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Blog > Travel Mode adventures in Africa (part 2)

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On the previous post about this grand adventure, our intrepid explorers Andry and Maret (aka andry1961 and cerres) from Estonia were driving south to Senegal, in the middle of the Budapest to Bamako Rally.

Slowly, the landscape became greener and transformed from desert to savannah, as they head down to Saint Louis. The French colonial city was the capital of Senegal until the middle of the last century, and is located at the mouth of the Senegal River. Their place for the night is the Hotel La Poste, a very important stop in the Aéropostale, which was an old air route connecting France to the French colonies in Africa and South America.

A grey van with the Postcrossing logo is parked in front of the Hotel de La Poste

There’s an airmail museum inside, but you can see bits of its history everywhere, from the carpets to the patio and even the rooms. Pilots used to rest here before their perilous journeys across the Atlantic, including Jean Mermoz, who first flew the 3,058 kms (1,900 mi) from Dakar in Senegal, to Natal in Brazil in 19 hours, 35 minutes, carrying 122 kg of mail on his plane.

Andry and Maret stand behind a painted screen, with their heads peeking through holes. The screen has an illustration of a plane with two pilots

Turns out, they arrived in town on All Saints’ Day, and the post office was closed… so they had to delay their departure the next day. This wasn’t a hardship though, as Saint Louis was their favorite city in the entire trip! The next morning, a beautiful post office opened their doors to them, and they could finally mail their postcards. Postage prices to Europe were 500 CFA (≈ €0.76, roughly the same in US dollars), 550 CFA (≈ €0.84) to the USA and 650 CFA (≈ €0.99) to the rest of the world, and the fastest postcard arrived in Germany in just 9 days.

The image features 3 panels: on the left, the façade of an old post office can be seen. On the right, are two pictures of Andry in different post offices, writing postcards

The next country on the rally was Guinea, which was the biggest question mark for them. They made their way to the town of Labé, one of the only four places with a post office in the country, but their journey was a bumpy one. The roads they drove through in Guinea were in bad shape, and consisted mostly of potholes.

A van passes two trucks stuck in the mud, in the middle of a forest

Crossing a mountain on their way, they met two trucks which had broken down in the middle of the road while passing each other, leaving just a narrow gap of road. They retracted their mirrors (and bellies) and miraculously squeezed between the mountainside and the truck unscathed, making their way to Labé at nightfall.

Andry walks on a sidewalk that is in bad state, to the local post office, a run-down building.

The next day, they located the post office (which the owner of the campsite/hotel they stayed at doubted the existence of), but things did not go well… While preparing the trip, Andry and Maret had checked the postage on La Poste Guineénne’s website and even wrote them a letter to double-check, because the prices were so outlandish that they thought perhaps there had been a mistake with a decimal point… On top of this, the postage stamps they had acquired before the trip didn’t seem to be accepted (despite being valid), and communication was difficult. The price of sending a postcard via normal mail or registered mail were both equally outrageously high, so they opted for the latter, but even the registered mail stickers were hard to find. People were called, discussions ensued, stickers were located and they were finally able to fill out the forms and stamp their postcards with the day’s postmark.

On a table, colorful stamps from Guinea on different topics can be seen

These postcard are now making their way to the recipients (the first one reached its destination in 39 days). And now for postage prices, which came into effect on April 2021: sending a letter to Europe costs 88,000 GNF (≈ €9.61), while registered mail costs 95,000 GNF (≈ €10.44); mail to the USA costs 104,000 GNF (≈ €11.42) for a normal letter, and 111,000 GNF (≈ €12.20) for registered mail… wow! Could this be the country with the highest postage in the world?! Let us know if you stumble on any other country with higher rates!

Andry and Maret write their postcards at the post office, while postal workers observe

They made it to Sierra Leone on November 7. This was the last country of the rally, and as they crossed the border, they were hit by the only rain of the trip. In the capital Freetown, an impressive committee awaited the participants, including the country’s president!

Andry and Maret's van crosses the finish line in Freetown. On the right side, Maret stands in front of a banner announcing the finish line.

They made the 7 km journey from their hotel to the post office using public transportation, marveling at the only traffic rule that seemed to apply to all these countries (except Morocco): follow the other driver. A red light is not a mandatory stop, and the give way sign is also just a warning of an intersection. The first postal worker they found was uncooperative (first, there were no postcards, then their stamps could not be used…) and made their task difficult… but luckily, a friendly gentleman came to their rescue, and not only did he help locate some postcards, he also took them to the third floor, from where their postcards were sent to all around the world.

On the left side picture, Andry watches as a postal worker postmarks his cards. On the right, a busy mail sorting room, with cupboards on all walls and boxes on the floor

The gentleman was Donald Thomas, the current postmaster and pastor of the Methodist church, who treated them as friends. English is the official language in Sierra Leone, so communication was much easier here than in previous countries. Among other things, they learned that postcards mailed to Estonia are sent through Germany, but mail to Lithuania next door would go through the Netherlands, and mail to Finland would travel through Belgium.

Andry and a postal work stand in front of a mail sorting cupboard, figuring out in which cubicle to put each postcard

Despite also having gone through a recent monetary reform that shaved a few zeros to their currency, the stamps they had procured were still valid until the end of the year. Pffew! International postage prices from Sierra Leone were 20 SLL (≈ €1.1), and some of the postcards they sent from there arrived in less than 2 weeks.

Since this was the last day of their trip, they traveled again to the post office the next day, to donate their intact travel medicine supplies, undistributed gifts (soccer balls, pens and notebooks for the children, etc.), donations from another Estonian team… and Elvis.

The staff of the post office, an oversized teddy bear and postmaster Donald Thomas pose for a picture with Andry and Maret

Elvis was their daughter’s teddy bear, who thought that the bear could be a pillow for her mom during the trip, a mascot during the day, and at the end of the rally, it could be used to make someone else happy. When they met the pastor, they made a joint decision that the Elvis would go to him, so that he could find a good home for him. Seeing the teddy bear, Donald mentioned that they did have small crying children in the church, so Elvis could be their comforter. They left Elvis with a t-shirt of the Estonian Postcrossing stamp.

Unexpectedly, they managed to get a Liberian visa 15 minutes after walking into their embassy in Freetown… so they decided to extend their trip a little further south, and make one more stop before flying back to Europe.

Flag of Liberia, which has a white star on a blue background on the top left corner, and red stripes in the remaining space.

Have you noticed how the flag of Liberia is really similar to the one of the USA? This is because the country was founded by former black slaves from the United States and the Caribbean, which moved here at the beginning of the 19th century. The country was the first African republic to declare independence, but its history hasn’t been smooth, with several coups and wars since then. They use US dollars in parallel with their own currency today, and since elections are coming this year, everyone was talking about them. With a taxi driver, they chatted about wedding customs: for instance, grooms must get the approval of the bride’s parents in order to marry, but this is made difficult when families have a history of fighting in different sides of the conflict. Additionally, they heard about a strange historical “tax”: $49 must be paid to the bride’s family, the modern-day equivalent of two cows.

On the left picture, the building of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, which serves as a post office. On the right side, a rundown posbox from Liberia Post, in tones of pink and blue

The main post office of Liberia Post is located in the building of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. There, they were immediately directed to the philately department, which had a very decent selection of stamps… but not so many postcards. After some searching, postcards were also found — two on the first day and three more of different types on the next day. Understandably, sending postcards is not popular in this country either, as Liberia is not a touristic destination, and there were also none to be found on the streets or in the history museum.

On the left, a mail sorting room. On the right, Andry writes some postcards while postal workers observe.

Here too, the post office manager gave these rare visitors a tour (which they reciprocated with Estonian Kalev chocolate, as they had been doing in all their post office visits) and then got down to the business of sending some mail. They noticed as they were postmarking the postcards that the date stamp was still set to August 2014… Had no one used it since then? 😅

A Liberian postmark, with the date 15 August 2014 on it

Postage for postcards to the USA were 350 LRD (≈ €2.19), and 500 LRD (≈ €3.2) everywhere else. The first postcard arrived to its destination in 16 days.

Liberia is where this adventure comes to its end, and where our heroes take their flight back to Estonia! Andry and Maret, thank you for this amazing travel report, and for sharing it with the community too. It’s fascinating to read about the challenges of sending mail from these countries, which we rarely get a glimpse into. Thank you for sending so many postcards from all these special countries as well, a rare treat in Postcrossing!

Hurray for postal adventures! 🎉

63 comments so far

Rosario_Sannino, Italy
Wow such an interesting story and journey!
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samquito, United States of America
the trip sound wonderful. glad you had a somewhat smooth trip and hope another adventure comes this year 2023 and reported on postcrossing.
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queenofc, Germany
Wow, how interesting ! And how much we take everything for granted here in Europe!
And how lovely and welcoming people reacted on that trip!
Great job, you two travellers ! Wish I was amongst the recipients.
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pmsobon, Switzerland
Absolutely brilliant trip reportage!
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mdmsamm, Canada
I love the adventure through your experiences….you both sounds so incredible awesome
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h1ckstead, Poland
What happened to the car?
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bandcrab, United States of America
What a cool story! Thanks for sharing.
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Cheryll, Suriname
I was about to ask also what happened with the car 😄

Great stories from the different postoffices,
thanks for sharing!
once again: you made an amazing travel!
good luck 👍
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Kot12, Russia
Very interesting!
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beesknees, United States of America
Wow - makes you appreciate more the things we take for granted. What a journey - Bravo!
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suncassie, United States of America
Great stories. I love knowing how post works in different countries. Hope all your cards got to their destinations.
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Judi-Wildflower, United States of America
Thank you for sharing. What a wonderful adventure....something that you will remember for the rest of your lives.
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Flippie, Canada
I looooooove the story, Thank you for sharing!
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ladymerry, Canada
Thanks for sharing this story.
I really enjoyed reading it!
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Starfevre, United States of America
Wow, that's pretty interesting. I think I might actually enjoy travelling if my trip was like this (I'm a homebody at heart).
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Steffi67, Germany
Wow, what a great report. I had to laugh several times. I recognize some of what has been written, since at the moment I am travelling in Ghana. An outstanding experience, a country I love at first sight. But postcards are obviously as rare as stamps. It will be my main struggle to find both. The rest here is unbelievably great. And people are the best ever. And after this reportI would love to extend my expedition to more African countries, too. Thanks for sharing!!!
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Mosshumla, Sweden
10€ for a postcard from Guinea abroad? That's indeed outrageous! And I guess that the wages there aren't comparable to European wages.
Overall I was shocked by the prices for postage. No wonder, that there are so few African postcrossers.
But such a fascinating trip these two have made. It was a thrilling read. Thank you!
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ruthkepler, United States of America
This was so interesting and educational to read; thank you. It makes me a little sad we in USA have such limited knowledge of current African societies.
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Poste, United States of America
Thank you so very much for sharing your Epic Adventure and enjoy being home again. Elvis to comforter is especially awesome!
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kburrell, United States of America
What an amazing journey! Thank you so much for sharing your adventure!
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jm143, United States of America
Thank you for the wonderful stories of finding a way to connect through postcards. In the Postcrossing forum for Africa a few months ago, I participated in a lively discussion on why there are so few Postcrossers from West and Central Africa. Your blog entries provide some wonderful first-person accounts on the state and use of a postal facility in some of these countries. I hope they'll help other readers and Postcrossers to understand the experience of others and be grateful for the postal service they do have :)
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Andrepenta, Brazil
Adorei o relato de uma experiência histórica e percebe-se que é um país humilde. Porém é da humilde que eu amo.
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sutan, Indonesia
Such a fascinating postal trip you had and it's a well-written story, a great one to learn a bit about Senegal and Liberia. I hope I would be able to do such a postal trip once in my lifetime... of course, with Postcrossing Travel Mode too! (I did once already)
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Ahm, Malaysia
Love reading this travelogue as it gives us brief knowledge of the town/country visited & thanks to both of ‘em for not giving up despite every hurdles & event on their way. Kudos! I hope to read more blog of this kind.
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Robin67, Austria
Absolutely intrigueing to read. I'll have to read this again and again.

Many years ago I had a penfriend in Freetown, then her letters stopped and the next thing I found out was, that there was war. :-(

I wish I could go on journeys like that and make other Postcrossers extra happy with such rare and exotic cards, but I wonder whether my determination would exceed my frustration!?

I still keep thinking about places I have visited for just a few hours and did not manage to get cards from (Mechelen, Haarlem,...)! :-D So I think I would be extra unsuitable for such a formidable trip!

Thank you for this great, great story!!! :-)))
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WMiddel, Netherlands
Great to read! Thank you for sharing your adventure!
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MAHADEV_M, India
Nice adventure story...would be fun to receive a card from a postcrosser in travel mode...
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HM, Netherlands
What a great adventure!
Must be a lot of work in advance to sort out visa route hotels etc. Hope to see you in other new destinations.
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Geminiscp, Portugal
***awesome adventure!*** Thanks for sharing it with us. :)
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jeanette_de_vries, Netherlands
Kudos for your tenacity!
What a special travelogue.
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ave, United States of America
Wonderful to see most the of the post offices open and thriving! I've mailed quite a few Postcrossing cards from various African countries (Congo, Central African Rep., Gabon, Kenya, S. Africa, Tanzania) and have had similarly positive experiences. The postal clerks and postmasters are generally very helpful and welcoming!
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Asato, Russia
What a fantastic and epic journey! So interesting! Thank you for sharing!
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HookedonPostcards, Canada
Thank you for sharing! Really enjoyed reading both Part 1 and Part 2, and appreciate the addition of photos to help us visualize your amazing adventure. Kudos to you, Andry and Maret, for completing the adventurous Budapest to Bamako Rally! Congratulations for your persistence in locating Post Offices, postcards, and stamps and for your persuasive techniques in getting them mailed, seemingly at great odds - and certainly at some expense! - in a number of situations.
It looks like you made a lot of terrific acquaintances and made some new friends.
What a wonderful journey! You are such exemplary examples of Postcrossing Ambassadors!
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Mona_Berlin, Germany
Thanks for sharing!!!
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Zfirearm, Australia
The postage in Liberia is so expensive.
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cerres, Estonia
Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. Thanks to Meiadeleite for adapting the story to fit on this page. It's true, the trip was great and not only because of visiting post offices, but because of countries, nature, culture and especially people - both locals and participants. Thanks for sharing your own Afrikan experience. We sent the car back in a container, but some participants also sold it in Freetown or drove the car back.
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revode, United States of America
Amazing! Thanks for sharing all of this. So glad you got to go.
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Pangolin, United States of America
I learned so much from your journey. Thanks! And I loved that rusty pink mail box.
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MiddLin, United States of America
At least one of the postmark stamps in the Liberia post office has been used since 2014, because a Postcrosser mailed me a letter from that very post office two years ago!
Thanks for sharing your adventure!
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mcbuchanan, Canada
Only 4 post offices in all of Guinea....did I read and understand that right? Wow!
Great story!
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Goldberry59, Netherlands
Very interesting story, thanks for sharing!
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1Suzanne, United Kingdom
This is an incredible trip. Awe inspiring.
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silvy, Netherlands
lovely to reasd and learn more about these countries.
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AnMiSa, Germany
It is thrilling to read about this challenging trip. And it is always interesting to find out more about stamp prices and mail travel times. Sometimes it is a miracle. Would have loved to receive such a rare card.
Thank you for the report.
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Ssabalongo, Uganda
Guys, if you plan to come to Uganda, please let me know.
We can have a postcrossing meetup !

- Mandar
(Only active postcrosser in Uganda !)
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Alberto99, Italy
What an amazing adventure!!
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orange_memo, United States of America
What an amazing story and trip! Thanks for sharing.
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leaflets, China
An adventure!
A story!
A legend!
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Destiny62, Belgium
What a fabulous journey and entertaining story! Thanks for having shared.
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duncanpjames, United Kingdom
What an adventure. we are so lucky in Europe that we have Postal Services.
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Kukulka_Mukulka, Russia
Today I received a postcard from Guinea from Andry1961. I couldn't imagine what an exciting journey she had made. Thank you so much for having the opportunity to be a part of this incredible story. New journeys and discoveries.
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Friz, Italy
Thought Liberia was more expensive. Its still missing in my collection. Seems that nobody uses Postal services there and the date on the postmark (2014) confirmed my personal opinion.
Great Challenge! TKS for sharing.
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Luziaceleste, Brazil
So many nice details in those adventures. Congrats guys and thank you for sharing that borders do not linit our postal experience at all!
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isagv, Germany
Great to read about your travels. Thank you for sharing.
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NIDUSKA, Finland
Thank You
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steffl, Germany
Thanks for sharing this great story! :)
I just wonder, what happend to the car?? :O
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ChinnOir, Ireland
Great story, thank you for sharing it. Prices for postage should make us appreciate the low cost of stamps and the postage service here! and I'm wondering too about the car..?
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yBenP, Hong Kong
Excellent!
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triplightly, United States of America
What a wonderful postal and cultural adventure! Thank you for sharing.
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hippvs, Poland
Awesome trip!
Was pleasure to read.
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heusba7, Germany
Thank you so much for sharing your great experiance. Love reading it.
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reiselustig, Germany
Wow - simply Wow! Fantastic trip - I would love to expreience something like that :-) You made a great job in finding all this post offices - thank you soo much for sharing these experiences (and to Ana for tellign them here!)
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rcornelison, United States of America
Thank you for sharing and showing pictures. Very fascinating.
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