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Guinea Bissau

Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Guinea-Bissau is a small territory in West Africa bordering with Senegal and Guinea. This ancient Portuguese colony is multi-ethnic, authentic, and virgin of any tourism. However, the beauty of the Bijagós Archipelago with its sixty islands offer a significant attractive potential

 

Before leaving

Guinea Bissau is a small Lusophone country in West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic in the West, and has borders with Senegal in the north and Guinea in the south, two French-speaking countries. Before passing under Portuguese rule, the country was part of the Empire of Mali in the Middle Ages.

During the colonial period Guinea Bissau was part of a region commonly known as the Slave Coast. Indeed, it was from this part of Africa that many slaves were brought to the plantations of the New World.

The country gained independence from Portugal in 1974 after the carnation revolution, during which dictatorial power was overthrown in Lisbon. The country owes its name to its capital, Bissau, which distinguishes it from French-speaking Guinea. The city, which has about 400,000 inhabitants, is located on the Rio Geba estuary, at the edge of the ocean. It is the main port of the country. It was founded in 1687 by Portuguese settlers and served as a trading post. Today you can admire some historical monuments and visit its market, very lively and colorful.

The country’s main income comes from the export of cashew (6th world producer), palm oil, and fishing. Political instability in recent years has discouraged the development of a tourism industry and has not helped to develop infrastructure. Yet Guinea Bissau does not lack attractions. The country has preserved many natural wonders.

The archipelago of Bijagos, composed of 88 islands and islets, is inhabited by animist ethnic groups who have preserved their culture and their authenticity. The southern part of the archipelago is a UNESCO nature reserve. It is home to an exceptional marine life, including hippos and sea turtles. The most touristic islands are Bubaque, Bolama and Caravela, which are also the most populated.

The islands are covered with lush forests in which we can find many species of monkeys. There are also mangroves that are partly responsible for the rich biodiversity of this region. On the mainland, tourism is organized mainly around Rio Corubal.

You can visit the traditional villages lining up along the river, and observe the magnificent landscapes or the waterfalls such as those of Cusselinta. This place is also appreciated for its local wildlife. There are also many bird species and several species of monkeys. On the coast, it is possible to visit the traditional fishing villages, still surrounded by virgin forests. The beaches of Guinea Bissau are also very popular.

Although Portuguese is the official language of the country, only 14% of the population actually speaks it. The majority of the inhabitants speak Portuguese Creole. The country also has a significant minority of inhabitants with French skills, notably thanks to the common borders with two French-speaking countries.

Recommendations

Because of political instability and insecurity, we recommend the utmost caution for those who would like to go to Bissau or around the Senegalese border. The rest of the country is presented as safer, but you should remain vigilant. The climate is humid.

The best times to enjoy Guinea Bissau are therefore between the months of December and April. During the rainy season, which runs from June to mid-October, the weather is really not ideal for tourist activities. Many tourist sites are closed to the public.

Before traveling to Guinea Bissau, vaccination against yellow fever is mandatory. In addition, as in many countries with a tropical climate, you should be aware of the risks of malaria transmitted by mosquitoes.

During a visit to the country, it is also recommended to wash your hands frequently, to consume only bottled water and to avoid eating raw foods. If you want to visit the archipelago of Bijagos, know that there is no air transportation between the continent and the islands.

The most convenient way to get in is the boat. Prefer ships, often chartered for tourists, and equipped for navigation on high seas.

Useful tip: It is imperative to have cash (CFA Francs) before traveling to the country. Payments by credit card as well as checks are not current in Guinea Bissau.

Positive points

  • The beauty of the landscapes and nature is preserved.
  • The people are hospitable and friendly.

Negative points

  • Poor road infrastructures
  • Tourist infrastructures are practically non-existent

Tradition

Guinea Bissau hosts a carnival every year in February, around Mardi Gras. Although more modest than other carnivals of the same kind, the carnival of Bissau is very lively and colorful. All districts of the city make a giant mask that will be exposed on a float during a parade. During these festive days, Bissau vibrates to the sound of tam-tams and songs.

Religion also holds an important role in the local culture. About 50% of the population is Muslim. 40% of the population is animist according to the ancestral tradition. Finally 10% of Guineans are Christians.

The local culture is also strongly marked by years of colonization and slavery. That’s why August 3 is the day of the martyrs of colonization. Independence Day takes place on 24 September and coincides with the end of the dictatorial regime of Salazar in Portugal

Cuisine

The few hotels and restaurants in the country offer excellent food, sometimes expensive depending on the location. Rice and millet are main dishes because the country is a producer. Fish, seafood and vegetables are also the main ingredients of many local dishes.

There is also plenty of coconut, cashew and palm oil in the local cuisine, as Guinea Bissau also produces in large quantities. Specialties are jollof rice and fish and chicken dishes. The main accompaniments are yams, corn and cassava.

There are also many stews and soups. The typical meal in Guinea Bissau is rich in starchy foods, high in fat and often low in meat. Fufu is a typical side dish of the region is frequently made from starchy root vegetables such as yams, coco yams, cassava, cereal grains or plantains.

The local cuisine is also rich in spices such as pepper, native to this part of the world, and chili.

http://www.best-country.com/africa/guinea_bissau/food

Souvenir and crafts

Local crafts, represented mainly by wooden sculptures, are available on the traditional markets. There are also some modern shops in Bissau.

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