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Equatorial Guinea

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Equatorial Guinea (Spanish: República de Guinea Ecuatorial) is a small country in Central Africa that's divided into two parts: the mainland and the islands. The mainland is wedged between Cameroon and Gabon. It is one of the largest oil producers in Africa, along with Angola and Nigeria.

Equatorial Guinea is largely homogenous; the Fang (a Bantu origin ethnicity) are the largest ethnic group, making up more than 86% of the population.

Travel provides one the opportunity to explore a former Spanish colony, where a modern society runs under a strict, controlling, and repressive government.

One of the least visited countries in the world, you may attract a lot of attention as a tourist, and many complete their journey without trouble.

Regions

Cities

  • Malabo - the capital, on Bioko
  • Bata - the major city on the mainland
  • 3 Ciudad de la Paz - new capital under construction
  • Acalayong
  • Ebebiyin - a major access point in the far northeast corner
  • Evinayong
  • Luba - another town on Bioko
  • Mbini
  • Mongomo

Other destinations

  • Monte Alén National Park - fantastic fauna in the center of the mainland


Understand

For visitors, Equatorial Guinea is infamous for its high prices and hard-to-get visas for most. This is nominally a police state, akin to Turkmenistan and North Korea (minus the minders and organized persecution of its inhabitants). As a result, tourist infrastructure is sparse and it is not a high priority for the government. You are likely to face harassment by police forces curious of what you are doing in the country as a "tourist". Since the oil companies operating here are mostly American, Americans may receive marginally better treatment compared to other nationalities (e.g. visa-free entry, less suspicion by police).

Since the discovery of oil, Equatorial Guinea has—at least on paper—one of the highest per-capita incomes on the planet. Despite this, income and day-to-day life for many Equatorial Guineans has improved little, due to the endemic corruption siphoning off oil revenue into the hands of a small wealthy elite. However, there has been progress, and new infrastructure and modernization projects are under construction or even finished, especially on Bioko and around Malabo. Work is in progress (2016) building this new city, called Oyala or Djibloho, on the mainland between Bata and Mongomo. In spite of the impressive-looking new infrastructure, few Equatorial Guineans have access to it, and while the government throws billions of dollars at new construction, less than half the country's population (of fewer than 700,000) have access to clean drinking water.

History

In the Rio Muni region, there is believed to have been a widespread pygmy population, of whom only isolated pockets remain in the north. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang.

The Portuguese explorer Fernão do Pó, seeking a path to India, is credited as being the first European to discover the island of Bioko in 1472. He called it Formosa ("Beautiful"), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The islands of Fernando Pó and Annobón were colonized by Portugal in 1474.

In 1778, the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger River and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to the Spanish Empire in exchange for territory in the American continent. From 1827 to 1843, the United Kingdom established a base on the island to combat the slave trade which was then moved to Sierra Leone upon agreement with Spain in 1843. In 1844, on restoration of Spanish sovereignty, it became known as the Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea Ecuatorial. The mainland portion, Rio Muni, became a protectorate in 1885 and a colony in 1900. Between 1926 and 1959 all three regions were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea. Spanish settlers arrived and created plantations in the colony.

The Macías regime (1968 - 1979)

Equatorial Guinea gained independence from Spain in October 1968. Francisco Macías Nguema, the first president, was a brutal, tyrannical, and violent dictator. His repressive regime was complicit in severe human rights abuses (persecution of intellectuals and minorities), banned fishing, and is believed to have personally murdered a third of the country's population.

During this time, Equatorial Guinea was known as the "Dachau" of Africa and Macías has often been referred to as the "Pol Pot" of Africa.

His strong, anti-Western views garnered him respect and admiration from the Eastern Bloc, but his views alienated him from much of the Western world.

The Obiang regime (1979 - present)

Macías reportedly ordered the deaths of his family members. Believing him insane, Teodoro Obiang, his nephew, deposed him in a bloody coup d'etat in 1979 and later executed him. Although Obiang's rule is less violent, his regime is still considered to be repressive.

In 1995, large oil reserves were discovered and brought considerable wealth to the country, but this hasn't exactly translated into development; much of the population is poor (70-80% of the population lives in poverty), the country scores poorly on the Human Development Index, and most citizens do not have proper access to drinking water, health care, and basic amenities.

The Equatoguinean government does not tolerate criticism and dissent, and hits back at critics by telling them that they "will not accept interference in the internal affairs of the country".

It doesn't look like things will change in the foreseeable future, but still, hopes are high that things will change for the better.

Climate

Equatorial Guinea has two distinctive and very pronounced seasons: rainy and dry seasons. April to October are the wettest months of the year, and December to March are the driest.

People

The major ethnic groups are the Fang of the mainland and the Bubi of Bioko Island. Sorcerers are still among the most important community members. The abira ceremony that helps cleanse the community of evil is fascinating.

Holidays

Equatorial Guinea recognises the major Christian holidays. 12 October is Independence Day.

Get in

Visa requirements

Citizens of the United States, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Barbados, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, and Gabon do not require a visa to visit the country.

Visa application requirements

Equatoguinean visa regulations are notoriously confusing and it would appear that they have been deliberately designed like that.

Although regulations vary from place to place, you are generally required to submit the following with your application:

  • A valid passport.
    • Your passport should have a validity longer than six months.
  • Proof you haven't been convicted of any major crimes.
    • The document should not be older than three months, and must be submitted in either English, French, or Spanish.
  • Proof you have been vaccinated against yellow fever.
    • This is a must.
  • A letter from your bank confirming you have at least $2,000 in your bank account.
    • This is only required if you plan on applying for a tourist visa.
  • A letter of invitation from the local authorities.
    • The letter must not be older than three months and it must be apostilled by the government.
    • This can be very difficult to obtain and is arguably the main deterrent for obtaining a visa to visit the country.
    • Some consulates and embassies claim that you do not need an invitation letter if you have a hotel reservation.

By plane

There are two paved airports, one a few miles from Malabo (SSG IATA), and one in Bata (BSG IATA).

Airlines flying to Malabo airport include Ceiba (from Madrid), Turkish Airlines (from Istanbul), Air France (from Paris), Ethiopian Airlines (from Addis Ababa), and Lufthansa flies direct from Frankfurt to Malabo.

By car

The capital is on an island. However, the mainland may be accessed from Gabon via paved roads and from Cameroon. Many roads in have been newly constructed and overall Equatorial Guinea has one of the best road systems in Central Africa, specially across the important cities.

The entry from Campo is often closed. Also, the entry from Kye-Ossi and Ebebiyin may deny entry for visa-free Americans if sufficient reason for entry is not presented or if one is not ethnically Caucasian.

Extortion by security forces is not uncommon in Equatorial Guinea, even to the level of local police exacting bribes for trumped-up traffic violations.

By bus

By boat

Get around

Talk

Equatorial Guinea has 3 official languages: Spanish, French and Portuguese. The colonial language is Spanish, and the country is also a member of La Francophonie. There is an Anglophone population in Bioko that is historically linked to British commerce on the island. Languages such as French and Portuguese are of official use in the country as well. English is spoken by few people, even in the capital city. The Fang language and Igbo are widely spoken.

See

There are lots of beaches. Take the precautions listed in the 'Stay Safe' category.

Do

Buy

Money

The currency is the Central African CFA franc, denoted FCFA (ISO currency code: XAF). It's also used by five other Central African countries. It is interchangeable at par with the West African CFA franc (XOF), which is used by six countries. Both currencies are fixed at a rate of 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs.

You can withdraw money with a Mastercard or Visa card at any Ecobank ATM in Equatorial Guinea.

Costs

Everything is extremely expensive in Equatorial Guinea. A decent room with very limited amenities (bring necessities such as towels, soap and shampoo as the hotel may not have any) will be €100-400. A simple lunch will cost at least €30 (without drinks such as wine, beer or soft drinks) in a clean, air-conditioned restaurant.

Eat

There are several good places to eat, particularly in Malabo. The coffee shop at Hotel Sofitel (across from the Cathedral along the north coast) offers French cuisine. Hotel Bahia's main restaurant is also a favourite destination for locals and expats. For pizza and pasta, the Pizza Place is the best place in town. For Asian cuisine, Restaurante Bantu offers Chinese cuisine. For Moroccan and European food, try La Luna. Try Equatorial Guinean cuisine such as smoked beef with a black pepper. There is also a roast duck with cheese and onion leaf.

Drink

Ebebiyin is known for its many bars. Wine is available, and the locally produced beer, Guineana, is very good.

Sleep

Due to the influx of foreign workers and foreign investment in Malabo and on the continent, there is an ample choice of hotels.

Stay safe

Photography

Previously, a permit from the Ministry of Information and Tourism was required for photography. Although the law has changed, law enforcement authorities may use this as a reason to target, intimidate, extort, threaten, or even arrest tourists.

As obvious as it may sound, do not walk around with a camera on your neck, and do not photograph airports, government buildings, or anything of military or strategic value.

Authorities

The police are known to be aggressive, truculent, and confrontational. Extortion by them is not uncommon.

Politics

Equatorial Guinea is an authoritarian country that does not tolerate or permit dissent.

It is unwise to criticise or show any kind of disrespect to Teodoro Obiang or the Equatoguinean government. A comment heard by the wrong person can land you in serious trouble with the authorities.

Be very skeptical if someone tries to start a political conversation. Always ask yourself, "What's in it for them?" Since most Equatoguineans know that discussing politics is taboo, there's always some ulterior motive you don't know about.

Extreme weather

Equatorial Guinea is equatorial, its weather conditions are very tropical and normally very hot. It is best to wear lightweight clothing and try avoid wearing anything dark as it may attract mosquitos.

Stay healthy

Food and water: There are no potable or clean water sources in Equatorial Guinea. Visitors should drink only bottled water. Take care when consuming any fruits or vegetables that may have been washed or drinks that may contain ice cubes or 'water' additives such as coffee, tea or lemonade.

Wear shoes: Beaches in Malabo and Bata are beautiful, however, due to discarded trash and unsafe sand bugs, it is a good idea to always wear shoes. This applies to walking on carpeted areas as well.

Malaria medicine: Malaria is a leading cause of death in this country. It is advised that visitors consult their doctor for malaria tablets. Plasmodium falciparum malaria is the most common strain in EG; it is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine.

According to the US embassy, the La Paz Hospitals in Bata and Malabo are the only two in the country with medical standards of a hospital in a developed country.

Respect

Local people are very hospitable and have a certain familiarity for everything related to Spain, as the country was a Spanish province until 1968. In addition, half of the country's population emigrated to Spain between 1966 and the 1990s.

Connect


Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

Although the crime rate is lower than that of other countries in the region, petty crime and corruption do occur, particularly in Bata and Malabo. Armed robberies and muggings involving foreigners have increased in Malabo. Avoid walking alone after dark and avoid groups of young men congregated near bars and restaurants.

Demonstrations

Maintain a high level of security awareness at all times and avoid public gatherings and street demonstrations. Ensure that personal belongings, passport and other travel documents are secure at all times.

Road travel

Most roads in Equatorial Guinea are paved and traffic signs are adequate. Excessive speeds, increased traffic, and driving habits pose risks. Avoid travel after dark. Do not pick up hitchhikers. In the event of an accident, you should not move your vehicle until the police arrive. Minibuses and taxis are available throughout the country. Car rental companies also exist.

Piracy

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

General security information

Police and military checks and roadblocks are common. If you are stopped for a small traffic violation, cooperate with local authorities and request a citation, to be paid at the local court.

When travelling outside of Bata and Malabo, we recommend that you carry a letter from your employer or other organization stating the purpose of your travel. Proper identification must be carried at all times. Failure to do so may result in detention. You should contact local authorities before travelling outside the main cities. A security permit issued by the government is required to visit the Bioko Island destinations of Pico Basile, Moka and Ureca.

On February 17, 2009, an attack occurred near the presidential palace in Malabo. Military personnel were deployed throughout the city to ensure general security. Airports and seaports were closed for a few hours. Although such incidents are not common, you are advised to remain vigilant, monitor local news reports and follow the advice of authorities.

Emergency services

In case of emergency, dial 113 for the police and 115 for fire emergencies. For ambulance services, call La Paz Medical Clinic Bata: 333 083403/333 083501 or La Paz Medical Clinic Malabo: 55 6666 153.

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.
 

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 Central Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central 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.


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Central 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.

Onchoceriasis

Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is an eye and skin disease caused by a parasite spread through the bite of an infected female blackfly.  Onchocerciasis often leads to blindness if left untreated. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from blackfly bites, which are most common during the daytime and close to running water. There is no vaccine available for onchocerciasis although drug treatments exist.


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 Central Africa, like 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 and supplies are extremely limited. Medicines are not always available outside Malabo and Bata. In case of serious illness, a medical evacuation would be necessary.

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.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict.

Homosexuality is not widely accepted and displays of intimate affection are illegal.

Photography of the presidential palace and surrounding areas, airports, military installations, harbours, and other sensitive areas is strictly prohibited. Special permits may be needed for other photography or filming. For more information, contact local authorities.

The import or possession of camouflage clothing, large knives, binoculars, firearms, or similar items may be deemed suspicious by authorities. These items could be confiscated and you could be detained. Satellite phones are legally permissible, but not all immigration officials may be aware of this. If stopped, make an effort to speak to a higher authority, or if you are forced to leave the satellite phone with an official, ensure that you receive a receipt or some other identification of the confiscator to facilitate the return of the item at a later date.

An Equatorial Guinean driver's licence is mandatory for residents. The licence is renewable each year.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Money

The official currency is the Central African franc (CFA), issued by the Banque Centrale des États d’Afrique Centrale (BEAC). You may be required to declare all currency you are carrying on arrival and departure. As certain import and export limits may apply, you should contact local authorities for information. You should exchange foreign currency at banks. The economy operates on a cash basis. Credit cards and travellers cheques are not accepted.

Climate

The climate is hot and humid. On Bioko Island, the rainy season extends from July to January. On the mainland, there are two rainy seasons - one from April to May and one from October to December. Severe windstorms occur occasionally. Some roads may be impassable to all but four-wheel-drive vehicles during the rainy season. You should keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

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