Gabon Travel Information
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Local time in Gabon is GMT +1.
Electrical current is 220 to 240 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard (Type C sockets; Type E and F may also work).
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 there have been recent
outbreaks of chikungunya fever and dengue fever, all transmitted by
mosquito bites. There are no vaccines available for these diseases,
but stringent anti-insect measures are recommended.
Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid are recommended for all travellers to Gabon. Those who will be spending a lot of time outdoors may be at risk of animal bites and 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. Following outbreaks of the ebola virus in some African countries during 2014, all persons travelling from recently infected countries will be barred from entry until further notice.
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. Take a custom medical kit and any necessary medication in the original packaging, with a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing exactly what it is and why it is needed (this applies to syringes and needles as well).
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.
Urban hubs like Libreville and Port Gentil experience the most
petty and violent crime. Avoid becoming a victim and hide expensive
jewellery, cameras, and other valuables. Avoid walking alone or at
night and parking in unlit, ungaurded areas. 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 valuables visible in their vehicles.
Unfortunately, Police are often slow to respond when called.
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 as robberies at ATMs do occur and credit card fraud is common. Gabon's government is relatively stable, however, there is still the possibility of demonstrations and rallies in urban areas. Avoid large gatherings where possible because protests can turn violent, as they did in late 2014 and early 2015, resulting in property damage and a number of casualties. It is advisable to remain up to date with the political circumstances and local news in order to avoid any danger.
Drug possession is a serious offence in Gabon and punishment will include a prison sentence, even for tourists. Homosexuality is not widely accepted and has recieved cultural backlash in recent years, but it is not 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, so make an effort to get to know some of the local customs on arrival.
The export of petroleum, timber and manganese has helped Gabon develop one of Africa's more successful and stable economies. The country still has strong business ties with France, as well as the US, China and a few African countries. French is the principal business language and formal business attire is required. 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 is being called from Gabon (e.g. 44 for the UK). Gabon has an adequate phone system within urban areas and the mobile network system has multiple providers and is constantly growing. The cheapest way to make overseas phone calls is with an international phone card and avoid calling from hotels where possible as they 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 may import three litres of wine and one litre of spirits, 400 cigarettes/cigarillos or 125g cigars or 500g of tobacco and up to 500g of jewellery. Counterfeit goods, child pornography, non-prescription drugs, and unlicensed arms and ammunition (without permission from the government) are prohibited. Bring prescription drugs in their original package, with a letter from the doctor who issued them detailing what they are and why they are needed.
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