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Summary: Angola is in the southern part of Africa, north of Namibia and bordering the Atlantic and separated by the enclave of Cabina by the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has a terrain that is mostly coastal plains rising to a wide interior plateau. A 27-year long civil war, which started after its independence from Portugal in 1975, ended in 2002, and the ensuing peace has brought slow strength to the country's economy, based primarily on subsistence agriculture and oil production, with more potential by reducing government spending and corruption, and expanding on the country's natural resources, like forestry, fisheries, and the mining of gold and diamonds.
Time Zone: UTC+1
Languages: Portuguese, Bantu and other African languages
Power: 220V, 50 Hz
Currency: Kwanza - Currently 1 AOA = 0.0133 USD $
Climate: Angola is semiarid in the south and up along the coast to Luanda. The north of the country has a cool, dry season from May to October, and a hot, rainy season from November to April.
Luanda: Angola's capital city is known for its mosaic azulejos, handpainted blue tiles, on many of the sidewalks and some of the buildings. Luanda is a balance between Portuguese colonialism and the musseques, or poorer shanty areas, on the outskirts of town. The National Bank of Angola is the city's main landmark, along the riverfront overlooking Luanda Bay, while both the National Anthropology Museum and the beaches on Ilha do Mussolo to the south are worth a visit.
Kissama National Park: Quicama, or Kissama National Park, is in the northwest part of Angola, and is an excellent spot for ecotourists and dates back to its establishment in 1938 as a game reserve. Here you can find elephants, rhinoceroses and buffalo in a wide range of natural habitats. Noah's Ark is an ongoing project to capture, relocate and release more animals into the park to repopulate the grounds. Kalandula Waterfalls, 200 miles to the east of Luanda near Malange, is another natural highlight at the end of the rainy season.
Safety: The years of war are now over, although the dust is still settling and landmines can make some areas unsafe for travel. Arrive and travel during the day, pay attention to your surroundings, and avoid public demonstrations and the regions of Lunda Sur, Lunda Norte, and Cabinda Province, which are unstable while the police manage diamond smuggling and separatism.
Scars of War: War wounded, malnutrition and land mines are three scars which will heal in time, and compassion combined with international relief will help speed that up.
Culture: Officially, travel is limited to business-related visits, and Portuguese is the primary language used. Dress is informal and takes the potentially hot weather into account.
Cash and Carry: Credit cards and traveler's checks have some acceptance, although it is limited in part to the bigger hotels and stores. Cash can be exchanged in the exchange bureaus, although not all currencies are accepted, the US dollar is one that is.
Food: Angolan cuisine includes the staples of corn, frunge, a cornmeal porridge, vegetables like zucchini, onion and peppers, and often fish or chicken. Palm hash, the fibery mash left over from making palm oil, is added with garlic and okra to make chicken muamba, and calulu is a traditional stew of meat, vegetables, garlic and palm oil.
Tipping: Check your bill, and if a 10% service charge has not been included already, add the same to your total.