Guinea-Bissau travel guide
Though better known for its military coups and government crises, Guinea-Bissau’s swashbuckling charm, faded grandeur and stunning natural assets prove some things are above politics.
Sandwiched between Senegal and Guinea, this diminutive nation has a decidedly Latin vibe and is one of the few African countries to celebrate Carnival. Every February there is a riotous display of colour and culture when the streets of Bissau, the capital, are overrun with dancers festooned in traditional garb. They strut their stuff to drum beats that could raise the dead and rumbustious applause from adoring crowds.
Bissau’s roads are potholed and the electricity supply is erratic, but the dilapidated capital has rugged, timeworn charm. The grandeur of its Portuguese past is well behind it: like an aged model the city’s colonial beauty has faded, but there’s still a twinkle in its eye and an affable spirit that captivates visitors. It’s small and easy to navigate, too, with a few lively bars and restaurants serving up a traditional slice of local life.
For nature lovers the Bijagós Archipelago, which floats just off the coast, is a unique highlight. It is in this UNESCO-listed national park that visitors can search for rare pygmy hippos, which wallow in limpid lagoons. They’re not the only attraction: the ocean around the 88-island archipelago is home to sharks, manatees and turtles, not mention myriad migratory birds, which holiday here during the European winter. Pack your binoculars.
Travelling in Guinea-Bissau is not always easy, but for those with a sense of adventure and an open mind it can be extremely rewarding. Political instability and poverty may have beset this small nation, but the joie de vivre of its inhabitants endures and the country remains quietly brilliant.
36,125 sq km (13,948 sq miles).
1,888,429 (UN estimate 2016).
47.8 per sq km.
President Umaro Sissoco Embaló since 2020.
Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam since February 2020.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Guinea-Bissau 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.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Guinea-Bissau.
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, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
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 Guinea-Bissau
The government of Guinea-Bissau announced that the state of calamity has been extended until 26 October. Under the state of calamity, you must wear a mask or face covering in public, including on public transport. Non-adherence to mask wearing is subject to a fine of 5000XOF (around £7). Gatherings indoors are limited to 50% capacity, and social distancing of 1 metre must be respected.
The government have announced a curfew between 8pm and 5am. There are travel restrictions between cities, including the capital Bissau. You should read local news and announcements if you plan on travelling. The government has set up a coronavirus hotline that you can call on: 1919 or 2020.
Public places and services
Under the state of calamity, markets will close from 3pm daily, and at weekends. Sporting and religious events are currently banned. Restaurants and bars are closed except for takeaway food.
Healthcare in Guinea-Bissau
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 Guinea-Bissau
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Guinea-Bissau
We will update this page when the Government of Guinea Bissau announces new information on the national vaccination programme You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
The Guinea Bissau national vaccine programme started in April 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines. The Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) vaccine may also be available. The Government of Guinea Bissau has stated that British nationals resident in Guinea Bissau are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. Further information on the vaccination programme is available on the High Commission for COVID-19 website (in Portuguese) and their Facebook page.
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 page.
If you’re a British national living in Guinea Bissau, 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.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
There have been reports of a rise in crime levels. You should take sensible precautions, and avoid carrying valuables in public.
Land mines remain a problem in parts of the country and de-mining operations are continuing. The capital city of Bissau was declared mine-free in June 2006 by the national de-mining centre (CAAMI), which is responsible for de-mining operations and maintains lists of known minefields. Outside of the capital city, you should take local advice and stick to paved roads.
If you’re travelling to or from Guinea-Bissau by road through Senegal you should see our travel advice for Senegal.
Traffic is generally light but road conditions (including in the capital) and driving standards are poor. You should avoid road travel at night and take suitable precautions in the rainy season (June to October) when road and driving conditions can become particularly poor.
Guinea-Bissau suffers from political instability. Following the presidential elections in November and December 2019, there is now an enhanced military presence around the capital, including government buildings and the airport. You should exercise a high degree of caution should you decide to travel to Guinea-Bissau. In the event of any political unrest you should follow the advice of local authorities. Although the security situation is currently calm, you should stay alert to local developments and avoid sensitive areas like military installations. You should also avoid any demonstrations or large public gatherings.
Attacks in Guinea-Bissau can’t be ruled out.
Guinea-Bissau contributes to the UN peacekeeping initiative in Mali (MINUSMA) and may therefore be considered a legitimate target by Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) and its associated groups.
Terrorist groups who continue to mount attacks on beach resorts, hotels, cafés and restaurants visited by foreigners in West Africa. Be especially vigilant in these places.
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.
Do not become involved with drugs of any kind. There are heavy penalties for those convicted and local prison conditions are harsh.
Carry ID (passport or residence permit) with you at all times, particularly when driving or taking a taxi, when the likelihood of having to produce it is high.
The FCDO is not aware of any laws against homosexuality. It is generally tolerated if couples are discreet. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
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 Guinea-Bissau 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 Guinea-Bissau
Land and sea borders have now re-opened and commercial air links have resumed.
All those entering Guinea Bissau must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result from an accredited institution, taken within the last five days. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
You will also have to take a COVID test within 72 hours of your departure from Guinea Bissau at a cost of 30,000 25,000 CFA (around £33). Tests are only available in the capital, Bissau.
You may also be required to fill in a form with information on your origin and contacts. If you display any symptoms for COVID-19 on arrival, you will be tested again, and have to remain in isolation at your place of residence until results are delivered. If someone on your flight is thought to have COVID-19, you may be required to isolate at one location for 14 days, and be monitored by the health authorities.
Regular entry requirements
British nationals need a visa to enter Guinea Bissau. Guinea Bissau does not have an Embassy in London. Contact the Guinea Bissau Embassy in Paris at 94 Rue St Lazare for further information. Guinea Bissau also has Embassies in neighbouring countries, including Senegal, which issue visas.
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Guinea-Bissau.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry into, transit through and exit from Guinea Bissau.
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Guinea-Bissau 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 Guinea-Bissau.
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.
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).
UK health authorities have classified Guinea-Bissau as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Medical facilities in Guinea-Bissau are extremely limited and hospitals are not fully operational. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Pharmacies in Guinea Bissau are limited and may sometimes have limited supplies. Pharmacies will accept UK prescriptions. Pharmacies are the only places where you can buy medicines. Please note that pharmacies in Guinea Bissau do not have accreditation with UK insurance companies so make sure you speak to your insurance company beforehand if you need a refund.
There are occasional outbreaks of cholera, particularly during the rainy season and in areas where there is poor sanitation.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s report for 2018 estimated that 44,000 people (adults and children) in Guinea-Bissau were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 3.5% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
The currency in Guinea-Bissau is the West African Financial Community franc (XOF). Guinea-Bissau is very much a cash economy. Credit cards are rarely used and there are few ATMs. The CFA Franc is the local currency.
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.
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.
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.