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Safety Travel Safety: Africa: C�te d'Ivoire

C�te d'Ivoire: Republic of C�te d'Ivoire
Capital: Yamoussoukro
Population: 16,804,784
Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
Languages: French (official), 60 native dialects with Dioula the most widely spoken
Religions: Christian 20-30%, Muslim 35-40%, indigenous 25-40%
Borders: Burkina Faso 584 km, Ghana 668 km, Guinea 610 km, Liberia 716 km, Mali 532 km

Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is a developing country on the western coast of Africa. The official capital is Yamoussoukro. Tourist facilities in and near Abidjan, the commercial capital, are good; accommodations elsewhere are limited in quality and availability.

Cote d'Ivoire has experienced an extended period of instability since a military coup d'�tat in 1999. In September 2002, a large-scale military rebellion divided the country. Under the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement of January 2003, the former rebels, now known as the New Forces, entered the government. However, New Force elements continue to control the north of the country above an east-west line running just south of Bouake, the country's second largest city. In the west, the New Forces also continue to control the cities of Man and Danane and a strip of territory running along the border with Liberia. There are armed forces and volunteer barricades at many points on the highways through both the government-controlled and New Forces-controlled portions of the country; they check documents and frequently demand cash for permission to pass. Cote d'Ivoire's border with Liberia is closed.

Political instability has led to economic decline and high unemployment, exacerbating social tensions and creating the potential for labor unrest and civil disorder. Americans should avoid crowds and demonstrations, be aware of their surroundings, and use common sense to avoid situations and locations that could be inherently dangerous. Diplomatic efforts to end the crisis are ongoing. However, further coup attempts or the resumption of hostilities cannot be ruled out.

Recreational Safety: Swimming in coastal waters is dangerous and strongly discouraged, even for excellent swimmers. The ocean currents along the coast are powerful and treacherous, and numerous drownings occur each year.

Crime continues to be a major security threat for Americans living in Cote d'Ivoire. Street crime of the "grab and run" variety, as well as pick pocketing in crowded areas, is widespread. Armed carjacking, robberies of businesses and restaurants, and home invasions are very common, and they are often targeted at expatriate residents who are perceived as wealthy. Armed criminals have used force when faced with resistance. Travelers displaying jewelry and carrying cameras are especially at risk. Travelers have found it advisable to carry only limited amounts of cash and only photocopies of key documents.

Travel outside of Abidjan or at night is strongly discouraged, and it is particularly dangerous to visit Abidjan's Treichville, Adjame, Abobo, and Plateau districts after dark. The DeGaulle and Houphouet-Boigny bridges, which cross the lagoon in Abidjan, are dangerous areas for pedestrians. Inadequate resources and training reduce the ability of the police to apprehend criminals and deter crimes. Many hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and supermarkets provide security guards to protect clients and vehicles.

Use of credit cards in Cote d'Ivoire, particularly outside Abidjan, is limited. Despite this reduced usage, credit card fraud is an increasing problem in Abidjan. Unless the credit card transaction is electronically performed in view of the individual, travelers are strongly discouraged from using their credit cards in paper transactions.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Cote d'Ivoire. The scams pose a danger of grave financial loss. Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction; for example, fees to provide legal documents or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably Sierra Leone) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Cote d'Ivoire. Another typical ploy has persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts. Sometimes, perpetrators manage to induce victims to provide bank account and credit card information and financial authorization that allow them to drain the accounts and incur large debts against the victim's credit. In many instances, victims have lost their life savings.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense � if a proposition looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, or any other source, should be carefully checked and researched before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken. One common indicator of a possible scam is the phone number provided to the scam victim; legitimate businesses and offices should be able to provide fixed telephone numbers, while scams typically use only cell phone numbers. In Cote d'Ivoire, all cell phone numbers start with the number zero.

To date, the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan is unaware of any scam victim who has been able to recover money lost through these scams.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Ivorian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cote d'Ivoire are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18. 

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16. 

Americans who are arrested in Cote d'Ivoire for any reason should request that the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan be notified immediately at 2021-0979, extension 6000.

In Abidjan, privately-run medical and dental facilities are adequate but do not fully meet U.S. standards. Good physician specialists can be found, though few speak English. Pharmacies are well-stocked with medications produced in Europe, though newer drugs may not be available. Medical care in Cote d'Ivoire outside of Abidjan is extremely limited.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Cote d'Ivoire is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. 

Safety of public transportation: Poor 
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair 
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor 

Automobile accidents are one of the greatest threats to the well-being of Americans in Cote d'Ivoire. Night driving is particularly hazardous due to poorly lit roads and vehicles. Direct or indirect requests for bribes from the police and other security officials are commonplace, especially at highway checkpoints and near Abidjan's airport. 

For additional general information about road travel in Cote d'Ivoire, please see the U.S. Embassy's web site at

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Cote d'Ivoire's civil aviation authority as Category 2 �- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Cote d'Ivoire's air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, the Ivorian air carriers currently flying to the U.S. will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the U.S. by Cote d'Ivoire's air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the United States. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801. 

Airline travel in western Africa is routinely overbooked; schedules are limited, and airline service is of varying quality. Passengers should get the required seat reconfirmation stamped on the ticket, ensure that they have emergency funds for food and lodging in the event of unexpected delays, and arrive at the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure time. 

Please also refer to the separate Travel Warning for C�te d'Ivoire and to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

October 4, 2004 | Travel Warning

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