Hot, equatorial Africa awaits on your trip to Douala. This city is Cameroon’s largest and the main port of entry for goods and people heading inland to Cameroon’s interior, as well as to the Central African Republic and Chad.
From Douala’s beginnings as a coastal trading outpost to the hub of Central African trade and commerce, Douala is a city on the go. If you can get past the heat and traffic, a genuinely enjoyable stay awaits you in Douala’s pulsating ambiance, with lively nightlife and a thriving cultural scene.
As a city of commerce, Douala has an active, fast-paced vibe. Visitors who can match its pace will find themselves at home in the city’s nightclubs along the Rue de la Joie, where roadside vendors sell grilled fish and beer and the clubs go until dawn. The city’s cabarets are a focal point, where performers and patrons alike congregate to dance the night away. For visitors looking for relaxation, the tropical heat provides the ideal cover for spending all day by the pool or in one of the city’s many restaurants. The local cuisine includes locally caught grilled fish or tiger shrimp, along with local specialties like ndole, a groundnut stew with greens and meat or shrimp.
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How do I get around Douala?
Public transportation is more or less non-existent in Douala, except for longer trips out of the city, which are done by bus or share taxi. Within the city, the most common way for locals to get around is by share taxi, where several people get into the same taxi and each is dropped off in turn. However, for foreign visitors the wisest course of action is to get the contact of a trusted driver who can pick you up when you need to travel through the city. This avoids issues of sharing a taxi with strangers as well as ensuring that the driver is always trustworthy. When arriving at the airport, your hotel will usually arrange direct transportation into the city.
What is the currency in Cameroon?
Cameroon uses the Central African Franc (CFA), as do the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Douala is well-served in terms of banks and ATMs, meaning that withdrawing CFA in the city should not be a problem with most major credit cards, though it is wise to check before leaving.
When is the best time to visit Douala?
Douala is just a few degrees north of the equator, meaning that it is hot and rainy practically year-round. The best time to visit is between December and February, which is the region’s dry season. An added benefit of visiting in December is that the city hosts the Ngondo Festival, a traditional festival of the Sawa people that consists of a procession on the banks of the Wouri River and contests including best dancer, a cooking contest and a Miss Ngondo contest.
Attractions in Douala
Exploring Douala is a step into an eclectic city that is constantly reinventing itself. From hikes to museums, here are some recommendations for your time in Douala:
- Maritime Museum
- Mount Cameroon
Located in the Pagoda, a German-built mansion that once belonged to the hereditary kings of the region, this space showcases work by Cameroonian and African artists.
The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is a central landmark in Douala. Built on the ruins of the previous church, it was erected in 1933. The tropical wood ceiling, red brickwork and stained glass gives it an appearance that is at once traditional and exotic.
Dedicated to the seafaring history of Cameroon’s coastal region, this museum features exhibits of artefacts and multimedia displays.
Visible from many points in the city, Cameroon’s highest mountain at 4,070 metres is located a short drive outside of Douala. Arrange a guide and porter in Buéa and head off for the three- or four-day hike to the summit.
Douala – an oasis of art
Unlike many major African cities, Douala does not have a wealth of colonial architecture beyond the French cathedral, built in 1933. However, more recently built installations do give the city a smattering of style that is all its own. Dotting the city are open-air art installations, including La Nouvelle Liberté, a statue made completely from recycled materials, that pays tribute to the ingenuity of the city’s inhabitants in using the tools at their disposal to innovate and get ahead. Metalworking motifs are also present in works such as Arbre à palabres, a palaver tree made from metal bars, and Les Globe-Trotters, a statue of two travellers. Doual’Art, the city’s main art gallery, features similar work in the local style alongside pieces by artists from farther afield.
Whether you are coming to the city for a longer stay or as a stop on a larger African journey, Douala is a great place to stay for a while, take in the sights and enjoy yourself! Book your flight to Douala today
What to eat in Douala
The Wouri River and the surrounding coastline have made their mark on Douala cuisine, which tends to stand out for its excellent seafood. Indeed, the country owes its name to the rich shrimp fishery, as the Portuguese sailors originally named the river "Río dos Camarões” or "River of Shrimp"! When you’ve eaten your fill, head off to a local cabaret to take in the live music and dancing.
African delights on your plate
As in most coastal cities, Douala food is heavy on fish, seafood and the above mentioned shrimp, but there is much more to the local traditions. Ndole is considered the unofficial National Dish of Cameroon and consists of peanuts, bitter leaves or spinach, meat, crayfish and oil. Jollof Rice is made with rice, onions, tomatoes, pepper and meat, it is very popular in all of West Africa. Kwacoco Bible is made with grated cocoyams, fortified with fish and crayfish, wrapped in plantain leaves and steamed until cooked through.
A haggler’s paradise
The best places to find a souvenir or unique items are in the Centre Artisanal de Douala, situated in the Marché des Fleurs, the city’s flower market. Cameroon’s largest market, the Marché Centrale, is a cultural experience all of its own, though most of the sellers here are offering fruits and vegetables alongside textiles and traditional medicines. Be ready to haggle, though – most of the prices quoted originally are about four times what vendors expect to be paid. The main shopping avenue, the Boulevard du Président Ahmadou Ahidjo, is where you will find international brands, along with smaller stalls hawking local wares. Check out the Marché Congo for a staggering array of African textiles.