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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! 🎉

A map of Europe and Africa, tracing the Budapest to Bamako rally itinerary, through central Europe and the coast of Africa

Sometime ago, postcrossers Andry (aka andry1961) and Maret (aka cerres) from Estonia signed up for the Budapest to Bamako Rally (also known as B2B), and decided to take Postcrossing with them on the trip. What is the B2B, you might ask? It is a bit of a crazy idea! This minimally assisted navigation race from Europe to Africa had its debut in the same year as Postcrossing itself, and celebrates its 17th anniversary in a few days, on December 26. In the rally, participants have to rely on their luck, resources and skills to make their way from Budapest (Hungary) to Bamako (Mali). These days, the rally ends in Freetown in Sierra Leone though, due to instability in Mali. There are no rescue helicopters, tow trucks, translators or guides: between the checkpoints and border crossings, everyone is on their own.

You might be thinking… what does a rally have to do with Postcrossing? 🤔 Well, Andry and Maret are well-traveled postcrossers, and part of their life goal is to visit a post office and send a postcard from every country they travel to… so naturally, they incorporated this mission into their adventure, and offered to share with us a glimpse of what this looks like in some countries along the way.

Andry and Maret's van crosses the start line of the rally, to much excitement

Although B2B officially started on October 21 in Budapest, for them, it started some days before that in Estonia, their home country. On their way there, they crossed Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, visiting postboxes and post offices along the way until finally reaching Hungary, for the start of the big adventure. Once things officially started, they drove through Slovenia, Italy, Monaco, France, Spain and Gibraltar, on their way to the African continent. We were thankful that their itinerary and schedule allowed a detour through northern Italy, where we were able to meet and cheer them on!

Andry and Maret meet Ana and Paulo, in Bolzano

On the evening of October 24th, Andry and Maret made it to Tangier in Morocco, to start the African leg of their adventure the next morning. They prepared for their postcard-sending mission by procuring stamps and postcards in advance, and researching post offices addresses… but it was still a challenge to make it work sometimes, as you will learn!

Andry and Maret write postcards at a Poste Maroc branch in Marrakesh

Using the Travel Mode, they were able to mail some postcards from Morocco, both from Tangier and Marrakesh, without too much difficulty. They tried to always get their postage cancelled with the date stamp, to make sure the postcards were really put on their way, which sometimes meant traveling to a different post office to see it happen. Postage for Europe is 9 MAD (≈ €0.81, roughly the same in US dollars), for the USA is 15 MAD (≈ €1.35), and 16.7 MAD for the rest of the world (≈ €1.5), and the fastest of these postcards arrived in Germany in just 7 days!

A long road in the desert. A sign warns of camel crossing

They then raced south through the endless desert roads of Western Sahara, a disputed territory with a complicated history that you can learn more about here. Dakhla, the capital city, used to be a fishing town and sits in a curious peninsula that juts out from the mainland. Andry and Maret tried their best to make it to a post office before it closed for the weekend, but every branch of Poste Maroc they visited turned them away, stating they were a bank and not a post office… so this was a tricky mission!

A branch of Poste Maroc

Finally, they were directed towards a mysterious unmarked slot on a corner wall and were reassured by the staff that this was the place to drop their postcards, so that they could then be forwarded to the sorting department and receive their cancellation… What a peculiar setup!

A mysterious slot in a corner of a white wall serves as postbox, where Andry mails his postcards

Through conversation with a seller at a copy-and-print kiosk, they realized postcards were not for sale anywhere, as a special permit was required to do so. Since not so many tourists came through there, it wasn’t worth it for the local sellers. It’s a good thing they came prepared! They received some very low Postcard IDs from this rarely visited territory (the lowest was EH-14), and the fastest postcard sent from there arrived in the Netherlands in just 12 days. The mysterious slot did its magic!

Onwards to Mauritania! On the way to the capital Nouakchott, Andry and Maret’s van got stuck in the desert sand… but luckily a team from Lithuania came to their rescue! Maret writes that the participants in the rally are all very supportive of each other. In the capital, they chose a hotel in front of the post office, to make things easier.

Andry and Maret's van needed to be towed in the desert...

When they got there, they realized the country had gone through a monetary reform in 2018, which moved a decimal point in their currency… and meant that all the stamps they had bought before leaving home (which were from 2017) were now invalid. 😔 They bought some new stamps, wrote their postcards… but in the meantime the post office had closed, and they ended up mailing their postcards from the mailboxes outside, along the busy street. This is when they realized the post office was guarded by armed forces at night, so their postcards had a police escort! The postage prices were similar to those in Morocco, 440 ouguiya (≈ €1.12) for Europe and 550 ouguiya (≈ €1.40) for mail to the USA.

A night stroll to mail postcards from a guarded postbox, and Andry settling their postage inside the post office

There are still a few countries left in Andry and Maret’s grand adventure, but this post is already very long… so we’ll save those for a part 2 of this report. Stay tuned for more, and let us know what you think!


Considered by many to be a mythical place with gold paved roads at the end of the world, Timbuktu does indeed exist… but it has seen better days. Once a bustling city in the center of many caravan routes through the African continent, it is now a struggling place, consumed by desertification, dwindling water supplies and years of war. Yet, despite its struggles, it still hasn’t lost its magical aura and its name continues to evoke images of remoteness and wonder.

Naturally, connecting with the world is not a priority in places like Timbuktu, where steady employment and disposable income are hard to come by. Problems with rebel fighting in Northern Mali in recent years have driven away tourism from the city, leaving many tourist guides unemployed.

Luckily for postcard lovers from around the world, Phil, Bintou and Ali run Postcards from Timbuktu, a service that helps unemployed guides in Timbuktu send postcards to supplement their income. Whether you’d like to surprise a loved one with a message from an exotic place, or just to add an exotic stamp to your collection, they can help you do it with just a few clicks. The postcards they send all around the world are precious, in both the collectible sense and, more importantly, to their livelihoods. Here is Mohamed, writing a batch of cards to send:

Postcards from Timbuktu

Each card costs $10, including postage which ranges between $2.20 to Europe and $3.75 to other continents. For context, people in Bamako (Mali’s capital) are making as little as $80–90/month… so it’s easy to understand that this isn’t really something they can afford to do for fun. Postcards travel from Bamako to Timbuktu and back to Bamako, before being shipped out of Mali. Each one of them will go through several motorcycle and plane rides on its journey to its recipients.

And now, an extra incentive to check out Postcards from Timbuktu: we were so pleased to learn how postcards are making a difference in this community that we decided to help! Postcrossing is sponsoring a giveaway of 5 postcards from Timbuktu, sent to random postcrossers.

To participate, all you need to do is to leave a comment below, sharing a fact you have learned about Timbuktu. Go discover its fascinating history, and come back to share your knowledge with everyone. And who knows… you might even find a postcard from there waiting on your mailbox soon! :)

This giveaway will be open for one week. The results will be chosen by Paulo's random number generator and announced on this post.

Postcards from Timbuktu

And the winners of this giveaway, as chosen by Paulo’s random number generator are… sfichialos, pinsonne, Amaya_Ithilwen, reimira and WHMeg. Congratulations — and thank you everyone for your enthusiastic participation on this giveaway!

PS – We got word from Phil that the team in Timbuktu is a little overwhelmed with orders at the moment. While this is great news for them, it also means that it will take some time for all postcards and other items to be delivered. So please be patient while you wait — we’re sure it will be worth it. :)


Madeleine (aka poissonrouge) is a Swiss teacher and the only postcrosser in Guinea (not to be confused with Guinea-Bissau or Equatorial Guinea). She has done a remarkable job of putting her adopted country on our map, by sending over 400 postcards from there… though this isn’t an easy job, as you will read on her interview!

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

I was reading a book in English, and I stumbled upon a new word for me: swap. To fully understand what a swap was, I googled it, and that’s how I discovered this postcards swapping project. I immediately loved the concept and I registered and sent my first cards at once. Now I really know what a swap is! :-)

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

Raising hens!

Poissonrouge's hens

Some time ago, I received three beautiful Senegalese hens. Now I am looking for a Senegalese rooster, to start a small breeding. After a couple of months, I shall be able to train other women to do it too.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

There are no mail carriers in Guinea, and hardly a few post offices.

Every week, my friends in Conakry fetch my post. They put it in a blue metal suitcase, and give the suitcase to a bus driver who drives the 600 km to Kissidougou once a week. The driver gives it to another friend in Kissidougou, and I go fetch it on my motorcycle. I am always eager to open it, as I never know what will be inside. Postcards and letters for me and my colleagues of course, among other gifts from friends everywhere in Guinea, as we have several suitcases travelin the whole country.

The blue suitcase

And when I want to send cards (that is, every week), I put them in the same blue suitcase, and it goes back to Conakry.

Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

It’s not about this very card specifically, but I collect cards about rice and cards about fields, so no wonder I cherish every rice field card.

Rice is the main food in Guinea: no rice, no life. I think seeing rice fields of different countries (or rice grains, or rice dishes), is very interesting. My Guinean friends love to see them too. They are amazed at this card especially, because a machine is doing all the work. In Guinea, men and women do all the work, sometimes with oxen. Here you have the harvest, Guinean style:

Have you inspired anyone else to join Postcrossing or start collections of their own?

My mother joined Postcrossing too some time after me, and then my sister. Unfortunately my sister stopped when she opened her own surgery. That was too already much work.

I tried to convince people in Guinea, but it’s very hard: sending a card costs what a poor family needs to eat for one day. And richer people misunderstand it as… a global dating service :-)

Is there anything that you are passionate about?

I am passionate about my job. I love all aspects of it (apart from accountancy). It could be called “helping people, especially women, to get self sufficient”. Training literacy teachers and trainers, writing or translating booklets in the Kissi language, teaching French and African literature, teaching how to make medical ointments or beauty creams, sewing, baking, … there are many useful things to do here.

But of course now with the ebola epidemic, I put all my strength in the fight against this disease. So instead of writing booklets about the medical uses of the papaya, it’s all about preventing ebola.