It is easy to fall in love with the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, often referred to as the Ivory Coast, as well as feel bad for this West African nation that borders Liberia and Guinea. Why feel bad? You see, almost 50 percent of the country's 21 million people are illiterate as school isn't required for its residents; and life expectancy isn't even 50 years old for men or women. Life can be hard in Côte d'Ivoire, but it can be an exciting place to visit so long as you've gotten a vaccination against Yellow Fever; and take precautions against Malaria and Tuberculosis.

Well, there's that--and making sure you've got at least six months left on your passport after your stay, and you've gotten your visa, as one isn't issued upon arrival for any reason.

Chances are you won't have arrived at Côte d'Ivoire's captial of Yamoussouko; as the city of Abidjan is the country's largest city. It's an economical powerhouse in Western Africa, as well as a popular seaside destination. One of the busiest beaches is Vridi, as well as Cocody, an area that's popular with more of the city's affluent. And with Abidjan's monsoon climate with average high temperatures in the 80s (F) and lows in the 70s--the beach is a welcome respite.

Côte d'Ivoire has four seasons, although not the typical Spring/Summer/Fall way of looking at it. Dry season runs December to April; Rainy season May to July, with a Short Dry Season July to October, and Short Rainy season October/November.

Whatever the weather, getting around Cote d'Ivorie isn't always easy. Sure, it's easy enough by taxi (just don't take a Gbaka) in cities like Abidjan--but what about places like Abobo? Simple--they're

connected by rail service to neighboring Burkina Faso.

It doesn't matter how you get here, so long as you're here for the annual Fetes des Masques, or Festival of the Masks in November, or the Fete du Dipri--where the women sneak around to ward off evil spirits totally naked. That's a lot to take in at one time, so maybe you'll appreciate a rugby or soccer game--as both sports are popular here. A throwback from the days when Cote d'Ivorie was a French colony from the late 19th century to the mid-20th. The food, however, is all local; using fresh ingredients like plantains, peanuts, shrimp, and sardines. Stews are popular dishes, but give the chilled avocado soup a chance.

Safety in Cote d'Ivoire

Don't, however, take any chances by traveling between cities after dark in Cote d'Ivorie. And don't buy counterfeit goods for any reason, either. A few simple common sense rules will go a long way here.

Maybe in time school will be compulsory for all citizens of Cote d'Ivorie--and life expectancy will rise so that every one in this incredibly beautiful country can enjoy it longer.