Top Tips for travelling safely in Sao Tome & Principe

Your first question will probably be, where is this?

This is Africa's second smallest nation (after the Seychelles), and consists of two islands, eponymously Sao Tome and Principe, which are 140 kilometers apart and about 250 kilometers off the coast of Gabon in equatorial west Africa.

There is a gorgeous looking tourist hotel on the bigger island, Sao Tome, but you're unlikely to be disturbed if you stay here. only about 20 people a week visit the nation.

(The hotel, which at the time of writing was for sale for $4.5mil)

English speaking tourists are even rarer, and English is not spoken on the island.

Sao Tome and Principe is a lusophone (whoa - there's a word I've never heard of before) country; travelers who do not speak Portuguese may face communication difficulties associated with the language barrier.

There is an international airport with connections to Africa and Lisbon. Boat and ferry services run from several West African ports, but the vessels are often in a poor state of repair and with low safety standards - choose carefully.

Crime

Sitting just a few above the equator the pace of life in Sao Tome is laid back, but in the recent past there have been isolated incidents of civil unrest in the capital city.

In February 2009, there was a heightened security presence in the capital of Sao Tome following the arrests of several leaders of a former paramilitary group, the Buffalos, suspected of plotting a coup.

Crimes such as burglary, pick-pocketing and armed robberies in homes do occur on the islands, particularly around the winter holidays and are more prevalent in public places, such as in markets, on the streets, or near hotels.

But in keeping with it's laid back nature, crime is not a major problem for visitors, just remember the average income is around $1 a day, so a digital SLR camera left unattended would be just too tempting to ignore!

Health

Malaria is your greatest risk if visiting Sao Tome. But there are frequent outbreaks of cholera, too, so you should observe strict food and hygiene measures.

Local Laws

Taking photographs of the Presidential Palace, military or other government buildings is strictly forbidden.

Getting Around

The streets in the city of Sao Tome are paved, but large potholes are common. Major roads outside of town are also paved, but there are no sidewalks or shoulders along the side of roads which means wandering pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and animals can be a major hazard.

In rural areas there is no street lighting and drivers are expected to honk the car's horn periodically as a warning signal of their approach.

Some roads may be impassable without a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Only a few miles of improved roads exist on the island of Principe.

Seats on the small aircraft that operate between the main island of Sao Tome and the smaller island of Principe need to be booked well in advance or there is a risk that you could become stranded.

There are shared taxis on Sao Tome, but no other public transport in Sao Tome and Principe.

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2 Comments

  • Kamen said

    Hi
    Is there someone who can tell me how can I get to Sao Tome

  • Shawn said

    R.V. Newadkar, you want tourist maps of Sao Tome and Principe? Lol. You don't seem to understand how less developed countries in Africa work. No tourist maps for you. Having been to Sao Tome myself just a few months back and seen most of the island (including three days trekking across Obo national park), I recommend you download the Sao Tome map on Maps.Me and buy the Sao Tome Bradt Guide which has lots of interesting and practical information... well worth the money.

    As for Kamen there are three ways to get to Sao Tome (maybe a fourth but complicated for you). You can fly through Angola on TAAG, direct from Portugal on TAP and Libreville on Afrijet or Ceiba airlines (Afrijet is much easier as you can buy their tickets online). I used both TAP and Afrijet and was happy with the experience. You can in theory take a boat there... let me know how that goes.

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