Traveling Luck for Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe is located in Western Africa, islands in the Gulf of Guinea, straddling the Equator, west of Gabon.

Land in Sao Tome and Principe is volcanic, mountainous.

Sao Tomean land covers an area of 1001 square kilometers which is more than five times the size of Washington, DC

As for the Sao Tomean climate; tropical; hot, humid; one rainy season (October to May).

Sao Tomean(s) speak Portuguese (official).

Places of note in Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tomean National Map

Sao Tomean Map

Regions of Sao Tome and Principe

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 - all grown with plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century. Although independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. Though the first free elections were held in 1991, the political environment has been one of continued instability with frequent changes in leadership and coup attempts in 1995 and 2003. The recent discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea is likely to have a significant impact on the country's economy.


Sao Tome and Principe Country Profile

This small, poor island economy has become increasingly dependent on cocoa since independence in 1975. Cocoa production has substantially declined in recent years because of drought and mismanagement, but strengthening prices helped boost export earnings in 2003. Sao Tome has to import all fuels, most manufactured goods, consumer goods, and a substantial amount of food. Over the years, it has had difficulty servicing its external debt and has relied heavily on concessional aid and debt rescheduling. Sao Tome benefited from $200 million in debt relief in December 2000 under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program, and is expected to benefit from an additional round of HIPC debt relief in early 2006, to help bring down the country's $300 million debt burden. In August 2005, Sao Tome signed on to a new 3-year IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) program worth $4.3 million. Considerable potential exists for development of a tourist industry, and the government has taken steps to expand facilities in recent years. The government also has attempted to reduce price controls and subsidies. Sao Tome is optimistic about the development of petroleum resources in its territorial waters in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, which are being jointly developed in a 60-40 split with Nigeria. The first production licenses were sold in 2004, though a dispute over licensing with Nigeria delayed Sao Tome's receipt of more than $20 million in signing bonuses for almost a year. Real GDP growth reached 6% in 2004, and also probably in 2005, as a result of increases in public expenditures and oil-related capital investment.

Sao Tomean natural resources include fish, hydropower

the smallest country in Africa; the two main islands form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and both are fairly mountainous

Sao Tomean religion is Catholic 70.3%, Evangelical 3.4%, New Apostolic 2%, Adventist 1.8%, other 3.1%, none 19.4% (2001 census).

Natural hazards in Sao Tome and Principe include NA.

Travel Advice on Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome & Principe

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary, Crime, Road Safety (International Driving Licence), Political Situation, Entry Requirements sections.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • There is no British Embassy in São Tomé and Principe, but there is an Honorary British Consul in São Tomé.  São Tomé and Principe is covered from the British Embassy in Luanda, Angola.  Please see the General section of this travel advice for more details.

  • The threat from terrorism is low.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

  • Most visits to Sao Tome are trouble free.  The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance is in relation to passports and identity documents.  Crime rates are generally low, but armed robberies do occur.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see Travel Insurance


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

Crime rates in São Tomé and Principe are generally low, but burglaries and armed robberies do occur.  Beware of pickpockets, particularly at the beach.  Take sensible precautions.  Safeguard valuables and cash.  Deposit them in a hotel safe, where practical.  Keep separate copies of important documents, including passports, separately.

Political Situation

São Tomé and Principe is generally peaceful.

Economic difficulties and political rows over the handling of investments in the islands’ development occasionally lead to civil unrest.  You should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings.

Local Travel

Seats on the small aircraft that operate between the main island of São Tomé and the smaller island of Principe need to be booked well in advance or there is a risk that you could become stranded.  On São Tomé, there are shared taxis but no other public transport in São Tomé and Principe.

Road Safety

You should bring a valid International Driving Licence if you wish to hire a car.

Traffic is light but the majority of roads are in poor condition, particularly outside the capital.  Roads are badly lit.  Be particularly alert after dark to the danger of animals on the road.

Air Safety

The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community.  You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

There are severe penalties for drug trafficking and use.
It is our understanding that homosexual practices are illegal.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

British nationals require a visa to enter São Tomé and Principe.  This should be obtained before travel as problems can occur should you arrive without the necessary documentation.  You will also need a valid Yellow Fever certificate.  Visa enquiries should be directed to the nearest São Tomé Diplomatic Mission in Brussels: Sao Tome and Principe representation in Belgium; Telefax: (+32) (2) 7348815; E-mail: ambassade.sao.tome@skynet.be.  Specialist travel agents dealing with São Tomé and Principe may also be able to arrange visas.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the São Tomé Diplomatic Mission in Brussels at the above address.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling, including cover for medical evacuation.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance
Medical facilities on São Tomé and Principe are limited and many health conditions would require evacuation to Europe, South Africa or Gabon for treatment.  You should therefore ensure that your insurance covers this.
You will need a valid Yellow Fever certificate to enter São Tomé and Principe.  Malaria is endemic in São Tomé and Principe.  More than three-quarters of British travellers who contracted malaria in 2005 did not take preventive measures, such as taking malaria prevention tablets.  However, malaria can occur despite appropriate prevention, and therefore you should promptly seek medical care in the event of a fever or flu-like illness in the first year following your return from travelling to a malaria risk country.  Before travelling you should seek medical advice about the malaria risk in São Tomé and Principe.  There are frequent outbreaks of cholera. The levels of HIV/AIDS are uncertain, but you should be aware of the dangers of unprotected sex.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: DoH: Health Advice To Travellers


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see: What We Can Do To Help
There is no British Embassy in São Tomé and Principe, but there is an Honorary British Consul, Mr J Gomes, in São Tomé (Residencia Avenida, Avenida da Independencia, CP257, São Tomé, tel: +239 12 21026/7, fax: +239 12 21372).  São Tomé and Principe is covered from the British Embassy in Luanda, Angola.
Credit cards are accepted in a very limited number of places.  You should confirm with the hotel, restaurant etc that they will accept your card before incurring expenditure.  There are no ATMs.  Travellers’ cheques are not accepted, and cash advances on foreign cards are not available.  It may be possible to remit funds in an emergency via Western Union whose website lists details of their agency on São Tomé.  You are strongly advised to check the latest position with your travel agent/tour company prior to travel, and to carry sufficient cash.


OTHER

Sao Tome & Principe Country Profile