.

If you rent a vehicle be sure to carry your identification and rental documents with you at all times. Road blocks and controls can be both frequent and rigorous. Roads in Guinea are in a very poor state, so pay attention to the routes you choose and be extra careful. A 4X4 is of course the most suitable mode of transport. Not all vehicles on the roads are in good conditions and accidents are common especially during the night hours, which is why we strong recommend avoid driving at night.

pros

  • +Guinea is a good summary of all of West Africa.
  • +A beautiful and heavenly coastline.
  • +The scenery in the Fouta Djalon region is unmissable.

cons

  • -There is petty crime and police checks are frequent.
  • -Roads are in poor condition, despite the undeniable efforts of the State to improve them.
  • -The relatively poor Wildlife.

Traditions

Guineans are warm and genuine people that are very fond of dancing and music. Among the traditional musical instruments, we find several percussion ones, various kinds of drums, a balafon, best described as a large wooden xylophone, and of course the kora, an instrument that is traditionally defined as a 21 string lute-bridge-harp. The kora is made from a calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator with a long hardwood neck. Guineans are known as some of the best kora players in the world, so when visiting the country be sure to try and catch a performance.

When greeting people it is considered good manners to enquire about their health and their families. Also greet, eat and exchange money only with your right hand, as the left one is considered unclean. It is not uncommon to be invited for a meal to people's homes, if you are unable to go be sure to apologise or simply say that you will attend next time.

The main religion in Guinea is Islam. Respect places of worship as well as public religious ceremonies (such as Eid-al-Kabir) which often attract large crowds. For female travellers it is strongly advised to avoid wearing revealing clothes, in other words ones that show too much skin, for example shorts, miniskirts and tank tops. However head scarfs are not a necessity. The second most practiced religion is Christianity, although it still constitutes a religious minority. There are also those who practice Animism, which is the worship of the spiritual world. Religious fractions coexist peacefully in Guinea, and popular Muslim and Christian holidays are celebrated throughout the country.

After religious holidays the country's other biggest celebration is Independence Day which takes place on October 2.

Food

The staples of the local diet include predominately rice, cassava, maize and yams. Street food, which in Guinea is quite good and inexpensive, includes a wide variety of kebabs, grilled fish, peanuts as well as cakes - all of which are a perfect snack when especially hungry. Local specialities include Jollof rice (made with chicken, yellow and green peppers, okra, garlic and tomatoes), which while a Senegalese speciality, is very popular throughout West Africa. You should also try the stuffed chicken with peanuts, couscous with milk, and banani loko - a favourite snack amongst children and adults alike. Main courses are usually accompanied by rice, which can be both spicy and not. To quench your thirst have a glass of refreshing ginger juice, which is full of health benefits. Be advised that drinking tap water is not recommended, so always carry a bottle of water with you.

Souvenirs

Among souvenirs you can bring back from your Guinean adventure are colourful fabrics, rugs, wood carving, pottery, calabashes as well as traditional musical instruments. We advise choosing local markets for your shopping as opposed to stores located in city centres, since there is a wider selection of goods as well as more bargains to be found. You should be aware that pickpockets operate in and around markets so keep an eye on your belongings.

During regular weekdays shops in Guinea are open from 9am until 18pm Monday to Saturday. This may change during public holidays and celebrations.