Equatorial Guinea (Spanish: República de Guinea Ecuatorial) is a small country in Central Africa that's divided into two parts: the mainland and the islands. The mainland is wedged between Cameroon and Gabon. It is one of the largest oil producers in Africa, along with Angola and Nigeria.
Equatorial Guinea is largely homogenous; the Fang (a Bantu origin ethnicity) are the largest ethnic group, making up more than 86% of the population.
Travel provides one the opportunity to explore a former Spanish colony, where a modern society runs under a strict, controlling, and repressive government.
One of the least visited countries in the world, you may attract a lot of attention as a tourist, and many complete their journey without trouble.
|Río Muni (Bata)|
all of the mainland
island in the Gulf of Guinea, includes the capital city
small island between Sao Tome Island and Principe Island out in the Atlantic
- 1 Malabo - the capital, on Bioko
- 2 Bata - the major city on the mainland
- 3 Ciudad de la Paz - new capital under construction
- Ebebiyin - a major access point in the far northeast corner
- Luba - another town on Bioko
- Monte Alén National Park - fantastic fauna in the center of the mainland
|Currency||Central African CFA franc (XAF)|
|Population||1.2 million (2017)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, Type E)|
|Time zone||UTC+01:00, Africa/Malabo|
|Emergencies||112 (emergency medical services), 115 (fire department), 113 (police), 114 (police)|
|edit on Wikidata|
For visitors, Equatorial Guinea is infamous for its high prices and hard-to-get visas for most. This is nominally a police state, akin to Turkmenistan and North Korea (minus the minders and organized persecution of its inhabitants). As a result, tourist infrastructure is sparse and it is not a high priority for the government. You are likely to face harassment by police forces curious of what you are doing in the country as a "tourist". Since the oil companies operating here are mostly American, Americans may receive marginally better treatment compared to other nationalities (e.g. visa-free entry, less suspicion by police).
Since the discovery of oil, Equatorial Guinea has—at least on paper—one of the highest per-capita incomes on the planet. Despite this, income and day-to-day life for many Equatorial Guineans has improved little, due to the endemic corruption siphoning off oil revenue into the hands of a small wealthy elite. However, there has been progress, and new infrastructure and modernization projects are under construction or even finished, especially on Bioko and around Malabo. Work is in progress (2016) building this new city, called Oyala or Djibloho, on the mainland between Bata and Mongomo. In spite of the impressive-looking new infrastructure, few Equatorial Guineans have access to it, and while the government throws billions of dollars at new construction, less than half the country's population (of fewer than 700,000) have access to clean drinking water.
In the Rio Muni region, there is believed to have been a widespread pygmy population, of whom only isolated pockets remain in the north. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang.
The Portuguese explorer Fernão do Pó, seeking a path to India, is credited as being the first European to discover the island of Bioko in 1472. He called it Formosa ("Beautiful"), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The islands of Fernando Pó and Annobón were colonized by Portugal in 1474.
In 1778, the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger River and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to the Spanish Empire in exchange for territory in the American continent. From 1827 to 1843, the United Kingdom established a base on the island to combat the slave trade which was then moved to Sierra Leone upon agreement with Spain in 1843. In 1844, on restoration of Spanish sovereignty, it became known as the Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea Ecuatorial. The mainland portion, Rio Muni, became a protectorate in 1885 and a colony in 1900. Between 1926 and 1959 all three regions were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea. Spanish settlers arrived and created plantations in the colony.
The Macías regime (1968 - 1979)
Equatorial Guinea gained independence from Spain in October 1968. Francisco Macías Nguema, the first president, was a brutal, tyrannical, and violent dictator. His repressive regime was complicit in severe human rights abuses (persecution of intellectuals and minorities), banned fishing, and is believed to have personally murdered a third of the country's population.
During this time, Equatorial Guinea was known as the "Dachau" of Africa and Macías has often been referred to as the "Pol Pot" of Africa.
His strong, anti-Western views garnered him respect and admiration from the Eastern Bloc, but his views alienated him from much of the Western world.
The Obiang regime (1979 - present)
Macías reportedly ordered the deaths of his family members. Believing him insane, Teodoro Obiang, his nephew, deposed him in a bloody coup d'etat in 1979 and later executed him. Although Obiang's rule is less violent, his regime is still considered to be repressive.
In 1995, large oil reserves were discovered and brought considerable wealth to the country, but this hasn't exactly translated into development; much of the population is poor (70-80% of the population lives in poverty), the country scores poorly on the Human Development Index, and most citizens do not have proper access to drinking water, health care, and basic amenities.
The Equatoguinean government does not tolerate criticism and dissent, and hits back at critics by telling them that they "will not accept interference in the internal affairs of the country".
It doesn't look like things will change in the foreseeable future, but still, hopes are high that things will change for the better.
Equatorial Guinea has two distinctive and very pronounced seasons: rainy and dry seasons. April to October are the wettest months of the year, and December to March are the driest.
The major ethnic groups are the Fang of the mainland and the Bubi of Bioko Island. Sorcerers are still among the most important community members. The abira ceremony that helps cleanse the community of evil is fascinating.
Equatorial Guinea recognises the major Christian holidays. 12 October is Independence Day.
Visa application requirements
Equatoguinean visa regulations are notoriously confusing and it would appear that they have been deliberately designed like that.
Although regulations vary from place to place, you are generally required to submit the following with your application:
- A valid passport.
- Your passport should have a validity longer than six months.
- Proof you haven't been convicted of any major crimes.
- Proof you have been vaccinated against yellow fever.
- This is a must.
- A letter from your bank confirming you have at least $2,000 in your bank account.
- This is only required if you plan on applying for a tourist visa.
- A letter of invitation from the local authorities.
- The letter must not be older than three months and it must be apostilled by the government.
- This can be very difficult to obtain and is arguably the main deterrent for obtaining a visa to visit the country.
- Some consulates and embassies claim that you do not need an invitation letter if you have a hotel reservation.
Airlines flying to Malabo airport include Ceiba (from Madrid), Turkish Airlines (from Istanbul), Air France (from Paris), Ethiopian Airlines (from Addis Ababa), and Lufthansa flies direct from Frankfurt to Malabo.
The capital is on an island. However, the mainland may be accessed from Gabon via paved roads and from Cameroon. Many roads in have been newly constructed and overall Equatorial Guinea has one of the best road systems in Central Africa, specially across the important cities.
The entry from Campo is often closed. Also, the entry from Kye-Ossi and Ebebiyin may deny entry for visa-free Americans if sufficient reason for entry is not presented or if one is not ethnically Caucasian.
Extortion by security forces is not uncommon in Equatorial Guinea, even to the level of local police exacting bribes for trumped-up traffic violations.
Equatorial Guinea has 3 official languages: Spanish, French and Portuguese. The colonial language is Spanish, and the country is also a member of La Francophonie. There is an Anglophone population in Bioko that is historically linked to British commerce on the island. Languages such as French and Portuguese are of official use in the country as well. English is spoken by few people, even in the capital city. The Fang language and Igbo are widely spoken.
There are lots of beaches. Take the precautions listed in the 'Stay Safe' category.
Exchange rates for CFA francs
As of January 2022:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The currency is the Central African CFA franc, denoted FCFA (ISO currency code: XAF). It's also used by five other Central African countries. It is interchangeable at par with the West African CFA franc (XOF), which is used by six countries. Both currencies are fixed at a rate of 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs.
You can withdraw money with a Mastercard or Visa card at any Ecobank ATM in Equatorial Guinea.
Everything is extremely expensive in Equatorial Guinea. A decent room with very limited amenities (bring necessities such as towels, soap and shampoo as the hotel may not have any) will be €100-400. A simple lunch will cost at least €30 (without drinks such as wine, beer or soft drinks) in a clean, air-conditioned restaurant.
There are several good places to eat, particularly in Malabo. The coffee shop at Hotel Sofitel (across from the Cathedral along the north coast) offers French cuisine. Hotel Bahia's main restaurant is also a favourite destination for locals and expats. For pizza and pasta, the Pizza Place is the best place in town. For Asian cuisine, Restaurante Bantu offers Chinese cuisine. For Moroccan and European food, try La Luna. Try Equatorial Guinean cuisine such as smoked beef with a black pepper. There is also a roast duck with cheese and onion leaf.
Ebebiyin is known for its many bars. Wine is available, and the locally produced beer, Guineana, is very good.
Due to the influx of foreign workers and foreign investment in Malabo and on the continent, there is an ample choice of hotels.
Previously, a permit from the Ministry of Information and Tourism was required for photography. Although the law has changed, law enforcement authorities may use this as a reason to target, intimidate, extort, threaten, or even arrest tourists.
As obvious as it may sound, do not walk around with a camera on your neck, and do not photograph airports, government buildings, or anything of military or strategic value.
The police are known to be aggressive, truculent, and confrontational. Extortion by them is not uncommon.
Equatorial Guinea is an authoritarian country that does not tolerate or permit dissent.
It is unwise to criticise or show any kind of disrespect to Teodoro Obiang or the Equatoguinean government. A comment heard by the wrong person can land you in serious trouble with the authorities.
Be very skeptical if someone tries to start a political conversation. Always ask yourself, "What's in it for them?" Since most Equatoguineans know that discussing politics is taboo, there's always some ulterior motive you don't know about.
Equatorial Guinea is equatorial, its weather conditions are very tropical and normally very hot. It is best to wear lightweight clothing and try avoid wearing anything dark as it may attract mosquitos.
Food and water: There are no potable or clean water sources in Equatorial Guinea. Visitors should drink only bottled water. Take care when consuming any fruits or vegetables that may have been washed or drinks that may contain ice cubes or 'water' additives such as coffee, tea or lemonade.
Wear shoes: Beaches in Malabo and Bata are beautiful, however, due to discarded trash and unsafe sand bugs, it is a good idea to always wear shoes. This applies to walking on carpeted areas as well.
Malaria medicine: Malaria is a leading cause of death in this country. It is advised that visitors consult their doctor for malaria tablets. Plasmodium falciparum malaria is the most common strain in EG; it is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine.
According to the US embassy, the La Paz Hospitals in Bata and Malabo are the only two in the country with medical standards of a hospital in a developed country.
Local people are very hospitable and have a certain familiarity for everything related to Spain, as the country was a Spanish province until 1968. In addition, half of the country's population emigrated to Spain between 1966 and the 1990s.