Category Archives: TIA

Understanding African Flyers

Last year, Sabre released a report on African flyers and how airlines could reach and serve them better or enhance the flying experience. It broke down how nationals of four countries – Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt – perceived different aspects of flying including costs, in-flight preferences, pain points, experiences, and decisions on whether to use local or foreign airlines.


It also looked at if the introduction of a single passport would impact traveling across the continent. The challenge of getting a visa was cited as a major hindrance for Africans seeking to travel more alongside costs, lack of routes, safety, and stressful flights.

 

Conclusions: 

  • More airlines need in-flight Wi-Fi.
  • Many airlines have uncomfortable flights, and passengers will pay more to get better experiences. They are willing to spend ($104), six times the global average, for this.
  • The cost of flying is still high (national taxes are a major reason for this)
  • Removal of visa’s or the ability to obtain a visa on-arrival will have more impact than a pan-African or an African Union passport.

And specifically for Kenya Airways,

Kenyans passengers would (extra) pay for:

  • Inflight Wi-Fi
  • Extra luggage

Kenyans will choose KQ over a foreign airline for:

  • Cheaper tickets
  • Superior customer service

Guide to Brazzaville

A guest post

Getting There: Kenya Airways was my choice. I could have done Ethiopian or RwandAir, but there were no connections on KQ; it was the only direct flight. There was a stopover in Kinshasa on the way back. The flight cost is $ 2,099 in business class (and approx. $1,000 in economy).

Visa: I had obtained a business visa in Nairobi before I departed. A 3 month multi-entry visa costs Kshs 11,000 and that included an extra Kshs 1,000 for same day processing. The embassy is located in Gigiri on Whispers Avenue.

Great airport! (Built by the Chinese)

Great airport! (Built by the Chinese)

On arrival: They requested to see my letter of invitation, which I hadn’t printed but I now had to boot up my laptop to show them the letter. You would think this was unnecessary seeing as how I had the visa already. Also my bag was opened prior to my receiving it and they had taken some inconsequential stuff (even though I had a TSA lock on it.) I discovered this when I got to the hotel.

Getting Around: I didn’t get to move around much as this was for business. This was personal, and the people were great. They’re a millions of green taxis there. Locals and visitors alike use them. They must be cheap as they are used more than their “matatus.”

Brazzaville green taxisWhere to Stay: I stayed at the Pefaco. It cost $130, and is right next to the airport. There is also the Radisson Blu ($250 a night), which I had booked this prior to getting guidance to switch hotels…for convenience and proximity reasons. Electricity is not reliable at all, and there were multiple outtages (about 4 – 5 a day.)

Staying In Touch: I used VOIP to make my calls. They have Airtel there though, I didn’t use my cell while I was there. There’s no wi-fi hotspots, but the hotel (Pefaco) had good wireless internet. There’s poor internet infrastructure in general. (I was told the government shut down the Internet for a week during the elections earlier this year.)

Out & About: There are traditional african foods like “matoke,” cassava, etc.,. but there is also a French influence in terms of thing like bread and pastries. There are four 4 major beers – Primus, Star, Ngok (Crocodile) and Nzoko (elephant).

The people speak French and talk a lot about politics. It’s in season, whether it’s on Congo-Brazzaville, DRC, or US. I could not find a local English newspaper.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: The main sightseeing is along the river. The Congo river separates Kinshasa from Brazzaville. There is a downtown shopping area called Poto Poto. It has African clothing, and everything else. It felt like there was a lot more Chinese construction there than there is in most other African cities.

Tallest building in Brazzaville with interesting history

Tallest building in Brazzaville with interesting history

Budget: The Congo Franc is the currency used there, and it costs (equivalent of about $100) per day to get around. You can use your visa card almost exclusively. There was a Russian mafia scheme a few years ago. Visa lost millions of dollars, and then replaced all the PDU machines. Mastercard use is extremely limited, but I was able to get cash from select ATMs.

Odd Points: The Lingala language and music. The music is played everywhere, and they love it even more than we do. I was also surprised at how strong the connections are to Europe.. France, Belgium, Switzerland.

Another was that they import a lot of their food…even meat and milk. Meat is imported from Chad, and onions from Cameroon, while milk is from different countries in Europe, with powdered milk from the Netherlands.

Guide to Djibouti

A guest post by @queenofsheeba7

I’ve absolutely and utterly been in love with Djibouti since I was a kid. Granted, it was the name the intrigued me; ever since I was 8 years old. Even as I received the stamp on my passport, I muffled a giggle to myself about the name – nope I still haven’t grown up! Djibouti is a forgotten gem of the Horn, somehow you just never know what you’re going to get when you’re in Djibouti…that’s part of the charm. Stick around this engaging city long enough and you might fall prey to its unexpected charms.

Getting there: It’s fairly easy to get to Djibouti City from Nairobi. However, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines have recently been fully booked due to the number of humanitarians running to respond to the Yemen crisis (Djibouti is among the countries in the Horn receiving a large number of individuals fleeing Yemen). Flights are between $300-$500. You will be shocked when you arrive just how TINY the Djibouti airport is and what an utter joke it is. You would think because its a joint civilian/military-used airport that it’d be more impressive. Speaking of military, don’t be surprised with all the foreign military personnel prancing around exuding testosterone. IMG_8260

Visas: Kenyans do require a visa into Djibouti, no surprise there. It’s $90 and you are able to receive it on arrival, as I have often done so. Inbound immigration and visa on arrival facilities are slightly chaotic though not too bad.

Getting Around: The easiest and perhaps cheapest way to get around is to hire a car during your stay. Or you could walk around as the city is pretty tiny, just that the heat may get the best of you.

Djibouti’s national language is French, so best to carry your French phrase book. I got by with a mix of French and Somali. If you speak Arabic that is an added bonus. It’s no use speaking in English as they have embraced the French attitude of pretending they don’t speak a word of English! It’s also interesting noticing how Somalis have a collective identity crisis. As they were colonized by the French, they prefer to speak French over Somali – even when other Somalis (from the diaspora or neighboring countries) try to talk to them. It’s just odd as Somalis are known for being proud of their culture and language.

Communications: You can purchase a local sim-card for about $10. You will be required to carry your passport to register for the sim-card. If you are like me and are itching to check your social media feeds/emails as soon as you land, you will sadly be waiting forever to get your hit. Most cafes & hotels do have Wi-Fi but it’s often a hit and miss. Electricity is pretty reliable, didn’t experience any power cuts. Word of advice, carry a converter!

Where to Stay: As in every city, it really depends on how much you are willing to part with. They have the Sheraton, Hilton and Kempinski that I have checked out and they are all reasonable prices – $100-$150 per night. Again, do not be surprised if there are foreign soldiers staying in your hotel. At the Kempinski, it was the norm seeing soldiers decked out in their national uniform smiling and talking to you while you wait for your breakfast.

Budget: It’s not as pricey as people say but still not cheap – $25-$40 per day (excluding car rental). Thanks to foreign military bases, everything is horrendously expensive for what you get. Some good news, is it’s easy to find ATM’s that dispense U.S dollars. Most places you can get away with paying in dollars. The catch with Djiboutian francs (and NO ONE tells you about it) is once you change from dollars to Djiboutian francs you cannot exchange them back. You are forced to use all your francs before you depart as they are completely useless outside Djibouti.

Eating Out: The food is similar to Somalia/Somaliland/Puntland, because they are Somalis after all! However, you will find European/Parisian influenced cafes and restaurants. “The Melting Pot” is my go to place for dinner. Street food and supermarkets allow you to eat for $2 – $4 per meal, while cheap restaurants are $3-$6 per meal. The French hangover in Djibouti means that delicious pastries, croissants, pain au chocolate are in abundance here.

Alcohol is available in the country, but only purchasable from hotels/bars. Most people chew miraa from 4 p.m. and sit around cafes chewing; recently their chats (well at least the ones I’ve tumbled into) have predominantly focused on the Yemen crisis. But one thing I’ve noticed is Djiboutian’s are very diplomatic, and they rarely speak ill about any country. Think of them as Switzerland in the Horn.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: As Djibouti was colonized by the French, it still holds the French feeling throughout the whole city. If you forget yourself for a moment you could feel you’re wandering down a Parisian street as you chew on your baguette (cheap and delicious by the way!). The architecture flips between European and African as does the cuisine so it truly holds an ambience unlike anything you’ll have experienced before.

IMG_8262The African market/quarter is just south of the European quarter in the city center. This is an intense lively/chaotic with a market in full swing. Like most Arab countries, markets open from sunset, so get ready to do all shopping late in the evening.

Every Thursday, the ladies go to the market from 9 p.m. & buy themselves new diraacs (Somali attire) to wear the following week. So if you really want to experience the market in full swing, go on a Thursday night. It reminds me of Mombasa in the sense that it’s very safe to walk around late at night in the bustling markets. (Perhaps it has to do with the presence of foreign military in the city)

Biggest surprise of the country: Nearly EVERYTHING in Djibouti is imported. This is great because you will find all your French foods/cosmetics in the local supermarkets. But the fact they don’t even grow anything is odd, I mean the vegetables are all imported from Ethiopia! Also, Djibouti works 6 days a week. That’s to make up for the short working hours they have (9 a.m.- 2 p.m.) due to the heat. When I was last there in September it was 38 degrees and they kept assuring me that this was cool for Djibouti. The Djiboutian Permanent Secretary for the  Ministry of Justice even bragged that Djibouti had the highest temperature ever recorded.

 

Guide to Freetown, Sierra Leone

A guest post

Getting There:  Lufthansa and Brussels will get you as far as Abidjan and local carrier operating under them will get you into the country. There’s also Kenya Airways and Air France. Flights are still very limited and very expensive due to the Ebola outbreak; it’s not hard to get in or out with the right planning but don’t expect a couple flights to choose from every day, more like one to choose from every couple days.

On Arrival: Lungi International Airport isn’t so bad.  Quick walk to the terminal and the bags arrived fairly quickly.  But getting into downtown Freetown is another matter.  I don’t want to wager how long a taxi ride would take as it’s a US$40 shuttle and boat ride into town after your plane lands.  Also, there’s only one company — Sea Coast Express — running boats at the moment, so not a lot of options.  When we landed it was about a 20 minute ride to the boat, 30 minutes to board, and 30 minutes across the water.  And that’s on a good day.  For other colleagues it’s been a 3-4 hour process; one mentioned she got the last boat leaving that day and that was at 17:00 (though we landed at 5pm and were fine).  The boats operate on the flight schedule and less flights equals less boats.  Bottom line is that it’s safe to assume there will be a boat for your flight but have a backup plan to spend a night in Lungi if you’ve missed the last boat out — much safer and simpler than trying to spend five hours drive there in the dark.

Getting Around: We hired a driver for the week, which is recommended.  Taxis are common but so is picking up as many fares as once throughout the ride to maximize profits.  Boda bodas are everywhere and fastest from their numbers and weaving through traffic.  Buses are another option but unsure of the routes and the morning commute had queues about 75 meters long by 09:00.

It’s very secure, for walking around, even toward the evening.  Just keep in mind that it’s a city and like any city in the world just don’t be stupid and you’ll be fine.  Don’t flash money around, keep your valuables out of sight, and take taxis everywhere after dark, etc.

Staying In Touch:  I was not able to use my personal cell line, which is a first as it promotes international access, including data.  While I could have enabled some service, data and calls were prohibitively expensive.  It was off to Airtel for local SIM cards, which did not take long to open a new account (about 30 minutes).  Charging and top up stations are all over the city, so never far from finding someone who could provide more airtime at about 500MB for 50,000 Leone.  An SMS is about 500 Leone and the average call around 2,000 Leone.

Where to Stay: There were lots of hotels offering a good range of amenities.  Colleagues who had been here before, opted for the Country Lodge, which was sufficient and offered excellent views of the city.  This time we stayed at The Hub Hotel, one of the newer facilities, which was excellent with a bar, restaurant, pool, good view, comfortable rooms, and is only going to get better  as their gym is nearly done.  It fills up quick though; and we had to make the booking a couple of months in advance.

Electricity is very reliable. The most we noticed at larger facilities were the generators flipping over in the evening, even at the start of the rainy season.  Outages happened, of course, but the longest I think we waited was just a few minutes.

Eating Out: Star beer everything but a good selection just about everywhere we went.  Food is very broad in the selection as well; chicken and rice is the most common.  Discussion was local politics (the Vice President was recently ousted), and the Ebola response.  As a Liverpool fan, all I could find were Man U. fans, so there was talk of sports but unfortunately no one understood basic good versus evil on that front.

English is the official language, to the point where I only even heard some other local dialects from other chiefdoms a couple times and briefly throughout my week there.  Several local English papers and radio stations.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing:  Probably missed it but didn’t come across a main shopping area.  But stalls are everyone; some streets have them the entire length with everything from shoes to books to computer parts.

While I didn’t get a chance to go — ah, the tease of business travel — everyone who talked about sightseeing started and ended with the beaches.  River Beach No.2 seemed to get the most mentions between its amenities but mostly the seclusion it offers for those willing to drive a little further to get there.  Don’t think you can go wrong at any beach there.

Hotels average about US$130 with breakfast included; dinner would be about another US$25.  Dollars are acceptable but Leones are preferred.  Much more importantly, however, is Sierra Leone basically doesn’t use credit cards.  The bank system is improving but it’s a ways away from making ATM’s a common sight.  Our hotel accepted cards but somewhat reluctantly and with an additional 4% service charge.  So bring cash and lots of it.

Odd Points: Get used to not shaking many hands due to Ebola, even for those you’ve just met – wasn’t odd but sensible given the situation, just off putting at first.  We did dome fist bumps or bumped elbows; most just get right to the conversation.  It’s best to not even try and deal with the awkwardness of not shaking hands versus trying to shake the hand of someone who is clearly uncomfortable but still trying to be polite.

Biggest surprise: Not a real surprise was how common health safety about Ebola was but I was surprised at just how much safety-related propaganda was all around.  It’s everywhere, which course is a good thing and speaks to why (Ebola) is in decline now.

Guide to Banjul, Gambia

A guest post By @Varyanne

Getting There : I went to Banjul through Lagos, having used Kenya Airways (KQ) to get to Lagos for approx. $900 that was paid by the host organization. I then used Arik Air from Lagos to Banjul which was a three hour flight, and the ticket cost approx. $700, also paid by the host organization.

On Arrival: First, having come from Nairobi, which was cold at the time, walking out of the plane (in Lagos) felt like stepping into a sauna that was pre-heated for too long. I heard there was air conditioning but they might as well have spent the money on some kind of indoor sprinkler system.

I met two other Kenyans who were going to the Africa Commission on Human Rights Conference so I stuck around with them. We got help from one of the immigration officers who collected the passports from all transiting passengers. He didn’t give a reason, but he was the immigration officer so we were in safe hands, we hoped. The officer walked us through what seemed like a maze without telling us where we were going, but he was very friendly so it didn’t matter, and we walked with him through many security check points till we ended up in an office with a big industrial fan that seemed to be blowing more hot air than fanning.

Since our flight from Lagos to Banjul was eight hours away, we went to find ‘VIP’ lounges where we could shower and enjoy proper air conditioning, and Wi-Fi of course. We left the officer filling in our passport details in some kind of register, with the understanding that we were to go back to the office 3 hours before the flight to Banjul. We paid $40 to get into one lounge which offered a plate of food, good Wi-Fi, showers, escape from the sauna and as many drinks as we wanted, soft or otherwise. The immigration officer made the trip easy for us, we didn’t have to pay for anything in Lagos.Banjul airport

We finally got to Banjul at 2 a.m. on 22nd April having left Nairobi on the 21st at 9a.m. At Banjul airport, we had to pay $25 for entry clearance, but residents in the ECOWAS region did not have to pay. Curiously, travelers in our group including Germans, Singaporean, and Americans did not have to pay either.

Getting Around: There are yellow and green taxis (both saloon cars) which are used for public transportation in Gambia. The yellow taxis are more like the public buses or ‘matatus’ in Kenya, while the green taxis are the…cabs, which are costlier. Generally the yellow taxis charge 8 Dalasi (20 Kes) for short distances, while the green cabs charged me 150 Dalasi (350 Kes / ~3.50) to go from the venue of the conference to the hotel where I was staying and back to the conference venue – about 15km total.carving

I saw a group of young people walking leisurely at 11pm on my way back to the hotel, and I imagine it is safe to walk in Banjul than it is to walk in Nairobi.

The official language in Gambia is Wolof, which replaced English in 2014 when President Yahya Jammeh declared English a colonial relic. Most people I met spoke English so communication wasn’t difficult.

I used Gambian Dalasi while there and spent on average 800 Dalasi daily ($20) on food and transportation.

Staying In Touch: While there, I did not make any calls from my phone. I relied on Wi-Fi at the hotel and at the conference venue to send messages and to make calls (on whatsapp). I was only there for three days so I didn’t see the need to get a SIM card, and the most popular telco in Gambia is Airtel.

beach houseWhere to Stay: I stayed at Lemon Creek hotel and the other Kenyans stayed at Kairaba Beach hotel. From the two, it seemed like it costs between $100 to $300 to stay in a slightly above 3-star and slightly below 4-star hotel. Both hotels were right by the beach, and we had no complaints.

There was no power outage during my stay.

Eating Out: Since I didn’t leave the hotel or the conference venue, I didn’t get to find out what the local dishes were. I did however eat more tomato soup than I have in my entire life, on this trip. meal

Odd Points: The policemen (I didn’t see any policewomen) are extremely friendly. At any stop, the policemen would have a quick minute of chitchat with whoever the driver was. They weren’t as stern looking or as up-to-no-good looking as the kind of policemen I’m used to seeing.