Togo Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Nestled on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, Togo is a hidden gem that beckons travelers with its diverse landscapes, rich cultural tapestry, and warm hospitality. From the vibrant markets and bustling streets of Lomé, the capital city, to the tranquil shores of Lake Togo and the untamed beauty of the Togolese mountains, this small yet captivating country offers a unique blend of traditional African charm and natural wonders. With a history shaped by various ethnic groups and colonial influences, Togo invites visitors to explore its unique cultural heritage through festivals, rituals, and crafts. Whether trekking through lush forests in Fazao-Malfakassa National Park, discovering the voodoo traditions in Togoville, or unwinding on palm-fringed beaches, Togo promises an authentic and immersive journey for those seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Togo for tourism depends on the type of experience you’re seeking, as the country experiences distinct seasons. Here are two main periods to consider:

  1. Dry Season (November to March):
    • The dry season is generally considered the best time to visit Togo. During these months, the weather is relatively cooler and more comfortable for outdoor activities and exploration. The skies are clear, making it an excellent time to visit national parks, coastal areas, and cultural sites.
  2. Rainy Season (April to October):
    • The rainy season brings higher temperatures and humidity, along with occasional heavy rains. While the landscape becomes lush and green, travel during this period may be challenging due to muddy roads and the potential for flooding. However, the rainy season can also be a good time for birdwatching and enjoying the vibrant foliage.

It’s essential to note that Togo’s climate can vary between the coastal regions and the northern interior. Coastal areas tend to be more humid, while the north experiences a more pronounced dry season.

Keep in mind the specific activities you plan to engage in during your visit. If you’re interested in trekking, wildlife viewing, and outdoor adventures, the dry season is preferable. On the other hand, if you want to experience Togo’s lush landscapes and don’t mind occasional rainfall, the rainy season can offer a unique perspective.

Always check current weather conditions and travel advisories before planning your trip, and be aware that specific events or festivals may influence the best time to visit based on your interests.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Togo as a tourist involves a combination of transportation options, and the choice depends on your preferences, budget, and the destinations you plan to visit. Here are some common ways to get around Togo:

  1. Taxis:
    • Taxis are readily available in major cities like Lomé. It’s advisable to negotiate fares before starting your journey, as taxis may not always use meters. Taxis are a convenient option for short distances within cities.
  2. Car Rentals:
    • Renting a car provides flexibility, especially if you plan to explore multiple destinations or venture into more remote areas. Roads are generally well-maintained, but conditions may vary, especially in rural regions.
  3. Motorbike Taxis (Zemidjans):
    • Motorbike taxis, known as zemidjans, are a popular and affordable mode of transportation, especially for short distances within cities. Agree on the fare before starting your ride.
  4. Buses and Shared Taxis:
    • Public buses and shared taxis (known as “bush taxis”) operate between cities and towns. While these modes of transportation are economical, they may not always be the most comfortable or punctual.
  5. Domestic Flights:
    • Togo has a few domestic airports, and flights may be an option for traveling between cities quickly. However, the domestic flight network is limited, and this mode of transportation may not be as common as in some other countries.
  6. Bicycles:
    • In more urban areas, renting a bicycle can be a pleasant way to explore the surroundings at a leisurely pace. Some cities may have bike rental services.
  7. Boats:
    • If your itinerary includes coastal areas or lakes, boat rides may be available for transportation or scenic tours. This can be a unique way to experience Togo’s coastal beauty.
  8. Walking:
    • In cities and towns, many attractions may be within walking distance. Walking allows you to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere and discover hidden gems.

When planning your transportation in Togo, consider the distances you need to cover, the level of comfort you prefer, and the nature of your itinerary. Be open to a mix of transportation options depending on the specific locations you want to explore. Always check local conditions, and be prepared for occasional variations in schedules and road conditions.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Togo is French. While various ethnic languages are spoken throughout the country, French serves as the primary language for administrative, educational, and official purposes. Here are some basic French phrases that may be useful for tourists in Togo:

  1. Greetings:
    • Hello – Bonjour
    • Goodbye – Au revoir
    • Good morning – Bonjour
    • Good evening – Bonsoir
    • Good night – Bonne nuit
  2. Common Courtesies:
    • Please – S’il vous plaît
    • Thank you – Merci
    • You’re welcome – De rien
    • Excuse me – Excusez-moi
    • I’m sorry – Je suis désolé(e)
  3. Numbers:
    • One – Un/Une
    • Two – Deux
    • Three – Trois
    • Four – Quatre
    • Five – Cinq
  4. Directions:
    • Where is…? – Où est… ?
    • Right – À droite
    • Left – À gauche
    • Straight ahead – Tout droit
  5. Common Phrases:
    • Yes – Oui
    • No – Non
    • Please help me – Aidez-moi, s’il vous plaît
    • I don’t understand – Je ne comprends pas
    • How much is this? – Combien ça coûte ?
  6. Food and Drink:
    • Water – Eau
    • Food – Nourriture
    • Delicious – Délicieux/Délicieuse
    • Cheers! – Santé !
    • I would like to order… – Je voudrais commander…
  7. Transportation:
    • Taxi – Taxi
    • Bus – Bus
    • Airport – Aéroport
    • Train – Train
    • How much is a ticket to…? – Combien coûte un billet pour… ?
  8. Accommodation:
    • Hotel – Hôtel
    • Room – Chambre
    • Reservation – Réservation
    • Key – Clé
    • Check out – Check-out
  9. Emergencies:
    • Help! – Au secours !
    • I need a doctor – J’ai besoin d’un médecin
    • Where is the hospital? – Où est l’hôpital ?
  10. Time:
    • What time is it? – Quelle heure est-il ?
    • Now – Maintenant
    • Today – Aujourd’hui
    • Tomorrow – Demain
    • Yesterday – Hier

These basic French phrases can be handy for communication and showing respect for the local language and culture while traveling in Togo. While French is widely understood, especially in urban areas, locals may appreciate your efforts to communicate in their language.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Togo offers a variety of accommodation options ranging from budget to luxury, depending on your preferences and the areas you plan to visit. Here are some types of accommodations and areas to consider for your stay in Togo:

  1. Lomé:
    • As the capital city, Lomé has a range of accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses, and boutique hotels. You’ll find choices near the beach, in the city center, and close to major attractions.
  2. Kpalimé:
    • Kpalimé, located in the Plateaux Region, is known for its picturesque landscapes and is a popular destination for nature lovers. Accommodations here include hotels, lodges, and guesthouses, often surrounded by lush greenery.
  3. Atakpamé:
    • Atakpamé, a town in the central part of the country, offers various guesthouses and budget-friendly hotels. It’s a convenient stopover if you’re traveling between Lomé and the northern regions.
  4. Sokodé:
    • Sokodé, in the central-northern part of Togo, has a selection of modest hotels and guesthouses. It serves as a gateway to explore the cultural and historical attractions in the northern regions.
  5. Kara:
    • Kara, located in northern Togo, provides accommodations that cater to travelers exploring the attractions in the region. You’ll find options ranging from simple hotels to guesthouses.
  6. Beach Resorts:
    • Togo’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches. If you’re looking for a beachfront experience, consider staying in one of the resorts along the coast, offering a mix of relaxation and seaside activities.
  7. Aneho:
    • Aneho, a town on the Gulf of Guinea, has accommodations that allow you to enjoy the coastal scenery. It’s known for its historic sites and colonial architecture.
  8. Budget Accommodations:
    • If you’re on a budget, look for guesthouses, budget hotels, or hostels in various cities and towns. These options provide basic amenities and a chance to interact with locals.
  9. Luxury Accommodations:
    • For a more upscale experience, consider staying in luxury hotels in Lomé. These establishments offer high-end amenities, fine dining, and often have beautiful views of the ocean.
  10. Ecolodges:
    • Togo’s natural beauty lends itself to eco-friendly accommodations. Ecolodges, especially in areas like Kpalimé, offer a sustainable and immersive experience in nature.

When choosing where to stay in Togo, consider the purpose of your visit, the attractions you plan to explore, and your budget. Booking in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, is advisable to secure your preferred accommodation. Additionally, check traveler reviews for insights into the quality and services offered by different establishments.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Togo boasts a diverse culinary scene influenced by local traditions and flavors. Here are some must-try foods for tourists in Togo:

  1. Fufu:
    • Fufu is a staple in Togolese cuisine, made from starchy vegetables like cassava, yams, or plantains. It is pounded into a smooth, stretchy consistency and often served with soups and sauces.
  2. Akoumé:
    • Akoumé is a fermented corn or millet pudding, typically enjoyed as a side dish with stews and sauces. It has a unique taste resulting from the fermentation process.
  3. Pâte Rouge:
    • Pâte Rouge is a popular side dish made from fermented millet or sorghum. It is often served with soups and sauces and has a distinctive reddish color.
  4. Riz Sauce Arachide:
    • Riz Sauce Arachide translates to rice with peanut sauce. This flavorful dish consists of rice served with a thick, aromatic peanut sauce, often accompanied by meat or fish.
  5. Bouillie:
    • Bouillie is a traditional Togolese porridge made from millet or corn flour. It is sweetened with sugar or condensed milk and flavored with spices.
  6. Poulet DG:
    • Poulet DG is a popular Togolese dish featuring chicken cooked with vegetables, plantains, and a rich, flavorful sauce. It’s a hearty and savory option.
  7. Sauce Gombo:
    • Sauce Gombo is an okra-based stew made with a variety of meats, fish, or both. It is often served with rice, fufu, or other starches.
  8. Aloko:
    • Aloko is a beloved street food in Togo and consists of fried plantains, usually served with a spicy pepper sauce or a tangy tomato-based sauce.
  9. Akpessi:
    • Akpessi is a dish made from fermented maize, millet, or sorghum. It is often enjoyed with a side of grilled fish or meat.
  10. Brochettes:
    • Brochettes are skewers of grilled meat, usually served with a side of spicy sauce. You’ll find a variety of meats, including beef, chicken, and goat.
  11. Koklo Meme:
    • Koklo Meme is a dish made with grilled or fried chicken, often served with a spicy tomato and chili pepper sauce.
  12. Gboma Dessi:
    • Gboma Dessi is a leafy green soup, sometimes called “sauce feuilles.” It is made with various local leaves and is typically enjoyed with fufu or rice.
  13. Agouti:
    • Agouti is a type of bushmeat, and dishes featuring agouti are considered a local delicacy. It is often prepared in stews or grilled.
  14. Attieke:
    • Attieke is a side dish made from fermented cassava, similar to couscous. It is often served with grilled fish, meat, or sauces.
  15. Palm Wine:
    • End your meal with a refreshing glass of palm wine, a traditional beverage tapped from palm trees.

Exploring Togolese cuisine provides an opportunity to savor unique flavors and traditional dishes that reflect the country’s cultural richness. Don’t hesitate to try a variety of local specialties to fully immerse yourself in the culinary experience.

What to See? 🔍

Togo offers a blend of cultural, historical, and natural attractions for tourists. Here are some must-see places in Togo:

  1. Lomé:
    • Explore the capital city, Lomé, known for its vibrant markets, colonial architecture, and lively atmosphere. Don’t miss the Grand Marché for traditional crafts and the Independence Monument.
  2. Lake Togo:
    • Relax by the shores of Lake Togo, a serene and picturesque lake. Take a boat ride, enjoy the view, and visit nearby villages.
  3. Togoville:
    • Discover the historical town of Togoville, situated on the northern shore of Lake Togo. Visit the Togoville Cathedral and learn about its significance in Togo’s history.
  4. Koutammakou:
    • Explore the Koutammakou landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its traditional mud tower houses. The Batammariba people inhabit this region, and the unique architecture is a testament to their cultural identity.
  5. Aneho:
    • Visit Aneho, the former capital of Togo during the German colonial era. Explore the town’s historic architecture, including old German houses, and enjoy the coastal views.
  6. Fazao-Malfakassa National Park:
    • Experience the biodiversity of Togo by visiting Fazao-Malfakassa National Park. The park is home to diverse flora and fauna, and you can explore hiking trails amid lush greenery.
  7. Mount Agou:
    • Hike to the summit of Mount Agou, the highest peak in Togo. Enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and neighboring countries on clear days.
  8. Kpalimé:
    • Head to Kpalimé, a town surrounded by beautiful landscapes and hills. Visit the Kpalimé Arts and Crafts Center and explore the nearby waterfalls, such as Akloa and Tomegbe.
  9. Kara:
    • Discover the town of Kara in northern Togo. Visit the colorful Kara Market and explore nearby attractions like the sacred Batammariba Forest.
  10. Sokodé:
    • Explore Sokodé, known for its lively market and the Tamberma Valley, where you can witness the traditional architecture of the Tamberma people.
  11. Kara Region Villages:
    • Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting traditional villages in the Kara Region, such as Bassar and Nadoba.
  12. Boulevard of National Independence:
    • Stroll along the Boulevard of National Independence in Lomé, lined with palm trees and leading to the Monument de l’Independance.
  13. Agbodrafo Slave House:
    • Learn about Togo’s history by visiting the Agbodrafo Slave House, a historic site that provides insights into the transatlantic slave trade.
  14. Aklakou Waterfall:
    • Take a trip to the Aklakou Waterfall, located near Kpalimé, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the cascading waters.
  15. Fetish Market (Marché des Féticheurs):
    • Experience the unique atmosphere of the Fetish Market in Lomé, where traditional medicine and spiritual objects are sold.

These must-see places in Togo showcase the country’s cultural diversity, natural beauty, and historical significance. Whether you’re interested in exploring urban centers, hiking in national parks, or learning about traditional customs, Togo offers a range of experiences for every type of traveler.

What to Do? 📸

As a tourist in Togo, there are several activities and experiences that can enhance your visit and provide a deeper understanding of the country’s culture, history, and natural beauty. Here are some must-do things in Togo:

  1. Attend a Voodoo Ceremony:
    • Experience the vibrant and mystical traditions of Voodoo by attending a local ceremony. Togo has a rich Voodoo culture, and witnessing a ceremony can be a fascinating cultural immersion.
  2. Explore Lomé’s Markets:
    • Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of Lomé’s markets, including the Grand Marché. Discover a variety of traditional crafts, textiles, spices, and local products.
  3. Visit Koutammakou Cultural Landscape:
    • Explore the Koutammakou region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and discover the unique mud tower houses of the Batammariba people. Engage with local communities to learn about their way of life.
  4. Hike Mount Agou:
    • Challenge yourself with a hike to the summit of Mount Agou, the highest peak in Togo. Enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and neighboring countries.
  5. Participate in a Traditional Dance Workshop:
    • Join a traditional dance workshop to learn some of the local dance styles. Dancing is an integral part of Togolese culture, and this activity provides an interactive way to connect with the community.
  6. Take a Boat Ride on Lake Togo:
    • Enjoy a relaxing boat ride on Lake Togo. Take in the serene surroundings, and consider visiting the villages along the lake’s shores.
  7. Explore Fazao-Malfakassa National Park:
    • Embark on a wildlife adventure in Fazao-Malfakassa National Park. Explore the park’s hiking trails, spot diverse flora and fauna, and experience the beauty of Togo’s natural landscapes.
  8. Visit Traditional Villages in the Kara Region:
    • Journey to the Kara Region to visit traditional villages like Bassar and Nadoba. Engage with local communities, witness traditional practices, and gain insights into rural life.
  9. Discover Tamberma Valley:
    • Explore the Tamberma Valley, known for its unique architecture. Visit villages with Tamberma compounds, characterized by mud-brick houses with conical roofs.
  10. Attend a Festival or Event:
    • Check the local calendar for festivals and events happening during your visit. Togo hosts various cultural and traditional celebrations that offer a glimpse into local customs and rituals.
  11. Relax on Togolese Beaches:
    • Unwind on Togo’s beautiful beaches, such as Aneho Beach. Enjoy the coastal scenery, take a swim, and relax in the tranquil surroundings.
  12. Learn Traditional Craftsmanship:
    • Engage with local artisans to learn traditional craftsmanship. Whether it’s beadwork, weaving, or pottery, participating in a workshop can deepen your appreciation for Togolese arts.
  13. Trek to Waterfalls:
    • Explore Togo’s natural beauty by trekking to waterfalls like Akloa and Tomegbe near Kpalimé. Enjoy the scenic landscapes and the refreshing atmosphere.
  14. Take a Guided City Tour:
    • Hire a local guide for a city tour of Lomé to discover historical landmarks, cultural sites, and hidden gems that provide insights into the city’s past and present.
  15. Engage in Community-Based Tourism:
    • Consider participating in community-based tourism initiatives, where you can stay with local families, share meals, and engage in daily activities to gain a deeper understanding of Togolese life.

These activities offer a mix of cultural immersion, adventure, and relaxation, providing a well-rounded experience of Togo’s diverse attractions. Always check for local events, festivals, and activities happening during your visit to enhance your travel experience.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Culture in Togo:

  1. Respect for Traditional Customs:
    • Togo has a rich cultural heritage with diverse ethnic groups, each contributing to the country’s unique traditions. Respect local customs, especially in rural areas, and seek permission before taking photographs, especially during ceremonies.
  2. Voodoo Culture:
    • Voodoo plays a significant role in Togolese culture. While in Togo, you may encounter Voodoo ceremonies or rituals. Approach these events with respect and a willingness to learn about the cultural significance.
  3. Warm Hospitality:
    • Togolese people are known for their hospitality. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to share a meal or engage in conversations. Accepting such invitations is a way to connect with the local community.
  4. Greeting Etiquette:
    • Greetings are important in Togolese culture. When meeting someone, a handshake is common, and it’s polite to inquire about the person’s well-being. In more rural areas, traditional greetings might include additional gestures.
  5. Traditional Music and Dance:
    • Togo has a vibrant music and dance scene. Attend local performances to experience traditional music and dance forms that are integral to Togolese cultural expression.
  6. Dress Modestly:
    • While urban areas like Lomé may have a more relaxed dress code, in rural and traditional settings, it’s respectful to dress modestly. Women, in particular, should avoid revealing clothing.

Safety in Togo:

  1. Travel Advisories:
    • Before traveling, check for any travel advisories or updates. Stay informed about the current political and security situation in the areas you plan to visit.
  2. Health Precautions:
    • Consult with a healthcare professional before traveling to ensure you have the necessary vaccinations and medications. Togo, like many other tropical countries, may have health risks such as malaria.
  3. Currency Exchange:
    • Use official currency exchange services and be cautious when carrying large amounts of cash. Credit cards are accepted in urban areas, but it’s advisable to have some cash for more remote locations.
  4. Transportation Safety:
    • Use reputable transportation services, especially when using taxis or public transportation. Be cautious on the roads, and follow local traffic rules. Some areas may have poorly maintained roads, so plan accordingly.
  5. Cultural Sensitivity:
    • Togolese people are generally friendly and welcoming, but it’s essential to be culturally sensitive. Avoid discussing sensitive topics, and ask for permission before taking photographs, especially in rural areas.
  6. Avoid Street Demonstrations:
    • Stay informed about local events and avoid participating in or being near street demonstrations or political gatherings, as these situations can be unpredictable.
  7. Emergency Services:
    • Know the emergency contact numbers in Togo and the location of the nearest medical facilities. Medical services may vary in quality, especially in more remote areas.
  8. Environmental Awareness:
    • Respect the environment, especially in natural areas. Dispose of waste responsibly, and be conscious of the delicate ecosystems.
  9. COVID-19 Guidelines:
    • Check for any COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions in place. Follow health protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing, to ensure your safety and the safety of others.
  10. Cultural Etiquette:
    • Be aware of and respectful towards local customs and traditions. Seek guidance if you are unsure about the appropriate behavior in certain situations.

Remember that Togo, like any destination, has its own set of cultural norms and safety considerations. By being culturally aware, respectful, and informed about local conditions, you can contribute to a positive and enriching travel experience in Togo.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a visit to Togo promises a unique and enriching experience for tourists seeking a blend of cultural diversity, historical significance, and natural beauty. From the vibrant markets of Lomé to the traditional villages of the Koutammakou Cultural Landscape, Togo offers a tapestry of cultural traditions and warm hospitality. The country’s landscapes, ranging from the serene shores of Lake Togo to the lush Fazao-Malfakassa National Park, provide opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Travelers are encouraged to engage respectfully with local customs, savor Togolese cuisine, and participate in cultural activities, including Voodoo ceremonies. While embracing the warmth of Togolese hospitality, it’s essential for visitors to stay informed about safety guidelines and travel responsibly. Togo invites exploration, offering a journey that unfolds the rich tapestry of this West African gem.