Friday, April 2, 2010

The 4-1-1: Travel Arrangements & Airports

Making Travel Arrangements
Traveling in West Africa is a bit different than traveling through Europe or within the States. There are limited available flights each week, so you will need to schedule early for the best choice of flights, for the best price, or for an option at all. Some carriers that service West Africa are Air France (via Paris, France) and Royal Air Maroc (via Casablanca, Morocco). Timbuktu, Mali is serviced by local carriers via Bamako (Mali) or Niamey (Niger). Remember to log in your frequent flyer miles when possible. It is highly discouraged to travel through West Africa on stand-by tickets.
As soon as your tickets are purchased, please send your Songhai Team Host a copy of your itinerary.

Please note that down time, shopping, hippo hunts, giraffe safari, and language study will depend on your travel and work schedule. We will do as much fun stuff as we can fit in after the work has been scheduled. It is almost impossible to schedule extras when you are on the field seven days or less.

Advice for West African Airports
  • Keep your boarding passes as they are sometimes required when you de-plane.
  • Keep contact phone numbers with you during travel.
  • It really is ok if you do not speak French. Do not feel intimidated; just be friendly and courteous.
  • As you enter each country, you will be given an immigration card to complete. For this card, you will need the address of where you are staying.
  • The first check point is usually where officials check for your passport and visa. They will take your immigration card and might check your airplane ticket.
  • The second check point is usually where officials check your health card for confirmation of your Yellow Fever Vaccination.
  • After the health card check, you will get your luggage and progress to the area where custom agents will check your bags. Let them see that you are willing to open all bags by beginning to unlock and unzip them. Sometimes they will not look in any, other times they will look in them all. Sometimes they are x-rayed.
  • Should your luggage not arrive, you will need to proceed to an office, usually inside this baggage claim area, to register the missing item(s).
  • You will show your passport again to a uniformed officer just before leaving the secured area.
  • Outside, you will probably be met by your Songhai Team Host or another previously arranged person.
  • Even though you are tired, keep an eye on your bags and carry-ons at all times.
  • The person meeting you will usually pay tips in local currency, just double check. If you need to do this yourself, the going rate is $1 per bag; you can pay the porters in American currency, but please do so in paper bills rather than in change

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