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.
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.
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.
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.
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