Luanda Angola Travel Overview. Angola is the 7th largest country in Africa with 25 million souls located on the Atlantic Ocean. While Angola has been inhabited since Paleolithic times and was later colonized by the Portuguese, who appeared beginning in the 16th century. Angola gained its independence in 1975 from the Portuguese. A nearly 30-year, vicious civil war followed independence which engulfed the country in chaos. Angola is rich in resources, from diamonds to gold to oil. In fact, today Angola is rich with a GDP over $200 billion, making it the fourth largest economy in Africa. One thing Angola is not known for is tourism.
Hypothesizing, Angola is a rich petro-state with also a high level of crime, still recovering from a violent civil war. It wasn’t worth the risk of welcoming a handful of tourists and potentially seeing them mugged or killed with a lot of negative western press. There is virtually no tourist infrastructure, is ranked as one of the most expensive countries, and very difficult to get a visa to visit the country.
That is until now.
This is an overview for people who are interested in a two to three-night trip in Luanda.
As of March 30, 2018, Angola made a significant change to its visa issuance program. Angola has now transitioned to an evisa. The website is not perfect, but this makes life significantly smoother. You will need to gather several documents and create scans of passport, passport photo, yellow book, hotel reservation, plane reservation, and bank statements. The website requires very specific document sizes as well as all documents to be in black and white. I made a best effort to follow these instructions, but my work product was not 100% accurate.
I filled out the application and uploaded all required documents. You should expect to receive the evisa letter within 48 hours. It is a very quick turnaround. Please note, the visa requires that you enter within 30 days, so time your application to synch with your flight to Angola.
I had a scheduled trip to southern Africa, and once I learned about the change to evisa, I quickly added Angola to my itinerary. Angola before the change was considered to be one of the most difficult visas to attain. For instance, a US citizen was required to fly or drive to the nearest embassy or consulate, schedule an interview, and get fingerprinted. Rumor even said that your passport photo required you to wear a tie in your photo.
When you arrive at Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport immediately enter the apartment and head to the immigration office on the left. The office is a clean and tidy space manned by a couple of immigration officials manned with large flat screens that made me envious. Hand the official your evisa letter with your passport. They will enter your data and then present you with a receipt. There is a bank in the office which you will be directed to pay your $120 visa fee. Of course, newer, crisp and exact dollars is encouraged. The bank will provide you with a receipt which you will then hand back to the immigration official. The official will enter some more data and present you with your visa attached to your passport. And you will also be fingerprinted at this time.
This process might take a bit of time. There were six people in the office and despite being first, the official batch processed the visas. Once you get the visa, make a beeline for the immigration lines and you will officially be in Angola with your entry stamp.
Grab your luggage off the carousel and you will have to place your luggage through the x-ray machine. The officials seemed semi-lackadaisical and let my bag pass without further inspection.
The lobby is quite compact. But this is where you can get your SIM card. There are two options, a kiosk in the middle of the room and a small convenient store on the right. The SIM card set me back $5 and it was $15 more for 2 GB of data.
There is a robust black market in Angola and it is critical to take advantage of this. The official rate for $1 is 310 Kwanza. Your goal for black market exchanges should be a target of 425 Kwanza for $1. This website will share with you the current black-market rate. At the airport, I attempted to get the black-market rate with the magic words of “precisio cambiar dólares” but was laughed at by a couple of locals offering the exchange.
Only a half a mile from the airport is a gathering place for money changers. A taxi driver at the airport will know this place and will take you here. You will able to get a rate much more similar to the rate broadcasted on this website. I came here once and was able to get 90% of the rate listed on the site.
Exchanging money in the city did not seem extremely accessible. I spent 30 minutes on a Saturday morning with my driver looking for money changes in downtown Luanda. We only found one person who was offering sub-par rates. We were forced to drive to the money exchange place near the airport.
Where To Stay
Luanda, the capital, is considered the most expensive cities in the world for expats. And hotels unfortunately are quite pricey. A great solution is the Thomson Art House. The Thomson Art House is a boutique-like hotel located on the beach. The rooms are modern, clean, and neat. The staff speaks very good English, friendly, and a good resource. The hotel is literally across the street, and there is also a cool-vibe rooftop bar.
The food is also a positive at the hotel. A hearty and good breakfast is included. And dinner is different set menu every evening created by the chef. The dining room is almost like a large family room with a couch and TV and two dining tables. There are not a lot of tourists visiting Luanda, and I noted while the hotel was busy, many guests seemed to be long-term guests who worked in Luanda. The rate for a single room is $100 or 34,000 Kwanza. Again pay in Kwanza with black-market rates.
I only at the hotel so I have no great foody recommendations outside of the hotel. The dinner was a set menu that was good in quality and size. The key is to pay in Kwanza using the black-market rates. Dinner is $45 of 6000 Kwanza ($14 black market rate).
I used Thomson Art House for my transfer. Another option to consider is the App, Allo Taxi, the Uber of Angola. The transfer service is $30 or 4000 Kwanza.
There appears to be two established tour providers in Angola: Angola Travel and Tours and Eco Tur. While I did not use either organization, I did see their prices, which I found extremely expensive. As noted before, there are not many tourists in Angola and hence there is a very limited tourism infrastructure, hence no competition and high prices.
Angola Travel and Tours. ATT offers a day tour of Luanda. For one person, they are charging $399. This tour will take 6-8 hours and does not include lunch.
Thomson Art House. My hotel arranged my city tour with one of the staff from the hotel for $100 for six-hour plus tour of the city. Candido did a solid job of bringing me around the city in a hotel car. This was an incredibly reasonable solution for getting an introduction to the city.
Angola Travel and Tours. ATT offers a 6 hour tour to the ship graveyard. This will set you back $499 for one person. It is approximately 35 km from Luanda.
Thomson Art House. The hotel also arranged my drive to the ship graveyard with a 4×4 and my driver, Eddie. The graveyard is about 90 minutes out of the city. This tour was $125.
To get some more details on visiting the ship graveyard, check in with my friend Jonny Blair who also visited the crazy shipwreck graveyard in Panguila.
I have been told the Calendula Falls are spectacular by fellow travelers, but I was so disgusted by the pricing I opted to skip.
Angola Travel and Tours. ATT offers a two day/one night trip to Calendula Falls with also a visit to the ship graveyard. This trip will set you back over $1,300 for one person. It will include a driver and car and one night in basic accommodation but no meals. This is a long hike, with one-way taking approximately 8 hours in the car.
Eco-Tur. Eco-Tur also offers a similar two day/one night trip to Calendula Falls. This trip will set you back over $2,600 for one person. It will include a driver and car and one night in basic accommodation, and meals. Eco-Tur also offers trips on a regular basis where if you are lucky you can join an existing group. If you can join an existing trip, the cost will be $660 per person.
This is not a scam in the traditional sense, since pricing is transparent. But the prices that Angola Travel and Tours and Eco-Tur seem to have no basis to actual costs in Angola. There is so little tourism in Angola and so few suppliers that these vendors can charge these outrageous prices. Think of Bangkok, a city with countless suppliers and the resulting competitive pricing. Hopefully, tourism arrivals will increase, increasing competition, and resulting in reality-based pricing.
Luanda Angola Travel Overview.