Entering Guinea-Bissau

Leaving Guinea was easy. Crossing into Guinea-Bissau, however, was a little more interesting. Firstly, the official wanted 55 CFA/visa (~90 USD). This was expected. Secondly, he then charged us an additional “police fee” of 10 CFA. However, he didn’t provide any information about what this was for but did say we would get a receipt. (Guinea-Bissau is Portuguese, and I spoke my pathetic Portuguese, thinking this would help with rapport during the immigration process.)

Unfortunately for him, and no disrespect or humor intended, his job presented two challenges. Firstly, math. On a slip of paper, he wrote down the summary problem:

Well, since I wasn’t sure about the legitimacy of the 10 CFA fee anyway, his total of 110 CFA was fine with me. We barely had the cash anyway, and we wanted some change for unexpected costs (say, a toll or something).

Secondly, his eyesight was failing him (perhaps he is over 50 like me), so he couldn’t easily read or write without glasses, of which he had none. He asked his deputy to read our passport numbers while he entered them into the computer. Then, after stamping the passports, he asked each of us to write in the date. The compensation techniques were clever but surely made his job difficult for him.

With those details complete, he put our papers and the money, minus the 10CFA, into a sealed envelope and told us we were required to have an immigration official accompany us to Gabu, which was 3 hours away on bad roads. In Gabu, the official would hand over the envelope and complete the visa process. Unfortunately, the combination of luggage and our uncomfortableness carrying an official who might give us arbitrary regulation problems of their own choosing, we decided our car only seated two people. Sure, we knew we could put bags on the roof if we were willing, but we weren’t willing since we weren’t sure about the legitimacy of this. (We found no prior trip reports documenting it.) Unfortunately, if we didn’t provide transport, they required us to pay for transportation for the official via scooter. We pushed the bags aside and agreed to allow him to sit in the back. But no, he informed us that the official policy was that he needed to sit in the front. What?? I’m all for being a servant and giving up privilege, but this was getting ridiculous. I refused and told him to sit in the back or arrange his own ride, which I would not pay for. He sat in the back and mostly talked on the phone for the 3-hour journey.

Upon arriving in Gabu, we completed the immigration process, and everything seemed legit, including the 10CFA fee. As we came to find out, but it wasn’t clear at the border, the fee was to pay the official to accompany us. That said, before leaving, the official asked us for money to buy food. What? I refused, and we parted ways.

By this time, it was dark, and finding a campsite was challenging. The one we had marked seemed too close to a village and on a used side road. We decided to cut off into the dense bush and push far enough through the brush that, with lights off, a casual passerby wouldn’t see us, certainly not from a scooter—at least we hoped that was true. We also set pre-sunrise alarms so we could be on the road before folks were up.

We slept undisturbed and continued on our journey before dawn.

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