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Country Reports

Guinea-Bissau Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travel to the small West African country of Guinea-Bissau (population 1.8 million), with its chronically unstable government, requires an appropriate level of precaution.

AREAS TO AVOID

Security throughout the country is relatively stable. However, some Western governments do advise against non-essential travel to two areas of the country. Firstly, areas along the Senegalese border (north) should be avoided due to the presence of landmines as well as a possible resurgence of tensions across the border in Senegalese Casamance, which has been embroiled in conflict with the government in Dakar for some thirty years. Travelers to this area should not venture off of main roads.

The second area to avoid is the capital city of Bissau, as security conditions have deteriorated considerably with an increasing number of armed attacks reported. Perpetrators often specifically target expatriates, particularly at night, and often resort to violence to rob people of money, jewelry, and cars. The capital also regularly sees bouts of political violence (coup d'états, assassinations, etc.).

CRIME

The crime rate is relatively low in Guinea-Bissau. However, the capital Bissau has experienced an upsurge in crimes of opportunity (e.g. pickpocketing, bag snatching, vehicle theft, minor assaults) in recent years. These crimes mostly take place in busy areas such as Bandim Market and the port, as well as in Reino and Mindaro districts, particularly at night.

It is recommended to avoid walking alone in the evening, to avoid carrying valuables or large sums of cash, and to ride in vehicles with windows rolled up and doors locked. If confronted, do not escalate the situation and comply with all reasonable demands (e.g. surrender wallets, purses, valuables).

Travelers are advised to keep their travel and identity documents (passports and ID cards) and cash in a safe place, particularly when traveling to busy places such as the airport and markets. Do not leave anything inside vehicles when departing.

In the event of a criminal incident, it is recommended to contact your consulate.

Drug trafficking is prevalent in Guinea-Bissau, as it is a transit point for South American cocaine routes to Europe.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

Political life in Guinea-Bissau has been characterized by chronic political instability since its independence from Portugal in 1974.

Presidential elections held in mid-May 2014 took place without incident. The election of José Mario Vaz marked the first democratic transition of power since the April 12, 2012, coup d'état that overthrew Carlos Gomes, Jr. and his regime. However, the country was plunged into renewed political crisis in August 2015. Against the wishes of his cabinet, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) - his own political party in power - and the people, President Vaz decided to dissolve the government of Domingo Simoes Pereira, resulting in increased political instability and an ongoing rivalry between the President and the PAIGC. As a result, as of July 2017, the country is on its fifth government since the initial reshuffle in August 2015.

It is advisable to stay away from all public gatherings. Demonstrations, although generally peaceful, may turn violent. These typically begin and end in front of the presidential palace in Bissau, located on the National Heroes Square (Praça dos Heróis Naciones).

The next legislative elections are scheduled for 2018 and the next presidential elections for 2019.

TRANSPORTATION

There are no direct flights between Guinea-Bissau and continental Europe.

Roads are generally poorly maintained and seldom lit, even in the capital, although improvements are underway. Due to these planned infrastructure projects, traffic jams are frequent, especially on Avenue des Combatentes da Liberdade da Patri in the center of Bissau.

It is not recommended to drive at night. Drivers should stay on the main paved roads, both in the capital and throughout the country.

During the rainy season (June to October), remain vigilant; some roads can become impassable and urban traffic can be highly disrupted.

There is no public transportation in Bissau. Travelers should take care in selecting a taxi and driver.

HEALTH

Hospitals often suffer from a severe lack of supplies throughout the country and therefore medical evacuation from Guinea-Bissau may prove necessary in the event of major health issues. Prior to departure, foreign nationals should purchase health insurance covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue.

Health risks in Guinea-Bissau are primarily linked to mosquito-borne diseases. Travelers must present a yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter the country. Malaria is endemic to the country. Travelers should protect themselves against mosquito bites (e.g. by using insect repellent and wearing covering clothes) and consult their physician regarding a preventative anti-malaria treatment.

Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease, has sporadically affected the country since April 2016. Symptoms can appear two to seven days following contraction of the disease and include fever, headache (behind the eyes), conjunctivitis, rash, vomiting, and muscle and joint pain. While the virus is usually relatively benign, links between the Zika virus and the birth defect microcephaly (babies born with underdeveloped heads) as well as the potentially fatal neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) have been established. There is no vaccine. The disease is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.

Tap water in Guinea-Bissau is not drinkable. Diarrheal diseases are chronic (cholera, typhoid, etc.). It is therefore essential to only drink decontaminated or bottled water, to avoid eating raw or undercooked foods, and to wash your hands several times a day.

To avoid the risk of parasitic contamination, it is recommended to avoid drinking, bathing, or washing clothes in stagnant water. It is not recommended to walk barefoot.

In addition, take all necessary measures to protect against HIV/AIDS.

The meningitis vaccine is strongly advised as Guinea-Bissau is in Africa's "meningitis belt."

INFRASTRUCTURE

There are frequent cuts in the supply of water and electricity.

Payments by credit card and bank check are not accepted in Bissau.

NATURAL RISKS

Finally, the monsoon season lasts from May to November. Torrential rains often hit the country between July and September and can cause significant damage to infrastructure, including roads.

Climate

Guinea-Bissau's climate is wet and tropical, particularly along the coast, with a period of heavy rain from June until November and a dry season lasting from December until May. During the rainy season, ocean winds often bring heavy rains to the entire country and floods are common. High levels of humidity in combination with high temperatures often make conditions uncomfortable. During the dry season days are hot and sunny while nights are cool. Weather conditions are much drier when the Harmattan, a hot and dry trade wind from the Sahara, passes through the country.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +245

There are no emergency services in Guinea-Bissau.

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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