The ultimate guide to solo travel in Conakry, Guinea
About Guinea, Conakry
Africa is a continent often overlooked as a possible tourist destination. West African countries, in particular, have hugely impacted the continent. From cuisines, music to clothing, and much more and Senegal is no exception.
Guinea, not to be confused with its neighbour, Guinea Bissau is situated on the western coast of Africa. Its neighbouring countries are Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This is a very interesting African country to visit as it has a unique post-colonial history which you can read here. This is a charming country that doesn’t get many visitors but honestly, my experience here would be one that I would never forget and I’m sure you would feel the same after travelling here too.
A little, due to political instability in the country, the streets do feel very calm and not too tense but corruption is rife and you definitely have to keep your wits about you. The capital, Conakry does however have a very pleasant big village feel to it which I quite enjoyed and felt safe in. People definitely do help each other and I often had strangers help me get taxis and translate what others were saying to me. Alongside this, the country is full of incredibly friendly and helpful people who make your experience in the country 100 times better.
Though no country is 100% safe, it’s best practice to always walk with a purpose (don’t look like a tourist or lost), If you are lost always go into a shop to ask for directions rather than strangers on the street. As a solo female traveller you should also be mindful of your things, whether that’s your bag at a restaurant or drinks at a bar, never leave your things unattended.
Accommodation will be your biggest expense in Conakry as Guinea, Conakry doesn’t get many tourists. Many who stay in hotels are diplomats or government officials and therefore prices for below basic accommodation can often be extortionate. I was paying around £69 a night for a very very basic hotel room in the old town with booking.com and this was the cheapest hotel! I’m not too sure if other services such as Airbnb are available even in the capital so in rural areas this would be virtually non-existent.
A tip I would give when travelling to Conakry is to book a few nights stay at a hotel and then ask locals or even hotel staff of other hotels nearby to find out the price of other hotels as they are often not listed online and maybe cheaper.
I stayed in a hotel called Le Petit Chalet hotel in the heart of the capital. The rooms were really clean, nice bathrooms, had safes, TV, air conditioning and 24/7 security.
Backpacking is something I doubt exists in the country, unfortunately.
Though Guinea, Conakry doesn’t receive a lot of tourists, this country does hols some charming places to visit. In the capital, Conakry, some of these include;
Conakry Grand Mosque
Located in the capital, Conakry, this mosque is the largest mosque in Sub-Saharan Africa. It opened in 1982 and can facilitate over 25,000 people. The mosque has breathtaking architectural designs and is well worth a visit.
Jardin botanique or The Camayenne Botanical Garden
Located in the centre of the busy city, this garden is an amazing contrast to the packed streets. A must-see for all nature lovers, packed with beautiful greenery, parks for children, and cool street art, this park is a perfect place to spot various plant and bird species, relax and take in the surrounding nature.
This market was a little difficult to get to as it’s close to the main market square. But once I found it, I didn’t regret it. Located in Camayenne (an area in Conakry), the market is small but packed with stores selling handcrafted accessories, souvenirs, wood carvings, and more.
Nimba Nature Reserve
A UNESCO World Heritage site. This mountain is the tallest mountain in the country covered by dense forestry.
The national museum
Located in the heart of Conakry and though small, this museum does hold a good collection of traditional objects from the pre-colonial and colonial era. You can also buy crafts from African vendors here also.
Le Petit Musee
This cultural center has provided the city with 15 years of exhibitions, concerts, and theater in a cozy open-air setting.
Centre Culturel Franco Guinéen
Centre Culturel Franco Guinéen or the Le Centre Culturel Franco-Guinéen (centre culturel franco guinéen) is a great cultural space that fosters art and creativity in local talent. Here you can really get a feel and understanding of Guinean history and present through art.
St Mary’s Cathedral
St Mary’s Cathedral was built during the French colonial era and is one of the few still standing French buildings in this country (Read more about why here). As Guinea is a Muslim country, it’s not a busy cathedral. However, this bright yellow cathedral is still a beautiful building and it’s worth exploring.
The Presidential Palace
Located behind St Mary’s Cathedral is the Presidential Palace. This is where the current President of Guinea lives and photographs here are prohibited. Do make sure you don’t take pictures of the palace and the soldiers guarding it as you can be in a lot of trouble.
Martyrs Square is located in Conakry is home to a monument of a freed slave with The text by the statue reading, ‘La Republique de Guinea a tous ses martyrs’ which translates to ‘Guinea has all its martyrs’. The slogan of the first president Ahmed Sekou Toure was ‘we prefer freedom in poverty to wealth in slavery’.
Climb Mt. Nimba Nature Reserve
Mt Nimba is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This mountain is the tallest mountain in the country covered by dense forestry. It stands at over 1,750meters! And the views from the top are well worth the climb!
Take a splash!
Kambadga Falls is a breathtaking waterfall in the middle of the jungle. Why not take a tour through the jungle as the view will be more than worth it. Though I personally didn’t go, I’ve seen pictures and this fall is nothing short of breath-taking and it’s located in the middle of the jungle! How cool.
MLS Nightclub is for all you party goers out there. You’ll be sure to enjoy this club as locals refer to it as Guinea’s best club. This club has attracted some big named celebrities too which can be seen pictured on the walls of the club. Fougou Fougou Faga Faga is another great spot to visit if you’re a fan of African music, you’ll love this evening spot where locals and ex-pats go to enjoy live music.
Try the food!
Conakry is great for local fresh food. The food here is very inexpensive and the local’s diets include a wide variety of kebabs, grilled fish, peanuts and hints of French culinary cuisines such as pastries Local specialities include Jollof rice (made with chicken, yellow and green peppers, okra, garlic and tomatoes), which while a Senegalese speciality, is very popular throughout West Africa. You should also try the stuffed chicken with peanuts, couscous with milk, and banani loko – a favourite snack amongst children and adults alike. Main courses are usually accompanied by rice, which can be both spicy and not. To quench your thirst has a glass of refreshing ginger juice, which is full of health benefits. Be advised that drinking tap water is not recommended, so always carry a bottle of water with you.
Get Muddy and Wet
Located in the northern part of the country, Dubreka is home to Soumba waterfalls in its small town. Les Cascades De La Soumba is a must see if you’re travelling north of the country. Not only are these falls in the region, but for all those adventurers out there you can also climb up Fume Mountain also known as Le Chien Qui Fume which is located close by.
Escape to Kassa Island
If you get tired of the hustle and bustle of Conakry, Kassa Island is a must-visit. This remote island is located off of the coast of Kaloum (a town on the outmost point of mainland Guinea) and is a slice of peaceful paradise.
Hike in Fouta Djallon
Fouta Djallon is a highland region in the center of Guinea, roughly corresponding with Middle Guinea. It’s a great destination for hikers and nature lovers due to its vast green lush forestry and breathtakingly preserved plant life here.
Guinea is one of the wettest countries in West Africa with the rainy/ monsoon season being from June and November. April is a very hot month and believes me, Conakry is not somewhere where you want to be in as the humidity can get to another level! The best times to go are between July – October.
- FLY INTO THE COUNTRY. I personally crossed the border by car into this country and honestly can tell you that this isn’t for the faint-hearted. The roads are bad and full of crook boarder patrols. It’s best to enter the country via plane.Read my horror story here
- Keep your wits about you, especially if you are a solo female traveller. The country is not as developed as other African countries and though most people are kind-hearted there are those who will look to exploit you.
- Learn the language, Guinea is a French-speaking country, and speaking French will really help you get by!
- Respect the culture, Guinea is a Muslim country and though the country is quite relaxed in term of female dress code etc. please dress appropriately and do not drink in public places.
- Get the currency, as Guinean franc is a weak currency many travellers pay with dollars or euros at their hotels, but I advise you to get some Guinean franc to pay in shops, markets, taxis and restaurants
- Be strapped with cash. There are few ATMs in the capital Conakry and even fewer in rural areas, so it’s always best to carry some local currency on you.
- Get a sim. If you plan to stay in the country for a long time, it may be useful for you to get a sim card, these can easily be bought in phone shops. Public WiFi is not really common. Though some upscale restaurants do have WiFi, it may be safer as a solo female traveller to stay connected on your go throughout the city too.
Meeting locals was a little harder for me as I don’t speak French and couldn’t communicate with people. However, I was able to meet people in my hotel and have great adventures so this may be a great option for you too. However, I do realise that this option may not be up everyone’s street. Another option may be online forums. Using sites like Facebook and joining groups is a great way to get the ball rolling, meet locals and see their city.
The main airport in Guinea, Conakry is Gbessia International Airport (CKY). This is the only international airport in the country. Other domestic airports include Tata airport (LEK), Fria Airport (FIG), Faranah Airport (FAA), and Kankan Airport (KNN).
A few days is more than enough to see the capital and even island hop to some beach islands off the coast of the capital Bissau.
Unfortunately, Conakry doesn’t have as many tourist attractions as other African countries but the people really make the country shine with their warmth and welcoming presence.
Can I drink the water? No
Is tipping expected? No
Fixed price or barter? Haggling
Any ATMs? In Freetown, there are ATMs scattered around the city. Though I do recommend travelling with a VISA card as Mastercards sometimes are not accepted in these ATMs. I do also recommend going to actual bank ATMs rather than ATM cashpoints as cashpoints can fail or swallow your card.
Which side of the road do they drive? Right
Good for vegetarians? Unfortunately no, Like many west African countries, fish and meat are a big part of the Guinean diet.
Any seven wonders of the world? No
Plan a trip to Conakry
If you are ready to solo travel Conakry here are some useful links to help you plan your travel.
Budget – (£5- £25 minus accommodation)
Capital – Conakry
Population – 13 million people
Language spoken – French
Local Currency – Guinean Franc (GNF)
Do I need a visa? – No for ECOWAS passport holders, yes for British citizens.
Flying time to Conakry – 8 hours
Did you know? Grand Mosque de Conakry is the largest mosque in Sub-Saharan Africa
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