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Travel Security Advice for Cote D'Ivoire

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is a developing country on the western coast of Africa. The official capital is Yamoussoukro, but Abidjan is the largest city, the main commercial center, and the location of the Ivorian government and the U.S. Embassy. Cote d’Ivoire is a republic whose constitution provides for separate branches of government under a strong president.

The country has experienced continued, periodic episodes of political unrest and violence since 2002, when a failed coup attempt evolved into an armed rebellion that split the country in two. Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and New Forces leader Guillaume Soro signed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) in March 2007, and a new government was formed with Soro as Prime Minister. Implementation of the accord has been slow and although the political situation has improved, it still has not returned to normal. Long-delayed presidential elections have been postponed repeatedly and a new date has not yet been established. United Nations (UN) and French peacekeepers remain in the country.

Tourist facilities in and near Abidjan, the commercial capital, are good; accommodations in many other locations are limited in quality and availability. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Cote d’Ivoire for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

As of February 15, 2009, the Ivorian Government requires U.S. citizens to have a valid visa for entry into Cote d'Ivoire, as well as a passport with more than six months of remaining validity. Americans should be aware that some major airlines and travel agents continue to misadvise travelers due to out-of-date information. U.S. citizens traveling to Cote d'Ivoire should check with the nearest Ivorian Embassy or Consulate for details regarding the latest visa procedures and fees. Please note that visas are not available at the airport upon arrival and that airport immigration control officials in Abidjan have both detained and denied entry to Americans arriving in Cote d’Ivoire without a visa.

In addition to visa and passport requirements, an international health certificate showing current yellow fever immunization is required for entry into Cote d’Ivoire. Without it, the traveler may be required to submit to vaccination at entry before clearing immigration, at a cost of 5,000 CFA (a little over $10).

Foreign travelers are sometimes approached at ports of entry by individuals with offers to expedite passport control and customs, and are then asked to pay an exorbitant fee, both for the service and for the passport and customs officers. Travelers to Cote d’Ivoire are advised that there is no need to pay a police officer or customs officer for any service rendered during an arrival or departure, and that they should not surrender their passports or other important documents to anyone except easily identifiable government officials in uniform.

U.S. citizens intending to establish a residence in Cote d’Ivoire must apply for a “carte de séjour” at the Office d’Identification Nationale. (Note: "Cartes de séjour" are not issued to children under the age of 16, who are documented on their parents' visas.)

Travelers may obtain the latest information and details on entry requirements from the Embassy of the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire, 2424 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007, tel. (202) 797-0300. There are honorary consulates for Cote d’Ivoire in San Francisco, Stamford, Orlando, Houston and Detroit. Overseas, travelers should inquire at the nearest Ivorian embassy or consulate.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Cote d’Ivoire has been unstable since a coup in 1999, and territorially divided since 2002. Although the Zone of Confidence dividing the country was abolished following the signing of the OPA, the New Forces effectively still control the northern and some western parts of the country. There are many road checkpoints manned by security forces and militia in both the government-controlled and New Forces-controlled portions of the country. Soldiers and militia members check documents and frequently demand cash for permission to pass. Cote d'Ivoire's land borders are open, but the border controls at Liberia are extensive.

Political instability has contributed to economic decline and high unemployment, exacerbating social tensions and creating the potential for labor unrest and civil disorder. There have been recurring episodes of violence, some of them severe. In November 2004, there was a brief resumption of hostilities followed by widespread attacks against people and property in Abidjan and elsewhere. Many of these attacks were directed against French and other expatriates, and thousands fled the country. Brief episodes of significant civil unrest in Abidjan and some of the other population centers occurred in late 2005 and again in late 2006. In mid-2008, there were protests in Abidjan over the rising costs of basic foodstuffs and petrol. Americans should avoid crowds and demonstrations, be aware of their surroundings, and use common sense to avoid situations and locations that could be dangerous. While the OPA serves as a roadmap to steer the country out of its political crisis, coup attempts or the resumption of hostilities, although unlikely, could occur.

Swimming in coastal waters is dangerous and strongly discouraged, even for excellent swimmers. The ocean currents along the coast are powerful and treacherous, and numerous people drown each year.

Travelers attending popular sporting or public events in Cote d’Ivoire should exercise caution. On March 29, 2009, 22 people died and 132 were injured at a World Cup qualifying match in Abidjan when non-ticket holders stampeded at the stadium. American students caught in a mob at a popular concert in 2008 were pick-pocketed and assaulted, although they escaped without serious injury.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s information on A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

Crime continues to be a major security threat for Americans living in Cote d’Ivoire. Grab-and-run street crime and pick-pocketing in crowded areas are widespread. Armed carjackings, robberies of businesses and restaurants, and home invasions occur frequently and have targeted residents, including expatriates, who are perceived as wealthy. Among the many victims of highway crimes are American citizens who have been stopped after dark, threatened, and robbed at gun point. Travelers should avoid road travel after dark. Armed criminals use force when faced with resistance. Travelers displaying jewelry and other valuables, such as cameras, are especially at risk. Travelers are advised to carry limited amounts of cash and only photocopies of key documents. While there have been relatively few reported cases of sexual assault against foreigners, the actual rate of assault may be higher. Although Americans are highly regarded, people of non-African appearance are economic targets. Travelers should avoid large gatherings and political demonstrations, as they quickly can turn violent.

When traveling outside of Abidjan, moving between towns after dark is discouraged. Travelers are advised to use caution when traveling anywhere after dark. It is particularly dangerous to visit Abidjan's Treichville, Adjame, and Abobo districts after dark. The DeGaulle and Houphouet-Boigny bridges in Abidjan are dangerous areas for pedestrians. Inadequate resources and training limit the ability of the police to combat crime. Many hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and supermarkets provide contract security guards to protect clients and vehicles.

Take the same common sense precautions in Abidjan that you would in any metropolitan area in the United States. Stay in well-lit areas and walk confidently at a steady pace on the side of the street facing traffic close to the curb. Avoid crowds, mass transit, doorways, bushes, alleys and sparsely populated areas. If you go out at night and need transportation, take an Orange metered taxi. Ensure you carry identification and be discreet about your transactions, especially on the street. Normal spending habits of Westerners may appear extravagant to local Ivorians.

Credit card use in Cote d’Ivoire is limited, particularly outside Abidjan, but credit card fraud is an increasing problem. Business fraud is rampant and the perpetrators often target foreigners, including Americans. Schemes previously associated with Nigeria are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Cote d’Ivoire, and pose a danger of grave financial loss. Typically these scams begin with unsolicited communication (usually e-mails) from strangers who promise quick financial gain, often by transferring large sums of money or valuables out of the country, but then require a series of "advance fees" to be paid, such as fees for legal documents or taxes. Of course, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. A common variation is the scammer’s claim to be a refugee or émigré of a prominent West African family, or a relative of a present or former political leader who needs assistance in transferring large sums of cash. Another common scam involves alleged victims of serious accident or injury in need of money for life-saving medical care. Still other variations appear to be legitimate business deals that require advance payments on contracts, or large purchases of merchandise using fraudulent credit cards. Sometimes victims are convinced to provide bank account and credit card information, and authorize financial transactions that drain their accounts, causing them to incur large debts and drain their life savings.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense—if a proposition looks too good to be true, it is probably a scam, particularly if one has never met the correspondent. You should carefully check and research any unsolicited business proposal before committing funds, providing goods or services, or undertaking travel. A good clue to a scam is the phone number given to the victim; legitimate businesses and offices provide fixed line numbers, while scams typically use only cellular (cell) phones. In Cote d’Ivoire, most cell phone numbers start with zero. It is virtually impossible to recover money lost through these scams. For additional information please consult the Department of State's brochure on international financial scams.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how to transfer funds to you in an emergency. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Cote d’Ivoire is: 111.

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Ivorian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Ivorian customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, call (212) 354-4480, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit http://www.uscib.org/.

If traveling to another West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) country, expatriate residents leaving Cote d’Ivoire must declare the amount of currency being taken out of the country. Residents traveling to countries that use the CFA franc currency but are not WAEMU members are prohibited from taking CFA francs out of Cote d’Ivoire and are authorized to carry up to the equivalent of 2,000,000 CFA francs (approximately $4,000) in any other currency. They can take funds in excess of that amount out of the country in the form of travelers or bank checks. If going to any other country, tourists are prohibited from taking more than 500,000 CFA francs (approximately $1,000) and business operators are prohibited from taking more than 2,000,000 CFA francs (approximately $4,000) without government approval. Carry a photocopy of your U.S. passport, visa, and entry stamps. You should also carry your international driver’s license, especially if you plan to drive anywhere in Cote d’Ivoire. American driver’s licenses are not valid in Cote d’Ivoire.

Government corruption remains a serious problem in Cote d’Ivoire, and has an impact on judicial proceedings, contract awards, customs, and tax issues. Uniformed security forces (police, military, gendarmes) routinely stop vehicles for traffic violations and security checks. If you are stopped, politely present your identification. Police and security officials rarely speak English. If you are stopped at one of these check points and asked to pay a bribe, politely refuse and present your photocopy of your U.S. passport, visa, and entry stamp.

Taking pictures is prohibited near sensitive installations, including military sites, government buildings such as the radio and television stations, the Presidency building, the airport, and the DeGaulle and Houphouet-Boigny bridges in Abidjan.

Cote d’Ivoire recognizes dual nationality if acquired at birth. Americans who also are Ivorian nationals may be subject, while in Cote d’Ivoire, to certain aspects of Ivorian law that impose special obligations on citizens of that country.

Please see our Customs Information sheet.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Abidjan has privately-run medical and dental facilities that are adequate, but do not fully meet U.S. standards. Good physician specialists can be found, though few speak English. While pharmacies are well stocked with medications produced in Europe, newer drugs may not be available. Medical care outside of Abidjan is extremely limited. Malaria is a serious health problem in Cote d’Ivoire. For more information on malaria, including protective measures, see the Centers for Disease Control Travelers’ Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/.

The avian influenza or “Bird Flu” virus (H5N1) has been confirmed in animals in Cote d’Ivoire as of June 2006. For more information regarding Avian Influenza, please visit the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentAvianFluInformation.aspx and read the State Department’s Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website. Further general health information for travelers is available from the WHO.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Name of Country is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Cote d’Ivoire is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Serious traffic accidents, one of the greatest threats to U.S. citizens in Cote d’Ivoire, occur regularly in Abidjan. Unsafe road conditions, unskilled drivers, and poorly maintained and overloaded vehicles create very poor driving conditions. Speed limits, lane markings, signals, and yielding for pedestrians and cyclists are not respected. Drive defensively, watch out for public transportation vehicles that stop and start without warning, and be especially cautious at intersections because traffic lights often malfunction. If you must drive at night, beware of vehicles without headlights or taillights, and pedestrians and bicycles along the roadside. In case of an accident, do not move your vehicle until a police officer tells you to do so. However, if there is no other vehicle to take the injured to a hospital, or if you believe your life is in danger from others at the site of the accident, go to the nearest hospital or police station.

Abidjan has a poor public transportation system; if you travel by bus, use only the “Express” line. In Abidjan, taxis are readily available, inexpensive (metered), but poorly maintained and notorious for not respecting the rules of the road. Communal taxis (“woro-woros”), used only within the limits of each commune, are not metered and are dangerous. Local vans ("Gbaka") should not be used because they are frequently involved in accidents.

Criminals usually steal vehicles when the driver is in or near the vehicle, so car doors and windows should be kept locked. While stopped in traffic, allow enough room between your car and the one in front to maneuver out if needed. Before getting into your car, look around to see if there is anyone paying unusual attention, and if someone appears to be watching, don’t go to your vehicle, go get assistance instead. When getting into or out of your vehicle, do so as quickly as possible as this is when you are most vulnerable to carjacking.

If you are the victim of a carjacking, do not resist. Try to remain calm and give the carjackers what they want, which is usually the vehicle and any valuables that you may possess. Experience shows that criminals usually don’t use violence unless they are confronted with resistance. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to take an occupant, usually a woman or child, as hostage to ensure their safe escape; the hostage is usually released unharmed. This is a very difficult situation, so use your best judgment at the time to decide your course of action.

A newer phenomenon is the staged accidental "bumping" accident. If your vehicle is "bumped" from the rear or the side, stay locked inside because this ruse is used to get the driver out and leave the vehicle free for carjacking. If you have a cell phone, call for assistance. If you feel your safety is in jeopardy, report the accident at the nearest police station as soon as possible. Try to get the license number for any other vehicle involved.

Emergency services such as ambulance service (SAMU) exist in Abidjan and larger towns, but such service is unreliable. Call 185 or 22-44-55-53. In smaller towns there is usually no ambulance service available, but ambulances may be dispatched from larger towns.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Cote d’Ivoire’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Cote d’Ivoire’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA's website.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in Cote d’Ivoire are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Cote d’Ivoire. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located in the Riviera Golf neighborhood of the Cocody section of Abidjan, east of the downtown area. The Embassy's postal address is 01 B.P. 1712 Abidjan 01, and the main telephone number is (+225) 22-43-84-00. The Consular Section fax number is (+225) 22-49-42-02. For after-hours emergencies, please call (+225) 22-43-91-49.  More information is available on the consular pages of the Embassy's web site at http://abidjan.usembassy.gov/.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Cote d’Ivoire dated January 23, 2009, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, and Special Circumstances.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has information regarding Cote D'Ivoire HERE.....

There is a Travel Warning for Cote D'Ivoire also HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)..........

Regards

The SW Team....

 

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