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Cape Verde has long been a favorite holiday destination for many because of its year-round sun and attractive beaches. Now that winter has arrived in Europe and as the weather cools down, many people have started looking for an escape to enjoy the sun. You can fly to Cape Verde from Europe either with normal flights from several European countries with one or two changes, or when the winter season starts, direct flights with TUI. The flight takes only a couple of hours longer than to the Canary Islands, and Cape Verde is for sure more exotic!
The same questions are always going around when people are thinking about a trip to Cape Verde, so I decided to collect all the most frequently asked questions and their answers for those planning a trip here.
HOW TO TRAVEL TO CAPE VERDE?
It is easy to fly to Cape Verde with direct flights lasting about 5-9 hours from Europe with different airlines and travel agencies. Travel agencies offer also complete travel packages including hotels.
WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE?
This is surely the most frequently asked question and this is asked several times every week in various Cape Verde related travel groups online. Fortunately, the answer is also easy: Always sunny and warm! In your suitcase, regardless of the season, I recommend packing a snorkel and a swimsuit (or more), nice shorts and those colorful dresses suitable for vacation photos, because you’ll do just perfect with them. However, I would like to remind you that the winter season in Europe is also the winter season in Cape Verde, so for this reason the evenings and nights are cooler and unfortunately require you to also pack something long-sleeved and warmer.
I will also break the myth that Cape Verde is always windy. No it is not, so no worries. Several people who say this have travelled to the islands only in the winter months, when unfortunately it is more windy than in the summer season. However, in my opinion, the wind is a refreshing and welcome addition to the scorching sun. If it’s a very windy day, I don’t recommend lying on the beach sand, but sunbed might be a more comfortable option, unless you’ve specifically hoped to eat a dose of sand for lunch.
THINGS TO DO AND ACTIVITIES?
Cape Verde may not be the best choice in terms of attractions and shopping opportunities if you are interested in shopping or culture. Cape Verde is a paradise for relaxing and sunny beach life, but of course there are some fun activities!
For example, the most popular holiday island Sal offers various island tours, from which I recommend choosing a local guide instead of tours from big travel agencies. Guaranteed you get more fun and expert information from the tour. Check out the best guided tours here.
It is also worth visiting the Shark bay, where you can walk among the lemon sharks with a professional guide. The sharks are not dangerous and the experience is suitable for the whole family. After Shark Bay, you should go for a Buggy ride on the sand dunes or glide through the air on the Zipline. Cape Verde is also known for its turtles and you can admire them with alocal guide in the form of a wonderful turtle excursion.
As an island, Sal is a flat and sandy beach vacation island, but if you are interested in hiking in beautiful green mountain landscapes, you can catch a local flight and head to Santiago or Santo Antao. There are also plenty of guided hiking tours available.
TRAVELLING BETWEEN ISLANDS AND ISLAND HOPPING?
I have written a full article about this topic, you can check it out here.
You can travel between the islands by ferry or by plane. Ferry trips are cheap but long and connections may sometimes change due to sudden changes in weather conditions. The voyages are also quite hard for many people due to rough seas, and it is recommended to take anti-nausea medicine before setting sail. If traveling in a vomit bucket doesn’t seem like a fun and good idea, you can always choose a local flight, which is significantly more expensive, but a more comfortable and faster option. Flights sell out quickly due to the small aircraft space, so you should book these in time. The flights last about 30-60 minutes between the islands at most, and the tickets always also include a luggage. Flights are also a more reliable option in terms of schedule, of course it’s always good to have a little flexibility in case something happens.
I don’t recommend island hopping for a short one week holiday, but in two weeks or more you can already do some more exploring around the islands.
Local flights: BestFly
FOOD, DRINK AND RESTAURANTS?
There is more than enough great food and drinks to enjoy. Every larger hotel offers a rich selection and there are several restaurants to try inside the hotel areas. However, I recommend going outside the hotel areas to get to know the island’s other restaurant options as well! For example, the beach town of Santa Maria is full of good restaurants and cafes, the price level of which varies according to location and popularity. The most touristy beach spots and the biggest restaurants on the main street are naturally more expensive than the smaller gems a little to the side. You can get a full stomach for less than 8 euros, or the most expensive portion can be 20-30 euros.
All food and drinks here are safe to enjoy. However, you should be prepared with common sense and lactic acid bacteria medicines, because the basic bacterial population is different than in Europe and the hot climate also does its share. The ice comes from a bag and not from the tap water, so you don’t have to be afraid of ice in your cocktails.
Unfortunately, due to the hot air, there are flies everywhere and you can’t get rid of them unless you carry your own mini fan. Annoying problem, but what can you do.
SAFETY AND CRIMES?
I’m not an expert, but in general it’s safe in Sal and I always like to say that tourists are well pampered here. Tourism is Cape Verde’s main livelyhood, so people want to take good care of this. Walking around Sal is safe, but of course common sense is recommended here as well. For example, don’t leave valuables or a bag unattended on a bar table or walk alone in the middle of the night in dark alleys. Otherwise, you can be quite relaxed.
On larger islands like Sao Vicente and Santiago, I recommend more caution. The capitals of the islands have a higher level of crime and, for example, in Praia, the capital of the main island Santiago, there are also areas where you should not go at all.
SHOPS AND SHOPPING?
There are no large supermarkets in all of Cape Verde. Most of the grocery stores are Chinese stores, that are small shops run by Chinese people, which can be found on every street corner. In Santa Maria, my favorite store for grocery shopping is definitely the local Cazu, which is somewhat better and bigger. Sometimes we also go to Espargos, the capital of Sal, to do larger grocery shopping, where you can find the slightly larger local grocery store Sucata.
You should do your clothes shopping already in Europe, because Cape Verde does not have good shopping opportunities. You can find clothing boutiques, but all the clothes usually come from Europe and are sold here at three times the price. There are also plenty of Chinese thrift stores and their clothes are often cheap and of poor quality.
MONEY, CURRENCY AND CASH? ARE EUROS ACCEPTED?
An important and good question. And surprise surprise, Sal accepts euros, so you should bring cash with you in euros, because you can pay everywhere in Santa Maria with euros. Euros are also accepted in taxis. The local currency is called the escudo, and you only need it outside of the Santa Maria region, such as in Espargos. Escudos cannot be exchanged anywhere in advance and local currency cannot be taken out of the islands by law. You can get escudos from all ATM’s and there are plenty of them around Santa Maria. 100 escudos is 1 euro (some places round 110 escudos to equal 1 euro, this is also correct). You can also pay with your card in several places, but you should always check the final amount on the card machine before paying, so that you don’t “accidentally” pay too much.
There is accommodation for every taste and need, from large all-inclusive hotels to smaller hostels and bed & breakfasts, as well as holiday apartments. Travel agencies only offer big hotels as alternatives. If you want something different and more personal, check out the accommodation offers through the wide selection on Booking.com*.
I don’t actually get questions about health care very often (strange actually), but I still thought I’d add a small piece of information about this as well. I rarely share my own doctor’s visits on social media, because I consider them somehow a personal matter. However, I can share this much that I have not survived without a doctor and I am writing from my own experience everything here as well.
Health care in Cape Verde is at an okay level, so you don’t have to be afraid of getting sick or having stomach problems. The basic things are handled skillfully and the doctors have been trained in Europe or America. The medicines are also functional and usually come from Portugal (I have my own experience in both countries, so the medicines are familiar). Among these basic things, I include stomach aches, tourist’s diarrhea, sinusitis and flu symptoms, sprains and injuries caused by activities and other things familiar and simple.
I don’t have my own experience with more serious ailments, and I wouldn’t, for example, start planning major surgical operations here. I also recommend having dental treatments elsewhere, as it is quite non-existent and simple in Cape Verde.
Health care centers can be found on every island and the level of treatment also varies on each island. As I said, the basic things are still taken care of. The treatment rooms are clean, but simplified and a bit primitive, hygiene is good enough and luckily you don’t have to worry about it either. You can always get treatment everywhere, and the fee for tourists at local health stations is 15 euros, for locals 2 euros.
On the island of Sal in Santa Maria, there is also a private health clinic Clinitur, which is used by both tourists and large travel agencies operating on the island with their clients if necessary. This clinic is more expensive, but the level of treatment is perhaps a degree better here. So if you hesitate and are travelling alone, head here.
LOCAL TREATS AND FOODS?
Last, but not least, the local delicacies. Catchupa, a kind of bean stew, is definitely a local delicacy. This is good everyday food and a very popular local delicacy. Another local dish is Feijoada, which is also a kind of meat and bean dish and equally good and worth trying. Otherwise, local food consists of simple things, i.e. rice and/or potato, meat, fish or chicken and vegetables. The fish always comes from local fishermen, who can be greeted at Santa Maria’s iconic wooden pier on the beach.
Local drink delicacies are Pontche and Grog. You can see these strong alcoholic drinks being enjoyed in every bar. Pontche is softer and considerably more pleasant (I can recommend it), while grog is strong and, in my opinion, bad (I don’t like hard liquor). Both are made locally from sugarcane and you can admire sugarcane fields in the mountains of Santo Antao, for example. For cocktail lovers, I recommend the Brazilian Caipirinha, which is Cape Verde’s most popular cocktail. You can get this in many different forms, each of which is delicious.
READ ALSO MY OTHER POSTS FROM CAPE VERDE:
- 10 Reasons why travel to Cape Verde
- Island hopping in Cape Verde
- Cape Verde – Top 12 Highlights & negatives
- Ilha Do Sal Cape Verde – Top 10 Sights and activities
- Our beach wedding in Cape Verde
CAPE VERDE BEST TOURS AND ACTIVITIES:
Are you planning a trip to Cape Verde this winter? Was there something left to think about that was not revealed in these questions and answers? Share your questions and your own experiences from Cape Verde in the comment field! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna
*Photos: Tiina Johanna, blogger
*Photo editing: Loov.fi “Tropical blues” presets – check it out!
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Santiago is the largest island of Cape Verde and at the same time the main island. Praia is the capital of Santiago and also the capital city of all Cape Verde. Santiago offers culture, shopping opportunities, history, colorful architecture, green mountain landscapes and beautiful black sand beaches. Here’s a mini guide to Santiago, Cape Verde’s main island!
The size of Santiago is 991km² and the population is about 240,000. Santiago is located between Fogo and Maio, belonging to the Sotavento island group. In addition to the capital Praia, cities worth visiting are the old town Cidade Velha, the beach town Tarrafal and the mountain town Assomada.
Despite its name, this versatile main island has been spared from mass tourism, and therefore you can’t find all-inclusive hotel vacations here. On the other hand, the local way of life and lively culture will take sweep you away.
You can travel to Santiago from other islands either by plane or by ferry. We took a local flight from our home island Sal, because a long ferry ride in heavy waves was not that appealing after the experience we had in Sao Vicente. From Europe, especially Portugal, there are direct or one-stop flights to Santiago, depending on your country of origin.
PRAIA – THE CAPITAL OF CAPE VERDE
Praia is the capital of the entire Cape Verde. In Praia, there are plenty of interesting walking tours and excursions with a local guide to make the most of this historic city. In Praia, a good guide is a key choice, also because the city’s crime rate is higher than anywhere else and caution is more than recommended here.
In Praia you should visit the Sucupira market place, where you can get a true African market atmosphere. Sucupira sells everything from clothes, accessories, fruit, vegetables and other food products to livestock.
Plateau is Praia’s oldest residential area right in the city center. Here you can shop nice clothes and other things easily. It is also safe to go from one boutique to another along the main street. On the pedestrian street, Kaza Katxupa turned out to be an excellent place for lunch, where you should try of course nothing else than the local Cachupa.
Quebra Canela beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Praia, and the area also has several good restaurants with sea views. There are no tourists with sunbeds on this beach, and the sand on the beach is fine dark volcanic sand. Restaurants worth recommending near Quebra Canela beach are, for example, Seven, Nice Kriola, Osteria N3 and Poeta. Just to name a few. Each of these provides an excellent setting for any meal of the day.
Praia offers a wide range of accommodation from budget hostels to holiday apartments and hotels where you can take a dip in seawater pools. All-inclusive package holidays are not known here, but a similar atmosphere can be found in larger hotels such as Oasis Praiamar or Pestana Tropico. Especially the last mentioned was our favorite because of the wonderful staff, the delicious breakfast and the sea water pool. We spent part of our time pampering ourselves at Pestana Tropico, and part of our trip in our own good, budget-friendly rental apartment Apartamentos Timas with a pool.
Check out the accommodation in Praia on Booking.com*.
CIDADE VELHA – THE OLD TOWN AND UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
Cidade Velha is the oldest and first capital of the whole island nation of Cape Verde. This charming old town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009, and the city is full of history dating back more than 500 years. Cidade Velha has also once been one of the most important centers of the slave trade.
Check out the guided tours and activities in Praia and Cidade Velha:
FORTRESS OF SAO FELIPE
Sao Felipe Fortress is a 16th century fortress above Cidade Velha. The fortress functioned as part of the city’s larger defense system. The fortress was built from stone imported from Portugal, during the reign of Philip I of Portugal in 1587-1593. You can visit the fortress for only two euros, the visit is worth every cent and the staff is also very knowledgeable, if you have additional questions after the short introduction video.
TARRAFAL – THE BEAUTIFUL BEACH TOWN IN THE NORTH
Next our journey continued with a local aluguer, or minibus, to the north of the island to the beach town of Tarrafal. Aluguer costs only 6e/person and the trip takes about 1.5 hours. The highlight of Tarrafal is its beautiful beach with golden sand, which offers an excellent setting for a sunny beach day and snorkeling.
In addition to the golden sandy beach, the Tarrafal region has wonderful natural swimming pools, the most popular of which is definitely the Cuba Natural pools. However, Santiago’s beaches are mostly dark volcanic sand, and among these beaches, in addition to Quebra Canela in Praia, Ribeira de Prata near Tarrafal, where you can find the beautiful Silverbeach, is definitely worth experiencing.
Accommodation in Tarrafal is mostly small hotels, bed & breakfast accommodation and apartments. We stayed at the wonderfully idyllic Villa Alegria Bed & Breakfast, which I can warmly recommend. For a slightly more elegant taste, I recommend the King Fisher Village hotel, the only luxury accommodation in Tarrafal, with an infinity pool and delicious food. The hotel also has its own pier, where it is easy to take a dip in the sea to swim or snorkel in your own peace and quiet. We went to test the pier for swimming and snorkeling only at the “price” of drinks and food in the restaurant, so this option also exists if the accommodation does not fit into the plans for one reason or another.
Check out the accommodation in Tarrafal on Booking.com*.
TARRAFAL CONCENTRATION CAMP
Tarrafal concentration camp was established in 1936 during the restructuring process of the Portuguese Estado Novo prison system. Its aim was to imprison political and social prisoners. The location was strategically chosen due to its remoteness and unhealthy climate, which contributed to the occurrence of diseases. The main goal of the place was to destroy the Portuguese and African opponents of the Salazar dictatorship, isolating them from the rest of the world in inhumane conditions. The prison facilities were barren, the treatment of the prisoners was miserable, hygiene was non-existent, the food was spoiled and the water was undrinkable. The scorching hot sun and sweaty wet rainy season made the conditions even more difficult.
The concentration camp was in operation until 1974. Today, the place serves as a museum and a barren reminder of how cruel one person can be to another.
SERRA MALAGUETA NATURAL PARK
Serra Malagueta is a beautiful green mountain located in the northern part of the island of Santiago, the highest point of which is 1064m. Serra Malagueta is a protected natural park area and a popular hiking destination. There are several different routes in Serra Malagueta and you should get to know them under the guidance of an expert guide. The scenery is worth every step!
Check out the guided tours of Serra Malagueta:
THE BEST TOURS AND ACTIVITIES IN SANTIAGO AND CAPE VERDE:
ONLY A SHORT TRIP AHEAD? TAKE A FULL DAY ISLAND TOUR AND SEE THE HIGHLIGHTS IN ONE DAY!
HAVE YOU VISITED SANTIAGO? WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE ISLAND? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna
*Photos: Tiina Johanna, blogger
*Photo editing: Loov.fi “Tropical blues” presets – check it out!