Most visitors are required to obtain a visa in advance, and this is best done in the visitor’s country of residence. The process can often be lengthy, and business visas require an invitation from a Gabon-based entity; in some cases proof of employment may also be required. Business visas can last for periods of two weeks, 30 days, 90 days and longer, even up to five years with multiple entries. Most foreigners residing in the country are generally required to obtain a residence permit (permis de séjour), which can be provided by their employer.
French is the official language. The most spoken local language is Fang, used in northern Gabon. Approximately one-third of the population speaks Fang fluently, and the country is also home to around 40 other indigenous languages.
Business etiquette in Gabon is similar to that in Europe. A handshake is appropriate for both men and women upon first meeting someone. Once a woman meets someone for the second time, two kisses on the cheek, just as in France, is the norm.
Similarly to many Western countries, business attire consists of the traditional suit and tie combination for men and varies among women. Men occasionally wear traditionally patterned shirts, while some Gabonese women prefer to wear traditional long-flowing robes of all colours.
The best place to receive medical treatment is most likely the military hospital in Libreville. This hospital is considered a model in the region, with standards in line with those in the developed world. For blood screening tests and common health issues like malaria, the Cabinet de Groupe, located in the Montagne-Sainte neighbourhood, is officially approved by the French Embassy and Consulate.
Gabon put a “continuous working day” policy in place in 2010, which means that business hours run from 7.30am to 3.30pm. In the private sector, especially foreign firms, working days follow regular European hours with later closing times.
Gabon uses a 220-V, 50-Hz electricity network. European two-pin plugs, without ground pin, are most widely used. Modern buildings are equipped with European three-pin plugs.
Like other members of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, Gabon uses the Central African Franc (CFA). The CFA is linked directly to the French Treasury and is pegged to the euro at the fixed rate of €1:CFA655.957. Old or torn CFA notes can be exchanged at the Bank of Central African States (Banque des États de l'Afrique Centrale).
While privately owned cars remain the most common means of transportation, taxis are ubiquitous at both day and night. They are easy to flag down and are often shared with others, although it is possible to rent them for individual rides by specifying this beforehand. Rates range from CFA150 (€0.15) for a 1-km journey, to CFA2000 (€3.00) for a longer nighttime trip. A new luxury fleet of taxis (taxi compteur) can be found at high-end hotels.
Although in general around 7% is considered fair, there are no strict rules for tipping. Tipping CFA1000-2000 (€1.50-3.00) for an expensive meal is perfectly acceptable, and generally there is no need to tip for inexpensive meals or drinks on a night out.
The international country code for Gabon is +241. The country currently has four mobile operators. Interconnection rates are often expensive, and many people use two or three different SIM cards to avoid these costs. However, it is relatively inexpensive to make overseas calls. Roaming is somewhat pricey and unreliable, as is internet access, with 3G coverage patchy outside major urban areas.
The country’s two most prominent newspapers are L’Union, an independent publication, and Gabon Matin, which is run by the state. The main Gabonese television channel is the publicly owned Gabon Télévision, and a variety of private operators also operate from Libreville. French and other major international channels are also available by satellite.
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