ETIQUETTE: Business etiquette in Gabon is similar to prevailing customs in France. 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.
DRESS: Much like in 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.
LANGUAGE: French is the official language and lingua franca of Gabon. The dominant local language is Fang, spoken by the eponymous tribe from northern Gabon. Approximately one-third of the population speaks Fang fluently, and the country is also home to around 40 other indigenous languages that are regularly spoken.
CURRENCY: Gabon uses the Central African franc (CFA), like other members of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa. The CFA is linked directly to the French Treasury and is pegged to the euro at the fixed rate of €1:CFA655.957. Some old or torn CFA notes can be exchanged at the Bank of Central African States (Banque des États de l'Afrique Centrale).
TIPPING: There are no strict rules for tipping, although in general around 5% is considered fair. Tipping CFA1000-2000 (€1.50-3.00) for an expensive meal is perfectly acceptable, and there is no need to tip for inexpensive meals or drinks on a night out.
VISAS: Most visitors to Gabon are required to obtain a visa in advance, and this is best done in the visitor’s country of residence. The process to obtain a tourist visa 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 entry. Most foreigners residing in the country are generally required to obtain a residence permit (permis de séjour), which can be provided by their employer.
ELECTRICITY: 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.
COMMUNICATIONS: The international dialling 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.
TRANSPORT: While privately owned cars remain the most common means of transportation, taxis are ubiquitous throughout the day and even late at night. in some neighbourhoods. 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 CFA100 (€0.15) for a 1-km journey, to CFA2000 (€3.00) for a longer night-time trip. Private taxis can generally be found at high-end hotels.
BUSINESS HOURS: Gabon put a “continuous working day” policy in place in 2010, which means that business hours run from 7.30am to 3.30pm, although some private companies require their employees to start earlier than 7.30am. In the private sector, especially foreign firms, working days follow regular European hours with later closing times.
HEALTH: 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 the West. For blood screening tests and common health issues like malaria, the Cabinet de Groupe, located in Montagne-Sainte neighborhood, is officially approved by the French Embassy and Consulate.
MEDIA: The two main 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. French and other international channels are available by satellite.
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