Cape Verde travel guide
About Cape Verde
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 da Ribeira Grande de Santiagog (previously called Cidade Velha).
Near Santiago, divers will discover 16th century shipwrecks littering the sea floor. Blue marlin, 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 2,829m (9,821 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 comparatively unspoiled. The economy is currently stable and investing in modernized infrastructure, service, commerce, foreign investment and tourism. Get there before the crowds inevitably catch on.
4,033 sq km (1,557 sq miles).
558,071 (UN estimate 2019).
135.4 per sq km.
President José Maria Neves since 2021.
Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva since 2021.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Cape Verde set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Cape Verdean Embassy in Paris, France (in French).
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Cape Verde.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Cape Verde, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
You can enter Cape Verde as a visitor for up to 30 days without a visa.
To stay longer or to travel for other reasons, you must meet the Cape Verde government’s entry requirements (in Portuguese).
Traveller entry form
You must fill in a traveller entry form 5 days before you arrive in the country. This form includes an airport security fee (‘TSA’), which you must pay before you arrive.
If you’re travelling with a tour operator, check whether they can complete the form for you as part of the booking process.
Children aged one and under do not need to fill in the traveller entry form.
You must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination, if you’re coming from a country listed as a transmission risk.
For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations see TravelHealthPro’s Cape Verde guide.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Cape Verde. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Cape Verde
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Cape Verde, attacks cannot be ruled out.
The crime rate in Cape Verde is generally low, but can include pickpocketing, bag snatching, burglary and muggings, particularly in the capital city of Praia and on the islands of Sal and Boa Vista. Sexual assaults are rare but have been reported.
You can take steps to protect yourself and your belongings, including:
- leaving valuables somewhere secure, such as a hotel safe
- keeping your belongings in sight at bars and restaurants
- not carrying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewellery
- avoiding unlit and isolated areas after dark
- avoiding beaches with limited or restricted visibility
- making sure your hotel or accommodation’s windows and doors are always locked
Laws and cultural differences
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
There are severe penalties for possessing, using or trafficking drugs. Penalties include fines and long prison sentences.
British nationals have experienced problems when buying property in Cape Verde. Before buying property on the islands, get independent qualified legal advice. See FCDO’s list of English-speaking lawyers in Cape Verde.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Swimming and water sports safety
Tides and currents around the islands are very strong. Look out for warning flags and keep within sight of the lifeguard.
See water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society.
If you are planning to drive in Cape Verde, see information on driving abroad.
You can use a valid UK photocard driving licence to drive in Cape Verde for up to 6 months. If you still have a paper driving licence, you should update it to a photocard licence, or get the 1968 version of the international driving permit (IDP) and carry it with your licence.
If you hire a car, scooter or quad bike, make sure it’s in good condition and that it’s fully insured. Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience, a higher minimum age and holding an IDP.
Quad biking is considered an extreme sport and may not be included in your travel insurance policy. Check whether you need additional insurance and make sure it covers you for the cost of medical care and repatriation.
It’s a legal requirement to wear a crash helmet when riding a scooter or quad bike. Your insurance policy may be invalidated if you have an accident and you’re not wearing a helmet.
Only hire authorised taxis from taxi ranks or by asking your hotel to call one. On the islands of Sal and Boa Vista, authorised taxis are coloured blue and yellow.
Intercity bus services can be dangerous because of poor driving.
Sea conditions around Cape Verde can be dangerous. Follow local advice before travelling by sea. Travel by sea to the southern islands of Brava and Fogo in particular can often be disrupted.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.
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.
Seismic activity and tremors can be felt occasionally, mostly on the islands of Brava and Fogo. This is usually within the bounds of normal activity but can sometimes be dangerous. Check with your travel provider before travelling to the islands of Brava or Fogo.
Sandstorms (‘bruma seca’) can happen between December and February. When intense, they can disrupt air travel, especially on the island of Boa Vista. If a sandstorm happens while you’re on one of the islands, contact your tour operator or airline.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Call 130 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Health risks and recommended vaccines
Check TravelHealthPro’s current advice on Cape Verde to find out how to reduce the health risks you’ll face there.
TravelHealthPro also lists the recommended vaccines that could apply to you. At least 8 weeks before you travel, check how to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page.
Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Cape Verde. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
You will only be able to buy medication from a pharmacy. Find a pharmacy near you on the Ministry of Health’s list of registered pharmacies (in Portuguese).
If you have a UK prescription, ask at a pharmacy if they can fill it for you. You may not be able to get the same strength or dosage. Some medicines may not be available or may not be authorised for sale in Cape Verde.
If you need a repeat prescription, go to the nearest health centre or hospital emergency department.
Healthcare facilities in Cape Verde
Medical facilities in Cape Verde are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. The largest hospitals are in Praia on Santiago and Mindelo on São Vicente, with smaller medical facilities and clinics located throughout the country. Medical facilities are particularly limited on the island of Boa Vista.
The islands of Brava and Santo Antão do not have working airports, so medical air evacuation is extremely difficult.
FCDO has a list of medical providers in Cape Verde where some staff will speak English.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Cape Verde
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Cape Verde
- dealing with a death in Cape Verde
- being arrested or imprisoned in Cape Verde
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are in Cape Verde and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal who provide consular assistance for Cape Verde.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)