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Travel Security Advice for Guinea-Bissau

Guinea_Bissau_national_Flag

guinea_biss_mapGuinea_Bissau_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

The Republic of Guinea-Bissau, a small country in western Africa, is one of the world’s poorest nations. The capital is Bissau and the official language is Portuguese. The country underwent a civil war in 1998-99 that devastated the economy.  Tourist facilities and infrastructure in general are very limited and not up to American standards.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Guinea–Bissau for additional information.

REGISTRATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Guinea-Bissau are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A valid passport, visa, and proof of onward/return ticket are required.  Since January 2007, the Bissau-Guinean Embassy in Washington, DC, has been temporarily closed.  The Embassy of Guinea-Bissau does not have a website.  Due to lack of consular representation in the U.S., it is difficult to obtain the required visa for entry into Guinea-Bissau.  Since most flights destined for Guinea-Bissau must pass through Dakar, Senegal, or Lisbon, Portugal, most travelers are able to apply for visas at the Bissau-Guinean embassies in those countries.  Although it is possible to obtain a visa upon arrival in Bissau if arrangements are made in advance, there are no clear instructions for how to make those arrangements.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Guinea-Bissau.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

There is no permanent U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Guinea-Bissau.  The U.S. Embassy in Bissau suspended operations on June 14, 1998.  While officials from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, make periodic visits to Guinea-Bissau, their ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is very limited.  The U.S. maintains a liaison office in Bissau, located at Edifício SITEC, Rua José Carlos Schwarz 245, Bairro d’Ajuda (tel/fax 245-256382, 245-5954647).  This office is staffed by locally employed staff who, while not equipped to provide consular services, may be contacted in the event of an emergency.  The nearest U.S. Embassies are located in Banjul, the Gambia; Conakry, Guinea; and Dakar, Senegal.

Although the civil war that led to the closure of the U.S. Embassy ended in 1999 and elections were held in 2005 and 2008, travelers should be aware that political tensions persist.  Sporadic politically-motivated violence remains an issue.  For example, on March 1, 2009, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff was assassinated, prompting members of the military to kill the President in retaliation on March 2.  Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.  With presidential elections scheduled for June 28, 2009, the potential for future political unrest remains high.

Additionally, unexploded military ordnance and landmines remain scattered throughout the country.  Although the capital city of Bissau was declared “mine-free” in June 2006 by the national de-mining center (CAAMI), occasional findings or unintentional explosions do occur.  Two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been active in successfully removing mines.  To minimize the risks posed landmines, U.S. citizens are encouraged to limit driving outside of towns to daylight hours only and to remain on well-traveled roads at all times.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

Although there is a fairly low incidence of daytime street crime, travelers should observe security precautions in the city, particularly with regard to pick pocketing activity in marketplaces.  Travelers should refrain from walking alone at night.  The lack of reliable public electricity means that urban streets are dark at night, even in Bissau.  There have been periodic incidents of bandits accosting travelers in rural areas.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.  The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division in the U.S. Department of Justice has more information on this serious problem.

VICTIMS OF CRIME :

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

There is no local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Guinea-Bissau.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Persons violating Bissau-Guinean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea-Bissau are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Guinea-Bissau's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import or export of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, and business equipment.

International banking and finance is problematic due to a limited formal banking sector.  ATMs are not available, credit cards are not accepted, currency exchange outside of the black market is almost non-existent, wire transfer possibilities are extremely limited, and repatriation of funds is problematic.  When possible, travelers should exchange money into the Franc CFA currency of the West African Economic and Monetary Zone before arriving in Guinea-Bissau.

As there is currently no functioning U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau, U.S. consular officials may not be properly notified when an American citizen is arrested or detained in Guinea-Bissau.  Because notification would have to be made to consular officers at U.S. Embassies in neighboring countries, there may be a delay in consular access to such citizens.  U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a notarized copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available.

Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.  Guinea-Bissau has a cash-only economy, so travelers should not count on using credit cards and ATMs.

Please see our Customs Information sheet.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Modern medical facilities are virtually nonexistent in Guinea-Bissau, and travelers should not rely on them.  More acceptable levels of medical care are available in Dakar, Senegal; however, as of this writing, Air Senegal has temporarily suspended its flights from Dakar to Bissau, leaving extremely limited air travel options available for this route.  In addition, malaria, a serious and sometimes fatal disease, is a risk for travelers to Guinea-Bissau.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Guinea-Bissau is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

The public transportation system, urban and rural road conditions, and availability of roadside assistance are all poor.  There is no consistent public electricity in the capital, and the lack of lighting at night makes careful driving essential.  Since there are minefields left over from the civil war and the war of independence, travelers should not leave designated roads and pathways.  The landmines are scattered in several areas throughout Guinea-Bissau, including Bafata, Oio, Biombo, Quinara and Tombali regions.  While there has been significant progress in locating and removing landmines, an estimated 46,000 landmines remain.  Speak with local authorities first and use caution if leaving a main road or highway to enter a trail network or to make other types of cross-country movement.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Guinea-Bissau, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Guinea-Bissau’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

CHILDREN’S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

Embassy Dakar


The Embassy is located at Avenue Jean XXIII in Dakar, Senegal. The mailing address is B.P. 49, Dakar, Senegal.
Telephone:  (221) 33 829-2100
Emergency after-hours telephone:  (221) 33 829-2209
Facsimile:  (221) 33 822-2991

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Guinea-Bissau dated July 8, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

 


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information pertaining to Guinea Bissau HERE...

 

Looking for an Embassy, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

There is also a Malaria Warning for Guinea Bissau HERE....

Regards

The SW Team......

 

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