Angola Basic Facts
Angola is still recovering from a brutal civil war that officially ended in 2002. But its oil, diamonds, natural beauty (and even dinosaur bones) are attracting business travelers, tourists, and paleontologists.
Location: Angola lies in Southern Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; see map.
Area: Angola covers 1,246,700 sq km, it's almost twice the size of Texas.
Capital City: Luanda
Population: Just over 12 million people live in Angola.
Language: Portuguese (official), Bantu and other African languages.
Religion: Indigenous beliefs 47%, Roman Catholic 38%, Protestant 15%.
Climate: Angola is a huge country and the climate in the north is much more tropical than in the arid south.
The rainy season in the north usually lasts from November to April. The south gets scattered rains twice a year, from March to July and October to November.
When to Go: Avoiding the rains is key to visiting Angola, best time to visit the north is May to October, the south is best from July to September (when it's cooler).
Currency: New Kwanza, click here for currency converter.
Angola's Main Attractions:
- Luanda -- Angola's busy capital is an expensive but interesting place to visit. It's a cosmopolitan capital, with an excellent nightlife, situated on the coast with good beaches nearby.
- Parque Nacional da Kissama -- almost empty of tourists (for now), Kissama is a vast and remarkable wildlife park. Beautiful scenery with plenty of elephants, antelope, and ostriches as well as numerous other species getting re-introduced.
- Benguela Beaches - South of Luanda lie some of Angola's best beaches and a tour should include the laid-back city of Benguela itself.
- Iona National Park -- Angola's largest national park bordering the Atlantic ocean with gorgeous desert dunes, plenty of bird life and slowly recovering its larger mammals after some serious poaching during the war.
Travel to Angola
Angola's International Airport: Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport (airport code: LUD) lies just 2 miles south of Luanda, Angola's capital.
Getting to Angola: International visitors will usually arrive at the main airport in Luanda (see above). Direct flights are scheduled from Portugal, France, Britain, South Africa and Ethiopia. Domestic flights are easy to book on the national airline TAAG and some others.
You can easily get to Angola by bus from Namibia. Getting there by land from Zambia and the DRC can be tricky.
Angola's Embassies/Visas: All tourists need a visa before arriving in Angola (and they're not cheap).
Check with the closest Angolan Embassy for details and application forms.
Angola's Economy and Politics
Economy: Angola's high growth rate is driven by its oil sector, which has taken advantage of high international oil prices. Oil production and its supporting activities contribute about 85% of GDP. A postwar reconstruction boom and resettlement of displaced persons has led to high rates of growth in construction and agriculture as well. Much of the country's infrastructure is still damaged or undeveloped from the 27-year-long civil war. Remnants of the conflict such as widespread land mines still mar the countryside even though an apparently durable peace was established after the death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in February 2002.
Subsistence agriculture provides the main livelihood for most of the people, but half of the country's food must still be imported. To fully take advantage of its rich national resources - gold, diamonds, extensive forests, Atlantic fisheries, and large oil deposits - Angola will need to implement government reforms, increase transparency, and reduce corruption. Corruption, especially in the extractive sectors, and the negative effects of large inflows of foreign exchange, are major challenges facing Angola.
Politics: Angola is rebuilding its country after the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002. Fighting between the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), led by Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), led by Jonas Savimbi, followed independence from Portugal in 1975. Peace seemed imminent in 1992 when Angola held national elections, but fighting picked up again by 1996. Up to 1.5 million lives may have been lost - and 4 million people displaced - in the quarter century of fighting.
Savimbi's death in 2002 ended UNITA's insurgency and strengthened the MPLA's hold on power. President Dos Santos held legislative elections in September 2008, and announced plans to hold presidential elections in 2009.