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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Gabon

Gabon - Consular Information Sheet
May 25, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Gabon is a developing nation in west central Africa. French is the official language. Facilities for tourism outside the capital city, Libreville, are available, but often limited.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas must be obtained in advance, as airport visas are no longer available. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Gabon, 2035 20th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 797-1000. Travelers may also contact the Gabonese Consulate at 18 East 41st St., Ninth Floor, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 686-6720. Overseas inquiries should be made to the nearest Gabonese embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: In view of recent incidents, the Embassy encourages all U.S. citizens to take extra precautions when traveling in Libreville. To prevent carjacking, citizens are encouraged to travel with their windows up and doors locked at all times. Marginal neighborhoods of the city should be avoided, especially at night. All citizens should avoid walking alone on the beach or other isolated areas, even in daylight. When dining in restaurants or visiting markets, carry only minimal amounts of cash and avoid wearing excessive amounts of jewelry. The Embassy encourages citizens to choose restaurants with locked entrances and security guards to minimize the risk of armed attacks. If involved in an armed robbery attempt or carjacking, citizens are encouraged to comply with attackers to avoid injury and to report all incidents to the Embassy.

CRIME: In Gabon, petty thievery is common. Violent crime is common in urban areas and armed robberies are occurring with greater frequency. The Embassy alerts the American community to exercise caution in the wake of rising criminal activity in Libreville. Home robberies and armed attacks on restaurants frequented by foreigners are becoming more commonplace. Increasing brazen attacks on well-known establishments even during daylight hours suggest a developing trend. While the incidents do not appear to specifically target Americans or westerners, they continue to affect neighborhoods and establishments frequented by foreigners.

In Libreville, U.S. citizens should avoid walking alone on the beach or in other isolated areas, even in daylight; the beach should be avoided altogether during the evening hours. Marginal neighborhoods of the city should be avoided, especially at night. Carry only minimal amounts of cash when visiting markets.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad," for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Gabon's major cities are limited, but generally adequate for routine or basic needs. Medical services in rural areas are generally unavailable. Additionally, some medicines are not available; travelers should carry required medicines and medications with them.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-934-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Gabon is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Poor/Limited

Travel by road in Gabon can be hazardous. It is recommended that you drive with your windows up and your doors locked. Travelers are routinely stopped at police checkpoints within cities and on highways. Travelers should use extreme caution when driving after dark. Two lane roads are the norm throughout Gabon. Roads to outlying cities have visible and hidden dangers that are profuse, including large potholes, absence of road signs, poor to non-existent streetlights, and the presence of pedestrians and animals. Construction work is often poorly indicated. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for travel beyond the paved road to Lambarene, especially during the rainy season. Roadside assistance and emergency medical services are available in Libreville but may not be dependable. Such services are nonexistent outside of the city. Service stations are available along main roads but vehicle repair facilities are not always available. Drivers must have a valid international driver's license (available from AAA and the American Automobile Routing Alliance) when driving in Gabon.

Daytime use of taxis is generally safe as long as the rider specifies the "course" (exclusive use/not shared) to the driver. Rail services are available, but not dependable. Travelers should be prepared for delays.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, home page at http://www.travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Gabon, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Gabon's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA internet home page at http://www.faa.gov.avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air services for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.

All aircraft landing at Leon Mba International Airport in Libreville are assessed airport landing fees, which must be paid in cash. The exchange rate for dollars at the airport is extremely unfavorable; payment in French francs or Central African Francs (CFA) avoids exchange rate loss.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Gabon's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Gabon are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

CURRENCY INFORMATION: Travelers are advised to check with local establishments to determine what type of bankcard usage is permitted. Some hotels access various credit cards. Many grocery stores take Visa bankcards only, although, in addition, some will ask for the four-digit PIN. Other institutions take only locally issued Visa cards. Additionally, phone connections used to verify internationally issued Visa cards are occasionally down, making them non-functional. Traveler's checks may be cashed at local banks.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting Gabon are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Libreville and obtain updated information on travel and security within Gabon. The U.S. Embassy is located on Boulevard de la Mer. The mailing address is Centre Ville, B.P. 4000, Libreville, Gabon. The telephone numbers are (241) 76-20-03/4 or 74-34-92.

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