Travel Guide Africa Angola



Baía de Luanda

Baía de Luanda

© Didimo

Angola is not exactly the safest destination in the world, despite the official end of the 25-year-long civil war in 2002. War certainly ravages a land and its people, as visitors to Angola will find. This is a destination for aid workers, not tourists.

That said, Angola has embarked on the road of recovery. When it finally becomes a safe option for travellers, the nation's cultural heritage will prove its greatest lure. Dance, music and art all emanate from a rich past and have helped shape the sights and sounds of the rest of the world.



Brief History

Khoisan hunter-gatherers are some of the earliest known modern human inhabitants of the area. They were largely replaced by Bantu tribes during the Bantu migrations, though small numbers of Khoisans remain in parts of southern Angola to the present day. The geographical areas now designated as Angola, first became subject to incursions by the Portuguese in the late 15th century. Angola became a link in European trade with India and Southeast Asia. The Portuguese explorer Paulo Dias de Novais founded Luanda in 1575 as "São Paulo de Loanda", with a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers.

In 1951, the colony was designated as an overseas province, called Overseas Province of Angola. Portugal had a presence in Angola for nearly five hundred years, and the population's initial reaction to calls for independence was mixed. More overtly political organisations first appeared in the 1950s, and began to make organised demands for their rights. During the Colonial War, the principal protagonists were the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), founded in 1956, the FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola), which appeared in 1961, and UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), founded in 1966. After many years of conflict, Angola gained its independence on 11 November 1975. After independence, Angola faced a devastating civil war which lasted several decades and claimed millions of lives and refugees.

On February 22, 2002, Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA, was killed in combat with government troops, and a cease-fire was reached by the two factions. UNITA gave up its armed wing and assumed the role of major opposition party. Although the political situation of the country began to stabilize, President Dos Santos has so far refused to institute regular democratic processes. Among Angola's major problems are a serious humanitarian crisis (a result of the prolonged war), the abundance of minefields, and the actions of guerrilla movements fighting for the independence of the northern exclave of Cabinda (Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda). While most of the internally displaced have now returned home, the general situation for most Angolans remains desperate, and the development facing the government challenging as a consequence.




At 1,246,620 km2), Angola is the world's twenty-third largest country (after Niger). It is comparable in size to Mali and is nearly twice the size of the U.S. state of Texas, or five times the area of the United Kingdom. It lies mostly between latitudes 4° and 18°S, and longitudes 12° and 24°E. Angola is bordered by Namibia to the south, Zambia to the east, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the northeast, and the South Atlantic Ocean to the west. The exclave of Cabinda also borders the Republic of Congo to the north. Angola's capital, Luanda, lies on the Atlantic coast in the northwest of the country. Angola has four principal natural regions: the arid coastal lowland, stretching from Namibia to Luanda and characterized by low plains and terraces; green hills and mountains, rising inland from the coast into a great escarpment; a large area of high inland plains of dry savanna, called the high plateau (planalto), which extends eastward and south-east from the escarpment; and rain forest in the north and in Cabinda. The highest point in Angola is Morro de Môco, at 2,620 metres. Elevations generally range from 910 to 1,800 metres). The Zambezi River and several tributaries of the Congo River have their sources in Angola. A large number of rivers originate in the central uplands, but their patterns of flow are diverse and their ultimate outlets varied. A number flow in a more or less westerly course to the Atlantic Ocean, providing water for irrigation in the dry coastal strip.




Angola is administratively divided into 18 provinces (províncias); Bengo, Benguela, Bié, Cabinda, Cuando Cubango, Cuanza Norte, Cuanza Sul, Cunene, Huambo, Huila, Luanda, Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul, Malanje, Moxico, Namibe, Uíge, Zaire

For traveller's purposes the country can be divided into these areas.

  • Greater Luanda - The population centre of the country and home to the capital Luanda
  • Northern Angola - Northern area mostly bordering Democratic Republic of the Congo with significant areas of rainforest
  • Central Angola - A series of irregular, high escarpments which drop steeply to the Atlantic coast
  • Southwest Angola - The most arid region of the country with savanna plains and the northern continuation of the Namibian desert
  • Eastern Angola - Mostly savanna plains intersected by five great rivers
  • Cabinda - Northern exclave on the Atlantic ocean with a huge proportion of the nation's oil reserves and an active secessionist movement




  • Luanda - The massive, overcrowded, chaotic, and incredibly expensive capital of the country, filled with nightlife and culture, a jarring mix of wealthy expats in the oil industry and the masses of destitute migrants from the rest of the country.
  • Cabinda - the wealthy capital of oil-rich Cabinda Province
  • Benguela - the most tourist-friendly city in one of the world's least touristy countries, with a strong Carnavale tradition, pretty oceanfront, and by the nation's best beaches.
  • Lobito - a beachfront city, basically part of Benguela, which is the epicentre of Carnavale celebrations.
  • Lubango - a good base for exploring the mountainous escarpment in the center of southern Angola.
  • Namibe - beachfront capital of the desert southwest, and jumping off point for exploring Iona National Park, and excursions to meet Khoisan peoples.



Sights and Activities


Angola boasts over 1650 kilometres of coastline, and travellers can find great beaches around Luanda, Benguela and Namibe. Thanks to a year-round warm climate, anytime is a great time to duck to the beach. The water on the other hand can be somewhat colder in the south, due to the cold Benguela current.

Kissama National Park

Kissama is one of Angola's best national parks, boasting a lively population of elephants, rhinos, water buffaloes and antelopes. Nesting sea turtles inhabit the park's coastal areas. Kissama is located about 70 kilometres south of Luanda, making it easily accessible. It actually functions as the only national park with some facilities for travellers, while others are still in repair.

Iona National Park

Iona National park is located in the southern Namibe Province of Angola, about 200 kilometres from the city of Namibe and the largest national park in the country. The park is known for unique flora and incredible rock formations and used to be a paradise for wildlife as well. Unfortunately, like many other parks in the country, many of the wildlife has been poached or otherwise destroyed during the Angolan Civil War.

Other sights and activities

  • Tunda-Vala - A 2,600-metre-tall volcanic fissure near Lubango, affording a spectacular view.
  • Cavaco River valley - Near Benguela, the Cavaco River valley is a great place to appreciate African culture in one of the country's most densely populated areas.
  • Cameia National Park - seasonally inundated plains that form part of the Zambezi river basin.



Events and Festivals

Lubango Festival

Based on the feast of Our Lady of the Hill, Lubango Festival is a 30-day celebration held in Lubango City in Angola’s Huila Province. Beginning in August, it features music performances, fashion parades, a sports tournament, motorbike racing, and the prestigious Miss Huila beauty pageant. The festival also kicks off the Expo-Huila trade show, along with some workshops and a cattle auction.

Muxima Pilgrimage

Held in late August or early September, the pilgrimage n Muxima village is the most popular of the religious devotions in Angola, attracting thousands of locals and foreigners.

Sumbe Music Festival

Also known as Festi-Sumbe, this three-day September celebration is an international festival mainly taking place in Sumbe City in the Kwanza Sul province. Marked by performances, bands, singers and dancers from a wide variety of musical genres, it’s quite the show.

Luanda Island Feast

Luanda Island Feast is another cultural showcase. The annual party is held on the second Friday of November to honor the deity of the waters and protector of fishermen known as Kianda in Angola.

Angola Carnival

Angola Carnival is one of the most colorful and widely celebrated festivals in the country. Beginning on the last Thursday of the Lenten season, it goes until the day before Ash Wednesday and features shows, performances, parades, and dances.




Although Angola is located entirely within the tropics, the climate is somewhat more pleasant and both altitude (inland) as well as sea currents (coastal areas) are influencing this more temperate situation. In general, there are of course hot and humid conditions in Angola, especially in the eastern parts of the country where the land meets the Congo and Zambezi Rivers. This means temperatures of 30 °C or more and mostly around 20 °C at night. More inland however, temperatures are somewhat lower, generally between 24 °C and 29 °C, and dropping to around 12 °C to 14 °C at night, a bit colder during the June to August wintertime. The latter months are also the driest. Most rain falls between October and April. Although roughly the same applies to the coastal region, the southern part of the coast is much drier and has very arid conditions with only about 50 to 100 mm of rain a year. Temperatures during the day are the same, but at night are somewhat higher compared to the inland plateau. Towards the northern coastal zone, temperatures and rainfall increases, with around 600 mm a year, about half of what falls inland.



Getting There

By Plane

TAAG Angola Airlines (Portuguese only) is the national airline of Angola and is based at Quatro de Fevereiro Airport (LAD) near the capital Luanda. International destinations from here include Accra, Addis Ababa, Bangui, Beijing, Brazzaville, Cabinda, Harare, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lisbon, Lubango, Lusaka, N'djamena, Namibe, Ondjiva (Namibia), Paris, Pointe Noire, Rio de Janeiro, Sal, São Tomé, Salvador da Bahia and Windhoek.

Several other airlines fly to and from here as well, including British Airways from London, Brussels Airlines from Brussels, Air France from Paris, TAP Portugal from Lisbon and KLM from Amsterdam. Moscow, China and Johannesburg all have good connections as well.


The borders of Angola with most neighbouring countries are open now, but it is still quite an adventurous trip to travel along the roads to and from for example Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Border crossing with Namibia on the other hand is quite straightforward, but be sure to have your visa in advance. Crossings are between Rundu (Namibia) and Calai (Angola) or Oshikango (Namibia) and Santa Clara (Angola), the Santa Clara border is beside of the Luanda and the Lubango airport one of the enty points where you can use the new e-visa (a very easy border, this is also possible at the Massabi Border Post on Cabinda's northern border with Republic of Congo and the Luau Border Post on Angola's eastern border with the DRC).



Getting Around

By Plane

Cabinda, Catumbela, Dundo, Huambo, Luena, Luanda (Quatro de Fevereiro Airport), Lubango, Malanje, Menongue, Namibe, Ondjiva and Soyo are domestic destinations served by TAAG Angola Airlines. There are also many other airlines like Air Gemini, Sonair SAL Airlines and Diexim Expresso which offer flights. Helicopter access to Cabinda is also possible.

By Train

Rail services are poor and tickets hard to purchase sometimes. Still, for enthusiasts there are trains running on three separate routes from Luanda. There is a line to Malanje (daily) with short branches to Dondo and Golungo Alto. Other lines include Lobito to Dilolo (the Benguela Railway, daily, Lobito to Benguela 10 trains per day) and Namibe to Menongue (daily, this id a fright train with 2 passenger cars). There are no sleeping cars and no aircon, though food and drink is available on some lines.

By Car

Much of the tarred roads that existed are destroyed, but gradually being rebuilt. You will need a 4wd car though to get around most places and you can rent one in Luanda and the international airport. Note that it is advised to stick to the main roads (mines are still problem) and don't drive at night as carjacking can be a risk in some places. A national driver's licence usually is enough, for longer stays an international permit is needed. Traffic drives on the right.

By Bus

The only useful long distance bus route is the 700-kilometre trip from Luanda to Benguela, taking around 12 hours. Three companies offer services between the two cities. Macon is apparently the biggest and best organiced bus company and goes now to most towns in Angola. Ango-Real is another big bus company. Macon and Ango-Real have their own bus terminals, sometimes more then one in town. Some eratic buses and minibuses, or shared taxis, ply some other usually shorter routes, you might find them in a "Parque dos mini Autocarros".

By Boat

Few regular passenger services exist, as there is almost no significant way of getting around by boat. Some options might include some boats just offshore near Luanda or on rivers bordering Namibia, but even those are of no use really.



Red Tape

Passport holders of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Angola when the purpose of the visit is tourism for up to 90 days (unless otherwise noted): Botswana, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Singapore, Zimbabwe.

From 30 March 2018, Angola started issuing tourist visas valid for 30 days in a simplified procedure to visitors from the following 59 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Eswatini, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela and Zambia.

Visitors must first apply for a pre-visa online with the Migration and Foreigners Service and after such pre-visa is granted they can obtain a visa on arrival at Luanda Airport. In order to obtain a pre-visa applicants must submit proof of accommodation and subsistence means, a return ticket and the international certificate of vaccination. Visa costs 120 USD, paid on arrival.

When obtaining a visa from countries to the north, you will often only be issued a 5-day transit visa for Angola. If travelling by road, this will only give you enough time to get to Luanda where it takes up to 4 days to get another five day transit visa. If you're coming into Angola from the DR Congo, you may well need an Angolan visa before entering DR Congo.




See also Money matters

Kwanza (AOA) = 100 centimos.
Notes in denominations of AOA100, 50, 10 and 5.
Coins in denominations of AOA100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20 and 10 centimos.
There is a black market (the safest way to change is asking your accomotation).




See also Portuguese phrasebook

Portuguese is the official language of Angola. African languages Umbundu, Kimbundu, Kikongo and Bantu are spoken by most of the population.

A very low percentage of the local population can communicate in English. Also, because many people migrate from neighbouring countries to Angola, it is sometimes possible to use French and Afrikaans (for Namibian / South African people).




Generally, eating and dining out is not very easy in Angola, not even in Luanda because food is expensive and many of the less well equipped restaurants have poor hygienic conditions. Nonetheless, Angolan cuisine is varied and tasty, with local dishes based mainly on fish, cassava products and spicy stews. Angolan seafood is abundant and very good, and the Angolan coast is a special place to eat fresh lobster right off the fisherman's boat. Tropical fruit in Angola is also a treat, for artisanal means of production have maintained organic methods, and rich fruit flavors, unusual to the Western palate accustomed to industrially produced tropical fruits. If, however, you are situated in Luanda and need to dine, it is recommended that you get to Ilha de Luanda, where beach-restaurants (of varying price-classes from very exclusive to rather informal) can serve most foreign needs. It should also be said that restaurants in Luanda are increasing in numbers and quality, since the recent peace has brought stability and significant investment to the country. Signature/national dishes include Doro Wat, Muamba de galinha (Chicken Muamba) and Mufete de cacuso:fish rubbed with fresh lemon and pepper.




World class hotels include the Tropico Hotel, the Alvalade Hotel, Le President Meridien Hotel, the Continental Hotel, the Skyna Hotel, the Epic Sana hotel, and the Palm Beach Hotel, among others. Hotels are very expensive and outside Luanda the choices become scarce.




See also Travel Health

Proof that you had a yellow fever vaccination is required upon entering Angola. You have to have a cholera stamp (prove of the fact that you don't have that disease) in all cases (entering overland and by plane).

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Angola. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. When staying longer than 6 months, vaccination against meningitis might be recommended, depending on your contact with other people.

Like most African countries south of the Sahara, Malaria is prevalent in the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Dengue is present in some parts of the country, mainly around urban areas.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also Travel Safety

You should consider hiring a trusted and knowledgeable local guide for travel within Angola, although if you follow some basic rules then travelling in Angola isn't dangerous. Travelling after dark and alone is never a good idea. If possible, join with several cars of the same make and model because of the possible need of spare parts.

Never step beyond the red and white HALO Trust posts. These denote mine fields. In fact, beware of anything surrounded by any kind of red stones or similar markers.

In Angola, it is mandatory to have a form of identification on you at all times. What this means: carrying a certified copy of your passport or your national identification card.

Angola's crime levels are fairly high. There have been reports of carjackings, muggings, robberies, sexual assaults, and so on. Being a tourist will, undoubtedly, make you an "easy" target for criminals. Having little to no knowledge of Portuguese will also make you stand out.

You can drastically reduce the likelihood of being a crime victim by applying a modicum of common sense — don't display signs of affluence, don't flash around your gadgets, keep your valuables and belongings out of reach, don't go to unfamiliar areas, don't go out at night, dress conservatively, and don't be too trusting of people you don't know.

Since Angola has a high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, immediately seek medical attention if you've been sexually assaulted.

Disrespecting government officials is a punishable offence in Angola. In Angola, the law is broadly defined. According to one statement from the US Department of State, an American family was detained for several weeks after they complained about the time it took for Angolan immigration authorities to process their visas and passports. In other words, do not criticise or complain about public officials. Keep your negative views about them to yourself.

As is the case in any country, you should be mindful of what you photograph. Taking photographs of certain things — government buildings, military installations, train stations, airfields, airports, and bridges — will land you in serious trouble with the Angolan authorities and they may (incorrectly) assume you're a spy or a terrorist.

Avoid using your camera in front of police (dressed in blue uniforms). Doing so will arouse suspicion from them.

Given Angola's history of enduring civil conflict, perceived threats to national security are taken very seriously in Angola.



Keep Connected


See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Angola is 244.
To make an international call from Angola, the code is 00.

Telephone connections, cellular and landline, are heavily overloaded, making communication difficult at times. International lines are, however, often better.


Quick Facts

Angola flag

Map of Angola


Indigenous beliefs, Christianity (Catholic, Protestant)
Angolan Kwanza (AOA)
Calling Code
Time Zone


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