The small African nation of Guinea-Bissau has an area of 36,125 square kilometers. It is situated between Senegal and Guinea, on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. The country has a highly indented coastline with a large number of bays and peninsulas. The appearance of the coast is to a large extent determined by the vast mouth of the deep river Geba. Not far from the coast is the archipelago of Bissagos (or Bijagós). The coastal area is mostly occupied by wet and marshy lowlands.
They are covered with subequatorial vegetation and dense mangroves. Some local species of plants lose their leaves during the prolonged dry season.
There are no high mountains in the country. Only the extreme eastern parts are occupied by low plateau lands that barely reach 300 m.
Guinea-Bissau has a typical subequatorial climate. The weather is warm all year round with daytime temperatures between 29 and 34°C. The average night temperature is between 18 and 23°C. There are two very distinct seasons – the wet and the longer dry.
The rainy (wet) season lasts from June to October and brings high humidity and intense heavy rainfalls, little heavier in the south and west of the country. The wettest month is August with more than 680 mm of rainfall.
From November to May the weather is very dry, and there is a greater number of hours of sun shining.
Areas that are more distant from the ocean have traditionally a little drier climate. The seawater along the coast of the country is warm all year round with temperatures between 22 and 27°C.
Guinea-Bissau has a population of approximately 1.6 million people. Most of them are concentrated in the capital Bissau.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census of the African country, the population of the city is around 407,404 people.
The official language is Portuguese, but kriolu is also quite common. Approximately 50% of the population professes different indigenous beliefs. The remaining 50%, however, are respectively Muslims (45%) and Christians (5%).
Guinea-Bissau is a poor country with a very low standard of living. The HDI (Human Development Index) is also amidst the lowest in the world. Many local residents have no access to quality healthcare, and the level of literacy is below 40%.
The major source of income is the production of peanuts, coconuts, cotton and olives.
The foreign economic aid still plays a very important role in the local economy.
Before the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century, these lands were part of the Kaabu (Gabu) Empire and the Mali Empire. The colonial era in Guinea-Bissau began in 1474 and continued for 5 centuries.
On September 10, 1974, the country gained independence from Portugal after 13 long years of struggle. For Portuguese Guinea, that was the name of the country during the period of colonialism, these 5 centuries were a rough time.
During the 19th century these lands were an important slave trading center. After slavery was banned, Guinea-Bissau entered a new period of its history, which was also very difficult.
For example, the 20th century was marked by numerous internal conflicts, unrests and even civil wars.
Unfortunately, the quality of life in the country did not improve after receiving the coveted independence. Guinea-Bissau continued to suffer from political instability and remained one the poorest countries in the world.
What not to miss? Do not miss the chance to visit the Bissagos (Bijagós) Islands, which are well known for their beautiful and unspoiled beaches. The most famous local landmark is Orango National Park, covered with thick and moisture loving vegetation.
It is advisable to visit also the famous River Zoo Farm – the biggest wildlife breeding farm in this part of the continent. Take a walk around the capital Bissau and visit the bigest local attractions.
Some of them are the presidential palace, the fortress Fortaleza D’Amura, the Portuguese colonial center of Bissau Velho, the city cathedral, the small fishing harbor with its old and rusty fishing boats, the fish market and many others.
Experience an unforgettable safari into the wild, where you can see some species of big African cats, huge herds of herbivores and, of course, giant African hippos, which usually inhabit sloughs and lakes, and more rarely slow-flowing rivers.
Furthermore, Guinea-Bissau is one of the best places in Africa where you can see elephants and various species of monkeys, especially chimps, in their natural environment.
Food. Unlike most wealthy Western societies, Guinea-Bissau still relies heavily on local food products. The most commonly consumed are various specialties of fish and rice with spices.
Added to almost any food, peanuts are one of the most popular crops in the country and an important ingredient in various traditional sauces. Except for chicken, other kinds of meat are consumed quite rarely.
The Guinea-Bissauan cuisine is dominated by fresh fruits and vegetables. Usually most people prepare their food with palm oil. Among the things that you should try is the famous palm wine as well as the fragrant local sweet green tea.
When to visit Guinea-Bissau? The best time for tourism in the West African country are the months of December, January and February.
They offer an optimal combination of a dry and clear weather and slightly lower temperatures. Furthermore, in February you can visit the Carnival in Guinea-Bissau, which is held on the streets of the capital Bissau.
How to get to Guinea-Bissau? Osvaldo Vieira is the only international airport in Guinea-Bissau. It is located near the capital Bissau and handles flights mainly to and from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Another alternative is to get here from Senegal or Morocco.
Health risks in Guinea-Bissau. Similar to most other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Guinea-Bissau there is a higher risk of certain diseases, especially those transmitted by various species of insects. A typical example is malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.
Also, in some areas of the country travelers are at an increased risk of being infected with the so-called sleeping sickness, which is transmitted by the tsetse fly. While in Guinea-Bissau, be careful with what you drink and eat.
It is advisable to visit your doctor at least about six weeks before you travel to the African country.
In accordance with your health status, he/she will determine which immunizations are required. You will be informed about what are the risks for your health while in the area.
Crime. If you are planning to travel to Guinea-Bissau, you have to know that as a result of the unstable political situation and poverty this place is not completely safe. In urban areas there is an increased risk of unrests, and around the countryside there is a danger of landmines.
Because of its limited finances, the country is unable to maintain the order and security at a satisfactory level. For this reason the risk of becoming a crime victim is relatively high.