What makes Equatorial Guinea a unique country to travel to?
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 not widely understood, but sometimes used in business dealings.
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 more than 95 percent of the vote.
Facilities for tourism are limited but growing. Cash machines are rare and often out of service. The cash machine located at Malabo’s airport and one at the SGBGE Bank in downtown Malabo are open to the public; other cash machines that do exist require membership in the local bank. There are no ATMs outside of Malabo and Bata. Equatorial Guinea is a beautiful country with many interesting sites and beautiful beaches, but there is little tourism information to assist in planning a vacation. There is no public transportation and renting a vehicle is difficult. Rental vehicle choices are limited and can be expensive. Taxis are readily available in the larger cities and are generally inexpensive. Unless you pay a significantly higher price, drivers will pick up additional people until the vehicle is full. Passengers are delivered to their destinations at the convenience of the driver, not the passenger.
Violent crime is rare and the overall level of criminal activity is low in comparison to other countries in the region. However, there has been a rise in non-violent street crime and residential burglaries. You should exercise prudence and normal caution, including avoiding dark alleys, remote locations, and traveling alone. Sexual assault is either rare or not reported (there are no crime statistics or studies) and there is no specific group of people specifically targeted. There is little evidence of racially motivated hate crimes and U.S. citizens are not specifically targeted. There is also limited evidence of scams or confidence schemes.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. You will find such products widely available on the streets, local shops, and in market places. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, carrying them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
While you are traveling in Equatorial Guinea, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. Persons violating Equatoguinean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Equatorial Guinea are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
If you break local laws in Equatorial Guinea, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical facilities are very limited. Pharmacies in Malabo and Bata stock basic medicines including antibiotics, but cannot becounted on to supply advanced medications. Outside of these cities, many medicines are unavailable. You are advised to carry a supply of properly-labeled prescription drugs and other medications that you require for your entire stay; an adequate supply of prescription or over-the-counter drugs in local stores or pharmacies is generally not available. The sanitation levels in hospitals are very low, except for the new La Paz Hospitals in Bata and Malabo, which meet the 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.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. The national government, along with international oil companies in the country, has taken aggressive steps to control the mosquito population and limit the impact of malaria on the population centers in Malabo and Bata. Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in Equatorial Guinea, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. Travelers to the country are at high risk for contracting malaria; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that you take one of the following anti-malarial drugs: mefloquine,doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone™). If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area, and up to one year after returning home, you should seek prompt medical attention and tell your physician your travel history and what anti-malarials you have been taking. Visit the CDC's Travelers' Health page for additional information on malaria, including protective measures.
There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Equatorial Guinea. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease. Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Equatorial Guinea. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Many insect-borne illnesses are present. Insect precautions are encouraged at all times. Avoid non-chlorinated freshwater contact on the mainland to lessen the risk of Schistosomiasis.
Safety and Security
Although large public demonstrations are uncommon, you should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations.
In February 2009, approximately 50 gunmen arriving by speedboats attacked government buildings in Malabo but were repelled by Equatoguinean military and police.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in a foreign country, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Equatorial Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Generally, Equatorial Guinea's road networks are increasingly well developed. Nevertheless, livestock and pedestrians still create road hazards. New road construction and repair is taking place all over the country, and road conditions have improved markedly over the course of the past year. If you plan on staying in Equatorial Guinea and driving around the country for any length of time, you should attempt to purchase a cell phone for assistance in case of an emergency.
Travelers outside the limits of Malabo and Bata will encounter military roadblocks. You should be prepared to show proper identification (for example, a U.S. passport) and to explain your reason for being at that particular location. The personnel staffing these checkpoints 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 before venturing into the countryside. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
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.