We have done some visa research. First the good news: our self-inflicted extension of the trip, through The Gambia and Senegal, does not require visas for EU citizens. Generous, or would this be a recognition that most Senegalese who travel to the EU do that without a visa, too? Bad joke, sorry. For the ‘transit trip’ countries we have to arrange five out of nine visa beforehand. Chad and Liberia have embassies and consulates in Brussels, the visas for Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast can be had in The Hague.

Finding out what is required isn’t straightforward: the Nigerian Embassy website explains the application procedure, which needs to start online, but there is no link to any online process. The Ivory Coast Embassy sends me to a site where I can apply for a barcode, with which I can retrieve my visa at Abidjan airport – but we are travelling overland, don’t arrive at the airport. In any case, the link they provide to the website of a commercial company which has developed the e-Visa brings me to a site which explains by video what to do, namely click on the ‘visa’ button, but then doesn’t have a visa button on the site, and if I get there via a roundabout way, tells me that this functionality is temporary being worked on. Right. Ghana looks straightforward, so that worries me the most.

For Chad and Liberia we can just download application forms, which we need to send with lots of supporting documentation – return flight in and out of the country, but we travel overland?; hotel reservations, but we have no idea where we are going to stay? – to the consulate. We chose for a mixture of courier services and personal visa runs.

Did I mention costs? For each visa we pay between 60 and 100 Euros. Excluding courier services or personal visa runs, of course. And excluding passport photos. Did you know that some need to be 3.5×4.5 cm, others need to be square, 2×2 inches. And that the background may vary, the way you look into the camera may vary, even the size of your face inside the picture may vary? Each country has its specific requirements. Oh, and the countries we go to are not standard included in the passport photo software of the shops that provide passport photos. So you need to find a ‘similar’ country – India, for instance, is like Liberia, as far as passport photo is concerned. Why on earth can the world not agree on standard size passport photos?

The other visas, for Cameroun, Togo, Benin and Sierra Leone, we will acquire on the way. Easy, apparently, same day Cameroun visa in Chad, visa at the border for Togo and Sierra Leone, online for Benin. Why are some so easy, and some so difficult?

Next: 12 Jan.

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