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Honeymoon in Guinea-Bissau

Tropical beaches, marvellous seafood and friendly, laid-back people... 

The West African country of Guinea-Bissau is an ideal destination for those in search of an authentic African experience. Although it has a limited tourist infrastructure, it has a lot to offer visitors who like to travel off the beaten path.

Cities

  • Bissau - capital
  • Bafatá - Bafata is a pleasant town with an interesting colonial centre, located on the Rio Gêba. Hometown of Bissau-Guinean patriot Amilcar Cabral. Ask around near the old market to visit his house.
  • Bolama - capital of the country until 1941, has some magnificent examples of colonial architecture and has been suggested as a world heritage site.
  • Buba - End of the tarmac going to the south of Guinea-Bissau. The town is built along a tidal river, the Rio Grande de Buba. Decent hotel.
  • Bubaque - Largest town in the Bijagos archipelago, with hotels and harbor for boat trips to other islands.
  • Cacheu - Cacheu was once an important place for slave-trading, and there is still a little fort.
  • Catió
  • Farim
  • Gabú - Busy market town, with a predominantly Muslim population.

Houses in Caravela, one of the Bijagós islands

Other destinations

  • Bijagos Islands - an archipelago of some twenty tropical, beautiful islands. On the island of Orango it is possible to see hippos, and there are many other possibilities of eco tourism on the "unspoiled islands". On some islands there are even turtle nesting grounds. Many islands have French-owned fishing lodges.
  • Varela - Just south of Cap Skirring, but on the Guinea-Bissau side of the border, it is a tour de force to get to Varela on a 50 km long bumpy dirt road from São Domingos - but it is all rewarded when you reach this little paradise, with a superb Italian-owned hotel, beautiful beaches and pine forests and a very relaxed atmosphere with almost no other tourists.

What to buy

In December 2007 the first ATM's arrived to the country of Guinea-Bissau - in the BAO (Banco da Africa Occidental) branches of Bissau and Gabú. An ATM is also being set up in the Hotel Malaika in Bissau. These ATM's only function if you have a local account with that bank. So, leave your credit card/bank card at home because it will do you no good. Probably still safest to bring euros or FCFA enough to cover the time you plan to stay. Western Union is present in Bissau (eight locations), Bafatá, Gabú, Buba, Canchungo and Mansoa. (They will rip you off by taking 10%.)

The largest market in the country is Bandim Market, which is on the main road going into town. You can buy many things there and the atmosphere is nice. Otherwise there are small vendors on most roads of the capital. In the villages (Tabankas) you will also find small vendors selling the necessities. In the main towns in the countryside there are larger markets called "Lumo", which give farmers and merchants the possibility to sell/trade their goods. Don't forget that Guinea-Bissau is a poor country and as such the possibilities for shopping are smaller than in the Gambia or Senegal.

Useful creole shopping phrases: Ke ku bu misti? (what do you want?) N mistil (I want it) N ka mistil (I don't want it)

Eating

Warga (strong sweet green tea)

Most Guineans eat rice with fish, because the country is rich in fish, and rice (homegrown or imported from Thailand) is relatively cheap. The more costly meals contain beef, goat, chicken or pork. Meals are also made with palm oil and peanut sauces and diverse vegetables. Guineans also eat wild/game meat (deer, monkey, beaver etc.) but these animals are considered to be in danger of extinction and so it is not recommended to support this. Guineans are known for their warm heartedness and so you will always be asked to come have a bit with a group of people (it is common to eat from a large bowl)..."bin kume, no kume"

Fruit available depends on the season, but mangos, papayas, oranges, grape fruits, bananas, cashews and peanuts are abundant. Also try the sour "fole" fruits and the baobab fruit juice (sumo de cabaceira). Imported fruit can be bought in "fera de prasa" in the center of Bissau (apples, pears, pineapples, watermelons etc) but is more expensive than in Europe.

Vegetables sold in the markets include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, parsley, okra, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, chili, sweet potatoes.

Street snacks are typically sandwiches with hardboiled egg, omelete, fish or beef - or donuts, cake or hardboiled eggs. Frozen juice in small plastic bags is popular among locals.

Drink

The people of Guinea-Bissau love to drink a sweet green tea known as "warga", the non-Muslims also enjoy drinking cashew wine or palm wine. There are also possibilities to buy Portuguese beer, wine and soft drinks but these are more expensive. It is recommended that foreigners only drink bottled, filtered or boiled water.

Sleeping

Hotels in Bissau are generally overpriced - but some hotels were undergoing renovation in 2007, giving hope for more competition and lower prices.

In most of the towns outside the capital, there are possibilities to find hotels or other rentable rooms.

There are also mainly French-run hotels on the Bijagos islands which are recommendable.

Climate

Guinea-Bissau is warm all year around and there is little temperature fluctuation; it averages 26.3 °C (79.3 °F). The average rainfall for Bissau is 2,024 mm although this is almost entirely accounted for during the rainy season which falls between June and September/October. From December through April, the country experiences drought.

History

Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Gabu, part of the Mali Empire; parts of this kingdom persisted until the eighteenth century. Early reports of Europeans reaching this area come from the mid 15th century. The rivers and coast of this area were among the first places colonized by the Portuguese in the 16th century, the interior was not explored until the 19th century.

The Portugese tried desperately to hang on to their colony much longer than other European countries. An armed independence rebellion began in 1956, but it was not until 1974 that the Portugese finally accepted indpenendce for Guinea-Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau's post-independence history has been chequered. A civil war in 1998, followed by the imposition of a military junta in 1999 has been replaced with a multi-party democracy. The economy remains fragile, however hopes are high.

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