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 Jorge Carlos Fonseca since 2011.
Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva since 2016.
Last updated: 18 September 2019
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.
Most visits to Cape Verde are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions against petty crime. See Crime
UK health authorities have classified Cape Verde as having a moderate risk of Zika virus transmission. There is also a low risk of malaria in the capital city, Praia (Santiago Island). For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Many British nationals have experienced serious problems when buying property in Cape Verde. Before buying property anywhere on the islands, you should seek independent qualified legal advice. See our list of English speaking lawyers in Cape Verde.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Cape Verde, attacks can’t be ruled out.
Consular support is not available from the British government in Cape Verde as there is no British Embassy. However, the British Embassy Lisbon in Portugal can provide consular support to British nationals.
Safety and security
Crime affects all islands of Cape Verde, but the number of incidents affecting British nationals is generally low. Burglaries and muggings have been reported on the main tourist islands of Sal and Boavista. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Keep sight of your belongings at all times. Leave valuables in a hotel safe if possible and don’t carry large amounts of cash. Avoid unlit areas after dark. Petty crimes like pick-pocketing or handbag snatching can occur, including on beaches.
Make sure your holiday accommodation is secure. Lock all doors and windows at night and when you go out. If you’re worried about security at your accommodation, speak to your tour operator, hotel manager or to the owner of the property.
Sexual assaults are rare but they do occur. Be alert and avoid secluded stretches of the beach with limited or restricted visibility. 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.
There has been an increase in reports of theft or loss of items from checked luggage on departure from Boa Vista airport. The airport authorities are investigating these reports. As luggage may be inspected as part of security checks, many airlines recommend that passengers carry any valuables in hand luggage to reduce the risk of loss, theft or damage.
You can drive in Cape Verde with a valid UK driving licence for up to 6 months, or on a valid International Driving Permit. If you’re staying longer or living in Cape Verde, you’ll need to get a Cape Verde driving licence.
Traffic is usually light and main road conditions are generally of a reasonable quality.
If you hire a car, scooter or quad bike, make sure it’s in good condition and that it’s fully insured. Quad biking is considered to be 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.
Crash helmets are required by law. Your insurance policy may be invalidated if you have an accident and you’re not wearing a helmet.
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.
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 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. Respect the warning flags and keep within sight of the lifeguard.
The political situation is generally stable, but you should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Cape Verde, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
From 1 January 2019, if you have a British Citizen passport you can enter Cape Verde as a visitor for stays of up to 30 days without a visa.
In place of a visa, before travelling you should register with the Cape Verde authorities on the EASE website and, if arriving by air, pay a new Airport Security Tax (TSA) of 3,400 escudos (approximately £30). This does not apply to visitors under 2 years of age or those who are normally resident in Cape Verde. Check with your tour operator or airline what arrangements are in place for your booking, as some tour operators and airlines may complete this on your behalf and have specific registration requirements. You can find more information on the pre-registration process and TSA in this information leaflet.
If you’re travelling on a different type of British passport, are travelling for a purpose other than tourism, or intending to stay longer than 90 days, you should check entry requirements with the nearest Cape Verde Embassy:
the Cape Verde Embassy in Brussels, Ambassade du Cap-Vert, Avenue Jeanne 29, 1050, Bruxelles Telephone: +32 2 64 36 270 Fax:+32 2 64 63 385 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
the Cape Verde Consulate General in the Netherlands, Baan 6, Rotterdam, 3011 CB, Telephone: +31 10 477 8977 Fax: +31 10 477 4553 Email: email@example.com
the Embassy of Cape Verde, 3, Avenue El-Hadjily MBAYE, B.P. 11.269, Dakar, Senegal Telephone:+221-3382-11873/13936 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Cape Verde.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Cape Verde.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
UK health authorities have classified Cape Verde as having a moderate risk of Zika virus transmission. There is a low risk of malaria in the capital city, Praia (Santiago Island). For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Medical facilities in Cape Verde are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. The largest hospitals are in Praia and Mindelo, with smaller medical facilities and clinics located throughout the country. Medical facilities are particularly limited on the island of Boavista. The islands of Brava and Santo Antão no longer have functioning airports, so air evacuation in the event of a medical emergency is extremely difficult from these two islands.
Some of the islands are mountainous, and travellers venturing into areas of altitude may suffer from altitude sickness, which can potentially be life threatening.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 130 (Santiago Island) and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The rainy season in Cape Verde runs from August to October.
Hurricanes can develop, although hurricanes often begin their formation in the waters around the Cape Verde Islands, they rarely reach hurricane strength close to the Islands. A typical Cape Verde-type hurricane develops in the area south of the islands, usually during the rainy season from August to October. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Center..
Some of the islands may experience sand storms (known locally as “bruma seca”) between December and February. The intensity of the storms varies but can disrupt air travel especially on the island of Boa Vista. If a sand storm occurs while you’re on one of the islands contact your tour operator or airline.
Local laws and customs
Local laws and customs
There is zero tolerance towards possessing, using or trafficking any type of illegal drugs. Penalties are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
The Cape Verde Escudo is tied to the euro at CV Esc 110.265 = 1 Euro. Banks will exchange hard currencies. Large hotels and restaurants accept some credit cards and payment in euros.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.