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|Introduction to Togo
It's only a pencil-thin strip of land, but Togo receives rave reviews from travellers. While Lomé and the beaches that surround it are the big draws for most vacationers, those who push on will be wowed by its unique village cultures and the vivacity of their markets and festivals.
If there were a popularity contest among countries in West Africa, Togo would probably be a strong contender. Its political turmoil in the early 1990s reduced the stream of travellers to a trickle, but the tide is turning and the attractions that once brought them remain largely the same.
Travellers to Togo are advised to be wary of street gatherings or protests, especially in Lome where violent demonstrations in the aftermath of recent government elections are still a very real possibility.
Full country name: Togolese Republic
Area: 56,600 sq km
Population: 5.4 million
Capital City: Lomé (pop 600,000)
People: 37 ethnic groups (the largest are Ewé, Mina and Kabyè); less than 1% European and Syrian-Lebanese
Language: French, Ewe
Religion: indigenous beliefs (70%), Christian (20%), Muslim (10%)
Government: republic under transition to multiparty democratic rule
Head of State: President Faure Gnassingbe
Head of Government: Prime Minister Koffi Sama
GDP: US$6.2 billion
GDP per capita: US$1,300
Annual Growth: 4.8%
Major Industries: Phosphate mining, agricultural processing, cement, handicrafts, textiles, beverages
Major Trading Partners: Canada, US, Taiwan, Nigeria, Ghana, China, France, Cameroon
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Visas: Everyone except nationals of the member countries of ECOWAS must have a visa to visit Togo. Proof of yellow-fever vaccination is required for entry at the airport, though it's not usually checked at land crossings.
Health risks: yellow fever, cholera, malaria, schistosomiasis (bilharzia)
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +0
Dialling Code: 228
Electricity: 220V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
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If you're in Togo during the second week in September, the Guin Festival in Glidji is not to be missed. Beginning that Thursday, the townspeople celebrate with four days of parading, dancing, drinking and other rituals both sacred and profane. Voodoo is the local religion, so people going into trances is a common, albeit bizarre, sight.
1 January - New Year's Day
13 January - Meditation Day
24 January - Day of Victory
March or April - Easter holidays, Ras as-Sana, Tabaski
27 April - Independence Day
1 May - Labour Day
May or June - Ascention, Whit Monday
June or July - Eid al-Moulid
21 June - Day of the Martyrs
15 August - Assumption
1 November - All Saints' Day
25 December - Christmas
December or January - Eid al-Fitr
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|Best time to Visit
Generally speaking, the choicest time to visit Togo is during the cooler period from November through February. The period from March to May can be a real scorcher, and it's immediately followed by a rainy season that lasts until October. December to the end of February is the dry season, but the skies are often dusty with the harmattan winds. If you're sticking close to the coastline, December to March is the area's 'tourist season,' such as it is (which it isn't, really, these days). Crowds are thicker than in other seasons but still aren't much to fret over.
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|Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending
Currency: CFA Franc
Travellers to Togo will find accommodations among the least expensive in West Africa. From dollar-a-night campgrounds to first-class suites at around US$50, you certainly won't break the bank on your bedding options. Likewise, food is very affordable in all but the finest restaurants. A street vendor's meal might leave you stuffed to the gills for an outlay of only US$1.
Budget-crunching travellers should be able to get by on no more than US$10 a day, though doubling that would chase away many of the inherent worries of dive-hopping. Up the ante to US$50 per day, and you won't have a worry in the world.
Banks are your best bet for changing money, though the black market is bustling near Lomé's Ghanaian border.
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Before the country's political troubles of the 1990s, Lomé was the pearl of West Africa. Nearly everyone who swept through the region stopped in Lomé for a few days at the beach. French and Germans would flock in during the winter, living it up in the city's five-star hotels and fine restaurants.
But travellers are fairly scarce these days, and many businesses are just getting by. Though a few hotels still do a brisk business, most tourist facilities now bide their time in a semi-deserted ambience. There are a few Internet cafés opening up in Lomé with cheap and reliable connections.
A 45-minute ride east of Lomé brings you to Aného, the colonial capital of Togo until 1920. Although today it looks a little worse for wear, it can be interesting to pick your way through the remaining buildings to watch the daily activities of the fishermen.
At night is when Aného is at its best. It's only then that the city begins coming to life: a variety of food vendors and musicians come out and begin filling the air with scents and sounds. It makes for great beer-sipping and people-watching.
On the northern banks of Lake Togo, Togoville's chief drawcard is its history. It was from here that voodoo practitioners were taken as slaves to Haiti. It was also in Togoville that chief Mlapa III signed a peace treaty that gave the Germans rights over all of Togo.
Today, the only attractions are the chief's house, the church and the Artisanal, an art co-operative consisting of several buildings with artisans working in each. The nearby church has some beautiful stained-glass windows and pictures of the gruesome deaths of famous African martyrs.
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