To complement and/or update the information in the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides for West Africa, I’ve together some notes. Partly for us since we plan to return next year and for other travels who plan to go. I’ll update the links here as I do the pages. UPDATE: We had the 2002 edition of LP and the November 2003 edition of Rough Guide. Lonely Planet West Africa was updated to the sixth edition in October 2006, so much of what I have to add may already be the new edition which we now have, but didn’t when I wrote most of this.
We found Guinea easier than we expected. The people are helpful and friendly, with few touts. The lack of touts may be that there is so little independent tourism that the tout industry hasn’t developed. Another example of the lack of tourism is that the restaurant service is not westernized—I’ll explain what I mean by that. The staff is nice and will try to meet requests, but little initiative is shown. I’m mainly speaking of the medium quality hotels which are often the top hotels away from Conakry. When you walk into the restaurant things move at a leisurely pace; maybe it’s developed from the hotter parts of the country were that may be only pace possible. After serving you, the waiter disappears. Hors d’oeuvre were almost never offered. None on the menu, occasional peanuts. Petit déjueuner was often as expected, but often confiture was omitted and not available. Although sometimes it was a special treat as in Labé with guava jam. The lack of confiture is consistent with a seeming lack of sweets, certainly desserts were rare. The cookies/biscuits offered at taxi stand shops were never locally made, but imported from Brazil, Turkey, and India in our limited experience.
The transportation system is adequate. Phones aren’t too good. Although the cell phone service is better than land line apparently. People often carry phones for two cell phone providers since calls within each system works, but system to system doesn’t work as well. The phone numbers now seem to be eight digit, usually a 60 in front of the six digit number found in the guidebooks and many on-line resources.
Water is available on the street in at least four ways: 1) bottled, 2) labeled sealed plastic bags—supposedly safe—I got away with drinking it once, 3) hand tied plastic bags (presumably local generally unsafe water, 4) in pots. All the hotels had tap water, but no signs assuring any kind of treatment or quality. We use iodine and bottled water.
Knowing French definitely enhanced our visit and makes it easier to travel. Louisa’s French is good enough for communication. Mine is at the basic travelers level. Since they have so few tourists, they don’t seem to understand how to deal with people who aren’t fluent.