Did We Have Luck Talking Our Way Into Angola?

Filed Under: Travel

Hello from Luanda! I’ll have more on our TAAG flight from Lisbon to Luanda shortly, though first wanted to share a funny situation we encountered.

As some of you may know, Luanda is generally regarded as one of the world’s most expensive cities, and Angola is also one of the toughest countries in the world to get a visa for, assuming you’re not traveling for business. However, I’ve heard that they’re sometimes flexible at immigration, and that it might be possible to talk your way into the country.

So we figured we’d give it a try for our roughly five hour transit. We’d obviously have very limited time to actually visit the city, though more than anything we were curious if it was possible. Also, having flown into Luanda at sunset, I now really want to visit, as it looked nicer than I was expecting.

Anyway, upon landing you can either head towards immigration or international transit. If you head towards immigration, the first stop requires you to provide your yellow fever vaccination. We’ve all had the vaccination, though stupidly two of us didn’t bring the form, since we had no plans to enter the country.

But last minute we still decided to give entering the country a try. We handed the guy our passports and explained we didn’t have our forms on us. He held onto our passports and told us to wait. As it turned out, that was because he needed to wait for all the other passengers so he could then leave his station.

He took us to the airport health clinic. I figured he was going to suggest that he give us shots on the spot, but really the clinic looked like it hadn’t been used in a long time. It had an awful smell and flies buzzing around, and rather seemed to mostly be used as a back office.

At this point my friend who speaks Portuguese had the following conversation with him, as he relays it:

“Do you not have your vaccination cards?”
“No we don’t, however we’ve all completed our vaccinations.”
“Okay, well… do you wish to enter Angola?”
“Well, we are transiting to Brazil in a few hours time and we wish to have dinner in Luanda.”
“Oh… okay. So you wish to enter Angola?”
“Well, we wish to have dinner during transit.”
“Okay… so where are your visas?”
“Oh we’re just in transit. We don’t have visas.”
“Okay, but where are your vaccination cards?”
“Unfortunately two of us don’t have our vaccination cards.”

I’d note that up until this point the door to the room was about a third open, and at this point he told us to close the door behind us, which is pretty telling.

“So do you wish to enter Angola?”

Given that we weren’t willing to take this conversation to its alternative natural conclusion, we excused ourselves at this point and headed to the international transit area. Now we’re enjoying the TAAG lounge, which doesn’t even have a functioning toilet.

For others, it sure seems like entering Angola without a visa is negotiable (the catch is that you’d need an onward ticket anyway, since they wouldn’t let you board if your destination is Angola and you don’t have a visa).

  1. So the guy wanted a bribe. Out of service to your readers, you should have found out how much it would have cost if “you want to enter Angola”!

  2. Please note:
    From 30 March 2018 Angola will start issuing tourist visas valid for 30 days on arrival in Luanda to visitors from 61 countries (including USA and all EU citizens) who are holding proof of accommodation and subsistence means, a return ticket and the international certificate of vaccination.

  3. Give them one of those million dollar question fake bills that proselytizers love. Christianity as colonialism worked once, ought to work a few more times.

  4. So, why wouldn’t you be “willing” to give him a few dollars? Especially for the cool experience of seeing the town for dinner instead of the sub-par lounge. Not to be critical, just didn’t quite make sense to me- as who knows when you’ll be back.

    Hopefully soon though, seeing as how you mentioned you Did want to visit it now, and few people have had the experience!
    At any rate, safe and happy travels onward!

  5. I think it wasnt very wise trying your way without visa,another officer would have caused you deep trouble and make you arrest,you seems to forget this is Africa,they can put you in jail under any fake excuse,i dont find this very funny at all,specially asking fir such service you woukd have expected to give something in return,not everything is miles and points.
    I was born in Africa and raised there so i know what am saying.

  6. You went that far. You could have at least heard his price…. Or offered one yourself.
    You’ve spent thousands on questionable resorts in the past. This would have at least been a good story!

  7. The city looked nice?! I went only once, two and a half years ago. Unless they’ve been investing that oil money in the city, that place looked and smelled horrible in many places. I stayed in the most expensive hotel ever in my life at $500 a night: the Epic Sana hotel. From my room window I took pictures of mini slums scattered throughout downtown. And driving around in a van, which the driver insisted we always kept locked, there were giant piles of trash here and there I guess for the trash disposal company to pick up. It was awful. Again, maybe things changed a lot in 2.5 years. The hotel was very nice, best breakfast buffet I’ve ever had, but that is literally the only positive experience I had in 4 days there.

  8. What a bunch of naive noobs. Ridiculous blog.

    Even TIMATIC clearly states “Vaccination against yellow fever required.” with the only exception being Children under 9 months of age. I’m willing to bet that neither of these yahoos are vaccinated against yellow fever. It’s an expensive, painful, vaccination needed only for a few countries.

    It also states “Passengers with a confirmation that a visa has been approved before departure can obtain a visa on arrival.”

    This is the most pathetic post and truly makes this blog questionable. There is ZERO excuse for traveling to a new country without doing basic homework.

  9. “We’ve all had the vaccination, though stupidly two of us didn’t bring the form, since we had no plans to enter the country.”

    Check the entry requirements for Brazil. With the Angola stamp in your passport (which you fortunately didn’t get) you’d be *required* to show proof of yellow fever vaccination that two of you forgot. Which meant if they were carefully enforcing entry requirements when you arrived in Brazil you’d be screwed if Angola *had* issued entry stamps.

    “A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is only required for travellers coming from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

    BTW keeping your UN immunization certificate always packed in your carry-on avoids potential deportation issues. Just saying….

  10. @Jake:

    I think the point is they hadn’t planned on entering Angola from the outset so there was no need to get the vaccination since they’d just be transiting. The last minute decision is what caused the consternation and the bribe request. I’m sure they’d have been fine if they slipped the dude a couple of $20 notes, vaccinations or no. Save your outrage for something more worthwhile.

  11. A quick bribe would get the door open, doesnt have to be much $50 would’ve probably done the trick. Although the dinner could’ve gotten expensive then. 😉

    I once crossed the border from Namibia to Ruacana by accident. I may have had an accident in my pants when a truck with 4 armed men jumped out and started shouting at us in Portuguese.. Luckily they accepted a small fee (the only cash we all had in our wallets at the time.. almost $100 in total) to escort us back to the Namibian side.

  12. It’s lucky (no pun intended) that you didn’t enter the country without a visa, you would most likely have had a far bigger problem leaving it. The trick is as old as the World all over Africa and the real champs at it are the Nigerians.

    And if your TAAG plane ever leaves the ground, it is likely to be in the same state as the FC Lounge. This idea of trying out TAAG was a weird one from the onset.

    Good luck. Or if you prefer, Break a Leg.

  13. I was in Luanda for work for a week last November – trust me, it looks MUCH MUCH nicer from above than it actually is!! And when they say it’s expensive, they’re not joking – we paid $400 a night for our hotel, granted it’s probably the best hotel in the city but it’s not even that nice.

    Good luck with your layover!

  14. The way I read this post: “This is so funny! We tried to enter a country illegally and the immigration official wouldn’t let us! Isn’t that funny?”

  15. I don’t get why you didn’t just paid the bribe? You wouldn’t have wasted the officers time. You would have experienced a bit of the city which is certainly more interesting than the lounge. And your readers would have a data point on the process and price to get into the country.

  16. I used to visit Angola for work regularly and it was always a mess to 1/get the visa 2/enter the country. But that doesn’t end up there… once you’ve entered the country, every occasion is good for them to get your money. I ended up spending 1 day in prison after they took my passport and decided the visa was not good and had to call the embassy to get me out (obviously, I also had to pay some $1.000)…. for NO reason.

  17. @Jake – It’s always hilarious when the sanctimonious bores such as yourself get everything completely wrong. Maybe try reading a bit harder next time – I’m sure you can do it!

  18. You didn’t have visas and you wanted to enter Angola by just “trying” anyway. You didn’t realise this would require a bribe. What are you? 12?

  19. You can get visa on arrival after March 2018 for pretty much all the first world nations. Just fyi

  20. Why is Angola so expensive and why is it so difficult to get a visa? Doesn’t a country have to be desirable to travelers to command high prices and have stringent entry requirements? My impression was that Angola is a third world backwater (or as Trump might say, a s***hole country). I don’t get it.

  21. All, don’t forget, Lucky is a business, and he is there as past of his business, so really he CAN’T pay a bribe, especially if he’s going to write about it. The FCPA would like come into play here and he could get in massive trouble back in the U.S. This might fall under the facilitation payments proviso that would make it okay, but it’s not a sure thing and would still need to be investigated. Smart he didn’t try it.

  22. @Charlie McMillan – I suspect the visa difficulty is due to the desire for bribes. Angola is a very desirable destination for oil company employees. Angola is indeed very much a third world country, and due to the level of corruption in the country the government leaders siphon off all the oil revenues, leaving the general population in deep poverty. Do a Google search and you’ll see that the former president’s daughter (Isabel dos Santos), who now lives in Portugal, is one of the wealthiest people in the world.

    As another commenter mentioned, Luanda looks a LOT nicer from the air than on the ground, though if one gets out of the city, Angola is quite beautiful and has some tremendous national parks.

    As to yellow fever vaccinations being painful, whomever said that has never had a yellow fever vaccination. Utterly painless.

  23. Perpetuating the ugly American / European stereotype. This comes off as very entitled and lessens my opinion of you.

  24. Was on a small ship that landed in Lobito/Benguela port we all had visas, but if you didn’t have yellow fever you weren’t going ashore, and $ didn’t change it.

  25. You may have been able to get into the country with a “gift” to the officer but could there have been an issue getting out of the country after only 3 hours?

  26. @john, that’s what I was gonna say? surely they have exit immigration like most countries? When they see you don’t have a visa and ask how you got in? Im assuming another bribe to get out too

  27. A number of facts are glaringly wrong here:

    i) “Angola is also one of the toughest countries in the world to get a visa for, assuming you’re not traveling for business” — yeah, no, it is extremely difficult for business too. Expect to spend a year (or a couple) chasing this visa, pouring money and time into it. I’ve had bribes returned (in part, of course….) with an apology, “sorry I couldn’t figure it out”. Really is a unique country – where else do you get refunds on bribes? 😉

    ii) “Also, having flown into Luanda at sunset, I now really want to visit, as it looked nicer than I was expecting.” — sorry to break the news, but it looks much less nice when it’s light out and you can see the piles of shit, trash, homeless alcoholic kids, etc everywhere.

    iii) “So do you wish to enter Angola?” — this is funny. This interaction is like going to starbucks, ordering coffee, and then making conversation with the cashier instead of handing over your credit card. So…. do you actually want your coffee… might wanna pay for it if so. Not that I think that would’ve let you into the country either.

    For anyone who really wants to visit Angola, these are the first things you need to do: 1) reconsider; 2) find someone who understands the country, and is aware and up-to-date of what’s happening there; 3) find someone with connections, so that, you know, you actually have a shot at making it there and back. This is made even more complicated by the fact that Luanda is an ugly clusterf*ck, whereas the countryside is a beautiful clusterf*ck, so you are f*cked no matter what. Watch for mines and kidnappings on the drives out to the countryside…

    I am not kidding – it really isn’t a country you can figure out by yourself. Simply isn’t. Trying to do that is a dangerous suicide mission. There have been great fares there lately (including on TAP, which is a decent mainline airline), so it is really important that your readers understand that. Case in point — look at the wealth of information and trip reports on DR Congo on wikitravel, and compare to Angola’s empty pages!

    But – sorry you couldn’t get some good Angolan food during your transit. Luanda isn’t exactly the place to look for it either…. next time you are in Lisbon, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll gladly show you some great Angolan food to compensate! 🙂

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