50 Things you need to know before traveling to Angola

After living in Angola for three years, we got to know the country very well and want to share with you our best Angola travel tips with a list of everything you need to know before traveling to Angola!

Angola isn’t the first place anyone remembers when considering traveling or vacations! It’s very difficult to travel, expensive and dangerous. Yet, it receives many travelers, almost all of them business travelers.

Everything about Angola and the Locals

#1 Where is Angola? Angola is located in Southern Africa, and it’s bordered by Namibia (South), Zambia (East), and both Congos (north)! The enclave of Cabinda is the only part of Angola that borders the Republic of Congo. To the West, Angola is bathed by the South Atlantic Ocean.

Things to know about Angola - Top attractions of Angola - Sr. Miguel Fort
The Fort of St. Miguel in Luanda with the huge Angolan Flag

#2 It’s a huge country! The seventh largest in Africa and the 22nd in the World! Despite this, it has a relatively small population, only about 25 Million which makes Angola very sparsely populated! It has one of the lowest population densities in the world.

#3 In such a big country like Angola, the climate varies a lot, from tropical in the north, subtropical in the interior south and center, and desert in the Namibe region… However, in general,  we can say that it has two seasons: a dry, colder season (May to September) and a hot, rainy season (October to April).

In Angola, the dry, colder season is called Cacimbo. You should be aware that when we say colder, it just means that it isn’t scorching hot! You can easily go to the beach during Cacimbo.

Everything you need to know before travel to Angola
Luanda from above

#4 Angola used to be a Portuguese Colony and only became independent in 1975. After independence, it had almost 30 years of Civil War. And even before 1975, Angola was at war for independence for over a decade. That’s 40+ years of war…

#5 The official language of Angola is Portuguese. However, several other local languages are spoken in Angola, Kikongo,  Kimbundu, and Umbundu. These are considered co-official languages.

#6 Very few Angolans speak foreign languages. However, you’ll be better off with English among the foreign languages. Anyway, I would try to learn a few words and expressions in Portuguese to try to communicate.

If you can’t find any other option, maybe you can try Spanish due to its similarity to Portuguese, but I would rely on that only as a last resort option.

#7 Angolan society is very harsh and sometimes aggressive. People are still rebounding from the 40+ years of war, with the horrible things it brings. Furthermore, it wasn’t that long time ago, so many internal and external wounds are still open. I would strongly avoid discussing politics in Angola.

Things to know before going to Angola - A traditional Village in Angola
Traditional Village in Angola

Do you want to know more about the Angola lifestyle? Check our 10 things you need to know about Angola!

#8 Despite its substantial oil reservoirs, Angola is a very poor (107th) and underdeveloped country. On top of this, It also has a really high unequal distribution of wealth, meaning that there are a few people really really rich, and most of the population is very poor. Furthermore, education and Health are also really bad.

Due to the oil industry, Angolan Economy has really grown in the last 15 years, but it still has a long way to go. Many infrastructures were almost completely destroyed in the wars and are still being rebuilt.

#9 Most of the Angolans are black (Ovimbundu, Ambundu, and Bakongo mostly), and some are mixed race. There is also a considerable presence of foreigners in Angola, mostly in Luanda. The foreigners are mainly Portuguese and Chinese. However, you can easily find Americans, French, Indian, Lebanese, Brazilian, and many others.

#10 Angolan love music and dancing, and they are pretty good at it! You can see them dancing everywhere, it’s really part of being Angolan. Kizomba, Tarraxinha, Semba, and kuduro are their most famous music and dance styles.

#11 The biggest shopping in Angola is on the streets of Luanda. You can see street sellers everywhere in Luanda, and they will sell you everything. Think of an object, and I have probably seen it in the streets! From toilet seats to food and drinks, from car parts to invoice books and tennis shoes or clothes… It’s really incredible.

Angola travel Guide - Street sellers in Angola
Street seller in Angola

#12 Is Angola safe to travel to? It depends on what you compare it to, but in general, Angola isn’t a safe country.

Unless you are very adventurous or very used to traveling in this kind of country, we strongly advise you not to travel on your own.  There are reports of robberies and even kidnappings in Angola, particularly in Luanda.

#13 Be prepared to be stopped by the police many, many times while traveling in Angola. They may also hint to you to pay them off to leave you alone… Doing it or not is your own decision and risk.

This usually happens when driving, but it can also happen when you are casually walking down the street… Always have your documents with you.

Travel in Angola and Tourism

#14 There is only one UNESCO heritage site in Angola. It’s the town of Mbanza Kongo, located on a plateau at an altitude of 570 meters. The town was the political and spiritual capital of the Kingdom of Kongo, one of the largest constituted states in Southern Africa from the 14th to 19th centuries. Unfortunately, we have never been there in Mbanza Congo.

#15 Luanda is the capital and biggest city of Angola. It receives almost all the investment, apart from the oil areas! It’s a very messy city but also full of life. The city is generally quite ugly, but the bay of Luanda is beautiful.

The boardwalk (marginal de Luanda) is an excellent place to do your daily exercise, and very close to it, you can find Angola’s National Bank, the currency museum, S. Miguel’s Fort, and other famous landmarks in Angola.

Where to go in Angola? Luanda's boardwalk
New Boardwalk in Luanda

#16 However, the best thing to do in Luanda is to go to the beach. The island of Luanda (not an actual island, you can drive there) has beautiful sandy beaches with warm water. Angolan beaches usually have nice bars and restaurants where you can eat, drink, and have fun.

Also, Mussulo is very close to Luanda and offers some other great beach spots. Mussulo is much less developed than the island of Luanda but also has a few beach bars. To get to Mussulo, you take a taxi boat from Embarcadouro or Benfica.

#17 Miradouro da Lua is a beautiful lookout to a unique landscape created by the winds and water. It’s right outside Luanda on the way to Kissama National Park. Its bright colors make it more beautiful and special.

Things to know when traveling in Angola - Top Travel Destinations to visit in Angola
Miradouro da Lua in Angola

#18 Kissama National Park is Angola’s central Natural Park and is relatively close to Luanda (75km). It’s your best option if you want to do a Safari in Angola. The park is being repopulated after most of the animals were killed during the wars.

Now you can easily see Zebras, Giraffes, Elephants, and several antelopes. The plants in Kissama are also wonderful, with giant Baobab trees.

Click here to see how to do a Safari in Kissama National Park

#19 The beaches of Cabo Ledo and Sangano (almost 100km south of Luanda) are lovely beaches with perfect yellow sand and beautiful warm blue seawater. These beaches are top-rated among expats and locals during weekends as they are a great weekend retreat.

#20 Kalandula falls in the district of Malanje are the most impressive in Angola and are considered to be the 2nd biggest in Africa behind Victoria Falls. They are almost 100 meters high and more than 400 meters wide.

We even consider it one of the best natural wonders in Africa.

things to know when going to Angola - Kalandula waterfall
Kalandula waterfall from above, Angola

#21 However, Malanje has a few other attractions to offer. Besides Kalandula, we recommend visiting the Kwanza Rapids, the Black Stones of Pungo Andongo, and the much lesser-known Musseleje falls. If you want to visit this area of Angola, you should reserve at least two days for it.

Click here to see how to travel to Malange and its main attractions!

#22 We have mentioned some great beaches earlier, but the best beaches in Angola are in Benguela Province! If you have the time, we strongly suggest you visit Benguela and its beaches.

Do you want to go to Benguela? Check how to do a Benguela Road trip

In Lobito, you should go to Restinga, which is similar to the island of Luanda but with cleaner water and sand. Nevertheless, the two best beaches in Angola are located in the south of Benguela: Baía Azul and Baía Farta (our favorite).

things to know before going to Angola - Best Beaches of Angola
Beach of Baia Farta in Benguela

#23 Our favorite region of Angola is Lubango, and believe it or not, it doesn’t have beaches! It’s much calmer than Luanda, making it a perfect place to escape the craziness of the capital.

Cick here to see everything you need to know about traveling to Lubango

Our favorite things to do in Lubando are the Tundavala Gap, driving Serra da Leba, going to the Lubango Sign (Hollywood style), and enjoying the best resort in Angola: Pululukwa.

things to know before visiting Angola - Tundavala Gap in Lubango
Tundavala Gap in Lubango, Angola

#24 Finally, our last suggestion in Angola is the Namib Desert and the Namibe town. You can quickly go there on a day trip from Lubango. This region is very arid and different from the rest of Angola, but that’s what makes it attractive. In the Namib desert, you can find the welwitschia, which only exists in Angola.

Click here to see our complete guide of the best things to do in Angola

What to eat and drink in Angola

#25 Tradicional Angolan food is similar to other African Cuisine, with cassava being the staple ingredient of many dishes. Portuguese cuisine has significantly influenced Angolan cuisine, with many foods imported into Angola by the Portuguese.

#26 Angola has many good restaurants and a few particularly good ones. However, all of them are very, very expensive! Most of these restaurants are obviously in Luanda. Meat, fish, and seafood are usually delicious in Angola because of the high-quality ingredients used.

#27 Cassava is a very important plant in Angola, especially in the North. It is the largest source of carbohydrates in Angola. Angola is the 3rd largest producer of cassava in Africa and is also the biggest consumer.

The leaves of cassava (called kizaca) are used in dishes, usually boiled, and the roots are dried to make bombó and whipped to make fuba (flour).

#28 Funge (a kind of porridge) is the mainstay of the Angolan diet and is made from the referred cassava or corn fuba(flour). The north of Angola uses more fuba of cassava, and the south uses fuba of corn.

The texture of funge is very sticky, even gelatinous, and doesn’t have much of a flavor, so it’s best eaten with the sauce. Funge is more of a side dish than a main dish. It’s a substitute for pasta, rice, or potatoes.

#29 One thing that it’s particularly good in Angola is the roasted peanuts. In Angola, they are called Ginguba torrada and taste amazing. It’s sold everywhere, you can see the vendors roasting them in coal in the streets.

When it comes to peanuts, there’s also paracuca which is Ginguba candy made with sugar and sometimes vanilla, cinnamon, and other spices.

What to eat in Angola ? Ginguba-torrada
roasted ginguba

#30 Angola’s National dish is probably Muamba de Galinha (Chicken Muamba). In this dish, the chicken is slow-cooked with okra, squash, dendém) paste. It is served with funge, and sometimes rice. Dendém is the fruit of the palm tree, and it is used a lot in Angolan cuisine, especially to make palm oil.

#31 Calulu is another typical Angolan dish, and it’s made with dried fish with vegetables, usually onions, tomatoes, okra, sweet potatoes, garlic, palm oil, and gimboa leaves (similar to spinach); It’s often served with funge and beans in palm oil

#32 Finally, we have Mufete, a combination of grilled fish, beans with palm oil,  boiled plantains, boiled sweet potato, cassava flour, and the mufete sauce (a sauce with chopped onion, tomato, bell pepper, lemon, and olive oil).

It is a mouthful of flavor and traveldrafts’ favorite Angolan dish! A must-try for everyone going to Angola!

Angola important facts - Things to eat in Angola - Fish Mufete, traditional Angola Fodd
Fish Mufete, traditional Angola Fodd

#33 There are several commercial beers are brewed in Angola, the oldest of which is Cuca, brewed in Luanda. Others include Eka (brewed in Dondo in Cuanza Norte), N’gola (brewed in Lubango), and Nocal (brewed in Luanda).

Click here to read our guide to Angolan cuisine!

#34 One final word about food safety in Angola… You should be very aware of what you eat and where you eat in Angola. Often ingredients aren´t well washed or preserved correctly, becoming a danger to your health. 

Also, never drink unbottled water. Note that typhoid fever is prevalent in Angola and is contagious through the water.

Angola things to know travel - Street food in Angola
Street food in Angola

Money and Costs of traveling to Angola

#35 The currency in Angola is the Kwanza, and its official exchange rate is 1 USD to 255 Kwanza (July/18). However,  the exchange on the streets is much higher because buying foreign currency in Angola is challenging.

Click here to know everything about the oil crisis in Angola!

#36 Luanda is one of the most expensive cities in the world, being nominated as the most expensive for a few years in a row! However, the rest of the country is pretty expensive, also.

What to know about traveling in Angola - Things about Living in Angola
Angolan National Bank

The economic growth and investment from foreign companies created a very diverse society in Luanda. Actually, more than diverse, it’s a society within another society.

The population in Angola is generally very poor, but a smaller group of Angolans and foreigners are rich or at least get paid exceptionally well.

#37 In such an expensive country, everything is expensive or really, really expensive! However, accommodation and food are the ones that will entirely screw your budget. Paying 3 to 5 times more than almost anywhere else without any added benefits is perfectly normal.

Click here to check the actual prices in Angola and why are they so high!

#38 ATMs usually don’t charge for withdrawing money, however, due to the lack of foreign currency, you’ll get a much better deal exchanging money in an exchange office, and the difference will be very relevant. Note that exchanging money in the streets is illegal.

#39 Tippings isn’t part of the culture in Angola. You round up your bills if you feel like it or want to reward good service, but it isn’t mandatory.

How to travel in Angola

#40 It’s more than probable that you’ll enter Angola through Luanda’s Airport, as 99% of the people traveling to Angola travel to Luanda by plane. There are very few international flights to other cities.

On the other hand, you can easily fly from Luanda to the other big towns, like Lubango, Benguela, Huambo, and so on.

Things to know before moving to Angola - Candongueiros - vans in Luanda
Candongueiros – vans in Luanda

#41 You can catch an intercity bus if you don’t want to fly. Many buses connect the towns; however, they take a lot of time (the country is huge!) and are uncomfortable.

Within the cities, particularly Luanda, forget about public buses. You must take the blue vans (candongueiros) or call a taxi! As a foreigner, I strongly suggest you do not use the vans, but it’s up to you.

#42 The other options would be renting a car or, even better, renting a car with a driver. Renting a car is very expensive, expect about 100USD per day. It will be even more with a driver, but the difference won’t be that big. This solution gives all the flexibility you need, and if you choose to have a driver, you’d also avoid one of the most significant stress sources in Luanda, the traffic.

#43 Traffic in Luanda is a nightmare, particularly during rush hours, in the morning, and at the end of the day. On a typical day, it’ll take you 1h+ to do 10km in Luanda. If it’s a bad day, you may be there for 2 or 3 hours!

Things to be aware when moving to Angola - Traffic jam in Luanda
Traffic jam in Luanda

#44 Even worse than the traffic is the way Angolans drive. It’s completely insane, without any rules or caring for other people or their own well-being. We have seen things that can’t really be explained. If you aren’t used to this kind of driving, I would strongly advise against driving in Angola.

#45 There aren’t highways in Angola, so there aren’t highway tolls also. Actually, the only toll I know in Angola is crossing the Kwanza river, and it’s pretty cheap compared to everything else.

What to be aware when going to Angola - Things to do in Lubango
A clear open road in Angola

#46 Fuel used to be very cheap in Angola, extremely cheap even. However, with the last oil crisis hitting Angola hard, the prices rose because the government stopped subsidizing fuel and even began taxing it. Nowadays, they are still cheaper than most countries, but not as dirt cheap as they were ten years ago.

Other helpful information about traveling in Angola

#47 How is the internet in Angola? The Internet in Angola isn’t very good. The best hotels will have wifi but don’t expect it to be granted or it to work perfectly… 

This has been improving but expect to have problems connecting. You may buy a data card or even a 4G Pen from companies like UNITEL and Movicel. It should work in Luanda and other big cities but may not work far from them. Also, 3G is usually a bit unstable and slow.

Everything about moving to Angola - Pululukwa Resort
Pululukwa Resort

#48 Is Angola dirty? Angola is probably one of the dirtiest countries we have ever been to. Even Cambodia seems clean when compared to Angola! Luanda is much worse than the other cities, but even the others are very far away from clean! Expect to find trash anywhere and everywhere.

#49 How to get a visa to Angola? Angola is probably one of the most challenging countries to get a visa, particularly a working visa. We strongly suggest you get professional help to conduct the whole process. It takes weeks or months, and it’s very frustrating.

things to know when traveling to Angola - Beautiful Angola - Serra da Leba in Namibe
Serra da Leba in Namibe

#50 What vaccines do I need to take before going to Angola? Taking the yellow fever vaccine is mandatory, and you’ll be asked to present your International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP). A few other vaccines are also highly recommended, like polio, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B.

We recommend you see a tropical medicine doctor before traveling to Angola.

Our Recommended Travel Guide Books For Angola

Bradt Travel Guides (Angola)

Angola travel guide book

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50 Things you need to known about Angola

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