The chaos of a layover in Luanda's airport and how to survive it

Despite my extensive travels, I only recently made my first jaunt through Angola's Luanda Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport between Cape Town and Lisbon in Portugal - its popularity fueled by cheap airfare with TAAG Airlines.

I had read a few reviews and stories about the African Portuguese-speaking hub, so my expectations weren't exactly high, and I am no airport snob - years spent transiting through Port Elizabeth's airport has provided me with a stern resilience to discomfort. 

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But nothing prepared me for the sheer lack of basic comforts missing from not only an international airport, but one that's supposedly a hub for travel to Europe and South America from Southern Africa. And the worst part is, it probably won't be the last (TAAG's prices are too good to pass on).

Firstly, the airport is incredibly small - in two minutes you will have seen the entire international section. The sum total of one bar, two food-and-drinks kiosks and an array of curio and souvenir shops are all to be found. 

But this was manageable - the big problem arose when it came to just buy something to drink. My throat felt like the Sahara, dried out like a prune from the airplane air-conditioning, but alas my thirst was not to be quenched. 

None of the beverage establishments had working card facilities - and they only accept the local currency and euros. When asked if there's an ATM, the cashier just shook her head and helped the customer behind me.

At one point I thought about drinking the tap water, but one struggled Google search later assured me that that was not on the cards if I wanted to enjoy my Portugal experience.

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And then the search for a seat started. Luckily I was quick on the draw and carved out a small space on the edge of a row - but it soon became apparent there weren't nearly enough seats for everyone - especially when a few passengers have decided to take a horizontal snooze as well.

I attempted to connect to the WiFi, but as they say - slow internet is worse than no internet - so I opted to instead escape into a tragic romance novel.

And then chaos finally erupted when it came time to board. Remember when I said it was small? From a quick look it looked like they only had four gates, and at 22:25 the blinking monitor indicated it was time to board for my flight at Gate 4.

Standing in the rapidly expanding queue, I heard some people say São Paulo, but others were adamant this is the Lisbon queue. Suddenly another queue appeared next to us, and a third one trying to squish in between the original queue and the wall. There was shouting, toddlers screaming, people asking where they need to go.

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And the people missing the most from the chaos - any sort of official person to direct the madness. The only people of official capacity were two yellow-clad staff checking passports and boarding passes, wilfully oblivious to the lack of communication to passengers. People just started shoving in front of everyone else, and eventually the shoving to the left was for São Paulo and to the right for Lisbon. 

When it came to busses, they checked my ticket again to make sure I am on the right bus - so I at least knew I wouldn't be inadvertently heading to Brazil.

Finally on the plane, it's midnight, and most people just want to fluff up their neck pillows and doze off into a drug-induced La La Land.

All I wanted was some bloody water.

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Some tips if you're doing a layover in Luanda Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport

Bring enough water with you: While you're not allowed liquids when going through security for international trips, have an empty water bottle with you and fill it up either in the bathroom in the international section or buy some water before your flight. On the way back I was much better prepared and thankful that Portugal's tap water is drinkable. 

Have some euros on you: Card facilities may work but you can't depend on it, and the only cash they will accept is the local currency or euro.

Make sure you have a long charging cable: For some reason they have their plugs placed high above your head on the wall, which can be a bit of a bother if your cable is too short and your arms are starting to tingle from holding it aloft too long. 

When it comes to boarding, chaos reigns: So I had to transition through the airport twice in one trip - one almost-midnight flight and one morning flight - and while boarding in the morning was slightly more organised, the evening flight was pure chaos as they tried to make two flights board through the same gate.

Just try to keep your spot in the queue through sheer obstinance and channel some extra-special patience from deep within as multiple queues erupt around you. Also, let the moms and dads with small children cut in front of you - imagine doing all of this with a screaming toddler on your hip.

Forget about the WiFi, bring a book: It constantly disconnects and when you do manage to get on, the most you'll be able to see is some Google searches. Load up the tablet on some movies, or go the old-fashioned route with a good read. 

But there is a new airport on its way: Construction has been going since 2004, but the current projected completion date is 2022 - until then Quatro de Fevereiro will still be the main port of call through Angola.

Good luck!

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