If riding around on car roofs sounds like a fun way to explore Africa, then Guinea could be your ticket to some serious fun. Shaped like a crooked finger, this Atlantic facing nation offers traces of its French colonial past as well as the mark of its pre-independence dictator. Tourist infrastructure is still poor and the country imposes rigid visa requirements, but once you’re in, they won’t kick you out. Although unwelcoming from the outside, Guinea is a surprisingly peaceful country, with warm, accommodating locals and a distinctly musical culture.

When to Go

The climate is tropical and humid with high rainfall; Guinea is one of the wettest countries in the region. Rainy season lasts from June to November and is usually accompanied by southwesterly winds. Dry season lasts from December to May and is marked by arid Harmattan winds from the Sahara. Wear tropical or washable cottons throughout the year, with lightweight raincoats during the rainy season.

Getting There & Away

Conakry Airport is located 15kms southwest of the capital. Taxi services are available from here to the city center. There are domestic flights to Conakry, Labé, Kissidougou, Kankan and Boké, and considering the risks of road travel, flying is a wise choice. There is very limited public transport outside of Conakry, except for local vans that ply some routes, contending with robbers and potholes along the way. Buses are poorly maintained, and often roads are unpaved and poorly lit. Add to this the rainy season, and you can cancel any plans you had of overland road travel.

Health & Safety

There are serious health alerts for malaria and cholera, while typhoid, polio and yellow fever are minor risks, but still occur in some areas. All water is potentially contaminated and should be sterilized unless you want to spend your holiday over the toilet. Medical facilities are very limited, and there are no ambulances or emergency services. Crime rates are higher in Conakry than other major cities, and muggings, armed break-ins and pick-pocketing are especially common. Road travel is also considered unsafe, as the roads are poorly lit and a favorite site for highwaymen. There may also be deep potholes and roadblocks on minor roads. Domestic flight anyone?

Food & Hospitality

Local food is very affordable, meaning you can get a tasty and filling meal that won’t dent your budget. Just don’t ask for pork; this is a predominantly Muslim country. However, the beef dishes are very good if a vegetarian holiday is not what you had in mind. International cuisine is also available at the mid-range to high-end hotels and restaurants.

High-quality hotels are available in the main cities, with the best ones being found in Conakry. There are relatively expensive hotels with excellent service and amenities, as well as mid-range ones with basic but ample facilities. Country pubs also offer local accommodation, and most of them accept walk-ins.

Itineraries

Three days in Conakry
Two days in Le Voile de la Mariée

Additional time
One day days on Îles de Los
One day in the Kakimbon Caves

Highlights

Conakry: the country’s capital lies on Tumbo Island and links to the Kaloum Peninsula via a 300-meter pier. Its main attractions are its botanical gardens and historic buildings.

Kakimbon Caves: located on Ratoma, a suburb of Conakry, these caves are a source of countless legends and are highly revered by the locals.

Îles de Los: easily one of the main attractions in Guinea, these small islands can be reached by boat from the mainland and make a great private hideaway.

Le Voile de la Mariée: this scenic river is dominated by a 230-foot high rock and joins the River Sabende against a rich green backdrop.

Activities

Swimming: the Île de Kassa and Île de Roume are great for swimming and sunbathing. Currents can be strong though, so follow local advice and don’t stray too far.

Hiking and trekking: in the Fouta Djalon highlands will offer you nice views of the hills, valleys and waterfalls. Some of the highlights are the towns of Pita, Labe and Dalaba.

Shopping: the town of Katikan is famous for its open-air markets where you can find interesting local souvenirs. There’s also a cloth market in Kindia, a moderate distance from the capital.

Boating: to one of the islands off the Kaloum coast will ensure a nice, calm view of the North Atlantic.