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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.

COUNTRY PAGE
  • 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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SEASONS AT A GLANCE

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Peak Season

Shoulder Season

Off Peak Season

JANUARY

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FEBRUARY

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MARCH

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APRIL

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MAY

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JUNE

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JULY

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AUGUST

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SEPTEMBER

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OCTOBER

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NOVEMBER

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DECEMBER

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Climate Chart with avergae monthly temperatues and rainfall

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.

BEST TIME FOR:

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.

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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.

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TRAVEL TIPS FOR SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE

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.

REGIONS & 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.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE

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

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WHERE TO STAY IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE

When visiting São Tomé and Príncipe for the first time, you'll find that most accommodations are located on the main island of São Tomé. Here are some areas to consider for your stay, along with specific suggestions for different budget ranges:


Where To Stay In São Tomé City:

São Tomé City is the capital and largest city of São Tomé and Príncipe, situated on the northeastern coast of São Tomé Island. It serves as the main hub for tourists and offers various accommodation options.

Budget Accommodation:

  • Residencial Avenida: Located in the city center, Residencial Avenida offers budget-friendly rooms with basic amenities, a restaurant serving local cuisine, and easy access to shops and attractions.

  • Roça Belo Monte Hotel: Situated on the outskirts of the city, Roça Belo Monte Hotel provides affordable rooms in a colonial-style building, surrounded by lush gardens and offering a tranquil atmosphere.

Mid-Range Accommodation:

  • Omali Lodge: A mid-range hotel near the city center, Omali Lodge features comfortable rooms, a pool, spa facilities, and a restaurant serving international and local dishes.

  • Pestana São Tomé: Located on the waterfront, Pestana São Tomé offers mid-range accommodations with ocean views, a pool, casino, and various dining options.

Luxury Accommodation:

  • Sweet Guest House: This luxury boutique hotel offers stylish rooms and suites, a pool, garden terrace, and a restaurant serving gourmet cuisine with a focus on local ingredients.


Where To Stay In Príncipe Island:

Príncipe Island is known for its lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and eco-friendly resorts, offering a secluded and idyllic retreat.

Budget Accommodation:

  • Roça Sundy: Located on the northwest coast of Príncipe Island, Roça Sundy offers budget-friendly rooms in a restored colonial plantation house, surrounded by tropical gardens and close to the beach.

Mid-Range Accommodation:

  • Sundy Praia: A mid-range eco-resort on the northwest coast, Sundy Praia offers stylish tented villas, a pool, spa facilities, and a restaurant serving fresh seafood and local dishes.

  • Roca Belo Monte Hotel: Located in the heart of the city, Roca Belo Monte Hotel offers mid-range accommodations in a colonial-style building, surrounded by lush gardens and offering a tranquil atmosphere.

Luxury Accommodation:

  • Sundy Praia Lodge: This luxury eco-resort features exclusive tented villas with private pools, a spa, gourmet restaurant, and access to pristine beaches and nature trails.

  • Bom Bom Principe Island Resort: Situated on Bom Bom Island, this luxury resort offers spacious bungalows with panoramic ocean views, a pool, beach bar, and water sports facilities.


These accommodations offer a range of options to suit different budgets and preferences, providing convenient access to the islands' attractions and natural beauty. Be sure to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure your preferred accommodation.


Booking.com consistently return the cheapest rates for accommodation in São Tomé and Príncipe. For longer stays, find unique homes worldwide on Holiday Swap, the most affordable travel platform that allows you to book homes anytime, anywhere in only a few clicks.

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