SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE TRAVEL GUIDE
São Tomé and Príncipe, an African island nation close to the equator, is part of a volcano chain featuring striking rock and coral formations, rainforests and beaches. Discovered and claimed by Portugal in the late 15th century, the islands' sugar-based economy gave way to coffee and cocoa in the 19th century.
It has a rather chequered history of the slave trade and slave labour, of colony and colonisers, of revolutionaries and freedom movements, of military coups and elections. Visitors to the islands swear by its cocoa, by its virgin beaches and crystal clear waters, steamy jungles and extinct volcanoes, by its Creole culture and Afro-Latin music – reasons enough to visit the islands.
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SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE QUICK FACTS
Capital: São Tomé
Currency: dobra (STD)
Area: 1,000 sq km
Population: 211 028 (2018)
Language: Portuguese (official)
Religion: Christian 80% (Roman Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Seventh-Day Adventist)
Electricity: 220V/50Hz (European plug)
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SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
3 February, Martyrs’ Day (Heroes’ Day)
1 May, Labor Day
12 July, Independence Day (1975)
6 September, Armed Forces Day
30 September, Agricultural Reform Day
21 December, São Tomé Day
FESTIVALS IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
BEST TIME TO VISIT SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
The best time to visit São Tomé and Príncipe is during the dry season, which runs from June to September. During this period, the weather is generally sunny with lower humidity and less rainfall, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking and exploring the beaches.
It's worth noting that even during the dry season, there can still be occasional rainfall, and temperatures can vary depending on the location and altitude.
The rainy season in São Tomé and Príncipe typically runs from October to May, with the highest rainfall occurring between March and May. While this period can be challenging for some activities due to the heavy rains, it is also a great time to see the lush green landscapes, vibrant flora and fauna, and waterfalls.
Ultimately, the best time to visit São Tomé and Príncipe depends on your personal preferences and interests. If you're looking for sunny weather and outdoor activities, the dry season is the best time to visit. But if you want to experience the stunning natural beauty and unique culture of the islands, the rainy season can also be a great time to go.
SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE WEATHER SYNOPSIS
The climate of São Tomé and Príncipe is tropical with one long rainy season lasting nine months, lasting from September through May, and producing an annual average rainfall of 900 mm. The rainy season is interrupted by a short period termed, “Gravanito”, and occurs during the months of December and January. During this short period, a decrease in rainfall and average air temperature is observed. The occurrence of this intermediate season is dependent on the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. A three-month dry season termed “Gravana” lasts from June through August coinciding with the lowest average temperatures of the year. Mean temperatures vary a few degrees throughout the year, ranging between 22°C and 26°C. The lowest average temperatures occur during the dry season months of June through August, while the rainy season experiences higher temperatures.
SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
HIKING & CYCLING IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
The best time for outdoor activities in São Tomé and Príncipe is between June and September when it is dry and you can also watch whales.
BEACH OPTIONS IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
The best time to enjoy the beaches of São Tomé and Príncipe is during the two dry seasons of December to February and June to September.
SURFING IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
São Tomé and Príncipe is a perfect surfing destination in Africa where you can enjoy uncrowded pointbreaks, amazing wildlife and exquisite cocoa and coffee plantations. The best swells for surfing will usually hit the islands between June and September.
KITESURF IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
Kitesurfing spot details and weather
HEALTH RISKS IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
Be aware of possible health risks in
Sao Tome and Principe
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE TRAVEL COSTS
The cost of traveling to São Tomé and Príncipe can vary depending on several factors, such as the time of year, duration of stay, type of accommodation, transportation, and activities.
Here are some general estimates of the costs involved in traveling to São Tomé and Príncipe:
- Accommodation: The cost of accommodation in São Tomé and Príncipe can range from budget guesthouses to luxury resorts. Budget guesthouses can cost around $20-$50 per night, while mid-range hotels can cost around $70-$150 per night. Luxury hotels and resorts can cost upwards of $200 per night.
- Flights: Flights to São Tomé and Príncipe can vary in price depending on the airline, season, and time of booking. Generally, flights from Europe can cost around $500-$1000, while flights from Africa can cost around $300-$700.
- Food and Drink: Local food and drink options can be relatively inexpensive, with a meal at a local restaurant costing around $5-$10. However, if you prefer more upscale dining options, prices can be higher.
- Transportation: Taxis are the most popular form of transportation on the islands, with prices ranging from $1-$10 depending on the distance. Car rentals are also available and can cost around $60-$100 per day.
- Activities: Activities in São Tomé and Príncipe can range from hiking and exploring the beaches to wildlife watching and cultural tours. Prices can vary depending on the activity, but a typical tour can cost around $50-$100 per person.
Overall, a budget traveler can expect to spend around $50-$100 per day, while a mid-range traveler can expect to spend around $150-$250 per day. However, it's important to keep in mind that these are estimates and that actual costs can vary depending on individual travel styles and preferences.
SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some travel tips for São Tomé and Príncipe:
- Plan ahead: São Tomé and Príncipe is a small country with limited tourism infrastructure, so it's important to plan your trip in advance. Book your accommodation and flights early, especially during peak season, to avoid disappointment.
- Bring cash: São Tomé and Príncipe is a cash-based society, and credit cards are not widely accepted. Bring enough cash with you to cover your expenses, including transportation, food, and activities.
- Respect local customs and culture: São Tomé and Príncipe has a unique culture that is heavily influenced by Portuguese and African traditions. Be respectful of local customs, dress modestly, and ask for permission before taking photos of people.
- Be aware of your surroundings: While São Tomé and Príncipe is generally a safe country, petty crime can occur. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid walking alone at night, and keep valuables out of sight.
- Protect yourself from mosquitoes: São Tomé and Príncipe is a malaria-prone country, so it's important to take precautions to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Wear long-sleeved clothing, use mosquito repellent, and sleep under mosquito nets.
- Try local cuisine: São Tomé and Príncipe has a rich culinary tradition that combines African and Portuguese flavors. Sample local dishes such as fish stew, grilled lobster, and cassava bread.
- Explore the outdoors: São Tomé and Príncipe has stunning natural beauty, with lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, and volcanic peaks. Take advantage of the outdoor activities on offer, such as hiking, birdwatching, and snorkeling.
- Learn some Portuguese: Portuguese is the official language of São Tomé and Príncipe, although many people also speak a Creole language. Learning a few basic phrases in Portuguese can help you communicate with locals and make your trip more enjoyable.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
São Tomé and Príncipe is a small country consisting of two main islands, São Tomé and Príncipe, and several smaller islets. Here are some of the main regions worth visiting and the highlights of each region:
São Tomé Island: São Tomé Island is the larger of the two islands and is home to the capital city of São Tomé. Some of the highlights of this region include:
- The capital city of São Tomé, with its historic colonial architecture and colorful markets.
- The Obo National Park, with its lush rainforest, waterfalls, and hiking trails.
- The Praia das Conchas, a beautiful beach with clear turquoise waters and white sand.
- The Monte Café Coffee Plantation, where you can learn about the history of coffee production on the island and sample some of the local coffee.
Príncipe Island: Príncipe Island is the smaller of the two islands and is known for its unspoiled natural beauty. Some of the highlights of this region include:
- The Obo National Park, which spans both islands and is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna.
- The Praia Banana, a stunning beach with clear waters and rock formations.
- The Bom Bom Island Resort, a luxury resort set on a private island with a beautiful beach and excellent snorkeling opportunities.
- The Roça Sundy, a former plantation turned into a hotel that offers guided tours of the island's history and culture.
Ilhéu das Rolas: Ilhéu das Rolas is a small islet located at the southern tip of São Tomé Island. Some of the highlights of this region include:
- The Equator line, which runs through the island and is marked by a monument.
- The Praia Piscina, a beach with calm waters ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
- The Pico Cão Grande, a striking rock formation that towers over the island and offers excellent views.
Lagoa Azul: Lagoa Azul is a small islet located off the eastern coast of São Tomé Island. Some of the highlights of this region include:
- The crystal-clear waters of Lagoa Azul, which are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
- The beautiful coral reefs and marine life, which can be explored on a snorkeling or diving excursion.
- The peaceful atmosphere and beautiful scenery, which make this a great place to relax and unwind.
Overall, São Tomé and Príncipe offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, history, and culture. Whether you're interested in exploring the islands' lush rainforests, relaxing on the beautiful beaches, or learning about the local culture and cuisine, there is something for everyone in this beautiful country.
São Tomé and Príncipe offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, history, and culture. Here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting this beautiful country:
- Explore the natural beauty: São Tomé and Príncipe is known for its lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, and volcanic peaks. Take a hike through the Obo National Park, visit the stunning Praia das Conchas beach, or climb the Pico Cão Grande rock formation for incredible views.
- Discover the local culture: São Tomé and Príncipe has a rich cultural heritage, influenced by Portuguese and African traditions. Visit the historic colonial architecture of the capital city of São Tomé, explore the Roça Agostinho Neto plantation to learn about the history of slavery on the island, or attend a traditional dance or music performance.
- Sample the local cuisine: São Tomé and Príncipe has a unique culinary tradition that combines African and Portuguese flavors. Try local dishes such as fish stew, grilled lobster, and cassava bread, or visit a local market to sample fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Snorkel or dive in the clear waters: The waters around São Tomé and Príncipe are home to beautiful coral reefs and a diverse array of marine life. Take a snorkeling or diving excursion to see colorful fish, sea turtles, and even whale sharks.
- Relax on the beautiful beaches: São Tomé and Príncipe has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Spend a day lounging on the white sand of Praia Banana or Praia Piscina, or take a boat tour to discover hidden coves and secluded beaches.
- Visit the smaller islands: Ilhéu das Rolas and Lagoa Azul are two small islets off the coast of São Tomé Island that offer unique experiences. Visit the equator line on Ilhéu das Rolas or snorkel in the crystal-clear waters of Lagoa Azul.
- Go birdwatching: São Tomé and Príncipe is home to a number of unique bird species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Take a birdwatching tour to see the São Tomé kingfisher, Príncipe seedeater, and other rare birds.
Overall, São Tomé and Príncipe offers visitors a wealth of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and outdoor activities. Whether you're looking to relax on the beach or explore the island's history and culture, there is something for everyone in this beautiful country.
WHAT TO EAT IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
São Tomé and Príncipe is known for its unique cuisine, which blends African and Portuguese flavors. Here are some dishes you should try when visiting the country:
- Calulu: A stew made with fish or chicken, tomatoes, onions, okra, and spices, served with rice.
- Cuscuz: A savory cake made with cornmeal and vegetables, often served with fish or chicken.
- Moqueca: A seafood stew made with fish or shrimp, coconut milk, onions, peppers, and spices.
- Feijoada: A hearty bean stew made with pork, sausage, and spices.
- Grilled Lobster: A popular seafood dish served with garlic butter and lemon.
- Xerem: A traditional dish made with cornmeal, beans, vegetables, and spices.
- Tuna tartare: A dish made with fresh tuna, avocado, onion, and lemon juice.
- Pastéis: Fried pastry pockets filled with fish or meat, often served as a snack or appetizer.
- Doce de Papaia: A sweet dessert made with papaya, sugar, and spices.
- Café da manhã: A traditional breakfast that typically includes fresh fruit, bread, coffee, and cheese.
Overall, the cuisine of São Tomé and Príncipe is diverse and flavorful, with plenty of options for seafood lovers and vegetarians alike. Be sure to sample some of these dishes during your visit to experience the unique flavors of the country.
LGBTQ IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
WHERE TO STAY IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
When visiting São Tomé and Príncipe for the first time, it's recommended to stay in the capital city of São Tomé. This is the largest city on the main island and serves as the cultural and economic hub of the country. Here are some accommodation options to consider:
- Pestana São Tomé: This 5-star hotel is located in the heart of the city, with easy access to the beach, shopping, and nightlife. It features a swimming pool, restaurant, and bar, as well as spacious rooms with ocean views.
- Omali Lodge: This boutique hotel is located just outside of the city center, surrounded by lush tropical gardens. It features a swimming pool, restaurant, and spa, as well as luxurious rooms and bungalows with private balconies.
- Hotel Miramar by Pestana: This 4-star hotel is located on the beachfront, just a short walk from the city center. It features a swimming pool, restaurant, and bar, as well as modern rooms with ocean views.
- Cocoa Hotel Residence: This budget-friendly hotel is located in the city center, within walking distance of many restaurants, shops, and attractions. It features clean and comfortable rooms, as well as a rooftop terrace with city views.
- Residencial Avenida: This guesthouse is located in the heart of the city, just steps away from the market and other attractions. It features basic but comfortable rooms, as well as a shared kitchen and lounge area.
Overall, there are many accommodation options to choose from in São Tomé and Príncipe, ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxurious resorts. Staying in the capital city is a good option for first-time visitors, as it provides easy access to many of the country's top attractions.
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