COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Gabonese Republic is a developing nation on the western coast of central Africa with a multiparty presidential government. French is the official language; few Gabonese speak English. Facilities for tourism outside the capital city of Libreville are available, but they are often limited and can be expensive. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on Gabon for additional information on U.S. - Gabon relations.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or travel to Gabon, please take the time to tell our Embassy 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 when you update your information to include your current phone number and email address where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Libreville
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: A passport, visa, and proof of vaccination against yellow fever are required. You will need to get your visa in advance, as airport visas are not available. U.S. citizen travelers without the required visa have been refused entry into Gabon. Tourist and business visas to Gabon are issued at the Embassy of Gabon, 2034 20th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, and the Consulate of Gabon at 18 East 41st Street, Ninth Floor, New York, NY 10017 (email ConsulatGabon@aol.com ). To obtain a visa for Gabon, you will need the application form, your passport, your itinerary and reservations, the visa fee, a photo, your International Certificate of Vaccination (Yellow Card) proving that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever at least 10 days before entering the country, and a prepaid return envelope. You may call the Gabonese Embassy at (202) 797-1000 or the Consulate at (212) 683-7371 to obtain the latest visa information. You should bring the supporting documentation that you provided with your visa application to prevent delays upon arrival in Gabon. Overseas, the nearest Gabonese embassy or consulate can assist you. Short-term visitors to Gabon are normally permitted to stay for up to 90 days. U.S. citizens with a residence permit (carte de sejour) must obtain exit visas from the Direction Générale à la Documentation et l’Immigration (DGDI, formerly known as CEDOC), before departing Gabon.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Gabon.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Sheet.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: You should be aware of your surroundings and personal security at all times. Political rallies have been held from time to time, and have occurred as recently as August and September 2012. Evengatherings intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational. You should avoid large gatherings, protests, demonstrations, and any other event where crowds congregate.
In the event of a fire, dial the following phone numbers for fire departments in Gabon’s major cities: Libreville (01-74-09-55 or 01-76-15-20), Port Gentil (01-56-27-75 or 01-56-27-76), and Franceville (01-67-75-67, 01-67-75-68, or 01-67-75-69).
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CRIME: Petty theft is common in Gabon. Violent crime is more common in urban areas, and there have been armed robberies in homes, restaurants, and at beaches frequented by foreigners. On some occasions, U.S. citizens and Europeans have been the victims of crime.
The U.S. Embassy in Gabon encourages you to take extra precautions when traveling in Libreville. To prevent carjacking and petty theft, you should travel with your car windows up, doors locked, and items of value hidden from view. The Embassy has received reports of scams where thieves cause a distraction to motorists, such as stepping in front of cars in tight traffic, in order to create opportunities for cohorts to snatch and grab from unlocked passenger doors. These incidents have occurred during daylight hours. Riding in a taxi alone or during late hours of the evening is not recommended and increases your risk of becoming the victim of crime. Carjackings and violent incidents of road rage have also been reported to the Embassy. These incidents have also occurred during daylight hours. We have also received reports of police harassment of U.S. citizens at checkpoints, and U.S. citizens should carry identification at all times, as described more fully below.
You should avoid marginal neighborhoods, poorly lit streets, and unfamiliar areas of the city, especially at night. You should not walk, run, or stay on the beach alone or in groups after dusk. When dining in restaurants or visiting markets, you should carry a minimal amount of cash and avoid wearing flashy or expensive jewelry. If you are the victim of an attempted robbery or carjacking, you are encouraged to comply with the attacker to avoid injury and to report all incidents to the police and the U.S. Embassy. Police response time to reports of crime is often slow.
Scams or confidence schemes do occur in Gabon. For general information on scams, see the Department of State’s Financial Scams web page.
Credit cards are not widely accepted except at hotels, and because of the high rate of credit card fraud, you should exercise
caution when using them. Some hotels only accept credit cards with a European-style microchip. While withdrawing funds from
ATMs, you should exercise the same safety precautions as in the United States as they are targeted by thieves.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. You will find these products being sold on the streets, local shops, and in market places. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, carrying 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:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line to reach the police in Gabon's major cities are the following phone numbers: Libreville (01-73-90-00) Port Gentil (07-29-63-89) and Franceville (01-67-72-76 or 01-67-72-94).
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Gabon, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own and criminal penalties vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, 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 Gabon, 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 wherever you are.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Gabon, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Language: The official language of Gabon is French; if you do not speak French, you will face difficulties in communication associated with the language barrier.
Identification: You should always carry identification and proof of legal immigration status in Gabon—such as a residence permit (carte de sejour), your U.S. passport, or a legalized photocopy of your U.S. passport biographic information page and your Gabonese visa page—with you in case you are stopped at a police checkpoint. City hall offices in Gabon can legalize passport photocopies for a nominal fee.
Photography: Taking photographs of the Presidential Palace, airport, and military or other government buildings is strictly forbidden.
Official Corruption: Official corruption is common, but paying bribes is strongly discouraged and may make you a target for further attempts at securing bribery payments.
Currency: Gabon is largely a cash economy. Credit cards are accepted at only a few major hotels, and, because of the high rate of credit card fraud, you should exercise caution when using them. Travelers’ checks can be cashed or dollars exchanged for Central African Francs (CFA) at hotels and banks. ATMs are available in major urban centers, and dispense CFA. You should exercise the same safety precautions as in the United States while withdrawing funds from ATMs as they are commonly targeted by thieves.
Accessibility: While in Gabon, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. There are no laws prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities or providing for access to transportation, communication, buildings, or services. There is some societal discrimination against persons with disabilities, and employment opportunities and treatment facilities are limited.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Gabon's major cities are limited, but may be adequate for routine or basic needs. Medical services in rural areas are either unavailable or of very poor quality. Additionally, some medicines are not available; you should carry your own supply of properly-labeled medications to cover your entire stay. For medical emergencies in Libreville, the emergency room at El Rapha Polyclinic, a private clinic, can be reached at 01-44-70-00, 01-20-01-03 or 07 98 66 60,and an ambulance can be requested through them or by calling 13-00 from a Gabon telecom landline.
Tap water may not be potable; you should drink and cook with bottled water only. Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is endemic to Gabon. For further information, please consult the information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on schistosomiasis. Tuberculosis (TB)is an increasingly serious health concern in Gabon. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Malaria is endemic. Travelers should discuss prophylaxis with a physician well before planned travel to Gabon as some prophylactic medications must be started two weeks before arriving in a malarial zone. Even with prophylaxis, you should familiarize yourself with the symptoms of malaria and seek medical treatment immediately if you experience symptoms. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on malaria.
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 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. Medicare does not pay for any medical care received outside of the United States or its territories. 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 overseas page.
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.
If you drive a vehicle in Gabon, you are required to have a Gabonesedriving license (permis de conduire), vehicle registration (carte grise), proof of insurance (assurance), proof of vehicle inspection (visite technique), fire extinguisher (extincteur de feu), triangles (triangles), and first aid kit (boite de soins de premiers secours). The police may verify that you have all of the required documentation and equipment if they stop you on the road or at police checkpoints.
Travel by road in Gabon can be hazardous. You should drive with your car windows up and the doors locked. Travelers are routinely stopped at police checkpoints within cities and on roads to the interior. You should comply politely if stopped, but avoid encouraging requests for bribery if possible. You should use extreme caution when driving after dark. Two-lane roads are the norm throughout Gabon. Roads to outlying cities are usually unpaved. There are many visible and hidden dangers including large potholes, absence of road signs, poor to non-existent streetlights, timber-laden trucks, and the presence of pedestrians and animals. Construction work is generally poorly indicated. Drivers may change lanes or stop unexpectedly. Lane markings are frequently ignored. 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 they may not be dependable. These services are nonexistent outside of the city. Service stations are available along main roads, but vehicle repair facilities are not always available. Bus service exists in Libreville, but buses are infrequent and routes are not generally convenient, so most people use taxis to get around the city. Use of taxis is generally safe, but does pose added risks. You should use a hotel taxi when possible. Before entering a taxi, check that the taxi has seatbelts and negotiate the rate for your trip. Rail services remain available, but infrequent, and travelers should expect lengthy delays.
Talking or texting on a cell phone while driving in Gabon is against the law.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Gabon, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Gabon'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 Gabon dated November 8, 2012, with updates to the sections on Embassy Information, Crime, Special Circumstances, Safety and Security, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.