Luanda, the capital of Angola, is on the Atlantic coast. Its current renaissance is a truly inspiring success story. Decades of conflict, which only really ended in 2002, had long held Angola back. The start of the 21st century has seen a massive boom in construction in Luanda, where peace and stability have attracted numerous foreign companies to invest in offices in the city. The government of Angola, getting rich off revenue from oil, diamond, and other natural resources, is also investing heavily in and around Luanda, including large social housing high-rise blocks of flats to replace slums and existing dilapidated (and often bullet-ridden) tower blocks; extensive repaving; the construction of several six-lane highways leading out of the city; the reconstruction of railway lines leading out of the city; and a large new airport on the south side which had been set to open in 2011 but which is more than ten years in the making and still not open as of early 2016.
Luanda was founded in 1575 under the name São Paulo de Loanda by a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers. Two forts were constructed in the early 17th century and the city became Portuguese Angola's administrative centre in 1627. From the late 16th century until 1836, Luanda the was port where nearly all slaves bound for Brazil left. Aside from a brief period of Dutch rule (1640–48), this time period was relatively uneventful, with Luanda growing much like many other colonial cities, albeit with a strong Brazilian influence as a result of the extensive shipping trade between these Portuguese colonies. The independence of Brazil in 1822 and the end of slavery in 1836 left Luanda's future looking bleak, but the opening of the city's port to foreign ships in 1844 led to a great economic boom. By 1850, the city was arguably the most developed and one of the greatest cities in the Portuguese empire outside Portugal itself and fuelled by trade in palm and peanut oil, wax, copra, timber, ivory, cotton, coffee, and cocoa. After slavery officially ended (resisted by the Portuguese but enforced by the British) forced labour began. Numerous imported crops grew well in the surrounding area to support residents, such as maize, tobacco, and cassava. In 1889, an aqueduct opened, supplying fresh water and removing the only inhibitor to growth in the city. The city blossomed even during the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–74), which did not affect the city, and this modern city was even labelled the "Paris of Africa" in 1972.
After so much success, the city took a turn for the worse in the mid-1970s. While largely untouched during the Carnation Revolution (Angolan independence), the start of the Angolan Civil War in 1975 scared almost all Angola's population of Portuguese descent out of the country as refugees (including the majority of Luanda's population). This led to an immediate crisis as Angola's African population knew little about how to run or maintain the city. They were helped a little by skilled Cuban soldiers who were able to help the MPLA government maintain some of the city's basic services, but hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled fighting in the countryside created slums stretching for miles on all sides of the city. The city saw some sporadic fighting during the Civil War which left bullet holes in many high-rises and government buildings. When peace was achieved in 2002, the government began planning to rebuild using oil revenues. Today Luanda's skyline is dotted with cranes, erecting numerous social housing apartments to replace slums and existing, but grossly dilapidated, 40-plus year old high-rises as well as offices for numerous foreign companies operating in Angola. Just South of Luanda in an area aptly called Luanda Sul, Western-standard housing, many compound style, is being built for the growing expat community. Major improvements are being made to roads, highways, and the rail system in and around the city but there is yet an overwhelming amount of work to be done. And while certainly still home to a large impoverished population (59%), free housing and the creation of thousands of new jobs each year means that Luanda may in years to come have a bright future ahead.
The climate is largely influence by the offshore Benguela current. The current gives the city a surprisingly low humidity despite its low latitude, which makes the warmer months considerably more bearable than similar cities in Western/Central Africa. The city receives an average of 323mm (12.7 in) of rain a year, mostly in March and April and no rain from June through October. However, this is quite variable depending on the strength of the current and the coefficient of variation is 40% (there can be a sixfold difference between rain received in the driest of years and wettest of years). The temperatures are fairly stable year-round, with the coldest months being July (24° max/19° min)and August and the warmest months being January (31° max/25° min) to April.
Luanda is divided into nine (soon ten) municipalities: Ingombota, Maianga, Sambizanga (centre), Samba, Rangel, Cazenga, (middle ring), Cacuaco, Viana, Kilamba Kiaxi, as well as the newly created municipality of Belas (periphery).
In the centre (Ingombotas and Maianga) the oldest colonial town is divided in Baixa de Luanda (lower Luanda, from the port to the fortress), Cidade Alta (upper city, where the presidential palace is), and Ilha do Cabo (a peninsula surrounding the bay, with beaches and expensive night-clubs, bars and restaurants). Behind and above the historic centre, central bairros include Maianga and Alvalade (residential) and Miramar (embassies), as well as Kinaxixe and Maculusso, which are characterised by Portuguese apartment blocks. Further outside the centre, the neighbourhoods become more informal (self-construction), dotted with 1970s Cuban apartment blocks and new developments. In the South, luxury gated communities (condominiums) predominate.
Despite the city's very low tourist numbers, it has a surprisingly large number of international connections, which largely service Angolans living abroad (such as in Brazil) and the growing number of firms servicing the oil and diamond industries as well as reconstruction (done largely by Chinese workers and Brazilian firms). A couple of carriers still operate routes based on Cold War alliances (to Havana & Moscow).
The city is the hub of national carrier TAAG Angola Airlines, one of just three profitable airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa, which offers flights to 15 Angolan cities. They offer flights to many cities in West-Central/Southern Africa including daily flights to Johannesburg as well as Douala, Cameroon; Sal, Cape Verde; Bangui, CAR; Kinshasa, DRC; Brazzaville & Pointe Noire in the Congo; Windhoek, Namibia; Sao Tome, Sao Tome and Principe; Lusaka, Zambia; Harare, Zimbabwe. Their long-haul offerings include: Dubai, Beijing (via Dubai), Lisbon, Paris, and trans-Atlantic flights to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.
Aside from TAAG, SonAir serve about a dozen airports each around the country. International service includes flights to/from: Dubai (Emirates), Frankfurt (Lufthansa), London-Heathrow (BA), Paris-de Gaulle (Air France), Windhoek (Air Namibia), Brussels (Brussels Airlines), Havana (Cubana, seasonal), Moscow (Aeroflot), Beijing (Hainan, via Dubai), Addis Ababa (Ethiopian), Lisbon (TAP Portugal).
Delta Air Lines was to commence weekly flights from Atlanta (via Sal) in June 2009, but delayed its large African expansion until 2010 due to the financial crisis. TAAG was removed from the EU blacklist in July 2009 and (as of Aug 09) is expected to introduce more flights to Europe in the near future (specifically London-Gatwick). The airline had sought to begin a service to Houston, USA when it received new Boeing 777-200ERs in 2006, but was rejected for its poor maintenance/safety record.
When leaving the country do not take any Kwanza to the airport as it is illegal to try to take Kwanza out of the country; you may be stopped by the fiscal police and receive a heavy fine (all your Kwanza taken and most of your other money) or imprisoned.
Rail services in Angola have seen an dramatic improvement over the last few years. Reconstruction and modernization are carried out by Chinese firms, rehabilitating what was once one of the most extensive rail network in Africa during under colonial rule. However, trains are of limited use for the tourist as they mainly serve commuters. An exception is the long distance services from Malanje. Notice that rail services still have a reputation of not being fully safe.
The main road for tourists will be the coastal highway leading north to the DRC and South to Namibia. It is very scenic and in reasonably good repair. Roads are one of the top priorities in reconstruction efforts, including a handful of six-lane highways leading out of the city. Expect a mix of okay pavement on old highways and a smooth ride on new roads.
The National Bus Service has just re-opened but routes are not organized yet. There are some local services in Luanda and in between cities.
As of 2007, there was a ferry operating from Luanda to the Cabinda exclave, useful to avoid a transit of the DRC. It takes 14 hours and costs $180 (including a bike), so you may be better off flying.
The government is currently investing in an expansive a bus system and attract Luandans to use it.
A popular means for locals to get around the city is by mini bus taxis (Candongueiros), easily identifiable by their pale blue and white. Although they are considered dangerous by most expats, locals use them on a daily basis. During the daytime, until around 8PM, they are a safe, convenient, and usually very fast means of transport in the inner-city. Fares are 100 Kwanzas per trip, except in rain or heavy traffic, in which case the fares are doubled.
Consider to use the Macon Taxi a private taxi company (around 20 / 30 USD trip).
Eco Tur also do 4x4 / minibus hire and airport transfers with bilingual drivers (email@example.com) +244 912 501 387
B Home will provide airport pick ups and are available for hire (drivers) +244 222 264 423 B Home has offices in Luanda, Angola and in Houston, Texas. +1-281-444-5988 (Houston Office).
A new company Afri-taxi started operations at the beginning of January 2010, in time for the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament. The company will have 150 vehicles in Luanda and a rank at the airport.
The roads in Luanda are generally of okay standard, as is the case on the main routes between cities, but elsewhere road quality greatly decreases. Don't be surprised if you encounter unexpected problems during the rainy season. In Luanda main streets are paved, but streets in the slums are in disrepair, and most roads have no lines or signals. As mentioned before, there are improvements being made throughout the city. Congestion is a major problem with lack of public transport and the plethora of minibus taxis.
- Augostinho Neto Mausoleum, ☎ +244 222334835. Upon arrival in Luanda, it is impossible to miss the towering obelisk-like structure shooting above the rest of the city. If you're curious to know what it is and why it is there, it's a mausoleum dedicated to Augustinho Neto, the first President of Angola who helped in Angola's struggle for independence.
- Fortress of São Miguel (Fortaleza de São Miguel), Calçada de S. Miguel. Built in 1576, it became the administrative center of Luanda during the early part of colonial rule and was a self-contained city for the early military garrison and an important holding place for slaves. It contains ornate wall tiles detailing the history of the city along with many relics, such as cannons and the original holding cells for slaves.
- National Museum of Slavery (Museu Nacional da Escravatura), ☎ +244 222371622. 9AM to 6PM. Built in the area where the slaves were held prior to being taken off to the Americas. The museum building is the Capa de Casa Grande, which is where they baptized slaves prior to sending them off to the Americas. Currently (Aug., 2011) the museum is worth seeing for the chapel itself and the cannons on the outside. In the center of the chapel is a fascinating stone font, but with no description. There are a few period objects of real interest (such as stocks, a whip, shackles), but the framed prints on the walls are mostly copies from published works, with relatively little accompanying information. On a mid-week visit there was no evidence of any knowledgeable guide, and no one available to turn on the video flatscreen monitor that seems to be part of the exhibit. Still, the high, windswept location is beautiful.
- National Museum of Natural History, Nossa Senhora da Muxima, ☎ +244 222334055. A museum filled with thousands of species of animals, including fish, birds, crustaceons, and insects. Many of the displayed animals are endangered, and some are even extinct. The museum does an impeccable job of displaying the large amount of diverse organisms that inhabit and once inhabited this nation.
- National Museum of Anthropology (Museu Nacional de Antropologia), Av. de Portugal 61, ☎ +244 222337024. Dedicated to educating people about Angolan history and culture, the National Museum of Anthropology features an impressive array of traditional masks along with art, sculptures, tools, weaponry, jewelry, clothing, and musical instruments. Free.
- São Pedro da Barra Fortress (Fortaleza de São Pedro da Barra). A fortress that served a variety of purposes throughout its history. It was originally constructed in the 17th century to protect the area from invaders. When the slave trade began, it was then used as a keep for the slaves until they were ready to send them away. Throughout Angola's struggle for independence against Portugal from 1961-1975, the fort housed nationalists who were arrested and then forced into labor camps.
- Igreja Nossa Senhora do Pópulo (Igreja da Sé). Considered to be the first Anglican Church, it is one of Luanda's most treasured cultural and historical sites. The current structure dates back to 1482. Aside from its religious significance, the unique Baroque architecture and the lavish interior attract many visitors.
- Igreja da Nazare. A church built in 1664. It is famous for its beautiful altar made of Italian rose marble.
- Humbi-Humbi Art Gallery.
Additionally, you MUST try the Benfica market, which sells everything from perfume to ivory to animal skins and tourist guidebooks. Also take the boat out to Mussulo, the best beach in town.
Jobs are mainly available in the oil sector, but also in the increasing number of international Angola based companies which are investing in Angola now that peace and stability are offering great development prospects for the country. It started giving life to every body in the country.
Local crafts, they are at extraordinary low prices, check out the Benfica HandCrafts Market just south of Luanda.
- Doniel Tomas (Constantino), Maianga Luanda, ☎ +244 924091680.
- Belas Shopping, Av. Luanda Sul. 9AM to 10PM. Opened in 2007, it is Angola's first shopping mall. It features nearly 100 different shops, a movie theater, a variety of restaurants, and a central square for live entertainment.
The majority of restaurants are on The Marginal or on Ilha De Luanda. Be careful; when eating out, do not drink the tap water.
- Ilha de Luanda is where Luanda's elite go to dine and have fun.
The Belas Shopping mall has a food court with a variety of options from local foods to pizza and burgers.
- Panela de Barro
- Chez Wu Chinese
- Macau Chinese
- Espaço Baia.
- Chill Out, ☎ +244 924 282810.
- Don Quixote.
Luanda city is largely influenced by Portuguese culture, - Portuguese beer is widely consumed, although Heineken and Carlsberg make an appearance. Super Bock, Sagres, and Cristal (most consumed) are the most consumed beers from Portugal. Besides, you may find a broad range of local beers such as Nocal, Cuca (the most consumed - especially the excellent draught version, or "fino" in Portuguese)and Eka. Surrounding countries also try to find lucrative market, so don't be surprise when in other beer brands are served in local restaurants. Try Portugalia (Portuguese Beer House) at the beginning of the Ilha, or either of the two boat clubs just on the Ilha for a nice sundowner (Clube Nautico and Clube Naval).
Don't forget the excellent Portuguese wines also widely available.
- Eden Club, ilha de Luanda, ☎ +244 924991999. 22h00. Discoteca;Dj licinho bruno AG Clessio dance, semba, house, and salsa. 22usd.
- The Alvalade Hotel
- The Palm Beach Hotel.
- Le Presidente Luanda. A 4 star hotel in the city center. Single $264, double $303.
- Rouxinol Luxury Guesthouse (4 Stars) (Hotel Rouxinol), Beco de Moçambique nº 16, Bairro Cruzeiro, ☎ +244 923 745 078 (Farah), +244 923 581 308. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 14:00. Near the Embassies in Miramar and the centre of town. $180-400.
- Inn Luanda (Inn Luanda Boutique Hotel Type), Rua Francisco Sá de Miranda, nº 50, ☎ +244 922687350, +351 919863637. Boutique hotel located in residential area close to center. Very clean and good air-con with free WiFi. Breakfast was included and they can prepare lunch and dinner. The manager speaks English. Single $225, Double $245, Triple $275.
- The Tropico Hotel
- Hotel Globo, Rua Rainha Ginga 100, ☎ +244 222 332 179. One of the few low cost hotels in Luanda, an ageing three-story building from the days of modernist architecture and neon signage.
As far as safety is concerned, Luanda is average among African cities. Don't venture into the slums...period. Don't go out at night alone. Keep your car doors locked at all times. Violent crime has been on the rise, but it is mostly in the slums. The colonial part of the city is safe from violent crime; but like most African cities, pickpocketing or muggings are a fact of life. You will greatly reduce your chances of such if you stay low key: no fancy clothes or car, use a money belt, etc. The city is an expensive place to live and Angolans have realized that most expats in the city are high-salaried employees from large corporations, so you should especially avoid business attire.
Do not give beggars money; if you do, you will soon have a lot of them surrounding you.
This is Central Africa...many police in Luanda are very corrupt. Check for their identity number (should be located on an arm band near the shoulder) and you may present charges against any abuse. As a visitor, it's important to carry an authorised photocopy of your passport at all times. Otherwise, you WILL get an on the spot fine or worse, courtesy of the police. Do not carry your original; the police may ask for it and keep it until you pay a "fine".
Embassies and consulates
- Consulate of Canada, Rua Rei Katyavala 113, ☎ +244 222 448-371, +244 222 448-377, +244 222 448-366, fax: +244 222 449-494, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Avenida 4 de Fevereiro 120 Caixa Postal 1295 Luanda, ☎ +244 222 334516, (912) 508146, fax: +244 222 37 25 51. Mondays to Friday- from 09:00 to 12:00 or by appointment.
- Consulate of Greece, Av. 4 de Feveiro 82, 2 o Andar, Apt. 1, Zip Code 2177, Luanda, ☎ +244 23 96 852, fax: +244 23 96 171.
- Embassy of the Netherlands, Empr. Comandante Gika Edificio Garden Towers - Torre B - Piso 8, Travessa Ho Chi Minh - Bairro Alvalade, ☎ +244 222 310686, +244 222 311511, fax: +31 847300850, e-mail: email@example.com. Mondays to Friday- from 08:00 to 16:00 on friday till 13:00.
- Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, Rua Comandante Nzagi 25/27, Alvalade, ☎ +244 222 321421, fax: +244 222 321724.
- Embassy of the United Kingdom, Rua Diogo Cão 4 Caixa Postal 1244, ☎ +244 222 334582, fax: +244 222 333331. Mondays to Thursday - from 08:00 to 12:30 and 13:30 to 16:30; Fridays - from 08:30 to 13:00.
- Embassy of the United States, Rua Houari Boumedienne, #32, ☎ +244 222-641-000, fax: +244 222-641-232, e-mail: ConsularLuanda@state.gov. Consular assistance (for US citizens) available Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday from 2PM-4:30PM.
- Embassy of Israel, Rua Rainha Ginga #34, Edificio Siccal, ☎ +244 222-395-195, fax: +244 222-396-366, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go a bit south of Luanda and you will find the outstanding Parque Nacional Da Kissama (also spelled Quiçama in Portuguese), home to elephants, antelope, exotic birdlife, ostriches, zebras, wildebeest, and giraffes, which are still thriving in great numbers but because tourism is just beginning to start in Angola, it still has a bit of a wild side to it. It is also very beautiful with spectacular views.
Eco Tur run trips there in specialised 4x4 game viewing vehicles, be in the wild and beautiful bush and on the magnificent Kwanza River within 3 hours ! www.eco-tur.com +244 912 501387 / +244 923 601601 / +244 923 602420
Kissama Game Park, a beautiful and enormous national game park just 2 hours south of Luanda recently restocked. Contact Eco Tur who run safaris there in specialist game viewing vehicles www.eco-tur.com / +244 912 501387 / +244 923 601601 / +244 923 602420