I had 2 VERY different experiences in Angola.
The first was a day trip while waiting to visit some other countries around Africa.
The second arrival resulted in a barred entry & deportation.
Here we go.
First, I had to get to São Paulo, where I’d found an ‘error fare’ from. I’m consistently amazed by my lounge membership from my bank. Super slick lounge at the GRU airport.
I flew on TAAG, the national airline of Angola, which was quite good.
The new Visa-On-Arrival system was pretty easy, and I had about 16 hours in Luanda (the capital) before a flight out to São Tomé & Principe that evening, so I headed out of the airport to find a taxi and make a day tour.
I found a guy who offered me a day tour for $40 to drive me all around and bring me back to the airport at dinner time, so that seemed like a great deal.
First, we drove through the heart of the city out to ‘the island’ to poke around.
Next, we went to the old fort that now houses the Military History Museum. The drive there was when I started to get a strong feeling that things weren’t going to go according to plan, because he started telling me over and over and over how expensive gas is in Luanda.
At the museum, I had a really great experience. It’s at the top of a hill, and there was a woman who waved at our car on the way up, asking for a ride, because she was late to work. We gave her a ride, and she gave us a guided tour of the museum as a ‘thank you’, which normally costs extra after the admission.
Leaving the museum, everything went south. The driver started telling me that my $40 was going to have to change to $100, because $40 isn’t a good price for a full-day tour. I basically told him that we had agreed on $40 for the day, that he was the one who suggested that price (not me), and he shouldn’t have told me that number if he didn’t like it. He tried to say that he didn’t understand, but it was bullshit, and I called him out on it. My Portuguese isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to know that we didn’t have a communication issue when setting up the tour & price. He was just baiting me. Not having it.
At this point, I asked him how much he would do for $40, and he said he would continue until lunch time. I thought that was a joke, since it’s half of what we originally agreed, and secretly planned to give him half of the money when we returned. He started arguing with me so much that I got mad and told him to just take me back to the airport, because I was sick of seeing his face (actually told him that). When we got back to the airport, I offered him $20 for our 3-hr tour, because it was less than half of our original $40 plan. Half-price for one-third tour is a good deal, but he was irate. He also wouldn’t accept my dollars (which he had originally said he would), so I went seeking an exchange at the airport, while he waited in the car with my suitcase to ensure I’d return.
If you know anything about Angola, they’re having a hard time with currency & international things lately, so the best exchange is on the black market outside the airport. Those guys thought I didn’t know the right rate and were trying to scam me. While all of this was going on, the driver decided I was trying to rip him off and flagged down a policeman, asking for $40 from me. I told the cop what had happened, told him I was trying to exchange $20 for the dude even though he didn’t deserve that much, and the cop basically told the guy to be grateful for his $20.
Around this time, a super, super nice guy who spoke fluent English noticed what was up, paid the driver for me, took my $20, and told everyone else to go away. Turns out he’d gone to school in the US and felt bad for my experience with his countrymen. He asked what time my flight was and decided he’d show me around a bit to make me like Angola more. He was super nice; I was watching for the ‘ask for money now’ element all along the way, but it never came.
He drove me and another person he’d found stranded at the airport all around the city, bought us both lunch, and gave us a good tour. Great guy.
He wanted to buy us some local meat dish to try, but I told him that I was vegan, so he diverted to an Italian restaurant and bought me a pizza. I ate the whole thing. I was famished (and I also eat when I’m grumpy!).
We had passed a bunch of cool monuments, awesome architecture, presidential palace, and eventually wound up back at the airport semi-early, and I had to just chill until check-in.
I got his number and the number of a taxi driver he trusts, so we could arrange for some more sightseeing and things outside the city when I came back at the end of the trip.
Unfortunately, that end of the trip was a disaster. I’d been told that being in the country less than a day and not staying the night didn’t count as a visit but only a ‘transit’. I’d also been told that, if that didn’t work, I could just get a 2nd Visa-on-Arrival. Neither turned out to be true. On my next arrival, coming from Ethiopia, I was told that I’m over my “1 entry in a month” limit and that my visa had been marked as ‘fully used’ in the computer. They wouldn’t let me get a 2nd visa or even talk to my embassy (despite multiple requests). Until my flight out the next night, I was kept in the immigration detention facility at the back of the airport.
They kept all of my belongings while I was there, and I had no way to tell anyone what was going on. Of course, they couldn’t bring me vegan food, so I stayed there about 30 hours and ate an apple, an orange, a piece of bread, and had 2 bottles of water. Great times.
They also stole some of my money, which is really cool, and lied to me constantly about when I’d be getting out of there. I’m anxious to hear back about the complaint I sent to the US embassy in Angola.
I’ll go back some day in the future, but not for a while. This was some serious bullshit.This entry was posted in Africa, Angola, Luanda