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Safety Travel Safety: Africa: Angola

Angola: Republic of Angola
Capital: Luanda
Population: 10,593,171
Currency: kwanza (AOA)
Languages: Portuguese (official), Bantu and other African languages
Religions: indigenous beliefs 47%, Roman Catholic 38%, Protestant 15%
Borders: Democratic Republic of the Congo 2,511 km (of which 225 km is the boundary of discontiguous Cabinda Province), Republic of the Congo 201 km, Namibia 1,376 km, Zambia 1,110 km

Angola is a large, developing country in southern Africa. After gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, it was engulfed in a civil conflict that lasted for more than a quarter century. A cease-fire was called in April 2002, two months after the death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, and, on November 21, 2002, the government and former rebels signed a peace agreement that definitively ended the conflict. Fighting has ended in all areas of the country except for the Cabinda enclave, and there are growing signs of economic recovery. Nevertheless, major problems remain with virtually every element of infrastructure and government service throughout the country, including communications and basic social services. Travel by road is difficult and can be dangerous due to the presence of land mines in many areas. Facilities for tourism, particularly outside the capital of Luanda, are extremely limited.

The security situation in Angola has improved markedly since the end of the civil war; however, Americans should still exercise caution. Although the war has ended, ground travel throughout Angola is problematic due to the possibility of banditry and the presence of land mines, which were used extensively during the war. Frequent checkpoints and poor infrastructure contribute to unsafe travel on roads outside of the city. Police and military are sometimes undisciplined, and their authority should not be challenged. Travel in many parts of Luanda is relatively safe by day, but car doors should be locked, windows rolled up, and packages stored out of sight. Visitors should avoid unnecessary travel after dark, and no travel should be undertaken on roads outside of cities after nightfall.

Although the civil war between the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the Government of Angola has ended, the ongoing low-level insurgency group, Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), is active in Cabinda province. FLEC has a history of threatening foreign nationals with kidnapping. Throughout Angola, taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest, including government buildings, may result in problems with authorities and should therefore be avoided.

Crime is a serious problem throughout the country. While most violent crime occurs between Angolans, foreigners have occasionally been attacked as well. Street crime is a regular occurrence in Luanda. The most common crimes are pick pocketing, purse snatching, vehicle theft and vehicle break-ins. Armed muggings, robberies and car-jackings involving foreigners are not frequent but do occur. Police and military are sometimes undisciplined and their authority should not be challenged. In general, movement around Luanda is considered safer by day than by night. Air travelers arriving in Luanda at night are strongly advised to arrange reliable and secure ground transportation in advance. If this is not possible, use only the regulated taxi service at the airport and in Luanda; unregulated taxis are unsafe and at present a high crime risk.

Motorists should stop at all police checkpoints if so ordered. Police officers, often while still in uniform, have been known to participate in shakedowns, muggings, and carjackings.

There have been police operations against illegal aliens and private companies resulting in the deportation of foreign nationals and the loss of personal and company property. In rare cases, foreigners have been forced to sign statements renouncing property claims in Angola before being deported. Independent entrepreneurs in Angola should carry all relevant immigration and business documents at all times.

Travelers should be alert to a number of scams perpetrated by Luanda airport personnel. Immigration and customs officials sometimes detain foreigners without cause, demanding gratuities before allowing them to enter or depart Angola. Airport health officials sometimes threaten arriving passengers with "vaccinations" with unsterilized instruments if gratuities are not paid. Forced entry into travelers' checked baggage is common; travelers are advised to take precautions against this possibility. Travelers should also be sure to have checked luggage receipts ready to display upon exiting the airport.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Angolan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Angola are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Prison conditions are extremely harsh.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means, or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent.

Adequate medical facilities are virtually nonexistent except in Luanda, where there are some good private clinics that usually have a 24-hour service under a general practitioner physician with specialists on call. The U.S. Embassy in Luanda can provide a contact list of such facilities. Routine operations such as appendectomies can be performed. Still, many types of medicine are not available; travelers are urged to carry with them properly labeled supplies of any medications they routinely require.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Angola is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Until early 2002, destinations in the interior were accessible safely only by private or chartered aircraft. Since the end of the civil war, overland access to the interior has increased. However, fighting in most of the country damaged or destroyed many roads and bridges; there are no services for motorists outside urban areas. Road travel can be dangerous due to poor conditions, occasional acts of banditry, and especially the presence of landmines in many areas. Many secondary roads are impassable during the rainy season. Overloaded, poorly marked and disabled vehicles, as well as pedestrians and livestock, pose hazards for motorists. Any ground travel in rural areas should be undertaken during daylight hours only. There are no well-maintained overland routes to neighboring countries.

Traffic in Luanda is heavy and often chaotic; roads are generally in poor condition. Few intersections have traffic lights or police to direct the flow of vehicles. Drivers routinely fail to obey traffic lights, lanes and stop signs, and there are frequent breakdowns of badly maintained vehicles. Itinerant vendors and pedestrians often weave in and out of traffic, posing a danger to themselves and to drivers. Beyond a single call-in taxi service, usually available at the airport, all public transportation, including buses and van taxis, should be avoided as the vehicles are generally crowded, unsafe, and unreliable.

Road conditions vary widely outside the capital, from acceptable paved surfaces to virtually impassable dirt roads, particularly on secondary routes. Overloaded vehicles, driving too fast for road conditions, and pedestrians and livestock on the roadway pose hazards for travelers.

For additional information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at

As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Angola, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Angola's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. FAA is working with Angolan civil aviation and airport authorities to improve security and safety under the �Safe Skies for Africa� program.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

June 3, 2004

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