1,246,700 sq km (481,354 sq miles).
19.1 million (2014).
15.3 per sq km.
Head of state:
President José Eduardo dos Santos since 1979.
Head of government:
President José Eduardo dos Santos since 1979.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Its name may be synonymous with strife, but since the civil war ended in 2002 Angola has been enjoying something of a renaissance. Safe and welcoming, this friendly nation transports the laidback, community-orientated lifestyle of southern Portugal to continental Africa – and travellers are once again discovering its charms.
Most enter the country via the capital, Luanda, which has the dubious and surprising distinction of being the most expensive city in the world. With its gleaming skyscrapers, grand government buildings and palm-lined promenades, downtown Luanda’s prosperity probably comes as a revelation to many visitors. But the spoils of Angola’s considerable oil wealth soon give way to unofficial shantytowns, proving that not everyone is benefitting from the black gold rush.
It is along Angola’s stunning 1,700 km (1,000 mile) coastline, in cities like Luanda, where Portugal’s colonial influences are most striking. The faded, art deco splendour of cities like Benguela and Namibe provide a welcome distraction from the country’s sandy shores.
Further inland, the landscape becomes one of almost endless plains. Here remote national parks are slowly being restocked with wildlife, while the newly renovated Benguela railway wends through the seemingly endless countryside. One of the world’s most evocative rail journeys, riding through the landscape with its people is a great way to delve into the psyche of laughter loving Angolans.
To the north – and separated from the rest of Angola by a 40 km (25 mile) arm of the Democratic Republic of Congo – the exclave of Cabinda is Angola in miniature, with empty beaches once popular with expats, elegant towns and virgin rainforest full of wildlife.
Youthful and energetic, Angola, like its people, has its own way of doing things. Fun-loving and eager to impress, it is a country still shaking off its troubled past while looking firmly at the future.
Last updated: 19 October 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Most international companies and organisations operating in Angola have strict security rules and regulations for their staff. If your company has such instructions you should read them in conjunction with the FCO Travel Advice. You should avoid political gatherings and demonstrations, and respect any advice or instruction from local security authorities.
There is a high level of crime in Luanda. Muggings, particularly to steal mobile phones and other valuables, and armed robberies can occur in any area at any time of the day or night. Areas popular with foreigners are particular targets.
Incidents of rape have been reported in popular nightlife areas, as well as in private homes. Don’t travel alone at night.
Avoid walking around Luanda, especially after dark. Avoid wearing jewellery or watches in public places. Don’t change or withdraw large sums of money in busy public areas. Avoid walking between bars and restaurants on the Ilha do Cabo, and avoid crowded places like markets.
Theft from stationary or slow-moving cars is common in downtown Luanda. Keep valuables out of sight and don’t use mobiles or laptops while in traffic. A high proportion of the civilian population is armed.
When driving, be very wary if another car signals you to pull over. Thieves use the pretext of a minor traffic incident to get you out of your car either to steal it or to rob you.
Deposit valuables and cash in a hotel safe where practical. Keep copies of important documents, including your passport, in a separate place from the documents themselves.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to Cabinda province (but not including Cabinda city). There are regular violent incidents including rape, murder and kidnappings involving foreigners and Angolans in the province of Cabinda. Groups claiming responsibility for these attacks have declared their intention to continue attacks against foreigners.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the province of Lunda Norte. The Angolan authorities are sensitive to the presence of foreigners in diamond producing areas and you may be subject to movement restrictions or detention by the security forces. The presence of diamonds also increases the threat of crime and banditry, particularly on roads leading to and from these areas. Armed hold-ups occur from time to time.
If you travel outside Luanda and the provincial capitals, do so in the company of persons or organisations experienced in local conditions, as conditions can be difficult. There is widespread poverty, social exclusion and disease, a shattered infrastructure and mines and items of unexploded ordnance throughout many parts of the country. Transport and accommodation are extremely limited outside Luanda, so make arrangements in advance.
Although you can drive on a UK licence for up to 30 days from the date of your arrival in Angola, an International Driving Permit or translation of your UK licence is recommended. Make sure all vehicle documentation is available for inspection. Police check points are common.
Major roads between Luanda and the provincial capitals are improving, but driving standards and some road conditions are very poor and travel outside major towns is usually in convoys of two or more 4-wheel drive vehicles. Outside major towns, mines and unexploded ordnance remain a problem, including on roads, verges and bridges, in buildings and in the countryside. There have been incidents of mines exploding with loss of life in places previously thought to be safe. Even in ‘cleared’ areas, you should keep to well-established routes and take up-to-date advice from the United Nations or an international Non-Governmental Organisation.
During the rainy season (November-April), bridges and roads risk being washed away by sudden floods and there is an increased chance of mines becoming displaced and surfacing outside known mine fields.
There are taxis at the airport and these can also be booked through your hotel or with the company direct. Local minibus transport is unsafe. In most cases your sponsor will arrange to meet you at the airport and to provide transport throughout your trip.
A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Angola.
TAAG, the Angolan national carrier, is the only carrier regulated by the Angolan civil aviation authority permitted to operate flights to/from the EU, and then only using the 9 aircraft specified in the list published by the European Commission.
For internal flights, and international flights to Sao Tome and Principe, UK government employees are permitted to travel on TAAG aircraft that are subject to the EU ban in specific circumstances; staff are not permitted to use other Angolan airlines.
You should avoid political gatherings and demonstrations, and respect any advice or instruction from local security authorities.
There are occasional shortages of petrol and diesel. Power and water can be cut off for days without notice. Residents should keep generator fuel stocks and water tanks topped up. Drinking water and other food supplies are not always readily available. You should keep stocks of tinned goods and drinking water.
There is a shortage of hotel accommodation in Luanda. Most hotels are fully booked for as much as 2 or 3 months in advance. The British Embassy is unable to book hotel rooms on your behalf.
Not all UK mobile phone companies have roaming arrangements with Angola. SMS text messages may not get through. Mobile coverage outside the main urban areas is patchy. When travelling outside Luanda carry a mobile phone with contracts to both Unitel and Movicel as coverage for each provider varies throughout the country.