What makes Togo a unique country to travel to?
Togo is a small West African country with a developing economy based primarily on agricultural production and port activity. Following a sustained period of political instability that began in the early 1990s, Togo has made considerable progress in recent years, highlighted by a succession of relatively free and fair elections in 2007, 2010, and 2013. Although significant challenges remain, Togo’s economy is developing by instituting business reforms, improving its health care and educational systems, and making significant new investments in infrastructure.French is the official language, while the most commonly spoken local languages areEwe, Mina, and Kabiye. Some tourism infrastructure exists within the capital city, Lomé, and the cities of Kpalimé and Kara.Outside these areas the infrastructure for tourism is underdeveloped or non-existent. Lomé is the headquarters and flight hub for Asky Airlines, which operates flights to most West and Central African capitals. Togo is also accessible by direct flight from France, Belgium, Ethiopia, and Brazil.
In recent years, Togo has seen high levels of violent crime throughout the country. Incidents have included machete attacks as well as firearms-related crimes. You should avoid certain areas within Lomé during the hours of darkness, including public beaches, the beach road, and the Ghana-Togo border areas. You should avoid beaches where no security is provided, even during daylight hours, as purse-snatchings and muggings occur regularly. We recommend that you not visit the Grand Marché area alone during the day and avoid the area altogether in the evenings.
Pick-pocketing incidents and theft are common in Togo, especially along the beach and in the market areas of Lomé. Residential and business burglaries are becoming frequent in Lomé. Foreigners are less commonly targeted in incidents of carjacking, but have been the victims of violent crime in the past. Theft while riding in taxis is common, as thieves steal bags, wallets, and passports. Don’t share taxicabs with strangers.
You should closely monitor their surroundings when using ATMs because of petty theft during and after ATM usage. You should only use ATMs during the day and choose ATMs with lots of people and guards around if possible.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may also be breaking local law.
Buying or using drugs may result in an indefinite period of detention. Illicit drugs, particularly marijuana, cocaine, and some pharmaceuticals, are regularly seized by drug enforcement entities.
Internet Financial Scams: Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including U.S. citizens. Formerly associated with Nigeria, these fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Togo, and pose dangers of both financial loss and physical harm. An increasing number of U.S. citizens have been targets of such scams, resulting in the loss of considerable money on these scams, ranging from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. 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. As a general rule, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Common e-mail scams have been sent by individuals claiming to be a U.S. citizen who is “trapped” in Togo and needs financial assistance to return to the United States or receive urgent medical care. More sophisticated scams include targeting U.S. businesses and ordering a large amount of their product, if the U.S. business will provide banking information or pay legal fees. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is to use common sense. Do not wire or transfer money to anyone you’ve never met in person. You should carefully check out any unsolicited business proposals originating in Togo before you commit any funds, provide any goods or services, or undertake any travel. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a U.S. citizen in trouble, ask him/her to call the Embassy directly at (228) 22 61 54 70.
Please check the Embassy website for the most current information on fraud in Togo.
While you are traveling in Togo, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. Photographing subjects affiliated with the government of Togo, including official government buildings, border crossings, checkpoints, police stations, military bases, utility buildings, airports, government vehicles, and government or military personnel, is strictly prohibited, and local authorities will confiscate film and cameras. Government buildings are not always clearly identifiable, as they vary from being very well marked to not being marked at all.
In some places, driving under the influence can land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Togo, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Persons violating Togolese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Togo are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical facilities in Togo are limited and of very poor quality; emergency medical care is inadequate. Availability of medications through local pharmacies is unreliable, and travelers should carry all necessary medications, properly labeled, with them. Malaria, a serious and sometimes fatal disease, is prevalent in Togo.
Safety and Security
You are urged to avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Togo experiences periodic violence, strikes, and political tensions, especially during the lead-up to elections. Land borders with Ghana and Benin are sometimes shut down during elections for any of these three countries. The March 2010 Presidential election was largely non-violent with only minor incidents reported during the period. Since June 2011, Togo has also experienced student protests in Lomé, Kara, and Dapaong. These protests have sometimes turned violent, prompting the universities to close for days or weeks. The most recent election in July 2013 was generally considered peaceful and a success. However, protests and demonstrations by opposition groups periodically occur with little or no notice.
Armed robbery at sea and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea remain threats for the Government of Togo and its regional neighbors. While governments and regional organizations have taken some steps to combat the issues, concern remains over the reported number of incidents and level of violence of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea. If you are visiting any coastal areas in Togo, you should be alert to the threats of armed robbery at sea and piracy and move inland if you detect a potential threat. 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.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Togo, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. While some major thoroughfares in urban parts of Togo are paved, many secondary streets are not, and they can become severely flooded when it rains. Driving conditions are hazardous throughout Togo due to the presence of pedestrians, large swarms of small motorcycles, disorderly drivers (moped, car and truck drivers), livestock on the roadways, and the poor condition of the roads, which often contain deep potholes. Overland travel off the main network of roads generally requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Many drivers in Togo do not obey traffic laws and most traffic signals do not function properly. Drivers should be prepared for the possibility that other drivers may run red lights or stop signs or drive in the wrong direction on one-way streets.
Nighttime travel is dangerous. Poorly marked checkpoints, often manned by armed, undisciplined soldiers, exist throughout the country, including in the capital. Banditry, including demands for bribes at checkpoints, has been reported on major inter-city highways, including the Lomé-Cotonou coastal highway. You should be aware of your surroundings and drive defensively. At official checkpoints, Togolese security officials prefer that you approach with your interior light on, and have your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance ready.
If driving in Lomé, you should be aware of the staged-accident ploy. In this scam, a motorbike will cut in front of you, cause a collision, and draw a crowd, which can turn hostile if you attempt to leave the scene of the so-called accident. Such encounters appear designed to extort money from the vehicle driver. Pedestrians have also staged accidents. Genuine accidents can also draw hostile crowds. You should always keep car doors locked and windows closed, and have a cell phone in the vehicle. If you are involved in an accident and feel you are in danger (e.g. if your vehicle is attacked or you are threatened) you should leave the scene, drive to a safe location such as your hotel or a police station, and alert both the police and the U.S. embassy. Carjackings are periodically reported in Togo and tend to increase during the summer months and holiday seasons.