Mercado Municipal São Filipe, Cape Verde
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Mercado Municipal São Filipe, Cape Verde

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Cape Verde Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

4,033 sq km (1,557 sq miles).

Population

526,993 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

135.4 per sq km.

Capital

Praia.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Jorge Carlos Fonseca since 2011.

Head of government

Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva since 2016.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs with two rounded pins are commonly used.

The islands of Cape Verde are a bewitching blend of Portuguese and African influences. You'll see it in the many European-style buildings and the curious musical styles, but its particularly noticeable in the food. Portuguese fare – especially seafood dishes laden with garlic and olive oil – and more African-style fare – such as stews, beans, maize and tropical crops – comfortably combined on most menus.

Many associate Cape Verde with the mournful songs of Cesaria Evoria, the islands' best known singer. The ‘barefoot diva' is the best exponent of morna, a lovelorn type of folk music similar to Portuguese fado. Music is a key component of life on Cape Verde, and several of the islands stage exuberant carnivals, with the best known being the Baia das Gatas Festival. São Vicente is also renowned for its exuberant festivities.

Once a colony and slave trade outpost, Cape Verde varies wildly in character and scenery through its 10 islands and five tiny islets. From spectacular verdant mountain ranges, to deserted beaches, with a few volcanic landscapes thrown in for good measure, it's the variety that makes Cape Verde such an unusual and appealing destination.

There’s lush and lively Santiago, the biggest of the islands, which boasts verdant hillsides, jungle and plenty of remarkable wildlife. It’s also the cultural heart of Cape Verde, home to the UNESCO-listed old fort at Cidade Velha.

Near Santiago, divers will discover 16th century shipwrecks littering the sea floor, while eels, yellowfin tuna and the odd humpback whale can be seen in the clear blue waters off Boa Vista. The island of Sal is popular for watersports and white sandy beaches, while Fogo is a hiker’s paradise, where volcanic peaks tower 2800m (9186 ft) above sea- level.

Cape Verde may have struggled economically since gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, but many argue that it's isolation is a blessing, leaving these islands unspoiled and comparatively undiscovered. Get there before the crowds inevitably catch on.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 13 March 2017

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Crime rates in many parts of Cape Verde are low, but there’s been a significant increase in crime in Praia and Mindelo recently, as well as an increase in burglaries and violent muggings on the main tourist islands of Sal and Boa Vista.

Sexual assaults have also been reported and you should remain alert at all times. Take precautions when walking along beaches, including praia de Estoril, praia de Chaves and Santa Monica. Leave valuables in a hotel safe if possible and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Be vigilant and avoid unlit areas after dark.

Some petty crimes like pick-pocketing or purse snatching are carried out by children. Avoid groups of children who appear not to have any adult supervision.

If you become a victim of crime, contact the local police. In an emergency call 132 (police) or 131 (fire). Response times vary and service standards may not be as high as in the UK.

Road travel

Traffic is usually light and road conditions and driving standards are generally of a reasonable quality.

The rainy season in Cape Verde is from mid August to mid October. Torrential rains can cause floods and landslides. Monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling to affected areas during this season.

Local Travel

Intercity bus services can be dangerous due to poor driving. Taxis hailed from hotels are generally reliable. In Praia, city buses and taxis are reliable, clean and in good condition. Car rental is widely available on the islands of Santiago, Sal, Boa Vista and São Vicente.

Sea travel  

Sea conditions around Cape Verde are sometimes dangerous. Take local advice before travelling by sea. Travel by sea to the southern islands of Fogo and Brava in particular can often be disrupted.

Take care if you participate in water sports, swimming, boating and fishing. Tides and currents around the islands are very strong.

Political situation

The political situation is generally stable, but you should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings

Consular assistance

There is no British Embassy in Cape Verde. If you’re in Cape Verde and you need urgent consular assistance, you should call +44 1908 516666.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.