Without a doubt, Guinea-Bissau is far from being a popular tourist destination. However, adventurous travelers will definitely find this African country – Bijagos being the only archipelago in Africa.
The truth is that, wherever is adventure, there are also risks and dangers that mustn’t be overlooked. Issues such as political unrest, language barriers, smuggling of arms and drugs, and poor infrastructure can make such a journey challenging – but these aren’t legit reasons for avoiding this beautiful country altogether.
Instead, you should do some solid, attentive planning beforehand, so that you can avoid unwanted scenarios that may come your way. If you’re wondering: how safe is Guinea-Bissau for tourists, this article aims at answering this question.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Traveling to Guinea-Bissau
Overall Risks in Guinea-Bissau: MEDIUM to HIGH
Is Guinea-Bissau safe to visit is the first question that comes to mind before actually attempting to make plans. And this makes sense: African countries do pose a lot of risks. To start with, this is a very poor country, due to the never-ending string of power struggles and conflicts. After gaining its independence from Portugal, this country has coped with violent civil war, and countless political assassinations, among many other things.
In addition to that, the fact that the political environment is really unstable contributes to this situation. That being said, even if violent crimes targeted towards foreigners aren’t overly common as they may be in other parts of the continent, this doesn’t exclude the likelihood of crime.
This is why you should be really careful and know for sure that you’re up for it. Whilst reading a comprehensive Guinea-Bissau safety guide can help, you should be ready for challenges, as these are likely to emerge.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Guinea-Bissau: HIGH
As a rule of thumb, foreigners are a target for criminals for pick pocketing, petty-theft and minor assaults. Evidently, the high rate of poverty is a major contributor. In lines with statistics, roughly 70 percent of the people live below the poverty line. As a result, chronic malnutrition is widespread, which is really saddening.
That being said, petty crime is likely to take place in crowded areas such as markets, public gatherings, airports, and so on. In addition, carjacking also poses a high risk for foreigners.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Guinea-Bissau?
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t drive after nightfall. At your accommodation, you should keep the windows rolled up and the doors closed at all times. Aside from that, you should always keep an eye out for your personal belongings – such as your travel documents and personal identification. Make sure that they are secure at all times.
Avoid displaying valuable items such as expensive cameras or flashy jewelry – things like this that draw unnecessary attention towards you. And if you do carry it with you, make sure you keep it safe, out of sight, as much as possible.
Burglaries happen all the time, but the police aren’t really efficient at solving them, which is why you should exercise extra caution. Be vigilant whether you’re visiting large cities or remote areas – incidents can happen anywhere.
Scam Risk in Guinea-Bissau: HIGH
Just as the risk of pickpocketing is high, the likelihood of scams is just as notable. This is the case in most underdeveloped countries: locals want to take advantage of unknowing tourists. Most locals convey tourists as people with money, which is why many people want to take advantage of them.
There are many schemes engaged by locals. These usually happen in crowded, noisy places. Someone might offer to carry your luggage and in exchange for that ask for a sum of money, otherwise, they won’t return your luggage. Taxi drivers may also overcharge tourists, simply because they aren’t informed regarding the local rates.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Guinea-Bissau?
Being scammed is far from being pleasant, which is why you should always be aware. Note that, as a tourist in an underdeveloped country, you are a target – so, get your facts straight and do your research beforehand. Avoid withdrawing money out of the ATM in a crowded space. While ATMs are quite scarce in Guinea-Bissau, if you do need to withdraw money, make sure no one else is watching.
In addition to that, make sure you get acquainted with the local fares for taxi journeys. In this way, if you are overcharged, you’ll know. But being scammed by a cab driver can be avoided by taking official taxis only. Another option could be getting a cab through your accommodation.
Kidnapping Risk in Guinea-Bissau: HIGH
Supposedly, Guinea-Bissau is one of the many African countries that source children for human trafficking. In spite of this, though, the Government of Guinea-Bissau made no efforts in this direction, to address solving this stressing problem. You might be surprised to learn that Guinea-Bissau doesn’t officially prohibit forced prostitution, which is wrong on so many levels. That being said, kidnapping poses serious concerns in Guinea-Bissau, meaning that as a tourist, you should be careful and wary of your surroundings.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Guinea-Bissau?
Since tourists are really few and far between, drawing attention towards you is quite inevitable. This is why, by all means, you should avoid dark corners and shadowed streets. Note that, due to the unreliability of the public power, the majority of streets and alleys are dark after dusk, meaning that you should try staying off the streets at night. Also, do pay attention in crowded areas, so that no one follows you.
Terrorism Risk in Guinea-Bissau: LOW
When it comes to quintessential Guinea-Bissau safety travel tips, most people want to know information regarding terrorism threat – and this makes sense, in the day of age we live in. And while the risk of terrorism isn’t considerably high, this doesn’t mean that we can exclude the possibility altogether, as this type of attacks are unpredictable.
Additionally, Guinea-Bissau is a contributor to the UN peacemaking initiative in Mali (MINUSMA), which could make it a legitimate target for terrorism.
- How to avoid terrorism in Guinea-Bissau?
When it comes to terrorism, all you need to know is the areas that could be targeted. In this respect, it is recommended that you either avoid or be extremely cautious in public places that tend to get very crowded, large shopping malls, markets, places of prayer, official buildings, and institutions. Naturally, you cannot avoid all of these – therefore, you should at least be always on your toes and have an eye out for any suspicious individuals or packages.
If you notice something out of the ordinary, it is better to just flee the area, retreat to safety, and – if you think there’s a high chance of something happening – alert the authorities and give them a full report of what you have seen.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Guinea-Bissau: HIGH
As a woman, traveling to an underdeveloped African country poses many a challenge. Essentially, we cannot deny that discovering this country by yourself requires a lot of courage. Guinea-Bissau is hardly safe for people traveling in groups, let alone solo women travelers.
As a woman traveling by yourself, people are likely to stare at you and make unsuitable comments – in some cases. However, this depends on the area in which you’re in, whether it’s crowded, remote, and so on and so forth. So, if you’re wondering: is Guinea-Bissau safe for solo women travelers, the answer is entirely up to you. After reading our Guinea-Bissau safety guide so far, you should know what to expect.
Thus, if you know you’re up for it, you should go for it; otherwise, perhaps it could be a good idea to visit another African country which is safer than Guinea-Bissau.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Guinea-Bissau?
If you’ve made your mind and you’re planning a visit to Guinea-Bissau, do your best at reading as many Guinea-Bissau safety travel tips. In addition, try to read other women’s experiences whilst visiting this country, to have an idea of what such an experience entails.
Choose your clothing most carefully, and avoid going to night clubs or restaurants by yourself. Many criminals slip drugs in women’s drinks – this is a tactic employed in many parts of the world. Thereupon, under no circumstances should you let your drink unattended.
Rape Risk in Guinea-Bissau: LOW
Even though serious crime rates are somewhat low and the country is extremely poor, it seems that its locals do not rely on acts like rape to get what they want. There are little to no reports of such incidents throughout recent years, while most statistics about the country’s crime do not have any data for rapes.
Therefore, we can assume that Guinea-Bissau doesn’t come with this type of danger for travelers. Naturally, as always, you cannot fully rule out this risk, as it still might happen, given the right circumstances. On the other hand, given the fact that rape comes with a low risk, you need to rely only on some basic safety measures in order to protect yourself.
- How to avoid getting raped in Guinea-Bissau?
In order to avoid getting raped while traveling through Guinea-Bissau, it is recommended that you get accustomed with the country’s local laws and customs, as well as with their dress code. You should do this so that you don’t offend any locals, this being the first step towards avoiding any kind of conflict.
Secondly, you should avoid traveling during the night, especially if you are alone. In terms of areas you should stay away from, we mention remote areas – far away from urban ones -, the city slums and outskirts, as well as any poorly lit or bad-reputed neighborhoods.
Depending on the areas you wish to visit, you may consider getting either a fellow tourist to accompany you or a trusted local guide. Obviously, refuse any help, drinks, or food from strangers, even if they seem like having good intentions. Take everything with a pinch of salt and you should be safe, not only in terms of rape but also in terms of pickpocketing and scams.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Guinea-Bissau: HIGH
Just as solo women travelers are exposed to many risks when visiting Guinea-Bissau, the same can be said about families with children. Kidnapping for ransom can happen, not to mention that human trafficking is really common. Unfortunately, unwanted incidents can take place in both crowded and remote places, which is what makes this country relatively unsafe. If it is possible, you should avoid it.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Given the aforementioned, you might want to reconsider traveling with your children in Guinea-Bissau. Leaving aside the fact that you have to keep an eye on them at all times and make sure that they don’t get in any trouble, you must also be able to fight back anyone that tries to snatch your child, so to say.
If you happen to be in a crowd, you may simply find yourself with none of your children around you. The only thing you can do to help prevent such thing from happening is by traveling in a group, a larger one being an advantage. This way, you will always have more than one person taking care of your children and making sure that they don’t go missing.
Basically, if you are alone and traveling with your children, we recommend you choose another destination. If within a group, then its size should be around at least four people in order for them to be effective, so to say, at guarding the little ones. Moreover, if you do decide to bring your children with you, then you might want to avoid even medium-crowded places entirely.
Natural Disaster Risks in Guinea-Bissau: LOW
Moving on, there aren’t any notable risks when it comes to natural disasters. The only thing you should know is that the rainy season lasts from May to November. In addition, the humidity level is quite high from July to September.
On the other hand, during the dry season, hot winds are overly common – and this lasts from December to April. Make sure you get informed of the weather forecast to avoid unfortunate events.
Transportation Risks in Guinea-Bissau: HIGH
When it comes to traveling, Guinea-Bissau’s biggest problem at the time are the un-exploded land mines in certain parts of the country. However, de-mining operations are being conducted. Back in 2006, the country’s capital city was declared mine-free – but, in the areas outside of the capital city, the risk of coming across un-exploded mines exists still. It is strongly recommended that you stick to paved roads only.
While traffic is usually light in Guinea-Bissau, the road conditions are the ones that make driving almost the worst. You won’t probably find any good roads throughout Guinea-Bissau in its entirety, not even in the capital. Given the road conditions, you should avoid traveling during the night, as well as during the rainy season, which runs from June to October.
Other than that, be careful when calling taxis and make sure to decide over the fare before getting in/ before the driver starts driving, in order to avoid any possible scams.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Guinea-Bissau: MEDIUM
Even though reports suggest that crime rates are generally low in this country, we have mentioned before that there’s a chance that people slip drugs in your drink or do similar other stuff. In this respect, despite the low crime rate, you should still be very careful when visiting night-clubs, pubs, or bars.
Keep in mind that, even if most sources claim a certain country to have a low crime rate, you still can’t be sure of what to expect when traveling to it. Things may change overnight and you don’t want to find yourself lacking proper preparation in certain situations. Therefore, if visiting any of the aforementioned locations, you should not do so alone. Moreover, you should also not interact with any strangers or accept drinks or food that they offer you.
Keep your belongings close and stay near your group/ friends. Your best call, when it comes to having a relaxed night inside a night-club or a bar, is the respective area that can be found within your accommodation. Here, you are as safe as you can be, given the fact that you can either call the security if something happens or simply go back to your room.
Naturally, if you do decide to visit one of the pubs deeper in the town, so to say, you should do so only if you are in a major urban area and around its center as well. You don’t want to get anywhere near the city outskirts or slums.
Health Risks in Guinea-Bissau
First of all, it is worth mentioning that Guinea-Bissau’s medical facilities are extremely limited, while its hospitals are not fully operational. If you are in need of emergency medical treatment, you might have to be transferred, most likely via air ambulance. In this respect, make sure to have enough funds with you, in order to cover the costs of any treatment of medicine that you may have to pay, as well as emergency transportation. Even though you may be insured via a travel health insurance, you have to make sure that – if it takes too much for the staff to check or claim your insurance – you can always rely on your cash/ funds to pay for treatment.
In terms of health risks, there are some occasional outbreaks of cholera throughout the country. These usually occur in the rainy season, especially in the areas with poor sanitation.
Moreover, the country has also been classified as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. At the same time, roughly 3.9% of its population is living with HIV – the UK, for example, has only 0.2% of its population affected. Therefore, you must take precautions in order to avoid exposure to both AIDS and HIV.
Make sure to contact your health insurance company as soon as you get referred to a medical facility for treatment, as they can help you with the things you have to do, as well as tell you exactly what will get covered by your insurance.
List of Vaccines You Need When Visiting Guinea-Bissau
Before you reach Guinea-Bissau, make sure you get the following list of vaccines:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow Fever
Most Dangerous Areas in Guinea-Bissau
One of the most important Guinea-Bissau safety travel tips is to avoid traveling to the northwest part of the country, which borders the Casamance region in Senegal. This is specifically due to the presence of dangerous armed rebel groups.
In addition to that, as a traveler, you should exercise extra caution in the country’s capital, as well as remote rural areas.
Concluding Remarks: Is Guinea-Bissau Safe to Visit?
To conclude: how safe is Guinea-Bissau for tourists? With a safety index of 36 percent, we could argue that this country comes with many risks. The political instability, together with the years of civil war and unrest definitely contributed to the poverty rate.
That being said, before making plans to go there, read as many Guinea-Bissau safety travel tips. We hope that our Guinea-Bissau safety guide has been of help to you.