Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau

Facts & figures

Full name: The Republic of Guinea-Bissau

Population: 1.6 million (UN, 2012)

Capital: Bissau

Area: 36,125 sq km (13,948 sq miles)

Major languages: Portuguese, Crioulo, African languages

Major religions: Indigenous beliefs, Islam, Christianity

Life expectancy: 47 years (men), 50 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) = 100 centimes

Main exports: Cashew nuts, shrimp, peanuts, palm kernels, sawn timber

GNI per capita: US $600 (World Bank, 2011)

Internet domain: .gw

International dialling code: +245



President: Jose Mario Vaz

Mr Vaz vowed to fight poverty and bring stability to the country

Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister, won the presidential election run-off of May 2014 by a big margin.

Mr Vaz, from the dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), defeated rival Nuno Gomes Nabiam, an independent seen as close to the army.


Visa & travel advice

Visas for Guinea-Bissau are required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.

Nationals not referred to in the chart are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements for Guinea-Bissau.

Visas are required for citizens of most non ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries. If you are coming from a country where Guinea-Bissau does not have diplomatic representation, you have 2 options at your disposal. The first is to obtain a visa at the Guinean embassy in Lisbon. The embassy processes tourist visas same-day, within 2-3 hours. Call ahead to confirm this though before making travel plans for Portugal and Bissau. The second option is to obtain a letter of invitation and arrange for a visa on arrival in Bissau. Whatever individual or organization that is hosting you will need to make these arrangements and there is not a clear well-defined policy regarding this. This second option is also more expensive than getting the visa in Lisbon.

All visitors, except nationals of Economic Community of West Africa States (Ecowas) countries, need visas. These are normally valid for 45 days and are issued for around US$60 at embassies. They are generally routinely issued at Bissau’s airport, but not at land borders, so plan ahead. To avoid hassles, get one before you arrive.

  • Best period

In Guinea- Bissau the weather is hot and humid averaging about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.6 degrees Celcius) year-round. The monsoonal-type rainy season typically lasts from June to November, and the dry season runs from December to May.

  • Safety

The U.S. embassy in Bissau suspended its operations in June 1998 during the country’s civil war. Today the U.S. embassy in Dakar has jurisdiction over Guinea-Bissau, and U.S. citizens traveling to Guinea-Bissau are urged to register with the embassy there. (The former U.S. embassy in Guinea-Bissau is now operated by local staff members, who are not equipped to handle consular services but may be contacted in an emergency. The office is located at Edifício SITEC, Rua José Carlos Schwarz 245, Bairro d’Ajuda.

ATMs are not available, credit cards are not accepted, and local currency may be obtained only from banks or hotels. Wire transfer possibilities are very limited, so travelers are encouraged to secure ample amounts of the local currency before arrival in Guinea-Bissau. Though the country’s civil war ended in 1999, visitors should be aware that political tensions still exist; therefore, political gatherings and demonstrations should always be avoided. Another consequence of the war is the scattering of unexploded land mines throughout the country, including in Bafatá, Oio, Biombo, Quinara, and Tombali. To reduce their exposure to land mines, travelers should limit driving beyond towns to daylight hours and always stick to well-traveled roads.



The history of Guinea-Bissau was dominated by Portugal from the 1450s to the 1970s; since independence, the country has been primarily controlled by a single-party system.

The land now known as Guinea-Bissau was once the kingdom of Gabú, which was part of the larger Mali empire. After 1546 Gabú became more autonomous, and at least portions of the kingdom existed until 1867. The first European to encounter Guinea-Bissau was the Portuguese explorer Nuño Tristão in 1446; colonists in the Cape Verde islands obtained trading rights in the territory, and it became a center of the Portuguese slave trade. In 1879, the connection with the islands was broken.

Arts & Culture

  • Music :

Guinea-Bissau musician Manecas Costa

The music of Guinea-Bissau is most widely associated with the polyrhythmic gumbe genre, the country's primary musical export. Tina and tinga are other popular genres.

Independence from Portugal was declared in 1973 after a long struggle. "Esta É a Nossa Pátria Bem Amada" ("This Is Our Beloved Country"), composed by Xiao He with words by Amílcar Cabral, is the national anthem of Guinea-Bissau, as it was of Cape Verde until 1996.

  • Film industry

To talk about a film industry in Guinea-Bissau is still an exaggeration. In a country with no cinemas and a film institute that due to a total lack of money is practically lifeless, the picture is depressing to say the least. However, the zeal of two Guinean directors, Flora Gomes and Sana Na N'Hada, has achieved something that many considered impossible. And not just that they have managed to make films: their works are well received by critics and have been awarded prizes in international competitions around the world. At Cannes this year, Gomes's third and latest film Pau de Sangue (Bloodwood) was one of the 22 films selected, and the only African film in the competition.

  • Famous places

Arquilepago dos Bijagos



Town of Cacheu



  • Architecture history

Bissau is a huge city relative to the country's size. Many of the larger buildings were constructed by the Portuguese. The core of the city is a planned colonial capital, with buildings, boulevards, and vistas in the modernist style. The smaller district capitals also feature colonial architecture. There are postcolonial buildings such as the Chinese hospital in Canchungo, but the architecture is largely West African. Rectangular houses with zinc roofs and concrete floors are common in villages and small towns. In villages, much housing is still traditional in form and materials. Dried mud and thatched circular huts in ethnically distinct styles are a common feature.

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