For those fond of travelling off the beaten track, Togo will prove a rewarding destination. It offers a great diversity of landscapes, from the lakes and palm-fringed beaches along the Atlantic coastline to the rolling forested hills in the centre. As you head further north, the landscape leaves its mantle of lush forest green for the light green and yellowy tinges of savannah land. The cherry on top is Lomé, the low-key yet elegant capital, with its large avenues, tasty restaurants and throbbing nightlife – not to mention the splendid beaches on its doorstep. Togo is also an excellent playground for hikers – there’s no better ecofriendly way to experience the country’s savage beauty than on foot.
Another highlight is the culture. Togo is a melting pot. The fortified compounds of Koutammakou are a reminder that the country’s ethnically diverse population didn’t always get along. Nowadays, however, voodoo, Muslim, Christian and traditional festivals crowd the calendar and are often colourful celebrations for all.
Official Name. Togolese Republic
Capital and largest city. Lomé 6°7′N 1°13′E
Languages. Official: French; Vernacular: Gbe languagesa, Kotocoli, Kabiyé
Ethnic groups. 99% African (37 tribes). Ewe, Kabye, Tem, Gourma
Government. Presidential republic. President Faure Gnassingbé
Independence from France 27 April 1960
Area. Total 56,785 km2 (125th)
Population. 2015 estimate 7,552,318 (100th); 2010 census 5,337,000. Density. 125.9/km2 (93rd)
GDP (PPP). 2016 estimate Total $11.558 billion (150th). Per capita $1,567
GDP (nominal). 2016 estimate Total $4.499 billion. Per capita $610
When to Go. “Nov–Feb The best time to visit, with pleasant temperatures. Perfect for outdoor activities.
Mid-Jul–mid-Sep – There’s a dry spell in the south, which makes transport less challenging.
Mar & Apr – The hottest period throughout the country is best avoided.
MONEY. CFA franc (XOF). The best foreign currency to carry is euros, easily exchanged at any bank or hotel.
Travellers cheques cannot be changed in Togo. You’ll find Visa ATMs in major towns. Only Banque Atlantique in Lomé accepts MasterCard. Credit cards are accepted at a few upmarket hotels.
VISAS. Everyone except nationals of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) countries needs a visa. One-week extendable visas (CFA10,000) are issued at major border crossings with Ghana (Aflao/Lomé), Benin (Hilakondji) and Burkina Faso (Sinkasse), and upon arrival at the airport.
Extensions costs 500 for up to three months, more likely to give you a 30 day multiple entry extension.
Visas for Onward TravelHISTORY
During the period from the 11th century to the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions: the Ewé from the east, and the Mina and Guin from the west. Most settled in coastal areas.
The slave trade began in the 16th century, and for the next two hundred years the coastal region was a major trading centre for Europeans in search of slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name “The Slave Coast”.
In 1884, a treaty was signed at Togoville with the King Mlapa III, whereby Germany claimed a protectorate over a stretch of territory along the coast and gradually extended its control inland. In 1905, this became the German colony of Togoland. During World War I, this German territory was invaded by British troops from the neighboring Gold Coast colony and French troops coming from Dahomey.
After the end of World War I, there was discussion of having the colony administered by Czechoslovakia. However, this did not happen. Togoland was separated into two League of Nations mandates, administered by Britain and France. After World War II, these mandates became UN Trust Territories. The residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast as part of the new independent nation of Ghana in 1957, and French Togolandbecame an autonomous republic within the French Union in 1959.
Independence. Independence for French Togoland came in 1960 under Sylvanus Olympio. He was assassinated in a military coup on 13 January 1963 by a group of soldiers under the direction of Sergeant Etienne Eyadéma Gnassingbé. Opposition leader Nicolas Grunitzky was appointed president by the “Insurrection Committee”, headed by Emmanuel Bodjollé.
Exactly four years later, on 13 January 1967, Eyadéma Gnassingbé overthrew Grunitzky in a bloodless coup and assumed the presidency, which he held from that date until his sudden death on 5 February 2005 after 38 years in power, the longest occupation of any dictator in Africa. The military’s immediate installation of his son, Faure Gnassingbé, as president provoked widespread international condemnation, except from France. Some democratically elected African leaders such as Abdoulaye Wade ofSenegal and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria supported the move, thereby creating a rift within the African Union.
Among the smallest countries in Africa, Togo enjoys one of the highest standards of living on the continent owing to its valuable phosphate deposits and a well-developed export sector based on agricultural products such as coffee, cocoa beans, and peanuts (groundnuts). Low market prices for Togo’s major export commodities, however, coupled with the volatile political situation of the 1990s and early 2000s, had a negative effect on the economy.
Togo serves as a regional commercial and trade centre. The government’s decade-long effort, supported by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to implement economic reform measures, encourage foreign investment, and bring revenues in line with expenditures, has stalled. Political unrest, including private and public sector strikes throughout 1992 and 1993, jeopardized the reform program, shrank the tax base, and disrupted vital economic activity.
The 12 January 1994 devaluation of the currency by 50% provided an important impetus to renewed structural adjustment; these efforts were facilitated by the end of strife in 1994 and a return to overt political calm. Progress depends on increased openness in government financial operations (to accommodate increased social service outlays) and possible downsizing of the armed forces, on which the regime has depended to stay in place. Lack of aid, along with depressed cocoa prices, generated a 1% fall in GDP in 1998, with growth resuming in 1999.
Togo is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).
Togo is a small West African nation. It borders the Bight of Benin in the south; Ghana lies to the west; Benin to the east; and to the north, Burkina Faso. Togo lies mostly between latitudes 6° and 11°N, and longitudes 0° and 2°E.
In the north the land is characterized by a gently rolling savanna in contrast to the center of the country, which is characterized by hills. The south of Togo is characterized by a savanna and woodland plateau which reaches to a coastal plain with extensive lagoons and marshes. The land size is 56,785 km2, with an average population density of 98/km2.
Climate. The climate is generally tropical with average temperatures ranging from 23 °C (73 °F) on the coast to about 30 °C (86 °F) in the northernmost regions, with a dry climate and characteristics of a tropical savanna. To the south there are two seasons of rain (the first between April and July and the second between September and November), even though the average rainfall is not very high.
Environment. Togo’s coastline measures only 56km, but the country stretches inland for over 600km. Wildlife is disappointing because larger mammals have largely been killed or scared off. The country’s remaining mammals (monkeys, buffaloes and antelopes) are limited to the north; crocodiles and hippos are found in some rivers. The coastline faces serious erosion and pollution problems.
Togo’s transition to democracy is stalled. Its democratic institutions remain nascent and fragile. President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who ruled Togo under a one-party system, died of a heart attack on 5 February 2005. Gravely ill, he was being transported by plane to a foreign country for care. He died in transit while over Tunisia. Under the Togolese Constitution, the President of the Parliament, Fambaré Ouattara Natchaba, should have become President of the country, pending a new presidential election to be called within sixty days. Natchaba was out of the country, returning on an Air France plane from Paris.
The Togolese Armed Forces closed the nation’s borders, forcing the plane to land in nearby Benin. With an engineered power vacuum, the Parliament voted to remove the constitutional clause that would have required an election within sixty days, and declared that Eyadema’s son, Faure Gnassingbé, would inherit the presidency and hold office for the rest of his father’s term. Faure was sworn in on 7 February 2005, despite international criticism of the succession.
The African Union described the takeover as a military coup d’état. International pressure came also from the United Nations. Within Togo, opposition to the takeover culminated in riots in which several hundred died. There were uprisings in many cities and towns, mainly located in the southern part of the country. In the town of Aného reports of a general civilian uprising followed by a large scale massacre by government troops went largely unreported. In response, Faure Gnassingbé agreed to hold elections and on 25 February, Gnassingbé resigned as president, but soon afterward accepted the nomination to run for the office in April.
On 24 April 2005, Gnassingbé was elected President of Togo, receiving over 60% of the vote according to official results. However, electoral fraud was suspected, due to a lack of oversight. The European Union suspended aid to Togo unlike the African Union and the United States which declared the vote “reasonably fair.”
In October 2007, after several postponements, elections were held under proportional representation. This allowed the less populated north to seat as many MPs as the more populated south. The president-backed party Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) won outright majority. Again vote rigging accusations were levelLed including canceled ballots and illegal voting. The election was declared fair by the international community and praised as a model. Komlan Mally of the RPT was appointed to prime minister. However, on 5 September 2008, after only 10 months in office, Mally resigned.
Faure Gnassingbé won re-election in the 2010 presidential election, taking 61% of the vote. Though largely peaceful, electoral observers noted “procedural errors” and technical problems. Periodic protests followed the election. In June, 2012, protesters took to the street in Lomé seeking a return to the 1992 constitution that would re-establish presidential term limits. July, 2012, saw the surprise resignation of the prime minister, Gilbert Houngbo. Days later, the commerce minister, Kwesi Ahoomey-Zunu, was named to lead the new government. Thousands of protesters again rallied publicly against the government crackdown.
Foreign relations. Although Togo’s foreign policy is nonaligned, it has strong historical and cultural ties with western Europe, especially France and Germany. Togo recognizes the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and Cuba. It re-established relations with Israel in 1987.
Togo pursues an active foreign policy and participates in many international organizations. It is particularly active in West African regional affairs and in the African Union. Relations between Togo and neighboring states are generally good.
Military. Total military expenditures during the fiscal year of 2005 totaled 1.6% of the country’s GDP. Military bases exist in Lomé, Temedja, Kara, Niamtougou, and Dapaong. The air force is equipped with Alpha jets.
The 2010 census gave Togo a population of 6,191,155, more than double the total counted in the last census in 1981. The capital and largest city, Lomé, grew from 375,499 in 1981 to 837,437 in 2010. When the urban population of surrounding Golfe prefecture is added, the Lomé Agglomeration contained 1,477,660 residents in 2010. More than 60% of Togo’s population is under 25.
Other large cities in Togo according to the new census were Sokodé (95,070), Kara (94,878), Kpalimé (75,084), Atakpamé (69,261), Dapaong (58,071) and Tsévié (54,474). Most of the population (65%) live in rural villages dedicated to agriculture or pastures. The population of Togo shows a strong growth: from 1961 to 2003 it quintupled.
Ethnic Groups. There are about 40 different ethnic groups, the most numerous are the Ewe in the south at 32%. Along the southern coastline they account for 21% of the population. Also found are Kotokoli or Tem and Tchamba in the center and the Kabye people in the north (22%). The Ouatchis are 14% of the population. Sometimes the Ewes and Ouatchis are considered the same, but the French who studied both groups considered them different people. Other Ethnic groups include the Mina, Mossi, and Aja people (about 8%). There is also a European population who make up less than 1%.
Religion. Traditional African religion (51%), Christianity (29%), Islam (20%)
Languages. French is the official language used in formal education, administration and commerce. Togo also has 40 indigenous living languages including: Gbe languages such as Ewe, Mina and Aja in the south, and Gur languages such as Kabiyé, Tem (Kotokoli), Moba, Bassar and Nawdm in the north. Ewe is a language of wider communication in the south. Tem functions to a limited extent as a trade language in some northern towns. Officially, Ewe and Kabiye are “national languages”, which in the Togolese context means languages that are promoted in formal education and used in the media.
Health. Health expenditure was at US$63 (PPP) per capita in 2004. The infant mortality rate is approximately 50 deaths per 1,000 children in 2012. Male life expectancy at birth was at 60.6 in 2012, whereas it was at 65.8 for females. There were 4 physicians per 100,000 people in the early 2000s. Approximately one half of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. According to a 2013 UNICEF report, 4% of women in Togo have undergone female genital mutilation, which is a significantly lower percentage than other countries in the region.
As of 2010, the maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for Togo is 350, compared with 447.1 in 2008 and 539.7 in 1990. The under 5 mortality rate, per 1,000 births is 100 and the neonatal mortality as a percentage of under 5’s mortality is 32. In Togo the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is 2 and the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women is 1 in 67. Life expectancy in Togo is somewhere between 60-65. AIDS is a big problem in the country and to this day continues to spread at a very high pace.
The HIV/AIDS rate was estimated in 2012 to be 2.90% of adults aged 15–49.
Education. The education system has suffered from teacher shortages, lower educational quality in rural areas, and high repetition and dropout rates.
Togo’s culture reflects the influences of its many ethnic groups, the largest and most influential of which are the Ewe, Mina, Tem, Tchamba and Kabre. Despite the influences of Christianity and Islam, over half of the people of Togo follow native animistic practices and beliefs.
Ewe statuary is characterized by its famous statuettes which illustrate the worship of the ibeji. Sculptures and hunting trophies were used rather than the more ubiquitous African masks. The wood-carvers of Kloto are famous for their “chains of marriage”: two characters are connected by rings drawn from only one piece of wood.
The dyed fabric batiks of the artizanal center of Kloto represent stylized and colored scenes of ancient everyday life. The loincloths used in the ceremonies of the weavers of Assahoun are famous. Works of the painter Sokey Edorh are inspired by the immense arid extents, swept by the dry wind, and where the soil keeps the prints of the men and the animals. The plastics technician Paul Ahyi is internationally recognized today. He practiced the “zota”, a kind of pyroengraving, and his monumental achievements decorate Lomé.
Olympics. On 12 August 2008, Benjamin Boukpeti (born to a Togolese father and a French mother) won a bronze medal in the Men’s K1 Kayak Slalom, the first medal ever won by a member of the Togolese team at the Olympics.
Football. Football is the most recognized and national sport of Togo. Togo qualified for the World Cup in 2006 but did not record a win in the group stage. Emmanuel Adebayor is the most famous footballer for Togo, scoring 29 goals for the national team and 96 in the English Premier League.
Togo is probably one of the nicest places in Western Africa. Roads are pretty good, distances small, beaches sandy and white, people friendly, hills and mountains waiting to be explored. What else do you need? The capital city, Lomé is an excellent place to start your trip. Lots of daytrips can be made to Togoville on the borders of Lake Togo or Aneho.
When you go north Kpalime and its beautiful hilly surroundings deserve a visit; trekking and hiking in the area is wonderful. Continue further north if you are into hiking. Kara is the place to go. Nearby is Tamberma Valley which has intriguing castle like structures known as Tatas. The national parks of Fazao and Keran offer good opportunities to view wildlife.
Regions. Maritime Togo (Lomé) – the Atlantic coast and the region that the vast majority of visitors see. Central Togo – rolling hills and forests, seldom visited. Northern Togo (Kara) – land of the Kabye people
Air. Lomé–Tokoin Airport (IATA: LFW ICAO: DXXX), also known as Gnassingbé Eyadéma International Airport, is the only international airport in the country.
Air Burkina – Cotonou, Ouagadougou
Air Côte d’Ivoire – Abidjan, Cotonou
Air France – Paris
ASKY Airlines – has its hub at Lomé airport. Abidjan, Abuja, Accra, Addis Ababa, Bangui, Bamako, Bissau, Brazzaville, Conakry, Cotonou, Dakar, Douala,Freetown, Kinshasa, Lagos, Libreville, Monrovia, N’Djamena, Niamey, Ouagadougou, Pointe-Noire, Yaoundé
Brussels Airlines – Brussels
Ceiba Intercontinental Airlines – Malabo
Ethiopian Airlines – Addis Ababa, Dakar, Rio de Janeiro (ends 25 May 2014), São Paulo
Royal Air Maroc – Accra, Casablanca
Toumaï Air Tchad – Bangui, Brazzaville, Libreville, N’Djamena (unsure if they are still operating)
Car. Bush taxis are everywhere – four door cars, with four people in the back, and two sharing the front. You can also pay for the entire car, so that you’re not cramped. For this, calculate the price of six people, and then bargain down from there. The Trans-West African Coastal Highway crosses Togo, connecting it to Benin and Nigeria to the east, and Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to the west. When construction in Liberia and Sierra Leone is finished, the highway will continue west to 7 other ECOWAS nations. A paved highway also connects Togo northwards to Burkina Faso and from there north-west to Mali and north-east to Niger.
Bus. There are overland buses from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Benin.
Taxi-moto (motorcycle taxi) – tell who the taxi-moto drivers are–they will honk or hiss at you as they drive by and usually wear baseball caps and sunglasses.
Taxis. Taxis will have yellow license plates and their registration number painted on the car. Always negotiate before you get on/in, the quoted price will include tip! Sometimes, when you are on a side street, it might be helpful if you ask a security guard to wave down a cab for you. Tipping at around 300 to 600 CFA is expected.
Train. The train service in Togo is not currently available.
Togo is a charming country, but most of the charm comes from the charming people; this is a small country with a small number of small attractions. Lomé’s markets, both general and voodoo, are the most popular stop in the country along the road between Ghana and Benin. The smaller towns of Togoville on Lake Togo and Aneho on the ocean are also popular stops for the former’s voodoo shrines and historic sights and the latter’s beaches.
Kpalimé coffee growing region popular with the errant tourist, with nice hikes, cooler weather, and pleasant views.
North. Perhaps the most alluring part of the country is the hardest to get to—the hilly and sparsely populated north. The best known destination is Tamberma Valley — the Koutammakou UNESCO World Heritage site, to the north of Kara. The local Batammariba people (known by colonists as the Tamberma) constructed and live in unique Takienta (a.k.a. Tata) “tower-houses” of mud and straw, which arguably have become the Togolese national symbol. It’s a surreal dreamland of a place, and easily a highlight of a trip to Togo, although it is a journey to get there.
Togo’s few parks/reserves are relatively rarely visited, but if you manage to make it out there on a safari,
Fazao Mafakassa National Park in the center-west of the country is quite beautiful. This park is home to the last population of elephants in Togo (about 100 elephants).
Kéran National Park.In the far north. Aside from Kéran, the north also offers a ton of potential outdoor excursions, with nice hikes up mountains, out to waterfalls, etc.
Sports, especially football, are the main entertaining activity in Togo. You can watch the football league games played in the weekends.
Night clubs – the capital is full of them.
TV programs are not the best in the world, with movies and sitcoms that have been played for years.
Beach activities and parties with people from all over Lomé to enjoy the beautiful weather in the weekends.
Most goods are not supposed to have negotiable prices. Don’t haggle with the poor woman trying to sell you a banana. If you are worried about Yovo (white person) surcharges, just ask anyone other than the person you intend to buy from what the price should be. You should, however, haggle over taxi rides, some items, such as clothes, in open markets, and always curios. Keep things in perspective, though. If you are being overcharged 50¢ for being white, that amount is not a big deal to you, but really would help the poor person sitting in the dust all day every day, trying to make ends meet.
Markets. The most popular souvenirs from Togo tend to be something voodoo related, like a charm or mask. The obvious place to shop for these curios is Lomé’s voodoo market, although you will be paying tourist trap-premium prices.
Pâte is made from corn flour.
Fufu. The “national” dish of West-Africa. In Togo, it consists of white yams pounded into a doughy consistency. Many fufu restaurants in the cities as well as roadside stands. Pâte and Fufu are usually eaten with your hands and come with different sauces (from smoked fish to spicy tomato to peanut). Plantains can also be found in various forms; grilled, cooked, mashed or fried. In the season, Mangos, Avocados, Papayas, and Pineapples are for sale everywhere.
Drink. Lemonade and Bissap juice are the most popular drinks. There are many bars almost around all corners in Lomé where you will be able to have a beer.
Basic rooms can be found from about 4000 CFA onwards, much lower if you have a good bargaining position.
Petty theft and muggings are common in Lomé, especially on the beach and near the Grand Marché. Taxi-motos in the city may be convenient, but they are dangerous. As a rule, stay away from public beaches, where tourists find themselves mugged any time of day or night. Most of the country has little crime, but Lomé is a clear exception, and is a good deal more dangerous than any city in Ghana or Benin. If going somewhere at night, take a car taxi, and get the numbers of a few trusted taxi drivers if you plan to stay for a while.
Driving in Togo is, to say the least, hair-raising: take care on the roads, particularly at night. Driving is difficult and dangerous in Togo, with fatalistic overloaded speed demons chancing it on curves and hills, capital streets swarming with motorcycles throughout the black of night, and worrisome accident scenes along the main roads. The hilly north-south road north of Kara is particularly dangerous. If you are skeptical, take a day trip.
The beaches along the coast are not safe for swimming because of strong currents.”
and marvel at all the husks of buses and trucks that weren’t there on the way out! Traffic is the single biggest danger to travelers in Togo.
Stay healthy. Drink bottled water. Bissop juice is also fairly safe as it is boiled, and avoid the lemonade “citron” despite its delicious aspect. People relieve themselves in the streets in Lomé.
Respect. Greetings are a little more elaborate in Togo. Say hello to everyone when coming and going. Handshakes are key.
Women Travellers. The Togolese are rather conservative when it comes to marriage: it is therefore incomprehensible to them that women past their 20s might not be married. This will lead to many questions, but it is generally harmless. To avoid attracting any more attention, dress conservatively.
Mobile phone coverage is excellent. Local networks include Togocel and Moov. Depending on which mobile network you use at home, your phone may or may not work in Togo – ask your mobile network provider. You can also bring your phone and buy a local SIM card. Top-up vouchers are easily available.
Lome has Internet cafes, and they are cheap but very slow.