What makes Guinea a unique country to travel to?
Guinea is a developing country in western Africa with minimal facilities for tourism. Travelers who plan to stay in Conakry, the capital, should make reservations well in advance. French is the official language; Pular, Malinké, and Soussou are also widely spoken.
In Conakry, as in many large cities, crime is a fact of daily life. Residential and street crimes are very common. Some crime is perpetrated by individuals in military uniforms. Sentiments toward U.S. citizens in Guinea are generally positive, but criminals regularly target foreigners, including U.S. citizens, because they are perceived as lucrative targets. Crime – both nonviolent and violent – is a problem. Most nonviolent crime involves acts of pick-pocketing and purse-snatching, while armed robbery, muggings, assaults, and carjackings are the most common violent crimes. Despite the police’s good intentions, they have been unable to prevent the rapid escalation of crime. Police and military officials have also been known to make direct and indirect requests for bribes. Criminals particularly target visitors at the airport, in the traditional markets, and near hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners. Visitors should avoid unsolicited offers of assistance at the airport and hotels because such offers often mask an intention to steal luggage, purses, or wallets. Travelers should arrange for hotel personnel, family members, or business contacts to meet them at the airport to reduce their vulnerability to these crimes of opportunity.
Commercial scams and disputes with local business partners can create legal difficulties for U.S. citizens because corruption is widespread in Guinea. Business is routinely based on bribes rather than the law, and enforcement of the law is irregular and inefficient. The U.S. Embassy has extremely limited recourse in assisting U.S. citizens who are victims of illegal business deals.
Business fraud is rampant and the targets are usually foreigners, including U.S. citizens. Schemes previously associated exclusively with Nigeria are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Guinea, and pose a danger of severe financial loss. Typically these scams begin with the receipt of an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from a stranger who promises quick financial gain, often by transferring large sums of money or valuables out of the country, but then require a series of "advance fees" to be paid—such as fees for legal documents or taxes—to finalize the release of funds. The final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. A common variation is the scammer’s claim to be a refugee or émigré from a prominent West African family, or a relative of a present or former political leader who needs assistance in transferring large sums of cash. Still other variations appear to be legitimate business deals that require advance payments on contracts. Sometimes victims are convinced to provide bank account and credit card information and financial authorizations that drain their accounts, incur large debts against their credit, and take their life savings.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense—if a proposition looks too good to be true, it probably is. You should carefully check into and research any unsolicited business proposal before committing funds, providing goods or services, or undertaking any travel. A good clue to a scam is the phone number given to the victim; legitimate businesses and offices provide fixed-line numbers, while scams typically involve the use of only cell phones. It is virtually impossible to recover money lost through these scams.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law too.
While you are traveling in 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. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. 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 your break the local laws in Guinea, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not legal where you are going. Persons violating Guinean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. It is common for criminal cases to take months, if not years, to reach a verdict.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical facilities are poorly equipped and extremely limited, both in the capital city and throughout Guinea. Medicines are in short supply and of questionable quality, sterility of equipment should not be assumed, and treatment is frequently unreliable. Some private medical facilities provide a better range of treatment options than public facilities, but are still well below western standards. There is one ambulance in Conakry but there are no ambulance or emergency rescue services in Guinea. Trauma care is extremely limited. Water in Guinea is presumed to be contaminated, so travelers should use only bottled or distilled water for drinking. Malaria is a serious risk to travelers in Guinea; prophylaxis against malaria, purchased in the United States, is recommended. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, visit CDC’s malaria web page. In addition, in recent years, meningitis outbreaks have occurred periodically, in particular during the rainy season and especially in the eastern part of the country, but also in the capital; therefore vaccination against meningitis is recommended.
Safety and Security
Guinea’s first democratically elected President was inaugurated in December 2010. The presidential election was supposed to be followed by timely elections for the national legislature, but these were repeatedly delayed, which led to frustration and anger among some groups. The frustration and anger has, on occasion, engendered demonstrations and protests, some of which have become violent and have included loss of life. In addition, electricity outages have exacerbated unrest and led to demonstrations in some neighborhoods. In both cases, demonstrators attempted to block traffic and caused property damage. Travelers should note that even the most disciplined demonstration can devolve into unpredictable, scattered, independent actions. While the embassy attempts to alert U.S. citizens in the country to potential safety and security events in advance, this is not always possible with fast-breaking developments.
Since 2010, discipline among security forces, including elements of the army, gendarmerie, and police, has been good. Before 2011, the U.S. government would not permit minor children of U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. Embassy to be stationed with their parent(s) in Guinea. These restrictions for U.S. citizen minors have since been lifted. There are currently no restrictions on the travel of U.S. citizen employees of the Embassy within Guinea.
While not specifically targeted, U.S. citizens have been victims of crime. Motorists traveling outside of Conakry have encountered improvised checkpoint-barricades manned by persons in military uniforms who demand money and search through personal belongings, confiscating items of value. On rare occasions, persons, including U.S. citizens, have reported abusive treatment by security forces and being taken into custody for purposes of extortion.
Civilian groups occasionally stage impromptu strikes or demonstrations, a practice which seems more likely when legislative elections occur. In some instances and in some locales, these demonstrations can involve violence. While U.S. citizens have not been targeted in past outbreaks of violence, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be very dangerous. During periods of civil unrest, public services such as transportation and medical care, as well as the availability of goods and services, can be affected. During many demonstrations, crowds of people gather and burn tires, create roadblocks, and damage vehicles by throwing rocks and bricks. The military has also been known to demonstrate and incite unrest due to their grievances with the government. Because of the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations. They should also avoid sensitive government installations, including the Presidential Palace, official government buildings, and military bases. U.S. citizens should maintain security awareness at all times.
Most border crossings are controlled jointly by Guinean armed forces, gendarmes, police, and immigration officials. A relatively long land border and the military’s lack of physical and monetary resources mean, however, that borders are lightly patrolled. U.S. citizens considering travel to the border regions with Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, or Côte d’Ivoire should consult the latest Travel Warnings and Country Specific Information for these countries. Crossing land borders requires visas and complete paperwork, and can be difficult.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Guinea, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Drivers in Guinea tend to be poorly trained and routinely ignore road safety rules. Guinea's road network, which is only partly paved, is underdeveloped and unsafe. Roads and vehicles are poorly maintained, road signs are insufficient, and roads and vehicles are frequently unlit. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards and make nighttime travel inadvisable. The police and the military often set up roadblocks, making inter- and intra-city travel difficult from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. During the rainy season (July through September), flash floods make some roads temporarily impassable. There is also a significant increase in banditry along the roadways between towns and upcountry during evening hours. U.S. citizens and other foreigners are strongly discouraged from traveling after dark outside of populated areas. Roadside assistance is not available in Guinea.
Guinea has no reliable public transportation. Taxis, including small cars and larger vans, are often poorly maintained and overcrowded. Taxis frequently stop and start without regard to other vehicles, making driving hazardous. Hired vehicles and drivers are available from agencies at major hotels in Conakry.