Discovering Angola – Travel guide

Angola was my home for 2 years and I have great memories about this colourful, warm, magic and not yet well-known county.

Travelling through Angola is a real challenge, that starts with getting a visa. The country is not really open to tourism and to be fair doesn’t really like visitors… Although it seems that things are changing slowly in this regard.

Luanda

If you are lucky enough to get a visa you will land in the international airport of Luanda, Angola’s capital city. An extremely expensive place with a high level of violent crime, where you can’t walk on your own after dark. I’ve been to Luanda many times, but I don’t recommend it.

Angola has miles and miles of coastline, rainforests in the north, the world’s oldest desert in the south, and savannah in between.

Language and food

You need to know how to speak Portuguese to be able to communicate. A very low percentage of the local population can communicate in English.

Outside the big cities eating out is also difficult. There are no restaurants, so you will need to find where the markets are, buy the ingredients and cook your meals.

When you find a place selling food expect it to be expensive and some have poor hygienic conditions.

Transports –  getting around

Compared with Luanda the rest of the country is relatively safer but there are no reliable or safe public transports.

The options are the local minibuses that are called Candongueiros, painted in blue and white or you can also get a ride from a motorbike called cupapatas

This is the informal economy, they don’t belong to a company, so there is no timetables, no stipulated stops or standards by any means. 

The candogeiro’s driver shouts trough the window to advertise where they are going to. The cupapata is mainly for short distances and will go anywhere you want.

Both options are used by locals but are very unsafe. They have very bad driving habits and do unimaginable things like driving on the sidewalk. I don’t recommend you to use any of these options as a tourist. Because to do it you really need to know well what is going on and speak the local lingo.

Before buying my 4×4 I used those options and was involved in some minor accidents. But you see almost daily road accidents involving both cupapatas and Candongueiros. Road sinistrality in Angola is a serious issue.

Renting a car is difficult and extremely expensive, but getting your vehicle (4×4) is essential. Just bear in mind that driving standards and some road conditions are poor, to say the least. 

There is a good road between the capital Luanda – Lubango and Namibe but getting into remoter areas can be rough.

Police Officers

Angola’s police officers are notorious for asking for bribes—known as gasosa. It’s safe to say that if you are driving you will not miss this experience.

I can’t count how many times I was stopped and accused of an imagined traffic infraction and then offered to pay for a gasosa instead of paying a fine. My advice is – always offer to pay the fine.

Mines

When exploring less well-established routes outside major towns, mines and unexploded ordnance remain a problem, sometimes even in ‘cleared’ areas. So try to travel on well-established routes.

Accommodation

Outside the capital, accommodation is scarce, expensive and most of the times the conditions are deplorable. Once I stayed in the only place available in a remote country-side village, where there was no running water, the toilet was a hole on the floor, there was no electricity, and can’t even start describing how dirty it was, all of this for $100USD p/night! I know shocking.

Power and water can be cut off for days without notice, having a generator it’s essential.

Sometimes the best option is to camp on a deserted beach 🙂

Topics to avoid

Basic rules of politeness are essential at all times anywhere you are in the world. But in Angola, there are a few more things that you should keep in mind. Avoid talking about the government, politics and the civil war. Angola is a democracy in name only, and Angolans can be nationalistic and proud.

It will happen that when you are talking to a group of Angolans the discussions will turn to politics, just try to listen more than talk.

Be ready for the mosquitos

Mosquitos are your public enemy number one, try to keep safe. The last thing you need is to get malaria or even yellow fever. To enter the country you’ll need an International Certificate of Vaccination (Yellow Card)

Pollution and lack of basic sanitary conditions

There are a few severe problems with garbage, fly-tipping, open-air sewage, polluted water and in the big cities air pollution is very poor due to the heavy traffic and obsolete vehicles.

Find here more about what to see and where to go while travelling through Angola.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha 

40 thoughts on “Discovering Angola – Travel guide

  1. Miguel A. Gonçalves

    Bem, Ana, levaste-me a viajar agora! Angola é um país que me desperta muito interesse há muito tempo, precisamente porque no campo das viagens é um dos menos falados. Já tinha noção que ao longo do território se encontram paisagens e culturas muito distintas, afinal o país é enorme! Mas este artigo surpreendeu-me 🙂

  2. leggypeggy

    I travelled Angola north to south in an overland truck. I must write about it.

  3. bonniesaur

    Lindas fotos! Amei ver os detalhes que voces captaram. Quero muito conhecer a Angola, ainda mais porque eles falam portugues 🙂

    • cook the beans

      Obrigada 🙏 infelizmente Angola ainda não é um país aberto ao turismo mas quem sabe daqui a uns tempos 😊😊

  4. A Plus Attitude

    Beautiful pictures. The people, the landscape, the food, and everything is so vibrant and colorful. I’m curious how you ended up there? I didn’t see it in your post or comments. I hope I’m not being too intrusive.

    • cook the beans

      I joined a cooperation project between the government of Portugal and the government of Angola, and I was there training teachers. Angola is a close country for tourists, but because shares a common history and language with Portugal there is some work opportunities there, but still no free movement of people at all, it’s very hard even for us (Portuguese) to be allowed to enter the country

      • sportsdiva64

        Beautiful post and pictures. I knew some what about Angola, especially their First Lady, but I didn’t realize the country was a closed country. So very sad because from your pictures , it looks like a very beautiful place .

        • cook the beans

          Hi Jo Ann, that’s true, but everything changes with time, and we hope they will change for the best soon 🙂 Angola truly is a beautiful and unique country

  5. amindfultravellerblog

    Wow Ana. You must have had quite an experience living in Angola for 2 years!! Your photos are stunning. Raw and so beautiful. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Daniela Pires

    Fotos lindas, vontade de conhecer o lugar. Muita. Que sorte você teve de viver lá!

    Um abraço!

  7. thecasualvisitor

    Beautiful pictures. It’s incredible how little we know of certain amazing parts of the world thecasualvisitor.wordpress.com

  8. thecasualvisitor

    Beautiful pictures! It’s incredible how little we know of certain amazing parts of the world…
    thecasualvisitor.wordpress.com

  9. wildlifeweeks

    wow – some day I want to go there too!!! 🙂 But unfortunately my Portuguese is rather non-existent… 😀

    • cook the beans

      hehe 🙂 I’m afraid that speaking Portuguese is almost mandatory there :p you just need to start learning 🙂

  10. incahootswithmuddyboots

    These incredible photos giving me a glimpse into a corner of the world I know very little about. Thanks for sharing! 😊

    • cook the beans

      Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment, I’m very glad you enjoyed the post 😉

  11. Rich Allan

    wow…beautiful photos. Angola has a stunning coastline…I never realized. The people live such a basic existence…food, shelter, clothing. Didn’t see one chair…squatting or sitting on the ground. Would be interested in some of the food you showed in the market…one looked like a pile of rocks! Reminded me of some of the remote sections of Egypt when we visited there.
    https://richallan64.wordpress.com/2017/03/23/5050-fifty-statesfifty-countries/

    • cook the beans

      Hi Rich, The thing that looks like rocks is the dry pulp of baobab tree fruit (they call the tree – imbondeiro) its dry because it’s easier to conserve and you can make powder to add to hot dishes such as soups or drinks, thanks for passing by and glad you enjoyed the photos.

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