Angola famously has one of the toughest visa regimes in recent times. Those not formally invited for business face conflicting requirements and interminable waits for embassies to render decisions.
Why you would want to visit Angola, infamously expensive, reputation for crime in Luanda, no tourist infrastructure, well, because it is so hard! And truth as often the case is much different from reputation.
The core first hurdle for visas has been some form of letter of invitation and/or prepaid hotel booking, for which local agencies and hotels extract exorbitant sums. With no guarantee of a visa, this has been daunting.
My friend Paul earlier this year noticed that the Angolan Embassy in Washington, DC updated its visa requirements. He went in person to the consulate in New York, website not updated, and verifed that they would issue visas according to the requirements listed from Washington.
Important: things may change, non-US citizens may have different requirements, and those applying at other Angolan consular missions may have an entirely different experience, though I have heard positive reports from other places.
The key change Paul found is no requirement for letter of invitation, only needing a flight and hotel reservation, both of which you can book, print, and immediately cancel to not be at risk.
Both Transit Visas and Tourist Visas are possible, with similar requirements. The key line is, “Note: In some cases extra documents will be requested to support the visa request.” You can be confident that they will ask for something else that you have not brought. In my case, they decided the financial proof required was not one bank statement, but the most recent three months. Bring everything and more.
A transit visa is $50 and tourist visa is $141.
I only needed 3 days so went the transit visa route. I should have done a mock flight indicating a true transit, rather than my actual ticket coming and going from Johannesburg. That prompted a, “Why do you really want to go to Angola?” to which I said, “I hear it is a beautiful country.”
Processing was reasonable. I was originally told to be back in 3 business days. When I got there that day I was told the official who had to sign it was at the UN. I was given a phone number to call back, and they actually answer it as I checked back later. The next day the visa officer called me, actually called me, to say it was ready and I raced to pick up my prize.
I was given 5 days and told I could have had multiple-entry should my travel have required it. Anything beyond 5 days you probably will need to go for tourist visa.
The hotel reservation I had was a hotels.com confirmation, showing credit card for deposit, though I could cancel. After some study, the consulate accepted it, even though it was not an official stamped letter from the hotel. I booked and stayed at Rouxinol Boutique Hotel, a family-run, delightful place that is one of the few quality, reasonable-priced (for Angola) options in Luanda. The visa did list my hotel, though I never needed to verify my residence so I believe that can safely be changed.
I am also happy to report there are no restrictions on where you go. I listed only Luanda on the application. Later I added a day trip by plane up to Cabinda Province, and was never questioned at the many security checks.
For those who have been wanting to get to Angola, this may be the chance. Don’t wait till oil prices rise to see if the government still has the door cracked open.