Why go? For a country that consistently elicits frowns from heads of state and news reporters, Guinea-Bissau will pull a smile from even the most world-weary traveller. The jokes here, like the music, are loud but tender. The bowls of grilled oysters are served with a lime sauce spicy enough to give a kick, but not so strong as to mask the bitterness. The buildings are battered and the faded colonial houses bowed by sagging balconies, but you’ll see beauty alongside the decay.
Here, bare silver trees spring up like antler horns between swathes of elephant grass, and cashew sellers tease each other with an unmistakably Latin spirit. Board a boat for the Bijagós, where you can watch hippos lumber through lagoons full of fish and spot turtles nesting.
Despite painful wars, coups and cocaine hauls, Guinea-Bissau buzzes with joy, even when daily life is tough and the future bleak. There must be magic in that cashew juice.
Not to be confused with Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, or Papua New Guinea.
Official name. Republic of Guinea-Bissau
Capital and largest city. Bissau. 11°52’N 15°36’W
Official Language. Portuguese. Recognized national languages. Upper Guinea Creole
Ethnic Groups. Balanta 22.5%, Fula 28.5%, Manjaca 8.3%, Mandinga 14.7%, Papel 9.1%
Government. Fragile Democracy. Unitary semi-presidential republic. President. Jose Mario Vas
Independence from Portugal. Sept 24, 1973.
Area. 36,125 sq. km. Water 22.4
Population. 1,693,398. Density 46.9/sq. km.
GDP (PPP). Total $2.838b. Per capita $1,561
GDP. Total 1.116b. Per capita $613.
Money. West African CFA franc (XOF). interchangeable at par with the Central African CFA franc (XAF)
Exchange rate (Sept 2016) 1US$=588 CFA. 1Euro= 656 CFA
The West African CFA franc (XOF) is used by Guinea-Bissau and is also used by its neighbours, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Strictly speaking, it’s a separate currency from the Central African CFA franc (XAF) with the bank notes being different, but the two currencies are used interchangeably one-for-one throughout. Both these CFA franc currencies are guaranteed by the state and pegged to the euro at a rate of €1 = 655.957 CFA francs.
ATM’s arrived to the country of Guinea-Bissau – in the BAO (Banco da Africa Occidental) branches of Bissau and Gabú. An ATM is also being set up in the Hotel Malaika in Bissau. These ATM’s only function if you have a local account with that bank. So, leave your credit card/bank card at home because it will do you no good. Probably still safest to bring euros or francs CFA enough to cover the time you plan to stay. Western Union is present in Bissau (eight locations), Bafatá, Gabú, Buba, Canchungo and Mansoa. (They will rip you off by taking 10%.)
Electronic Visa Application System was introduced in 2015. A biometric visa is required to enter Guinea Bissau. All foreign nationals require a valid visa sticker bonded into passport obtained from any Border Control checkpoint or Guinea-Bissau embassy.
Tourist visa: apply for the Guinea-Bissau Visa by filling in the online application form. Upon online payment, a processing fee of 2.5 EUR is added. If the request is accepted, the applicant receives a visa issuing conformation (by email if the request is made online), required at the border crossing/entry to the country. Upon payment and visa confirmation you will receive visa slip that serves as a receipt. This receipt needs to be printed and it needs to be shown to the visa officer at the chosen border crossing with your passport. This pre-visa slips can also be used by the airlines companies as an ok to board.
Biometric visa for 1 to 90 days stay, with single entry after collection of biometric data (fingerprints, photo) and biographical data of the applicant. It also requires the provision of information on travel and accommodation. This biometric visa is issued at the diplomatic and consular offices in the following eight countries: Germany, Morocco, Guinea, Gambia, USA, Cape Verde, Brazil, Spain.
Visa on arrival at Guinea-Bissau International Airport
A Yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for all travellers.
When To Go: Dec-Feb -coolest months when sea turtles emerge from their nests. Mar-Jul – hot, humid and sweaty, travel with plenty of water and sun screen, Aug-Oct – very rainy.
Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa.
Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Gabu, as well as part of the Mali Empire. Parts of this kingdom persisted until the 18th century, while a few others were under some rule by the Portuguese Empire since the 16th century. In the 19th century, it was colonized as Portuguese Guinea. Upon independence, declared in 1973 and recognised in 1974, the name of its capital, Bissau, was added to the country’s name to prevent confusion with Guinea (formerly French Guinea). Guinea-Bissau has a history of political instability since independence, and no elected president has successfully served a full five-year term.
Only 14% of the population speaks Portuguese, established as the official language in the colonial period. Almost half the population (44%) speaks Crioulo, a Portuguese-based creole language, and the remainder speak a variety of native African languages. The main religions are African traditional religions and Islam; there is a Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) minority. The country’s per-capita gross domestic product is one of the lowest in the world.
Guinea-Bissau is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Latin Union, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, La Francophonie and the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone.
Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Gabu, part of the Mali Empire; parts of this kingdom persisted until the 18th century. Other parts of the territory in the current country were considered by the Portuguese as part of their empire. Portuguese Guinea was known as the Slave Coast, as it was a major area for the exportation of African slaves by Europeans to the western hemisphere.
Europeans. Early reports of Europeans reaching this area include those of the Venetian Alvise Cadamosto’s voyage of 1455, the 1479–1480 voyage by Flemish-French trader Eustache de la Fosse, and Diogo Cão. In the 1480s this Portuguese explorer reached the Congo River and the lands of Bakongo, setting up the foundations of modern Angola, some 4200 km down the African coast from Guinea-Bissau.
Although the rivers and coast of this area were among the first places colonized by the Portuguese, who set up trading posts in the 16th century, they did not explore the interior until the 19th century. The local African rulers in Guinea, some of whom prospered greatly from the slave trade, controlled the inland trade and did not allow the Europeans into the interior. They kept them in the fortified coastal settlements where the trading took place. African communities that fought back against slave traders also distrusted European adventurers and would-be settlers. The Portuguese in Guinea were largely restricted to the port of Bissau and Cacheu. A small number of European settlers established isolated farms along Bissau’s inland rivers.
For a brief period in the 1790s, the British tried to establish a rival foothold on an offshore island, at Bolama. But by the 19th century the Portuguese were sufficiently secure in Bissau to regard the neighbouring coastline as their own special territory, also up north in part of present South Senegal.
An armed rebellion beginning in 1956 by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) under the leadership of Amílcar Cabral gradually consolidated its hold on then Portuguese Guinea. Unlike guerrilla movements in other Portuguese colonies, the PAIGC rapidly extended its military control over large portions of the territory, aided by the jungle-like terrain, it’s easily reached borderlines with neighbouring allies, and large quantities of arms from Cuba, China, the Soviet Union, and left-leaning African countries. Cuba also agreed to supply artillery experts, doctors, and technicians. The PAIGC even managed to acquire a significant anti-aircraft capability in order to defend itself against aerial attack. By 1973, the PAIGC was in control of many parts of Guinea, although the movement suffered a setback in January 1973 when Cabral was assassinated.
Independence. Independence was unilaterally declared on 24 September 1973. Recognition became universal following the 25 April 1974 socialist-inspired military coup in Portugal, which overthrew Lisbon’s Estado Novo regime. Guinea-Bissau is a republic. In the past, the government had been highly centralized. Multi-party governance was not established until mid-1991. The president is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government. Since 1974, no president has successfully served a full five-year term.
At the legislative level, a unicameral (National People’s Assembly) is made up of 100 members. They are popularly elected from multi-member constituencies to serve a four-year term. The judicial system is headed by a Supreme Court, made up of nine justices appointed by the president; they serve at the pleasure of the president.
Luís Cabral, brother of Amílcar and co-founder of PAIGC, was appointed the first President of Guinea-Bissau. Following independence, the PAIGC killed thousands of local Guinean soldiers who had fought along with the Portuguese Army against guerrillas. Some escaped to settle in Portugal or other African nations. One of the massacres occurred in the town of Bissorã. In 1980 the PAIGC acknowledged in its newspaper Nó Pintcha that many Gueinean soldiers had been executed and buried in unmarked collective graves in the woods of Cumerá, Portogole, and Mansabá.
The country was controlled by a revolutionary council until 1984. The first multi-party elections were held in 1994. An army uprising in May 1998 led to the Guinea-Bissau Civil War and the president’s ousting in June 1999. Elections were held again in 2000, and Kumba Ialá was elected president.
In September 2003, a military coup was conducted. The military arrested Ialá on the charge of being “unable to solve the problems”. After being delayed several times, legislative elections were held in March 2004. A mutiny of military factions in October 2004 resulted in the death of the head of the armed forces and caused widespread unrest.
Vieira years. In June 2005, presidential elections were held for the first time since the coup that deposed Ialá. Ialá returned as the candidate for the PRS, claiming to be the legitimate president of the country, but the election was won by former president João Bernardo Vieira, deposed in the 1999 coup. Foreign election monitors described the 2005 election overall as “calm and organized”.
Three years later, PAIGC won a strong parliamentary majority, with 67 of 100 seats, in the parliamentary election held in November 2008. In November 2008, President Vieira’s official residence was attacked by members of the armed forces, killing a guard but leaving the president unharmed.
On 2 March 2009, however, Vieira was assassinated by a group of soldiers avenging the death of the head of joint chiefs of staff, General Batista Tagme Na Wai who was assassinated in an explosion in 2009. Military leaders in the country pledged to respect the constitutional order of succession. A nationwide election in June 2009 was won by Malam Bacai Sanhá.
Sanha died from illness and 3 months later, on 12 April 2012, members of the country’s military staged a coup d’état and arrested the interim president and a leading presidential candidate. Former vice chief of staff, General Mamadu Ture Kuruma, assumed control of the country in the transitional period and started negotiations with opposition parties.
Foreign relations. Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations.
Military. A 2008 estimate put the size of the Guinea-Bissau Armed Forces at around 4,000 personnel.
Guinea-Bissau is bordered by Senegal to the north and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west. It lies mostly between latitudes 11° and 13°N (a small area is south of 11°), and longitudes 13° and 17°W.
At 36,125 square kilometres (13,948 sq mi), the country is larger in size than Taiwan orBelgium. It lies at a low altitude; its highest point is 300 metres (984 ft). The terrain of is mostly low coastal plain with swamps of Guinean mangroves rising to Guinean forest-savanna mosaic in the east The Bijagos Archipelago lies off of the mainland.
Climate. Its monsoon-like rainy season between June and September/Octiber alternates with periods of hot, dry harmattan winds blowing from the Sahara from December to April when there is drought. It’s warm all year around and there is little temperature fluctuation; it averages 26.3 °C (79.3 °F). The average rainfall for Bissau is 2,024 millimetres (79.7 in) – all falls during the rainy season.
Environmental issues. Severe environmental issues include deforestation, mangrove destruction, soil erosion; overgrazing and overfishing. The natural savannah woodlands have been replaced by cashew plantations.
In the Bijagos archipelago are rare saltwater hippos, turtles, dolphins, manatees and sharks. A number of areas are protected in the Bijagos Biospere Reserve. The rainforests of the SE are the most westerly home of the chimpanzees.
Guinea-Bissau’s GDP per capita is one of the lowest in the world, and its Human Development Index is one of the lowest on earth. More than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. The economy depends mainly on agriculture; fish, cashew nuts and ground nuts are its major exports.
A long period of political instability has resulted in depressed economic activity, deteriorating social conditions, and increased macroeconomic imbalances. It takes longer on average to register a new business in Guinea-Bissau (233 days or about 33 weeks) than in any other country in the world except Suriname.
Guinea-Bissau has started to show some economic advances after a pact of stability was signed by the main political parties of the country, leading to an IMF-backed structural reform program. The key challenges for the country in the period ahead are to achieve fiscal discipline, rebuild public administration, improve the economic climate for private investment, and promote economic diversification. After the country became independent from Portugal in 1974 due to the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution, the rapid exodus of the Portuguese civilian, military, and political authorities resulted in considerable damage to the country’s economic infrastructure, social order, and standard of living.
After several years of economic downturn and political instability, in 1997, Guinea-Bissau entered the CFA franc monetary system, bringing about some internal monetary stability. The civil war that took place in 1998 and 1999, and a military coup in September 2003 again disrupted economic activity, leaving a substantial part of the economic and social infrastructure in ruins and intensifying the already widespread poverty. Following the parliamentary elections in March 2004 and presidential elections in July 2005, the country is trying to recover from the long period of instability, despite a still-fragile political situation.
Beginning around 2005, drug traffickers based in Latin America began to use Guinea-Bissau, along with several neighboring West African nations, as a transshipment point to Europe for cocaine. The nation was described by a United Nations official as being at risk for becoming a “narco-state”. The government and the military have done little to stop drug trafficking, which increased after the 2012 coup d’état.
In 2010 Guinea-Bissau’s population was 1,515,000 in 2010, compared to 518,000 in 1950. The proportion of the population below the age of 15 in 2010 was 41.3%, 55.4% were aged between 15 and 65 years of age, while 3.3% were aged 65 years or older.
Ethnic groups. The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse and has many distinct languages, customs, and social structures. Bissau-Guineans can be divided into the following ethnic groups:
Fula 28.5% and the Mandinka 14.7% speaking people, who comprise the largest portion of the population and are concentrated in the north and northeast;
Balanta 22.5% and Papel 9.1% people, who live in the southern coastal regions; Most ethnic tensions occur between the Balanta and the others.
Manjaco 8.3% and Mancanha, who occupy the central and northern coastal areas.
Most of the remainder are mestiços of mixed Portuguese and African descent, including a Cape Verdeanminority.
Portuguese natives comprise a very small percentage of Bissau-Guineans. After Guinea-Bissau gained independence, most of the Portuguese nationals left the country. The country has a tiny Chinesepopulation. These include traders and merchants of mixed Portuguese and Chinese ancestry from Macau, a former Asian Portuguese colony.
Portuguese. 14% of the population speaks the official language Portuguese, the language of government and national communication during centuries of colonial rule.
Kriol. 44% speak Kriol, a Portuguese-based creole language, which is effectively a national language of communication among groups. The remainder speak a variety of native African languages unique to ethnicities including Balanta, Fula, Mandjak, Mandinka and Papel
Most Portuguese and Mestiços speakers also have one of the African languages and Kriol as additional languages. French is also taught in schools because Guinea-Bissau is surrounded by French-speaking nations. Guinea-Bissau is a full member of the Francophonie.
Religion. Throughout the 20th century, most Bissau-Guineans practiced some form of Animism.
Islam. In the early 21st century, many have adopted Islam, which is now practiced by 50% of the country’s population – most are Sunni denomination with approximately 2% Ahmadiyya sect.
Christian. Approximately 10%. 40% continue to hold d
Indigenous beliefs. 40% but many practice syncretic forms of Islamic and Christian faiths, combining their practices with traditional African beliefs.
Health. The WHO estimates there are fewer than 5 physicians per 100,000 persons in the country, down from 12 per 100,000 in 2007. The prevalence of HIV-infection among the adult population is 1.8%. Only 20% of infected pregnant women receive anti retroviral coverage to prevent transmission to newborns.
Malaria kills many residents; 9% of the population have reported infection, It causes three times as many deaths as AIDS. In 2008, fewer than half of children younger than five slept under anti-malaria nets or had access to anti-malarial drugs. The WHO’s estimate of life expectancy for a child born in 2008 was 49 years and 47 years for a boy.
Despite lowering rates in surrounding countries, cholera rates were reported in November 2012 to be on the rise, with 1,500 cases reported and nine deaths. A 2008 cholera epidemic in Guinea-Bissau affected 14,222 people and killed 225.
The 2010 maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for Guinea-Bissau was 1000. This compares with 804.3 in 2008 and 966 in 1990. The under 5 mortality rate, per 1,000 births, was 195 and the neonatal mortality as a percentage of under 5’s mortality was 24. The number of midwives per 1,000 live births was 3; one out of eighteen pregnant women die as a result of pregnancy. According to a 2013 UNICEF report, 50% of women in Guinea-Bissau had undergone female genital mutilation. In 2010, Guinea-Bissau had the 7th highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
Education. Education is compulsory from the age of 7 to 13. The enrolment of boys is higher than that of girls. In 1998, the gross primary enrolment rate was 53.5%, with higher enrolment ratio for males (67.7%) compared to females (40%).
Child labor is very common. In 2011 the literacy rate was estimated at 55.3% (68.9% male, and 42.1% female).
Guinea-Bissau has several secondary schools (general as well as technical) and a number of universities, to which an institutionally autonomous Faculty of Law as well as a Faculty of Medicine have been added.
Post. Slow so better to mail from Senegal or The Gambia.
Music. The music of Guinea-Bissau is usually associated with the polyrhythmic gumbe genre, the country’s primary musical export. However, civil unrest and other factors have combined over the years to keep gumbe, and other genres, out of mainstream audiences, even in generally syncretist African countries.
The calabash is the primary musical instrument of Guinea-Bissau, and is used in extremely swift and rhythmically complex dance music. Lyrics are almost always in Guinea-Bissau Creole, a Portuguese-based creole language, and are often humorous and topical, revolving around current events and controversies.
The word gumbe is sometimes used generically, to refer to any music of the country, although it most specifically refers to a unique style that fuses about ten of the country’s folk music traditions. Tina and tinga are other popular genres, while extent folk traditions include ceremonial music used in funerals, initiations and other rituals, as well as Balanta brosca and kussundé, Mandinga djambadon, and the kundere sound of the Bissagos Islands.
Food. Rice is a staple in the diet of residents near the coast and millet a staple in the interior. Seafood is the highlight including shrimp, oysters and sea bream, best served sauteed with onion and lime. Fruits and vegetables are commonly eaten along with cereal grains. The Portuguese encouraged peanut production. Vigna subterranea (Bambara groundnut) and Macrotyloma geocarpum (Hausa groundnut) are also grown. Black-eyed peasare also part of the diet. Palm oil is harvested.
Common dishes include soups and stews. Common ingredients include yams, sweet potato, cassava, onion, tomato and plantain. Spices, peppers and chilis are used in cooking, including Aframomum melegueta seeds (Guinea pepper). Costly meals contain beef, goat, chicken or pork. Meals are also made with palm oil and peanut sauces and diverse vegetables.
Chaberu – national favourite of deep-fried fish served in a thick palm-oil sauce with rice.
Guineans also eat wild/game meat (bushbuck, monkey, wild hogs, etc.) but these animals are considered to be in danger of extinction and so it is not recommended to support this.
Guineans are known for their warm heartedness and so you will always be asked to come have a bit with a group of people (it is common to eat from a large bowl)…”bin kume, no kume”
Fruit available depends on the season, but mangos, papayas, oranges, grape fruits, bananas, cashews and peanuts are abundant. Also try the sour “fole” fruits and the baobab fruit juice (sumo de cabaceira). Imported fruit can be bought in “fera de prasa” in the centre of Bissau (apples, pears, pineapples, watermelons etc) but is more expensive than in Europe.
Vegetables sold in the markets include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, parsley, okra, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, chili, sweet potatoes.
Street snacks are typically sandwiches with hardboiled egg, omelete, fish or beef – or donuts, cake or hardboiled eggs. Frozen juice in small plastic bags or glass water bottles is popular among locals.
Drink. Guinea-Bissau doesn’t have a legal drinking/purchasing age. In Bissau and other towns, Portuguese beer and wine are popular, but the African take on the originally Brazilian Caipirinha is definitely worth a try. Strong liquor made from fermented cashew (cajeu), sugar cane (rum or cana) or oil palm is usually available in the more remote locations.
Warga (strong sweet green tea) – the brewing of which is an experience to watch.
Water. Foreigners only drink it bottled, filtered or boiled.
Film. Flora Gomes is an internationally renowned film director; his most famous films are Nha Fala (English: My Voice) and Mortu Nega (Death Denied) (1988) was the first fiction film and the second feature film ever made in Guinea-Bissau.
Bissau – capital
Bafatá – pleasant town with an interesting colonial centre, located on the Rio Gêba.
Bissora – Bissora is a town in the region of Oio. The majority of people belong to the Balanta ethnic group.
Bolama – capital of the country until 1941, has some magnificent examples of colonial architecture and has been suggested as a world heritage site.
Buba – End of the tarmac going to the south of Guinea-Bissau. The town is built along a tidal river, the Rio Grande de Buba. Decent hotel.
Bubaque – Largest town in the Bijagos archipelago, with hotels and harbor for boat trips to other islands.
Cacheu – Cacheu was once an important place for slave-trading, and there is still a little fort.
Gabú – Bustling, friendly market town with a few nightclubs, bars and hotels.
Other Destinations The national parks have great bird watching.
Bijagos Islands – An archipelago of some twenty tropical, beautiful islands. Look like perfect postcards from paradise. Protected by swift tides, treacherous sandbanks and Unesco, they eluded Portuguese control until the 1930s. On the island of Orango it is possible to see hippos, and there are many other possibilities of eco tourism on the “unspoiled islands”. On some islands there are turtle nesting grounds. Many islands have French-owned fishing lodges – waters are renowned for deep-sea-fishing. Snorkelling is possible. You need to bring wither time or money as transport to and between the islands is either difficult or pricey. Life swings to the rhythm of the tides.
Bolama. Island with crumbling town.
Quinhamel. Swimming followed by oysters in lime sauce.
Varela – Just south of Cap Skirring, but on the Guinea-Bissau side of the border, it is a tour de force to get to Varela on a 50 km long bumpy dirt road from São Domingos – but it is all rewarded when you reach this little paradise, with a superb Italian-owned hotel, beautiful beaches and pine forests and a very relaxed atmosphere with almost no other tourists. You may contact the small hotel in Varela via their Facebook page: Aparthotel Chez Helene
Boé Sector – The country’s most South-Eastern corner is a mosaic of savannah, forest and farmland. Its remoteness has left the sector underdeveloped, but its Fular/Mandinka population is warm and welcoming. Primates constitute the majority of large mammals in the Boé, chiefly among them a healthy population (possibly 1000+) of chimpanzees. Although they are shy and not habituated to humans, there is a chance for ecotourists to spot humanity’s closest relative. The Fonda Huuwa “campsite” in the main village Béli offers huts and meals at shoestring prices.
Forests of Jemberem – Cantanhez Natural Park, where you can see chimpanzees with a little luck.
Carnival in Bissau. Biggest carnival in the country. Bubaque has the more interesting masks and costumes.
Air. Oswaldo Vieira Airport, located in Bissau is the only international airport in Guinea Bissau
TAP Air Portugal – Direct flights from Portugal with every Friday, returning the same day.
Royal Air Maroc. Additional direct flights from Europe and the US The daily
Air Senegal. Dakar(DKR) to Bissau(OXB) daily.
TACV Carbo Verde Airlines have daily flights from Cap Verde. The flight time is 45min.
Train. There are no trains in Guinea-Bissau
Car. Land Borders. Ziguinchor – Bissau border crossing – As of Feb 2016), it is strongly and specifically recommended by the French foreign ministry travelers advice to avoid using this and to use Pirada instead. From Ziguinchor, Senegal to Bissau it should take you 3-4 hours by sete-place (seven-seat Peugeot) or your own car, depending on the border bureaucracy and the ferry in São Vicente. Roads are in good conditions.
From Gambia (Serrekunda), count on 7-8 hours if everything goes smooth. If going by sept-place, you’ll have to switch in Ziguinchor. The only really bad road in the trip is in Gambia, just before the border to Senegal. Dakar-Bissau with public transport can be done in one day with a little luck, but you need to leave Dakar early and change vehicle in Ziguinchor.
Pirada (dirtroad from there to Gabú) to Senegal
Buruntuma to Guinea-Conakry (also via Gabú).
Boat. There is a sea route between Dakar and Bissau – the cheapest and most scenic way to reach Bissau on biweekly overnight ferry to Ziguinchor getting a visa here. Additionally there are boats to and between the Bijagos islands.
The main roads between Bissau and Bafata, Gabu, Sao Domingos and Buba are tar and generally good. The rest are unpaved and in bad condition.
Minibuses called toca-toca provide transport within the city. There are also regular taxis.
Sept-places, (seven-seat Peugeot). Tansporte misto are far more common and much less comfortable large minibuses for inter-city travel. Prefer sept-place or at least try to get the front seats. It is also possible to rent taxis to other towns and cities.
Bus. The main bus-station “paragem” of Bissau is situated behind the BCEAO (Banco Central dos Estados de África Ocidental) on the Airport Road. Are you heading for Biombo or Prabis, you need to go to another bus-station in Estrada de Bor. There are no time-schedules; cars leave when they are full. As most locals travel in the early morning (c. 07.00), cars fill up quicker in the morning. It might be hard to get transport in late afternoon and evening.
Boat. To go to the islands, there’s a choice between cheap, but rather unsafe, canoes (pirogues) leaving from Porto Pidjiguiti or Porto de Bandim and for between the islands, and expensive modern boats owned by French fishing lodges on the Bijagos islands. Expresso dos Bijagos links Bissau to Ilha de Bubaque. Schedules depend on tides, so check in advance.
Bicycle. As Guinea-Bissau is very flat and there is virtually no traffic on the roads outside Bissau, it’s a good country for cycling. Bikes can be bought in the country, which will probably be Chinese made. As always, good value for money.
Bijagos people are famous for their mask making and sculpture.
The largest market in the country is Bandim Market, which is on the main road going into town. You can buy many things there and the atmosphere is nice. Otherwise there are small vendors on most roads of the capital. In the villages (Tabankas) you will also find small vendors selling the necessities. In the main towns in the countryside there are larger markets called “Lumo”, which give farmers and merchants the possibility to sell/trade their goods. Don’t forget that Guinea-Bissau is a poor country and as such the possibilities for shopping are smaller than in the Gambia or Senegal.
When shopping in Guinea-Bissau you have to keep in mind that locals quite rightly tend to consider foreigners as rich (especially white people). The first price you are asked to pay will always be much higher than the actual price of an item. Haggling is absolutely common and no item should be bought without haggling for a better price. Useful creole shopping phrases: Ke ku bu misti? (what do you want?) N’mistil (I want it) N’ka mistil (I don’t want it) Es i kanto (How much is this) Rapatil (Request to lower the prize)
Bissau has a range of accommodation to suit most budgets. Hotels in Bissau are generally overpriced – but some hotels were undergoing renovation, giving hope for more competition and lower prices.
In most of the towns outside the capital, there are possibilities to find hotels or other rentable rooms. National electricity is severely limited, forcing hoteliers to rely on expensive generator power.
There are also mainly French-run hotels on the Bijagos islands which are recommendable.
There are numerous NGO’s, missionaries and international organizations (UN, EU, WHO, UNICEF, The Global Fund) working in Guinea-Bissau.
Bandim Health Project, Médicos do Mundo, INDE – Intercooperação e Desenvolvimento [http://www.chimbo.org/, Agencia de Cooperacao de Timor-Leste em Guine-Bissau