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Introduction

Despite its wild beauty and remote tropical beaches, Guinea-Bissau is a relatively undiscovered tourist destination because of its long-running instability and conflict. For an adventurous traveler, this could be an exciting destination well off the beaten path. The main attractions are the sandy beaches along the coast and the islands of the Bijagós Archipelago, a Unesco International Biosphere Reserve. The wildlife and scenery, including rainforests, reefs, and mangroves on the archipelago, is pristine and unspoiled as a result of Guinea-Bissau's inaccessibility. The capital Bissau is a laid-back but atmospheric town with cultural sites, a few nightspots, and the Mediterranean architecture of the Portuguese Quarter. 

Colonized by the Portuguese, Guinea-Bissau fought a protracted war of independence, which it finally won in 1974. Under founding President Joao Vieira, country entered a period of authoritarian, one-party rule. A series of democratic reforms in the 1990s culminated in a multi-party election in 1994, which Vieira and his party won. By 1998, however, worsening economic conditions led to a coup. The military held civilian elections the following year, but the winner, Kumba Yala, proved unpopular and unable to deal with the economic and political turmoil. A 2003 coup against Yala resulted in the brief presidency of Henrique Pereira Rosa. In an election held in August 2005 and deemed free and fair by international observers, Vieira was re-elected president. Pockets of turmoil persist, but the political situation seems to be improving.

Guinea-Bissau's population numbers around 1.5 million, 99% of which is of African descent. While the official language is Portuguese, most Guineans speak Creole or a local language. About half of the country follows traditional local religions, while 45% is Muslim and 5% is Christian. There are five major tribes: Balanta (30%), Fula (20%), Manjaca (14%), Mandinga (13%), and Papel (7%). The country is almost entirely rural. In addition to Bissau, the capital, the main towns include Caheu, Mansoa, Farim, Catió, Bafatá, and Gabú.

Instability in recent years has made Guinea-Bissau an unlikely tourist destination. The US State Department has issued a travel warning, and travelers are advised to investigate the current situation, particularly on the northwest border with Senegal, before visiting. Landmines from the civil war remain, so stay on marked roads and paths. The crime rate is relatively low, although some travelers have reported incidents in the rural areas. Guinea-Bissau lacks infrastructure, which may be an issue for visitors. Buses and taxis are the main forms of transport on the mainland, as well as canoes in rural areas during the rainy season. To get to the islands there are daily flights from the capital as well as canoes and boats. The main airlines flying into the country are TAP Air, Air Bissau, Air Mauritanie, and TACV, all of which land at an airport near Bissau. There are land crossings from Guinea and Senegal, but make sure to buy a visa ahead of time if you plan to enter Guinea-Bissau by road. Prices are extremely cheap, with meals costing $1-8 USD and rooms costing $5-70 USD. The currency is the CFA Franc, which is currently trading around 540 to the U.S. dollar.

From rare birds and monkeys in the pristine wildlife parks, to remote white sand beaches and coral reefs on the tropical islands, Guinea-Bissau has many attractions to offer. The past decade of political and economic turmoil has created dangers and difficulties for tourists, but it has also guaranteed that many tourist attractions remain secluded and untouched. With a bit of caution and flexibility, an adventurous traveler can enjoy the friendly people and breathtaking natural beauty of Guinea-Bissau.

 


Introduction

Despite its wild beauty and remote tropical beaches, Guinea-Bissau is a relatively undiscovered tourist destination because of its long-running instability and conflict. The main attractions are the sandy beaches along the coast and the islands of the Bijagˇs Archipelago, a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. The wildlife and scenery, including rainforests, reefs and mangroves on the archipelago, are largely unspoiled. The capital, Bissau, is a laid-back town with a few cultural sites, some nightspots and the Mediterranean architecture of the Portuguese Quarter.

Colonized by the Portuguese, Guinea-Bissau fought a protracted war of independence, which it finally won in 1974. After a period of upheaval, a coup in 1980 ushered in authoritarian leader Joao Bernardo ?Nino? Vieira. A series of democratic reforms in the 1990s culminated in a multi-party election in 1994, which Vieira won. By 1998, however, worsening economic conditions led to a coup. The military held civilian elections the following year, but the winner proved unpopular and unable to deal with the economic and political turmoil. There was another coup in 2003 and then elections held in 2005 brought back Vieira. Instability persists. á

Guinea-Bissau has a population of 1.5 million. While the official language is Portuguese, most Guineans speak Creole or a local language. About half of the country follows traditional local religions, while 45 percent follow Islam and five percent adhere to Christianity.

There are direct flights to the capital, Bissau, from Portugal, and other African countries. Buses and taxis are the main forms of transportation on the mainland, as well as canoes in rural areas during the rainy season. To get to the islands there are daily flights from the capital as well as canoes and boats.

From rare birds and monkeys in the wildlife parks, to remote white sand beaches and coral reefs on the tropical islands, Guinea-Bissau has many attractions to offer. The past decade of political and economic turmoil has created dangers and difficulties for tourists, but it has also guaranteed that many tourist attractions remain secluded and untouched.