Guinea-Bissau

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Guinea-Bissau, (website in French), is a former Portuguese colony bordered by Senegal to the north and Guinea to the south and east.

Population: 1,660,870 people
Area: 36,125 km2
Highest point: 300 m
Coastline: 350 km
Life expectancy: 49.50 years
GDP per capita: $1,200
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About Guinea-Bissau

History

Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Gabu, part of the Mali Empire; parts of this kingdom persisted until the eighteenth century. Early reports of Europeans reaching this area come from the mid 15th century. The rivers and coast of this area were among the first places colonized by the Portuguese in the 16th century, the interior was not explored until the 19th century.

The Portuguese tried desperately to hang on to their colony much longer than other European countries. An armed independence rebellion began in 1956, but it was not until 1974 that the Portuguese finally accepted independence for Guinea-Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau's post-independence history has been chequered. A civil war in 1998, followed by the imposition of a military junta in 1999 has been replaced with a multi-party democracy. The economy remains fragile, however hopes are high.

Climate

Guinea-Bissau is warm all year around and there is little temperature fluctuation; it averages 26.3 °C (79.3 °F). The average rainfall for Bissau is 2,024 mm although this is almost entirely accounted for during the rainy season which falls between June and September/October. From December through April, the country experiences drought.

Food

Most Guineans eat rice with fish, because the country is rich in fish, and rice (homegrown or imported from Thailand) is relatively cheap. The more costly meals contain beef, goat, chicken or pork. Meals are also made with palm oil and peanut sauces and diverse vegetables. Guineans also eat wild/game meat (deer, monkey, beaver etc.) but these animals are considered to be in danger of extinction and so it is not recommended to support this. Guineans are known for their warm heartedness and so you will always be asked to come have a bit with a group of people (it is common to eat from a large bowl)..."bin kume, no kume"

Fruit available depends on the season, but mangos, papayas, oranges, grape fruits, bananas, cashews and peanuts are abundant. Also try the sour "fole" fruits and the baobab fruit juice (sumo de cabaceira). Imported fruit can be bought in "fera de prasa" in the center of Bissau (apples, pears, pineapples, watermelons etc.) but is more expensive than in Europe.

Vegetables sold in the markets include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, parsley, okra, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, chili, sweet potatoes.

Street snacks are typically sandwiches with hardboiled egg, omelete, fish or beef - or donuts, cake or hardboiled eggs. Frozen juice in small plastic bags is popular among locals.

Drinks

The people of Guinea-Bissau love to drink a sweet green tea known as "warga", the non-Muslims also enjoy drinking cashew wine or palm wine. There are also possibilities to buy Portuguese beer, wine and soft drinks but these are more expensive. It is recommended that foreigners only drink bottled, filtered or boiled water.

Shopping

The West African CFA franc (XOF) is used by Guinea-Bissau. It is also used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. While strictly a separate currency from the Central African CFA franc (XAF), the two currencies are used interchangeably at par throughout all CFA franc (XAF & XOF) using countries.

Both CFA francs are guaranteed by the French treasury and are pegged to the euro at 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs.

In December 2007 the first ATM's arrived to the country of Guinea-Bissau - in the BAO (Banco da Africa Occidental) branches of Bissau and Gabú. An ATM is also being set up in the Hotel Malaika in Bissau. These ATM's only function if you have a local account with that bank. So, leave your credit card/bank card at home because it will do you no good. Probably still safest to bring euros or FCFA enough to cover the time you plan to stay. Western Union is present in Bissau (eight locations), Bafatá, Gabú, Buba, Canchungo and Mansoa. (They will rip you off by taking 10%.)

The largest market in the country is Bandim Market, which is on the main road going into town. You can buy many things there and the atmosphere is nice. Otherwise there are small vendors on most roads of the capital. In the villages (Tabankas) you will also find small vendors selling the necessities. In the main towns in the countryside there are larger markets called "Lumo", which give farmers and merchants the possibility to sell/trade their goods. Don't forget that Guinea-Bissau is a poor country and as such the possibilities for shopping are smaller than in the Gambia or Senegal.

Useful creole shopping phrases: Ke ku bu misti? (what do you want?) N mistil (I want it) N ka mistil (I don't want it)

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Guinea-Bissau on Wikivoyage.

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Points of Interest in Guinea-Bissau

  • Forests of Jemberem - Cantanhez Natural Park, where you can see chimpanzees with a little luck.
  • Varela Beach

French Cultural Center - Bissau

Varela Beach - Varela

Fort of Cacheu - Cacheu

Bolama Court - Bolama

Bissau Velho - Bissau

Porto Pidjiguiti - Bissau

Fortaleza d\'Amura - Bissau

Presidential Palace - Bissau

Estadio 24 de Setembro - Bissau

National Ethnographic Museum - Bissau

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