Situated in Central Africa, west of Zambia and north of Namibia, Angola is slowly realising its potential after decades of bloody civil war following independence from Portugal in 1975. A stunning coastline strung with beautiful sandy beaches, a mountainous interior that gives way to deep gorges and tumbling waterfalls, and a number of national parks and wildlife reserves throughout, Angola offers an array of opportunities for eco-tourism to visitors. Natural beauty aside, the country also boasts a rich traditional culture, culinary specialities and a people that are known for their hospitality and friendliness.
The picture is not entirely rosy, however, and the lack of infrastructure, the difficulties and dangers of overland transport, and poor health services are challenges travellers need to consider, particularly outside of the capital Luanda. But signs of economic recovery are evident, and the fact that Angola is rich in natural resources such as diamonds and gas, as well as being one of Africa's largest oil exporters, brings hope for development in the not too distant future.
Luanda has a mildly tropical climate with little variation in temperature throughout the year. Summer (October to May) averages 77°F (25°C), and is Angola's rainy season; the heavy rains can make roads impassable and conditions decidedly uncomfortable. Some popular tourist attractions close for the rainy season. Winter (June to September) is slightly cooler and much drier, with temperature averages between 65°F (18°C) and 72°F (22°C), and is considered tourist season.
Being a large country, Angola's climate varies according to region. The north has a wet, hot, tropical climate, becoming dryer as it extends south, until desert conditions prevail in the southern strip between the central plateau and the border with Namibia. Luanda's climate is moderately tropical. The dry, cooler season is from June to late September, while the rainy, hot summer season extends from October to May. Average temperatures are hot and humid.
The unit of currency is the Kwanza (AOA). Visitors should bring enough cash for their needs. Money can be exchanged at bureaux de change. Newly issued US dollars are the most acceptable currency. Credit cards are only accepted in larger hotels, and cash withdrawals are not possible. Few ATMs in Luanda accept foreign cards. Residents and non-residents can take up to 50 000 Kwanzas out of Angola.
The official language of Angola is Portuguese. Multiple other African languages are spoken including Umbundu and Chokwe. Some French and Spanish is also spoken.
Electrical current in Angola is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are in use.
US citizens require a passport and a visa to enter Angola.
UK citizens require a passport and a visa to enter Angola.
Canadians require a passport and a visa to enter Angola.
Australians require a passport and a visa to enter Angola.
South African nationals require a passport to enter Angola. They are exempt from obtaining a visa for a stay of up to 30 days.
Irish citizens require a passport and a visa to enter Angola.
US citizens require a passport and a visa to enter Angola.
New Zealand nationals require a passport and a visa to enter Angola.
A valid passport and visa are required for travel to Angola. Applications for visas must be made in advance in the travellers' home country. Passengers with a confirmation of an approved visa before departure can obtain a visa upon arrival. A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is also essential for entry to Angola (the alternative is to face the risky mandatory immunisation at the airport). Passports must be valid for six months from date of arrival, and have at least three adjacent blank pages for Angolan visa stamps.
Yellow fever vaccinations are required for entry to Angola if coming from infected countries. Malaria, hepatitis A and B, rabies, and polio are all prevalent in the country, which has poor medical facilities excluding those in Luanda.
Travellers should practise food and hygiene measures. Drinking water should be treated or bought in sealed bottles (avoid ice cubes in drinks) and care should be taken with hygiene and food, particularly street food. It is wise to take Malaria prophylaxis when travelling through Angola.
In Luanda there are one or two good private clinics, but these are extremely expensive and require on-the-spot payment. Comprehensive medical insurance is therefore necessary, with provision for medical repatriation by air. The water supply is unsafe to drink, visitors should drink bottle water. Visitors should also avoid eating unpeeled, unwashed fruit and vegetables and be wary of milk and milk products, as these items are often unpasteurised.
If a service charge is not included in the bill, a tip of 10 percent is acceptable, though tipping is not officially encouraged in Angola.
Most foreign governments warn against non-essential travel to parts of Angola due to civil unrest and threats to personal safety of travellers. However, visitors careful with personal security and travelling in a group should encounter few problems. Travel after dark is not recommended. The greatest risk for travellers is crime, particularly in the capital, Luanda, where muggings, car-jackings and armed hold-ups have been reported. Many civilians are armed. Those for whom travel outside of Luanda is essential should travel only with sponsors who have made arrangements for safety and security support. Particularly dangerous are the north and south Luanda Provinces, where the police and armed forces have been actively expelling illegal immigrants and unlicensed diamond prospectors. Cabinda Province is also dangerous; kidnappings and attacks on foreigners have occurred. Travellers should be cautious due to the widespread poverty, disease and shattered infrastructure and the vast amount of unexploded ordnance still present throughout the country. There have been reports of scams by airport officials in Luanda who try to extort money from visitors without a yellow fever vaccination card.
Do not take photographs of government buildings, or use binoculars near them, as this could lead to arrest. Homosexual practices are frowned upon.
Oil is the main industry in Angola, but diamond mining is also important. It is essential to develop personal, face-to-face relationships with local business contacts. Knowledge of Portuguese, the official language, is an advantage as there are limited translation services and outside the oil industry few people speak English fluently; French and Spanish are also useful. Angolan business dress is usually casual; ties are not necessary for men. Office hours are Monday to Friday 7.30am to 6.30pm with a break from 12.30pm; many businesses close on Fridays while some offices will also be open on Saturday mornings from 8.30am.
The international dialling code for Angola is +244. There are many more mobile telephones than fixed lines and the mobile coverage around Luanda and other main centres is much more reliable than fixed lines. Internet access is available at most major hotels.
Travellers to Angola over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 400 cigarettes or 500g cigars or other tobacco products; 250ml eau de toilette, 50ml perfume or aftershave; 2 litres wine or 1 litre spirits and gifts or souvenirs to the value of about US$ 860. Prohibited and restricted items include firearms, ammunition or explosive materials; dangerous medicines, foodstuffs or drugs; pornographic material; plants originating from infected areas; gaming machines; pure alcohol; animals without corresponding certificates and stamps of value.
National Tourist Agency, Luanda: +244 222 372 750.
Angolan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 785 1156.
Angolan Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7299 9850.
Angolan Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 0049.
Angolan Embassy, Singapore (also responsible for Australia): +65 6341 9360.
United States Embassy, Luanda: +244 94 644 0977.
British Embassy, Luanda: +244 222 334 583.
Honorary Consulate of Canada, Luanda: +244 222 448 371.
South African Embassy, Luanda: + 244 222 460 818.
Honorary Consulate of Australia, Luanda: +244 923 214 101.
Irish Embassy, Maputo, Mozambique (also responsible for Angola): +258 21 491 440.
Public transport in Luanda is limited and the best means of getting around the city is by private car. Car hire is available from the airport; it's possible to also hire a car with a driver, which is a safer option than trying to navigate the city's chaotic streets alone. Minibus taxis (Candongueiros), recognised by their pale blue and white colouring, are the most popular means of transport for the local population; they generally offer a safe and fast means of transport around Luanda. Buses and trains are also available, but are not the most reliable transport in the city and are not recommended.