Bargaining

Stall-holders in the the artisanal markets would be surprised if you didn't haggle a bit over your souvenirs.

Climate

The temperature in Gabon is usually around 28°C with high humidity, and there is frequent rain. The wet seasons are September to November and February to May, while the dry seasons fall from May to September and December to January.

Dangers & Annoyances

  • Treat Libreville like any big city with its fair share of crime. Always carry your passport (or a copy) and a copy of your visa.
  • The dreaded fourous (tiny insects) will leave red splotches, but won't hurt until a few days into the forest when infernal itchiness ensues. Insect repellent is a must, and calamine lotion will ease the itchiness.
  • The terrible roads, drunk drivers and huge trucks carrying unsecured loads of old-growth forest are probably the biggest dangers in the country.

Electricity

220v AC, 50Hz (European-style two-round-pin plugs).

Embassies & Consulates

There is no British Embassy in Gabon; in an emergency contact the British Honorary Consul in Libreville. Australia, New Zealand and Ireland have no diplomatic presence in Gabon. Countries with diplomatic representation in Libreville include the following:

Emergency & Important Numbers

Ambulance1300, 1399
Fire18
Police177; in Libreville: 01 76 55 85; in Port-Gentil: 07 36 22 25

Entry & Exit Formalities

You must organise a visa in advance to enter Gabon. You will also need the yellow International Health Certificate to prove vaccination against yellow fever, as well as proof of accommodation for at least the first night of your stay.

Passports

Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival.

Visas

Visas are required by all travellers and must be obtained before arrival; they are not available at the airport or at border crossings. Getting a visa for Gabon can be both difficult and expensive. From countries outside Africa it can cost more than US$100. Unless you're flying straight to Libreville from Europe, it may be best to apply for one at the Gabonese embassy in a nearby African country, where it only takes a couple of days and costs around US$60. You will be required to produce a return or onward plane ticket, proof of health insurance and certified proof of accommodation for the first few nights of your trip.

At the Directeur Genérale de la Documentation you can obtain visa extensions.

Visas for Onward Travel

It's possible to get the following visas for nearby African countries in Libreville:

Cameroon Same-day processing; CFA51,000.

DRC Takes 24 hours; CFA50,000; only issued to residents of Gabon.

Equatorial Guinea Takes 72 hours; CFA80,000; only issued to residents of Gabon or people with no EG embassy in their home country.

Republic of Congo Takes 24 hours; 15-day visa CFA30,000, 3-month visa CFA70,000. A hotel reservation is required.

São Tomé & Príncipe Takes 48 hours; CFA13,000.

International Health Certificate

Your yellow International Health Certificate must be produced on arrival in the country to prove you have been vaccinated again yellow fever.

Etiquette

The Gabonese shake hands when they meet, while friends kiss cheeks. Respect is very important, and it's best to enquire after someone's health before launching into a request.

LGBT Travellers

Homosexuality is not illegal in Gabon; however, overt displays of affection are taboo in this conservative Christian country.

In December 2008, Gabon co-sponsored and signed the nonbinding UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity calling for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality, one of only six African countries to do so. By 2011, however, Gabon voted against the resolution entitled Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the Human Rights Council.

Insurance

Travel insurance is recommended for travelling in Gabon.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

Gabon has good internet connectivity. Most hotels and some cafes and restaurants offer free wi-fi.

Maps

It's better to buy maps in good travel bookstores in Europe or the US, as there is very little available in Gabon.

Media

L'Union is one of the biggest national papers: www.union.sonapresse.com. Radio France International broadcasts at 104FM.

Money

Gabon uses the Central African Franc (CFA) along with other countries in the region.

ATMs

ATMs in Libreville and Port-Gentil usually only work with Visa cards, although MasterCard sometimes works at branches of UGB. Note that ATMs start to run out of cash on Thursdays as people withdraw money in time for the weekend, particularly at the end of the month. This phenomenon is worse in Port-Gentil than in Libreville.

Cash

Cash is king here, so bring plenty with you, and certainly take more than you need everywhere you go outside of Libreville or Port-Gentil, as you won't be able to get more cash outside these cities.

There is a national change shortage so ask for small notes wherever possible.

Changing Money

US dollars and Euros are the preferred currency for exchange; other currencies are generally not possible to exchange. You can change money at banks and exchange bureaus.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are only accepted at top-end hotels, not in restaurants or shops.

You cannot withdraw money against a credit card over the counter in banks.

Tipping

Tips are not expected in hotels and restaurants, except at upmarket places that see a lot of foreigners. Do tip drivers and guides, though; 10% of the cost is usually an acceptable amount.

Travellers Cheques

Travellers' cheques are not used in Gabon.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1CFA461.50
CanadaC$1CFA466.60
Europe€1CFA665.96
Japan¥100CFA536.57
New ZealandNZ$1CFA443.20
UKUK£1CFA771.70
USUS$1CFA610.80

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Opening Hours

Shops and businesses open early and close for siesta between noon or 1pm and 3pm. Most shops are closed on Sundays, with some banks opening Saturday mornings but not afternoons.

Banks These vary from one bank to another, but generally 8am–4.30pm Monday to Friday and 8am–1pm Saturday.

Shops 8am or 9am to 12.30pm and 3.30–7pm Monday to Saturday.

Restaurants 11am–3pm, 7pm–midnight Monday to Sunday.

Cafes 7am-midnight Monday to Saturday.

Bars and clubs 11am-3am; clubs often only open Thursday to Sunday.

Photography

Do not take photographs of government buildings, military sites and presidential palaces.

Post

The postal service is not operational in Gabon.

Public Holidays

As well as Christian holidays, the following are the principal public holidays in Gabon:

New Year's Day 1 January

Renovation Day 12 March

Labour Day 1 May

Independence Day 17 August

All Saints' Day 1 November

Smoking

Smoking is not allowed in any public place. It's frowned upon for women to smoke.

Taxes & Refunds

There is no sales tax and therefore no refunds in Gabon.

Telephone

All Gabonese numbers – mobile and landline – have eight digits. There are no area codes. Landlines nationwide begin with 01, while numbers beginning with anything else are mobiles. The country code for Gabon is 241.

Mobile phones are used more widely than landlines, although coverage can be very patchy outside of Libreville and Port-Gentil. You can buy a SIM card for an unlocked GSM phone for CFA2000 at Airtel in Libreville and in other towns. You will need to supply two copies of your passport and visa.

Recharge cards are available pretty much everywhere.

Time

There is no daylight saving.

The 24-hour clock is used.

Australia: CanberraCanberra 10 hours ahead
Canada: OttawaLibreville six hours ahead
France: Parisno difference
Japan: TokyoTokyo eight hours ahead
New Zealand: WellingtonWellington 12 hours ahead
UK: LondonLibreville one hour ahead
US: Washington DCLibreville six hours ahead

Toilets

Most toilets in Gabon are Western-style.

There are no public toilets.

Tourist Information

Travel agencies and conservation organisations tend to have the most up-to-date information on various parts of the country.

Go To Gabon is the new government-sponsored initiative grouping all reputable travel agencies in Gabon.

Ngondetour is the best option for both day trips and longer tours to the national parks of Gabon. The owner, Paul Armand Mombey Indaki, speaks English and is very knowledgeable. There's no office; contact Paul through the website or WhatsApp.

Travel Agencies

There are few travel agencies organising tours in Gabon; most simply sell airline tickets.

Ngondetour This is the best option for getting to national parks. They have a very informative website.

Lopé Hotel Libreville Office For trips to Lopé National Park.

Satguru For booking international and internal flights.

Travel with Children

There are wonderful beaches for children to enjoy, particularly at Pointe Denis close to Libreville. Wildlife encounters are guaranteed to be experiences of a lifetime for the whole family. Older children might also enjoy the Musée Nationale des Arts et Traditions du Gabon in Libreville, especially when they have Bwiti music and dance, as well as forest walks and ceremonies organised by the NGO Ebando.

As Gabon is hot and humid, take extra care with babies and young children. Make sure they have long sleeves and long pants to avoid mosquito bites. Use a suitable malaria prophylatic and antimosquito lotion.

There are no baby-changing facilities. Supermarkets in Libreville and Port-Gentil stock disposable nappies and milk formula, but it is more difficult to find these in the countryside.

Be careful with a pram or pushchair as pavements can be uneven and have potholes or open drains. Use a torch at night as street lighting is poor. Upmarket hotels might have a lift.

Accessible Travel

There are no facilities for travellers with disabilities.

Volunteering

It is occasionally possible to volunteer with conservation organisations such as the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology or the Projet Gorille Fernan-Vaz that work with gorillas and chimpanzees.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures Gabon uses the metric system.

Women Travellers

Equality is on the up in Gabon, and it's a very safe place for a lone woman to travel by African standards, though lone female travellers may still be viewed as a curiosity outside Libreville and Port-Gentil. Be vigilant about your belongings in crowded transport and market places.

Work

If you are taking a job in Gabon, your employer will help you get a visa.