Is Cameroon Safe? 6 Things You Need to Know

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Our travel safety expert shares his top tips on road safety, health concerns, bribery, civil unrest, crime, politics, and corruption in Cameroon.

Mana River Foot Bridge, entrance to the Korup National Park Photo © Getty Images/Cagan Hakki Sekercioglu

Cameroon is sometimes known as Miniature Africa – a sample of all that Africa has to offer in one bite sized piece. Be it different cultures or languages, beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests or savannah, Cameroon has a little bit of all of it.

Unfortunately it also presents a pretty fair sample of all the hazards facing travelers in West Africa.

Like most countries in West Africa, Cameroon's road networks, both paved and unpaved, are poorly maintained, poorly lit and unsafe to drive. During the rainy season, many roads are barely passable, even with four-wheel-drive vehicles.

1. Road hazards and laws

There are few road and traffic signs; speed limits are neither posted nor enforced and buses and logging trucks travel at excessive speed creating a constant threat to other road traffic.

Other common road hazards include (but are not limited to):

  • Poorly-maintained vehicles (no lights, brake lights or hazard lights)
  • Unskilled, aggressive and intoxicated drivers
  • A total disregard to all road rules by all drivers
  • Livestock and pedestrians on roads, especially at night.

Local law states that vehicles involved in an accident should not be moved until the police arrive and a police report can be made. However, if an accident results in injury, be aware that a "village justice" mentality may develop. If an angry crowd forms, drive directly to your Embassy or another location where you can receive assistance.

2. Bandits and bribes

Bandit attacks and car accidents are most common outside major towns, especially in the regions bordering Chad and the Central African Republic, but occur in all areas of the country.

Armed bandits have erected road barricades on major routes that link rural towns to provincial headquarters, and have taken as many as 100 cars in a single attack. To curb banditry, security personnel may request persons to show their passport, residence card, driver's license, and/or vehicle registration at random checkpoints. Certified copies of these important documents should be kept in a secure location separate from the originals.

Security personnel have been known to ask for bribes but normally allow expatriate travellers to continue after delaying them for a period of time

Visitors who are not in possession of a valid passport and a visa may experience difficulties at police roadblocks or other security checkpoints. It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of a minor or non-existent violation of vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes.

You are encouraged not to pay bribes, and to request that police officers provide a citation to be paid at the local court.

3. Getting out

Overland travel out of Cameroon can be difficult. Travel by road north of Maroua is dangerous because of carjackers.?Gendarmerie (rural police) detachments are posted along the road between Maroua and the Chadian border.

Travellers on roads near the borders with the Central African Republic and Chad should ensure that they have adequate vehicle fuel, cooking fuel, food, and water for several days, as well as a reliable means of communication, such as a satellite or cell phone, or radio.?

Two separate train accidents occurred in Yaound? in August 2009, which resulted in twelve deaths and over three hundred people injured. While some parts of the Cameroonian railroads are being overhauled, much of the track and many of the trains remain in poor condition.

Piracy off the coast remains a problem - if you are caught in such an attack, you should comply immediately with any demands made by the aggressors and avoid any action that could be interpreted as an attempt to escape.

4. Political situation in Cameroon

Africa in Miniature is also a pretty apt description for the political situation in Cameroon. Like many of its neighbors, it can be unstable at best.

In 2008 civil unrest flared up across literally half of the country. This is expected to occur again in October 2011, in the lead up to the Presidential elections. Use your common sense and avoid any demonstrations or rallies as these can quickly turn violent.

Most of Cameroon's border areas are unstable and unsafe. Avoid traveling overland to neighboring Central African Republic as conflicts between insurgents and government security forces have spilled across the border into Cameroon, affecting the Adamawa and East Provinces.

Cameroon assumed control of the Bakassi peninsula in August 2008. Over the last few years, there have been attacks on Cameroonian military forces and clashes between armed groups and Cameroonian security forces. You should avoid this area altogether.

If you intend to visit the Lake Chad area in the Far North Province you should report to the local authorities (the Prefet or Sous-Prefet) on arrival. The local authorities advise visitors to engage a reliable guide, such as those offered by the larger hotels in Maroua.

5. Cameroon crime rates

How would you know you were in West Africa if it was crime free? Like many of its neighbors, crime is a serious problem throughout Cameroon. Having said that if you are sensible, i.e. don't flash your cash around, avoid dangerous areas and be a bit inconspicuous you should have a trouble free stay.

Muggings and robberies have been reported in Douala, Yaound, Limb and other major towns. Avoid isolated or poorer areas of town (notably in Yaound, La Briquetterie and Mokolo), take personal security precautions and maintain a high level of vigilance in public places.

There have been attacks in Yaound where gangs of armed men have held up tourists near to where they are staying. Western tourists present rich pickings for poor locals, leave your valuables out of sight and try not to attract attention to yourself.

Petty theft is common on trains, coaches and in bush taxis.

Carjackings and robberies, often armed and accompanied by violent acts have occurred along roads close to Cameroon's eastern border with Central African Republic and Chad, as well as in Limb, Douala, Yaound, Kribi, and Maroua.

There have been serious incidents of car hijacking and robbery, resulting in deaths, along the Bamenda-Banyo and Bafoussam-Banyo roads in the north-west. Attacks have also occurred on the Bafoussam-Douala and Bafoussam-Yaounde roads.

In August 2009, bandits accosted a group of Spanish tourists traveling between Bertoua and Ngaoundere and shot one member of the group.

The level of internet crime and scams is escalating rapidly. The scope for fraud is huge encompassing: adoptions, insurance claims, dating, real estate, the provision of domestic services, agricultural products, antiques, and exotic and domesticated animals. If the deal is too good to be true, it generally is.

Taxis can be very dangerous. Taxis in Cameroon function more like a bus system, with drivers stopping along the road to pick up additional passengers as long as there is space left in the vehicle (and by space think any spare slither of space). Taxi drivers and accomplices posing as passengers often conspire to commit serious crimes including rape, assaults and robberies. If you must use a taxi, it is better to hire a private taxi, ideally a driver who you know, for your exclusive use for a particular trip, rather than share a taxi. Taxi passengers should be particularly vigilant at night.

6. The poisonous Lake Nyos

One thing that Cameroon doesn't share with the rest of West Africa is a poisonous lake.

Lake Nyos is a crater lake in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. A natural dam of volcanic rock contains the lake waters and a pocket of magma lies beneath the lake and leaks carbon dioxide into the water, changing it into carbonic acid.

In August 1986 possibly triggered by a landslide, Lake Nyos suddenly emitted a large cloud of CO2 which suffocated 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock in nearby towns and villages. To prevent a recurrence, a degassing tube that syphons water from the bottom layers of water to the top allowing the carbon dioxide to leak in safe quantities was installed in 2001.

Today, the lake also poses a threat due to its weakening natural wall. A geological tremor could cause this natural dike to give way, allowing water to rush into downstream villages all the way into Nigeria and allowing the carbon dioxide to escape into the atmosphere unchecked.

Africa in Miniature, Cameroon has a little bit of everything and a poison Lake!

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7 Comments

  • Victor Vance said

    Wow, I was thinking of trying to make a vacation to Cameroon but this looks a little too formidable for me. Thanks for the pertinent information.

    Reply

  • Monika Joss said

    Hopefully World Nomads can update this information! Travel regulations change a lot in this part of the world!

    Reply

  • Eric Psaila said

    and then we wonder why people from African countries like Cameroon run away from their own country.
    European countries have a responsibility to help these countries build better infrastructure and policing.

    https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/migrant-child-lost-in-malta-reunited-with-family-in-spain.725647

    Reply

  • Georges Chebat said

    I am Holding Djiboutian Passport looking to find the best communication to visit Cameroon for tourist

    Reply

  • Thomas said

    Been to Yaounde 3 or 4 times being white and a Westerner expect everyone to charge you double the price.
    I stayed where the locals stay and only seen Westerns when I visited the Hotel Hilton to exchange some money , Don't bother trying to use an ATM they are either broke or empty of cash , Taxis are very dangerous usually not interior door panels the window winding mechanisms visible one I got in had no lights and it was nighttime with not many Street lights and a driver who was unsure what side of the road to drive on so kept alternating or straight down the middle , Most restaurants take forever to serve food and random people just walk over to your tablet trying to sell CDs or even second hand shoes while your eating.....Many places don't have running water and everywhere needs painting, Even in a decent restaurant I noticed mould on the ceiling and 2 million flies in the bathroom.
    Food is surprisingly good I recommend grilled fish or chicken .. Don't drink the water you'll probably die , Keep a low profile and don't have any valuables on you , Even in the centre you are likely to be approached by local drunks and if you try to engage a crowd will soon follow and want to kill you so be warned it's extremely volatile so much so the last time I visited I stayed 1 day of a 3 week vacation and Ended up going to the British Embassy on Winston Churchill Avenue...Be warned I'm not writing a bad review I'm telling you how it is , Book Haram are also known to operate in these parts and a few suicide bombers have also occurred. I will say Yaounde center is possibly the safest area I can't comment on anywhere else in Cameroon.
    I stayed in Bastia which is apparently a upmarket part of the city .

    Reply

  • @ringscotravel said

    Travel safely from Nigeria to Cameroon through boat or air depending on your purpose of traveling will determine your traveling budget.
    E.g : Just a single entry from Oron boarders by boat to Idenua or Limbs will cost you roughly $62 - N25,000.
    While economic flight ticket from Abuja - Douala cost roughly $622 - $1000{ Airpeace, Ethiopian Air}

    Reply

  • Alicia said

    wow so many false reviews here. no one will try to kill you? i had the most amazing time there, in yaoundé, i’m a female. every one was so welcoming and open. yes it’s not the Ritz but why complain about infrastructure if you don’t realize you’re in africa? colonizers go and plunder the country and wonder why it’s a lawless land. which by the way, it isn’t lawless, there are many unspoken rules they follow, traffic rules are unspoken in that way as well.


    its a lot more free than overly regulated western countries where people exchange their supposed safety with being taxed to hell. if you’re white you probably will be up charged, as you should as a reparational tax. i took a taxi at night and was treated with upmost respect. yaounde is vibrant and exciting, fun and quite clean. new york city is much more of a slum than yaounde. i didn’t smell any piss on the walls like you do in new york. the servers and cooks were hygienic, the bathrooms were clean. if you want to believe western slanted perspectives of stigmatized africa, go ahead. but westerners always fail to mention how slummy and disgusting their own countries are.

    i’m american, by the way, and america has many disgusting places and most restaurants in the US are absolutely filthy especially fast food. even this article is slanted, the author misspelled Yaounde and Limbe, you have to wonder if he even knows any Cameroonians to make these ascertainings? especially for 2021, where africa had very little Covid outbreaks because of its natural hygienic standards, don’t believe what non-african people write about their biased experiences.

    Cameroon isn’t perfect, no country is, but in 2021, it has no Covid, paradise background, little violence, no taxing, and very open and warm people. If you go to France, by contrast you will see lots of grey skies, smelly people with bad breath, little greenery, old dilapidated architecture, cold people with sneering attitudes, and high assaults and rapes by knifepoint with exorbitant costs of living.

    Reply

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