Lomé, the capital city of Togo, is not too far from my current overseas posting in Accra, Ghana, and as such was the perfect place to go to for a quick weekend break. Having said that, “not too far” in some parts of the world can be a relative concept as seemingly short journeys are at the mercy of numerous potential problems such as decaying roads, chaotic traffic, and the large number of police check-points which may well require unofficial ‘facilitation’ payments before you can proceed. As a result, a journey that should have taken less than three hours took more than five, and this was before we had the pleasure of dealing with Togo’s immigration officials who almost deserve a round of applause for some of the reasons they conjured up for us not being able to enter the country – barriers which a cynic might suggest were attempts to lure yet more cash out of our pockets. But being a rule-loving, by-the-book German who has worked for numerous organisations who fight against corruption I was having none of it, meaning that after about an hour and a half of pleading with puppy eyes, the immigration official got bored of making up fake laws and let us in.

road in lome togo

Most side streets in Lome are not tarmacked, but you do get funky sculptures like the one on the right in some front yards

Fortunately after we’d finally made it to Lomé and arrived at our Hotel some local friends were already waiting for us. We were all in desperate need of a drink after losing so much time and so our friends wasted not a second before showing us what Lomé had to offer in terms of nightlife. We went to a few bars, roadside watering holes, a really funny karaoke bar where we murdered Michael Jackson’s Beat it, and finally onto a few nightspots including Privilege which is apparently West Africa’s biggest nightclub. Togolese people love dancing and we happily mingled with local groovers on the dance floors while trying not to look completely out of place, dancing to French-African rhythms which we clearly hadn’t grown up listening to. What really surprised and impressed me were the amount of men who were dancing which is not something I’m used to having spent so much time in Germany and England. Even in the roadside bars, men would suddenly stand up and do an impromptu dance to their favourite song proving, as if it needed proving, that  having a Y chromosome doesn’t mean you can’t possess rhythm!

togolese men dancing lome togo

Some of the many Togolese men that stood up for an impromptu dance

Lome togo nightclub

Lome togo nightclub 2

The next morning we explored Lomé by day, including a visit to the Gran Marché, a big outdoor market that sells all kinds of African masks, bags, jewellery and clothes. It was a fascinating market and I was hugely impressed by the wide variety and quality of the goods that were sold – many of which lured money out of my pocket, but legally and not against my wishes!

gran marchee lome togo

grand marche lome togo

The entire length of Togo’s capital is set by the beach, so naturally we wanted to check out the coastline as well. It is not really a place for swimming as the water isn’t the cleanest in the world and the current can be dangerously strong, but the beach itself is clean and there are a number of beach bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a refreshing beer and some tasty food. We had opted for a fresh seafood lunch while watching the local fishermen bringing in the catch of the day with an absolutely enormous fishing net when all of a sudden our friend received a mysterious phone call. Apparently one of the biggest Togolese pop stars, the singer Kollins, announced that he was shooting his latest music video and we were invited to come along. Of course we couldn’t decline such an unexpected and somewhat random offer.

street promenade lome togo

beach lome togo fishermen

beach lome togo 2

The video was shot at a local sports stadium and we watched the extremely talented dancers being filmed. The way they all danced and moved to the rhythm of the song was mesmerizing and it clearly came perfectly naturally to them. We were asked if we wanted to be in the background of the video and thought that this would be quite fun. Although when they asked us if we could do some freestyle dancing half of us, myself included, politely declined. There is, after all, an important difference between casually dancing in a nightclub after a few beers, and dancing in a music video alongside professional dancers!

dancers lome togo

dancer Kollins Lome Togo

The weekend went by very quickly but I have to say that all things considered, I really liked Lomé. It is very clean and laid back compared to the craziness that is Accra, and the locals are super friendly and open-minded towards foreigners (apart from immigration officials, of course). So all in all a great weekend getaway which I would recommend to anyone who finds themselves in this corner of the world.

Practical info:

  • Getting to Lomé from Accra: tro tros cost 21 Ghana Cedis ($6) to the border town of Aflao and journey times vary between 3 and 5 hours.
  • Visa: visas can be obtained on arrival but after the problems we encountered it might be more hassle-free to arrange a visa at the Togolese embassy in Accra. Costs are $20.
  • Getting around Lomé: most people use motorbike taxis but drivers usually don’t have spare helmets, so if that is not safe enough for you, you should opt for a normal taxi. Always negotiate the fare beforehand –  which I think you knew already. 🙂
  • Where to stay: we stayed in a French-run hotel called Le Galion. It has an awesome bar and restaurants and always has live music at the weekends. The rooms are very simple, but clean. We paid CFA Franc 17,000 ($30) for a triple room with aircon.

About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

38 Thoughts on “An unexpected opportunity to hang out with pop stardom in Togo

  1. Love your photos! This looks like a great place to find some nightlife.
    Linda Aksomitis recently posted…5 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About the Ohio River and McAlpine Locks & DamMy Profile

  2. I don’t know what I loved more- the fact that you waited out the immigration officials until they relented or the pop star encounter. Think it’s a tie:)
    Matilda recently posted…Rwanda Gorilla Trekking: Tips for An Unforgettable ExperienceMy Profile

  3. Wow, how much fun to be in the music video, albeit in the background – you should’ve had a few beers and gone for the full on free styling! 🙂 And I love that a ‘short’ journey out there is 5 hours!
    Heather Cole recently posted…Le Suite di Giulietta – romance in VeronaMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:34 am said:

      It is interesting how perceptions change when you live in a different culture. Back in Peru I even thought an overnight bus of 12 hours is a short journey. In Germany, where I grew up, I could be in a completely different country within 12 hours….

  4. Love the pictures! I have never had the desire to visit Togo but my interest has definitely sparked now. Some great useful information in this post which I will be sure to look at if I ever to take the plunge to travel here.
    Denise recently posted…Cliffs of Moher | Liscannor Clare IrelandMy Profile

  5. Togo has not been on my radar but it looks like a really interesting place. Thanks for the information and inspiration!

  6. what a great experience! It’s wonderful when you somehow end up taking part in LOCAL things rather than being a tourist proper
    Fiona Maclean recently posted…The Colony Grill Room, Beaumont HotelMy Profile

  7. I haven’t heard of Togo but well this gave me a reason to consider it. I love those bags by the way.
    Karla | karlaroundtheworld recently posted…Must have Go Pro AccessoriesMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:40 am said:

      I would love to explore the rest of the country in future actually. I liked what I saw immediately, which is always a good sign I guess.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experiences in Togo. It’s so interesting to hear about places that are not part of the typical beaten path. The fact that you ended up in a music video is one of those classic, unforgettable experiences.
    Jackie recently posted…How to Get the Most Out of Your United MilesMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:42 am said:

      I love exploring these off the beaten path locations too. Working in international development luckily gives me access to many remoter places that you can usually not visit as a tourist, and I am really grateful for that.

  9. Never heard of this place but looks interesting. And definitely u had a great time out there in every aspect.
    Himanshu recently posted…30 Black & White Images Of Spiti ValleyMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:43 am said:

      I have never heard about Togo until I moved to Ghana either. It is a shame it is not more well-known, as it is a really nice country with some very lovely people.

  10. Well done for standing your ground with the immigration officer! I hate those kind of border crossing but it’s great to see this first negative impression didn’t last and Lome was overall so welcoming. I’ve never thought of Togolese pop music but just found Kollins on youtube and playing one of his songs as I write 🙂
    Marta recently posted…A day on the Irish sea with a Dublin bay cruiseMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:44 am said:

      I have never been exposed to french African music before, but I really liked Kollin’s music actually. Glad you found him on YouTube. 🙂

  11. I love the look of this place 🙂 Love the sand, water palms. and I am a sucker for good night life when traveling. Gotta add it to the list I guess 🙂
    Kimberly Erin @ walkaboot.ca recently posted…Friendship on the Road: What Travel is all aboutMy Profile

  12. You guys live in a fascinating part of Africa. I love reading your stories. As someone who loves Africa I have yet to explore the West properly so it is great to read your stories
    Mar Pages recently posted…Chapung Se Bali, Ubud’s sexy hip resortMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:48 am said:

      Thanks so much. We are yet to explore more of the rest of Africa too. There are so many other countries I would love to see. One day… 🙂

  13. Oh I encountered some of those police men who make up laws, too. Finally, our German rule-loving is good for something 😛

    But I’m glad you had so much fun despite the delay! Togo seems very beautiful
    Kathrin recently posted…The Story of NottinghamMy Profile

  14. I was in Lome a few years ago, and yes, when I got my visa in Accra, the border crossing was hassle-free.
    What I most liked about the place was the music I heard – I didn’t know much about French African music before but I loved listening to it!
    Monica recently posted…English is a weird language (Animals)My Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:50 am said:

      I think next time I will get my visa beforehand too. You just never know what mood the border official is in. I really liked the french African music too. It was really uplifting and it was a lot of fun to dance to it with the locals.

  15. It’s a shame the water isn’t great for swimming, because the beach looked like a little slice of paradise!
    Dave from Daves Travel Pages recently posted…Ancient Agora Sightseeing Tips – Discover AthensMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:51 am said:

      Yes indeed. The beach covered the entire length of Lome, so it was huge. It wasn’t very busy either as Lome doesn’t get many tourists at all. There were just a few locals and fishermen. Heaven!

  16. Interesting. It’s not that frequent that someone writes about lesser visited African countries.

    Great looking sculpture!
    Hugo recently posted…Best things to do at Península de ZapataMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:53 am said:

      Thanks Hugo. That’s the beauty of working in international development. I get the chance to visit and live in many countries and places other people don’t get the chance to visit. I am a lucky girl!

  17. Sounds like you had a lot of fun at the nightclub, especially after the five hour drive, haha. These are the moments that always stick with you when you travel. 🙂
    Vlad recently posted…An Apartment With A View In BarcelonaMy Profile

  18. This looks like an entertaining place. Also, I love the color of the sand. I’d love to go there and relax.
    zof recently posted…The Prettiest Travel Spot in HerzegovinaMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 20, 2015 at 5:55 am said:

      The sand was really golden. I loved it too. It is a great beach to relax as there are not many tourists, so you have the entire beach almost all to yourself.

  19. West Africa is a place that people don’t typically think about visiting. Nice to learn something about it.

    • Tammyonthemove on October 21, 2015 at 5:18 am said:

      Yes, West Africa hasn’t really got the same tourism infrastructure as some of the Eastern or South African countries. But if you don’t mind that as a traveller and would like to visit more off the beaten path destinations, West Africa is your place.

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