How to Travel from Bissau to Conakry – Nightmare Journey
Bissau to Conakry is a major part of the overland route through West Africa. Here’s how I traveled from Bissau in Guinea Bissau to Conakry, Guinea over 2 days.
When you travel from Bissau to Conakry, it’s highly likely you need a visa in advance. I bought mine from the Guinea Conakry Embassy in Bissau. To qualify for the visa you need 30,000 francs, 2 passport photos as well as 2 empty pages together in your passport. The process takes 24 hours and here is the exact location.
Share taxi from Bissau to Gandembel
I strongly recommend you do this journey over 2 days. Travel in West Africa is very slow and unpredictable therefore over 2 days you can relax and enjoy the slow journey. What’s more, do you really want to arrive in Conakry in the middle of the night? Whether you decide on a 1 or 2 day journey, I recommend you leave Bissau as early as possible. Share taxis leave for Gandembel on the Guinea border from around sunrise. Journey time is around 4 hours and the road is in decent condition. You’ll find the bus station just off Airport Road. Lastly, the cost is 5000 West African Francs.
Motorbike from Gandembel to Boke, Guinea
When you arrive in Gandembel it’s highly likely your share taxi will be surrounded by motorbike drivers. These guys are fighting for your business, they want to take you to Boke in Guinea. I agreed to go with one of the drivers who then took me to an office where I paid 13000 West African francs. I also changed around 10000 francs at a terrible rate for some Guinean Francs to pay any tips etc. along the way. Look at my bag in the picture, I also bought 2 bin liners to keep it clean from the red dust. If you don’t buy these your bag will be incredibly dirty when you arrive. Finally, the motorbike journey will take 3 hours or more. Take drinking water!
You, yourself will get incredibly dirty because the route goes through the jungle as well as on dusty unpaved roads. I took this picture about 1 hour into the journey. I don’t look too bad but when I arrived in Boke 2 hours later my face would be completely red / black from the dust. For this reason, wear clothes which are easy to clean. It’s also hot but I chose clothes which covered my body so I didn’t get burnt.
River Crossings and Army Checkpoints
There’s a river crossing on this journey which costs around 3000 Guinean Francs. You, your driver, bike and other commuters all cross on a small wooden boat. The friendly guy waving is the one I took a picture with earlier. He was ahead of me in the queue.
It’s worth mentioning the various checkpoints which you pass on route. Make sure you have your passport, Guinea visa and yellow fever certificate because every detail of these will be checked over and over. I was stamped out of Guinea Bissau when I left Gandembel. However, it was 3 checkpoints into Guinea before I was stamped in there. The border guards and army checkpoints are notorious for bribes and they will try bribe you. The soldiers in particular appear very angry and will speak rudely to you in French. I paid one bribe of 2000 West African Francs to a guard who was not happy my yellow fever vaccination was over 10 years ago. There aim is to waste your time and exhaust you so stubbornly bargain them down to a low price if they have a reason to demand money.
It’s hot, you’re dirty, there’s no food, the bike is uncomfortable, plus there are endless checkpoints with rude guards looking to cheat and exhaust you. On top of this, it’s quite dangerous riding a motorbike through the unpaved roads and jungles of Guinea. You must be a determined traveler to enjoy this unique road trip.
Overnight in Boke?
As part of your overland journey from Bissau to Conakry, I highly recommend you stay overnight in Boke. This gives you time to eat, relax and take a sleep before the next leg of the journey, a 7 hour shared taxi from Boke to Conakry. More importantly, you can shower and clean yourself after the 4 hour bike ride. I stayed at Hotel Kakande which is around $25 per night and located here.
Share taxi from Boke to Conakry
Program this journey on Google Maps and it’s a 249 km, 4 hour journey. Unfortunately, 4 hours is extremely optimistic. Even if you were driving your own car without stopping it could not be done in 4 hours. Why? Because Guinea is a nightmare! Firstly, there are several police / army checkpoints. Secondly, some of the roads are in terrible condition. Thirdly, there is congestion over the bridge in Tanane. Fourthly, it’s likely your car will need a tire change. Finally, central Conakry is located at the end of a peninsula which is blocked by endless traffic jams. That’s not to mention any other unpredictable events which could happen on route.
Allow at least 7 hours for this journey which leaves from the southern Boke bus station. Something else worth noting is that the front seat is shared between 2 people therefore if you want it all for yourself you must buy 2 tickets.