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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Guinea

Guinea: Republic of Guinea
Capital: Conakry
Population: 7,775,065
Currency: Guinean franc (GNF)
Languages: French (official), each ethnic group has its own language
Religions: Muslim 85%, Christian 8%, indigenous beliefs 7%
Borders: Cote d'Ivoire 610 km, Guinea-Bissau 386 km, Liberia 563 km, Mali 858 km, Senegal 330 km, Sierra Leone 652 km

Guinea is a developing country in western Africa, with minimal facilities for tourism. Travelers who are planning to stay in the capital, Conakry, should make reservations in advance. French is the official language.

Guinea has experienced occasional civil unrest in the capital, Conakry, and in larger towns in all regions of the country. U.S. citizens have not been targeted in any demonstration-related unrest; however, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be very dangerous. During many demonstrations, crowds of people gather and burn tires, create roadblocks, and damage vehicles by throwing rocks and bricks. Because of the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations. They should also avoid sensitive government installations, including the Presidential Palace, official government buildings, and military bases. U.S. citizens should maintain security awareness at all times.

Despite the Guinean military's attempts to maintain strict control of borders, instability in neighboring countries has created tense situations along Guinea's borders. Hostilities along Guinea's borders in the past decade with Sierra Leone and Liberia, resulted in border incursions and kidnappings by various armed factions. Peace agreements in Sierra Leone and Liberia have largely eased tensions along the borders shared with Guinea. Concerns still remain high along Guinea�s southeastern border with Cote d�Ivoire due to continuing political unrest in that country. Although rumors of rebel activity along the border are constant, there is no significant impact on the current security situation.

As a result of continued military activity in Guinea, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to take precautions when traveling south of Kissidougou, including the prefectures of Gueckedou, Macenta, N�Zerekore, Yomou, Lolo, and Beyla. The road connecting Conakry, Coyah, and Kissidougou is not restricted, and in late 2002, several border-crossing areas between Guinea and Sierra Leone opened.

In Conakry, as in most large cities, crime is a facet of daily life. Residential and street crime is very common. Sentiments toward American citizens in Guinea are generally positive. However, criminals regularly target U.S. and other foreign citizens. Criminals, thieves, prostitutes, beggars, and some corrupt military and police officials perceive U.S. and foreign visitors as lucrative targets. The incidents of property crimes, crimes against persons, and automobile accidents traditionally increase during the months of November through January in Conakry.

Violent as well as nonviolent criminal activity has occurred. The majority of nonviolent crime involves acts of pick-pocketing and purse-snatching. On the other extreme, armed robbery/muggings and assaults are the most common violent crime. Homeinvasion robberies are not uncommon. Expatriates have sometimes been targets in these instances, and criminals have not hesitated to hurt victims who have resisted. Banditry near the Sierra Leone, Cote d�Ivoire and Liberia borders has also been reported. Despite the best of intentions, the police have been unable to prevent the rapid escalation of crime. There have also been incidents of direct and indirect requests for bribes from the police and military officials. Gunfire exchange between armed criminals and the police are on the rise, as is gang-related activity in general.

Criminals particularly target visitors at the airport, in the traditional markets, and near hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners. Visitors should avoid unsolicited offers of assistance at the airport or hotels, as persons making such offers may be seeking opportunities to steal luggage, purses, or wallets. Travelers should arrange to be met at the airport by hotel personnel, family members, or business contacts to reduce their vulnerability to these crimes of opportunity.

Commercial scams and disputes with local business partners have created legal difficulties for some U.S. citizens. Corruption is widespread in Guinea. Business is routinely conducted through the payment of bribes rather than by the rule of law, and enforcement of the law is irregular and inefficient. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to extricate U.S. citizens from illegal business deals is extremely limited.

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 West Africa, including Guinea. The scams 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 Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote D�Ivoire ) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Guinea. Another typical ploy has 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.

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 Guinean law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea are strict and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Medical facilities are poorly equipped and extremely limited. Medicines are in short supply, sterility of equipment is questionable, and treatment is unreliable. Some private medical facilities provide a better range of treatment options than public facilities but are still well below global standards. No ambulance or emergency rescue services exist in Guinea.

Malaria is prevalent in Guinea. P. falciparum malaria, the serious and sometimes fatal strain in Guinea, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to Guinea are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam - tm), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone -tm), as well as other protective measures to prevent insect bites, such as the use of insect repellent. The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate anti-malarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what anti-malarial drugs they have been taking.

Water is presumed contaminated. Use of bottled or distilled water for drinking is highly recommended.

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 is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Drivers are poorly trained and routinely ignore road safety rules. Guinea's road network, both paved and unpaved, is underdeveloped and unsafe. Roads and vehicles are poorly maintained, and road signage is poor. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards and make nighttime travel inadvisable. Roads and vehicles are frequently unlit. During the rainy season (July through September), flash floods make some roads temporarily impassable. Neither roadside assistance nor ambulance service is available in Guinea.

Guinea has no public transportation. Taxis, including small cars and larger vans, are often poorly maintained and over-crowded. Taxis make frequent stops and starts without regard to other vehicles, making driving hazardous. Rental vehicles are available, often with drivers, from agencies at major hotels in Conakry. Note however that the maintenance history of rental cars is questionable.

As there is no direct commercial air service between the U.S. and Guinea by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service,, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Guinea'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 websites 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.

Domestic airlines offer services to some interior cities, often using rudimentary dirt landing strips. Travelers continuing on to Freetown, Sierra Leone, should be aware that t he airport is located across a large body of water from Freetown. This often requires an overnight stay in Lungi before continuing onward to Freetown. Helicopters, ferries, and hovercraft service is available in connection with most major regional flights to transport passengers to the capital. However, due to concerns about safety and maintenance of the helicopters, United States Government employees are currently authorized to use only the Pan African Helicopter Service and the ferry and hovercraft services.

Visitors are advised to restrict photography to private gatherings. Explicit permission from the Guinean government should be obtained before photographing military and transportation facilities, government buildings or public works. Taking a photograph without permission in any public area may provoke a response from security personnel or provoke a dangerous confrontation from the people who are offended by being photographed.

The local currency is Guinean francs (FG). Travelers are prohibited from having more than 100,000 FG or more than $5,000 US in their possession upon departure from Guinea.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

October 21, 2004

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