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World Travel Guide > Guides > Africa > Gabon

Gabon travel guide

About Gabon

Gabon is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Congo. The 800km- (500-mile-) long sandy coastal strip is a series of palm-fringed bays, lagoons and estuaries. The lush tropical vegetation (which covers much of the interior) gives way in parts to the savannah.

There are many rivers along which settlements have grown. Many of the Bantu people are concentrated in coastal areas and villages along the banks of the many rivers. The main cities are Libreville, Port Gentil, Lambaréné, Moanda, Oyem, Mouila and Franceville.

The Republic of Gabon moved peacefully into independence (from France) in 1960. President Omar Bongo, who succeeded Léon M'Ba as president on the latter's death in 1967 is now one of Africa's longest serving heads of state. In 2003, a change of constitution meant that Bongo could run for office as many times as he wanted and Bongo, now in his 70s, is likely to remain as president for life. Gabon's only problem in the region concerns the island of Mbagne which lies in the Corisco Bay, potentially the site of large oil and gas deposits: occupied by Gabon in 1970, it is also claimed by Equatorial Guinea.

But touristic natural resources are likely to centre around features such as stunning white beaches, an abundance of wildlife, including gorillas, panthers, parrots and elephants, and verdant forests.

Key facts

Area:

267,667 sq km (103,347 sq miles).

Population:

1,763,142 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

6.4 per sq km.

Capital:

Libreville.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Ali Bongo Ondimba since 2009.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda since 2020.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Gabon on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Flight restrictions have eased to allow two international flights per airline, per week. Check with your travel company for the latest information.

For foreign nationals wishing to leave Gabon, you need to obtain a letter of permission (“authorisation de sortie”) from the Gabonese Government and have proof of a negative coronavirus test prior to departure.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Gabon.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19 while in Gabon you will be contacted by local authorities. If visiting, you will have to go to one of the hotels which the government of Gabon has nominated for isolation. This applies to all visitors, including those under 18. There is no assistance available from the government for people who need to leave these hotels for any reason. British nationals resident in Gabon who test positive are required to isolate at home and dial the toll free number 1410 for further instructions.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Gabon

The Gabonese government has extended the state of health emergency indefinitely. Domestic flight restrictions have eased to allow two flights per airline per week. PCR tests no older than 14 days are required for residents of Gabon who wish to travel within the country. Markets have reopened as normal.

The Grand (Greater) Libreville area comprising of the 4 municipalities of Libreville, Owendo, Akanda and Ntoum is in confinement or lockdown. Travel in and out of the Grand Libreville area is restricted. Holders of COVID-19 vaccination certificates can travel within the Greater Libreville without restrictions during curfew hours.

There is a daily curfew from 9pm to 5am. People holding a Laissez-Passer (a pass issued to people carrying out essential services during curfew hours) will have to renew this via a new internet platform laissezpassercovid19@gouv.ga. New passes with a QR code will soon be available, to avoid counterfeiting.

You must wear a mask in public areas.

Taxis are only permitted to carry up to three passengers.

Failure to comply with the measures above would constitute a criminal offence and can lead to fines or community service. Check points exist along roads to enforce the above measures.

Accommodation

Hotels have reopened.

Public places and services

Markets have reopened as normal.

Restaurants with a terrace have reopened. A valid negative COVID-19 tests or vaccination certificate is compulsory for access to a restaurant. Standard tests are now free of charge, but results are released after 3-5 days. There is a VIP faster option for CFA 20 000, approximately £27.00, with results available within 24 hours.

Gatherings of more than 30 people are banned, however, parliament and educational institutions are exempt from this limit.

All place of worship can only open one day a week. Places of worship with a maximum of 30 people have to observe the ‘sanitary protocol’ which includes compulsory wearing of masks, hand sanitisation, and social distancing.

Schools will close at 5pm each day to comply with general curfew. Hospital visits are forbidden without authorisation from medical authorities.

Bars and motels have reopened until 8:30pm.

Access to restaurants and places of worship is subject to presentation of negative PCR test or a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate.

Wearing of masks in public is compulsory from the age of 5 years old.

Healthcare in Gabon

Pharmacies and health centres remain open.

Government of Gabon advice for anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms is to avoid immediately going to hospital and instead dial a toll free number (1410) and follow their instructions. If Covid-19 is suspected, an ambulance will be sent to collect the patient and to take them to one of the designated Covid-19 hospitals.

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

View Health for further details on healthcare in Gabon

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Gabon

We will update this page when the Government of Gabon announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Gabon national vaccine programme started in March 2021 and is using the Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines. The Government of Gabon has stated that British nationals resident in Gabon are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. Further information on the vaccination programme is available by dialling the toll-free number 1314.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Gabon, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Help and support

If you need urgent consular assistance, you can contact the British High Commission Yaoundé on +442070085000 / +237 222220545.

The High Commission cannot provide further information or advice about departure options over the phone. This page will be updated when UK and commercial departure options become available. To get the latest information, sign up for travel advice email alerts.

Further information

For further information and to keep up to date, you should also check the Government of Gabon website.

Crime

Most visits by British nationals are trouble-free. However, there have been incidents of robbery, armed attacks and rape in the past. You should:

  • take sensible personal security precautions and maintain a high level of vigilance in public places.
  • avoid displaying valuables like cameras, smart phones or jewellery.
  • avoid isolated or poorer areas of towns and walking alone at night.
  • be cautious on quiet or isolated beaches in and around Libreville, and avoid them altogether at night.

Taxis in Gabonese cities operate like buses, picking up new passengers while there is still room in the car. They often take indirect routes. There have been reports of violent assaults and robberies on taxi passengers.

  • only use authorised taxis and preferably book one from a reputable company or through a restaurant or hotel.

There have been reports of car-jackings in Libreville. You’re advised to:

  • keep your car windows closed and doors locked if you are travelling at night.
  • don’t stop to pick up strangers.
  • don’t resist car-jackers. An immobiliser that operates after the vehicle has been driven a short distance or a tracking device may help with the recovery of your vehicle.

Road travel

Road conditions are poor in most local areas and driving can be hazardous. During the rainy season from October to mid-December and mid-February to May many roads are passable only with a four-wheel drive vehicle. Avoid travelling by road at night. Police checkpoints are common; you may be asked to show your passport, driving licence or vehicle registration documents.  

Air travel

The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the EU. British Government employees don’t use domestic flights run by Gabonese airline companies unless this is unavoidable.

Sea travel

There have been armed attacks on commercial shipping vessels in the Gulf of Guinea. Take extreme care when travelling in coastal waters.

Political situation

On 7 January 2019 there was a failed coup attempt by a small group of military officers. Following a few hours of sporadic gunfire in Libreville, the situation was brought back under control. Political stability in Gabon remains uncertain following the result of the 2016 presidential election, with violent clashes occurring between demonstrators and security forces at that time. Further protests may quickly turn violent without warning. You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies and remain vigilant during periods of unrest.

Consular assistance

Consular support may be limited in Gabon. However, the British High Commission in Yaoundé, Cameroon or Honorary Consul in Libreville can provide consular support to British nationals.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Gabon, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Penalties for the use and possession of drugs are severe and usually include a prison sentence.

On 30 June 2020, consensual same-sex sexual relations was decriminalised. This was previously a criminal offence within the Gabon Penal Code. Gabon remains a conservative society and discrimination can be a problem for those open about their sexual identity. Same-sex marriage isn’t recognised in Gabon. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Taking photographs of military sites, the airport, the Presidency and government buildings is forbidden.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Gabon set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Gabon

Flight restrictions have eased to allow two flights per airline, per week. Land and sea borders are closed.

UK nationals must receive authorisation from the Gabonese Ministry of Foreign Affairs before travelling to Gabon. Authorisation can be obtained through the inviting party dropping the request in person at Gabon Foreign Ministry.

All passengers travelling to Gabon must present a valid negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test no older than 3 days or a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate for entry into Gabon. See ‘Demonstrating your COVID-19 status’

On arrival, all passengers must take a compulsory test for COVID-19 at Libreville Airport. Passengers are then required to self-isolate for 24 hours in designated hotels at their own expense whilst the COVID-19 test is being processed. Passports will be retained by the immigration authorities during this time and returned after successful completion of the isolation time. If the COVID-19 test is negative, passengers will be issued a test certificate, which is valid for 14 days and can be renewed at the end of this period after another test is undertaken. Holders of vaccination certificates are exempt from the compulsory testing and self-isolation. Holders of vaccination certificates still have to undergo the compulsory testing but can self-isolate in the facility of their choice and do not have to leave their passport.

Travellers holding a diplomatic passport and their travel orders must comply with the mandatory PCR testing at the airport (CFA 20,000), but do not quarantine in a government-designated hotel and do not leave their passport at the airport. This applies whether the diplomat is vaccinated or not.

If a COVID-19 test taken at the airport is positive, then passengers are required to continue self-isolation and await specific instructions from Gabonese health authorities. Visitors to Gabon will have to go to one of the hotels which the government of Gabon has nominated for isolation. British nationals resident in Gabon who test positive are required to isolate at home and dial the toll free number 1410 for further instructions. All COVID-19 tests taken in Gabon supersede any that were taken before arrival in Gabon.

Demonstrating your COVID-19 status

Gabon will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

Visas

On 16 March 2020, the Government of Gabon announced the suspension of tourist visas for British nationals. All Gabon diplomatic missions abroad are prohibited from issuing entry visas to Gabon without special authorisation. For full information on the visa application process, visit the website of the Gabonese Embassy in the UK.

The Government of Gabon confirmed it would not penalise British nationals whose visas have expired while they were unable to leave the country whilst borders were closed. Now that commercial flights are running, if your visa has expired, you should consider leaving the country.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

You will need a visa to visit Gabon. For full information on the visa application process, visit the website of the Gabonese Embassy in the UK.

Alternatively, in normal times, if you’re arriving into Libreville International Airport you can submit an online visa application at least 72 hours before the date of travel and collect your visa on arrival. Payment for e-visa is made at Libreville International Airport. For more information, visit the Gabonese government’s immigration portal.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Gabon.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into Gabon but ETDs are accepted for airside transit and exit from Gabon.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Gabon on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Gabon.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Other health risks

UK health authorities have classified Gabon as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that around 44,000 adults aged 15 or over in Gabon are living with HIV; the prevalence percentage is estimated at 3.8% of the adult population compared with the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.

Medical treatment

Medical facilities are limited, particularly in rural areas. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 1300 or 1399 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. 

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Credit cards are not widely accepted, except at hotels. Due to the high incidence of credit card fraud, you should avoid using your credit card outside major hotel chains. Be vigilant when withdrawing cash from ATMs.

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