In July we had a conundrum. Although we have 1-year multiple entry visas, we’re only allowed to stay in Ghana for 60 days at any one time. Previously we’ve gone back to the UK every other month, but from May to September we’d decided on a 4-month stretch without flying home. So we had two choices: get the entry permits renewed at Immigration in Accra (which sounded like a lot of hassle), or visit another country and return.
We were told that going to Lomé, in Togo, was easy and the city was known as the ‘Paris of West Africa’, good for restaurants and shopping. So we decided Togo. We chose a hotel with a large attractive swimming pool (according to the Internet photos) and looked forward to a weekend of relaxation.
On Saturday 14th July we set off, getting a taxi to Tudu tro-tro station and picking up a long-distance minibus to Aflao, on the eastern border of Ghana. There we crossed the border into Togo, getting an entry visa with little bother. The hassle began just outside the border, where hordes of people began to badger us. Eventually we managed to get a taxi to our hotel, the Ibis Lomé Centre next to the beach. We had heard that parts of Lomé were unsafe, but were concerned to discover that the hotel itself issued warnings with room keys about the frequent attacks in surrounding areas.
The hotel itself has well landscaped grounds, with a large pool and thatched restaurant. We discovered that wedding parties use the grounds for their photos. The hotel itself is a bit tired, but we had a reasonable room on the top floor with a view of the sea.
After lunch (real French bread with real cheese), we ignored the warnings and went out to look at the city. The Grand Marché is the central market area, with streets full of stalls selling all kinds of stuff, including a lot of clothing and brightly coloured cloth. However, we didn’t see much in the way of restaurants and ‘Paris of West Africa’ seemed more than slightly exaggerated.
On Sunday we were hoping to go on a tour to see more of the country, but when we woke up the rain was coming down in sheets. It rained most of the morning, and then we went out again to see more of the city, though we didn’t encounter much of great interest. In the afternoon it brightened up briefly, and we spent some time by the pool, but then it became very windy and we retreated to our room. Later on we went to another hotel for dinner, but neither of the main meals we had in Togo matched up to the standards of French cuisine.
On Monday the weather improved, but it was time to head back to Ghana. We crossed the border again with no problem, and got the all-important stamps in our passports. After three tro-tros and a walk up the hill we were back home. It was interesting to see part of another African country, but what we saw of Togo would not put it on our list of top tourist destinations.