Gabon Travel Information
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Local time in Gabon is GMT+1.
Electrical outlets in Gabon usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. European two-pin plugs with flat or round pins are standard.
The official language of Gabon is French and English is not widely spoken.
Yellow fever vaccinations are required for all visitors over the age of one. Gabon is a malaria zone, and either mefloquine or doxycycline is recommended. There have been recent outbreaks of chikungunya fever and dengue fever, both transmitted by mosquito bites; no vaccine is available for either disease, but stringent anti-insect measures are recommended. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid are recommended for all travellers to Gabon, and it is recommended that you be up to date with your vaccinations for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria. Those who will be spending a lot of time outdoors and may be at risk of animal bites should also consider a rabies vaccination. Tap water should not be drunk unless it has been boiled, and ice and uncooked fruits should also be avoided.
Healthcare in Gabon is poor, and traveller's insurance is a necessity. Many doctors will expect cash up front, regardless of insurance. Medical facilities in major cities should be sufficient for routine care, but in the rural areas healthcare is often non-existent. If you require any medication on your travels it is best to bring it with you, in the original packaging, with a signed and dated letter from your doctor detailing exactly what it is and why you need it.
Tipping etiquette hasn't really been established in Gabon and it's best to just tip according to the quality of service received. Taxi drivers don't expect tips but rounding up the fare for good service will be appreciated. Service fees are seldom added to the bill in restaurants and a 10 percent tip for good service will be appreciated.
Crime is an increasing problem in cities like Libreville and Port-Gentil, and precautions should be taken: avoid showing expensive jewellery, cameras, and other valuables, and avoid walking alone or at night. Petty crime is common and violent crime is on the rise, with some incidents of armed robbery and assault in homes, restaurants and at beaches frequented by tourists and foreigners. Carjacking is also a concern and visitors should keep their car doors locked and their windows up while driving, and never leave visible valuables in their vehicles. Female travellers can expect unwanted attention from men, but are free to be firm in their refusal. Tourists should be careful and vigilant when drawing money or swiping their credit cards as credit card fraud and robberies at ATMs do occur. Police are often slow to respond when called.
Gabon's government is relatively stable; however, there is still the possibility of demonstrations and rallies in urban areas, which should be avoided where possible.
Drug possession is a serious offence in Gabon and punishment will include a prison sentence, even for tourists. Homosexuality is not widely accepted, and certain homosexual acts are illegal. Taking photographs of government buildings, including the Presidential Palace, the airport, and all military sites, is prohibited. Gabon is home to over 40 ethnic groups and customs vary between them, but there is not much animosity between the different cultures and intermarriage is common.
Oil reserves and mineral wealth have helped Gabon develop one of Africa's more successful and stable economies. The country still has strong business ties with France, although the US, China and Japan also have a foothold in business circles. French is the principal business language and lightweight suits are the norm. Handshakes are an acceptable method of greeting and business cards should have a French translation. Office hours in Gabon are generally 7.30am to 12pm and 2.30pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Gabon is 241. The outgoing code varies depending on which country you are calling from Gabon (e.g. 44 for the UK). There are three area codes for Libreville: 44 48, 70 74 or 76 79. Gabon has an adequate phone system within urban areas and the mobile cell network system has multiple providers and is constantly growing. The cheapest way to make overseas phone calls is with an international phone card; hotels add a hefty surcharge to calls. Internet is not widely available in Gabon, but there are a few internet cafes in Libreville and other major cities, and some hotels offer internet facilities.
Travellers to Gabon aged 17 and older may import the following items: two litres of liquor, 50g of perfume, and gifts valued up to FCFA 5,000. Men may bring 200 cigarettes/cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco, while women may only bring cigarettes. Those importing guns and ammunition are required to have a license from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Libreville.
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