Equatorial Guinea - Introduction

On the vast east coast of the Atlantic Ocean, in the warm embrace of the Gulf of Mexico, there is a bright pearl - Equatorial Guinea. Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest producer of crude oil in Sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. Some of the scholars who have written about Equatorial Guinea have used some very interesting metaphors that describe Equatorial Guinea as a place with gangsterism, political gangsterism, and that small is not beautiful. Equatorial Guinea is one of the least-known countries in the world, because of its small size and its insignificant population.

Equatorial Guinea is a beautiful country with many interesting sites and beaches, but information and facilities for tourists are limited but growing. Equatorial Guinea is an oil-rich, developing country on the western coast of central Africa. Its capital and main port, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko, off the coast of Cameroon. A secondary port, Luba, is also on Bioko. The mainland territory of Equatorial Guinea is bordered by Cameroon and Gabon. The principal city on the mainland is Bata. Official languages are Spanish, which is widely spoken, and French, which is widely understood and sometimes used in business dealings. Portuguese was recently made the country’s third official language, but is not widely used or spoken.

Many international agencies and institutions rate EG as among the worst of the worst in terms of almost any indicator selected. Yet, from ground level the story appears much better than reported One problem is noise. The bias against EG is animated by a loud chorus of hostile critics from among the diaspora (many of whom left when things were much worse) and the once-colonial, now-disenfranchised Spanish. A dedicated and vicious segment of the Spanish media now effectively filters out most of the good news about EG, and provides a distorted frame of reference for anyone casually seeking information about the only former-Spanish colonial holding in Africa.

Spanish continues to enjoy a vigorous existence in Equatorial Guinea, a fact which sets this nation apart from many others which have traversed a similar colonial and post-colonial linguistic evolution. The reasons for this phenomenon are many and difficult to trace, but one important factor is the poignant search for national identity, the fact of being the only Spanish-speaking nation in the midst of French-, English- and Portuguese-speaking neighbors, and of being a tiny unknown nation struggling to throw off the devastating effects of postcolonial destruction.

The projection of Spanish national identity onto Equatorial Guinea had the effect of doubly reinforcing the natural isolation and cultural ethnocentrism of this small African nation. Even more so than in other African colonies, which depended on European nations that were more diversified and that had a greater impact on the rest of the world, Equatorial Guineans were molded into a mentality which found it difficult to conceive of international cultural contacts separate from Spain.

Since July 2013, there has been a significant increase in attacks against women, including U.S. citizens, by small groups posing as taxi drivers and passengers. The attacks have been most severe in the continental city of Bata and surrounding areas, but have also occurred in Malabo. Victims typically are held captive for up to an hour, threatened at knife-point, and robbed. We strongly recommend taking taxis only in groups, using taxi drivers personally known to you, or avoiding the use of taxis altogether, especially in Bata.

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal mosquito-borne disease that is very common in most of the country; all travelers are recommended to take antimalarial prophylaxis. Despite aggressive attempts to control malaria in Malabo, the city is still a high risk area for malaria. Plasmodium falciparum, the predominant malaria strain in Equatorial Guinea, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. There is a high risk of diarrheal disease throughout the country. Taking precautions when consuming food or beverages is essential to reduce the likelihood of illness. Travelers should carry loperamide and/or a quinolone antibiotic for presumptive self-treatment of diarrhea if it occurs. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease. Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended for all those over nine months of age.

Equatoguinean cities have no reliable form of public transportation. Taxis, while inexpensive and readily available, are often poorly maintained, and taxi drivers frequently drive dangerously or while impaired. Travelers should be aware that taxis will stop to pick up additional passengers and may detour or drop passengers off out of sequence. Single travelers, particularly women, are advised to avoid taxis if possible.

Travelers outside the limits of Malabo and Bata will encounter military roadblocks, and police checks are increasingly common in both cities. The personnel staffing these checkpoints are often poorly trained and do not speak English or French; travelers who do not speak Spanish should have their reason for being in the country and their itinerary written down in Spanish, especially if planning to travel into the countryside. Travelers should be aware that many military facilities are poorly marked and inconsistently staffed, especially in isolated areas. Travelers should try to avoid these sites whenever possible.

Equatorial Guinea has road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Equatorial Guinea's road networks are increasingly well-developed. Speed limits are posted in kilometers but rarely observed, and travelers should remain alert for pedestrians and livestock, even on multi-lane highways. Traffic signals and crosswalks are increasingly common, but not always heeded by local drivers. Travelers should take additional care when driving at night as many motorists do not use headlights and roads are inconsistently lit. Driving while intoxicated is widespread, particularly at night and during weekends and holidays.

There are basically no major natural disasters in Equatorial Guinea. In very rare cases during the rainy season, there will be sudden heavy rains, causing small-scale mudslides or landslides, which are generally not harmful. Equatorial Guinea has poor sanitation and no municipal water supply. The water source is generally river water and well water. Supermarket food is mostly imported from Europe and other places. Pay attention to the shelf life and freshness when buying and eating. Equatorial Guinea has a strong national security awareness. Many places have military checkpoints, and relevant documents (such as travel permits) are required to pass. Photographs are generally prohibited. Especially near the Presidential Palace and the cathedral, there are military and police patrols. In the recent past, a special permit from the Ministry of Information and Tourism was required for virtually all types of photography. Although the law has changed, police or security officials may still attempt to impose a fine on people taking photographs. It is forbidden to take photos of the Presidential Palace and its surroundings, military installations, airports, harbors, government buildings, and any other area deemed sensitive by the local government. Police and security officials have attempted to take photographers into custody for perceived or actual violations of this policy, or to seize the camera of persons photographing in the country.

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