Travel in guinea - A guide to etiquette & local laws

In the Republic of Guinea, all citizens or travellers are required to carry original identity documents at all times.

Police or other law enforcement agencies can request to see identification at any time. By Australian standards, this regulation may appear draconian. But in most southern European countries (Guinea was a French colony) this regulation is considered perfectly acceptable.

Islam is the majority religion of Guinea. Approximately 85 % of the population is Muslim, 8% is Christian and 7% follow traditional African animist beliefs. There is a small Baha'i community. A small number of Hindus, Buddhists and Traditional Chinese religious practitioners are found in the expatriate community.

Visitors should exercise cultural sensitivity with regards to their dress and behaviour. They should dress conservatively (e.g., women should wear a headscarf and also cover their arms and legs).

Despite the idiosyncrasies of behaviour that might be attributed to religious affiliations, a reputable publication on countries and their cultures notes that, for Guineans in general:

Greetings are very important, and it is rude to ask a question or make a request without first inquiring about someone's health and the well-being of his or her family. These questions are formulaic and may be repeated several times. These questions and responses are accompanied by a firm handshake or, among the upper classes, by brief kisses on the cheeks...... It is impolite to use the left hand in any social interaction, whether to shake hands, point, pay, or hand an item to someone.

Guinea has strict currency import and export regulations. To avoid inconvenience and embarrassment, visitors should study the regulations in detail before entering or leaving the country.

In most of Sub-Saharan Africa, homosexuality is a taboo subject, rarely discussed and in some countries, illegal. Although homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in the Guinean Penal Code, its illegality is assumed by Guinea's gay society. A gay publication reporter notes: "Gay Guineans often told me that one could go to jail if ever caught having sex with another man."

Given these uncertain conditions, homosexuals are well advised to maintain a low profile.

Guinea's rather quaint import and export regulations are strictly enforced. On arrival, visitors are entitled to bring in 1000 cigarettes or 250 cigars or 1000 grammes of tobacco, one (opened) bottle of alcoholic beverage and a quantity of perfume arguably for personal use.

On departure, they are prohibited from taking weapons and firearms, explosives, radioactive materials, plants and animals, food, obscene literature or religious literature.6

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, trading scams involving diamonds, gold export and gold certification are common. In Guinea, a license is required to export precious gems. Penalties are heavy for those involved in attempted gem smuggling.

On 10 October, 2008 the regional representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said:

Guinea has become a major drug-trafficking hub and the trade there is now potentially more dangerous than in Guinea-Bissau. An official from the Guinean government's anti-narcotics bureau (OCAD) said:

"...... corruption at the highest levels of the military and police and a lack of personnel and equipment are impeding OCAD's ability to crack down on drug trafficking."

Despite a concerted drive to stamp out corruption and illegal drugs, much of the corruption remains. But anyone found carrying or using illicit drugs faces stiff penalties including imprisonment.

Photographing or filming military establishments and government buildings is prohibited.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Guinea to protect the interests of its citizens.

In any case, all foreigners in Guinea are subject to local laws.

Criminal offences, including attempted gem smuggling can lead to imprisonment. Serious offences, such as murder and armed robbery, may attract the death penalty. Living conditions in Guinea's overcrowded prisons are unhygienic with no washing facilities and no medical care. Food and water are strictly rationed. The legal process is slow and pre-trial detention can last for months.

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