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Worldworx Travel> Safety> Africa> Guinea Bissau

SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau: Republic of Guinea-Bissau
Capital: Bissau
Population: 1,345,479
Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
Languages: Portuguese (official), Crioulo, African languages
Religions: indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%
Borders: Guinea 386 km, Senegal 338 km

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Guinea-Bissau is a small, developing country in western Africa. The country underwent a civil war in 1998-99 that devastated the economy. Tourist facilities and infrastructure in general are very limited. The primary language is Portuguese. The capital is Bissau.

SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
There is no U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Guinea-Bissau. The U.S. Embassy in Bissau suspended operations on June 14, 1998. While U.S. officials from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal make periodic visits to Guinea-Bissau, their ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is very limited. The U.S. Embassy in Dakar maintains an office in Bissau, staffed by local employees (tel: 00-245-25-2273 or 00-245-720-1560). The nearest U.S. Embassies are located in Banjul, The Gambia; Conakry, Guinea; and Dakar, Senegal. 

Although the civil war that led to the closure of the U.S. Embassy ended in 1999 and a new government came into office on May 12, 2004, travelers should be aware that the political situation, though gaining stability, is still in a period of transition. The United Nations currently has restrictions on travel to the northwest regions of the country, which border on Senegal's Casamance region. It is recommended that travelers crossing the Senegalese frontier utilize crossing points east of Cambaju. Landmines remain scattered throughout the country. The UN office in Bissau is responsible for de-mining operations and maintains lists of known minefields. There are two NGOs active in successfully removing mines. There have been periodic incidents of bandits accosting travelers in rural areas.

CRIME ^
Although there is a fairly low incidence of normal daytime street crime, travelers should observe security precautions in the city, particularly with regard to pickpocket activity in marketplaces. Travelers should refrain from walking alone at night.

BUSINESS FRAUD ^
Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Guinea-Bissau. The frauds pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams. 

Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably from Sierra Leone) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money. Another typical ploy involves persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts. 

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense - if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Guinea-Bissau should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
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 Guinea-Bissau's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea-Bissau are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Modern medical facilities are virtually non-existent in Guinea-Bissau and should not be relied on by travelers. Monday to Saturday there are flights from Bissau to Dakar, Senegal, where more acceptable levels of medical care are available.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
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 Guinea-Bissau 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 

There are frequent power outages in the capital, Bissau, and the lack of lighting at night makes careful driving necessary. Since there are minefields left over from the civil war and the war of independence, travelers should not leave designated roads and pathways.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
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 Guinea-Bissau, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Guinea-Bissau'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 http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm. 

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 the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801. 

PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS ^
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.

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Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

October 20, 2004

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