COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Cameroon is a developing country in central Africa that offers many natural and cultural attractions, but lacks modern tourism facilities. The busy port and commercial center of Douala, its largest city, contrasts with the relative calm of inland Yaounde, the capital. Cameroon is officially bilingual. French dominates as the language of education and government in all regions except the Southwest and Northwest, where English is widely spoken. Most educated people and staff at major hotels speak both languages. In February 2008, social and political discord led to civil unrest; however, since that time the country has experienced relative stability and peace. Crime continues to be a significant concern throughout Cameroon. Elections for the newly created Senate occurred in April without incident. Legislative and municipal elections are expected sometime between September and November 2013. For general information on Cameroon, read the Department of State Background Notes on Cameroon.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or travel to Cameroon, please take the time to tell Embassy Yaounde about your trip by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date. It is important during enrollment or updating of information to include your current phone number and current email address where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
Contact information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Yaounde
Avenue Rosa Parks in the Mbankolo Quartier, adjacent to the Mount Febe Golf Club
Mailing address: P.O. Box 817, Yaounde, Cameroon
Telephone: 237 2220-1500
Emergency after-hours telephone: 237 2220-1500
Facsimile: 237 2220-1572
Embassy Branch Office, Douala, Cameroon
Corner of Rue Ivy and Rue French in the Ecobank Building in Bonanjo
Telephone: 237 3342-5331
Facsimile: 237 3342-7790.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: A valid passport, visa, evidence of yellow-fever vaccination, and current immunization records are required for entry into Cameroon. You may be denied entry if you lack the proper documentation before entering the country. Airport visas are not available; obtain your visa before traveling to Cameroon.
Cameroon does not recognize dual nationality and considers U.S. citizens of Cameroonian descent to have lost their Cameroonian citizenship. Naturalized U.S. citizens of Cameroonian descent should enter Cameroon using their U.S. passports, and should be sensitive to possible hostility on the part of Cameroonian officials regarding their changed citizenship. See “ Cameroonian-Descent Americans " under Special Circumstances.
Visit the website of the Embassy of Cameroon for the most current visa information. You should obtain the latest information on entry requirements from this website or directly from the Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon, 3400 International Drive, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel.: (202) 265-8790, fax: (202) 387-3826.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Cameroon.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: If you are living in or visiting Cameroon, you are encouraged to stay abreast of local political and social developments that could signal instability for the country. Elections for the newly created Senate occurred in April without incident. Legislative and municipal elections are expected to take place on September 30, 2013. You should remain alert as these elections approach.
Embassy employees have been instructed to refrain from travel outside of city limits after dark, and to be cautious in their movements in centrally located areas within cities and towns. You should follow the same guidelines and not travel by night on Cameroon’s dangerous highways. Armed highway bandits (most notably in border areas); poorly lit and maintained roads; hazardous, poorly maintained vehicles; and unskilled, aggressive, and intoxicated drivers all pose threats to motorists. Attacks and accidents are most common outside major towns, especially in the regions bordering Chad and the Central African Republic, but occur in all areas of the country.
The U.S. Embassy recommends against travel to the Far North Region, which includes the city of Maroua. In February 2013, Nigerian terrorists affiliated with Boko Haram kidnapped a French family travelling from Waza National Park in Cameroon and took them from Cameroon into Nigeria. The French family was released after being held captive for two months, but the situation remains tenuous, and there is a continuing concern that expatriates could be targeted in the Far North Region. The U.S. Embassy has placed restrictions on travel by U.S. officials to the Far North of Cameroon; all U.S. officials must receive advance clearance from the U.S. Embassy to travel to the Far North, including the city of Maroua.
While we alert U.S. citizens against all travel to the Far North of Cameroon, we also urge extreme caution when travelling in the North region of Cameroon, especially in areas which border Nigeria. On May 14, 2013, Nigeria proclaimed a state of emergency in the states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe (Adamawa and Borno states in Nigeria share borders with the North and Far North regions of Cameroon). The Nigerian military has stepped up military operations against Boko Haram in these states. This could adversely affect security in neighboring regions of Cameroon should terrorists cross into Cameroon to avoid Nigerian military operations.
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to neighboring Central African Republic (CAR), and the U.S. Embassy in Bangui remains closed until further notice. On occasion, conflict in CAR has spilled across the border into Cameroon, affecting outposts in the Adamaoua and East Regions. Humanitarian and religious workers in eastern Cameroon are strongly encouraged to coordinate their efforts with the Embassy and the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Yaoundé.
If you are in Cameroon and considering crossing into Chad, you should review the U.S. Department of State's Travel Warning for Chad given past security concerns in the border region with Cameroon.
Cameroon assumed control of the Bakassi peninsula in August 2008. While there have been no reported attacks by armed groups on Cameroonian military forces in the last five years, Cameroon's military authorities restrict access to the Bakassi Peninsula. U.S. official travelers must receive prior approval from Embassy authorities to travel to this area. U.S. employees are not permitted to make personal travel to the region.
Armed robbery at sea and piracy in coastal areas remains a threat. While mostly occurring at sea, criminal groups have also conducted armed raids against lucrative coastal targets including banks. Heightened security measures by the government begun in 2009 have reduced the number of attacks. If you are caught in such an attack, you should comply immediately with any demands made by the aggressors and avoid any action that could be interpreted as an attempt to escape. See our fact sheet on International Maritime Piracy.
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CRIME: Crime is a serious problem throughout Cameroon. U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling in Cameroon. Internet-based crime in Cameroon is escalating rapidly, and everyone, including businesses and other institutions, should be extremely skeptical of any financial transactions that involve sending money for goods, services, or adoptions. Crimes against property, such as carjacking and burglaries, have often been accompanied by violent acts and resulted in fatalities. All foreigners are potential targets for theft with possible attendant violence. Armed banditry has been a problem throughout all ten regions in Cameroon. In January 2011, over 20 Peace Corps volunteers were robbed at gunpoint in Kribi. In December 2010, a U.S citizen who was residing in Douala was murdered, and in Yaounde a U.S. citizen and a British citizen were sexually assaulted in separate incidents in March 2011. In August 2012, a U.S. citizen residing in Bamenda was murdered, and a British family was held at gun point in their hotel room for almost an hour in the middle of the night. Shortly after the attackers left, one of the victims went for help only to be shot at several times. This incident happened in the vicinity of Melong and the Mount Manengouba National Park in the Littoral Region.
In the past, armed bandits have erected road barricades to steal vehicles. While there have been no major incidents of banditry involving westerners since 2010, travelers may encounter random security checkpoints intended to curb the practice. Cameroonian law requires that you must carry identification at all times, and security personnel may request that travelers show their passport, residence card, driver's license, and/or vehicle registration at these roadblocks. You should keep certified copies of these important documents in a secure location separate from the originals. In an effort to monitor road safety, security personnel have also established roadblocks along major highways to check for safety triangles and fire extinguishers. Vehicles without these items may be required to pay a fine. Security personnel have been known to ask for bribes, but normally allow expatriate travelers to continue after delaying them for a period of time. The U.S. government does not condone bribery or corruption of any kind.
There have been many crimes involving public transportation. Taxis can be dangerous; U.S. Embassy personnel cannot use taxi cabs in Cameroon. Taxis in Cameroon function more like a U.S. bus system, with drivers stopping along the road to pick up additional passengers as long as there is space left in the vehicle. Taxi drivers and accomplices posing as passengers often conspire to commit serious crimes including rape, robbery, and assault. If you must use a taxi, consider hiring a driver you know and his/her private taxi for your exclusive use for that particular trip. Taxi passengers should be particularly vigilant at night.
The risk of street and residential crime is high. Incidents often involve gangs and relate to home invasion and kidnapping. Periodic efforts by authorities in Yaoundé to clear streets and public spaces of illegally constructed homes and market stalls can become confrontational, and may contribute to surges in criminality as these very modest homes and businesses are destroyed.
Many crimes involve an “inside man” and target individuals or locations involved with payrolls or other activities involving large sums of cash. Carjackings and robberies have also been reported on rural highways, especially in the northern region near Cameroon's border with the Central African Republic and Chad.
The Embassy has identified a wide range of internet scams based in Cameroon. These schemes cover a broad spectrum of bogus activities, including adoptions, insurance claims, dating, real estate, the provision of domestic services (such as nannies and household help), agricultural products, antiques, and exotic or domesticated animals. Often, these are advance-fee scams where the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value, such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift, and then receives little or nothing in return. U.S. citizens should never send money or travel to Cameroon to meet someone contacted via the Internet without first checking with the Embassy’s Commercial Section. Commercial scams targeting foreigners, many including U.S. citizens, continue to be a problem. The scams generally involve phony offers of lucrative sales and repeated requests for additional funds to pay for unforeseen airport and/or customs fees. Do not share your personal financial or account information.
Additionally, the U.S. Embassy is aware of complaints by U.S. citizens shipping vehicles or other merchandise to Cameroon who are unable to complete the transaction as they had expected, and who have ended up being detained based on these commercial disputes. The ability of U.S. Embassy officers to extricate U.S. citizens from the legal consequences of unlawful business deals is limited. U.S. citizens are urged to complete financial transactions with trusted partners only, insist on written contracts, and to avoid informal agreements.
For more information on international financial scams, including those involving internet dating, a promise of an inheritance windfall, a promise of a work contract overseas, overpayment for goods purchased on-line, or money-laundering, see the Department of State's publication International Financial Scams. If you have concerns about the legitimacy of a transaction in Cameroon, contact the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon. The Embassy’s commercial section regularly assists U.S. citizens seeking to determine the legitimacy of commercial transactions.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
Cameroon has no local equivalent to the “911” emergency line; dial 112 in major cities to contact ambulance services.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are in a foreign country, you are subject to that country’s laws and regulations, even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. Cameroonian law does not afford many of the protections to which you may be accustomed in the United States. Legal proceedings tend to be complex, lengthy, and subject to inappropriate influence. If you violate the law in Cameroon, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses, and the condition of detention centers, while improving, is poor. During the February 2008 civil unrest, there were reports of arbitrary arrests by law enforcement officials. Although no expatriates were known to have been arrested, the Department of State cautions you against venturing out during such periods of unrest.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cameroon are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. There are also some things that might be legal in Cameroon, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in your host country, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Cameroon, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert nearest U.S. Embassy or the Embassy Branch Office in Douala of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the Embassy or Branch Office. In Cameroon, the U.S. Embassy contact number is 22 20 15 00, and is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: U.S. Citizens of Cameroonian Descent: Cameroon does not recognize dual nationality and considers U.S. citizens of Cameroonian descent to have lost their Cameroonian citizenship. Naturalized U.S. citizens should enter Cameroon using their U.S. passports, and should be alert to possible hostility on the part of Cameroonian officials regarding their changed citizenship. Cameroonian law enforcement, customs, and other officials wield significant authority, and disputes with Cameroonian authorities can result in detention, confiscation of documents, and considerable expense and delays to the traveler. You should show the same deference and respect to Cameroonian officials as you would give to similarly ranked individuals in the United States.
Currency: Cash in local currency, the Central African franc (FCFA), is the most common (and almost only) form of payment accepted throughout the country. A few large hotels in Yaoundé and Douala will change U.S. dollars at a poor exchange rate. Larger banks in Yaoundé, Douala, and other cities often have ATMs. Credit card cash advances are not available, and most banks do not cash personal checks for non-clients. U.S-dollar-denominated traveler’s checks are not accepted in Cameroon, and while credit cards are accepted at some larger hotels and shops in Yaoundé and Douala, you should be cautious, as identity theft is endemic in the region. Western Union and other money transfer services have extensive networks in many parts of Cameroon. The U.S. Embassy does not provide currency exchange, check cashing, or other financial services. In recent years, business travelers have experienced difficulty in obtaining adequate services from Cameroon's banking sector. Business travelers find it useful to employ the services of a local agent in the Cameroon market. Counterfeit currency appears to be a growing problem.
Customs: Cameroonian customs authorities may enforce strict import and export regulations, particularly with regard to pharmaceuticals and wood products. Customs regulations restrict trade in ivory and items protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Some wood products available in Cameroon may be made from endangered tropical hardwood. Trading in such banned woods is a federal offense, punishable by civil and criminal penalties in the United States. Please see our Customs Information sheet and the U.S. Commercial Service’s Country Commercial Guide for Cameroon.
Game Parks: While visiting game parks and reserves, tourists should bear in mind that they are ultimately responsible for maintaining their own safety. Tourists should use common sense when approaching wildlife, maintain a safe distance from animals, and heed all instructions given by guides or trackers. Even in the most serene settings, the animals in Cameroon's game parks are wild and can pose a lethal threat. Most game parks require that a professional guide accompany visitors. You should not pressure or pay those persons to be more flexible in their duties.
Sexual Orientation: Cameroon’s penal code punishes homosexual acts with jail terms of up to five years, and the Government of Cameroon actively prosecutes and convicts individuals under this code. Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community are advised to maintain a low profile to avoid harassment, discrimination, and possible detention. Allegations of brutality, illegal searches and seizures, and coerced confessions have been made against law enforcement officials investigating such cases.
Corruption: Corruption is a pervasive problem in Cameroon that has the potential to hamstring business opportunities. Potential investors are encouraged to follow all U.S. and local laws, and remain vigilant in business dealings. The Government of Cameroon takes an active interest in combating corruption, although results have proven uneven.
Photography: While photography is not officially forbidden, security officials are sensitive about photographs taken of government buildings, military installations, and other public facilities, many of which are unmarked. Photography of these subjects may result in seizure of photographic equipment by Cameroonian authorities. Due to the threat of harassment and the lack of signs designating sites prohibited for photography, and the fact that some Cameroonians object to having their picture taken, you should ask permission before taking photographs.
Accessibility: While in Cameroon, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Despite recent legal efforts to improve accessibility, many buildings remain without adequate infrastructure to accommodate persons with disabilities, and sidewalks are limited and poorly maintained in major cities throughout the country.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Cameroon are extremely limited. Even in large cities, emergency care and hospitalization for major illnesses and surgery are hampered by the lack of trained specialists, outdated diagnostic equipment, and poor sanitation. Medical services in outlying areas may be completely non-existent. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services in cash, and require family members or friends to locate and purchase any medical supplies they will need. Pharmacies in larger towns are well stocked, but in other areas many medicines are unavailable. Be aware of the potential for counterfeit medications, often very well packaged, at any location. You should carry your own properly-labeled supply of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
The Centers for Disease Control has a comprehensive review of infectious disease issues and overall health recommendations
for traveling to Cameroon.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. If you will be visiting Cameroon, you will need to discuss with your doctor the best ways for you to avoid malaria. Ways to prevent malaria include the following:
All of the following antimalarial drugs are equal options for preventing malaria in Cameroon: Atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine. For information
that can help you and your doctor decide which of these drugs would be best for you, please see Choosing a Drug to Prevent Malaria.
Chloroquine is NOT an effective antimalarial drug in Cameroon and should not be taken to prevent malaria in this region.
If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in Cameroon, or for up to one year after returning home, you should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician your travel history and what antimalarials you have been taking.
Schistosomiasis is endemic in Cameroon. Avoid wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in, or drinking from bodies of fresh water such as canals, lakes, rivers, streams, or springs.
There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Cameroon. People in high-risk areas can protect themselves by following a few simple rules of good hygiene and safe food preparation. These include scrupulous washing of hands under running water, especially before food preparation and eating, thorough cooking of food and consumption while hot, boiling or treatment of drinking water, and use of sanitary facilities. Above all, be very careful with food and water, including ice. Please see this CDC webpage for additional advice.
Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems and the vaccine, required for entry into Cameroon, is very effective. Measles and meningitis are also present in northern Cameroon. You should be sure your vaccinations are current. Polio remains a threat in northern Nigeria and Chad, which share porous borders with Cameroon.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Cameroon.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Cameroon.
You can find more information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t cover you when you travel, it is a good idea to take out another policy for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance oversea s page. Please note that Medicare rarely pays for health care outside of the United State.
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. Cameroon's road networks, both paved and unpaved, are poorly maintained and unsafe at all times of the year. Drivers frequently ignore road safety rules. There are few road and traffic signs, and speed limits are neither posted nor enforced. Vehicles are poorly maintained and there is no mechanism or requirement to inspect them for roadworthiness. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards, especially at night. Buses and logging trucks travel at excessive speed and are a constant threat to other road traffic. During the rainy season, many roads are barely passable even with four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Travelers on roads near the borders with the Central African Republic and Chad should ensure that they have adequate vehicle
fuel, cooking fuel, food, and water for several days, as well as a reliable means of communication, such as a satellite or
cell phone, or radio.
There are no national or local ordinances governing the use of mobile telephones, text messaging, and other electronic communications while operating a motor vehicle.
Visitors who do not have a valid passport and a visa may experience difficulties at police roadblocks or other security checkpoints. It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of a minor or non-existent violation of local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes. The Embassy advises you not to pay bribes, and to request that police officers provide a citation to be paid at the local court.
Local law states that vehicles involved in an accident should not be moved until the police arrive and a police report can be made. However, if an accident results in injury, be aware that a "village justice" mentality may develop. If an angry crowd forms, drive directly to the U.S. Embassy or another location where you can receive assistance. Contact the local police once you are safely away from danger.
Cameroon has no roadside emergency telephone numbers, but you can dial 112 in major cities to contact ambulance services. U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy 237 2220-1500 if emergency assistance is needed.
Click here for more information about Road Safety.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Cameroon, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Cameroon’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Cameroon dated July 3, 2013, to update the section on Threats to Safety and Security.