Gabon Basics

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The Basics


Time: Local time in Gabon is GMT +1.

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 to 240 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard (Type C sockets; Type E and F may also work).

Money: The Central African CFA franc (FCFA) is the official currency of Gabon (along with five other central African countries). It is divided into 100 smaller units called centime. Gabon is largely a cash economy and credit cards are only accepted at some major hotels. Foreign currency can be exchanged at hotels and banks and there are some ATMs in major cities. ATMs are targeted by thieves, so tourists should be wary when withdrawing cash.

Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: The official language of Gabon is French and English is not widely spoken.

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required. US citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required: British citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required. Canadian citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required: Australian citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. South Africans can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days. E-visas can be obtained on arrival in advance.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required. New Zealand citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required: Irish citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.

Passport/Visa Note: Keep all visa and travel documentation at all times, and make sure passports are machine readable; even with a valid visa entry may be denied if documents are not available for presentation. All visitors to Gabon must be in possession of a hotel voucher or a letter of invitation issued by their sponsor, a return/onward ticket, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Those who apply for e-visas (https://evisa.dgdi.ga) must print out the authorisation and will need to pay for their visa on arrival in Gabon. Proof of a yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Gabon. It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: Yellow fever vaccinations are required for all visitors over the age of one. Gabon is a malaria zone and there have been recent outbreaks of chikungunya fever and dengue fever, all transmitted by mosquito bites. There are no vaccines available for these diseases, but stringent anti-insect measures are recommended. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid are recommended for all travellers to Gabon. Those who will be spending a lot of time outdoors may be at risk of animal bites and should also consider a rabies vaccination. Tap water should not be drunk unless it has been boiled, and ice and uncooked fruits should also be avoided. Following outbreaks of the ebola virus in some African countries during 2014, all persons travelling from recently infected countries will be barred from entry until further notice. Healthcare in Gabon is poor, and traveller's insurance is a necessity. Many doctors will expect cash up front, regardless of insurance. Medical facilities in major cities should be sufficient for routine care, but in the rural areas healthcare is often non-existent. Take a custom medical kit and any necessary medication in the original packaging, with a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing exactly what it is and why it is needed. This applies to syringes and needles as well.

Tipping: Tipping etiquette hasn't really been established in Gabon and it's best to just tip according to the quality of service received. Taxi drivers don't expect tips, but rounding up the fare for good service will be appreciated. Service fees are seldom added to the bill in restaurants and a 10 percent tip for good service will be appreciated.

Safety Information: Urban hubs like Libreville and Port Gentil experience the most petty and violent crime. Avoid becoming a victim by hiding expensive jewellery, cameras, and other valuables. Avoid walking alone or at night and parking in unlit, unguarded areas. Petty crime is common and violent crime is on the rise, with some incidents of armed robbery and assault in homes, restaurants, and at beaches frequented by tourists and foreigners. Carjacking is also a concern and visitors should keep their car doors locked and their windows up while driving, and never leave valuables visible in their vehicles. Unfortunately, Police are often slow to respond when called. Female travellers can expect unwanted attention from men, but are free to be firm in their refusal. Tourists should be careful and vigilant when drawing money as robberies at ATMs do occur and credit card fraud is common. Gabon's government is relatively stable. However, there is still the possibility of demonstrations and rallies in urban areas. Avoid large gatherings where possible because protests can turn violent. It is advisable to remain up to date with the political circumstances and local news in order to avoid any danger.

Local Customs: Drug possession is a serious offence in Gabon and punishment will include a prison sentence, even for tourists. Homosexuality is not widely accepted and has received cultural backlash in recent years, but it is not illegal. Taking photographs of government buildings, including the Presidential Palace, the airport, and all military sites, is prohibited. Gabon is home to over 40 ethnic groups and customs vary between them, so make an effort to get to know some of the local customs on arrival.

Business: The export of petroleum, timber, and manganese has helped Gabon develop one of Africa's more successful and stable economies. The country still has strong business ties with France, as well as the US, China, and a few African countries. French is the principal business language and formal business attire is required. Handshakes are an acceptable method of greeting and business cards should have a French translation. Office hours in Gabon are generally 7.30am to 12pm and 2.30pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

Communications: The international access code for Gabon is 241. Gabon has an adequate phone system within urban areas and the mobile network system has multiple providers and is constantly growing. The cheapest way to make overseas phone calls is with an international phone card and avoid calling from hotels where possible as they add a hefty surcharge to calls. Internet is not widely available in Gabon, but there are a few internet cafes in Libreville and other major cities, and some hotels offer internet facilities.

Duty Free: Travellers to Gabon may import three litres of wine and one litre of spirits, 400 cigarettes/cigarillos or 125g cigars or 500g of tobacco and up to 500g of jewellery. Counterfeit goods, child pornography, non-prescription drugs, and unlicensed arms and ammunition (without permission from the government) are prohibited. Bring prescription drugs in their original package, with a letter from the doctor who issued them detailing what they are and why they are needed.