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Is Guinea-Bissau Safe?

Guinea-Bissau faces significant safety concerns for travelers. Violent crime, including armed robbery, is common, particularly in Bissau. Political instability and civil unrest pose risks, with frequent protests and occasional military uprisings. Terrorism is an emerging threat, though attacks against foreigners are rare. Travelers should exercise extreme caution, avoid protests, and follow advice from their embassy.

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Safety & Security

Guinea-Bissau is generally considered a relatively safe destination for travelers, but there are some risks to be aware of.

  • Petty Crime: Petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag snatching are common, especially in crowded areas and markets. Remain vigilant and keep valuables secure.

  • Civil Unrest: Political tensions and civil unrest can flare up unexpectedly. Avoid demonstrations and large gatherings, and monitor local news for updates.

  • Terrorism: While the risk of terrorism is low, it cannot be ruled out entirely. Exercise caution in public places and follow the advice of local authorities.

  • Scams: Be wary of common scams targeting tourists, such as overcharging, fake tour guides, and bogus police officers demanding bribes.

  • Disputes: Disputes between locals can sometimes escalate into violence. Avoid getting involved in arguments or confrontations.

  • Robbery: Armed robberies, while not common, do occur. Avoid isolated areas, especially at night, and don't resist if confronted by robbers.

It's advisable to exercise caution, be aware of your surroundings, and follow the advice of your embassy or consulate. Registering with your embassy upon arrival is also recommended.

Health & Medical

Guinea-Bissau, a small West African nation, presents some health risks that travelers should be aware of. While the country has made progress in improving healthcare, medical facilities remain limited, especially outside the capital Bissau.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure routine vaccinations are up-to-date, and consider additional vaccines like yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies, depending on your travel plans.

  • Malaria: Guinea-Bissau has a high risk of malaria transmission. Antimalarial medication is strongly recommended for all travelers.

  • Water and Food Safety: Avoid tap water and only consume bottled or purified water. Eat well-cooked foods from reputable establishments to reduce the risk of waterborne and foodborne illnesses.

  • Insect-Borne Diseases: Protect against mosquito and insect bites, as diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and chikungunya are present. Use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants, especially at dawn and dusk.

  • Medical Facilities: Limited medical facilities outside Bissau, with shortages of supplies and trained staff. Travelers should have comprehensive travel health insurance and consider medical evacuation coverage.

Natural Disasters

Guinea-Bissau is a coastal country located in West Africa, with a tropical climate that exposes it to certain natural hazards. While the risk of major disasters is relatively low, travelers should be aware of the following potential threats:

  • Rainy Season Flooding: The rainy season from June to October can bring heavy downpours and subsequent flooding, particularly in low-lying areas and urban centers with poor drainage systems. Flash floods can disrupt transportation and damage infrastructure.

  • Coastal Erosion and Storm Surges: The country's extensive coastline along the Atlantic Ocean makes it vulnerable to coastal erosion and storm surges, especially during the rainy season and periods of high tides. Coastal areas may experience flooding and damage.

  • Dust Storms and Harmattan Winds: The dry Harmattan winds from the Sahara Desert can bring dust storms, reducing visibility and potentially causing respiratory issues for sensitive individuals.

  • Heat Waves: Guinea-Bissau experiences high temperatures and humidity levels, which can lead to heat waves, especially during the dry season from November to May. Proper hydration and precautions against heat-related illnesses are advisable.

While natural disasters are not a major concern, travelers should stay informed about weather conditions, follow local advisories, and take necessary precautions during their visit to Guinea-Bissau.


Transportation in Guinea-Bissau can be challenging for travelers. The road infrastructure is generally poor, with many roads being unpaved and in poor condition, especially during the rainy season. Public transportation options are limited and unreliable.

  • Road Travel: Driving can be hazardous due to poor road conditions, lack of proper signage, and reckless driving by other motorists. Rental cars are available, but it's advisable to hire a local driver familiar with the roads.

  • Public Transportation: Buses and shared taxis (known as "toca-toca") are the main modes of public transportation, but they are often overcrowded and may not adhere to safety standards. Schedules are unreliable, and breakdowns are common.

  • Taxis: Taxis are available in larger cities, but they are unmetered, and fares should be negotiated in advance. It's recommended to use taxis from reputable companies or those arranged by your hotel.

  • Air Travel: Domestic air travel is limited, with few operational airports and infrequent flights. International flights are available from the capital, Bissau, but options are limited.

  • Safety Concerns: Travelers should exercise caution when using public transportation, as petty crime and robberies can occur. It's advisable to avoid traveling at night, especially in remote areas.

Proper planning, hiring a reliable driver, and being cautious when using public transportation can help mitigate risks and ensure a safer travel experience in Guinea-Bissau.

Cultural Norms

Guinea-Bissau is a culturally diverse nation with a rich blend of African, Portuguese, and Islamic influences. As a traveler, it's essential to respect local customs and traditions to ensure a smooth and enriching experience.

  • Greetings: Greetings are an integral part of Guinean culture. It's customary to greet people with a handshake, and elders should be greeted first. Avoid rushing through greetings, as they are seen as a sign of respect.

  • Dress Code: Modest dress is recommended, especially in rural areas and religious settings. Women should cover their shoulders and knees, while men should avoid wearing shorts in public places.

  • Religious Observances: Guinea-Bissau is predominantly Muslim, with a significant Christian minority. Respect religious practices, such as avoiding public displays of affection during Ramadan and removing shoes before entering mosques or churches.

  • Photography: Exercise caution when taking photographs, especially of individuals, religious sites, and government buildings. Always seek permission before photographing people.

  • Social Etiquette: Guineans value personal space and privacy. Avoid public displays of affection, and be mindful of your behavior in public areas. It's also considered impolite to beckon someone with your finger or to point with your index finger.

By respecting local customs and traditions, travelers can foster a deeper appreciation for Guinea-Bissau's rich cultural heritage and create positive interactions with the local community.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Guinea-Bissau are generally limited and unreliable, especially outside the capital city of Bissau. Here are some key points for travelers:

  • Medical Facilities: There are very few adequate medical facilities in the country. Most hospitals and clinics lack basic supplies and equipment. Travelers are advised to carry a comprehensive medical kit.

  • Ambulance Services: Ambulance services are virtually non-existent, and response times can be extremely slow, even in Bissau. Travelers should have contingency plans for medical emergencies.

  • Police and Security: The police force is underfunded and undertrained. Response times can be slow, and corruption is common. Travelers should exercise caution and avoid confrontations.

  • Fire Services: Fire services are inadequate and poorly equipped, particularly in rural areas. Travelers should take precautions to prevent fires and have evacuation plans in place.

  • Tourist Assistance: There are no dedicated tourist assistance services or hotlines in Guinea-Bissau. Travelers should contact their embassy or consulate in case of emergencies.

  • Travel Insurance: Comprehensive travel insurance with emergency evacuation coverage is strongly recommended for all travelers to Guinea-Bissau, given the limitations of local emergency services.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Guinea-Bissau safe for tourists?

Guinea-Bissau is generally safe for tourists, but caution is advised due to political instability and occasional civil unrest. Avoid demonstrations, monitor travel advisories, and use trusted tour operators. Petty crime like bag-snatching occurs, so remain vigilant in crowded areas.

Is Guinea-Bissau safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers should exercise increased caution in Guinea-Bissau. Dress modestly, avoid isolated areas, and don't travel alone at night. Sexual harassment and gender-based violence are risks. Arrange trusted guides and transportation.

Is Guinea-Bissau safe for families?

Guinea-Bissau can be challenging for families with children due to limited tourism infrastructure and healthcare facilities. Ensure updated vaccinations, carry medical supplies, and use bottled water. Avoid remote areas and travel with a reputable tour company.

Is Guinea-Bissau LGBTQ+ friendly?

Same-sex relationships are legal in Guinea-Bissau, but LGBTQ+ individuals may face social stigma and discrimination. Public displays of affection should be avoided. Same-sex marriage is not recognized.

Do you need a visa to go to Guinea-Bissau?

Most visitors require a visa to enter Guinea-Bissau, which can be obtained from embassies or on arrival. However, visa requirements vary by nationality, so check with your embassy or travel agent before traveling.

Can you drink tap water in Guinea-Bissau?

Tap water is not safe to drink in Guinea-Bissau due to poor sanitation and contamination risks. Drink only bottled or purified water, and avoid ice cubes made from tap water.

What is the currency in Guinea-Bissau?

The official currency in Guinea-Bissau is the West African CFA franc (XOF). Credit cards are accepted in major hotels and restaurants, but cash is widely used for most transactions.

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