a grande cidade de Lubango
…..(The Great City of Lubango)
Nestled deeply in the Angolan province of Huila, surrounded by a range of mountains, forest of trees and natural rocks, lays a capital city called LUBANGO, which is home to more than 600 000 people.
Having found myself in search of an end year vacation spot, I boldly chose this city, specifically for an array of reasons but most importantly being that I personally felt it was under explored.
It is no secret that there is little to no information online with regards to traveling with in the Huila Province and it was there and then where I felt that something had to give. Thus, I deemed it necessary to share my experience.
NB!!! Take Note:
· Before embarking on a journey to Lubango or anywhere in Angola make sure you get a yellow fever injection and that you carry your yellow fever card with you. You will not be allowed to enter the country without one.
· Remember to carry along Malaria tablets, that you are required to take every day during your stay. Talk to your General Practitioner as they will best advice on which tablets to take.
· Namibian citizens do not need a visa to enter Angola however citizens from other countries should check with their relevant Visa Headquarters.
· Angola has a local currency called Angolan Kwanza (Kz), they however also accept USD but I would recommend you find a money changer and convert the USD to Kz. You get more value for it.
· Do not consume tap water in Angola as it is high in chlorine. Always buy bottled water from any nearby convenient stores.
· Refrain from eating street food in Angola. The country has over the past decade been known to have experienced several cases of cholera outbreaks.
Now that we have gotten past the nitty-gritty below in a nutshell is how my planning process went:
I set to go to Lubango for about ten days on an N$ 8000 budget (USD 565). Why N$ 8000? Well because I am very big on budget travelling. However, do not limit yourselves I do encourage anyone by all means, to make use of extra cash if they so prefer.
My budget was inclusive of a return ticket from my home country Namibia, accommodation with in a nearby Province known as Benguela, transport on the ground and daily meals.
N$ 4000 (USD 283) was allocated to my return flight ticket which was also inclusive of travel insurance, this cost me an additional N$ 300 (USD23). I had my booking made through a travel agent from Blueberry with TAAG Angola Airlines.
Note that the pricing of the ticket can go lower if you book your ticket way before your travel date, as well as if you choose to leave out travel insurance and book directly from the TAAG Airlines website itself.
For the first five days that I spent in Lubango before I headed to the Benguela Province where a number of Angola’s most beautiful beaches are found, I had sourced for free accommodation which is definitely a bargain for a solo traveller, as I knew someone that lives in Lubango.
Whereas the other remaining days of my stay, I had booked a more private accommodation. Costing and details of the said accommodation are further down in the blog under “THE JOURNEY”.
However here’s a tip. If you find yourself looking to benefit from free accommodation, I would advise you sign up for Couchsurfing.
Couchsurfiing, is basically a service that connects members to a global community of travellers and allows one to find a place to stay or share their homes and details about their hometown with other travellers.
Best part about it is that you also end up building great friendships. This is where I met Mufana a lovely female, from the Huila Province who enjoys anything travel. She was such great help especially when it came to referring me to one of the best beaches in Angola.
However, if you are a more laid-back traveller then I would further advice you go onto Booking.com and search for a more private accommodation with in Lubango.
Transport on the ground
You definitely cannot go to Lubango and not make use of a motorcycle taxi, which is basically a bike that is used as a form of transport. It normally carries one to two passengers and usually cost about N$ 6 (USD 0.50) for a one-way transfer. Another mode of public transport that one can also make use off are the bus taxi’s which usually cost about N$ 5 (USD 0.50).
Usually with all my travels, I always love to have a detailed plan on things however this time around I chose to allow the people of Lubango to show and teach me all that they deemed worthy of their city. Whether it was about places of interest, politics with in the country or just their culture in general.
As I pen down the highlights of my trip note that the below only touches on a selected range of highpoints, so here goes….
It took an hour thirty minutes by flight before I landed in Lubango at the Mukanka Airport which surprisingly was pretty empty but a big win if you ask me as this meant that getting through immigration was easy as pie.
My transfer had already been waiting for me and I vividly recall how chills of excitement ran down my spine as we left the airport.
The view from the car window is one that I can now only describe in a few words as Surpreendente (amazing), Verde (green), Ocupada (busy), different from the usual but this was and is a city that many Angolans call home.
Not leaving anything to chance, my transfer wanted to welcome me the best way they know how to in Angola and that was to have me drink a few of their local beers known as N’gola and Cuca. I personally only enjoyed N’gola and had the perfect view to complement it as my first tourist stop of the day was at the Cristo Rei.
The Cristo Rei is a Catholic monument that is located on a hill which overlooks the city of Lubango. It is said to have been inspired by Christ the Redeemer statues found in Brazil and Portugal. The statue is visible throughout the day and lights up at night, so one can never miss it.
And just before night fell, my transfer and I then made our way to a nearby mall as I was advised that it would be best to purchase a smart card for easier communication between us as well as have internet access if ever I wanted to make use of google translate or any of my social media platforms.
The only down side about internet in Lubango is that it is super slow in some areas, so patience is really a virtue.
I paid about N$ 300 (USD 23) for both the smart card as well as 8GB worth of data. Do note that in order to make use of the smart card it will require you the buyer to wait for about an hour plus for it to be activated.
Night life In Lubango
My first night in Lubango was one that I’ll probably never forget. Boy oh Boy Angolans do not sleep and love to party up a storm. On almost every street corner you’d find a group of friends or family members seated outside their homes either barbecuing, conversing over beer and dancing till the early hours of the morning.
I met a number of people that night and every time I was greeted with a kiss on the cheek as it is usually done in Angola. This is their way of warmly welcoming visitors.
Fast-forward, as the days went on I got to visit more tourist attractions, another being the Tundavala Gap also known as Fenda da Tundavala.
This is basically a viewpoint in the rim of the great escarpment called Serra da Leba. It is located some 20 km from the city of Lubango. It offers one of the best scenery’s there is, literally picture perfect. Unfortunately, I was not able to view the gap in its true beauty due to fog.
I then chose to make my way to the Benguela Province, to a town called Lobito located on the Atlantic Coast with Macon bus services and had paid about N$ 166 (USD 13) for a round trip, as I still had to return after a few days to catch my flight back to Namibia.
The bus ride was about 5 hours long but it allowed me see more of both Huila & Benguela Province’s in terms of what life really is like in all the little villages. Almost every second individual tries and makes a living either by selling food, craft or clothing along the roadside and although it was such a sad reality to witness, I learned to appreciate life more.
Arriving in Lobito
I had gone to Lobito for one reason and one reason only and that was to celebrate my birthday which was nothing short of amazing.
And had booked to stay at the Casa Rosa Residence Hotel. The hotel is located in one of the safest neighbourhoods called Restinga where most hotels with excellent ratings are built near the beach side.
I made my reservation with Andre, a staff from the hotel who was great help from the get go. I reached out to the hotel via their Facebook page and within minutes I had gotten feedback, so booking was not a hassle.
Having spent four days in Lobito I paid N$ 2064 (USD 146) for a standard room, which was inclusive of breakfast. An additional N$ 142 (USD 11) was charged for my transfer from the bus terminal to the hotel and vice versa.
The hotel itself was well kept and offered an a la carte menu. Food was very affordable, daily meals inclusive of a drink or two usually cost me about N$ 120 (USD 9) and I absolutely loved the staff as they were all very friendly and helpful.
I also got to visit a few beach bars which were all within walking distance. Two of my favourite that I truly enjoyed were Batuk Restaurant and Zulu beach bar which were all pretty empty at the time when I got there, but I mean who doesn’t love to have an entire beach to themselves.
After a few days of great relaxation and sun bathing on the beach, I then chose to end off my vacation with a day visit to one of the Local markets. NB!! Most markets in Angola are always fully packed, thus be advised to always be vigilant of your surroundings, keep your belongings secured and if possible try not to go with any flashy items.
There is so much I would further want to pen down but I would rather allow the pictures paint the story. Would I recommend anyone visit both Lubango and Lobito? I definitely a million times would.