Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Dakar does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BISSAU AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Guinea-Bissau-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Expatriates and travelers are targeted for crimes of opportunity (petty theft, pickpocketing, theft from vehicles, minor assaults). In particular, low-level criminal activity occurs in crowded areas (Bandim Market, the port in central Bissau). Criminals frequently take advantage of foreigners attempting to navigate through the crowded markets. According to law enforcement officials, the Mindaro and Reino neighborhoods are also areas where particular caution should be taken. Aggressive vendors, panhandlers, and street criminals target foreigners as they exit the Bissau airport and exploit crowded markets (especially Bandim Market) to commit crimes of opportunity.
Poor security infrastructure and a lack of street and building lighting increase the risk of being victimized at the night.
Other Areas of Concern
The armed resistance by the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) against the Senegalese government is the longest running active separatist movement in sub-Saharan Africa. MFDC rebels have used Guinea-Bissau as a sanctuary. Considering the unpredictable nature of MFDC forces, one should exercise extreme caution when traveling in the northwestern region of Guinea-Bissau (along the roads between Mpack, Sao Domingos, and Varela). Only travel during daylight hours and monitor the local security situation before traveling.
Poor transportation infrastructure presents a significant danger to travelers on most roads. Road conditions and driving standards are extremely bad. Guinea-Bissau has improved the major transit route between Bissau and the Mpack border-crossing to Senegal, but the majority of roadways are not regularly maintained.
Traffic conditions inside the city of Bissau present numerous challenges. Perpetual construction projects and changing traffic patterns on Avenue des Combatentes da Liberdade da Patria in central Bissau have created significant congestion. The erratic, continuous stop-and-go of small transport buses (toca-tocas) and taxis create unpredictable traffic patterns. Drivers are also encouraged to exercise extra caution during the rainy season (June-October) due to flooded roadways and an increased number of potholes.
U.S. government personnel are not permitted to drive or travel outside of Bissau at night. The lack of lighting and the poor physical condition of the roads make night-driving dangerous and inadvisable.
Poor road conditions and lack of infrastructure impede the ability of law enforcement and emergency services to respond.
Public Transportation Conditions
Visitors are encouraged to prearrange for transportation and drivers. Due to the unpredictability of the road conditions and lack of public infrastructure, trusted contracted drivers are the most efficient method of travel.
There are also several taxi services available. Passengers should exercise caution when selecting a taxi. Many are in poor condition. Always negotiate the fare before getting into a taxi. Request that the driver uses only the main roads in Bissau, avoid shortcuts, and insist on not sharing the taxi with others. If the cab stops to pick up someone else, exit the taxi. Taxis in Bissau serve as a bus service, in which each passenger pays for one seat.
The RSO recommends against visitors using the informal bus system (Bus Rapides or toca-tocas). The vehicles are in poor condition and the drivers are reckless.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BISSAU AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There is an on-going regional threat of transnational terrorism in West Africa that could spill over into Guinea-Bissau. The instability of a fledgling government, porous borders, and lack of law enforcement resources creates a vacuum, which terrorists could seek to exploit as a place of refuge and to support regional logistical operations.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BISSAU AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Guinea-Bissau is on its fifth government since August 2015; President Jose Mario Vaz has appointed Umaro Sissocu as the new prime minister, but political tensions continue, and the government is largely not functioning. The National Assembly has yet to approve the government’s program of priorities. The military has publicly announced its intention to stay out of political affairs. A legacy of periodic violence and instability means that travelers should closely monitor the political situation.
The government recognizes freedom of assembly/association and authorizes public demonstrations. Demonstrations typically begin/end in front of the Presidential Palace in “Praça dos Heróis Nacionais.” While most demonstrations are non-violent, political instability has prompted violent activity among demonstrators. It is recommended that visitors avoid all public demonstrations.
During the rainy season (June-October), heavy rains have caused severe flooding and loss of life.
The utility infrastructure is underdeveloped and poorly maintained. Electricity and water services are irregular in Bissau and largely unavailable throughout the interior. The lack of infrastructure in Bissau contributes to a costly and unstable working environment. The primary source of electricity is provided by privately-owned diesel generators.
Counterfeit currency is widely distributed among illicit vendors in tourist areas (the airport, Bandim market). Visitors should avoid using black-market money-changers if possible.
Guinea-Bissau was ranked 161 out of 175 surveyed in Transparency International's 2014 Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
Guinea-Bissau has been identified as a transit point to Europe from South America for narcotics trafficking. The lack of enforcement capabilities, resources, porous borders, susceptibility to corruption, and the country’s location in relation to Europe, South America, and West Africa provide an opportune environment for traffickers. It is believed that international drug cartels and other criminal organizations utilize the un-policed Bijagos Archipelago off the coast of Bissau and remote airstrips for drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and human trafficking. Drug traffickers traditionally send bulk shipments of narcotics to Guinea-Bissau to be broken up into smaller units that are subsequently smuggled to North Africa and Europe. Traffickers use various methods of transportation, including sea, land, through West and North Africa, and air, by means of commercial, cargo, and private airlines.
Due to government instability and organized transnational criminal organizations, it is highly recommended that U.S. businesses conduct thorough due diligence checks on business partners and investments. International businesses and financiers have expressed concern that their companies or intermediate shipping companies can become compromised by drug traffickers aiming to take advantage of their legitimate businesses to access shipping resources.
The international community is assisting Guinea-Bissau with restructuring their judicial and law enforcement systems, but corruption continues to exist at all levels of government. Police and emergency personnel are poorly trained and lack resources to respond to crime and emergency situations effectively. Even if the police do respond to an incident, they usually lack the training and experience to conduct a proper investigation.
Persons violating Bissau-Guinean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or temporarily detained. All foreign visitors should carry identification (certified copies of passport and/or residence permit). As a rule, the police do not distinguish between original documents and photocopies. Foreigners are required by law to present the documentation to law enforcement officials if requested.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Guinea-Bissau has not signed the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, nor does the U.S. have an agreement with the government requiring notification of the U.S. Embassy of arrests of American citizens. If Americans are arrested or are victims of bribery or crime, they should use whatever means of communication available to alert the U.S. Embassy in Dakar or the Bissau Liaison Office of their situation.
Crime Victim Assistance
Americans who are the victim of a crime or emergency incident should contact the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. The following emergency numbers are in place for specific emergency situations:
Police (Public Order Police) – 117
Fire – 118
Visitors should not expect these numbers to be in service or result in any assistance.
The Public Order Police (POP), part of the Ministry of Interior, has the primary responsibility for responding to emergency incidents and enforcing traffic laws. The Judicial Police within the Ministry of Justice is responsible for major investigations (terrorism, drug trafficking). These two entities have been at odds and have fought and killed opposing agency officers. In December 2014, two groups of officers from the POP were arrested for involvement in an armed robbery of $10,000 allegedly stolen from drug traffickers.
The health care system lacks sufficient pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and medical professionals. Hospitals do not meet Western standards. Serious medical problems may be stabilized at private medical clinics or general hospitals while awaiting medical evacuation.
Travelers should carry a supply of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of the prescriptions, including the generic name for the medicines, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.” Travelers should expect little to no medical services, even in Bissau.
The information below is based on late-2016 surveys but should not be considered 100% dependable.
Ambulance Services (Medical Emergencies) – 113
Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics
Avenida Unidade Africana
Tel: (245) 530-2330
Approximately 200 beds with some medical/surgical care (limited emergency services); best medical facility in the country but not very good by any standard. Open to the public, cash on delivery.
General National (Hospital Nacional Simao Mendes)
Rua Da Eduardo Mondlane, Bissau
Tel:245 955 348 876
Approximately 500 beds; provides general medical/surgical care (orthopedics, basic emergency services); has a very limited intensive care unit.
Available Air Ambulance Services
There are no private air ambulance services in Guinea-Bissau; however, they can be arranged through neighboring countries:
S.O.S. Air Ambulance www.internationalsos.com
London, England: + 44 (0)20 8762 8008
Geneva, Switzerland: + 41 22 785 6464
Pretoria, South Africa: + 27 (11) 541 1300
S.O.S. Medicines Dakar
Dakar, Senegal: +221-33 889-1515 or firstname.lastname@example.org
M.R.I. Air Ambulance
Gaborone, Botswana: +267 3901601
Medical evacuation insurance is highly recommended for travelers visiting Guinea-Bissau.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Malaria, cholera, hepatitis, and other tropical diseases are risks to travelers in Guinea-Bissau.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Guinea-Bissau.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is no formal OSAC Country Council in Bissau; however, interested organizations are welcome o join the Dakar Country Council to discuss regional security concerns. The Dakar Country Council also covers U.S. private sector interests in Guinea-Bissau. The Regional Security Office in Dakar, Senegal, is available to meet with American business and organization representatives and will provide information on the current security situation in the country. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team to if you would like to be put in touch with the Regional Security Officer.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
In 2007, the U.S. government opened a U.S. Liaison Office in Bissau (BLO), which is staffed by locally employed personnel. The BLO can provide limited services to American citizens in an emergency, but no consular services are provided.
U.S. Bissau Liaison Office
Rua José Carlos Schwarz, 245
Hours of Operation: 0800-1700, M-F
All security and consular services should be coordinated through the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.
U.S. Embassy Dakar, Senegal: Route des Almadies, Dakar, Senegal
Embassy Contact Numbers
BLO Office: (+245) 325-6382; (+245) 595-4647
After-hours calls should go to U.S. Embassy Dakar
Embassy Operator (+221) 33-879-4000
Emergency After-hours telephone/Marine Post One: (+221) 33-879-4000/4444
Hours of Operation: 0800-1700 M-Th; 0800-1300 F
Regional Security Officer: (+221) 33-879-4000
Consular coverage for multi-post countries
The U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal is accredited for all diplomatic and security concerns.
Virtual Post Presence: http://guinea-bissau.usvpp.gov/
Embassy Dakar: http://dakar.usembassy.gov/
U.S. citizens traveling in Guinea-Bissau are encouraged to 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-Bissau Country Information Sheet