The Margouilla's Advice on Nightstopping in Malabo




What airfield can I expect?

Since oil production in Equatorial Guinea started in the early 2000's, economic development has quickly turned its capital's airfield from a shabby third-world aerodrome into a world-standard international airport. The country has been a full ASECNA member for about a decade, which helped bring the infrastructures up to standard. The airport is open H24, with Jet A-1 is available at all times from fuel trucks. Jeppesen promises you Avgas, yet there hasn't been any for years.

Security on Malabo's airport is still at an embryonic stage, so make sure you airplane is properly locked and tagged. Since the 2004 airborne coup attempt in Malabo, each inbound flight is required to have a specific landing authorization; tower frequently asks clearance number during approach, so make sure you have it handy. If you can't give them an authorization number, chances are you will be denied permission to land. Leaving the airport to town is never twice the same procedure: usually you get in and out with nobody asking you anything, but sometimes an immigration police officer might want to apply a visa on your passport, usually for about 10,000 XAF a piece; just go with the flow that day.

Flight plan filing is done the usual ASECNA way, at the "bureau de piste" were landing and overflight fees are also paid. Passenger fees are paid to the Equato-Guinean Civil Aviation Authority located in the main terminal, next to the ADGE (Aeropuertos de Guinea Equatorial) office where another bill has to be paid. Handling is not mandatory, even though Hangesa provides useful help for loading luggage and the like. They might bring you a bill even if you didn't ask them for help, but you shouldn't have to pay it. Corruption in EG is fierce, and locals will sometimes threaten the crews to block their aircraft if they don't pay some "home-made" fee invented on the spot. Hold your ground, it generally works. Expect to pay less than 1.3 million XAF (2000 EUR) for all these fees, if you are nightstopping on a large bizjet and are leaving on a long-haul flight with full pax load.

Hiring a taxi to town costs about 1,500 XAF. Always agree on a price before climbing in the cab.


Where am I?

With less than 100,000 inhabitants, Malabo is one of the smallest capital cities in the world. It is located on the northern coast of Bioko, an island made of three extinct volcanoes covered in rainforest, the tallest of which is the Santa Isabel which culminates at over 3,000 metres.

The city was first founded by the British in 1827, who leased the island from Spain during the colonial period. The Bahia de Luna (Moon Bay) around which the city has been built, was used as a naval station in the effort to suppress the slave trade. When the island reverted to complete Spanish control, Malabo was renamed Santa Isabel. It was chosen to replace the mainland town of Bata as the capital of the newly independent country in 1969. Santa Isabel was renamed Malabo in 1973 as part of President Francisco Macías Nguema's campaign to replace European place names with "authentic" African ones; "Malabo" is supposed to have been a Fang king who ruled before the colonisation era.

During his "reign of terror," Macías Nguema led a near-genocide of the country's Bubi minority, which formed the majority on Bioko Island, and brought many of his own tribespeople, the Fang, to Malabo. In the final years of his rule, when Equatorial Guinea was sometimes known as the "Auschwitz of Africa," about one third of the country's population fled abroad. Malabo's population has yet to recover from the scars of that period.

Since oil was found in the country, the new president has vastly invested in developing the infrastructures, and the Spanish colonial heart of town has been surrounded by newly developped suburbs, the largest of which is Malabo II. Yet do not let development mistake you: Equatorial Guinea is still a police state with an adverse attitude against foreigners, so be on your guards.

Central Police Station: +(240) 3 33 09 27 77 (don't expect much help, though...)
Centro Medico La Paz: still under construction
Pharmacies: French pharmacy in town centre
Banks: CCEI Bank, BGFIBankGE & SGB-GE in the city center (no ATMs or credit cards: bring cash!)


Where do I sleep?

Sofitel President Palace (15mn from the airport)

PO Box 383 - Malabo, Plaza de la Independencia, old city centre
Tel: +(240) 3 33 09 99 40
Fax: +(240) 3 33 09 90 06

The only world-class hotel in Malabo, the Sofitel is a really nice building set at the heart of the historic city centre of town. It faces Bahia de Luna, the presidential palace and the cathedral. Free airport transfer, swimming pool, fitness center, free wifi, all very new, clean and functional in an old renovated colonial building. Excellent restaurant with a French chef. Rooms 190,000 XAF and up.

Bisilia Hilton (on the airport)

This brand new 211-room Hilton is located right on the airport. It should be inaugurated soon.

Hotel 3 de Agosto (15mn from the airport)

Malabo, Avenida Hassan II
Tel: +(240) 3 33 09 99 15

Another new hotel in Malabo, also aiming at the richer visitors. The 3 de Agosto is located on the way to Malabo II, in a somewhat grey part of town. Yet its 38 rooms and 6 suites are nicely furnished and generally bigger than the Sofitel's. There is sat-TV and wifi in the rooms. Good meat restaurant managed by a Canadian lady. Expect around 150,000 XAF a night.

Hotel Bahia 1 (15mn from the airport)

Malabo, old city centre
Tel: +(240) 3 33 09 33 21

Among the old hotels in Malabo, the Bahia is probably the best. Located at the end of a cape bordering Bahia de Luna, it has a terrace with an impregnable view on the ocean; on good days, Mount Cameroon is visible on the other side of the straight. Rooms are equipped with somewhat functional air-conditioning and TV, and the restaurant is okay. Swim at your own risk in the pool. All 16 rooms are priced at about 70,000 XAF. The same owner has recently opened Bahia 2 in the new suburbs of town.

Tropicana (15mn from the airport)

Malabo, Carretera Luba
Tel: +(240) 3 33 09 87 64
Fax: +(240) 3 33 09 43 94

Definitely a second-choice hotel, the Tropicana still has some decently clean rooms with air-con and local TV. It has the advantage of being quite large since the recent addition of a second building, so it's a good place to look for rooms when other hotels are full. The "French" restaurant is okay, and the bar next to it a good place to hang out. Rooms are overpriced at 100,000 XAF a night.


Where do I eat?

The best restaurants in town are definitely found in the hotels above. Yet there are other options:

La Terrasse (15mn from the airport)

Tel: +(241) 59 45 44

This is the restaurant of the ICEF (French Cultural Institute), open Monday to Saturday until midnight. Good French food served on a nice terrace. A meeting place for Malabo's expat population.


What can I visit?

Having a walk in the old city centre is a good start for visiting Malabo. The old Spanish colonial buildings are generally dirty and derelict, yet the Plaza de Independencia has been nicely preserved with its old cathedral and courthouse. Having a walk around Bahia de Luna, where a modern port has unfortunately been built, is also nice; avoid getting into the presidential compound, though.

If you have a full day on your hands, it's worth hiring a taxi to Mount Santa Isabel. Expect a good hour drive to get up there, bring some water with you and make sure your personal papers (passport, visa, etc) are in order as there are many police checkpoints on the way. The return trip can be negotiated at about 20,000 XAF.


Where can I go out?

Buddha Bar

Located just before Hotel Bahia, Malabo's Buddha Bar is a good place to start the night. It has a seaview terrace and indoor lounges with a cool oriental ambiance.

Bahia Club

The club of hotel Bahia 1 is probably the most famous in town, an absolute must. The sign at the entrance "beware of pickpockets and loose women" says it all...




The club of Hotel 3 de Agosto.

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