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Travel Security Advice for Sao Tome and Principe

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sao_tome_mapSao_Tome_and_Principe_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: 

São Tomé and Príncipe is a developing nation, comprising the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, located off the western coast of central Africa.  Portuguese is the official language; few Sao Tomeans speak English.  Facilities for tourism exist on both islands and are adequate.  Read the Department of State Background São Tomé and Príncipe for additional information.



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: 

A passport and visa are required.  Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for entry.  Visas must be obtained in advance, as airport visas are no longer available.  Travelers can obtain visas and the latest information on entry requirements from the Permanent Mission of São Tomé and Príncipe to the UN, 400 Park Ave., 7th Floor, New York, NY  10022, telephone (212) 317-0533 or (917) 751-2742, fax (212) 317-0580 or (212) 239-2272.  Travelers transiting through Gabon to São Tomé and Príncipe can also obtain visas and the latest information on entry requirements from the São Tomé and Príncipe Embassy to Gabon, B.P. 49, Libreville, Gabon, telephone (241) 72-15-27, fax (241) 72-15-28.  Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest São Toméan and Príncipian embassy or consulate.

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:  

Americans should maintain security awareness at all times.  There have been recent, isolated incidents of civil unrest in the capital city.  In February 2009, there was a heightened security presence in the capital of Sao Tome following the arrests of several leaders of a former paramilitary group, the Buffalos, suspected of plotting a coup.  Large gatherings or any other events where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest should be avoided. 

Americans may contact the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon, for the most up-to-date information on safety and security.  The Embassy informs the registered resident American citizen community of security matters through a warden system (please see the Registration/Embassy Location section below for more information).

In the event of a fire, dial the phone number 112.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site,

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: 

Crimes such as burglary, pick-pocketing and armed robberies in homes do occur on the islands, particularly around the winter holidays.  Such crimes can occur anywhere, but are more prevalent in public places, such as in markets, on the streets, or near hotels.  Do not display large amounts of cash in public.  If possible, store valuables and extra cash in a hotel safe while sightseeing or visiting the beach.  When dining in restaurants or visiting markets, it is recommended that one carry only minimal amounts of cash and avoid wearing excessive amounts of jewelry.  If involved in an attempted robbery or carjacking, Americans are encouraged to comply with the attacker to avoid injury and to report all incidents to the police and the U.S. Embassy in Libreville.  Police response time to reports of crime can be slow.

While scams and confidence schemes are not common, travelers should exercise caution.  For general information on scams, see the Department of State’s Financial Scams web page.

The prevalence of sexual assault is low, and no specific groups seem to be targets for victimization



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 U.S. Embassy.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police and obtaining a police report of the loss, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon, for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to 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 São Tomé and Príncipe to reach the police is telephone number 22-22-22.

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



CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 

While in a foreign country, American citizens are 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 São Toméan and Príncipian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in São Tomé and Príncipe 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:  

São Tomé and Príncipe is a lusophone country; travelers who do not speak Portuguese may face communication difficulties associated with the language barrier.

Americans should always carry identification with them in the event they are stopped by police.  Americans are specifically encouraged to carry photocopies of their U.S. passport's biographic information page and the São Tomé and Príncipe visa. 

Taking photographs of the Presidential Palace, military or other government buildings is strictly forbidden.

São Tomé and Príncipe is largely a cash economy.  Credit cards are accepted at only a few major hotels.  Travelers’ checks can be cashed or dollars exchanged for dobra at hotels and at one private bank in São Tomé, but transaction fees can be high.  U.S. dollars and euros are widely accepted at tourist establishments.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:  

Medical facilities in São Tomé and Príncipe are extremely limited.  There is one hospital in the country, on the island of São Tomé, and several foreign-run clinics.  However, the level of care is low.  For all but minor medical needs, it is necessary to travel to Libreville (Gabon), Lisbon (Portugal), or elsewhere.  Additionally, some medicines are not available; travelers should carry properly labeled required medications with them.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of São Tomé and Príncipe. 

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site.  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, American citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning São Tomé and Príncipe is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Streets in the city of São Tomé are paved, but large potholes are common.  Major roads outside of town are also paved.  Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and animals on the roads can be a major hazard.  Outside of the city of São Tomé, there are no sidewalks or shoulders along the side of roads.  In rural areas outside of the capital city, drivers are expected to honk the car’s horn periodically as a warning signal of their approach.  There is no street lighting outside of the capital.  Some roads may be impassable without a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Only a few miles of improved roads exist on the island of Príncipe; the conditions are similar to those found on São Tomé.

Although taking taxis is fairly safe, it is advisable to rent a car instead.  If you must take a taxi, make sure that the taxi has seatbelts and negotiate the rate before entering the taxi.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. 



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in São Tomé and Príncipe, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of São Tomé and Príncipe’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found at FAA's 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:  

Although there is no U.S. Embassy in São Tomé and Príncipe, the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon, is also accredited to São Tomé and Príncipe and can provide assistance to Americans there.  All Americans living or traveling in São Tomé and Príncipe are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon, through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they may obtain updated information on travel and security within São Tomé and Príncipe.  Americans without Internet access may contact the U.S. Embassy in Libreville directly to arrange alternative registration means.  By registering, Americans make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. 

The U.S. Embassy is located in downtown Libreville on the Boulevard du Bord de Mer.  The mailing address is Centre Ville, B.P. 4000, Libreville, Gabon.  The telephone numbers are (241) 76-20-03 or (241) 76-20-04.  The fax numbers are (241) 74-55-07 or (241) 76-88-49.

This replaces the Country Specific Information dated August 15, 2008 to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Special Circumstances.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Sao Tome and Principe HERE....

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

There is also a Malaria Warning provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HERE......

Regards

The SW Team....

 

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