Luanda

Luanda Travel Blog

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One of the things that I like on travbuddy is when you receive a notification that someone is travelling to the same place and the same time as you. On this occasion it was somebody with whom I have corresponded with before on TB. MattLV has a similar profile to mine except he's travelled to more places (the swine) and he had tentatively arranged to go to Angola, I say tentatively as the Angola visa has always been a difficult one to obtain and he was in the process of applying for his. 

Angola is an oil rich nation and have not really needed tourism, tourist visas were difficult to obtain and in addition Luanda is one of the most expensive cities in the entire world. I'd heard tales of $25 burgers and $70 taxi rides from the airport 4kms to downtown. 

However things are changing. The price of oil has slumped and Saudi led OPEC who would control price by dictating supply have now been kept in check by the US who now have abundant oil from shale fracking (well this is how I see it). Countries like Equatorial Guinea and Angola are now issuing tourist visas for alternative income streams (there are rumours that Saudi Arabia are about to as well). I obtained my  visa with little fuss in London. Matt (from the US) needed to be fingerprinted at his nearest consulate in LA. We arranged to meet up.

Matt had also heard another rumour that there were 2 different exchange rates. The official bank rate and the "dual" rate as I chose to call it that seemed to amuse Matt. I took his advice and took US dollars cash along with me. 

I was due to arrive in Luanda a night and day earlier than Matt and chose not to rush to my hotel on arrival and spend some time at the airport to see what I could establish. The bank rate was approx 150 Kwanza to 1 US dollar. In baggage claim there was a bureau offering 230kwz to the dollar but he refused to change money for me as my visa was a tourist visa ? No idea why but thank goodness. I spoke with a lady on the flight who informed me she got 50,000 Kwz for $100 when she was there 6 months earlier. This did not compute with me at the time (I thought she must be wrong, or something got lost in translation...me no fala Portuguese) but when I was approached at another shop/kiosk after collecting my bags I was offered 46,000 for $100 Wow.... I exchanged $200. 

The going rate for a taxi downtown is about 5,000kwz however at night this can go to 7-9,000. So official rate $33, unofficial $12.  Angola was starting to become affordable. 

I negotiated a taxi for Kwz 7,000 and my driver couldn't find my hotel despite telling me he knew where it was and Me having the address. Finally he asked another taxi driver after driving aimlessly around late night Luanda and this driver led the way whilst we followed behind. My driver asked for 10,000 I told him to go take a hike telling him the other driver deserved it more. I think he kinda agreed. 

Reception was closed at Rouxinol boutique hotel and I was shown to my cardboard box by a security guard. I soon found what $100 dollars/night bought you in Luanda. My room was a bed with walls. I could touch both walls with my feet and hands lying on my bed, there was no toilet or sink. I was not impressed but calmed a little when I was moved to a room adjacent to a bathroom. As it happened the air conditioning was good, the bed comfortable and the staff were great. It was in a quiet and safe location, I warmed to the place, just as well I've got 5 nights here !

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Luanda
photo by: Bluenose