Arriving in Luanda

Just arrived Luanda. Hasn’t changed (yeah, well, see below, this was 2008, it’s a bit different in 2010) – total chaos in the arrivals hall . If you can, dress as an American football player when arriving here – you might get less bruised. You’ll get the idea when you see the entrance – as small as a house door, so that’s the first scrummage – actually getting into the building (your shoulder pads might get in the way, but you’ll be thankful for them in a minute).

Inside, head for the crowd of people waving yellow bits of paper, put your head down, and push into it. There’s a guy in the middle, a health official, who seems completely oblivious to the noise and commotion around him or her, who stamps the arrival forms, and gives them out to the hands in front of him. He’s a saint, he’s being pushed from behind by half of China, more hands waving papers at him than he, or anyone else for that matter, could shake a stick at, and he just keeps on stamping those forms. We could all learn a lesson from him – if you could ever get near enough.

You see, here in Angola, that’s how they do it. You need a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter the country. In South Africa, the immigration officer checks it alongside your passport. Here, they have a health official – ONE health official, for the entire arrivals hall, picture it, two or more long-haul flights arriving at the same time – show him your certificate (actually, anyone’s will do, see below), you get the arrivals form, which you then give to the immigration officer. Guess it creates employment.

But there’s only ONE of them – when you consider that half of China is entering Angola at the same time, pretty noisy and not that good at queuing, you’ll begin to realise that American football gear is not fancy dress, it’s practical gear. Surely there must be someone else in Angola who would like to try their hand at being a health official?

Tips for tackling this scrum? Use the elbows God gave you (NOW do you understand why they’re sharp?), put your head down, shove your certificate forward, and don’t give an inch. Watch out for the short people trying to get in below you.

You forgot your Yellow Fever certificate? 3 options:

  • Go to the health authority office in the arrivals hall, and pay US$50 for a vaccination, after which you’ll get a certificate – a truly bad idea.
  • Pass on the vaccination, pay US$50 and they’ll give you a certificate anyway – a much better idea, but you’re still US$50 down.
  • Borrow someone else’s certificate, and wave that at the health official – he doesn’t look at them, I reckon any yellow piece of paper with writing would do – and you save yourself US$50.

Join the immigration queue and fill in the form whilst queuing – you’ve normally got plenty of time. It’s up to you whether you adopt the English or the African method of queuing. The queue on the right tends to move faster, but if you’re on the left, they might open the “Nationals only” lane to foreigners. However, watch out for half of China moving en-masse to that queue – they’re surprisingly fast!

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