Equatorial Guinea is an oil-rich, developing country on the western coast of central Africa. Its capital and main port, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko, off the coast of Cameroon. A secondary port, Luba, is also on Bioko. The mainland territory of Equatorial Guinea is bordered by Cameroon and Gabon. The principal city on the mainland is Bata. Official languages are Spanish, which is widely spoken, and French, which is widely understood and sometimes used in business dealings. Portuguese was recently made the country’s third official language, but is not widely used or spoken.
Equatorial Guinea is nominally a multiparty constitutional republic. In practice, however, all branches of government are dominated by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled since 1979. In November 2009, he was declared the winner of the presidential election with over 95 percent of the vote.
Equatorial Guinea is a beautiful country with many interesting sites and beaches, but there is little tourism information to assist in planning a vacation. Facilities for tourism are limited but growing.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
Although the Government of Equatorial Guinea’s website states that U.S. citizens do not require a visa to enter Equatorial Guinea, you will be required to fill out two visa application forms, present two passport photos, and provide evidence of your ability to finance your visit. If you are travelling on business, the Government of Equatorial Guinea requires a letter from your employer, stating the nature and duration of business. In addition, a certification of vaccination for small pox, yellow fever, and cholera are required to enter Equatorial Guinea. In practice, U.S. citizens are rarely asked to provide either the above paperwork or proof of vaccination upon entrance.
The CDC recommends the yellow fever vaccination. Small pox and cholera vaccinations are generally not available in the United States. Immigration officials may bar entry into the country for those that cannot comply with the vaccination requirements.
All other nationals must acquire a visa prior to arriving in country. It is extremely difficult to obtain a visa upon entry into Equatorial Guinea. U.S. citizens staying longer than 90 days should register with the local police station.
Private ships landing at an Equatoguinean port must get clearance prior to approaching the shore.
You can obtain the latest information and entry and exit information from the Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, 2020 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, telephone (202) 518-5700, fax (202) 518-5252.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Equatorial Guinea.
Safety and Security
While Equatorial Guinea remains quite safe, westerners are increasingly targeted for petty crime, harassment by officials, and similar situations that have the potential to turn violent. There is no indication that U.S. citizens are being specifically targeted at this time.
Although large public demonstrations are uncommon, you should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations.
As of 2000, the population is 474,214—80 percent of whom live on the mainland, and of that group, 90 percent are Fang. The original inhabitants of Bioko are of a group called Bubi, descendants of mainland Bantu tribes. Bioko also is home to descendants of former slaves who were freed in the nineteenth century. Many Bubi have recently immigrated to the continent, and along with other, smaller Bantu-speaking tribes, comprise the remaining 10 percent of the population in Río Muni. Minority tribes include the Kombe, Balengue, Bujebas, Ibo, and Ibibo. There is a small group of Europeans (fewer than one thousand), most of them Spanish.
Spanish and French are the official languages of Equatorial Guinea, although a very small percentage of the population speaks either of them. Pidgin English is also used as a lingua franca, particularly on Bioko. Most people’s daily lives are conducted in tribal languages, either Fang, Bubi or Ibo, all of which are in the Bantu family of languages.
The coat of arms (which is depicted on the flag) has six yellow six-pointed stars, which stand for the mainland and the five islands that comprise the country. It also includes a picture of a silk-cotton tree.
Food in Daily Life
The main foods are cassava root, bananas, rice, and yams. People supplement their primarily plant-based diet through hunting and fishing. Palm wine and malamba (an alcoholic drink made from sugarcane) are both popular. Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions,Chicken and duck are usually served at special occasions.
It is necessary for the Ministry of Justice and Religion to approve a religious organization before it is allowed to practice. The government is wary of the Catholic Church, as it has a history of criticizing human rights violations. Nonetheless, Catholic religious study is part of public education, and 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. The other 20 percent have held on to their traditional beliefs, and even many who nominally subscribe to Catholicism continue to follow traditional religious practices. There are a few Muslims, mostly Hausa traders in the region. The indigenous beliefs are animist, attributing spiritual energy to natural formations such as rivers, mountains, and trees.
Although violent crime remains rare, there has been a rise in violent burglaries/home invasions and in overall hostility directed at westerners by police and other officials. In addition, many situations, including petty or street crime and official harassment, have the potential to turn violent. You should exercise prudence and normal caution, including avoiding dark alleys, remote locations, and travelling alone. Sexual assault is extremely rare against westerners. There is little evidence of racially-motivated hate crimes or crime targeted against elderly travelers or the LGBT community.
While you are traveling in Equatorial Guinea, you are subject to its laws. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own.
In the recent past, a special permit from the Ministry of Information and Tourism was required for virtually all types of photography. Although the law has changed, police or security officials may still attempt to impose a fine on people taking photographs. It is still forbidden to take photos of the Presidential Palace and its surroundings, military installations, airports, harbors, government buildings, and any other area deemed sensitive by the local government. Police and security officials have attempted to take photographers into custody for perceived or actual violations of this policy, or to seize the camera of persons photographing in the country. As these situations have the potential to become hostile, you should exercise prudence and caution while taking photographs.
It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the police or security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of minor or nonexistent violations of the local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes. Visitors are advised not to pay bribes, and to request that the officer provide a citation to be paid at the local court or a receipt stating the violation, amount due, and the officer’s name.
Equatorial Guinea is almost exclusively a cash economy. The country has very few hotels that accept credit cards. Generally, credit cards and checks are not accepted, and credit card cash advances are not available. Most local businesses do not accept travelers’ checks, dollars, or Euros. However, dollars can be exchanged at local banks for Central African Francs (CFA). Cash in CFA is usually the only form of payment accepted throughout the country. ATMs are increasingly available in major cities, but their use is still not widespread. Although they are generally secure, travelers may find them out of order, so it is best not to rely entirely on ATMs to obtain cash.
There are very few openly Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals in Equatorial Guinea, so detailed information on LGBT rights and statistics relating to crimes against or harassment of LGBT individuals are not readily available.
While in Equatorial Guinea, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find elsewhere. Accommodation for individuals with disabilities is not mandated by Equatoguinean law, and travelers with disabilities may encounter difficulties accessing transportation and public buildings. Although sidewalks are increasingly available in major cities (especially in Malabo and Bata), road crossings are frequently uneven and curbs in need of repair. Neither Malabo nor Bata has a public transportation system, and few vehicles are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Public buildings, including restaurants, bars, medical facilities, stores, and government offices, are rarely accessible and frequently have steps or partially obstructed entrances.
Medical facilities are limited, though improving. Pharmacies in Malabo and Bata stock basic medicines including antibiotics, but cannot be counted on to supply advanced medications. Outside of these cities, many medicines are unavailable. You are advised to carry a supply of properly-labelled prescription drugs and other medications adequate to cover your entire stay. Sanitation levels in hospitals are very low, except for the Hospital La Paz Medical Center in Malabo and, to a lesser extent, in Bata, which meet many ofthe medical standards of a modern hospital in a developed country. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services, and patients are sometimes expected to supply their own bandages, linen, and toiletries. Emergency medical services (ambulances, trained paramedics) are only sporadically available and should not be relied upon in the event of an emergency.
Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease. Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended for all those over nine months of age.
To help prevent mosquito bites and illness, wear long sleeves and use topical repellants and bednets.
Travel & Transportation
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:
While in Equatorial Guinea, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in your country of origin. citizens on short stays are permitted to drive with an International Driver’s License. Generally, Equatorial Guinea’s road networks are increasingly well-developed. New road construction and repair are taking place all over the country, and road conditions have improved markedly. Speed limits are posted in kilometers but rarely observed, and travelers should remain alert for pedestrians and livestock, even on multi-lane highways. Traffic signals and crosswalks are increasingly common, but not always heeded by local drivers. Driving while intoxicated is widespread and rarely penalized, particularly at night and during weekends and holidays. Travelers should take additional care when driving at night as many motorists do not use headlights and roads are inconsistently lit. If you plan on staying in Equatorial Guinea and will be driving around the country for any length of time, you should attempt to purchase a cell phone for use in case of an emergency.
Equatoguinean cities have no reliable form of public transportation. Taxis, which are inexpensive and readily available, are often poorly-maintained, and taxi drivers frequently drive dangerously or while impaired. Travelers should be aware that taxis will stop to pick up additional passengers and may detour or drop passengers off out of sequence. Single travelers, particularly women, are advised to avoid taxis if possible, or to use taxi drivers personally known to them or recommended as being safe and reliable.
Travelers outside the limits of Malabo and Bata will encounter military roadblocks, and police checks are increasingly common in both cities. You should be prepared to show proper identification (for example, a copy of your passport) and to explain your reason for being at that particular location. The personnel staffing these checkpoints are often poorly-trained and normally do not speak or understand English or French; travelers who do not speak Spanish should have their reason for being in the country and their itinerary written down in Spanish, especially if planning to travel into the countryside. Travelers should be aware that many military facilities are poorly marked and inconsistently staffed, especially in isolated areas. Travelers should try to avoid these sites whenever possible.
There are currently no distracted driving laws in effect in the Equatorial Guinea, but police may pull over drivers who talk or text while driving for not following unspecific safe driving procedures.