A Few Tips

our tips four your journey

I want to show you the long way to Sao Tome.. So the old Cape-verdian song goes, and it is still very true : It is not the easiest thing in the world to get to Sao Tome and Principe, but then again, who wants to go to Tenerife?

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Chek out our tips

Visas are required by all except transit passengers continuing their journey to another country by the same of first aircraft within 24 hours. Transit passengers must be in possession of a valid onward or return ticket and must not leave the airport.

Valid passport for the duration of your stay and return ticket and hotel reservatiot are required by all. The validity is for 14 days from the date of issue for a maximum stay of a month. Extensions are possible. Apply to the Immigration Department in São Tomé. Please see our list of diplomatic representatives abroad.

You should start working your way to obtaining a visa about a month before planned take-off. The price now is 20 € (2012). You can request your visa online at www.smf.st.
It can take up to one week to issue the visa by postal application and about 1 day if applying personally.

Travellers must also pay 21 USD / 18 € for airport taxes at departure plus 5 % tax on services payable in local currency.
For children of more than 2 years 10 USD is charged.

Duty free - It is possible to import: "reasonable quantities of tobacco products and perfume (opened)" into São Tomé and Príncipe without incurring customs duty. Importation of alcoholic beverages is prohibited

What currency to bring ?
US dollars and Euros are accepted in most places connected with tourism (hotels etc.). Dobras are used for purchases at the local market, in taxis etc.

You can make withdrawals on your VISA card against a fee in the BISTP, Banco Internacional de São Tomé e Príncipe on Praça da Independência, opening hours: 7-12 and 14-15.30, monday to friday.
Check the maximum amount with your bank before you travel. Some hotels accept VISA, but it should not be expected everywhere.

Currency restrictions
The import and export of local and foreign currency is unlimited, if declared at arrival. The dobra is not convertible outside São Tomé.

Black market" exchange
You will most certainly meet people in the street offering you to change foreign currencies, but the advantage is no longer that great and some times it's none at all. We advise you to check the rates at the bank before engaging yourself into 'black market' exchange (although totally legal).
Traveller's cheques can also be cashed in the BISTP against a fee and are accepted at some places, but it is recommended to change them (to dobras) in the bank, once you have an idea of what you are going to buy. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, bring travellers' cheques in US dollars or Euros.
Cheques from some European banks are also accepted, namely the biggest Portuguese banks.

Vaccination against yellow fever is mandatory to enter STP (Proven by presenting the international yellow vaccination card), exempting children under 1 year of age. Some countries also recommend vaccinations against Cholera, Typhoid Fever and Polio. As each country has its own recommendations for travelling abroad, consult your doctor for specific advice.

Do also check the coverage of your health insurance. In all cases, you will need to protect yourself against malaria with appropriate prophylaxis and mosquito repellent. Consult your doctor about specific medication. It is also important to bring clothes that cover your body for wearing in the evening (mosquito-time) as a supplement to the mosquito repellent. If planning to stay in the rural zones, it is also wise to bring a mosquito net.

Be informed about the symptoms of malaria so that you can recognize them. In case of disease after arriving in your home country, remember to inform your doctor about the fact that you have been to a malaria-infected area, so this can be taken into consideration when diagnosing.

Any specific medication that you may need, should be brought along as local chemistry stocks are instable.

Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should first be boiled or otherwise sterilized.

t is recommended to bring light clothes, including something to cover your legs and arms during the night. (It may be chilly and there may be mosquitoes). Also, waterproofs are recommended for the rainy season. Rainproof walking boots with good soles are important if you are planning to go hiking. A head torch, Wellingtons, binocular, a rucksack and a mosquito net are also good if you are going inland.

Snorkelling equipment and sun protection are essentials for the beach.

Where to go and when ?
The existence of different climatic zones will almost allow you to choose the climate you like the best according to the weather and season. There is high variation between the different zones, being divided into micro-climates.
If you come for the heat and the sun, then it is recommended to come during the rainy seasons, as the probability of blue skies and high temperatures are best. Some of the highest annual temperatures are registered during the month of December.
If you, one the other hand, come to do trekking or bird watching, the choice should be gravana, the dry season, as the climbing is easier without the rain. One of the best times of the year is gravanita, mid-January to mid-February.
It should be noticed that some birds are more vocal during gravanita, which is the nesting period, than in July-August, and so can be located more easily at this time of the year.

The most important differences between the geographic zones are:
• Northern and Western zone of the island of São Tomé : All year drier than the rest of the island.
• The Northern zone provides you the highest probability of finding a beach for sunbathing also during the rainy season.
• Eastern zone of the island of São Tomé : Semi-humid and rain-forest sheltered beaches.
• Southern zone of the island of São Tomé : Generally more humid and rainy than the rest of the island. During the rainy season, you may have the long stretches of beach all to yourself for a refreshing swim in the rain ! In the South-west of both islands it is prone to rain even in the supposedly dry season.
• Interior of the island of São Tomé : Almost European like temperatures for exploring the rain forest and the mountains. In general, cooler than the rest of the island. During the rainy season it is prone to rain about mid-afternoon accompanied by cold mist, whereas the morning and afternoon in general are sunny.

Do not expect local population to speak English. French should be considered the 2nd language and some may even speak Spanish, but only at Internationally owned hotels like the Omali Lodge, Miramar or Bom Bom you will be surrounded by staff that speak English. Please see our Travel vocabulary to take with you for instant Creole communication.

First world tourists visiting a third world country…doesn't have to be heading for disaster...
When packing for your holidays, you may think of what you could bring from the richer part of the world to the poorer...
You may have clothes that you don't need any longer, your children toys they don't play with any longer, you may even think of buying a little extra for your travel pharmacy with the intention of leaving behind all that wasn't needed at the end of your stay...

No matter what you decide to do, the choice is yours and yours only, although we would like you to consider the following:

Doce, doce, doce…!
This cry you will probably hear when driving in the rural districts. It means 'sweets', and you will also most probably see both children and sometimes even grown ups begging for sweets along the road side. Why? Because over the last few years the contact between the populations in the remote areas and tourists has intensified. And someone got the bright idea of throwing sweets out of the window while driving by.

The same is happening to some of the plantation estates close to city. And yes, it may be difficult for you just to drive on in your 4WD, ignoring the pleas of half-naked children on your way to your next 25 euros meal... São Tomé and Principe doesn't need more sweets. For every sweet thrown, the problem of begging is increasing, thus creating a serious problem for one of the only sustainable economic sectors in the country: Tourism.

Tourists all over the world complain when they feel themselves treated like walking wallets. So, when you come to a place like São Tomé and Príncipe where you are treated like a person, keep in mind that it is also your responsibility that the place stays that way. Don't let your actions be governed by the urge to relief the feeling of guilt. There will only be more to feel guilty about afterwards, because you have not solved the problem of social injustice, only increased the problem of begging.

So what to do...
We suggest you make a donation either of things you don't need or money to an organisation that works in São Tomé and Príncipe, like the RED CROSS, MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES, ECOFAC, MARAPA, ALISEI, Santa Casa da Misericórdia or another entity that may canalise your good will in an organised way by people who have experience in helping in a sustainable way.

If you have a good idea or you need the contact details of local helping organisations, we will be most happy to hear from you:

It would be really sad, if your good intentions turned São Tomé and Príncipe into a country of beggars.