When you see the steel and windows of the plateau that rise from the swamp surrounding the city center, it would be easy to wonder if you are still in Africa. Downtown Abidjan feels more like New Jersey than an African capital, and although it might lack the true “African-ness” that the other capitals do, it does offer a nice reprieve and contrast to the rest of the region. That being said, Abidjan is more than just a city of skyscrapers. In fact, Abidjan is much more like a half dozen cities strewn into one. The downtown core provides the business, the young district of Yopougon provides the nightlife and Treichville provides a little bit of that classic urban African chaos. Abidjan might not be what you think of when you think “Africa,” but it certainly provides value as a destination.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 50usd per day
Things to Do and See in Abidjan
Like many of the African cities, sights for tourists in Abidjan won’t blow you away. This is a business town. However, the weekends come alive with some great music and nightlife to make up for the tough workweek.
- Water taxis: For the locals it’s public transportation. However, it’s also a great way to explore the views of the city as a tourist. Catch a water taxi from the Plateau to Yopougon or Treichville and for less than a quarter you’ll get a fun view of the city. And maybe find some new places to wander as well.
- Saint Paul’s Cathedral: If you’re coming from the north, the sight of a cathedral might seem strange. St-Paul’s is beautiful and worth the hike across the Plateau to find.
- Grand Mosque: The city’s downtown mosque isn’t completely finished yet, but it is still very impressive. Its minarets are visible from all over town.
- Princess Street: This used to be the party street in town. Found in the Yopougon neighbourhood, it’s been tamed of late since the city forced most of the maquis to shut due to noise. It’s still home to a number of nightclubs. Things get busy here after midnight.
- Musee National: Don’t bother going to the national museum, it was pretty much ransacked during the war and there is little to nothing worth seeing here.
Where to Eat in Abidjan
The best way to eat on a budget in Abidjan is to seek out the maquis. The maquis usually have set menus and serve lunches or dinners for around 2-4usd if not less. There are also a number of really good Lebanese shawarma places in town that offer some cheap and quick eats.
If you’re looking for a fancy lunch I can highly recommend a place down in the plateau called Le Croisette. It was expensive (my meal came to about 20usd), but it was well worth the extra cash.
Where to Stay in Abidjan
Well, the bad news is that you’re not likely to find somewhere right downtown on a perfect backpacker’s budget. The good news is that it’s not nearly as bad as places like Monrovia. Personally, I opted to go couch surfing while in Abidjan and it was a good choice. If you’re not up for couch surfing, I checked out these places briefly while in town for research purposes:
- Les Palm Club: Personally, I thought this place looked great. It had a pool and the rooms were quite large. It was about 45usd a night, which is fine if you’re travelling as a couple but as a single traveller is a bit hefty.
- L’Hamanieh: For me, it was less appealing than Les Palm Club because of the lack of pool. However, it had nice décor and the location was great. It was about the same price as Les Palm Club.
Getting out of Town
There are two main transport hubs in Abidjan, both of which are just outside of town. Gare Nord caters to destinations to the north of the city while Gare Bassam caters to Grand Bassam and destinations farther east.
- Yamoussoukro: It’s about 4 hours to the capital of Cote d’Ivoire and there are busses every hour or so all day long.
- Grand Bassam: You can either catch the bus at Gare Nord or there are constant mini-buses and shared taxis that leave Gare Bassam. You’ll never have to wait too long and the trip is only an hour and costs just about a dollar US.
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