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Equatorial Guinea - Health and safety
With Dr Felicity Nicholson. For up-to-date information on health issues across Africa, click here.
Equatorial Guinea, like most parts of Africa, is home to several tropical diseases unfamiliar to people living in more temperate and sanitary climates. However, with adequate preparation, and a sensible attitude to malaria prevention, the chances of serious mishap are small. To put this in perspective, your greatest concern after malaria should not be the combined exotica of venomous snakes, stampeding wildlife, gun-happy soldiers or the Ebola virus, but something altogether more mundane: a road accident. Within Equatorial Guinea, a range of adequate (but well short of world-class) clinics, hospitals and pharmacies can be found around Malabo and Bata, although outside these urban areas you will struggle to secure decent medical care.
Doctors and pharmacists generally do not speak English, so unless you have some Spanish you will struggle to make yourself understood. Also worth noting is that consultation and laboratory fees (in particular malaria tests) can be quite expensive by international standards, especially in the clinics frequented by expatriates.
Crime and violence
The level of violent crime in Equatorial Guinea is relatively low compared with other countries in the region and there is a strong police presence in most urban centres (which is a mixed blessing). It is still important to take security precautions to avoid becoming a victim of crime, as crime levels, especially those targeting expatriates, are reportedly on the rise. These crime levels also increase markedly during the Christmas holiday season.
There are few no-go areas in Equatorial Guinea in terms of crime rates. Most areas to avoid are more due to the sensitive nature of the site to the authorities. You may not access the very peak of Pico Basilé as this is a military site. Approaching or photographing the presidential palace is also a bad idea, as is photographing the presidential motorcade as it passes by. In fact, it is best not to go near or photograph any site that has the potential to upset the authorities. This includes prisons, military bases, communications infrastructure, airports, bridges, dams, power plants or government buildings. These are all listed on your Tourism Permit.
Levels of sexual violence are relatively low, although lone female travellers should still exercise caution. Avoid travelling at night, staying in shared accommodation or travelling in local shared taxis. Security is much better at the higher-end hotels. Since July 2013, there has been a noted increase in crime directed against women, including expatriate women, by groups posing as taxi drivers and passengers, who will hold people hostage at knife-point and rob them. This is especially a problem in Bata, although it has also occurred in Malabo. Sexual assault directed against foreigners is extremely rare, although recently, a very violent rape of an American energy company employee occurred as she was on her way to board a company shuttle bus.
Gay and transgender travellers
There are no specific laws to criminalise same-sex sexual activity in Equatorial Guinea (it has been decriminalised since 1931). The age of consent for homosexuals is also the same as for heterosexuals: 18. However, the prevalence of Catholicism and the conservative nature of society mean that homosexuality is not widely accepted, and societal stigmatisation and discrimination is strong, with little effort made by the government to combat it. There are very few openly LGBT individuals in Equatorial Guinea. Within the expatriate-dominated bars, clubs and hotels of Malabo and Bata, openly LGBT travellers are unlikely to elicit much attention, although it is advisable to avoid public displays of affection in more conservative, rural areas.