The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Guinea at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to civil unrest.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in Conakry does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
Review OSAC’s Guinea-specific webpage for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
There is considerable risk from crime in Conakry. The city experiences a wide spectrum of criminal activity. Crimes of opportunity (e.g. pickpocketing, purse snatching, theft of valuables from vehicles, assaults, residential burglaries) are of particular concern. In particular, low-level criminal activity occurs in areas where people congregate, such as markets. Criminals may take advantage of foreigners attempting to navigate these crowded locations.
Do not accept unsolicited offers of assistance at the airport or hotels; individuals may be seeking opportunities to rob visitors of their belongings.
Travelers in vehicles have been victims of opportunistic crime in which criminals exploit unlocked car doors or open windows to steal personal belongings or to carjack the driver. Motorists should only roll down windows enough to communicate when necessary.
The Embassy is aware of several armed robberies involving assault rifles, pistols, knives, and machetes. Although most of these attacks have taken place outside the capital, some have also occurred within the city limits.
Sexual assault and rape, primarily against women, does occur. Women should exercise caution when traveling alone.
Residential burglaries are more frequent during the rainy season, as torrential rains naturally mask sounds associated with criminal activity, such as breaking glass or attempts to breach perimeter walls. Criminals often target locations with perceived vulnerabilities that they can exploit to gain access. Ineffective perimeter walls, minimal lighting, weak window grilles, and poorly paid or trained guards make home invasions more inviting. Employing vetted and alert security guards, as well as maintaining effective compound and perimeter security measures mitigate the threat from home invasion.
There have been several reports of local victims of online financial scams originating or claiming to originate from Conakry. These scams typically involve a con artist attempting to convince a victim to send money via email. Schemes can include purported lotteries, online dating services, gifts, bank overpayments, or even helping a new friend in trouble. Scams often offer to sell diamonds or gold. In general, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many foreigners have lost large quantities of money, and put themselves in danger by engaging in such deals.
Other Areas of Concern
Guinea’s border areas remain porous. Exercise extreme caution near Guinea’s border with Mali, due to potential criminal and terrorist activity. In November 2017, at least 17 people died in land dispute clashes over a gold mine on the Mali-Guinea border.
For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions in Conakry are generally poor. While many roadways are paved, they may have immense potholes or be dilapidated. Some roads are only traversable by foot or motorbike.
Drivers are inattentive, often drive while on their cell phone, and/or are transporting an excessive number of passengers and/or cargo. Typically, local vehicles do not meet U.S. safety standards. Drivers use turn signals infrequently or not at all; drivers use hand signals, which do not correspond to typical U.S.-recognized hand signals. A majority of vehicles have poor brakes and non-functioning headlights.
Horns are a means of communication used and ignored in equal measure. Drivers will honk and flash high beams as they approach intersections to warn oncoming traffic of their entry to an intersection. There is no standard for which lane has the right of way; treat every intersection as unique, and plan to stop or slow down to ensure the road is clear before attempting to cross.
Traffic circles often contribute to congestion, especially in Conakry. Generally, vehicles in the circle do not have the right of way. Use caution while entering/exiting circles, and abide by the flow of traffic. Expect cars to exit the circle from the innermost lane or to continue through the circle from the outermost lane. Always check mirrors before turning to ensure no motorbikes are in a blind spot.
A flash of high beams or headlights from an oncoming vehicle could have multiple, even contradictory, meanings; it may mean the oncoming car is asking you to stop so they may cross in front of you, it may mean the oncoming car is indicating that you can cross in front of them.
Use of flashers or stretching a hand out the window and flapping in a downward motion from a slowing or stopped vehicle is an indication that pedestrians are crossing or a vehicle is crossing in front of the stopped car. This is often done to indicate to motorbikes (which often split the lanes) to stop, as well.
Drivers involved in an accident should wait at the scene, if it is safe to do so. If possible, maintain the vehicles in the same position they were in after the collision to facilitate accident reporting. Expect pedestrians, passing motorbikes, and drivers to stop and intervene. Do not admit fault, as mob violence against suspected guilty parties has occurred. The Embassy instructs its employees to leave the scene and proceed directly to the Embassy or another safe haven (e.g. police station, hotel, large facility with security/lighting) if they feel threatened. Do not return home if someone is following you.
Drivers should carry vehicle insurance. Consider obtaining an international driving license with French translation.
The Embassy recommends that travelers leaving Conakry by road plan to be at their destination before nightfall, and do not embark on travel before sunrise. Road conditions, broken down vehicles, and a lack of road signs make safe driving and navigation nearly impossible at night. Obtain and store in an accessible location the phone numbers for local authorities at your destination, and for transit points along the route, in the event of a serious security issue. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices.
Public Transportation Conditions
Public taxis are unsafe. Drivers may be unlicensed, become distracted by driving and searching for fares, stop suddenly in the road, and use a series of hand signals to indicate their general direction or destination. The physical condition of public taxis is extremely unsafe, with very few taxis having working brakes or lights; many are missing mirrors and turn signals. Taxis may have tires in very poor condition (e.g. flat, bald, or mismatched in size). Expect to ride with as many other people as can fit in the taxi, with passengers sitting on the laps of others. Seatbelt use is rare. A driver’s helper may sit on the back of the trunk or on the running boards. If visitors must take a public taxi, they should attempt to secure a dedicated taxi that does not pick up other passengers, by paying a higher rate.
Motorbike taxis are an equally risky means of transportation. Motorbikes often split lanes, pass on the right side of vehicles preparing to turn right (and vice versa on the left), cut into/out of stopped/slowed traffic, and regularly scrape passing cars in tight traffic jams. Motorbike drivers sometimes use helmets, but helmets are rarely available for passengers. It is not uncommon to see multiple passengers, including children, on a single motorbike, along with the driver.
Arrange private drivers or vehicle rentals with hotels or trusted companies. Insist on seeing proof of insurance and licenses for chauffeurs before using their services. Vehicle rental without a chauffeur is uncommon. Speak up to drivers engaging in unsafe behavior, and report the behavior to the rental company or vehicle owner.
Prepare to be fingerprinted and photographed when passing through immigration. Following immigration control, travelers enter the baggage area, where airport porters may try to assist with belongings or provide luggage carts. Only accept assistance from official airport staff, who will present orange ID cards on request, if not openly visible. Those who accept assistance from airport workers should expect to pay a small tip for their assistance. Keep a close eye on carry-on items while searching for checked baggage, to mitigate potential theft. Maintain checked baggage claim tags, as luggage is frequently lost.
Arrange an airport pickup in advance from a known party, and have phone numbers available to contact a host. SIM cards and phone credit scratch-off cards are available for purchase as you leave the secure part of the airport.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There is minimal risk from terrorism in Conakry. No known indigenous terrorist organization operates in the country. However, Guinea’s borders remain porous, creating the potential for spillover from neighboring countries that have multiple active terrorist groups operating within their territories (Mali) or have been targeted previously for terrorist attack (Côte d’Ivoire). Land border controls are overwhelmed, and only present in specific locations. There are many locations to cross borders without passing through areas with government control.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is moderate risk from civil unrest in Conakry. Following local elections in 2018, there were violent protests in Conakry and other cities, including Boke, Kamsar, Labe, Kankan, and Dalaba, after opposition parties disputed the results. At least ten people died, including five children in an alleged arson attack in central Guinea and two individuals during clashes between protests and security forces in Conakry. There have also been reported arrests of protesters and rioters in some areas.
Protests are common, especially in Conakry; sporadic demonstrations regularly occur across the country, some of which have turned violent and resulted in injuries and/or fatalities. With numerous political opposition parties and special interest groups, some form of protest occurs once a month on average. Planned and approved protests/marches often remain peaceful. However, crowds tend to be slow to disperse, resulting in congested traffic, at a minimum. It is not uncommon for gathered youth to throw stones at passing vehicles. Less common, but still not rare, are burning tires blocking streets.
Security forces are generally quick to respond to demonstrations and mob activities. Police often discharge firearms in the air or use tear gas to disperse crowds. There have been incidents where bystanders are by falling rounds, incurring serious injury/death. Avoid large gatherings, as even peaceful demonstrations could turn confrontational or involve police use of force while dispersing participants. Signs of escalating activity include large groups increasing in size and agitation, debris in the road, many drivers going the wrong way down a road and using hand gestures to turn, or seeing multiple trucks carrying gendarmes.
The Palais du Peuple is a common starting/ending point for organized protests and marches. Protestors may gather near a relevant ministry building in Kaloum. The most problematic areas are Bambeto traffic circle, the intersection of Rue le Prince and Transversale 2 (T-2) in Kipe, the Hamdallaye traffic circle on Rue le Prince, and the Cosa intersection of Rue le Prince and T-3. Demonstrations in these areas there can severely impede the flow of traffic and often turn disorderly, with participants throwing hard objects at passing vehicles.
An overlap between political affiliation and ethnicity has contributed to violence and protest activity in the wake of Guinea’s recent local elections.
Conakry experiences severe rains between May and October. While roadways drain quickly, floodwaters can sweep vehicles away, even along roads. Potholes are especially hard to identify when filled with water, leading to many vehicles breakdowns during the rainy season.
During the dry season, it is common for Guineans to burn trash as a means of disposal. Smoke from burning trash may negatively affect air quality and exacerbate certain medical conditions.
There are modern Western-style hotels in Conakry that most visitors would find comfortable and have the equivalent of a four-star rating. All modern hotels have back-up generators, security, and screening for vehicles and customers, as well as restaurants.
Access to constant reliable electricity, while improving countrywide, is variable, with voltage surges and frequent power outages. All modern facilities and most businesses have backup generators.
Guinea is primarily a cash-based economy. Bring euros or U.S. dollars to exchange. Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, including at major hotel chains, large grocery stores, and some restaurants. Some ATMs exist, but there is no guarantee they will work with U.S. bank cards. Credit card users should closely monitor their accounts for fraud, and keep their card in sight during all transactions. For more information, review OSAC’s Report, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.
The largest bill is the GNF 20,000 (approximately $2.20 at publication), introduced in 2015. Travelers will have to carry or store large stacks of cash due to the exchange rate. No business will accept a pre-2015 series GNF 5,000 bill. Avoid black market money exchanges, which are common. Banks and hotels are trusted places to exchange money at normal rates.
Piracy and Maritime Security
Multiple piracy incidents occurred in 2018 off the shore of Conakry. These incidents include at least three reported boardings of ships anchored near the city’s port:
- In November, eight robbers armed with firearms and knives took three crewmembers hostage. The assailants physically assaulted one and threatened to shoot a second before stealing cash from the ship’s safe and some personal belongings. The robbers kept the crewmembers hostage until they disembarked onto waiting boats.
- In September, four armed robbers boarded a tanker, prompting the crew to raise the alarm and muster in the citadel. The assailants then fired at the bridge windows and forced access into the accommodation, which locked when the ship’s alarm sounded. The assailants ransacked all crew cabins, stole personal items, and escaped before naval assistance arrived.
- In January, crew of a container vessel discovered one person attempting to gain access and another in the water; intruders fled when the alarm sounded.
Acts of piracy in West Africa are concentrated in the Gulf of Guinea near Nigeria, Benin, and Ghana; however, recent incidents off Conakry highlight the existence of maritime security risks in Guinean waters.
Personal Identity Concerns
Rape, spousal rape, and domestic violence are all crimes in Guinea punishable with fines or imprisonment. However, these crimes remain common and underreported. Indictments are rare and police are unlikely to intervene. Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is illegal. However, abundant evidence exists that FGM/C occurs despite the ban.
Same-sex sexual relations are illegal in Guinea. Penalties include fines and jail time of up to three years in prison.
While in Guinea, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Guinea does not have legislation that mandates access to transportation, communication, and public buildings for persons with disabilities, and few such accommodations exist.
Guinea is a transit point for trafficking, with illegal drugs smuggled into and out of its territory and on to neighboring West African countries.
Kidnapping does occur in Guinea, but mostly up-country from Conakry; the vast majority of incidents affects locals and are family-related or cases where victims know their abductors. For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
All drivers should carry copies of their license, government-issued identification, and other needed documents to provide to police. Officers may not return original documents, or may seek a bribe for their return. It is not uncommon to be accused of violating an obscure/fake law by officers who expect a small bribe.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Contact ACS at the U.S. Embassy at +224-655-104-334
Crime Victim Assistance
Direction Generale de la Police Nationale (DGPN): +224-622-23-48-23
Embassy Contact Numbers:
Main Telephone Number: +224 65 510 4000
Duty Officer Cell Phone: +224 65 710 4311
Post One: +224 65 510 4444
Security forces in Conakry consist of the gendarmerie and the National Police. Police are responsible for traffic and accident investigation, while the gendarmes serve in an investigatory and close protection capacity, which includes responding to civil unrest. Gendarmes may dress in any manner of military uniform; do not expect that security forces will have matching uniforms. The gendarme teams responding to protest activity often uniformly, in dark blue or black. Police may dress in all black uniforms or dark blue pants and light blue shirts.
It is not unusual to see checkpoints staffed by police/gendarmes.
- During the day, police charged with traffic control, usually at the main traffic circles and intersections, will also use their position to pull over drivers.
- Motorists have encountered checkpoint-barricades manned by uniformed military or police personnel who demand money and search through personal belongings, confiscating items of value.
- Gendarmes often checkpoints set up around 2200 at night. Reported incidents of bribery have occurred at these checkpoints as well.
Medical care is substandard throughout Guinea, including in Conakry. Hospital accommodations are inadequate, and advanced technology is lacking. Some private medical facilities provide a better range of treatment options than public facilities, but are still well below Western standards. Ambulance and emergency rescue services are extremely limited in Conakry and practically non-existent in the rest of the country. Trauma care is extremely limited. Shortages of routine medications and supplies are common; carry your own supply of medications and have copies of prescriptions. For more information, refer to OSAC’s Report, Traveling with Medications.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Ambroise Paré Hospital emergency and ambulance services: +224 664-01-01 or +224 664-02-02. Well-equipped emergency room and imaging services, but unreliable staffing affects service availability.
- Sino-Guinean Hospital emergency and ambulance services: +224-621-08-88-62. Limited emergency room and imaging services, but unreliable staffing affects service availability.
For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Carry medical and medical evacuation (medevac) insurance. ACS provides a list of medical providers in Conakry here. Adequate evacuation coverage for all travelers should be a top priority, given the limited emergency and medical services in Guinea. In the event of a serious medical condition, medical evacuation to Western Europe is likely to be necessary.
Providers may expect immediate cash payment for medical care. Because this is primarily a cash economy, providers may not accept credit cards for medical care.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Malaria is prevalent throughout the country. Use antimalarial prophylaxis, even for short stays. Other tropical diseases are also endemic, including yellow fever, dengue, rabies, and meningococcal meningitis. Diarrheal illness is also widespread. For more information on safety practices to avoid water-borne illnesses, refer to OSAC’s Report, I’m Drinking What in My Water? Outbreaks of serious infectious illness are common, including illnesses eradicated or controlled in the United States.
All travelers should have a Yellow Book, showing proof of yellow fever immunization. Travelers should be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Guinea.
OSAC Country Council Information
Conakry has an active OSAC Country Council, which meets biannually. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
U.S. Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
Transversale #2, Ratoma, Conakry
Monday-Thursday 0730-1630, Friday 0730-1330
Embassy Contact Numbers
Main Telephone Number: +224 65 510 4000
Duty Officer Cell Phone: +224 65 710 4311
Post One: +224 65 510 4444
U.S. citizens should register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.
Guinea Country Information Sheet