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Guinea

Guinea (officially the Republic of Guinea; French: République de Guinée) is a former French colony that borders Guinea-Bissau and Senegal to the north, Mali on the north and north-east, Côte d'Ivoire to the east and Liberia and Sierra Leone to the south. Unrest in Sierra Leone has spilled across the border, creating humanitarian emergencies and threatening the stability of this country. The country is often sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea.

Regions

Cities

  • Conakry — capital
  • Beyla
  • Dalaba — a small town often dubbed the "Switzerland of Guinea" because of its relatively mild temperatures and nice scenery.
  • Faranah
  • Forécariah
  • Kankan — the second city
  • Kindia
  • Labé
  • Mamou

Other destinations

  • Fouta Djalon — scenic region of forests and cultivated valleys ideal for hiking through Fulani villages or in search of waterfalls.
  • Loos Islands — a former slaving base, these forested islands with sandy beaches near Conakry are a popular weekend escape for expats.
  • National Park of the Niokolo-Badiar (Parc National du Niokolo-Badiar) — savanna along the Senegal border home to antelope, monkeys, lions, & leopard during the dry season.
  • Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve — a UNESCO World Heritage Site partially in Guinea and partially in Cote d'Ivoire.
  • National Park of the Upper Niger (Haut Niger National Park) — headwaters of the Niger River; home to hippos, elephants, buffaloes, chimpanzees, and waterbuck.

Understand

Guinea is a remarkable country with very warm, genuine people but little infrastructure. While they have tremendous natural resources available to them (which includes around one half of the world's reserves of bauxite, and many major gold, jewel, and metal deposits), they rate very poorly in the UN's quality of life index. Guinea is roughly the size of the United Kingdom.

History

Guinea belonged to a series of empires until France colonized it in the 1890s, and made it part of French West Africa. Guinea declared its independence from France on 2 October 1958. The first president, socialist Ahmed Sékou Touré, faced a lot of criticism from the West for alleged human rights violations and suppression of opposition parties. He believed in building a powerful, self-sufficient nation, without reliance on foreign powers.

When he died in 1984, General Lansana Conté took over. Under Conté's rule, things did not improve and the ideals of Touré were soon left behind. Conté made too many political promises and most of them were never fulfilled. In 1993, the first elections were held, though their results were disputed - as have those in all subsequent elections. Conté died in 2008 without appointing a successor, leaving chaos in his wake. Immediately following Conté's death, on 23 December 2008, a man by the name of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara took power as Guinea's new President staged by a coup d'état. Even though Camara came in as a popular figure, this has proved to be another political blow for Guinea and Guineans. Civilian protests have been often met with live gunfire and physical abuse at the hands of military and police personnel. In December 2009, Camara was involved in an assassination attempt, and the current "big man" is Alpha Condé.

Climate

The coastal region of Guinea and most of the inland have a tropical climate, with a rainy season lasting from April to November, relatively high and uniform temperatures, and high humidity. Conakry's year-round average high is 29°C (84.2°F), and the low is 23°C (73.4°F); its average annual rainfall is 4,300mm (169.3 in). The Sahelian Haute Guinee region has a shorter rainy season and greater daily temperature variations.

People

Guinea's population comprises more than 20 ethnic groups.

The Fulas or Fulani (French: Peuls; Fula: Fulɓe), comprise 30% of the population and are mostly found in the Futa Djallon region. The Mandinka, also known as Mandingo or Malinké, comprise 40% of the population and are mostly found in eastern Guinea concentrated around the Kankan and Kissidougou prefectures. The Soussou, comprising 20%, are predominantly in western areas around the capital Conakry, Forécariah, and Kindia. Smaller ethnic groups make up the remaining 10% of the population, including Kpelle, Kissi, Zialo, Toma and others.

Get in

Visa

Visa inquiries must be made at Guinea embassies, and are not available at the borders or airport. Also a yellow fever vaccination certificate is needed to enter.

In Europe a one month, single entry tourist visa costs €110, three months €150 and six months E€220. In USA a one month, single entry visa costs around US$100 and three month, multiple entry visa is double the price and is the only type available to citizens of the US.

By plane

Royal Air Maroc (RAM) flies from numerous European cities to Conakry (CKY) via Casablanca. RAM supplies the only direct flight from Montréal to Africa (Casablanca, with a stopover in New York) and many connections from Casablanca to Conakry (also called Kry) and elsewhere.

Air France from Paris, France and SN Brussels from Brussels, Belgium. Air Ivoire flies to Conakry regularly from Abidjan en route to Dakar, as does Belvue. Expect to be asked for a "gift" by airport security.

By train

Although cargo trains still run the old line between Conakry and Kankan, there are no passenger trains still operational in Guinea. The old station in downtown Conakry is worth a visit.

By car

In 2008 travel between Guinea and Liberia was safe, though time consuming. Hiring a motorcycle is one of the the best options.

Crossing the Guinean border with Senegal is possible but very uncomfortable and requires patience. Inside Guinea, the road between Labe and Koundara is unpaved and very rough. It takes about 8 hours for the whole journey with only minor breakdowns. There are some decent and very cheap places to stay in Koundara. Between Koundara and Diaoube (Senegal) is a similar journey. The border is relatively hassle free. There's a 20 km no man's land between border posts where you only know you've entered Senegal because the dirt road gets better. It's possible to change your currency at any hour of the night at the border towns on either side of the no man's land. Local transport from Diaoube to Tambacounda and on to Dakar is relatively easy.

Koundara is also the main jump off point for a trip to Guinea-Bissau.

The Guinea (Kopoto)/Sierra Leone (Kambia) crossing with a car or motorcycle is made possible with the 'Laissez-Passer Pour Vehicule', available at the Guinea Embassy (US$40) and with the 'Vehicle Clearance Permit', available at the Sierra Leone Embassy (US$40). An additional 'Ecowas International Circulation Permit' will be required for Sierra Leone, available at the border for SLL100,000.

An Ecowas 'Brown Card' may also be needed for proof of insurance for the vehicle.

Get around

There are no buses. Traffic in Conakry can be very heavy. The local transport vans in Conakry seem to be the most congested in all of West Africa. Taxis are very inexpensive, even if you want to rent one for a half or whole day. Expect to have to stop for gas almost immediately after you get in the car. The Government and business centre of the city is unfortunately located at the tip of a long and narrow peninsula which is only connected to the rest of Conakry, which sprawls onto the mainland, by two roads. This can be particularly frustrating at rush hour. Queues at gas stations in Conakry can be quite long and disorganized at certain times. Much of the infrastructure around the airport is being rebuilt, so trips to downtown or to la miniere might take unusual detours.

Bush Taxis ("504", for the common Peugeot 504 model) are used for transport from city to city. Keep in mind that there is a curfew at night, and if you try to drive into Conakry you will have to wait outside the city until morning. Local transport is usually able to leave Conakry after dark. Departure times are never set for local transport. In the early morning you might be told that a taxi will be leaving "toute suite" (right away) but will not get out of Conakry until well after dark. Intercity travel in Guinea requires a great deal of patience and a loose schedule. It is also possible to fly from city to city, but get to the airport early and bring cash for your tickets.

MotorTaxi/TaxiBike a much faster, and more comfortable way of travel is by motorcycle, which often serve as taxis.

Talk

The official language is French. There are numerous ethnic languages, and the three most prevalent are Susu, Pular (Foulah, Peuhl) and Malinke. Susu is spoken in the coastal region and in the capital city. Toma, Guerzé, Kissi and others are spoken in the interior (Sacred Forest) region bordering on Mali, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Liberia. There are a lot of people who cannot speak any English at all, even in the capital city.

See

Guinea has some spectacular landscapes with a few tropical, dry forests remaining, and the rainforests in the south are lush, verdant and full of wildlife - much of it destined for the cooking pot.

In Conakry, there is the National Museum which highlights the distinct ethnic tribes in Guinea and various traditional instruments, masks, etc.

The main port is located at the tip of the peninsula in Conakry, near the President's Palace. You can take a boat from there to the islands of Loos for a day or overnight trip. Its a bustling place where fishermen offload their daily catch.

Cape Verga has some of the best beaches in Guinea for exploration.

Mount Nimba is the highest mountain peak in Guinea for trekking.

Do

In Conakry, one of the best places to grab a beer and hangout is the beach bar in Taouyah, an area with a large market and mostly residential with some night clubs and restaurants. Many expats, including the Peace Corps headquarters, live here and meet up at the beach around sunset for great pizza or fish or chicken dishes. There is a great breeze, live music, and lots of locals playing soccer games until the sunsets, especially on the weekends.

Music in Guinea is one of the best cultural activities the country has to offer. Some of the best Kora players in the world are from Guinea. There are many bars that offer live music.

The French-Guinean Cultural Centre has some great musical shows, movies, plays, and ballets (i.e. traditional West-African dance), and hosts exhibitions and conferences. It also has a library and multi-media centre. Members can take out books and use the computers and internet. This is a great place to meet expats, and local musicians, and artists. Most people there will know the best places to go see a show that week.

Outside of Conakry, there are many attractive tourism destinations for the adventurous traveler. Infrastructure, such as hotels, roads etc. is lacking outside of the capital but you can find basic places to stay with limited electricity powered by generators.

The Foutah Djallon area has superb hiking, sweeping vistas, waterfalls and cliffs. Fouta Trekking is a local non-profit that promotes equitable tourism. They offer hiking tours ranging from three to five days or tailored tours. Tourists stay in villages with part of the revenue going back to the villages for community development. Labe, the historical capital and seat of the Foutah Empire that reigned in the pre-colonial times, is a bustling city with some interesting history. You can buy beautiful traditional cloth in various navy blue colours. On the road from Conakry, via Kindia, is the city of Dalaba, where the major chiefs of the country met to determine the fate of the soon to be independent country from the French in 1958. There is an old mansion that you can visit and a ceremonial hut with amazing carvings inside. Kindia has some of the best vegetable and fruit produce and thus a lively market.

The coastline from Conakry up towards Guinea -Bissau also offers great tourism with beautiful untouched beaches, mangroves, and wildlife viewing. Bel Air is a well known tourism destination on the beach about two hours from Conakry on a well paved road. There is a large and usually deserted hotel where past political leaders have met. Its a very popular destination around major holidays. A much nicer place to stay if you like more eco-tourism is Sabolan Village which is a small hotel on a beautiful beach that is off the well paved road that leads to the Bel Air hotel. There are about ten modern huts there and a restaurant. Its a bit expensive for what you get but the setting is amazing. If you have a tent or want to stay in a more authentic and cheaper place, you can go down the beach or along the path, past the actual village, and stay in nice huts made by a local villager and now run by his son. Expats who work in the mining areas rent out the huts and come on the weekends but you can always pitch a tent. You have to bring your own food however.

For the more adventurous is a trip to the island archipelago near the Guinea-Bissau border called Tristao. You can drive from Conakry to Kamsar and from there you can get on a local boat to the Tristao islands. The boat takes four hours and usually runs once or twice a week. You can sometimes get lucky if there is a fishing boat going back to Tristao but they are usually very heavily loaded and may not be as safe as the passenger boat. Manatee, turtles, and many different bird types live in the Tristao archipelago. Its a very isolated place with many animist traditions still in existence.

Kamsar is the main bauxite mining export town, where major shipments of bauxite leave from the Boke region. There are some pretty good hotels and restaurants that cater to the mining executives and expats. The Boke region is the main bauxite mining area. Boke, the administrative city of the region, has an interesting colonial museum, some decent hotels, and a Lebanese store on the main road where everyone goes to watch the football games (soccer) and have cold Amstel lights (when the generator is on).

Buy

Money

The currency of the country is the Guinean franc (French: franc guinéen), denoted by the symbol "FG" or "Fr" or "GFr" (ISO currency code: GNF). Banknotes circulate in denominations of FG500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 and inflation is rampant.

ATMs

  • All Ecobank ATMs in Guinea take Mastercard or Visa card for cash withdrawal.

Shopping

They do not sell a lot of trinkets in Guinea, but they do have wonderful clothing that you can purchase. The tailors there are very skilled and can create an outfit very fast (approximately a day). Masks, wood statues, djembes (drums), traditional clothing, bags made in Guinea are sold in many of the areas outside of major hotels in Conakry and along the roadside. Always haggle, especially if outside a major hotel as prices there are higher. A good rule of thumb is to halve whatever the opening price is and also to walk away if the prices don't come down. Negotiations are supposed to take awhile and are a way of figuring out the "walk away" price point for both buyer and seller.

The largest market in Conakry is Madina market. You can find everything and anything there. Be careful of pickpockets, mud (during rainy season) and traffic. Its a pretty hectic and chaotic place but you'll find the best produce, electronics, etc., at the best prices. You can hire a young boy to haul out your purchases for you if you are walking back to a parked car or where you're staying. Fee is about FG5,000 (€0.5 or US$0.7).

In certain parts of the country you can also find some nice carvings, many of which are created in the city of Kindia.

Eat

Many options are available for dining. For FG20,000 (€2 or roughly US$3), you are able to dine on delicious, nutritious food. If your taste buds would prefer something international, many other choices are available as well. The beef in Guinea is very good, and is highly recommended. Pork isn't served because of the dominance of Islam but is eaten among the forest people of the South east (Guinee Forestiere). There are good restaurants that are Lebanese which have European-styled breakfasts.

Outside of the capital, Conakry, you can can often enjoy local dishes (consisting of Guinean style rice and one of the 4 main sauces with sometimes beef or fish in some cases) at a hole in the wall local restaurant for less than US$1 (FG3,000-6,000 depending on the exchange rate). You will leave full!

In Kankan, Guinea (Haute Guinee), there are few places to choose from if you wish to eat at a more decent restaurant. There is Hotel Villa and Hotel Bate. As of mid-2008, these were the top two places for lodging and meals. A typical plate can cost anywhere between FG35,000 and FG55,000. Note that prices of food and drinks can often dramatically increase at the spur of the moment and without any explanation!

Fruits are very inexpensive here, especially compared to the higher costs in neighbouring countries (Mali, Ivory Coast and Senegal). For those who love pineapples, on the national road (which literally goes from the North of the country to Conakry in the South) you can find people selling this tasty fruit very cheaply on the side of the road in and around Kindia. Mango fruits, oranges and bananas can also be found in abundance throughout the country and at a cheap rate, especially at road sides.

Another alternative to eating out is eating "in". Since Guineans are generally welcoming and friendly people you may be invited to their home to share a meal. Most Guineans eat together from one big dish. Enjoy the experience and don't drink the local water if and when they offer it to you. Take bottled water (Coyah, Milo, etc.)

Drink

Canned European beer is available as well as local "Guiluxe" and "Skol" lager beers.

Water bottled in the name of Coyah is available everywhere for about US$0.50 per 1.5 litre bottle and is very good. Conakry's tap water is generally not safe unless filtered/boiled.

Work

Stay safe

Guinea is a rather unsafe nation, due to the fact that it has a history of being one of Africa's most unstable countries; lawlessness and criminality are widespread. Most of the crime is done by officials in military uniforms, and usually targets foreigners. Most non-violent crime involves acts of pick-pocketing and purse-snatching, while armed robbery, muggings, and assaults are the most common violent crimes. Criminals particularly target visitors at the airport, in the traditional markets, and near hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners. Stay vigilant, and apply common sense if stuck in a difficult situation.

Visitors should also avoid unsolicited offers of assistance at the airport and hotels because such offers often mask an intention to steal luggage, purses, or wallets. Travellers should arrange for hotel personnel, family members, or business contacts to meet them at the airport to reduce their vulnerability to these crimes of opportunity.

When taking photographs, avoid military bases and political buildings, as it can be considered espionage in Guinea and can land you in jail.

The police are completely ineffective. Low salaries and improper training contribute to the lack of professionalism of the police. If you are the victim of a crime, consult your embassy.

Corruption is extremely widespread - Corrupt police and soldiers target foreigners for bribes in just about any place in the country. Policemen will demand bribes at any checkpoint. Policemen will often intimidate you to pay bribes by confiscating a particular item.

Business trips to Guinea are strongly discouraged. Business frauds and scams are rampant, and if you are going for a business trip in Guinea, it is strongly recommended that you do not go.

Stay healthy

The medical system in Guinea is in a very poor condition, and is not well equipped and is very limited. Some private medical facilities (e.g. Clinique Pasteur in Conakry) provide a better range of treatment options than public facilities, but are still well below western standards. There are no ambulance or emergency rescue services in Guinea and trauma care is extremely limited.

  • Tap water is unsafe for drinking. Drink only bottled, unopened, water.
  • Malaria is prevalent. Make sure to take anti-malarial prophylactics and cover up exposed skin during the evening and early morning when mosquitoes are at their worst.

If staying in the country for a long time it is advisable to bring anti-malarial drugs, and anti-diarhoea drugs (Cipro) as well as paracetamol and a medical kit with you if you are coming from Europe or the US as the drugs found in Guinea are usually of lesser quality and strength, albeit much cheaper.

The best insider's tip for eating fresh vegetables is to soak them in a big bowl of water that has one drop of bleach in it. This will kill any bacteria and you'll be able to have a salad or eat vegetables and fruits that can't be peeled such as tomatoes or keep the skin on cucumbers etc. for added fibre and vitamins.

A major outbreak of the deadly Ebola viral haemorrhagic fever erupted in Guinea in March 2014, killing more than 11,000 people in 2014-2016. This disease is fatal if not treated early and aggressively, and has showed a 40% fatality rate. As of June 2016, WHO has declared the end of Ebola virus transmission in the Republic of Guinea. Though WHO states, the risk of additional outbreaks originating from exposure to infected survivor body fluids remains and requires sustained mitigation through counseling on safe sex practices and testing of body fluids.

Respect

As with most of West Africa, greetings are very much a part of daily life in Guinea. A simple, "ça va?" will often suffice. However, Guineans appreciate if you ask about their family, health and job/studies: "et la famille, la sante, le boulot/les etudes." Before getting to the point in a conversation, e-mail, etc., it is common and expected to greet somehow and ask how they are doing.

Greet, eat and exchange money only with your right hand; the left hand is used for bathroom purposes and is considered unclean.

The gender issue is quite complex in Guinea to say the least. Even though Guinea is a slightly conservative, Muslim, male-dominated society, foreign female travelers will rarely face any sort of difficulties. Don't be surprised if you are proposed to a million times! Cat calls, whistles and other similar forms of harassment are rare in Guinea and frowned upon. Guinean males often give up their seat to females as a sign of respect, especially in people's homes, outdoor settings, etc.

In general, men are still higher up the social ladder than women and this is prevalent in all aspects of Guinean society (education, jobs, etc.) Don't be surprised if men are shown more consideration than women in daily life. Once it's known that you are a foreign woman (especially if you are a Black foreign female coming from the US, Europe, etc.), and not a local, you will usually be granted a higher level of consideration).

For women it is NOT advisable to wear clothing showing anything from the stomach to the knees! Shorts, see-throughs, mini skirts, bare midriffs are considered tasteless if worn in public. It's not uncommon to be met with hostile stares or looks of disapproval from local Guineans or even worse. Tattoos and body piercings are not common and visitors are advised to cover them up when possible. A head scarf, however, is not necessary. Jeans (while still not very popular among Guinean women), long skirts and dresses, tank tops and short or long sleeved shirts are perfectly acceptable.

There is a Christian minority (mostly concentrated in the southern forest region); however, Muslims, Christians and others tend to co-exist peacefully with tolerance and respect.

Guineans will often invite you to eat at their home. This is a sign of respect and consideration for the visitor. Accept the invitation where possible. If you are unable, it's better to politely respond with a simple "next time" or "prochainement". Simply showing up without an appointment at the home of a Guinean is not considered rude or impolite as it can be in the West. Don't be alarmed if you find Guineans popping over to see how you are.

Overall Guineans are warm, friendly and hospitable and will come to your assistance where appropriate.

Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea

Kira Salak

Chronicles the author's journey across the arduous physical and cultural terrain of Papua New Guinea, describing her stay in a village where cannibalism was still practiced, as well as a hazardous trek through the jungle. Reprint.

Lonely Planet Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Dive among luminous coral reefs; watch a traditional singsing festival group; or sleep in a stilt house on the mighty Sepik river, all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - the Kokoda Trail, history, environment, culture, politics Over 45 maps Covers Port Moresby, Central Province, Oro Province, Milne Bay Province, Morobe Province, Madang Province, the Highlands, the Sepik, Island Provinces, the Solomon Islands and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands , our most comprehensive guide to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, gift and lifestyle books and stationery, as well as an award-winning website, magazines, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in. TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category 'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times 'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

City Maps Camayenne Guinea

James McFee

City Maps Camayenne Guinea is an easy to use small pocket book filled with all you need for your stay in the big city. Attractions, pubs, bars, restaurants, museums, convenience stores, clothing stores, shopping centers, marketplaces, police, emergency facilities and the list goes on and on. This collection of maps is up to date with the latest developments of the city. This city map is a must if you wish to enjoy the city without internet connection.

City Maps Conakry Guinea

James McFee

City Maps Conakry Guinea is an easy to use small pocket book filled with all you need for your stay in the big city. Attractions, pubs, bars, restaurants, museums, convenience stores, clothing stores, shopping centers, marketplaces, police, emergency facilities and the list goes on and on. This collection of maps is up to date with the latest developments of the city. This city map is a must if you wish to enjoy the city without internet connection.

Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition (Princeton Field Guides)

Thane K. Pratt

This is the completely revised edition of the essential field guide to the birds of New Guinea. The world's largest tropical island, New Guinea boasts a spectacular avifauna characterized by cassowaries, megapodes, pigeons, parrots, cuckoos, kingfishers, and owlet-nightjars, as well as an exceptionally diverse assemblage of songbirds such as the iconic birds of paradise and bowerbirds. Birds of New Guinea is the only guide to cover all 780 bird species reported in the area, including 366 endemics. Expanding its coverage with 111 vibrant color plates--twice as many as the first edition--and the addition of 635 range maps, the book also contains updated species accounts with new information about identification, voice, habits, and range. A must-have for everyone from ecotourists to field researchers, Birds of New Guinea remains an indispensable guide to the diverse birds of this remarkable region.

780 bird species, including 366 found nowhere else111 stunning color plates, twice the number of the first editionExpanded and updated species accounts provide details on identification, voice, habits, and range635 range mapsRevised classification of birds reflects the latest research

PAPUA NEW GUINEA Country Studies: A brief, comprehensive study of Papua New Guinea

CIA

A brief yet detailed report on the country of Papua New Guinea with updated information on the map, flag, history, people, economics, political conditions in government, foreign affairs, and U.S. relations.

New Guinea 1:1.65M / 1:1.2M Travel Map (International Travel Maps)

ITM Canada

A double-sided road map of Papua New Guinea 1: 2,000,000 and the Indonesian region of Irian Jaya (Western Papua) 1: 1,650,000 to plan your trip, to prepare your itinerary, and to travel independently in this country in Oceania. The legend is in English. Touristic information: points of interests, wildlife reserves, museums, airfields, ferries, religious buildings, beaches, lakes, waterfalls, ruins, volcanoes. Comprehensive place name index.

A Faraway, Familiar Place: An Anthropologist Returns to Papua New Guinea

Michael French Smith

A Faraway Familiar Place: An Anthropologist Returns to Papua New Guinea is for readers seeking an excursion deep into little-known terrain but allergic to the wide-eyed superficiality of ordinary travel literature. Author Michael French Smith savors the sometimes gritty romance of his travels to an island village far from roads, electricity, telephone service, and the Internet, but puts to rest the cliché of “Stone Age” Papua New Guinea. He also gives the lie to stereotypes of anthropologists as either machete-wielding swashbucklers or detached observers turning real people into abstractions. Smith uses his anthropological expertise subtly, to illuminate Papua New Guinean lives, to nudge readers to look more closely at ideas they take for granted, and to take a wry look at his own experiences as an anthropologist.

Although Smith first went to Papua New Guinea in 1973, in 2008 it had been ten years since he had been back to Kragur Village, Kairiru Island, where he was an honorary “citizen.” He went back not only to see people he had known for decades, but also to find out if his desire to return was more than an urge to flee the bureaucracy and recycled indoor air of his job in a large American city. Smith finds in Kragur many things he remembered fondly, including a life immersed in nature and freedom from 9-5 tyranny. And he again encounters the stifling midday heat, the wet tropical sores, and the sometimes excruciating intensity of village social life that he had somehow managed to forget.

Through practicing Taoist “not doing” Smith continues to learn about villagers’ difficult transition from an older world based on giving to one in which money rules and the potent mix of devotion and innovation that animates Kragur’s pervasive religious life. Becoming entangled in local political events, he gets a closer look at how ancestral loyalties and fear of sorcery influence hotly disputed contemporary elections. In turn, Kragur people practice their own form of anthropology on Smith, questioning him about American work, family, religion, and politics, including Barack Obama’s campaign for president. They ask for help with their financial problems―accounting lessons and advice on attracting tourists―but, poor as they are, they also offer sympathy for the Americans they hear are beset by economic crisis. By the end of the book Smith returns to Kragur again―in 2011―to complete projects begun in 2008, see Kragur’s chief for the last time (he died later that year), and bring Kragur’s story up to date.

A Faraway Familiar Place provides practical wisdom for anyone leaving well-traveled roads for muddy forest tracks and landings on obscure beaches, as well as asking important questions about wealth and poverty, democracy, and being “modern.”

AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

The continued instability in neighbouring countries and armed banditry in the region are causing increased tensions and hostilities in Guinea. Exercise a high degree of caution in the areas bordering Senegal (Casamance), Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, where ongoing cross-border military and rebel activity makes the security situation unsafe. There is a risk of renewed inter-ethnic violence in and around the town of N’Zérékoré, in Guinée Forestière. There have also been confrontations in industrial cities, such as Fria, where access to raw materials and tensions caused by work stoppages are aggravating the security situation.

Elections

Parliamentary elections were held in relative calm on September 28, 2013. However, the risk of violence and civil unrest remains as the results are being contested. Rioting and violent demonstrations, which have been taking place for several months, may continue. Local authorities may impose impromptu security measures, including curfews, road blocks and checkpoints, which could disrupt road traffic and services. The international airport in Conakry could also be closed on short notice. Confirm your travel plans prior to departure and avoid all areas where demonstrations are staged, especially the main demonstration route through the Donka, Bellevue, Hamdallaye, Madina, Cosa and Bambeto districts of Conakry. Register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service and monitor local media to stay informed of the latest developments, planned demonstrations and advice from local authorities.

Increased threat of attacks and kidnappings

In 2013, the French military assisted the Malian government in efforts to repel armed rebels. Terrorist groups in the region declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners. While the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali has been supporting the transitional authorities in stabilizing the region since July 2013, citizens of countries supporting the intervention are still at particular risk, but all travellers should exercise increased vigilance in the region.

Crime

Violent crime is prevalent, especially in Conakry, but also in some rural areas such as Kankan. Armed robbery, carjackings, assaults, muggings and break-ins are on the rise in Conakry and the surrounding province. These violent crimes are often perpetrated by men wearing military or police uniforms. Guinean authorities have implemented the restoration of checkpoints (police and gendarmerie) on major roads in Conakry and other cities between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Foreigners are often targets of crime, especially at airports. Exercise caution at airports and hotels, where offers of unsolicited assistance may come from persons seeking an opportunity to steal luggage, purses or wallets. You should arrange to arrive at the airport during the day and be met there by reliable contacts.

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and purse-snatching is common, particularly in the Madina, Niger, and Taouyah markets, and often employs children. Do not show signs of affluence. Ensure personal belongings and travel documents are secure at all times, and remain alert to your surroundings, especially at night.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations occur regularly and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Protests over the political deadlock in the country, coupled with the lack of provision of public services have led to violent incidents across the country in the past months, causing deaths and injuries. These protests can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

Shortages

The socio-economic situation is also generally unstable in Guinea. Conakry has been experiencing fuel and water shortages in recent months. This has affected transportation as well as the power supply, and has led to civil unrest causing death and injuries.

Road travel

Driving habits, the lack of road and traffic signs, poorly maintained vehicles and roads, pedestrians and livestock pose hazards. In the event of an accident, you should proceed to the nearest police station or medical facility, as roadside assistance and ambulance services are not available.

You should be careful while driving in Conakry and surrounding areas, and when travelling to and from the international airport, due to a reported increase in violent and opportunistic crimes against foreigners. The risk of robberies and armed attacks also increases after dark. Moreover, it is not rare for travellers to encounter improvised roadblocks (including on the airport road) erected by armed groups or military troops. Payment or proof of identity may be required at these roadblocks. The following documents should be carried at all times: copies of identity papers (passport and visa), vaccination record, vehicle registration (grey card), valid driver's licence, proof of road insurance, and vehicle safety check certificate.

Overland travel outside major centres should only be undertaken during daylight hours and with a four-wheel-drive vehicle with spare tires. The vehicle should also be equipped with water, means of communication, a reflective hazard triangle, a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit. We recommend driving in convoy. Road travel outside the capital may be difficult during the rainy season.

Transportation

Guinea has no official public transportation system. Although informal means of communal transport exist, such as taxis and buses, they should be used with extreme caution. Airline companies offer regular links from Conakry to the cities of Kankan, Siguiri, Labé and N’zérékoré.

There is an airport departure tax, which may not be included in the price of the plane ticket. Please check with your air carrier.

Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Fraud

Cases of attempted fraud are frequently reported in this country. See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

Piracy

Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters, and in some cases, further out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.

General safety information

In the event of a strike, shops could close for long periods of time with little warning. Ensure that you maintain stores of food, water and emergency supplies, sufficient to last three to four days.

Power outages are frequent throughout the country and may affect security conditions, especially in large urban centres.

Tourist facilities are limited outside the capital.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Meningitis

This country is in the African Meningitis Belt, an area where there are many cases of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease (meningitis) is a serious and sometimes fatal infection of the tissue around the brain and the spinal cord. Travellers who may be at high risk should consider getting vaccinated. High-risk travellers include those living or working with the local population (e.g., health care workers), those travelling to crowded areas or taking part in large gatherings, or those travelling for a longer period of time.

Polio

There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in West Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in West Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in West Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, Rift Valley feverWest Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in West Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are limited and medicines are scarce in Conakry and throughout the country. Evacuation may be required for major medical emergencies.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

A licence is required to export precious gems. Penalties are heavy for those involved in smuggling, particularly when diamonds and other gems are involved.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Videotaping and photography are forbidden in many parts of the country and should be restricted to private gatherings. You must obtain permission from the Guinean government before photographing military and transportation facilities, government buildings or public works.

An International Driving Permit is required.

Culture

Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in the country’s customs, laws and regulations. Common sense and discretion should be exercised in dress and behaviour. You should dress conservatively; for example, women should wear a headscarf and cover their arms and legs. Respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. The use of drugs and alcohol is prohibited. Transgressions could be punished by detention or other penalties.

Money

The currency is the Guinean franc (GNF). The economy is cash-based. The import or export of local currency is prohibited. There are no limits on the import of foreign currency, but it should be declared on arrival. The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival. Carry no more than 10,000 FG (about C$10) upon departure from Guinea. Automated banking machines are available but not reliable. Credit cards are not often accepted. Traveller’s cheques in U.S. dollars are accepted only at banks and some hotels.

Climate

The rainy season extends from June to November. Roads may become impassable during this period. You should keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.