Travel & Tourism
Angola has had a history of slavery and civil wars, but today the country enjoys a general sense of redevelopment and progress. A colony of Portugal for many years, Angola’s unique culture features a mix of Portuguese and traditional African elements. While visiting Angola, spend a few days exploring the densely populated capital, Luanda, before penetrating deeper to see the country’s numerous beaches, parks, and wildlife reserves. Unlike many other African countries, Angola has few tourists, which means you will have the authentic pleasure of experiencing life in the country as Angolans do. We hope you take the opportunity during your visit to Africa to explore a country undergoing rapid change.
What to Do in Angola
1. Kissama National Park: Located in northwestern Angola, Kissama National Park was the site of a massive rehabilitation project called Operation Noah’s Ark. In 2000, sixteen elephants were flown from South Africa to the park; they were followed by zebras, ostriches, wildebeests, and giraffes. While the park is still recuperating from years of neglect, it is easily accessible today and is a great place to spend a day exploring. There are accommodations within the park for overnight stays.
2. Benguela: The Benguela Railway used to connect the city to the Congo and Zambia, but civil wars destroyed the railroad’s infrastructure. While the railroad is slowly being repaired, the only functioning segment is the strip connecting Lobito to Benguela. We recommend taking the train trip and spending a day exploring the streets of Benguela, which boasts colonial Portuguese architecture and sites.
3. National Slavery Museum: This museum is not large, but it packs a big punch. Located just 11 miles (18 kilometers) south of Luanda, it is housed in a small, 17th-century chapel and tells the story of Angola and its involvement in the slave trade. The most intense experience to be had at the museum is the realization that, in that very chapel, millions of slaves were baptized before being sent across the Atlantic Ocean on slave ships. We highly recommend visiting this small but powerful museum.
4. Cangandala National Park: It is the smallest national park in the country, but its woodland environment attracts a large number of birds. The park was founded in 1963 to protect the giant sable antelope, but today it is primarily a great place to hike and see some of Angola’s natural beauty.
5. Calendula Waterfalls: Also called the Duque de Braganca Falls, these amazing waterfalls are located in the province of Malanje. The Calendula falls are some of Africa’s highest and make for a spectacular photo shot.
6. Mussulo Peninsula: If you are looking for a good place to stroll along the water and see the fishing culture of Angola, visit the Mussulo Peninsula, where local fishermen work every day. Located just outside of Luanda, the peninsula offers a great escape for a few hours. We recommend packing a picnic, relaxing next to the water, and going swimming for an afternoon.
7. Santiago Beach: Located 30 miles (45 kilometers) north of Luanda, Santiago Beach bears the nickname “Shipwreck Beach,” because of the massive old ships beached in the shallow water. (One infamous vessel is the Karl Marx.) The ships provide an extraordinary photo opportunity. You can rent a fishing pole and go fishing farther down the coast, where the beaches are pleasant and free of rusty wrecks.
8. Lubango: Surrounded by mountains and blessed with a moderate climate year-round, Lubango is a great place to stop over for a few days. There are daily flights between Lubango and Luanda; you can also hire a car for the six-hour drive. Shopping and dining are activities that visitors usually indulge in during their stay in this high-up city.
9. Benfica Market: This Luanda-based market is full of paintings, animal skins, jewelry, carvings, masks, and more. Unlike at many African markets, the vendors are not known for their aggressiveness; still, feel free to haggle before you make your purchase. Be sure to ask vendors where their goods were created, as much of the art on sale isn’t made in Angola itself.
10. Fort San Miguel: Built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, this former fortress is now a massive tribute to the country’s past. Within the white, fortified walls are ceramic tiles detailing Angola’s history, as well as cannons and old prisoners’ cells. The Museum of the Armed Forces is also within the fort and is definitely worth a visit.
When To Go
The weather varies throughout the country, so be sure to check out forecasts for the specific region you plan on visiting. During the summer season (November to April), the north of the country gets hot and wet, while the south is warm throughout the year. The winter months (May to October) will generally be cooler and drier throughout the country. We recommend traveling during the winter: you’ll be at lower risk of getting caught in the rain.
Getting In and Around
Visas: Make sure your passport is valid for six months past your last day in Angola and that there are two blank consecutive pages available for the visa. You should also have a yellow fever vaccination card with you, in case an official should ask to see it at the airport. You must get a visa for Angola before leaving for your trip. A 90-day, single-entry visa costs $141 as of July 2010. The visa processing can take quite some time, so make sure you apply well in advance of your departure.
Transportation: The main international airport is Quatro (4) de Fevereiro International Airport, located right outside of Luanda. From the airport, you can grab a taxi into the city center.
Traveling between cities in Angola can be an adventure. Train service is very limited and somewhat erratic, and the roads are mostly unpaved. We highly recommend hiring taxis when you travel between cities, or utilizing domestic airlines.Within cities, local buses and taxies are fairly reliable.
Mobile Phones: We recommend taking or buying a SIM card–enabled phone. Mobile reception can be spotty outside of the major cities.
Safety and Security
Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Angola? We at Africa.com, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in Angola:
Africa.com comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to Angola, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.
Africa.com comment: An annual ranking of the 54 African countries based on their relative personal security as determined by a highly qualified staff of an African foundation, funded by a successful African philanthropist. See where Angola ranks relative to the other 54 nations in Africa.
Africa.com comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about Angola.
1. Located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Angola is mostly desert and savanna. The capital, Luanda, is also the country’s largest city and is located on its western coast.
2. The currency of Angola is the Angolan kwanza. There are 100 lwei in every kwanza, and the symbol of the kwanza is Kz.
3. The national daily newspaper of Angola is the Jornal de Angola. A number of newspapers are also published in Luanda, including Angolense and Semanario Angolense.
4. The official language of Angola is Portuguese. Other common languages are Kikongo, Umbundu, and Kimbundu.
5. There is currently no ban on public smoking in Angola. Pay attention, though: many privately owned restaurants and businesses have created specific non-smoking areas to honor their patrons’ preferences.