Crime Information for Tourists in Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau is rated high for crime due to the frequency of crimes committed and lack of law enforcement resources and capabilities. Foreigners are primarily the targets of crimes of opportunity to include, petty-theft, pick-pocketing, theft of valuables from vehicles, and minor assaults. In particular, low-level criminal activity occurs in crowded areas such as the Bandim Market and port in central Bissau. Criminals take advantage of foreigners attempting to navigate through the crowded markets. Exercise good personal security practices to reduce the risk of being victimized. Keep a low profile, remain vigilant, and avoid potential conflict situations. Do not wear flashy clothing or jewelry, and be cautious about displaying any amount of currency in public.

To avoid theft do not walk alone in isolated areas, particularly at night, and lock all doors and close all windows when driving. Do not walk on dark streets at night, even in groups. To minimize inconvenience in the event of theft, carry copies, rather than originals, of your passport and other identification documents. While some of the larger hotels may accept credit cards, Bissau is largely a cash based economy and it is therefore recommended that travelers plan for and bring appropriate amounts of currency. Valuables should be stored in hotel safes.

In conjunction with the high crime rate, the poor infrastructure and lack of lighting at night also present a more opportune environment for criminals to exploit. It is recommended to arrange for transportation and limit walking around Bissau at night to reduce the risk of being a victim of a crime. In addition, banditry also occurs with some regularity on the main highways throughout the country after dark. The U.S. Embassy recommends that travel be completed during daylight hours only and, if possible, in convoy.

The unstable security environment and high rates of unemployment strongly influence criminals to go to extreme measures to achieve their goals. While most criminals in Guinea-Bissau seek crimes of opportunity with low risk of confrontation, they are not afraid to exert violence. In many cases, criminal elements in Bissau operate in small, loosely affiliated groups to perpetrate a crime. Criminals use one or two individuals to cause a distraction or remain on lookout, while the others commit the crime.

While violent crime towards foreigners are not common in Guinea-Bissau, the increase in narcotics trafficking has contributed to an increase in criminal activity and aggressive assaults among the local population in more rural areas of Guinea-Bissau.

The Bandim market and other vendors in Bissau offer a wide variety of illicit and counterfeit goods. While the items are widely available, all travelers are urged to not purchase any illicit items to prevent breaking local laws and U.S. laws if brought back to the United States.

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