Anyone who has a reason to visit Angola will need to use the national currency in operation there – the kwanza. The present currency is not the only currency of this name that the country has used in recent years.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
Each kwanza is made up of 100 centimos. In theory you can still get centimo coins – just two of them, the 10 and 50 centimo coins – but in reality they are not often used now. Inflation is rapidly pushing them into the category of being practically worthless. However you can get a further four coins denominated as kwanzas, and these are the 1, 2, 5 and 10 kwanza coins.
There are plenty of banknotes in use though. These begin with the 10 kwanza note and go through the 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 kwanza notes. You can probably start to see how futile it is to have the small centimo coins of little value in circulation now, given the size of the larger kwanza notes.
From past to present – the history of the Angolan kwanza
Before 1977 Angola was a Portuguese colony, which meant it used the Portuguese escudo (this has since been consigned to history thanks to the euro). Angola wanted its own currency upon independence and they opted for the kwanza.
As mentioned previously there have been several versions of the kwanza that have been in use – four in all. The reason for the new versions was that the current ones were devalued due to inflation. This is a fairly common occurrence when a country is struggling to come to terms with a high inflation rate. The current version of the kwanza has been in place since 1999.
Over the years each version has been given a new ISO code for the currency markets. The original kwanza was known by the letters AOK, while its replacement in 1990 was granted the letters AON. The third version that came in back in 1995 was given the ISO code AOR while the existing version is known as AOA.
How to get hold of the Angolan kwanza
As you might guess, Angola isn’t the easiest country when it comes to getting hold of money. Indeed it is mostly a cash country so the best thing to do is to make sure you have enough cash to get by with. Unfortunately it isn’t easy to find the currency prior to reaching the country itself, since most bureaux de change won’t provide the kwanza.
So where do you get the kwanza? Well, there are a number of licensed money changers available in the country that you can change up your cash with. You can also get your cash in the banks. You’ll need to go inside to do this though, because the cash machines don’t generally like accepting foreign bank cards. In some cases you might be able to pay with a credit card but you should never assume you’ll be able to do this. For the most part it’s cash all the way.
One thing worth knowing though is that many people throughout the country will happily accept US dollars. So even though you cannot get hold of the local currency before you leave home, it might be worth getting some dollars to take with you since you can pay with these in many places. Another thing to remember is that if you do pay in US dollars you are likely to be given kwanza coins (or possibly notes) in change. This can get confusing but after a while you will get used to it.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Angolan kwanza
All you need is the usual currency converter to work this out. You can find the Angolan kwanza by using the ISO code to speed up the search. You can then compare your own currency to it. You might also want to check the latest exchange rate against the US dollar seeing as you can use a few of these there as well. It helps to have the most information you can to determine how far your money will go when you are there.
As always it can be a good idea to find out more about the country you want to visit before you actually set foot on a plane. In this case you can visit the Embassy for the Republic of Angola in the UK, and you don’t even have to visit in person to do it. The embassy has an official website at http://www.angola.org.uk/.
Travelling safely with the Angolan kwanza
Safe travel is good to know about regardless of where you go in the world, and Angola is no different in this respect. At the time of writing there were some areas of the country that were not advisable to visit. These were located in the north-eastern part of Angola. However the remainder of the country was fine. It is always best to check the latest travel information and advice prior to booking a flight and indeed just before you board to fly there. Things can change quickly in any part of the world.
The capital of the country is Luanda and this is particularly prone to violence and crime. With that said though, the majority of the people who decide to travel to Angola enjoy their trip without any consequences of this nature. Some people have been mugged and the UK government advises that it is not wise to go out at night, whether you are with other people or not. Crime does of course take place during the day too, so always be aware of your surroundings.
You can minimise the odds of being targeted for crime simply by making yourself less conspicuous. You should carry as little cash on you as you need to; this can be difficult in a largely cash-based society but there shouldn’t be any need to carry lots of it. Anything you do have should also be divided into different amounts to carry in different places. For example tuck some into a front pocket and some into a shirt pocket. A money belt is a great idea as you can wear this under your clothes and it is much harder to spot.
Be wise to the amount of jewellery you wear or valuables you carry too. It’s good to take photos of your trip but if you have a large expensive camera this will make you a target. The same applies if you wear an expensive watch. Taking as little as possible in this way will be a great idea for you to stick to.
Where to spend your kwanzas in Angola – and what to spend them on
Angola is in the southern part of Africa. Its northern border is shared with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while to the east lies Zambia. The southern border is shared with Namibia, and the entire western stretch of the country faces the South Atlantic Ocean.
We already know the capital is Luanda, and this can be found on the western coastline. As with many cities around the world of a certain age, Luanda is comprised of two parts. There is an older part (the lower section of the city) and a newer part, which is above the old city. The area is still rapidly expanding though and looks set to continue to do so.
Elsewhere in Angola you can see the Kalandula Falls. These are incredibly impressive and rank as one of the biggest on the continent. Their height is disputed but no one disputes their position as being among the largest in Africa.
As you would expect of a country in Africa there are many national parks here although they do not all the chance to see animals of all kinds. One of the best is Quicama National Park. This is by far the best one to see because some of the others have gone down in quality since the Civil War. Elephants are among the animals you can see here in the wild.
Angola has its fair share of tourist visitors every year, but many other people don’t even think of visiting this country. While it is important to be aware of the conditions in the country so you can stay safe during your visit, the country does have a good number of attractions that are worth seeing.
If you have never been there before you will enjoy seeing the waterfalls as mentioned above, not to mention going to a national park or two. There are many other sights here too, including the Fortress of Sao Miguel in the capital. Where will you end up when you decide to go there to see what is on offer? It might take a while to get used to the currency and the ability to use the US dollar as well, but some perseverance will be worth it.