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Travel Security Advice for Cape Verde

 

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

The Republic of Cape Verde consists of nine inhabited and several uninhabited volcanic islands off the western coast of Africa.  Most are rugged and mountainous; three (Sal, Maio, and Boa Vista) are flat, desert islands with sand beaches.  Praia, the capital, is on the island of Santiago, and Cape Verde’s major shipping port is Mindelo on the island of São Vicente.  Portuguese is the official language.  Praia’s international airport, which opened in October 2005, offers direct flights to Boston once or twice a week, depending on the season, by Cape Verdean Airlines (TACV).  Cape Verde has another international airport located on Sal Island, more than 100 miles northeast of Santiago Island.  While the tourist industry brings ever-growing numbers of visitors, facilities on many islands remain limited.  Sal has the most developed tourist industry.  See the section “Special Circumstances” below regarding issues that impact inter-island transport.

Cape Verde enjoys a stable, democratic government with an elected president as head of state; a prime minister nominated by the National Assembly (the national legislative body) as head of government, and elected members of the unicameral National Assembly.  The judicial system is comprised of numerous courts, culminating in a Supreme Court.

Read the Department of State Background Notes on Cape Verde for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport and visa are required.  Visa approval can take several days and Cape Verde issues two types of tourist visas: a single-entry visa valid for up to 90 days or a multiple-entry visa valid for one year.  You may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Cape Verde, 3415 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC  20007 (tel. 202- 965-6820) or the Consulate General of Cape Verde, 607 Boylston Street, Boston, MA  02116 (tel. 617-353-0014).  Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Cape Verdean embassy or consulate.  Visit the Cape Verde virtual portal online at for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Visitors traveling to Cape Verde who wish to participate in water sports, swimming, boating and fishing should exercise extreme caution since the tides and currents around Cape Verde are very strong.  Several small fishing boats were lost at sea in recent years.

Cape Verde, similar to Hawaii, is an archipelago of volcanic islands.  Although most islands now appear inactive, the island of Fogo is still active.  Fogo erupted several times in the twentieth century, the last time in 1995.  U.S. citizens should be aware of the possibility of future eruptions as well as tremors associated with these volcanoes on any of the islands, especially on Fogo, Brava, and Santo Antão. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Campaign rallies and demonstrations are generally peaceful; however, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political gatherings, and street demonstrations. 

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State,
Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). 

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s
A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

Petty thievery and burglary are common in Cape Verde, especially in crowds, such as marketplaces, festivals, and celebrations.  Criminals do not necessarily target Americans, but rather affluent foreigners of any nationality.  Local police statistics reflect an increase in crime in Cape Verde, particularly in the cities of Praia and Mindelo.  Often the perpetrators of these crimes are gangs of street children, so visitors should avoid groups of children who appear to have no adult supervision.

Muggings occur more often than previously, particularly at night and in more isolated areas, and occasionally violence is associated with them.  Crime associated with drugs and drug-use is also on the rise.  Due to inadequate lighting in many public areas and periodic blackouts, people are encouraged to carry small flashlights, to travel with others, to keep vehicle doors and windows locked, to avoid dark and isolated places, and to be especially vigilant in the evenings.

Violent crime is also increasing in Cape Verde.  Over the past year, there have been several murders and attempted murders, mostly reported in the urban centers of Praia and Mindelo, although Sal and other islands have not been immune.  Murders and violent assaults have not targeted American citizens specifically.  As reported in the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, domestic abuse against women is wide-spread, but American women or children are not specifically targeted.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Cape Verde is: 132 (police) and 131 (fire).

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Cape Verde’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cape Verde are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

The U.S. Embassy in Praia urges travelers to apply for a visa prior to traveling to Cape Verde.  Although Americans have been allowed to travel to Cape Verde without a visa, they must apply for and purchase an entry visa upon arrival at the airport.  Such “airport” visas cost more and have a 7-day validity; to extend one's stay beyond seven days, the visitor needs to purchase a regular single or multiple-entry visa at the office of immigration police.

During peak travel season, travelers who connect to other islands via the inter-island plane service may experience delays in receiving their luggage at their final destination because of the limited carrying capacity of inter-island planes.  You should have a change of clothing and all vital materials in your carry-on luggage to avoid frustration in the first 24-48 hours in country.  Inter-island travel is generally via 45-seat propeller planes or ferries.  Not all flights between islands are direct.  During the dusty season (late December to late March), inter-island plane service may be cancelled due to poor visibility and related safety concerns.  The islands of Brava and Santo Antão are not accessible via plane.

There is regular daily inter-island ferry service between Santo Antão and São Vicente.  There is also ferry service between Santiago, Brava, and Fogo, however, these ferry links do not offer daily runs and the service schedule frequently changes.

CV Telecom is currently the only provider for fixed-line voice, data service, and Internet service (dial-up, ISDN, and ADSL).  Mobile phone service is on the GSM standard, and is available from CV Telecom and a new competitor called T+.  Only major cities and towns have Internet cafes, and international services in Cape Verde are dependent on transatlantic fiber-optic cables.  Visitors who need reliable communication to other countries may consider bringing satellite-based voice and/or data equipment.  The international country code for Cape Verde is 238.  Fixed and mobile line numbers all have seven digits.  Land lines begin with the number two, and mobile numbers begin with the number nine.  Telephone connections are good, but calls outside the archipelago are very expensive.

Please see our Customs Information sheet.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical facilities in Cape Verde are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable.  There are hospitals in Praia and Mindelo, with smaller medical facilities in other places.  The islands of Brava and Santo Antão no longer have functioning airports so air evacuation in the event of a medical emergency is nearly impossible from these two islands.  Brava also has limited inter-island ferry service. 

Malaria exists in Cape Verde, although not to the extent found in mainland Africa. The risk of contracting malaria is mainly limited to the island of Santiago, with a higher risk from July to December. It is recommended that travelers take preventative measures while visiting Cape Verde.  Further information on prescription drugs is found in the section below on Customs Regulations.  A list of medical providers and hospitals is available at the U.S. Embassy in Praia and on the Embassy web site (see the “Registration/Embassy Location” section below).

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Cape Verde. 

Further health information for travelers is available from the
WHO.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Cape Verde is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Cape Verde has an extensive road system.  Asphalt roads used to be relatively uncommon with the exception of airport connector roads.  On the islands of Santiago, Sal, and São Vicente, many roads in the main cities and around these islands are now asphalt.  On the other islands (Fogo, Brava, Maio, São Nicolau,and Boa Vista), the roads are narrow, winding, and mostly cobblestone.  There continue to be projects to convert cobblestone roads to asphalt.  The newer asphalt roads make driving more comfortable, but can be more dangerous since these roads are smoother and lack speed bumps, which results in a tendency for drivers to speed.  During the rainy season, cobblestone roads may be slippery, and mudslides and large falling rocks are common on roads that cut through mountains.

Houses are often located adjacent to the road, so drivers must pay careful attention to people, especially children, and livestock on the road.  Roads and streets are often unlit, so driving at night is hazardous.  Most accidents result from aggressive driving, excessive speed, and passing in blind curves.  Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a problem.  The peak time for drunk drivers is on Sundays, but one can encounter them at any time.  Also, extreme caution should be exercised after celebrations, festivals and open-air concerts as well as during holiday periods, such as Christmas, New Year’s, and Carnival.

Service stations are available and quite modern.  Taxis and buses generally offer clean, dependable service on all islands.  Bus service in Praia is reliable and inexpensive, and most buses are fairly new.  Intra-island service usually consists of minivans (typically Toyota Hi-Ace) or converted pickup trucks that have benches along the edges of the pickup bed.  Intra-island service can be dangerous because some drivers overload their vehicles, exceed the speed limit, and drive after drinking alcohol.  Before entering any transport, riders should pay close attention to the behavior of the driver.

In Cape Verde, traffic moves on the right side of the road, as in the United States.  At intersections, the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way, but at roundabouts (traffic circles), cars inside the circle have the right-of-way.  Under Cape Verdean law, seat belts must be worn at all times by the driver as well as the person in the front passenger seat.  Children under 12 must sit in the back seat.  Motorcyclists must wear crash helmets and use headlights at all times.

In the event of an accident or emergency, call 131 for fire or 132 for police.

Third-party insurance is required and will cover damages if you are involved in an accident resulting in injuries and you are found not to be at fault.  An insurance decal must be displayed on a vehicle’s windshield.  The police will stop and ticket vehicles that are not insured.  A person who causes an accident may be charged a fine, and a driver involved in an accident that results in death may be incarcerated. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Cape Verde’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Cape Verde’s air carrier operations.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in Cape Verde are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Cape Verde.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rua Abilio Macedo 6, Praia, Santiago, Cape Verde, tel: 238-260-8900; fax: 238-261-1355; emergency after hours tel.: 238-991-3325.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Cape Verde dated May 5, 2008, to update all sections.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has information regarding Cape Verde HERE...

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)........

Regards

The SW Team.....

 

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