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Gabon is best explored by rental car. Carrentals.co.uk has over 1 pick-up locations in Gabon. This means there is always a pick-up location close to your destination.
Gabon is swiftly becoming one of the best places for ecotourism in Central Africa. This is largely thanks to the government, who have designated an impressive 10 per cent of the country as national parkland. As a result, these areas have flourished and the likes of Loango National Park on the south coast and the wild plains of Ivindo National Park on the east coast are must-visit spots for any tourist, with both being only a short drive from the capital.
The majority of roads are well maintained and extensively signposted. However, off the beaten track, roads can be bumpy. In these areas, a four-wheel drive vehicle will come in handy. Driving in the rainy season can be tricky.
Driving licences: UK drivers are permitted to drive here with a valid International Driver’s Licence alongside a valid UK licence.
Which side does Gabon drive on: the right.
Rural areas: 74mph (120kph)
Built-up areas: 37mph (60kph)
Alcohol limits: although there is currently no legal limit, it is advisable to avoid drinking any alcohol before driving.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: are not compulsory, but all rental vehicles have them so it is advisable to use the correct restraints. Booster seats should also be used for children under the age of 12 years, when possible.
Mobile phones and GPS: using a mobile phone while driving is strictly prohibited, with on-the-spot fines given to anyone caught breaking this law. GPS is allowed but is unreliable at best, so it is best to stick to a road map.
Cost of fuel in Gabon: around half the price of the average UK cost.
Car hire and fuel payment: credit card payment is commonly used for renting cars; however, petrol stations here do not accept credit card payment. Drivers should pay using cash.
Insurance: third-party insurance is included with car hire but it is advisable to obtain excess insurance too.
Traffic and parking: traffic congestion is rare, yet the roads sometimes flood during the intense rainy season. This means rerouting is common, which can cause traffic problems. Parking is easy to find across the country.
The Trans-Gabon Railway runs from the port city of Owendo to Franceville in the east of the country. Timetables change frequently and services are sporadic and slow. However there are usually around three services per week, including overnight services. Prices vary, but are typically around £1.
Taxis are commonly found in the cities and large towns. They work to set rates, so although haggling is not an option, travelling by taxi here is rarely a hassle. The standard price from the airport to the centre of Libreville is £2. However, fares double after 21:00, meaning the same route could cost £4.
There are several border crossings into Gabon, but there are currently no international bus services. Domestic bus services run daily within the cities and there are weekly services connecting the major cities such as Libreville and Franceville. Buses tend to be basic but reasonably comfortable.
Travelling by boat is one of the main ways to get around. Regular services operate to Lambarene from the Ogooue Rive, as well as along the beautiful coast. There is also a daily boat service operating back and forth from Gentil and Libreville, near the country’s westernmost point. The trip from Lambarene to Port-Gentil takes around five hours and costs roughly £15. But fares vary, as do timetables.
Gabon Airlines and Air France both fly from Paris (Charles de Gaulle) direct to Libreville International Airport. Interair flies from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Libreville once a week, stopping in Congo en route. Saa flies the same route direct, around twice a week. Taxis, hotel shuttle buses and car hire are available at the airport for the less than 10-mile (20-minute) ride into the city. Africa Connection offers the most internal flights, with services available from Libreville to Oyem, Makokou (for access to Ivindo National Park) and Franceville.
Gabon is well known for its dozen or so national parks, hence its reputation as an ideal spot for ecotourism. The national parks all offer different experiences and landscapes, and with such variety, it’s hard to name one park as the best.
Akanda National Park in the northeast, near the capital, is home to turtles and many migratory birds, while Bateke Plateau National Park in the southeast is the perfect place to spot elephants, buffalo and antelope roaming the savannah. Crystal Mountains National Park, on the other hand, is a lush green landscape that borders Equatorial Guinea and is home to many different kinds of fauna.
If these parks aren’t enough, there is Loango National Park in the west. This huge stretch of coastline is set against a rainforest backdrop and encompasses everything that the country has to offer nature-wise. This is the place to come for a high-end nature tourism experience.
Chez Beti is a tiny seaside safari camp near Nyonie village, which sits around two hours’ drive to the south of the capital. Here, visitors can experience the amazing wildlife and stunning surrounding, with the luxury of air-conditioned accommodation. It is also only a short walk from here to the equator.
For those looking for more of an urban jungle setting, the lively capital of Libreville is a must-visit. This bustling port is a great place to sample local delicacies, sip at a beer and indulge in a spot of people-watching.
With a tropical climate, Gabon is always hot and humid. The dry seasons of December to January and May to September are less humid than the wet seasons, but still see temperatures of around 28ºC. The ideal time to visit depends on what kind of holiday you want, as the migratory habits of certain animals mean certain times of year are better for wildlife spotting. For example, whale season is from July to September, while turtles can be seen between November and January.