Angola Travel Guide: Essential Facts and Information

The Serra da Leba road in the province of Huila in Angola near the town of Lubango.

Kostadin Luchansky/ Angola Image Bank/ Getty Images

Angola's recent history is marred by civil war, which began immediately after the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975 and only concluded in 2002. Today it remains largely unvisited by mainstream tourists, in part due to safety concerns and partly because of inflated prices and limited infrastructure. However, those that choose to take the path less traveled will find a challenging destination made special by untamed beaches, wild national parks and vibrant emerging cities.

Note: Check the latest travel warnings before planning your trip to Angola.

Location

Angola is a large country in Southern Africa, located on the Atlantic coast in between Namibia (to the south) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (to the north). It shares an inland border with Zambia as well. Cabinda Province, a disputed exclave of Angola, is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.

Geography

With a total land mass of 481,353 square miles/ 1,246,700 square kilometers, Angola is the seventh largest country in Africa. For comparison, it is slightly less than twice the size of Texas.

Capital City

The capital of Angola is Luanda, a port city on the northern Atlantic coast.

Population

A July 2017 estimate published by the CIA World Factbook put the population of Angola at just over 29.3 million people. The three most prominent ethnic groups are the Ovimbundu, the Kimbundu and the Bakongo.

Language

Portuguese is the official language of Angola and it is spoken by approximately 71% of the population. Accounting for 23% of the population, Umbundu is the most widely spoken indigenous language.

Religion

The overwhelming majority of Angolans are Christian, with 41.4% identifying as Roman Catholic and 38.1% identifying as Protestant.

Currency

The country's currency is the Angolan kwanza; use this online converter for the latest exchange rates.

Climate

Angola has a sub-tropical climate influenced by the cold Benguela current that flows along the coast and the altitude of its interior plateau. There are two distinct seasons - a cool, dry season that runs from May to August and a hot, rainy season. The latter runs from September to April in the north and center of the country and from November to March in the south. The southern coastline sees very little rain at all and has an arid desert climate.

When to Go

For most visitors, the best time to travel is during the May to August dry season when humidity is minimal and the weather is generally cool and pleasant. This is also the best time for game-viewing in Angola's national parks, because a lack of available water draws wildlife to rivers and waterholes where they are easier to spot.

Key Attractions

Incredibly, the Angolan capital is often touted as the most expensive city in the world with prices inflated by oil wealth and corruption. For those with cash to burn, it's worth a visit for its excellent Portuguese seafood restaurants and the beautiful beaches of Mussulo Island (located just offshore). History buffs will appreciate the city's museums and colonial landmarks.

Located just south of Luanda, Parque Nacional da Kissama is Angola's most rewarding game-viewing destination. Although wildlife populations were decimated by poaching during the civil war, you're now likely to see reintroduced elephants, zebra and giraffe alongside the critically endangered giant sable antelope. Sea turtles nest along the park's protected coastline.

Angola's cultural capital, Benguela, is a popular vacation destination on the central coast. It's known for its laid-back vibe, picturesque colonial architecture and for the breathtaking beaches that litter the immediate vicinity. The best of these include Blue Bay, with its towering cliffs and crystalline waters; and the long stretch of white sand at Praia Morena.

Standing 345 feet/ 105 meters tall and approximately 1,300 feet/ 400 meters wide, Kalandula Falls is one of the largest and most impressive waterfalls on the continent. It's not particularly easy to get to (you'll have to self-drive or hire a taxi from the nearest town, Kalandula), but the sight and sound of Mother Nature in full force makes the effort worthwhile.

Getting There

For now, most visitors enter Angola via Quatro de Fevereiro Airport (LAD) which is located in Luanda and served by airlines including TAP Air Portugal, Lufthansa, Air France and Emirates. A new gateway, Angola International Airport, is currently under construction and expected to open sometime in 2019. Most visitors will require a visa, and they are notoriously hard to obtain (see this article for an idea of what to expect and the official government website for a list of required documents). Start the process well in advance of your intended departure.

Medical Requirements

In addition to ensuring that your routine vaccinations are up-to-date, the CDC recommends that travelers to Angola be vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid. Malaria prophylactics are necessary throughout the country and you may want to consider hepatitis B, cholera and rabies vaccinations as well. Above all, all visitors MUST have proof of yellow fever vaccination in order to enter Angola, even if they aren't traveling from a yellow fever country.