3 months so far of living in West Africa. Life, travel tips, MONEY, and more.

Time is the craziest human factor. How can I go from first thinking about this, 3 years ago (see notes excerpt below), to planning this, around 9 months ago, to now – actually doing it?!

To those who have wondered what I’m doing, here are a few whys:

  • I have never lived abroad or left the UK where I live, for longer than a month
  • I’ve solely been working in African news over the past year as a journalist and have learned so much about the continent
  • I wanted to immerse myself in the countries I have read and reported and researched so much about, so I saved a little and have been freelancing, working on a range of stories from the continent
  • I am a pan African and already a big lover of travel, and 3 months in, it’s going super well. I’m here for a few more months remaining.

And so it happened. With lots of planning and praying, it happened. And here I am, 3 months in, doing it. 

Locations so far have been:

Ghana

Sierra Leone

Gambia

And now Senegal. 

At this point and only a few days in Dakar, I updated my budgeting template, listing how much I’ve been spending on: flights/transport, accommodation, and spending money. 

Please note, the price will obviously increase in some areas as I continue to travel.

So, back to spending talk! Here’s how these numbers have added up so, so sweet. 

FLIGHTS

I left the UK in December, which was high peak season for destinations like Ghana especially. I booked it in October. Apart from this, every other flight has been booked 2-4 weeks before departure. I’m flexible with my movement so noticed that flights particularly within West Africa don’t really fluctuate.

Skyscanner is great to check the cheapest time to travel that month by selecting the ‘month’ view option when searching for flights, and alternative trustworthy sites to fly for good prices. ASKY airlines give you 40kg of luggage when going from Freetown to Gambia (direct) for £181, and I have just booked an amazing flight going from Dakar direct to Lagos for £198, including 2 suitcases. Booked 4 weeks before departure date. That was booked on lastminute.com! Always keep an eye out on at least 2 different sites for flights.

Shout out to Leks budgeting template. It’s helped me so much with my finances and I highly recommend.

And if you feel like more exploration and want to save some coins, you can also travel alternative ways through West Africa.. by road!

The journey for me from Gambia to Senegal was less than a 9 hour drive, the roads were super smooth, I had a row to myself to sleep fairly well, and there were loads of pit stops. My ticket, also including a charge for my 2 suitcases came up to £20!/$26/1350 Dalasi in total. I would do it again for sure!

ACCOMMODATION

This is where I saved the most money, and I could burst with how grateful I am to have such hospitable friends.

In Sierra Leone, I stayed with my friend’s family in their beautiful home with a spare bedroom just for me. I stayed for a month and was hosted for free completely, not to mention fed several times a day. So I saved a lot!

In the month spent in Gambia, I paid for the first 9 nights = £135 in an apartment completely to myself. I then met a friend who let me stay at his place, with two spare bedrooms, for free for the remainder of my time there! I guess at this point, this is where you wear your heart on your sleeve a bit with trust and wisdom. I had the best time and staying with a friend made it feel like home!

View this post on Instagram

Alone vs Lonely. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ There is a big difference!⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ You learn the beauty of not doing a lot during the day, but still feeling content. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ I was certain that I’d be a bit of a loner lol but not in a bad way.. I love other people’s company as much as I love my own.. I have not spent a day without interacting with someone else.. I’ve had the most enthusing conversations and memories shared with people from all walks of life.. many of them who I didn’t know before coming out here.. crazy right ❤️⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ So many people around me during the past few months have been so caring and kind. I am blessed. Safety always come first for me, especially considering the fact that I am indeed a woman, travelling around this continent alone. Here are some things I always ensure:⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ •I send my location to close friends/family, and also a friend in the country I’m currently in. I also send an emergency contact number of someone in the same country as me.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣ •I do not walk alone at night. Although I’m staying in super safe areas, my peace of mind comes first. In areas where street lights are not common, I always make sure I’m in a trusted taxi or dropped home by a friend. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ •In areas where it’s easy to stand out/look touristy, I try to blend in as much as possible. After all, I kinda live here right? So that’s dressing casual most days, wearing a tote bag instead of a flashy one, and speaking as much of the local language as I can. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ •having Male friends and acquaintances comes in handy. My male friends are quite protective of me and I super appreciate that. Must be a west African thing ☺️ (I’m aware this may sound misogynistic to some, but listen.. this is Africa.)⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ •I leave my ‘last seen’ on on WhatsApp, just so that people who may worry about me (eg. Mum lol) are aware of my online activity. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ •I do have pepper spray, and haven’t felt the need or urge to take it out with me. Praise God!⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ What are your tips for travelling safe, especially when solo? 👇🏾

A post shared by Ajala Travels 📍London, 🇬🇧 (@ajalatravels) on

As I currently write this blog post from Senegal, I’ve been on a mini air bnb hopping spree in Dakar, and have finally found a lovely air bnb for me to settle for the next couple of weeks that I’m here. A good tip I’d recommend is to book an air bnb for a couple of days if it’s in a place you’re unsure about location-wise. I found that with my first air bnb, reviews can be very deceiving. I did not like living in the home with the host, who was quite frankly, an a-hole.. oops.

Second air bnb was nicer, but lacked some privacy and cleanliness. (By the way, my standard on air bnb’s is usually a private bathroom and private bedroom for 1). So I’m glad to have struck third time lucky! In total I’ve spent just over £185 on air bnb’s spanning the two weeks in Senegal. So despite the moving dramas, I’m glad that I haven’t spent that much!

SPENDING MONEY 

This is a subjective one, as it really, really depends on the kind of spender you are. In London where I’m from, my spending fluctuates a lot. One month I can spend ridiculously, and then for a week or two I budget more. But out here, I’m seeing a recurring and healthy pattern of how I spend, and I’m really enjoying this new me!

  • I spend an average of £400-450 a month. So that’s mostly transport, food, house shopping, and any random extras.
  • I cook a lot at home mostly, and eat out maybe twice max a week.
  • As you can imagine with it being Africa and all, THINGS ARE CHEAPER. But not all things, it depends where you go. There’s local meals which are crazy cheap, and then there’s more ‘touristy’ places.
  • I haggle. This is Africa! It’s very culturally acceptable and again another way to spend money.

I don’t believe in being an overly tight person, so if I’m in an area where a bottle of water let’s say is equivalent to £2, I’ll buy it. Who’s got time to wait for the next cheapest place and pass out from dehydration? Not me thanks!

So my main takeaways are:

  • Don’t feel in a rush or pressured to book all flights at once. Wait. a little, make a ‘flight money’ pot so that when you’re ready to book, the funds are there. Always flight prices drop all the time. Skyscanner do alerts on flights to your email!
  • If you have a friend who can put you up in their place happily, say yes! It’ll add to the experience by a milestone, and of course, save you some coins.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle when appropriate. Always have cash instead, and keep track of your spending as much as you can.

Hope this post helped in some way! Please feel free to shout me for any specific questions or tips!

Afterall, Africa is a huge continent (not country), right? 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s