The Portuguese and Spanish influences have left a legacy of bureaucratic complexity in Equatorial Guinea. Getting things done requires a lot of paperwork, and paperwork takes a lot of time. For those looking to set up a business, Equatorial Guinea was ranked 186th out of 189 countries by the World Bank in terms of the challenges faced in starting a business in 2015. Expect 18 separate procedures and an average of 135 days (and a lot of money) from starting the process to finishing.
You must carry either your passport or residence permit with you at all times when in Equatorial Guinea and produce it on request. You will find that you are asked to do this repeatedly while travelling around Malabo or Bata for any length or time, or moving from province to province. It is also important to have all vehicle documentation in order before setting out on a journey, as insurance and registration details can also be requested. In reality though, it is not a good idea to hand over your passport to security officials. Try to carry a laminated colour copy (with visa, entry stamp and ID page clearly shown) instead as this is usually accepted if you reassure them your original is in your hotel. You can quickly and cheaply get one of these made at any of the internet cafés dotted around Malabo or Bata.
The majority of Equatorial Guinea’s visitors arrive at Malabo or Bata international airports. In fact, given the difficulty of overland crossings from Gabon and Cameroon, these may be your only options.
Malabo’s airport is 8km to the west of the capital city and is quick to reach with no traffic. It is used by both military and civilian aircraft. A new international airport has been built in Mengomeyén to service Oyala (the proposed new capital city on the mainland), and there is another on Corisco, but for the time being, Malabo is your best bet for getting into the country. Aircraft arriving here feature an interesting mix of Western oil workers, crew-cut security contractors, diplomats, Middle Eastern businessmen, well-off locals, regional visitors and the odd conservationist.
Domestic airlines in Equatorial Guinea have a poor reputation for safety by international standards. If you choose to brave an internal flight, ticketing options are varied. Some airlines require purchase in cash at their office, whereas others will allow you to buy through their website with a credit card, and even have an online check-in facility. Some travel agencies, both in Equatorial Guinea and abroad, will be able to issue you with a domestic ticket. Punto Azul are the best domestic airline, and it is worth paying extra to fly with them rather than the national airline Ceiba Intercontinental Airlines. Punto Azul’s punctuality and reliability is superior, and they are less likely to lose your bag.
There are no public railways in Equatorial Guinea, so if you are not flying then you will be using the road network to travel around. The majority of the roads in Equatorial Guinea are paved and are of good quality, so you need not be concerned with having a 4×4 to access major towns and settlements. Driving conditions can become dangerous with torrential downpours, however, especially as many vehicles on the roads are poorly maintained. It is best to avoid driving at night or during adverse weather. You will find you need a 4×4 for certain unpaved roads, and the newly completed road from Luba to Ureca on Bioko, which has an extremely steep gradient.