Guinea-Bissau Basics

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The Basics


Time: No GMT offset.

Electricity: Electrical outlets in Guinea-Bissau supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts. European two-pin plugs with round pins are standard. The electricity supply is not reliable.

Money: The West African CFA franc is the currency of Guinea-Bissau (and seven other West African countries). Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world and banking facilities are limited. There are few ATMs in the country and credit cards are very seldom if ever accepted. The easiest foreign currency to exchange is Euros, although US dollars are also usually exchangeable. It can be difficult to convert foreign currency of any kind outside of the capital, Bissau.

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

Language: Portuguese is the official language of Guinea-Bissau, but Kriol is the most widely spoken language. French is also understood and spoken by many locals.

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guinea-Bissau. A visa is required and can be purchased upon entry for a maximum stay of 90 days.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guinea-Bissau. A visa is required and can be purchased upon entry for a maximum stay of 90 days.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guinea-Bissau. A visa is required and can be purchased upon entry for a maximum stay of 90 days.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guinea-Bissau. A visa is required and can be purchased upon entry for a maximum stay of 90 days.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guinea-Bissau. A visa is required and can be purchased upon arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guinea-Bissau. A visa is required and can be purchased upon entry for a maximum stay of 90 days.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guinea-Bissau. A visa is required and can be purchased upon entry for a maximum stay of 90 days.

Passport/Visa Note: Foreign passengers to Guinea-Bissau must hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay in the country, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Entering Guinea-Bissau on a one-way ticket is permitted. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Guinea-Bissau, if arriving in the country within 6 days of leaving or transiting through any yellow fever risk areas. 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: Medical facilities in Guinea-Bissau are extremely limited in cities and virtually nonexistent outside urban areas. Travellers should ensure that they have comprehensive health insurance and should bring along any medications they may need, in the original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from their doctor detailing what the medication is and why it is needed. Tap water should never be drunk unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected. Ice in beverages should be avoided. Cooked meals should always be eaten while still hot and fruit and vegetables should be peeled or cooked. Malaria is a problem throughout Guinea-Bissau and prophylaxis of some kind is recommended for travel in all areas. A yellow fever vaccination is required for all travellers arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area, and is recommended for all travellers to Guinea-Bissau. Vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid and, if you are travelling in the dry season (November to June), meningococcus. Those who may be at risk of animal bites or will be coming into contact with bats should consider a rabies vaccination. Travellers are generally advised to be up to date on vaccinations for polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria.

Tipping: Tipping is optional in Guinea-Bissau but small amounts for good service are highly appreciated. Ten percent is a good rule of thumb for service in restaurants.

Safety Information: Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in West Africa and lacks the resources to ensure stability and safety for foreigners: the unstable political situation and lack of police presence has allowed criminals and drug cartels to thrive and corruption is widespread. The political situation is currently fairly calm, following a military coup in April 2012, but this can change fast and travellers should closely monitor political developments and avoid all political gatherings and street protests. Unexploded military ordnance and landmines are a problem in Guinea-Bissau and visitors should remain on well-travelled roads at all times to minimise risk. Crime rates are fairly high in Guinea-Bissau but most crime against foreigners is opportunistic and petty, taking place mainly in crowded urban areas and at night, but armed banditry does occur on the main highways throughout the country. Victims of crime may struggle to get consular support as very few nations have embassies in Guinea-Bissau.

Local Customs: Travellers to Guinea-Bissau will find a generally open, relaxed society, which values friendliness and camaraderie. Social conduct and dress codes will be familiar to Western travellers, although among the Muslim section of the population (thought to be about 40 percent), more conservative values are upheld. Travellers should not photograph military buildings; when in doubt always ask permission to take photos.

Business: Guinea-Bissau's economy depends heavily on foreign aid and is predominantly agricultural. Business etiquette is quite formal: men should wear lightweight suits (ties are usually optional rather than expected) and women should wear skirts of modest length. It is customary to exchange business cards and shake hands upon greeting. Formal titles and surnames should be used unless invited to use first names. Business hours are generally 8am to 12pm and 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday.

Communications: Telecommunications infrastructure is limited in Guinea-Bissau and landline use is very low, but mobile phone usage is more common and constantly on the rise. The vast majority of the population has little or no access to the internet, but travellers should be able to find internet cafes in Bissau and other major urban centres. The international dialling code for Guinea-Bissau is 245 and city codes are in use.

Duty Free: Visitors to Guinea-Bissau may import a reasonable quantity of tobacco products and perfume in opened bottles. Non-Muslims may import up to 2.5 litres of alcoholic beverages.