Money matters in visiting Togo

When I told some of my family members that I was going to Lome one evening, one of my cousins warned me about getting the appropriate documentation for when I was going to cross the border. I had heard similar stories. I could spend an amount of time at the Aflao border that would really be a bother to me. I have been to Lagos 4 times this year. Actually, West Africans shouldn't need visas to enter other West African countries. That's what we have ECOWAS for, no? As a Ghanaian, I didn't have to get a visa or pay any fees to enter Nigeria. Unless, Arik Air takes those fees as part of the airfare. I believed that the no-visa, no-fee paying rules would apply for a Ghanaian entering Togo. But no, it was not to be.

I got down from the private car that transported us from the Tema roundabout to Aflao on Saturday. I walked towards the border, it was a short walk. I had my passport stamped by the Ghanaian authorities to indicate that I was leaving Ghana. They took like 5 GHC from me. I have no idea why. I was directed to another place where I had to show my yellow vaccination card. I didn't have all of it. The card has suffered through travel and time and I had only one irrelevant page to show. I had to pay 3 GHC for my troubles. Surely, this must be the end of that. I left the rooms and entered fresh air. I had seen Canaan but guarding the gates of Canaan were a couple of people who directed me to turn right. I had to have my bag searched. There were other people going straight into Canaan with no questions asked. I guess I looked like someone who was entering to go to Togo for the first time or someone who might have some disposable income. Oui, I had to dispose off 4 GHC again, only after I had pleaded with the authorities to take that as it was all I had. I would have given 5 GHC as searching my luggage fee. And these are rules o! Or are they not?

My Nexus phone was dead as usual and I needed to make some phone calls to friends I'd be meeting. I couldn't convince anyone to allow me to use their phone for free. Maybe some more fluency in French would have helped. +Enock Seth Nyamador should have told me. A man approached me asking to exchange GHC for CFA. These folks can spot a Johnny-come-lately from many metres away. I told him I wanted to make a call and he offered me a phone. It looked like he run a communication business too. I made a number of calls and he charged me almost 2000 CFA. He exchanged 20 GHC for 4000 CFA. Later on, I'd realise that he actually cheated me. It's my fault for not checking the exchange rate before hand. At the time, he also told me that phone calls in Togo are more expensive than in Accra. I believed him. Ignorance was amiss, not bliss.

I managed to charge my phone a bit. Thankfully, the gentleman whose shop I used didn't charge me as he understood I didn't use his services for that long. This all-purpose-welcome-to-Lome-business-crook got me a chartered taxi to whisk me away to my first destination. While getting the destination from my friend +GABRIELLA KODJO, I asked her "how much I should pay". "1000 CFA". I asked the taxi driver, "combien le prix?" "3000 CFA". Another dude trying to take advantage of me. I bargained down to 2000 CFA. He used the old-age excuse, "it's far and there is traffic". I wouldn't budge on any more.If you are in Lome, and some driver uses the traffic excuse, don't mind them. There is no traffic biaa.

When I was returning to Accra via the border on Monday, I knew better. I knew the exchange rate now and +Wilfried Toussiné had given me a good idea of acceptable 'fees' to pay. So my damage going back into Accra was just 1000 CFA, which is about 4 GHC. Wilfried told me not to pay any monies to anyone else who asked. One man in mofti took some of my information down and asked for his widow's mite. I told him I had no pound of flesh to give him. Onwards I went. That's how I was able to save some more money to buy chofi and pay for a more expensive ride into Accra than the one I paid for into Lome.


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