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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Gabon

Gabon: Gabonese Republic
Capital: Libreville
Population: 1,233,353
Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XAF)
Languages: French (official), Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi
Religions: Christian 55%-75%, animist, Muslim less than 1%
Borders: Cameroon 298 km, Republic of the Congo 1,903 km, Equatorial Guinea 350 km

Gabon is a developing nation in west central Africa. French is the official language. Facilities for tourism outside the capital city, Libreville, are available, but are often limited.

U.S. citizens should maintain security awareness at all times. Large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest should be avoided. Taking photographs of military or government buildings is strictly forbidden.

In Gabon, petty thievery is common. Violent crime is more common in urban areas and there have been cases of armed robberies in homes and in restaurants frequented by foreigners. While crime in general does not appear to specifically target Americans or westerners, it continues to affect the neighborhoods and establishments frequented by foreigners.

The U.S. Embassy encourages Americans to take extra precautions when traveling in Libreville. To prevent carjacking, citizens are encouraged to travel with their automobile windows up and doors locked. Marginal neighborhoods, poorly lit streets and unfamiliar areas of the city should be avoided, especially at night. Walking or running on the beach alone at night should be avoided. If you do decide to visit the beach at night, do so with friends. When dining in restaurants or visiting markets, it is recommended that you carry only minimal amounts of cash and avoid wearing excessive amounts of jewelry. The Embassy encourages citizens to choose restaurants with locked entrances and security guards to minimize the risk of armed attacks. Credit cards are not widely accepted except at hotels, and because of the high rates of credit card fraud, their use is not recommended. If involved in an attempted robbery or carjacking, citizens are encouraged to comply with attackers to avoid injury and to report all incidents to the police and to the U.S. Embassy.

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 Gabon 's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Gabon are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

Medical facilities in Gabon 's major cities are limited, but are generally adequate for routine or basic needs. Medical services in rural areas are generally unavailable. Additionally, some medicines are not available; travelers should carry required, properly labeled medicines and medications with them.

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 Gabon 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/Ambulance Assistance: Poor/Limited

Travel by road in Gabon can be hazardous. It is recommended that you drive with your windows up and your doors locked. Travelers are routinely stopped at police checkpoints within cities and on highways. Travelers should use extreme caution when driving after dark. Two-lane roads are the norm throughout Gabon. Roads to outlying cities have both visible and hidden dangers that are profuse, including large potholes, absence of road signs, poor to nonexistent streetlights, and the presence of pedestrians and animals. Construction work is often poorly indicated. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for travel beyond the paved road to Lambarene, especially during the rainy season. Roadside assistance and emergency medical services are available in Libreville, but they may not be dependable. Such services are nonexistent outside of the city. Service stations are available along main roads, but vehicle repair facilities are not always available. Drivers must have a valid international driver's license (available from AAA and the American Automobile Routing Alliance in the United States ) when driving in Gabon.

Use of taxis is generally safe but does pose added risks. It is recommended that you use a hotel taxi and ride with friends when possible Riding in a taxi alone or during late hours of the evening is not recommended and creates additional risk of becoming a victim of crime. Rail services are available, but travelers should be prepared for delays.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, home page at

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Gabon by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Gabon 's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air services for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.

All aircraft landing at Leon Mba International Airport in Libreville are assessed airport landing fees, which must be paid in cash. The exchange rate for U.S. dollars at the airport is unfavorable, particularly for payments in large-denomination bills; payment in Euro or Central African Francs (CFA) avoids exchange rate loss.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

March 1, 2004

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