Guinea-Bissau DiscoveryStyle: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 10 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers
With the exception of West African states, all nationalities require a visa to enter Guinea-Bissau. The United Kingdom does not have a Guinea-Bissau Embassy and so documents need to be sent to the embassies in either Brussels or Paris for a visa to be issued. A simpler process is to arrange your visa through a visa agency, such as CIBT, who will apply on your behalf. Consular fees as well as agency fees will be applicable and you should check the costs, which can be high. Regulations can and do change and so we recommend that you check with your nearest embassy or consulate for the most up to date information.
No departure tax currently applies when leaving Guinea-Bissau by air.
Health and Immunisations
As with travel to most parts of the developing world, we strongly recommend that you contact your doctor’s surgery or a specialist travel clinic for up-to-date information, advice and the necessary vaccinations. For a visit of less than one month, almost certainly you will be advised to have immunisations against the following: Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis. Anti-malaria medication will also be required and the use of a DEET-containing insect repellent is highly recommended.
What should my travel insurance policy cover?
• medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
• 24 hour emergency service and assistance
• personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
• lost and stolen possessions cover
• cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip) cover
• Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies, such as certain sports
The policy should cover the whole time that you are away.
Your policy may also have:
• personal accident cover
• legal expenses cover
Common travel insurance policy exclusions
Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy:
• most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents
You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you.
The currency in Guinea-Bissau is the CFA.. This is almost impossible to obtain outside of West Africa. For current exchange rates visit www.xe.com.
Where currency can be exchanged
We recommend that you change money in Bissau. Your guide will be able to advise you of the best place to do this. Euros are the best currency to bring – although US dollars are also accepted they generally attract worse rates. UK sterling can be difficult to change. ATM machines are very rare. Once you leave Bissau it will be difficult to change money.
Credit cards and travellers cheques
We do not advise using travellers’ cheques or credit cards as these will not be accepted in the vast majority of places.
Best time to go
The best time to visit the region is between October and February – outside of this time it can be very hot. From June to September / October the region experiences most of its rainfall.
The official language of Guinea-Bissau is Portuguese, although there are several different local languages reflecting the region’s diverse ethnic mix – Bambara, Bamana, Malinke and Arabic. It can be difficult to find people outside of the tourist industry who speak English, and even then you’ll find that many hotel staff and drivers will speak Portuguese and local languages only. Your guide will of course speak English.
Guinea-Bissau's main religion is Islam, although the way in which it is practised here tends to be a little more relaxed than some other Islamic countries. Many ethnic groups also adhere to older animist traditions.
Food and drink
West African food isn’t always the most exciting, but it’s generally tasty and wholesome. Rice features quite heavily, usually with some form of tomato based sauce and meat – goat, beef or chicken. While on tour your meals are included – these will mostly consist of European style fare, but you will also have the opportunity to try local food.
If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible.
A bottle of beer should cost around $1 in a local restaurant or up to three times that much in a hotel.
Our Guinea-Bissau Discovery tours use either 4wd vehicles – typically Landcruisers - or minibuses. For our time in the Bijagos Islands we also use private motorboats.
Travelling in the destinations that we visit requires a good deal of understanding that often standards simply won’t be as they are at home. While we aim to make your trip as comfortable as possible, please be aware that we are often visiting remote or less developed regions that may have little infrastructure. While we aim to make your trip run as smoothly as possible there may be times when we need to ask for your patience while we rectify any problems. This is particularly pertinent for this tour – the regions that we will be travelling through have little infrastructure and tourism is in its infancy here.
What to take with you
First Aid Kit
The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared: adequately immunized, with sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, along with a medical kit.
When it comes to clothing it is usually recommended that lighter clothes are worn through the day, and warmer ones at night, although you shouldn’t expect it to be cold here. A hat is also advised to be worn through the day to protect from the sun. Guinea-Bissau is fairly relaxed in terms of clothing but you should bear in mind that these are Moslem countries There is no dress code and you should also bring a bathing suit. Shorts are generally acceptable for men but not worn by local men. You should make sure that you have sufficient long sleeved tops and trousers for entering any mosques.
You may also find a waterproof jacket to be useful for the journeys made by speedboats.
Footwear is a main priority on this tour. Comfortable walking shoes/boots are recommended.
Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (44lbs). One large suitcase/rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable.
Suncream/sunblock is a must. Insect repellent, including a bite spray will also be useful to have. A torch is always useful.
If you will be using a camera which needs film, it is recommended that a supply is taken with you, as it is not always easy to find in the places that we visit. If you are bringing a digital camera it is also advisable to bring a spare battery, as there will be occasions when electricity is not available.
This tour does not require any special degree of fitness but you will find it more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit.
Cultural and environmental guidelines
Women should not enter mosques unless specifically told they can do so and you should always refer to your guide regarding dress code and behaviour in and near religious sites.
You may come across beggars while on tour. Every traveller has different perspectives on this and ultimately the choice is up to you. Many sources recommend that you watch to see if local people give, and then follow their lead with genuine beggars. We do not recommend giving money, sweets, pens etc to children as this can encourage a begging mentality and can lead to children choosing to beg rather than go to school.
Haggling is a way of life in Africa when making many purchases, especially with tourist souvenirs. Usually, but not always, the vendor will start with a price that is higher than they are prepared to accept, and the buyer is expected to haggle. There are no hard and fast rules with this – some vendors may initially quote a vastly overinflated price, others may start with a price close to the true value, while others may just present you with one price and not be prepared to discuss it. Although many tourists may feel uncomfortable with this, it’s important to remember that this is best entered into in a relaxed manner. Once you have agreed upon a price, it is extremely bad form to then not pay this. Please also bear in mind that a small amount of money to you can be a relatively large amount for the vendor, and that it is not necessarily best practice to ‘beat the vendor down’ to the lowest possible price. Remember that they also have a living to make.
Please make sure that you take any rubbish back to the hotels or camps with you where it can be properly disposed of – this includes cigarette butts as well.
Please do not buy any products made from endangered species – this is not sustainable and hastens the species’ decline
You should always ask permission before taking anyone's photograph and respect their decision if they say no. In more remote areas women and older people often do not want to be photographed. Some people may also ask for some money – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - in return for a photo. Taking photos of military installations, state buildings, and airports can lead to problems with local authorities. If you are unsure about whether it is acceptable to take a photo, please ask your tour leader or guide.
Tipping is common practise throughout the region. If your local guide has been helpful then you could think about tipping. This amount can obviously be left to you. When tipping a driver, a guide or hotel staff a few dollars will always be gratefully received.
Foreign Office Advice
We constantly monitor the advice posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At the time of writing the FCO has no travel warnings in place for Guinea-Bissau. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns or if would like to know in detail what measures are being taken to ensure visits remain trouble free and without incident.
It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government.
Public Holidays in Guinea-Bissau:
1 Jan New Year’s Day.
8 Mar International Women’s Day
1 May Labour Day
24 Sep National Day
14 Nov Anniversary of the Movement of Readjustment
25 Dec Christmas Day.
In addition to these are a number of Islamic holidays which are based on the lunar calendar and vary annually.
Dates are for guidance only and may vary year to year.
Electrical supply is 220V and plugs usually have two round pins.
The Rough Guide to West Africa
Richard Trillo and Jim Hudgens
The State of Africa
IMPORTANT NOTES – PLEASE READ
Please note that the information provided is correct at the time of writing but may change. It is intended as a guide only. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk or contact your local healthcare provider.
In addition we strongly advise you to check the information and any travel advice provided by your government. For British citizens you should visit the Foreign Office website www.fco.gov.uk.
Furthermore, you should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.
Issue Date – 19/11/13 AE
For possible changes to this dossier please visit www.undiscovered-destinations.com or call +44 (0)191 296 2674