While in Guinea-Bissau, be sure to visit these 4 places
The Internet is full of outdated and inaccurate information about places to visit in Guinea-Bissau (West Africa), with plenty of posts written by aggregators who have obviously never set foot in the country. So we thought we’d compile a list of places to visit – written by people who have actually been there.
Guinea-Bissau is one of the least-visited countries in West Africa. It’s home to less than 2 million people. It’s not easy to get here. The only direct flight from outside the African continent to Bissau departs from Lisbon, Portugal.
How to get a visa to Guinea-Bissau
Figuring out how to get a visa to Guinea-Bissau can be confusing. If you have a contact in-country, they may be able to help you. But in a pinch, you can land at the Bissau airport and buy one for $120 USD or 55,000 XOF (the local currency) from the immigration office at the airport.
But once you get to Guinea-Bissau, adventure awaits! Here are the top four places to visit in Guinea-Bissau.
Bijagos Islands, Guinea-Bissau
This archipelago of mostly uninhabited islands is considered an untapped potential for tourism in Guinea-Bissau. Despite the potential, the islands are very under-developed, though they do have some hotels (especially on the islands of Bubaque and Rubane).
So is this destination in Guinea-Bissau worth the journey? If you like to travel to places off the beaten path and discover remote corners of the world, then yes! Also, if you enjoy sport fishing, you’ll find several hotels that will help set up offshore big-game fishing trips.
The most common way to get to the islands is by taking a ferry, speedboat or a large motorized canoe from Bissau, the capital, to Bubaque, one of the Bijagos islands. None of these options are great. Sometimes, the ferry is operating; other times, it’s not. In the past, tickets have been sold at the Bissau port for trips on a large motorized canoe (about a 5-hour trip each way). An alternative is to hire a speed boat, but it will cost you a few hundred U.S. dollars.
Finally, in the past, there have also been chartered flights from Bissau to Bubaque on small propeller planes. These planes will land on an open dirt airstrip.
The best way to find out which options are currently available to get to the island is by contacting a hotel on one of the islands.
On the island of Bubaque, you’ll find a small port town and a few small beaches on the south side. The real gem is Praia Bruce, the miles long beach on the south side of the island (about a one-hour car ride from the Bubaque port). Here you’ll find pristine sands stretching as far as you can see, with hardly any tourists. Do watch out for stingrays in the water!
Perhaps the nicest hotel on the islands is Ponta Anchaca on Rubane. In the past, the hotel offers a free speed boat trip from the Bubaque port to the hotel (less than 10 minutes). Here, you can enjoy lunch for the afternoon, or stay in one of the hotel’s beachfront suites.
Beyond Bubaque and Rubane, there are another 80+ islands to explore, including the famous Orango island with its salt-water hippos.
Fera bandim, Bissau
Like most cities in West Africa, Bissau (the capital of Guinea-Bissau) has sprawling, chaotic, over-crowded markets with hundreds of vendors. The biggest market in Bissau is known as “Fera Bandim.” Simply drive down the main road from the airport to the city center (“prasa”) and you can’t miss it. Once you reach the part of the road with overhead pedestrian walkways and a divider fence between opposing lanes of traffic, you’re in Fera Bandim.
On the main road, you’ll find small shops and plenty of women selling fruits and vegetables on the sidewalk at Fera Bandim. But beyond the main road is an endless maze of booths and shops. Enter into the Fera Bandim market through one of its narrow pathways and you’ll soon be surrounded by the bustling energy of Bissau.
Like traveling through any market in West Africa, a local guide is recommended. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for any pick-picketers. With that said, there is a common understanding that everyone in the market looks out for everyone else. We heard one story of a woman who left her camera somewhere in the Fera Bandim market accidentally. Hours later, she returned to the shop where she left it and was promptly returned to her. But of course, there’s no guarantees the same thing will happen for everyone!
Cacheu, Cacheu Region, Guinea-Bissau
About 100 kilometers from Bissau (the capital of Guinea-Bissau) is a small town called Cacheu that sits on a salt-water river. It’s a rough ride on “paved” roads the whole way there. Most of the road to get to Cacheu is full of potholes, and some parts are completely degraded.
However, just the adventure of traveling along the roads – past miles and miles of cashew and mango tree forests, rice fields, and small villages – is rewarding for those who are willing to endure some discomfort.
There’s not much to do in the town of Cacheu, but it makes for a nice quiet destination away from the noise of Bissau. There’s an old stone pier next to a small café-bar. There’s a tiny old Catholic church to see nearby, as well as a small Portuguese “fort” (known as Fort Cacheu) with partially intact bronze statues of Portuguese explorers.
Hundreds of years ago, this fort was used as a way-point in the Portuguese slave trade. Nearby, a museum shares the history of the town and the fort.
Kusalindra is one of the best-hidden gems in Guinea-Bissau. The area features a freshwater swimming hole surrounded by stone and beach sand. Numerous spots for camping are right by the water, and large canopy trees mean there are plenty of shady spots to stay cool. Temperatures can reach high numbers during the day and UV rays can easily be over 11 by 11 AM, but frequent dips in the water will keep you refreshed and long sleeves will protect you from the sun. The last few kilometers of road leading to Kusilindra can be somewhat precarious, but definitely passable.
A quick swim across the swimming hole with be rewarded with one of the most beautiful views in Guinea-Bissau. A gradual cascading waterfall with eroded rock outcroppings and rapids creates a beautiful swirling display. Not only that, but this is one of the places in Guinea-Bissau where a fresh water and salt water source mix, leading to two different colors of water that feed into one another. Wake up early, and you might see the calm water blanketed with a thin layer of fog and fishermen gliding through the water in canoes. End the day with a game of soccer on the sand field next to the lake and take a dip in the water between goals to stay cool!
If you’re looking for a relaxing place with great swimming and gorgeous views, then Kusilindra is a great choice.