Gabon or officially the Gabonese Republic is a Central African state. It borders the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea. On the west, the country is washed by the Atlantic Ocean. Th capital city is Libreville.
The climate is equatorial and in the south-eastern regions it changes to the sub-equatorial. A dry season occurs two times a week in winter and in summer. It rains heavily in spring and autumn. The best time for visiting Gabon is from May to September.
The official language is French, but the majority of the population speaks the Bantu languages. The predominant religion is the Christianity (in particular, Catholicism) but local religious beliefs and cults are also very widespread.
The tourists come to Gabon for many reasons. Some choose its beaches, the others want to see the sights and enjoy the equatorial nature.
The most popular beach resort is Pointe-Denise Beach which is famous for its fashionable hotels and wonderful beaches. There are also some beaches close to the capital city which attract the fans of surfing.
Jeep-safari in the Ivindo National Park and the Reserve de la Lope is another attraction for the tourists in Gabon.
Your travel to Gabon will be incomplete without seeing the main sights in Libreville and Port-Gentil.
There are no direct flights between Gabon and CIS countries. Only some European airports offer regular flights to this country. Most often the European tourists fly to Gabon from Paris, Brussels, or London. The most convenient route for the citizens from Central Asia and Transcaucasian CIS countries is from Dubai.
Although there are railroads in the country, international passenger traffic is not available. The highway links Gabon with all the neighbouring countries but a European tourist can hardly survive a trip on the public African bus. So we recommend taking a car with air conditioner.
EU and CIS tourists must obtain a visa to come to Gabon. A visa is issued by the Embassy of Gabon or at the Customs on arrival.
If there is the Embassy or the Consulate of Gabon in your country, you can submit the documents and receive a visa in 1-3 days. Otherwise, it is much easier to receive a visa on arrival. The tourists should provide a permit issued by the Gabon Immigration Department. The permit must be issued by the host (for example, a travel agency in Gabon).
De jure the import/export of foreign and national currency is not restricted. However, there is an implicit prohibition concerning the transportation of 5.000 US dollars or equivalent sum in other currency and 300.000 local Francs. So, any currency must be declared. The Customs officers may ask you to confirm the legality of the money.
The tourists are allowed to bring in Gabon:
- some alcohol and tobacco;
- perfume for personal use;
- personal belongings and gadgets;
- gifts (the total cost of which must not exceed 5.000 francs).
It’s prohibited to import:
- gold bars, gold plates, and coins;
- illegal or pirate printed, video and photo materials;
- items with historical or artistic value (without a special permission).
The tourists are not allowed to export:
- items with historical or artistic value;
- things made of ivory and crocodile skin (without a special permission);
- electronic equipment without a sales receipt (otherwise, it is subject to a high export duty).
The cuisine of Gabon is based on the local African products, but it is greatly influenced by the French cuisine. The staple food here is meat, fish, rice, beans, and coconut.
The traditional meat dishes are Brochettes (kebab), Nyembwe (chicken with peanut) and the meat of crocodiles, monkeys, and snakes prepared in a number of different ways.
In Gabon, the tourists can try a soup Maffe (a light peanut and coconut water soup) and hot fish soup.
The diet of the Gabonians is rich in fish and seafood. The tourists should definitely try Yassa (seafood stew). The restaurants offer delicious oysters and smoked fish.
The locals fry bananas, make soups, porridges, and flatbread from cassava, rice, yams, peanut, and coconuts. Don’t leave Gabon without trying flatbread Fufu (from cassava flour) which is usually served with some soup. Although Gabon is far away from the countries where Couscous is popular, it is one of the delicious symbols in this country.
For a dessert, treat yourself to tropical fruits or Congo Chewies (hardened sweet mass from sugar, butter, eggs, flour, and nuts).
Among the non-alcoholic drinks the most popular are fresh juices from the locally grown fruits.
Try the local beer Regab and sweet palm wine in Gabon.
The official currency of Gabon is the Central African Franc (XAF). The Bank of Central African States issues the banknotes from 500 to 100.000 francs and 1 to 500 franc coins.
In Gabon, the tourists can exchange the currency at banks and in exchange offices.
Credit cards are accepted only in large stores, hotels and restaurants in the capital city and some other large cities.
The ATMs are not widespread and you can find them only at banks.
You can cash traveller’s checks at banks, but the commission can be as high as 10 and even 20%.
Details of interest
Sightseeing in Gabon
On the territory of Gabon, there is a site which has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is the national park Reserve de la Lope. It’s natural ecosystem and cultural landscape form a unique combination of a tropical forest and relict savannah. The park is a habitat for many species of wild animals including large endangered mammals. This unique place demonstrates how the animals adapted to new climatic conditions after the Ice Age. In the reserved, there are the remnants of prehistoric settlements of a human being of the Neolithic and Iron Age. Ancient camps and petroglyphs show the migration route of the ancient people of Africa.
The tourists should also visit some other interesting places in Gabon which are UNESCO candidates.
- The Ivindo and Minkebe National Park, the Bateke Plateau National Park, the Moukalaba-Doudou National Park, and the Birougou National Park. In these parks, one can ride a horse, go hiking and try jeep-safari.
- The Grottes de Lastourville.
- The Ancien Hopital Albert Schweitzer de Lambarene.
These places in Gabon are also very popular among the tourists:
- The Museum of Art and Culture;
- The Presidential Palace and the Hassan II Mosque;
- L’Église Saint Michel Libreville.
Souvenirs in Gabon
In Gabon, the tourists usually buy:
- essential oils;
- stuffed animals and other products made from the animals;
- tableware and other things in a typical African style;
- African ritual masks.