How to Plan a Road Trip Across Angola
Getting ready for your epic roadtrip
Somehow you’ve managed to get a visa to visit a country that is famous for not providing tourist visas. What next? Time to figure out how to plan a roadtrip across Angola.
Before you fly to Angola
Bring some water filtration gear, a good tent, a backpack, and a first aid kit. Check out our recommended gear here >>
Check the weather forecasts before you plan your itinerary, as rain will flush landmines into waterways.
Check that your international drivers license and vaccinations are in order, and make sure you have photocopies of your ID cards.
Safety in Angola
As can be expected, use your common sense.
Don’t drink and drive, and be ready to pay a hefty fine if you get caught speeding.
Make sure your paperwork is perfect and that you have an international driver’s license without any rips or tears.
Keep your anti malaria medicine in your car in case of roadside checks.
Sometimes a police officer will get in the car — he or she may actually just be hitchhiking. Stay polite and calm.
We had ten positive interactions and only two negative ones, but we have heard some horror stories regarding drunk drivers, so keep the emergency number of your consulate on hand in case you get in a bind.
I also usually hide some cash around my person and the pickup in case things go wrong.
If you want to get off the beaten path, rent a 4WD or a pickup.
Avoid waking around Luanda alone after dark. It can be hard to find taxis, so your best bet is to arrange in advance.
Smaller towns like Lobito are pretty safe; just use your common sense. Overall, people are pretty nice in Angola, though there’s definitely a hustle element.
Arriving at Luanda Airport
When you get off the plane at the international terminal, you’ll need to show your yellow fever vaccine card. Don’t forget it, otherwise you’re in for a world of trouble! (I managed to get a photo accepted but wouldn’t recommend this approach).
Chances are, you’ll miss your connecting flight (the domestic and international terminals are a taxi ride from one another), so you might as well plan for a day in Luanda in advance!
1. Plan for a day in the capital
Luanda, the capital of Angola, is known for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s a fascinating microcosm of West Africa. You’ll see diamond mining companies next to run-down buildings; beautiful public infrastructure with abandoned oil pipes. Above all, you’ll see a resilient population building back after years of civil war.
Find a driver
First thing you want to do is find a good driver. Taxis are impossible in the city (or at least they were when we were there!). Arrange a meeting time/place for him to pick you up and a fee for him to look after you for the evening.
Stretch your legs & get your bearings
Go for a run or a walk along the beachfront (the Rastingas) during the day. There’s even a sailing club and an awesome walking path. It gets a bit sketchy at night, and cabs are hard to find out there (we got ourselves in a bit of a rough situation), so be sure to go in with a plan.
Treat yourself to something fancy
There is a perfectly located sushi restaurant on the Rastingas called Cais de Quatro. They don’t offer filtered water, but they will do bottled water in glass (instead of plastic) and there are some vegan options on the menu. Get a spot by the water and watch the sun go down over the city.
Check out the local grub
Check out the street sellers, and see which ones have the most traffic. If you’re getting something steaming hot, you should be good. Avoid lettuce and vegetables, as the water quality is pretty poor.
Drink & dance
We went to a rooftop bar called… Bar Bar (I kid you not). It wasn’t exactly sustainable fare, but at least it was open air so there was less A/C.
2. Lobito & Benguela Area
My preferred part of Angola is the South. You can either drive down through the “national park,” passing through Sumbe or you can fly to Lobito. My advice — see if there’s anything fun happening in Subme, otherwise, fly down. When we drove through the “park,” was no wildlife left in the park; just a big highway (likely built by the Chinese government) and lots of grass.
My recommendation is to fly to Benguela, rent a car, spend a night on the Rastingas in Lobito, and then prepare your roadtrip into the wilder parts of Angola.
Lobito & Benguela Area
Lobito is a short drive from Benguela and is a really fun destination. The bay itself is a working port, so is unfortunately quite polluted, but you can still see incredible amounts of wetland bird life.
For drinks, I recommend going to La Caravane. It’s literally just a caravan along the beach. They do “bottle service” where you order a bottle of gin and a few cans of tonic. If you’re lucky, you also get a lime to chop up and slide into your drinks as you kick back and watch the sun set.
Further South, Caotinha Beach., which is a series of little beach inlets just south of Benguela, some of which are totally deserted. You can hike from one beach to the next.
Off the beaten path
Take some time to visit the abandoned soccer stadiums from the African Cup of Nations.
The Scouts in Angola are making an enormous impact on raising families into the middle class. Try volunteering with the Scouts to see how this is happening first hand.
Get out on the water, and try to get a glimpse of one of the MASSIVE hammerhead sharks in the ocean.
3. Dombe Grande Area
About an hour south of Lobito, you’ll hit a small town market called Dombe Grande. There are around 18,000 inhabitants in the area, and it’s a really local, typical market. When you go in, the local kids will ask for some money to wash your car; it’s part of the economy there, so I usually did it, even though I wish they were better incentivized to stay in school instead of looking for odd jobs!
This spot is the best place to stock up on supplies and firewood for your trip south to go camping. There’s a lady at the front who will BBQ chicken or veggies in a fire pit for you, if you like, as well.
Dombe Grande – Beach
Just toward the coast from Dome Grande is a small fishing village dotted with ruins from the Portuguese. They have no potable water here, so if you’d like to make a difference by reducing plastic, bring an extra water filter with you. Many of the villagers have to either make a long trek to buy water, or spend a lot of time hauling water, cutting firewood, and boiling it for everyday consumption.
When you get to the village, go to the chief’s house and ask permission to camp on the beach. Some of the villagers are usually happy to share some fish if they’ve had a good catch that day. There’s a bit of a barter economy, so we traded goods from the market for fish when we were there.
4. West Coast – Turtle Watching
If you venture South of Dombe Grande, you are in for a treat. Miles of undeveloped coastline await you, and I highly recommend you stop by the Kitabanga Turtle Conservation Project. The beach on the South side of Bentiaba is particularly stunning – just watch you don’t go there during New Year’s celebrations, when it is overrun by expats, and make sure you are painstakingly careful not to camp on a beach during nesting season.
5. Namib & Surroundings
Namib is the gateway to Namibia and the desert. As you drive along there, keep your eyes peeled for nomadic tribes who make a living in the desert, easily recognizable by the bright red mud in their hair.
Check out the oldest plant in the world, the Welwitschia, which only grows in this desert.
6. Huambo & the Cliffs
The cliffs around Huambo are an absolute sight to behold. Take the mountainous road so you can visit the cliffs where the “purges” took place and hundreds – if not thousands – were thrown to their deaths.
Visit the Christo the Redeemer statue, and contemplate the meaning behind the bullet holes from during the civil war.
7. Back Home or Carry On?
From Huambo, you can either fly back, you can head to the waterfalls up North, or you can continue inland towards Zaire. That, my friend, would have to be the subject of another blog post!
A two minute favor
Help us to make traveling in beautiful places like Angola a more environmentally-friendly experience.
- Reduce your environmental impact with waste-free travel gear (Bring one for you and one for a new friend in a spot you’re visiting)
- Nominate eco-friendly hotels
- Join the community of eco-friendly travelers who just want to make a Pristiner world
- Check out volunteering opportunities with organizations like Kitabanga