Blind Traveler Goes On Solo Backpacking Trip Through West Africa

Curated by
Whitney Bailey
Content via In The News
In The News
Curated by
Whitney Bailey

Tony Giles has visited all seven continents of the world. In 2017, Tony went on a solo three-month backpacking trip around West Africa. Tony is totally blind and eighty percent deaf in both ears.

“Travelling blind and partially deaf in Africa is challenging but rewarding, as most people simply want to help.”

Tony and alligator

Tony backpacked solo through Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal. He stayed on local people’s couches via a website he found online.

Tony researched the countries he wanted to visit by using a screen reading speech software on his laptop. He changed the sim card of his mobile phone, with tactile buttons, as he ventured through each country.

“But mostly I learned to trust people I met on the streets to guide me into museums and other tourist attractions and even to help me get money because cash machines in Africa don’t have audio technology like they do in the UK.”

Jamestown lighthouse

Tony states he saw West Africa through the taste and smell of the spicy foods and hearing the booming sound of African music. “I experienced places with my cane and other senses, noticing the rough, uneven, often broken pavements and roads, huge steps, and open drains, and was often guided by my couchsurfing hosts or one of the many kind locals I met,” he says.

Tony traveled by bus and says each bus ride was exciting and adventurous. His hosts would take him to the bus stop, help him purchase his ticket, and tell the conductor where he was getting off at.

“Many people I met were astonished that a blind guy was wandering their country alone, but once I explained how I “see the world”, they relaxed and we had fun.”

Tony describes his travel adventures. He tells about exploring the old ‘slave” forts of Ghana. He states he felt the bloody history in the stone walls, entering underground prisons and touching rusty cannons.  

Tony crossed the border to Burkina Faso with help from a guide and a border patrol officer who took him to a taxi. His most memorable experience from this country was traveling on the back of a motorbike from the capital of Ouagadougou.

Tony did experience some difficulties while traveling. For instance, it took him more than thirty hours to reach the Guinea border from Abidjan because of terrible roads and taking the wrong bus. He arrived at his destination late that night and had to rely on his couchsurfing host to rescue him from the military police. He says, “I arrived, late as usual, and my couchsurfing host had to rescue me from the military police who were being overly inquisitive about a blind guy roaming their city alone at 1 A.M.”

The rest of Tony’s trip went somewhat smoothly, besides the fact that he states his taxi to Guinea-Bissau had the “slowest driver in West Africa.”

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