Traveling Abroad - Making it to Africa

In October 2010, the AtlasFamily.Org Genealogy Research Team was contacted by AfricanAncestry.Com regarding a trip that was being set up by ARKJammers, Inc. to the country of Cameroon in West Africa. The trip, which is officially called the Ancestry Reconnection Program,  is for "invited African Americans who have traced their DNA to Cameroon. With the support of the American DNA company African Ancestry and jointly with local authorities, the ARK Jammers will host an unforgettable set of programs and events including tours and ceremonies showcasing the geographical, ethnic, historical, and cultural diversity of the country that their ancestors came from."  AFGRT was selected to participate in this program because of the fact that our earliest traceable ancestor's DNA was traced back to Cameroon.

Additionally, the program will feature the following activities:
  • A Welcome Home Ceremony held under the auspices of the head of government
  • Receptions, historical site visits, and traditional ceremonies
  • Attendance at the ARK Jammers campaign kickoff concert as special guests
  • An unforgettable five-day stay in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon
  • A fantastic two-day stay in Kribi, home of one of Cameroon's gorgeous beaches
  • Formal request for a national identity card for all African Ancestry DNA descendants of Cameroon.
As excited as we were to go, we knew that a number of things needed to be done and considered so we could participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Bare Essentials

PASSPORT:  As of October 2010, the cost for a US Passport Book is $135.  A passport book allows you the opportunity to travel throughout the world and will carry your VISA to enter countries.  Additionally, if one is applying for a passport book, they may find it advantageous to apply for a US Passport Card.  A passport card "can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry."  As of October 2010, the cost for an initial card is only $55 and $33 for renewals.   Passport photos are required along with the passport book and card and can usually be taken at the location of passport application.  Fees in total can be upwards of $205 for all items mentioned.   If expedited service is required, the fee is increased.

Basic turnaround times for passports are 4 to 6 weeks.  During certain times of the year, turnarounds are either shorter or longer.

VISA:  Cameroon requires that you apply for a VISA to gain entrance into the country.  As of October 2010, the cost is $141.  Unfortunately, due to the international economic downturn, a number of Cameroonian US Embassies outside of Washington, DC. have been closed.  In lieu of this, one will have to send their VISA application in and make arrangements to have it picked up.

AIRFARE:  Of course, this is the most obvious thing that is needed.  On the other hand, one thing that has to be taken into account is the length of time that one must fly to get to Africa from the US.  Most flights will leave from a US location of departure (Such as New York's JFK or Washington DC's Dulles) to Europe.  The next leg goes from Europe to Africa.  When taking into account layovers and flight times, the total amount of travel is upwards of 18 hours, one way.  Pricing depends on the travel season and current airline prices.

IMMUNIZATIONS:  Cameroon requires that all visitors be vaccinated for Yellow Fever.  Pricing for obtaining this vary, although it may be covered by your health insurance plan.

A Step Further

OTHER IMMUNIZATIONS: A travel nurse may also advise immunizations for the following when traveling to portions of Africa:  Malaria, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid Fever, Polio, a Standard Flu Shot, Meningitis and a Tetanus Shot.  The cost for these is also dependent on current insurance coverage.

INSECT PROTECTION: Additionally, the travel nurse may advise you to use products such as Ultrathon Insect Repellent (for the skin) and Sawyer Insect Repellent (for clothing).  Since many insects carry diseases, this will help protect you from being bitten.

 Important Notes

FOOD AND WATER INTAKE: Although we'd love to take in the local fair as much as possible, we'd being doing so at a possible price.  A travel nurse will advise you to be careful about the foods you eat and the water you drink as food and water borne illness is prevalent.  Sound advice states that one should only eat steaming hot foods that are not grown in the ground, or fruit that has a thick skin or peel.

In their totality, all of these things may seem overwhelming.  On the other hand, one must keep in mind the wonderful experience that lies ahead!


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