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Another African travel advice thread


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#1 Chris Millar

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 08:05 PM

Hello,

In late Feb I will heading to Liberia From London (indirect/transit stopover in Morocco) - we will be there for two weeks shooting footage for a small aid organization based around an orphanage. From there we will traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a week via Accra, Ghana where we will be for two days.

I will traveling with a Sony EX1, macbookpro and HD to dump the footage - I have travelled with this set up previously through Europe, the States, Australia and New Zealand and this gear will fit in my hand luggage, the charger can take anything you throw at it and the camera can shoot all the appropriate rate/frequencies. As there is no 'job' in Ghana & Ethiopia and we are ostensibly tourists for this time I plan to return the camera to London with a colleague but if this fails I may have to carry the gear onwards through these countries.

- I am processing visas for Liberia at the current time via the London embassy and am about to contact the Ghanaian and Ethiopian embassies in Australia but am told that visa can be processed upon arrival for these countries.

- I have booked yellow fever and malaria fun for next week

- I am contacting an insurance agency based in London that specifically deals with aid workers in post conflict societies (Liberia the issue here)

- None of these countries are listed as recognizing ATA Carnets - hmmm...

Questions:
Considering they aren't Carnet countries what can I expect when the shiny nice gear turning up at customs in these countries ?
Any general advice ?!
What have a neglected to think about ?
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#2 Matthew Jankes

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 01:16 AM

Bribe money, that is how business is done in Central and West Africa, from clearing your gear through customs to attaining police protection. Im really not joking, you need to budget a per day allowance for the various bribes and payoffs you will need to make. Generally they will want it in US Dollars, so make sure you have some handy...
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#3 Chris Millar

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 02:53 AM

What sort of daily budget should we plan for ?

... a fist full of dollars, 5's or 20's ?

Edited by Chris Millar, 22 January 2009 - 02:53 AM.

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#4 Matthew Jankes

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 03:12 AM

Its not easy to say, different things will cost different amounts. But clearly don't ever pull out a wod of cash, cause they'll take you for whatever they can. You need to have little amounts available, and never let them see where the money is coming from. Usually, and of course this is all generalisations, have around 50-100 US available per day, especially travel days or days when you go through government agencies, basically if you need a service rendered by a governent agency in any way, you will have to pay bribes ie. permits etc. . You might also need to convert into their currency, or they may take a lot less cause its in US Dollars, just play it by ear. You get hit more on the roads and in cities than say out in the bush. Also its not aggressive, its just business, so you can barter. See what he asks for and offer him half, don't be rude but don't be a push over either, play it like you know the drill and none of this fazes you. Hopefully you won't have to bribe anyone and that extra money can be put back into budget...

Good luck man, you'll be fine and before long it will seem ordinary... The only country in Africa where you don't have to do business like that is South Africa, otherwise thats how it goes - in my experience anyway...

Do you have a local liason in each country?
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#5 Chris Millar

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 06:52 PM

Liaison in Liberia yes, both local and experienced visitors.

Since the 'caterpillar crisis' (http://allafrica.com...0901220782.html) we will be traveling to the border of Guinea which I'm told had a recent coup - 10 check points apparently - $$$!

Ghana we in for a day in transit to Ethiopia where we are basically tourists and hope not to have the camera and gear with us at that stage. Just a few t-shirts and an old 35mm stills SLR that wouldn't hurt to much if it were stolen.
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 12:14 PM

Having just got back from Senegal, I can vouch for the need of bribe money. And no, you won't look like a tourist with an EX1. You're going to look like a journalist and be treated as such. They may not have access to the cameras there, but they can differentiate them. Don't lie, if stopped, explain you are doing a documentary and yes, be ready to pay bribes. They aren't expensive and they aren't aggressive, for the most part-- it is just business.
Biggest camera problems will be dust on everything, so make sure you have things to keep it as clean as possible with. Power can be touch and go as can sanitation and the other simple things in life. Try to get local translators who are trustworthy and reliable. I think Ethiopia is a Carnet country, as well, though for myself, I was never asked at any TSA/Airport to producer documents for my equipment, nor to ever open my bag. Others in my group were, but I wasn't. So it was well for me. If you don't have Carnets, have copies of receipts etc to show where you bought the equipment and the like.
Power is touchy, and the biggest issue is not enough outlets in certain room. I'd recommend a surge strip with US plugs so you can use 1 adapter to power all your equipment. Also, voltage vary widly and the power is ungrounded so you'll get shocked on occasion touching you laptop. Best to keep it off to charge and then off of the mains as much as possible as with all your electronics. Be prepared to loose days of shooting for blackouts.
Bring bug spray and blankets and pillows-- from the plane works well-- it does get cold at night. I recommend a space blanket as well. Hand Sanitizer as well is necessary as you can't always wash up before you eat (and stay away from seafood).
Most people will be incredibly hospitable to you though there are custonms which you must become acclimated to which will vary region to region. Hmm.. what else?
Bug spray.. I can't say it enough!
Aside from that, the sun there is pretty wonderful, though in cities air quality is quite poor, so if you're asthmatic or the like, be ready to deal.
Many countries in Africa have pre-paid phone services, so an unlocked GSM (Sim card) phone can be a life-saver for communications. I was lucky enough to hop on some unsecued WiFi in Dakar in order to keep in contact with my loved ones. and that's all I can really thing of for now...
You'll be fine!
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#7 David Rakoczy

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 12:30 PM

Welcome home Adrian! :)
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 12:32 PM

Thanks David. It's good to be back, though I'll miss many of the people I met on my travels.
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#9 Chris Millar

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 05:51 PM

wow wow wow

In Ghana tonight, first 24Hr mains and hot water for 2 weeks ... Addis Ababa tomorrow.

Some interesting stuff to share about cameras in this neck of the woods (Liberia the most interesting, Ghana it seems is like any other western city) but my mac power supply has stopped working and I'm on %26 battery...

I be in touch you know to tell ya sum tings my mans :lol:
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Tai Audio

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rebotnix Technologies

Aerial Filmworks

CineLab

Broadcast Solutions Inc

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