Traveling Luck for Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau is located in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Senegal.

Guinea-Bissau has borders with Guinea for 386km and Senegal for 338km.

Land in Guinea-Bissau is mostly low coastal plain rising to savanna in east.

Guinean land covers an area of 36120 square kilometers which is slightly less than three times the size of Connecticut

As for the Guinean climate; tropical; generally hot and humid; monsoonal-type rainy season (June to November) with southwesterly winds; dry season (December to May) with northeasterly harmattan winds.

Guinean(s) speak Portuguese (official), Crioulo, African languages.

Guinean National Map

Guinean Map

Regions of Guinea-Bissau

Since independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has experienced considerable political and military upheaval. In 1980, a military coup established authoritarian dictator Joao Bernardo 'Nino' VIEIRA as president. Despite setting a path to a market economy and multiparty system, VIEIRA's regime was characterized by the suppression of political opposition and the purging of political rivals. Several coup attempts through the 1980s and early 1990s failed to unseat him. In 1994 VIEIRA was elected president in the country's first free elections. A military mutiny and resulting civil war in 1998 eventually led to VIEIRA's ouster in May 1999. In February 2000, a transitional government turned over power to opposition leader Kumba YALA, after he was elected president in transparent polling. In September 2003, after only three years in office, YALA was ousted by the military in a bloodless coup, and businessman Henrique ROSA was sworn in as interim president. In August 2005, former President VIEIRA was re-elected president in the second round of presidential polling. Since formally assuming office in October 2005, Vieira has pledged to pursue economic development and national reconciliation.


Guinea-Bissau Country Profile

One of the 10 poorest countries in the world, Guinea-Bissau depends mainly on farming and fishing. Cashew crops have increased remarkably in recent years, and the country now ranks sixth in cashew production. Guinea-Bissau exports fish and seafood along with small amounts of peanuts, palm kernels, and timber. Rice is the major crop and staple food. However, intermittent fighting between Senegalese-backed government troops and a military junta destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and caused widespread damage to the economy in 1998; the civil war led to a 28% drop in GDP that year, with partial recovery in 1999-2002. Before the war, trade reform and price liberalization were the most successful part of the country's structural adjustment program under IMF sponsorship. The tightening of monetary policy and the development of the private sector had also begun to reinvigorate the economy. Because of high costs, the development of petroleum, phosphate, and other mineral resources is not a near-term prospect. However, offshore oil prospecting has begun and could lead to much-needed revenue in the long run. The inequality of income distribution is one of the most extreme in the world. The government and international donors continue to work out plans to forward economic development from a lamentably low base. In December 2003, the World Bank, IMF, and UNDP were forced to step in to provide emergency budgetary support in the amount of $107 million for 2004, representing over 80% of the total national budget. Government drift and indecision, however, have resulted in continued low growth in 2002-05.

Guinean natural resources include fish, timber, phosphates, bauxite, clay, granite, limestone, unexploited deposits of petroleum

this small country is swampy along its western coast and low-lying further inland

Guinean religion is indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%.

Natural hazards in Guinea-Bissau include hot, dry, dusty harmattan haze may reduce visibility during dry season; brush fires.

Travel Advice on Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary and Local Travel section (Casamance region in Senegal).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • Following elections in 2005, there has been a period of stability even if the political atmosphere in Guinea Bissau remains tense.  There has been some social unrest, including in connection with unpaid salaries.  You should avoid political demonstrations or rallies.

  • The Casamance region in south western Senegal remains affected by incidents involving separatist rebel groups.  You should avoid travel to Guinea Bissau by road through the western Casamance because of the recent increase in conflict and isolated incidents of banditry.  Please see the Senegal travel advice for more information.

  • Water is often unsafe, and you should only drink bottled water.  There are occasional outbreaks of cholera.  You should take sensible hygiene precautions.

  • There is no British Embassy in Guinea-Bissau.  The British Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau resides in Dakar, Senegal.  However, the British Honorary Consul, Mr Jan Van Maanen, can offer limited consular assistance.

  • Very few British nationals visit each year.  We are not aware of any British nationals who have required consular assistance in Guinea-Bissau in the past year.  Document and cash theft has been experienced in the past.

  • The threat from terrorism is low.  Guinea-Bissau's north western border area adjoining the western portion of the Casamance region of Senegal is subject to insecurity, and there has been a recent resurgence of violence including military action.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY


Crime

Crime rates in Guinea-Bissau are not high but Guinea-Bissau is an extremely poor country in a severe economic crisis.  You should take sensible precautions.  Do not carry valuables in public.

Political Situation

Following elections in 2005, there has been a period of stability even if the political atmosphere in Guinea Bissau remains tense.  There has been some social unrest, including in connection with unpaid salaries.  You should avoid political demonstrations or rallies.

Guinea-Bissau: Country Profile

Local Travel

You should be aware that Guinea-Bissau's north western border area adjoining the western portion of the Casamance region of Senegal was in 2006 subject to insecurity involving Senegalese rebel and criminal groups and the Guinea-Bissau military While the military action looks unlikely to be repeated, there remains a risk of action by criminal groups in this area.
Those thinking of travelling to Guinea Bissau by road should note that the Casamance region of south western Senegal remains affected by insecurity involving separatist rebel groups and the Senegalese army.  Due to these events, their possible consequences and other isolated incidents of banditry we advise against road travel in the Casamance region west of Kolda.  It is possible to detour round the worst affected parts of the Casamance via Velingara.
Road Travel

Traffic is generally light in Guinea-Bissau but road conditions (including in the capital) and driving standards are poor.  You should take suitable precautions especially in the rainy season (June to October).  Because of unseen hazards, you should avoid road travel at night.

Air Safety

The European Commission has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Union.  You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

You should not become involved with drugs of any kind.  There are heavy penalties for those convicted.  Local prison conditions are harsh.
There are now laws on homosexuality in Guinea-Bissau. It is generally tolerated by society if couples are discreet.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

British nationals require a visa to enter Guinea‑Bissau. Guinea‑Bissau does not have an Embassy in London.  Visitors can contact the Guinea‑Bissau Embassy in Paris at 94 Rue St Lazare (tel:  +33 9 452 61851). Guinea‑Bissau also has Embassies in neighbouring countries, including Senegal, which issue visas.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive medical and travel insurance.  This should include cover for medical treatment and evacuation, accidents, cancelled flights and stolen cash, credit cards, passport and luggage.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.

Medical facilities in Guinea‑Bissau are extremely limited.

Water is often unsafe; you are advised to drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes.  There are occasional outbreaks of cholera.  Since June 2006,one particularly serious outbreak of cholera affected over 10,000 people, with over 200 fatalities but this is now considered to be under control.  If you take sensible hygiene precautions you are unlikely to be affected.  We advise that you take particular care and recommend that you drink only boiled/bottled water.  If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Guinea-Bissau you should consult a doctor promptly.

Malaria and other tropical diseases are prevalent, especially during the rainy season (July-October).  You should consider taking anti malarial medication, and using insect repellent.  More than three quarters of British travellers who contracted malaria in 2005 did not take preventive measures, such as malaria prevention tablets.  However, malaria can occur despite appropriate prevention, and therefore you should promptly seek medical care in the event of a fever or flu-like illness in the first year following your return from travelling to a malaria risk country.  Before travelling you should seek medical advice about the malaria risk in Guinea-Bissau.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at www.dh.gov.uk


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help.
There is no British Embassy in Guinea-Bissau.  The British Honorary Consul, Jan van Maanen, is the first contact for consular issues.  The nearest British Embassy in Dakar, Senegal does not issue passports.  However, it will accept applications, and forward them to the High Commission in The Gambia for issue, but the process can take up to five weeks.  If applicants are prepared to pay the cost of a courier, the process can be completed in two weeks or less.
You should carry ID (passport or residence permit) at all times, particularly when driving or taking a taxi, when the likelihood of having to produce it is high.
You should reconfirm onward/return flights 72 hours in advance.
Money
Guinea-Bissau is very much a cash economy.  Credit cards are rarely used and ATM facilities are sparse.  The CFA Franc is the local currency.
CONTACT DETAILS
The British Embassy in Dakar is responsible for Britain’s relations with Guinea Bissau. There is a British Honorary Consul in Bissau, Mr Jan van Maanen, who can provide only limited assistance; (tel +245 201224/+245 201216/+ 245 7201234). British nationals are advised to register with the Honorary Consul on arrival in Bissau.