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Ivory Coast travel guide

About Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast is a country of extremes; a land of pulsating metropolises and pristine rainforests, vast churches and verdant hills, fancy restaurants and sprawling street stalls. Its reputation might be sullied by the recent civil war, but most areas are now stable and ripe for discovery.

Coastal Abidjan is the unofficial capital and the entry point for most travellers. The French influence is clear to see here, not least in the food, which is served in some bistros with the kind of pomp you might expect in downtown Paris. These eateries are a stark contrast to the traditional maquis restaurants, which sprawl out onto the city’s bustling streets. Pull up a plastic pew, order some food and share a meal with locals.

Dubbed the “Manhattan of Africa” the gleaming skyscrapers and manicured gardens of The Plateau give downtown Abidjan a decidedly modern feel. This commercial district is also home to St Paul’s Cathedral, which boasts impressive stained glass windows and great views across the city.

While most of the action takes place in Abidjan, Yamoussoukro is the official capital. It is notable for its massive mosque and even bigger Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, which is the largest church in the world. Football is also a religion here and watching The Elephants, the national football team, offers a memorable day out for sports fans.

Ivory Coast’s true beauty really shines through when you get out of the cities. There are no fewer than eight national parks in the country, including Comoé, the largest protected area in West Africa, which boasts the most biodiverse savannah in the world. Expect to see anything from lions and leopards to aardvarks and African elephants. The pygmy hippos of Tai National Park are also a big draw for naturalists, while the beautiful beaches around San Pedro,Assine and Grand Bassam attract bathers of all stripes.

Sure, Ivory Coast has had its problems, but a sanguine spirit is binding this country together again and putting it back on the map.

Key facts


322,462 sq km (124,503 sq miles).


23,254,184 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

72.2 per sq km.





Head of state:

President Alassane Ouattara since 2010.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Robert Beugré Mambé since October 2023.

Travel Advice

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Areas where FCDO advises against travel

Borders with Burkina Faso and Mali

FCDO advises against all travel to:

  • within 40km of the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali
  • Northern Zanzan and Savanes provinces
  • Comoé National Park

This is due to an increased risk of terrorist attacks and kidnaps by terrorists based in the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso and Mali. 

Côte d’Ivoire-Liberia border 

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to within 20km of the border with Liberia owing to the risk of serious violence by local militias.

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

FCDO provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Côte d’Ivoire set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Embassy of Côte d’Ivoire in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Côte d’Ivoire.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Côte d’Ivoire, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You must have a visa to enter Côte d’Ivoire.

Applying for a visa

Apply and pay for an e-visa online at least 10 working days before you travel to allow time for your application to be processed. Once it is approved, you will be able to collect your visa on arrival at Abidjan airport.

If you are not an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) national, you must hold a valid visa or have had your application for an e-visa approved before you travel.

Vaccine requirements

To enter Côte d’Ivoire, you must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination.

For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Côte d’Ivoire guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Côte d’Ivoire (in French). You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Taking money into Côte d’Ivoire 

You can take up to 500,000 West African CFA francs in cash into Côte d’Ivoire. You must declare any foreign currency.

This guide also has safety advice for regions of Côte d’Ivoire.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Côte d’Ivoire

Terrorist attacks in Côte d’Ivoire cannot be ruled out.

Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreign nationals such as:

  • beach resorts
  • hotels
  • cafés and restaurants
  • major sporting events

The main threat in Côte d’Ivoire is from Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its associated groups. These groups are mainly active in the northern border areas, including the Comoé National Park in the north-east, but attacks could occur anywhere, including major towns and cities such as Abidjan.

Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Political situation

Political demonstrations and other protests can occur. There were outbreaks of violence during the presidential elections in 2020, which caused civilian deaths. Crowds can gather quickly, and roadblocks are common. You should:

  • avoid crowds and demonstrations
  • follow local instructions and any additional security checks or measures
  • monitor local media

You should be alert near military barracks and military installations.

Personal security measures

If you’re staying for long in Côte d’Ivoire, you should seek professional security advice and regularly review personal security arrangements. You should keep a stock of food and water.

Internet outages

FCDO are aware of internet outages across West Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire. Services including airport, online payments, messaging services and online booking may be affected. Voice calls and SMS are broadly available.


There is a risk of violent crime in Abidjan, including armed break-ins to private residences and armed hold-ups in the street. Though not common, they do occur.

Street crime

To reduce your personal risk:

  • avoid using the bridges to and from the La Plateau areas of Abidjan – pedestrians have been robbed in daylight on these bridges
  • use taxi apps or pre-arranged private taxis
  • avoid using public transport after dark
  • make sure your accommodation has security measures in place
  • carry any valuables out of sight and do not wear expensive-looking jewellery or watches
  • do not walk after dark
  • take transport to use ATMs or to exchange money at the bank

To prevent card fraud, keep your bank card in sight when paying bills.

Vehicle crime

There have been attacks by armed robbers on private cars driving on the main roads between Yamoussoukro, Bouaké and Korhogo and in the west of the country. You could be at risk in daylight as well as at night. 

Keep your car doors locked, windows shut and all valuables out of sight while driving.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

You must carry your passport. Carry the original as the police will not always accept copies. 

Dress code

Dress modestly when visiting religious places or buildings.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Drug trafficking and possession are illegal. If you’re found guilty, you could receive a long prison sentence or a heavy fine.

Using cameras in secure areas

It is prohibited to take photographs near sensitive installations, including:

  • military sites
  • government buildings
  • radio and TV stations
  • the Presidency building
  • Abidjan Airport
  • de Gaulle and Houphouet-Boigny bridges in Abidjan

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity is not illegal in Côte d’Ivoire, but the law does not recognise same-sex partnerships or marriage. Attitudes are less tolerant and there is no specific anti-discrimination law to protect LGBT+ people.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Côte d’Ivoire, see information on driving abroad.

You must have the 1968 version of the international driving permit (IDP) or a local driving licence. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

In case the police stop you, always carry your UK licence and an IDP, or a local licence, plus your car registration documents and insurance card.

If you want to apply for a local driving licence, get your UK driving licence authenticated by the DVLA in the UK.

Road conditions

Driving standards in Côte d’Ivoire are poor. There is a high number of fatal road accidents and emergency services outside of Abidjan are unreliable.

Road conditions are improving in Abidjan, but driving outside the capital is much more difficult. Poorly lit roads and the risk of stray livestock make driving particularly dangerous at night. During the rainy season minor roads may become impassable.

Public transport

Take care when using public transport – driving standards and vehicle maintenance are poor.


There are 2 types of taxis:

  • red taxis, which you can hail on the street and tend to be for private use – there may be issues with the standard of vehicle maintenance
  • yellow taxis, which are shared

Be cautious when using shared yellow taxis and try to avoid using them after dark. In Abidjan there are online taxi booking services which have higher maintenance standards and are more likely to have seatbelts.

Roadblocks and checkpoints

There are roadblocks and checkpoints in and around Abidjan and across the country. The Côte d’Ivoire government is currently running a campaign against bad driving and unroadworthy vehicles.

Slow down at any type of checkpoint and stay calm. Comply when the police ask you for routine paperwork such as photo ID, driving licence, insurance and vehicle registration or ownership documents, which you should carry with you in your vehicle.

Beware of unofficial roadblocks – you could be robbed or assaulted. These are sometimes set up by armed bandits known as ‘coupeurs de route’ and are mostly on secondary or quiet roads. 

If the police issue you with a fine, they should also issue you with related paperwork.

Extreme weather and natural disasters


The rainy season is between May and November. Torrential rains often cause flooding, landslides and large potholes. Flash flooding has caused deaths. Monitor local weather reports.

Ocean currents

Ocean currents are very strong along the coast. Rip tides cause many swimming accidents and drownings each year. There is no lifeboat or rescue service.

See water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society.

This section has safety advice for regions of Côte d’Ivoire. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice.

Borders with Burkina Faso and Mali

FCDO advises against all travel to within 40km of the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali. There is an increased risk of terrorist attacks and kidnaps by terrorists based in the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso and Mali.

Northern provinces

FCDO also advises against all travel to:

  • Northern Zanzan and Savanes provinces
  • Comoé National Park

See Safety and security for details about terrorism risks in Côte d’Ivoire.

Côte d’Ivoire-Liberia border

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to within 20km of the border with Liberia. This is due to the risk of clashes between local militias and security forces. Fatal clashes have taken place in and around this area in the past. If you travel to this area, seek professional security advice locally.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 185 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in Côte d’Ivoire, including:

  • Zika virus
  • malaria and dengue
  • yellow fever
  • Ebola virus


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare in Côte d’Ivoire

Medical facilities in Abidjan are of a reasonable standard but can be expensive. Emergency facilities are limited to a few major hospitals. Outside of Abidjan medical facilities are rudimentary.

Serious medical treatment could require medical evacuation back to the UK. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Côte d’Ivoire where some staff will speak English. 

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Côte d’Ivoire

Ambulance: 185

Fire: 180

Police: 110, 111 or 170

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Côte d’Ivoire and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Abidjan.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Côte d’Ivoire on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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