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Is Ivory Coast safe to travel?

by Pilar Dujan | May 31, 2024
Discover if Ivory Coast is safe to explore

Safety is always amongst travelers’ main concerns, if not the main one. And it makes complete sense! Who wants to have their holidays ruined? So, in order to avoid that happening to you, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to Ivory Coast safety. The best way to stay safe is to be informed! 

Keep all of this advice in mind and I’m sure you’ll have the trip of a lifetime! 

Is Ivory Coast safe? 

In Ivory Coast there are some things to be wary of, but it’s a safe destination as long as you stay within tourist routes.

As with most countries, it’s best to stay away from protests and large public gatherings as a tourist. They may turn violent and you could run into issues with the authorities.

The most important thing you need to know is that it’s forbidden to take photographs of and near the following:

  • Government buildings
  • Military buildings and personnel
  • The airport
  • Two bridges in Abidjan, the capital: de Gaulle and Houphouet-Boigny
  • Radio and TV stations

Generally speaking, Abidjan is safe. The safest areas for you will be Marcory, Angré and Plateau (where all the luxury hotels are, if that’s within your budget!). 

Even though in Ivory Coast safety is not a big issue, you still need to take certain basic precautions to ensure your trip goes well:

  • Don’t show off valuable objects or money
  • Don’t travel alone at night. Don’t get on public transport after dark.
  • Check periodically the security alerts and government recommendations to be informed of any major developments in the country.
  • Purchase travel insurance before starting your holidays, and make sure it includes emergency evacuation.
  • Credit card fraud could happen. To avoid it, don’t pay anything unless you can do it yourself. You should also take a private taxi to the ATM or bank if you need to make a cash withdrawal to protect your safety. 

It’s recommended to travel with some kind of local guide. This will ensure that you avoid going into unsafe areas, and it will also help you learn and understand the customs of this very special country.

Trees on the side of the road in Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast safety: areas to avoid

Travelers are strongly advised to avoid the Northern border of Ivory Coast, which is shared with Burkina Faso and Mali. Specifically, you should not travel within 50 km of the following regions:

  • Bagoué
  • Bounkani, including Comoé National Park
  • Folon
  • Tchologo

In addition, you should avoid the border with Liberia, located to the Southwest of Ivory Coast, including these regions:

  • Cavally
  • San Pedro
  • Guémon
  • Tonkpi

Is Ivory Coast safe for women?

Yes, Ivory Coast is safe for women travelers. However, there's a high chance you’ll be exposed to unwanted attention and comments, especially when walking around after dark. Try to avoid finding yourself alone at night because it could prove dangerous. Always pay attention to your surroundings and stay within areas you know.

Even though it’s not strictly necessary, if you’d like to avoid bringing attention to yourself or possibly offending a local, you could dress conservatively (covering the legs, arms and hair). You should know that this will be mandatory to enter any places of worship, especially where Islam is prevalent.

How safe is Ivory Coast for LGBTQIA+ travelers?

Ivory Coast, compared to other African countries, is not really a dangerous place to visit as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community

Even though same-sex relationships aren’t illegal, you won’t find a gay scene in Ivory Coast, and you won’t ever see same-sex couples being affectionate in public. Never forget that some areas are very conservative, and they have different values as the ones found in most Western countries.

Foliage in Ivory Coast

Is Ivory Coast safe from natural disasters?

There are some things to take into account when it comes to Ivorian nature. There’s a rainy season between May and November and, if the amount of rain is too high, it could lead to floods and landslides, which could be extremely dangerous and even deadly.

Most importantly, you have to be very careful if you go swimming in the sea. There are very strong tides and no lifeboats or rescue services, so you’d be on your own if something happened. 

Ivory Coast safety on the road

You have to be very careful while on the road. Most people get around by car (private or taxis), and massive traffic jams are par for the course in Ivory Coast. If you get stuck, roll your windows up and lock your doors: phone snatching is very common, especially in these situations. 

Driving standards and road conditions are worse than what you would find in your home country, especially outside of Abidjan. However, the government is trying to reverse that situation, which means that roadblocks and checkpoints are frequent. You’ll be asked to show your ID and, if you’re the driver, all the documentation related to the vehicle you’re in. 

There’s something very important to be aware of: some groups referred to as coupeurs de route are known to set up fake roadblocks as an ambush. They are known to stop both private and public transport, so don’t stop unless it’s absolutely clear it’s an actual roadblock set by the police. 

The best way to move around is by taxi. The safest way to get one would be to ask for it at your hotel’s front desk. There are also shared taxis, which you can differentiate from private ones for their yellow color (private ones are red). Don’t get on unregistered taxis, and establish the fare at the beginning of the trip. 

Ivory Coast safety travel advisory

Visa and entry requirements

Citizens of eligible nationalities are obliged to apply for a visa for Ivory Coast. To find out if that’s the case for you, click here. All the information you need about this country’s visa requirements are in our guide on how to get a visa for Ivory Coast.

In terms of the Ivory Coast entry requirements, you need to:

  • Have a valid passport
  • Obtain a visa (if eligible)
  • Show your return ticket
  • Show proof of being vaccinated against yellow fever
  • Fill out the Attestation d'Hebergement if you plan on staying with friends or family

Black pot with stew cooking over the fire outside in Ivory Coast

Health and Medical Advice

The vaccine against yellow fever is mandatory for everyone traveling to Ivory Coast. These vaccines aren’t mandatory, but are recommended:

  • Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)
  • Polio. Particularly important: there’s a level 2 alert in place for this disease.
  • Shingles
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningitis 
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid

Besides the previously mentioned vaccinations, it’s also very important to bring anti-malarial medication to Ivory Coast. Lastly, dengue is an issue in the region, so pack strong insect repellent and clothes that cover your skin. Another good way to protect yourself is to sleep in places with AC or bed nets. I’ve done it in places like the Caribbean and this really helps, I promise you’ll sleep like a baby without any pesky mosquitoes buzzing around. 

Some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t drink water that hasn’t been boiled first, although ideally you’d only drink from sealed bottles. 
  • Don’t eat raw food. Make sure every ingredient has been properly cooked and is served hot. 
  • Always peel your fruit! 
  • Unpasteurized milk should also be avoided.
  • Avoid swimming in water sources without chlorine. 
  • It’s hard to find good healthcare in rural Ivory Coast, but it’s not an issue in the biggest cities like Abidjan. 

Currency and Banking Tips

All transactions will be carried out using the West African CFA Franc. Foreign currencies aren’t accepted, especially in small shops or markets.

I found that in Ivory Coast it’s extremely hard to get change for larger bills, so keep that in mind because they may not let you pay with banknotes of higher denominations. 

Emergency Contacts

  • Police: 170/110/111
  • Fire brigade: 112

Public ambulances are free in Ivory Coast. To ask for one, you can call these numbers:

  • 185
  • +225 27-22-44-94-09
  • +225-27-22-44-34-45
  • +225-27-22-44-53-53

Private ambulances aren’t free. If you prefer a private service, save these numbers for any emergency:

  • +225-27-21-75-29-60 (MEDICIS)
  • +225-27-21-75-29-63 (MEDICIS)
  • 1304 (SOS Abidjan)

Last but not least, make sure you have saved the numbers of your country’s diplomatic representations in Ivory Coast. It could be a massive help if you run into trouble with the local authorities.