Country guides Africa
Electrical current is 220 to 240 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard, though Type C, E and F sockets may also work.
The official language of Gabon is French and English is not widely spoken.
The Central African CFA franc (FCFA) is the official currency of Gabon (along with five other central African countries). It is divided into 100 smaller units called centime. Gabon is largely a cash economy and credit cards are only accepted at some major hotels. Foreign currency can be exchanged at hotels and banks and there are some ATMs in major cities. ATMs are targeted by thieves, so tourists should be wary when withdrawing cash.
Tipping etiquette hasn't really been established in Gabon and it's best to just tip according to the quality of service received. Taxi drivers don't expect tips, but rounding up the fare for good service will be appreciated. Service fees are seldom added to the bill in restaurants and a 10 percent tip for good service will be appreciated.
Yellow fever vaccinations are required for all visitors over the age of one. Gabon is a malaria zone and there have been recent outbreaks of chikungunya fever and dengue fever, all transmitted by mosquito bites. There are no vaccines available for these diseases, but stringent anti-insect measures are recommended. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid are recommended for all travellers to Gabon. Those who will be spending a lot of time outdoors may be at risk of animal bites and should also consider a rabies vaccination.
Tap water should not be drunk unless it has been boiled, and ice and uncooked fruits should also be avoided.
Healthcare in Gabon is poor, and traveller's insurance is a necessity. Many doctors will expect cash up front, regardless of insurance. Medical facilities in major cities should be sufficient for routine care, but in the rural areas healthcare is often non-existent.
Travellers should take a custom medical kit and any necessary medication in the original packaging, with a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing exactly what it is and why it is needed. This applies to syringes and needles as well.
Most visits have been trouble free, though visitors have been the targets of crime. Urban hubs such as Libreville and Port Gentil experience the most petty and violent crime. Travellers can avoid becoming victims by hiding expensive jewellery, cameras, and other valuables. They should also avoid walking alone or at night, and parking in unlit, unguarded areas.
Petty crime is common and violent crime is on the rise, with some incidents of armed robbery and assault in homes, restaurants, and at beaches frequented by tourists and foreigners. Carjacking is also a concern and visitors should keep their car doors locked and their windows up while driving, and never leave valuables visible in their vehicles. Unfortunately, Police are often slow to respond when called. Female travellers can expect unwanted attention from men, but are free to be firm in their refusal. Tourists should be careful and vigilant when drawing money as robberies at ATMs do occur and credit card fraud is common.
Gabon's government is relatively stable. However, there is still the possibility of demonstrations and rallies in urban areas. Visitors should avoid large gatherings where possible because protests can turn violent. It is advisable to remain up to date with the political circumstances and local news in order to avoid any danger.
Drug possession is a serious offence in Gabon and punishment will include a prison sentence, even for tourists. Homosexuality is not widely accepted and has received cultural backlash in recent years, but it is not illegal.
Taking photographs of government buildings, including the Presidential Palace, the airport, and all military sites, is prohibited.
Respect is hugely important in Gabonese culture and it's best to enquire after someone's health before making a request.
The export of petroleum, timber, and manganese has helped Gabon develop one of Africa's more successful and stable economies. The country still has strong business ties with France, as well as the US, China, and a few African countries.
French is the principal business language and formal business attire is required. Handshakes are an acceptable method of greeting and business cards should have a French translation. Office hours in Gabon are generally 7.30am to 12pm and 2.30pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
Travellers to Gabon may import three litres of wine and one litre of spirits, 400 cigarettes/cigarillos or 125g cigars or 500g of tobacco and up to 500g of jewellery. Counterfeit goods, child pornography, non-prescription drugs, and unlicensed arms and ammunition (without permission from the government) are prohibited. Visitors should bring prescription drugs in their original package, with a letter from the doctor who issued them detailing what they are and why they are needed.
The international access code for Gabon is 241. Mobile phones are more widely used than landlines, though coverage can be patchy outside of Libreville and Port-Gentil. Visitors will need two copies of their passport and visa to purchase local SIM cards. Internet connectivity is good, with most hotels and some cafes and restaurants offering free wifi.
Passport & Visa
Keep all visa and travel documentation at all times, and make sure passports are machine readable; even with a valid visa entry may be denied if documents are not available for presentation. All visitors to Gabon must be in possession of a hotel voucher or a letter of invitation issued by their sponsor, a return/onward ticket, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination.
Those who apply for e-visas (https://evisa.dgdi.ga) must print out the authorisation and will need to pay for their visa on arrival in Gabon. Proof of a yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Gabon.
It is highly recommended that visitors' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required. US citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required: British citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required. Canadian citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required: Australian citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. South Africans do not require a visa provided their stay does not exceed 30 days.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required: Irish citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Gabon. A visa is required. New Zealand citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days, or e-visas can be applied for in advance online.
Useful contactsThe number for police is 177; visitors should dial 1300/1399 for the ambulance, and 18 for fire services.
Embassies / consulates in other countries
Gabon Embassy, Washington DC., United States: +1 (202) 797 1000.
Gabon Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): (+44) 20 7823 9986.
Gabon Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: (+613) 232 5301.
Gabon Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: (+012) 342 4376.
Embassies / consulates in Gabon
US Embassy, Libreville, Gabon: ( +241) 01 45 7100.
British High Commission in Yaoundé, Cameroon (also responsible for Gabon): (+237) 22 222 07 96 / (+237) 22 222 05 45
Canadian High Commission, Cameroon (also responsible for Gabon): (+237) 222 50 3900.
Embassy of Australia, Libreville, Gabon: (+241) 73 7354
South African Embassy, Libreville, Gabon: (+241) 79 1150.