Unlike in other parts of Africa, heavy bargaining is not expected in Cabo Verde. The exception is when purchasing handicrafts, when there is some expectation of gentle haggling.
Dangers & Annoyances
Violent crime is a threat in Praia, where it's highly advisable to take taxis at night, no matter where and how far you're going. Take caution in Mindelo, too, where pickpocketing and muggings are not uncommon.
Some hiking trails have become sites of banditry in recent years, as on Boa Vista and around Tarrafal on Santiago; always ask locals before you set out.
The rest of Cabo Verde is very safe, though petty crime like pickpocketing is always a possibility.
- Electricity Voltage is 220V with European-style twin-pronged plugs.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Cabo Verde's country code||238|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Proof of yellow-fever vaccination is only required if you are coming to Cabo Verde from an infected area.
All visitors to Cabo Verde (except holders of some African passports) require a visa. A one-month tourist visa can be obtained without any problems on arrival for €25.
Technically, there's a fine of CVE15,000 if you let your Cabo Verdean visa expire; in reality, if you're only a little over nobody is likely to care.
For an extension you need, in theory, to fill in a form, supply a photo and lodge the application at the Direcção de Emigração e Fronteiras; in reality, staff members here are likely to be highly confused if you turn up requesting an extension!
The one-month tourist visa for Cabo Verde is available on arrival at the airports and at the ports of Praia and Sal. The €25 fee is payable in euros only – it helps to bring the exact money.
- Bargaining Not expected in most cases in Cabo Verde, except when purchasing handicrafts from West African (usually Senegalese) vendors.
- Begging Best not to give anything (money, sweets, pens) to children as this only creates greater harm to the society. If you want to help, donate to schools and community projects in need.
- Greetings Men shake hands upon meeting. Women greet one another – and men greet women – by giving a kiss on each cheek.
- Hissing It's common for people to give a 'ssss' to get your attention. This is not meant to be rude, so don't take offence.
- Photographs Ask permission before taking pictures.
- Water usage Water is a precious resource on the islands (and scarce in many places). Conserve water at all times.
Cabo Verde has less of the homophobia and open discrimination encountered in other parts of West Africa. Homosexual acts were decriminalised in 2004, and although the LGBTIQ+ community is largely underground, the islands are fairly tolerant. The most gay-friendly destinations in the archipelago are Santa Maria (Sal) and Mindelo (São Vicente). Mindelo even hosts an annual Gay Pride parade (late June), which first kicked off in 2013.
Internet cafes are a rare breed in a country with a growing number of smartphone users, but the main town squares on all major islands in Cabo Verde have free wi-fi. Note that some hotels, even the upscale ones, charge for wi-fi.
Unlike in some other African nations, corruption is not a serious problem travellers will face here. Police scams and forced bribes are extremely rare in Cabo Verde.
The penalties for using illegal drugs, including marijuana, can be severe, with long prison sentences imposed.
If arrested, your first call should be to your embassy or consulate.
A good map of Cabo Verde's islands is the German-produced AB Karten-Verlag Cabo Verde (1:200,000; 2001).
An excellent hiking map for Santo Antão is the (also German) Goldstadt Wanderkarte (1:50,000; 2001) with around 40 suggested walks. The same company also produces maps to several other islands within Cabo Verde.
- Newspapers A Semana (www.asemana.publ.cv), A Nação (www.anacao.cv) and Expresso das Ilhas (www.expressodasilhas.sapo.cv) are the weekly newspapers.
- Radio & TV Mostly limited to Portugal's, with Portuguese and Brazilian shows as well as Cabo Verde news.
Most banks change travellers cheques and cash (except the West African CFA), and have ATMs. Credit cards are not widely accepted.
Most accept bank cards and Visa, but tthe daily withdrawal limit is CVE20,000.
The unit of currency is the Cabo Verde escudo (CVE), divided into 100 centavos. It is a stable currency, pegged to the euro. Most businesses also accept euros.
Not widely accepted (Visa preferable). Even where accepted, there's typically a 3% to 5% commission for credit-card payments.
It's common to tip at restaurants, typically around 5% to 10% of the bill.
Note that for hours posted on shop windows, days are often numbered according to the Portuguese system from 1º to 7º (1º is Sunday, 7º is Saturday).
Banks From 8am to 3pm Monday to Friday.
Businesses Generally 8am to noon and 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to noon or 1pm Saturday.
Restaurants Mostly open from around noon to 3pm and 7pm to 10pm.
The postal service is cheap, reliable and reasonably quick. Correios (post offices) are generally open 8am to 3pm Monday to Friday, with additional Saturday morning hours in Praia and Mindelo.
New Year's Day 1 January
National Heroes' Day 20 January
Labour Day 1 May
Independence Day 5 July
Assumption Day 15 August
All Saints' Day 1 November
Immaculate Conception 8 December
Christmas Day 25 December
Most restaurants, guesthouses and hotels don't permit smoking indoors, though there is often an outside area where smoking is permitted.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT) is a 15% sales tax levied on most goods and services. Restaurants always include VAT in their prices, but it is not always included in hotel-room prices, so be sure to ask when booking. Hotels also charge an additional room tax of CVE220 per night per person, which is rarely included in posted prices.
Every number for a fixed telephone line in Cabo Verde has seven digits; all landlines start with '2'. No area code is necessary.
Don't expect to rely on public telephones. Most are gone or don't work.
Mobile-phone reception is excellent, and numbers are seven digits long.
If bringing a phone from home with roaming facilities, it will connect automatically.
Local SIM cards (from CVE100) are available at all mobile phone offices and will work with unlocked phones, as is credit to use data on a smartphone. Credit is available in multiples of CVE100, and start at CVE100.
All of the islands of Cabo Verde are one hour behind GMT/UTC. Cabo Verde does not observe daylight saving time.
Most Cabo Verdean toilets are of the Western sit-down type with a seat, though you may encounter a few squat, hole-in-the-ground type toilets. Public toilets are available in airports and ferry terminals, and some shopping centres. Elsewhere, facilities are rare, so your best bet is stopping in a cafe or restaurant.
Do your planning in advance of your trip to Cabo Verde. On the islands, tourist information is limited. Mindelo (São Vicente), Santa Maria (Sal) and Tarrafal (Santiago) all have helpful info kiosks. Elsewhere, the best source of information is often the guesthouse where you stay. You can get an overview of the islands at the country's tourism website, www.turismo.cv.
Travel with Children
Travel in Cabo Verde can be a great experience for kids. There are gorgeous beaches for fun days in the sun, eerie volcanic landscapes and great walks (including short rambles) amid lush valleys and towering peaks. Plus, locals are apt to lavish attention on young ones.
Logistics of moving around the archipelago can be challenging, so it's wise to plan well – and not to pack in too much travel. Pick one, two or three islands and allow plenty of down time to enjoy the slow pace of Cabo Verdean life.
Travelling with infants and very young children will present the biggest challenges, as baby seats are a rarity for vehicle hire, and high chairs and changing facilities are uncommon. A sturdy pram is essential for sometimes treacherous cobblestone streets and sandy paths.
A few key destinations for kids:
- Sal Best selection of Western-style restaurants, ample beach activities, resort-style accommodation.
- Boa Vista Laid-back, walkable centre near pretty beaches. Easy day trips to desert-like interior, an abandoned seaside village and deserted beaches.
- Maio Play on the beaches with village kids, good local and Italian restaurants.
Additionally, São Vicente and Santo Antão make a fine combination, as do Fogo and Brava. Inter-island ferries connect these island pairs on scenic boat rides that last under an hour.
Cabo Verde can be a challenging place to get around for travellers with disabilities. Potholed and unpaved roads, lack of curb cuts, and a lack of lifts are among the most obvious problems. Very few guesthouses are accessible, with bathroom doorways that may be difficult to squeeze a wheelchair into. Public transport – which means vans here – gets quite crowded and taxis are of the small sedan type. Getting on ferries is another challenge, often involving negotiating a narrow gangway from dock to boat.
That said, Cabo Verdeans do their best to accommodate visitors with disabilities. You can hire vans for day trips around Santo Antão, Fogo and Brava, and these are often available on other islands as well. The most accessible place for visitors is Santa Maria on Sal. Some of the resorts there have accessible rooms.
Other accommodations with accessible rooms include the following:
Accessible Travel Guide
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
It's helpful to have some Portuguese or better yet Crioulo (Creole) skills before approaching volunteer organisations. SOS Tartarugas (www.sostartarugas.org) accepts volunteers for conservation programs on Sal, Boa Vista and Maio.
A few other organizations that occasionally list volunteer opportunities in Cabo Verde include the following:
Worldwide Volunteering (http://worldwidevolunteering.org)
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
Cabo Verde is one of the safest countries in West Africa for solo women travelers – no special precautions are required.
Work opportunities are limited on Cabo Verde. The best bet for foreigners who want to stick around is getting a job in the tourism sector (tending bar, waiting tables, etc) at one of the resorts on Sal or Boa Vista.
If you have qualifications and experience teaching English, then you can sometimes find work at one of the English Language Institutes (www.facebook.com/eli.praia) in Praia, Mindelo and Santa Maria. In Praia, you can also try Language Link (http://languagelinkcv.com).