French is the official language of Côte d’Ivoire. Business correspondence, catalogues, and advertising materials prepared in French are essential to being readily understood by potential partners and buyers.
Business cards, or “cartes de visite” are widely used. U.S. businesspeople ordinarily have their title and their firm’s name translated into French. As a rule, business customs in Côte d’Ivoire are similar to, but perhaps more formal than, customs in the United States. Ivoirian managers in large commercial enterprises tend to follow a Western business dress code comparable to that of any large U.S. city and dress length for women tends to be longer than in the U.S. with skirts normally worn below the knee or longer. Tropical-weight suits and clothing are appropriate throughout the year and an umbrella is essential during the April to July and October to November rainy seasons. Some businesses close during the month of August, and high-level officials generally take vacation during the same period. Additionally, some businesses and shops close for lunch from 12:30 p.m. until 2:30 or 3:30 p.m. Banks are open until 4:00 PM on weekdays.
The Department of State provides information on travel to all countries, including Côte d’Ivoire:
Côte d’Ivoire requires U.S. citizens to have a valid Ivoirian visa for entry into Côte d’Ivoire, as well as a passport with more than six months of remaining validity. Americans should be aware that some major airlines and travel agents continue to misadvise travelers due to out-of-date information. U.S. Citizens traveling to Côte d’Ivoire should check with the nearest Ivoirian Embassy or Consulate for details regarding the latest visa procedures and fees. Côte d’Ivoire offers e-visas upon arrival via its e-visa website but travelers must have completed all the necessary enrollment procedures pre-departure. A printed copy of the e-visa receipt will be required before boarding a flight to Côte d’Ivoire. For additional information regarding documents to enter Côte d’Ivoire, please visit the U.S. Department of State Consular Affairs website. U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link(s): State Department Visa Website.
Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), which uses the West African CFA Franc (XOF), a convertible currency but one that is not easily exchanged outside the WAEMU region.
WAEMU has unified foreign-exchange regulations. Under these regulations, there are no restrictions for CFA transfers within the community, and designated commercial banks can approve routine foreign-exchange transactions inside the community. The transfer outside of the WAEMU community of the proceeds of liquidation of foreign direct investments no longer requires prior government approval. Transferring money outside the WAEMU is subject to prior authorization from the West African Central Bank (BCEAO).
There are three cellphone service providers in Côte d’Ivoire (Orange, MTN, and MOOV). There is 3G coverage throughout most of the country; 4G/LTE service is widely available in Abidjan. It is advisable for travelers to check with their cell phone service providers regarding international roaming possibilities, charges, and ability to use another carrier’s network. Travelers can buy SIM cards and data units easily at kiosks throughout Abidjan and in most major cities. Wi-Fi is available in most hotels. U.S. travelers to Côte d’Ivoire should bring adaptors as electrical outlets are European in style and 220 Volts.
Félix Houphouet-Boigny International Airport in Abidjan is Côte d‘Ivoire’s main airport. In terms of passenger and freight volume, the airport is one of the busiest in the region. International airlines providing service to Abidjan include Air Algérie, Air Burkina, Air Côte d’Ivoire, Air France, Air Senegal, ASKY, Brussels Airlines, CEIBA Intercontinental, Corsair, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Mauritania Airways, Middle East Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Rwanda Air, Tunis Air, and Turkish Airlines. Aéroport International d’Abidjan (AERIA), a private company, manages the Abidjan airport. Other cities in Côte d’Ivoire with domestic commercial flights are Bouaké, Korhogo, Man, Odienné, and San Pedro, which are serviced by Air Côte d’Ivoire.
French is the official language of Côte d’Ivoire. Business correspondence, catalogues, and advertising materials prepared in French are essential to being readily understood by potential buyers. English is a second (or third) language for some people; do not assume that English is widely spoken or well-understood. Certified interpretation services are available for hire and can cost approximately $300-$500 per day.
Travelers must bring with them a yellow World Health Organization booklet bearing a valid stamp for Yellow Fever inoculation, or risk being denied entry into Côte d’Ivoire. As of April 2023, the PCR test and COVID-19 vaccination are no longer required for departure and arrival in Côte d’Ivoire. Please visit the Ivoirian government’s Air Travel Declaration web site gouvernement de côte d’ivoire | declaration de déplacement par voie aérienne (deplacement-aerien.gouv.ci) for more information and updated COVID-19-related travel requirements. Appropriate malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended as is insect repellent to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever, which are endemic in Côte d’Ivoire. For more information on health-related travel issues in Côte d’Ivoire, travelers can visit the Center for Disease Control’s website. Travelers to Côte d’Ivoire should consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance, as the cost of a medical evacuation in cases of severe illness or injury can exceed $75,000.
Business visitors to Côte d’Ivoire often find the climate hot and humid. It is advisable to take precautions to avoid excessive fluid loss and dehydration from perspiration. Increased intake of non-alcoholic beverages is advised, as well as wearing loose-fitting cotton clothing. Excessive sun exposure should be avoided. Côte d’Ivoire is less than five degrees from the equator, and the sun is very intense. Sunburn will occur rapidly. Always use sun block with UVA and UVB protection (minimum SPF 30) when visiting the beach. Beaches near Abidjan can be dangerous because of treacherous surf, riptides, and undertows. Pools at large hotels are filtered, cleaned regularly, and are normally safe for swimming.
Many major hotels in Abidjan have their own water purification systems, though travelers should confirm this upon check-in. Tap water and ice should be avoided absent a confirmed purification system. Freezing water into ice cubes is not sufficient to kill amoeba and giardia parasites. Bottled water is widely available and safe to drink. Uncooked vegetables and salads may be eaten if they have been soaked in a diluted solution of bleach (one tablespoon in a gallon of water) or potassium permanganate for 15 minutes, then rinsed in potable water. Meat should always be thoroughly cooked. Cooked fresh fish and shrimp are generally safe. Pasteurized milk and milk products from sealed cartons or bottles are safe to consume, as are imported cheeses, butter, cream, and ice cream that has been properly stored.
There are many “polycliniques,” or private health care facilities, in Abidjan, including Polyclinique Farah in Marcory, which is located across the bridge from the Embassy and is frequently used by U.S. Embassy personnel. It is the largest private hospital in Abidjan, offering both in-patient and out-patient services, as well as imaging, laboratory services, and specialists for consultations. Groupe Médical du Plateau is another full-service private hospital, located in the heart of Abidjan’s Plateau business district. Most medical professionals at private health care facilities speak little or no English. Unfortunately, while there are ambulances that do eventually respond to medical emergencies, the quality of pre-hospital emergency care is poor, and response can be hindered by traffic jams.
Local pharmacies are well stocked with medications manufactured primarily in Europe. Prices are generally cheaper than in the United States. However, available supplies vary, and counterfeits are pervasive. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to bring a good supply of any essential medications.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Time in Côte d’Ivoire is GMT+0, which is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (from November to March) and four hours ahead the rest of the year, as Côte d’Ivoire does not observe daylight savings time. Businesses are normally open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. Business establishments and the government are normally closed on public holidays in Côte d‘Ivoire, though retail outlets, supermarkets, and restaurants are often open. The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan is closed on all the Ivoirian holidays listed below. Additionally, it is closed on the following U.S. Federal holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Juneteenth, Labor Day (U.S.), Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Some of the Ivoirian holidays observed are:
|New Year’s Day
|Labor Day (Ivoirian)
|Independence Day (Ivoirian)
|All Saints Day
|National Peace Day
|Revelation of the Qur’an
|End of Ramadan
|Feast of the Sacrifice
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings
Duty-free entry is permitted for apparel and personal effects that are for personal or household use by the traveler and are not for sale, and of instruments and tools for professional use. No customs or entry duty is required for visitors carrying laptop computers and cellular telephones for their own use. All other goods, as well as tobacco and alcoholic beverages, whether imported for personal use or sale, are subject to duty.
Travelers seeking to import any vehicle (including trailers or cycles), or other goods intended for their use, convenience, or comfort, but not for consumption, must deposit at the time and place of importation a sum equal to the duty that would be imposed. Motor vehicles cannot be more than five years old. The vehicle or goods must then be exported at the end of the stipulated period. These conditions also apply to articles imported for exhibition or demonstration and subsequent re-export. If the prescribed conditions are not met, the visitor will be liable for the full duty of the vehicle or goods imported. A guarantee may be made by an authorized organization, however, in which case no deposit is required. The organization thereby assumes the liability for the duty if the vehicle or goods are not re-exported within the prescribed period.