Safe Transport in Guinea: How to Get Around Safely

All foreigners require a visa and vaccination card to enter Guinea, but that's not the only challenge. Here's what you need to know.

The very busy port of Boulbinet in Conakry, Guinea, West Africa Photo © Getty Images/john images

Getting into Guinea, West Africa

All foreigners require a visa and vaccination card in order to be granted entry to Guinea. Obtaining foreign currency in Guinea is extremely difficult.

The most common way to get into the counry is by road or by air. There are road links with Danan (Cote d'Ivoire), Bamako (Mali) and Tambacounda (Senegal).

However, due to the condition of most roads and the political instability in the border regions, intending travelers are advised not to seek entry by road.

Despite the existence of railways still shown on most maps, trains no longer run anywhere in the country.

Strangely enough, this inconvenience is a boon to travelers who will often find cheap rooms in what were once the hotel-buffets at old stations.

Air France runs direct flights from London to Conakry. A number of airlines offer flights from South Africa, all requiring one or two stops.

The airport is situated just 9mi (15km) from Conakry.

For the adventurous, an option is entry by boat from Bissau (Guinea-Bissau), Bamako (Mali) or Freetown (Sierra Leone). However, there are no set schedules. The trip upriver from Mali only takes place during the rainy season.

Etiquette in Guinea

Since approximately 85% of the population is Muslim, travelers are advised to dress conservatively.

Before attempting to photograph strangers, show respect by seeking permission from people.

Since Guinea has known 52 years of autocratic rule and is still controlled by relatively undisciplined military and militia, photographing anything that might be construed as of strategic value (even bridges) is not a good idea.

Boat travel in Guinea

There have been reports of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Guinean territorial waters.

In December 2010 a group of armed men dressed in military uniforms boarded a foreign boat in waters around Kamsar and robbed the vessel of its cargo, cash and mobile telephones. The vessel was detained overnight.

This news is unlikely to bother you if you're entering or traveling around Guinea by boat. As for the ferries that ply their trade around Conakry or the beautiful Loos Islands, this form of travel is common and safe.

Road safety in Guinea

In the capital and in the larger cities, many roads are paved and in reasonable order. In the rest of the country, even major roadways remain in poor repair and are generally unsafe. Road signage is inadequate or non-existent. Road lighting is poor.

The latter is exacerbated by the frequent power failures experienced throughout the country.

Pedestrians and livestock use the roads with very little attention to vehicles. Driving at night, particularly in the countryside is not a good idea.

Since many inter-city roads are unsurfaced, they are are in bad shape during the dry season, and in no shape during the rainy season.

During the rainy season (July to September) flash floods make some roads impassable.

Throughout the year, especially in remote or border regions, banditry is rife especially during the hours of darkness. This is an added incentive to keep off the roads at night.

Roadblocks

Frequent police, military or local militia roadblocks between 10pm and 6am are another inconvenience for travelers who are traveling out of or inside the city.

Although Police and local militia checkpoints have reduced in number since February 2011, they often appear at short notice and especially after dark throughout the country. Vehicles and passengers are submitted to checks on documentation and baggage. Corruption and extortion are common at roadblocks.

What to expect from transport in Guinea

In general, Guinean vehicles are poorly maintained. Many lack functioning lights. Drivers are poorly trained and routinely ignore safety regulations.

There is no reliable public transportation in Guinea. For road travel, vehicles and drivers may be hired from agencies at major hotels in Conakry. Domestic air services are intermittent.

Most locals who don't own private vehicles rely on shared taxis that charge per seat. Alternatively, they rely on mini buses. Few buses operate on long journeys across the country.

Travelers should not dismiss these warnings as the exaggerations of a traveler who is accustomed to good roads, well-maintained vehicles and road rules that are (relatively speaking) well observed by licensed drivers.

On 10 Mar 2011, Guinean Afrik TV reporter, Aboubacar Camara, made the following comments:

Accident scenes are commonplace on Guinean roads. The victims of road traffic accidents are numbering in the thousands. From hospital data, more than 4000 cases have been recorded every year.

The figures are the highest in the deep countryside. Kindia, located 90 miles from the capital Conakry, is in the red area when we look at statistics.

When a native Guinean, well-acquainted with local conditions despairs on considering the carnage on his nation's roads, a casual visitor would be well-advised to take note and beware.

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1 Comment

  • toobizzee said

    As an American expat living in Conakry and visiting the towns of Kindia and Mamou, it is possible that the statements made are understated a bit, but do beware of the extortion. I believe the least secure place is the airport. If traveling to Conakry, have your luggage wrapped prior to departure to decrease the probability of someone pilfering your belongings at the Conakry airport. The roads are a mess. Traffic rules non-existent. The people are generally friendly, but avoid anyone in a military uniform. You can get cash at the cash machines, if there is any cash in them, but always have a lookout, so you don't get robbed when you turn around. You can get up to about 400,000 Guinean francs in one transaction at the cash machine (about $70 USD).

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