One of the top complaints made by travelers who have visited Cape Verde, the archipelago off the western coast of Africa, is its growing crime due to tourism. Particular increases in crime have occurred in the capital city Praia and Mindelo.
Traveling to Cape Verde is mostly safe, and you shouldn't be worried about danger if you use common sense, such as keeping your belongings out of sight, not being flashy with jewelry or expensive cameras, and showing respect to the local culture and of course the law.
Several travelers spoke of being mugged or robbed, particularly on dark roads at night and in isolated spots. The darkness element is actually more widespread than you might think – street lights are scarce in many public places, and intermittent electricity blackouts can cause whole city suburbs to go dim. Crowded areas such as marketplaces and festivals also attract pickpocketing.
In addition to street robbery, travelers who stayed near the beach in Santa Maria reported that thieves sometimes wander into hotels and try to steal belongings.
The profile of the majority of criminals is males aged 25 or younger, but street children are also known for robbing tourists. Any group of young kids that are hanging out at night without adults may be on the prowl for your phones or wallets. Whether it's a child or an adult, you will rarely be accosted by just one thief – they usually approach in twos or threes.
Travelers also report aggressive youths who offer to carry your bags from the airport in Praia. As for the profile of the victims, race, country of origin and gender do not really come into play. You have a higher risk of being attacked if you simply look like you have money. You know what this means: avoid wearing flashy jewelry, posh clothing or flaunting expensive electronics.
Muggings can be violent in nature. Praia and Mindelo are the most common areas for any type of violence, but it has also been reported on other islands, such as Sal. But, do the statistics back up the perception of heightened danger?
In February 2007, a non-native resident of the island of Sal and some accomplices raped and murdered two Italian women staying on the island – the man had formerly dated one of the women. A third victim, only 17, was beaten and left for dead, but survived. While this crime is heinous, its domestic nature – and assaults committed by boyfriends and spouses against women are common in Cape Verde – does not support the idea that violence against travelers is on the rise.
Organized crime, incidents linked to the drug trade and drug use and gang violence do occur. In late 2010, 68 people were being charged with various crimes like robbery and murder –12 of the suspects were thought to be juvenile gang members. The dozen were charged with stealing from homes in the Palmarejo and Tira Chapéu sections of Praia, and the armed robbery and physical assault of several victims.
Since it is a group of islands, Cape Verde has some natural dangers related both to location on the map. It is built upon a chain of volcanic islands – there are 10 main islands and five islets. Santa Luzia is an uninhabited island. The island of Fogo still erupts from time to time, with the most recent eruption occurring in 2014. Tremors from eruptions can be felt on the islands of Brava and Santo Antão as well. The volcanoes on the remaining islands appear to be inactive.
Most of the hazards will come not by land, but by sea. Rip currents are one of the chief dangers of swimming in the waters surrounding Cape Verde. Santa Monica beach carries risks both from rip tides and a rocky shoreline. Any traveler looking to undertake water activities, swimming or boating should take extra precautions with the currents. If sailing around the Cape, at least one government site lists the seas as treacherous. Small fishing boats have gone missing over the years, and sailing to the southern islands of Fogo and Brava is reported to be especially dangerous.
Leave your umbrella and rain coat at home when traveling to any of the Cape Verde islands, as rainfall isn't abundant here. It‘s a very sunny part of the world, with the only clouds appearing when storms from the east blow in. While this can make for a pleasant vacation, this lack of precipitation can cause droughts and shortages of food. It also means fresh water is not available. Don't drink tap water: instead boil all water, carry water purification tablets, or use a water purification device, as tap water might cause stomach sickness.
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