Luanda is a dynamic, albeit challenging, place to visit and one you're unlikely to forget.
But it doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive -- if you know where to look.
A 'cheap' day and a night
Say you're in Luanda for a day and a night.
You'll need a hotel: Epic Sana Luanda (Rua da Missão, Mutamba; +244 222 642 600; from $500 a night) is considered the best in the city, with prices to match, while Executive Hotel Samba (Rua da Samba s/n, Samba, Luanda; +244 915407117; from $300), offers rare decent value, all things considered.
As soon as you step out of the hotel door, the only way to avoid a cash hemorrhage is to follow the age-old expat line and start living like a local.
The city doesn't have much in the way of museums and public parks, but it's worth walking along the recently refurbished Marginal, the seafood promenade that stretches from the local port to the Ilha, the peninsula jutting into Luanda Bay.
If you do, keep an eye on the imposing, whitewashed Portuguese fort perched on a hill overlooking the city; once you get close, take a left, go up the hill and you'll find an armed forces museum (+244 222 373 623) located inside the structure.
Beaches are a must in Angola in summer.
Near Luanda, Mussulo Island is a spit of land with thatch-roofed restaurants and hotel bungalows on one side and miles of deserted beach, with fantastic waves, on the other.
You can catch water taxis out to Mussulo at the Embarcadouro dock ($5) and spend the day there.
Another option is to get out of Luanda altogether and head 40 kilometers south to the Miradouro da Lua, a beautiful landscape of cliffs, pinnacles and valleys stretching toward the horizon.
Dotted with baobab trees, the long, empty savanna will make you question why everyone stays crammed in the city.
At Cabo Ledo, about 150 kilometers south of Luanda, you'll find some of the country's finest beaches, excellent for surfing.
Angola has a culinary tradition influenced by 500 years of Portuguese colonization and seafood from more than a thousand kilometers of coastline.
In the Mutamba, Luanda's central business district, a good spot for lunch is Tendinha (Rua da Missão 16, Mutamba; +244 923 542 868), a friendly Angolan bistro where the beer is cold and the food is cheap. It's within walking distance of some of the city's most popular hotels and the average check is $20.
At Ilha, where many of the city's best restaurants are located, two low-key favorites are Casa do Peixa da Gabela (Rua Massano de Amorim, Chicala) and Restaurante da Dona Bela (Rua Massano de Amorim, after Poupalá on your left side; it has blue walls and white bars on the outside).
At both places you can eat a feast -- featuring excellent mufete, a local delicacy of beans stewed in palm oil, grilled tilapia, onion vinaigrette, boiled plantains, sweet potatoes and yucca -- for about $17.
For dinner, on the fringes of central Luanda in the Bairro Popular you can try the excellent cuisine of Angolan master chef Rui Sá at his Restaurante & Bar 688 (Rua da Janela Aberta, Bairro Popular, Luanda; +244 943 256 193).
Entrees here rarely top the $30 mark, and if they do it's because you're getting enough food for two.
And if you want to splurge -- this is the world's most expensive city, after all -- Lookal Mar (Rua Murtala Mohamed 15, Ilha do Cabo, Luanda; +244 936 000 018/9) is the king of Luanda restaurants.
Entrees here can cost $150 -- seafood is flown in from Portugal three times a week.