São Tomé e Príncipe travel guide
About São Tomé e Príncipe
The little-known islands of São Tomé e Príncipe provide unspoiled beauty and isolation from the world, in a way that's now rarely found anywhere else. The islands lie on an alignment of once-active volcanoes, with rugged landscapes, dense forests and palm-fringed beaches, situated 250km (155 miles) off the coast of West Africa.
In São Tomé e Príncipe, exotic birds inhabit tropical jungles on what is one of Africa's smallest countries. The picturesque town of São Tomé lies exactly on the equator, with a smattering of colonial Portuguese architecture and attractive national parks. The history of the islands, meanwhile, is dominated by the slave trade and slave-worked plantations.
The main appeal of São Tomé is perhaps its unrivalled peace and quiet. Little more than a couple of specks adrift off the coast of Gabon, the pair of volcanic islands are laid-back to say the least. The compelling Portuguese-Creole culture here revolves around leve leve, which roughly means 'take it easy'. Within a few hours of landing, the thought of rushing anywhere will seem like a distant memory.
If you can muster the energy to do much beyond laying on the pristine beaches edged by swaying palm trees, you'll find the slopes of the volcanic peaks worthy of climbing for their dramatic vistas, as well as scintillating tracks through the otherworldly rainforest. There are multiple species of birds to be spotted, as well as endemic plants, and the exhilarating possibility to go whale watching. Aside from whales, turtles abound in the waters surrounding the islands.
A good wander will bring you to both timeless fishing villages and historic buildings from the colonial era. Of these, roças, or plantations, are the most iconic man-made sights.
The locals are keen to preserve the islands' natural wonders, and so the still burgeoning tourism industry is largely subservient to the ecological priorities of the inhabitants. None of your faceless resorts here. Expect family-run guesthouses and lodges perched on the edge of the jungle.
1,001 sq km (386.5 sq miles).
194,390 (UN estimate 2016).
193.8 per sq km.
President Carlos Vila Nova since 2021.
Prime Minister Jorge Bom Jesus since 2018.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for São Tomé and Príncipe on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do before and on arrival to São Tomé and Príncipe.
Returning to the UK
Travelling from and returning to the UK
Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
If you test positive for COVID-19 in São Tomé and Príncipe before returning to the UK, you must self-isolate in private accommodation or in a hotel, for 10 days. If you are visiting and staying in a hotel, you may be asked to self-isolate in your room.
If you test positive, the São Tomé and Príncipe authorities may occasionally conduct wellbeing checks during the period of quarantine, to ensure self-isolation compliance. You are not permitted to leave your accommodation during self-isolation. Food and household essentials can be ordered online and will be delivered to your hotel room or private accommodation.
Travel in São Tomé and Príncipe
The government of São Tomé and Príncipe has declared a “State of Calamity”. This has resulted in the imposition of a number of restrictions and public health measures to limit the spread of the virus.
Public places and services
The majority of shops, banks and restaurants continue to operate, with some restrictions (e.g. reduced opening hours) and coronavirus precautionary measures in place.
- people are advised to maintain hygiene standards, which includes regular hand washing, wearing face masks in public and maintaining social distancing
- face masks are compulsory in all closed public areas and inside vehicles
- public gatherings are permitted but market places and churches continue to operate at 50% capacity
- nightclubs and festivals are closed or not permitted
Some hotels remain closed while other hotels and private rentals continue to operate with some restrictions and coronavirus precautionary measures in place. You should contact your accommodation provider before booking to confirm whether your preferred accommodation is open and what restrictions are in place.
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact your nearest clinic or medical centre. Dial 115 for emergencies.
View Health for further details on healthcare in São Tomé and Príncipe.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in São Tomé and Principe
Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. We will update this page when the Government of São Tomé and Príncipe announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
The São Tomé and Príncipe national vaccination programme started in March 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca vaccine. British nationals resident in São Tomé and Príncipe are eligible for vaccination. Further information on the vaccination programme is available on the Ministry of Health website (only in Portuguese).
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.
If you’re a British national living in São Tomé and Príncipe, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, you should contact the British Embassy in Luanda, Angola.
Crime rates are generally low, but burglaries and armed robberies do occur. Safeguard valuables and cash, particularly at the beach. Use a hotel safe where practical, and keep copies of important documents, including your passport.
You should bring a valid International Driving Permit if you wish to hire a car. Traffic is light but the majority of roads are in poor condition and unlit, particularly outside the capital. You should avoid being on the road at night as you may encounter animals on the roads and during periods of heavy rainfall as landslips and mudslides can occur.
Taxis and motorbike taxis (known as “motoqueiros”) are the only forms of public transport. You should note that it is common practice for taxis to be shared. You should take the same safety precautions as in the UK and check your travel insurance.
The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community.
Availability of flights between the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe is limited and should be booked a week or two in advance.
São Tomé and Príncipe is generally peaceful. Economic difficulties and political rows over the handling of investments in the islands’ development occasionally lead to civil unrest.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in São Tomé and Príncipe, 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.
Drug smuggling and the use of drugs for recreational purposes are offences. Punishments can be severe.
Same sex relationships are legal in São Tomé and Príncipe; however, public attitudes towards homosexuality are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
This page has information on travelling to São Tomé and Príncipe. Check what you must do to return to the UK.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in São Tomé and Príncipe set and enforce entry rules.
There are currently no restrictions on UK nationals entering São Tomé and Príncipe, provided you comply with the entry requirements outlined below.
All air passengers arriving or departing in São Tomé and Principe are not required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test.
If you’re fully vaccinated
If you’re fully vaccinated, you can enter São Tomé and Principe without needing to quarantine regardless of your reason for travel. However, you should check with your airline in advance of travelling as the rules may differ if travelling from a third country. Only vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency or by the World Health Organisation are accepted.
Proof of vaccination status
São Tomé and Principe will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and COVID-19 vaccination record and proof of COVID-19 vaccination issued in the Crown Dependencies. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
If you’re not fully vaccinated
You can still enter São Tomé and Principe without vaccination provided you have proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test.
If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year
Entry requirements for São Tomé and Principe are the same for all travellers, regardless of whether you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past year.
Children and young people
Children under the age of 12 years old do not need to show proof of vaccination on entry to São Tomé and Príncipe.
If you’re transiting through São Tomé and Principe
Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.
Check with your airline before departing.
There are no exemptions to São Tomé and Principe’s entry requirements.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
If you’re visiting São Tomé and Principe for tourism for a period of up to 15 days, you don’t need a visa. However, visitors are currently required to pay a €20.00 entry fee on arrival. For more information on visas, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK emergency travel documents
A UK emergency travel document will be accepted on entry to and departure from São Tomé and Príncipe.
Returning to the UK
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for São Tomé and Principe on the TravelHealthPro website
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in São Tomé and Principe.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Check the latest country-specific information and advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website or from NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical facilities on São Tomé and Príncipe are limited and many health conditions require evacuation to Europe, South Africa, Ghana or Gabon for treatment. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
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).
Credit cards are accepted in a very limited number of places. You should confirm with the hotel, restaurant, etc. on arrival that they will accept your card. There are a limited number of ATMs. Cash is available from the main bank in São Tomé using a Visa card. Travellers cheques are not accepted in São Tomé and Príncipe.
In an emergency, it may be possible to remit funds via a money transfer service like Western Union. You are strongly advised to check the latest position with your travel agent/tour company prior to travel, and to carry sufficient cash.
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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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 FCDO 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 FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.
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.