Cameroon is in West Africa. It borders Nigeria to the west, Chad to the northeast, the Central African Republic to the east and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south.
While Cameroon is not the largest country in Africa, in some ways it's as large as Africa itself. Known as "Africa in miniature" it features French and English speaking portions, Muslim and Christian dominated regions, the tallest mountain in West Africa and terrain that includes rain forest, desert plains, mountains and high plateau.
Cameroon is a diverse and multi ethnic country. Western tourism is rare; most of the country's tourists come from Europe (predominantly Belgium).
The territory of present day Cameroon was first settled during the Neolithic period. Portuguese sailors reached the coast in 1472. Over the following few centuries, European interests regularised trade with the coastal peoples, and Christian missionaries pushed inland. In the early 19th century, Modibo Adama led Fulani soldiers on a jihad in the north against non-Muslim and partially Muslim peoples and established the Adamawa Emirate. Settled peoples who fled the Fulani caused a major redistribution of population.
The German Empire claimed the territory as the colony of Kamerun in 1884 and began a steady push inland. With the defeat of Germany in World War I, Kamerun became a League of Nations mandate territory and was split into French Cameroun and British Cameroons in 1919. The French carefully integrated the economy of Cameroun with that of France and improved the infrastructure with capital investments, skilled workers, and continued forced labour.
The British administered their territory from neighbouring Nigeria. Natives complained that this made them a neglected "colony of a colony". The League of Nations mandates were converted into United Nations Trusteeships in 1946, and the question of independence became a pressing issue in French Cameroun. France outlawed the most radical political party, the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC), on 13 July 1955. This prompted a long guerrilla war. In British Cameroons, the question was whether to reunify with French Cameroun or join Nigeria.
On 1 January 1960, French Cameroun gained independence from France under President Ahmadou Ahidjo, and on 1 October 1961, the formerly British Southern Cameroons united with its neighbour to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
Varies with terrain, from tropical along the coast to semiarid and hot in the north. If you are going during the summer, plan on lots of rain every day. It might be cold up in the mountains, especially at nights.
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Most people will need a visa except citizens of some West African countries, and it is very advisable to obtain it before arriving.
There any many types of visa: airport transit visa for airport transit; visitor visa for visiting friends and family in Cameroon; business visas for work-relating activity in Cameroon; tourist visa for tourism purposes; student visa for studying abroad and learning at the universities; employment visa for taking up work in Cameroon; and permanent residence visa, which is issued if you a marry a Cameroonian.
What you will need to get the visa:
A 6-month visa costs $150. A 3-month visa costs half that.
Once you leave Cameroon, you must pay a tax of 10,000 CFA.
Cameroon can be reached via:
Sometimes airport staff try to help with the luggage in order to get extra euros/dollars from travellers.
There is also an official airport tax (10.000 CFA) for outgoing flights.
It is probably possible to travel by boat from the island of Bioko(Equatorial Guinea).
Tour Operators in Cameroon:
The quickest and safest way to the north is by air. However, Cameroon Airlines has not been operating on those routes since early 2008 and Elysian Airlines is expensive and flies only to Garoua and Maroua.
Train service, Camrail , exists from the capital, Yaoundé, to the port city of Douala and the northern city of Ngaoundéré. While bus service is quicker and more reliable to Douala, the overnight train is the best mode of ground transport to the north. Check for current schedules and pricing.
Between the major cities you can get a ride on modern, comfortable buses, sometimes with Air Conditioning. Away from the larger centres you will most likely end up on the ever present Toyota bush taxis. These are slightly elongated Toyota minivans that can hold up to 20 people (or more if necessary) along with their luggage piled up on top. Safety can be a concern with dangerous roads, overworked/drunk/hungover drivers and poorly maintained vehicles the norm. However, other than extending your stay an extra day or 2 in bad weather your options are limited.
Note that buses rarely leave at a set time. Instead, they wait until they are full and then depart. For buses later in the day, sometimes they never fill up. When this happens, the operator will normally set you up with a bush taxi to take you to your destination. If you do not want to take the bush taxi and are persistent enough, the operator will normally refund your money. The point is that you should leave plenty of time to get to your destination, because sometimes the wait will take hours and you are never guaranteed a departure.
Rental cars are available although very expensive. As paved roads are rare away from the major cities of the west and northwest areas of the country, a 4 x 4 is a necessity when travelling to the east or central areas of Cameroon. The roads in the north are paved between cities and even the dirt roads tend to be in decent condition due to the lack of rain.
French and English are the official languages in Cameroon although there are over 276 recognized languages in Cameroon.
The Northwest and Southwest provinces are anglophone although in some areas pidgin English is more common. The rest of the country is predominantly francophone although almost all areas will also have local languages.
Local handicraft in Marche de Fleurs (Douala - Bonapriso quarter)
Fresh fish and prawns in Youppe village close to Douala (early morning)
ATM's - Visa ATM withdrawals are possible in many banks - for example, SGBC - which can be found in most major cities. ATMs to the Mastercard/Maestro/Cirrus network are nonexistent. Cash advances are NOT available as of December 2007.
There are plenty of good restaurants:
If you are on a very low budget, try Chez Kali in Bonapriso (towards the Energy Club - fitness). Safe food at very low price. Mont Febe, Hilton Hotel and hotel le depute in Yaounde, Atlantic Beach Hotel, Mirama hotel, Guest House hotel and Park hotel in Limbe, 3813 in Tiko, Miss Bright in Buea and Meridien hotel Douala.
Always check “best before” when buying a bottle - some drinks are way out of date.
Avoid drinking tap water, even in restaurants. Bottled water can be found most anywhere at reasonable prices. Expect to pay 400 cfa for 1.5l in the major cities, more in more remote areas.
Coca-Cola is available everywhere. For something different try one of the flavourful TOP sodas. They are much sweeter than most European or North American sodas but they are very tasty.
Cameroon is rich with choice when it comes to good beer due to its past as a German and later French colony. Bottled Guinness can be found everywhere although in the heat, try one of the excellent lighter beers such as Castel, Beaufort, Mützig, Isenbeck, Satzenbrau or 33. These are inexpensive and excellent in the heat. Castel Milk Stout is an excellent choice for those who like darker beer. Outside of the cities you will sometimes be hard pressed to find them chilled (due to a lack of electricity).
Hotels in the major cities will range from 6000 cfa up to and in excess of 50 000 cfa. Clean and safe rooms can usually be found for under 11 000 cfa.
In more rural areas prices vary wildly depending on demand and local economy. It is not uncommon to find comfortable accommodations for 2000-3000 cfa per night.
Unless you are with a guide on a trek it is not recommended that you camp due to security concerns.
Violence is rare, but just be smart about wearing any jewelry or anything else that would make you stand apart from the rest. Take a taxi after dark if you're unsure of the area.
Yellow Fever certificates are required for travel to Cameroon.
Malaria is common, especially in the central and southern parts of the country. The risk is much lower in the mountains of the Northwest Province and the arid areas on the Extreme North. Prophylactics are recommended because of the severity of some strains of malaria in the country.
Other tropical diseases are also common, including dysentery, bilharzia, hepatitis, and giardia occur. There are occasional outbreaks of cholera in Yaounde and Douala, but rarely affect travelers.
There are several good quality hospitals in the country. Most are located in Douala or Yaounde, but Kumbo has two very good private hospitals as well.
It is disrespectful to shake hands with your left hand. Use only your right. If you have something in your right hand or your right hand is dirty or wet, it is polite to extend your wrist for the person to shake with his right hand. Should both of your right hands be occupied, it is polite to touch wrists.
To make local and international calls you need to buy a pre-paid SIM card. Check if your cell phone has a compatible GSM standard (Africa/Europe) - if not, in addition to a SIM card you probably need to buy a new phone. "MTN" and "Orange" are two major telephone companies in Cameroon.
You can find Internet access all over the place, but the speed might be slow.
National post service is considered to be unreliable.