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Political and Cultural Issues

The cultures in the Saharan countries differ in many ways from those of the 'western world'. Westerners who travel there should take this into consideration, and try to adapt their customs to what is proper in these regions.

Open and Closed Borders

Before you travel, you should always check that the route you are planning to use is open. Africa is a very dynamic continent, and situations can change over one night. You should check with the embassy of the countries you want to travel in for visa requirements, etc. You should also ask specifically about the route you are planning to use. Sometimes, a country may be open on certain borders and closed on others, so if you come from the wrong direction...

As of October 96, the whole border between Algeria and Morocco was closed, whilst the border between Algeria and Niger was open. It was also possible to enter the country by boat from Spain.


It seldom pays to be rude and demanding towards officials. A polite and friendly attitude will usually be helpful, and have lots of patience.


People in the desert countries are more sensitive to 'inappropriate' ways of dressing than you might be used to. They don't expect you to dress like them, but there's no need to offend them either.


You should always clean up after yourself. In the desert, you can either burn or bury your waste in the ground.


The subsaharan countries use CFA as their currency, but the CFA is subdivided into two groups: western and eastern. The western CFA is used in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Benin for example. Its currency code is XOF. The eastern CFA is used in Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The currency code is XAF.
This is important to keep in mind because the two currencies are easy to confuse but are not compatible; even if their value is the same you can not use the eastern CFA bills in the countries using western CFA. It can also be difficult to change your money from the one type to the other.


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