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 a lengthy one, and business visas require an invitation from a Gabon-based entity. In some cases proof of employment may also be requested.
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 obliged to obtain a residence permit (permis de séjour), which can be provided by their employer. An online procedure is available to speed up the visa application process.
French is the official language in the business arena. The most spoken local language is Fang, which is mainly used in the north, and spoken fluently by one-third of the population. The country is 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 on 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 most prominent newspaper is L’Union, an independent publication. The main TV channel is the publicly owned Gabon Télévision, and there are also a variety of private operators. French and other international channels are available by satellite.
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.
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.
The best places to receive medical treatment include El Rapha Clinic and the military hospital in Libreville. The latter 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.
Gabon put a “continuous working day” policy in place in 2010, meaning that business hours run from 7.30am to 3.30pm. In the private sector working days follow regular European hours with later closing times, especially for foreign firms.
As one of the safest countries in the region, there are not many instances of thefts or robberies. Police officers often ask to see passports and visas at roadblocks around the city so it is advised to travel with documents at all times. If travellers wish to use copies, they must have them certified by the City Hall (Mairie de Libreville).
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.
Like other members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, Gabon uses the Central African Franc (CFA). The CFA is linked directly to the French Treasury and is pegged to the euro at a fixed rate of €1:CFA655.957.
Old or torn notes can be exchanged for new ones at the Bank of Central African States. Euros can be exchanged at the country’s banks, and ATMs can be found sporadically around Libreville, and more easily at the airport and in the centre of the city.
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