The Bars of West African Ports Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Bars of West African Ports

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A busy port and the national flag of Ghana, stripes of red, yellow and green with a black star in the middle.

This is a non-exhaustive list of the pubs and clubs of West Africa and a quick guide to having a safe, hassle-free night out. Most of the prices are in US dollars as this currency is widely accepted.


  • Currency Cedis

The small port of Takoradi in the west of this ex-British colony is a good night out. The beer is cheap (~$1 a bottle) and it is relatively safe. The various hotels are a good place to start.

The Africa Beach Hotel is along a strip of two or three top hotels open to non-guests. It has a pool and a very good restaurant. A lobster thermidore (recommended) costs $15. There is a little bit of hassle from the 'local ladies' but nothing too sinister.

The Valley beach is of a similar ilk but is much quieter.

A fine, cheap bar is the Walk Inn. 'Local Ladies' are not allowed in unless invited. Beer is around $0.50 a bottle.

If you are feeling adventurous the Harbour View Inn is for you. A pool table, nightclub and bar await. This is where the 'local ladies' meet so expect to get hassled (see tips on 'Local Ladies'). Beer is $1 a bottle.

  • Suggested Brews: Star
  • Avoid: Club (it may come in a big bottle but it tastes of burnt toast and gives a cracking hangover after one bottle).


  • Currency West African CFA

Douala is the main port here and is a lot of fun.

Most nights start out at the German Seaman's Mission. A small minibus will take you from the port and will take you home again if you wish. Beer is good and cheap and the barbecue is excellent. If it is not up to scratch the Pastor1 will kick ass! You can buy postcards, stamps and locally-produced tat. The Mission also has some overnight accommodation.

Just up the road is the Mecca of Douala, Megaslots (known in the Maritime world as Megasluts for obvious reasons). You can walk it from the Mission but usually the security guards will insist you get a taxi, as you will be walking through a 'local Mafia' area. As soon as you step into Megaslots you will meet the head of the local Mafia so it seems a bit pointless.

This place has slot machines, bars, pool tables and a nightclub. You will get hassled by 'local ladies'. The head of the Mafia will even take you back to your accommodation for a small fee (usually $5, but he does try it on). The advantage of this is that you will not get hassled by the police or customs (very common in this part of the world).

  • Suggested Brews: Castel, '33' draught.
  • Avoid: Buying 'local ladies' drinks as the price triples.

Equatorial Guinea

  • Currency West African CFA

Malabo (capital city) on the Island of Bioko is a quiet ex-Spanish place. It tends to be safe.

First stop is always the Pizza Cafe. This cafe-cum-restaurant-cum-bar is fully air-conditioned and has a veranda to sit on. Beer, again, is reasonable.

Other places are the Chinese restaurant (don't eat here, nice food but the rats and the toilet put you off); and there is another bar across the road.

Malabo is a nice, quiet place to enjoy a drink with not much hassle. Watch your money and your tabs. They do get snatched.

  • Suggested Brews: San Miguel.


  • Currency West African CFA

Libreville airport and the surrounding hotels are a nice place to relax but the best place is Port Gentil just over the equator to the south.

The first stop in this Francophile country is Le Docker bar, a nice little bar just outside the New Port gates. A small motel down the road is also all right for a drink (The Ranch).

A little later you could head into town but do not pay any more than 2000CFA for a taxi ride. The taxi drivers often try it on. Head for the Galleon with its pool tables.

Walking down the main drag you will find a wine bar, a nightclub, several bars (with pool tables) and a very fine Lebanese pizza restaurant. The service is slow (about one-two hours for a pizza), but it is worth it!

Things should be getting late now so it is time for the nightclubs. A short taxi ride away are the Duponet and the Imperial. Both are very good and cheap, but expect the friendly attention of 'local ladies'. There is the Cabayene but we found this to be a bit of a dive.

A fine bar for the day is the Beach Club on the other side of the refinery. Sit on the beach with a carafe of red wine and go for a swim. Very nice!

Another good bar is the Tube, where you can enjoy a fine view across the bay, sitting in the sun.

Unfortunately Gabon is the most expensive place in West Africa but it is still cheaper than the UK.

  • Suggested Brews: Castel
  • Avoid: Regab (Known as rehab, as you probably need it after a few of these. Again they try and entice you with a big bottle).

Republic of Congo - Brazzaville

  • Currency West African CFA
WARNING: Congo is one of the most dangerous places in West Africa. Have fun but keep it safe!

Inside the port of Pointe Noire there is a small bar which is nice for a drink and very cheap.

The main town has plenty of bars and clubs. The best is the Carnival Casino. Run by an American chap who looks like Johnny Vegas (if you shout 'Monkey' at him he will just look at you with a blank expression!) it has slot machines and a place outside to sit.

The heavy security is reassuring. You will get hassled here by the 'local ladies' but if you don't do anything to discourage them yourself the police will blame you and demand huge amounts of cash. However, if you tell the American guy his security will take over.

The nightclubs are open all night like the one opposite the Score supermarket. They are very expensive though, charging about £4 for a beer while other places charge 50p.

The Chinese restaurant has good food but be sure to avoid the wine. Good wine is expensive and cheap wine is rancid.

This is a nice place but can be dangerous. Don't taunt the guards on the port gates. They get angry and point their guns at you!

  • Suggested Brews: N'gok, Castel and Primus.
  • Avoid: The water!

General Tips:

  • Never go out alone.
  • Always wipe the top of your beer. When in storage, rats can scuttle over the top of the bottles.
  • Never take matters into your own hands. The police will blame the rich white guy.
  • Never let anyone on the street touch you or your pockets will be emptied.
  • Don't be offensive.
  • Barter the price with a taxi driver before you get in.
  • Never buy drugs. The dealers are often the police who then arrest and demand huge sums of cash from you.

Sex and the Locals

If you are the sort who will carry out business with them then fine, that's up to you but you should be conversant with all the dangers of STD (pandemic in West Africa). AIDS is a huge problem. Without wishing to dismiss the populace of an entire country, it has often been noted that the best course of action is to assume that everyone has AIDS. Then you can decide if you want to risk it or not. If you are male and find the attention you receive from women a hassle, follow these tips:

Let one of the women sit down beside you and buy her drinks all night. She will drive any attention away from you. At the end of the night thank her by giving her $10 or whatever you can.

Ask them questions, as they are a wealth of information about the local area. Some of them will keep you safe as well. Don't tell them when you are leaving due to a few undesirables. Make them think you will be back tomorrow or you could find yourself in an alleyway getting robbed, as they know you won't be back.

The ladies are usually trustworthy but use your discretion as the minority have 'bosses' who can be dangerous. They will grope and try and get you into bed, but a quiet 'no thank you' works wonders. Don't be nasty or get angry.

There are 'Local Guys' but an important thing to remember is that in most of these countries same-sex relationships are illegal.

In Summary

So if you do find yourself in one of these places don't get put off by appearances - they provide a really good night out. You can make local friends and you learn a lot about the country. So get out and have a good time!

1Most Seaman's missions around the world are either run by volunteers or have a religious connection. The Douala German SM is run by a very friendly man who is known by everyone as 'Pastor'. He is very proud of the service the GSM provides.

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