COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Cape Verde is a developing country that consists of nine inhabited and several uninhabited volcanic islands off the western coast of Africa. Most islands (Santiago, São Vicente, Santo Antão, São Nicolau, Fogo, and Brava) are rugged and mountainous; three (Sal, Maio, and Boa Vista) are flat, desert islands with vast white sand beaches. Praia, the capital and largest city (with a population of 140,000), is on the island of Santiago. Cape Verde’s major shipping port and second-largest city, Mindelo (population 75,000), is on the island of São Vicente. Two languages are spoken widely in Cape Verde: Portuguese (the official language, spoken by many but not all Cape Verdeans) and Cape Verdean Crioulo (a mixture of Portuguese and African languages). While the tourist industry brings an ever-growing number of visitors, tourist facilities on most of the islands remain limited. Sal and Boa Vista islands, however, each have a well-developed tourism infrastructure and extensive nonstop charter flight connections to various European airports. See “SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES” below regarding issues that impact inter-island transport.
Cape Verde enjoys a stable, democratic parliamentary government, with a popularly elected president and a unicameral national assembly (of 72 members), as well as a prime minister who leads the majority party in parliament and heads the government. At present, the presidency and parliament are controlled by rival political parties. The judicial system consists of the national supreme court in Praia and municipal courts throughout the islands. Read more about U.S. relations with Cape Verde. You may also follow the U.S. Embassy in Praia on Facebook for current news and activities.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you plan either to visit or reside in Cape Verde, please take the time to inform the Embassy of your plans. If you enroll in the SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP), we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. Enrolling in STEP will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
Address: Rua Abilio Macedo 6, Praia, Santiago, Cape Verde
Telephone: 238-260-8900 (general switchboard), 238-260-8948 (American Citizen Services)
Emergency after-hours telephone: 238-991-3325
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: A U.S. passport and a Cape Verdean visa are required. Two types of visas are available: a single-entry visa valid for up to 90 days or a multiple-entry visa valid for five years. You can apply for a visa at the Cape Verdean Embassy in Washington, D.C. (3415 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007, tel. 202-965-6820) or the Cape Verdean Consulate General in Massachusetts (300 Congress Street, #204, Quincy, MA 02169, tel. 617-353-0014). You can find visa requirements on the website of the Consulate General at www.conscvboston.org.
Alternatively, if you are unable to travel to the Cape Verdean Embassy or Consulate, you may apply for a visa upon arrival at one of the country’s four international airports (Nelson Mandela/Praia, Cesaria Evora /Mindelo, Amilcar Cabral/Sal, and Aristides Pereira/Boa Vista). The current fee for such a visa is 2500 CVE (also payable in U.S. dollars) but is subject to change. In theory, Visa credit cards (no Mastercard or American Express) are accepted, but intermittent power cuts in airport terminals often make electronic processing of credit card transactions impossible. We strongly advise being prepared to pay in U.S. currency.
World Health Organization (WHO) vaccination cards are not required upon entry via flights from the United States. However, the Cape Verdean Health Ministry intermittently imposes such a requirement on persons, including U.S. citizens, arriving on flights from Senegal or other West African countries. Outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever in recent years (see “MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION” below) have prompted such measures. If you plan any such West African travel en route to Cape Verde, you should ensure that you have your WHO card up to date.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Cape Verde.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO 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 the islands are very strong. Several small fishing boats have been lost at sea in recent years, an inter-island ferry sank in 2009, and drownings occur each year on the beaches in Praia.
Cape Verde, similar to Hawaii, is an archipelago of volcanic islands. Although volcanoes on most of the islands are now inactive, seismologists still consider the entire island of Fogo to be an active volcano; its last eruption occurred in 1995. Future eruptions remain a threat, as do earth tremors throughout the islands, especially on Fogo, Brava, and Santo Antão, and beneath the ocean channels that separate them. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.
National parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011 and municipal elections in 2012, including campaign rallies and demonstrations, were peaceful. However, the Embassy advises you to avoid crowds at local festivals, cultural events, and similar settings to reduce risk of pick-pockets (see “CRIME” below) or involvement in disturbances caused by the widespread consumption of alcohol.
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CRIME: Petty crime and burglary are common in Cape Verde, especially in marketplaces, and at festivals, street fairs, and public gatherings. Criminals do not necessarily target U.S. citizens, but rather anyone perceived to be affluent, regardless of nationality. Often, the perpetrators of petty theft and pickpocketing are gangs of street children, so visitors should avoid groups of children who appear to have no adult supervision. Muggings occur often, particularly at night and in more isolated areas, and increasingly involve violence. The perpetrators are predominantly males between the ages of 14 and 25 operating in groups of two or more to attack their victims. Due to inadequate lighting in many public areas, often caused by rolling power cuts in urban neighborhoods, you should be especially vigilant after dark, carry a small flashlight to illuminate your path, never go out alone, keep vehicle doors and windows locked, and avoid isolated places.
National police statistics that show a decrease in crime in general in Cape Verde conflict with a public perception that crime is actually growing, particularly in the cities of Praia and Mindelo. This perception has been fueled by intense media coverage, a marked uptick in violent (often drug-related) robberies, physical assaults and murders. Over the past two years, there have been several murders and attempted murders, including some on the tourist islands of Sal and Boa Vista, although none have involved U.S. citizens.
The Embassy emphasizes the particular dangers of using hillside stairways connecting neighborhoods in Praia and many other Cape Verdean cities and towns. These stairways, although offering convenient shortcuts through hilly terrain, have been scenes of some of the most notorious assaults in recent months, even in broad daylight with many people present. The Embassy strongly advises against using these any time of day.
As reported in the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, domestic violence against women is widespread in Cape Verde. Although the Cape Verdean national assembly adopted a law criminalizing gender based violence in July 2010, implementing legislation remains a work in progress.
Counterfeit and pirated goods, although widely available in street markets in Praia, Mindelo, and elsewhere, are nevertheless illegal in both Cape Verde and the United States. U.S. citizens who buy these goods are punishable under Cape Verdean law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime in Cape Verde or elsewhere outside the United States, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Cape Verde is: 132 (police) and 131 (fire).
Please see our help for victims of crime page, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Cape Verde, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have your passport with you. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you engage in these activities. Buying pirated goods, engaging in sexual conduct with children and using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country are crimes prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Cape Verde, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not wherever you go.
People that violate Cape Verdean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cape Verde are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Inter-island travel is generally via ferry or 45-seat propeller planes. The islands of Brava and Santo Antão, however, are only accessible by boat. Not all flights between islands are direct, even if originally scheduled as such, and airline services may be delayed, re-routed or cancelled due topoor visibility from dust or rain and related safety concerns. During peak travel seasons (summer and winter holidays), air travelers arriving from abroad into Praia and other major airports for connecting flights to other islands may experience luggage delays at their final destination because of the limited carrying capacity of aircraft. Prudence dictates having a change of clothing and all vital materials (including medications) in your carry-on luggage to tide you over for the first 24-48 hours in country. There is regular daily inter-island ferry service between Santo Antão and São Vicente. Ferry services are also available between Santiago, Brava, and Fogo but do not operate daily and the service schedules frequently change. Those planning to travel by ferry should plan well in advance and confirm a couple of days before departure that the ferry service is still operating. Regardless of whether your inter-island travel is by air or sea, be aware that poor weather and sea conditions often cause last-minute delays or cancellations.
CV Telecom is currently the largest provider for fixed-line voice, data service, and Internet service (dial-up, ISDN, and ADSL). T Mais, a competitor, also provides internet and fixed line services. Mobile phone service is on the GSM standard and is available from both CV Telecom and T Mais. Only major cities and towns have Internet cafes, and international telecommunications services in Cape Verde are dependent on transatlantic fiber-optic cables. Visitors who need reliable communication to other countries may want to consider carrying 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 all begin with the number “2,” and mobile numbers, which all began with the number “9” until the end of 2009, may now begin with either “5” or “9.” Telephone connections are good, but calls made to numbers outside the archipelago are very expensive.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips on the Women Travelers page on Travel.State.gov.
LGBT RIGHTS: There are no antidiscrimination laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Cape Verde. However, there were no reported cases of official or private discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care, and there were no reported incidents of violence against LGBT persons in 2012. There are no legal or governmental impediments to the organization of LGBT events.
The Cape Verdean Association of Gays Against Discrimination organized the first-ever Cape Verdean Gay Week “Mindelo Pride” in the city of Mindelo, on Sao Vicente island, in June 2013, to promote equality and respect for sexual diversity. The Association of Cape Verdean Gays Against Discrimination was established in 2011 as the first LGBT non-profit organization, with the goal to put Cape Verde on the map of worldwide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender movements. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Cape Verde, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation considerably more limited than in the United States. The country’s rugged terrain, the widespread use of cobblestone streets and pathways, the very limited number of elevators in buildings, and the frequency of power outages all constitute significant hardships for persons with limited mobility. Although the Cape Verdean constitution guarantees that persons with disabilities will receive priority in the provision of government services and stipulates that public buildings must be accessible to the disabled, in reality few such accommodations have been made. However, the country does have national advocacy organizations for the visually and hearing impaired that actively seek to expand such accommodations.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Cape Verde are limited, and, despite an extensive network of local pharmacies, some medications are in short supply or otherwise unavailable. The country’s largest hospitals (all public) are in Praia and Mindelo, but smaller public health centers and private medical clinics, of variable quality in both personnel and equipment, are located throughout the country. The islands of Brava and Santo Antão do not have airports, so air evacuation from them in the event of a medical emergency is impossible.
Malaria exists in Cape Verde, but is mainly limited to the island of Santiago. Nationwide, malaria is far less prevalent than in mainland African countries with approximately 20-40 cases occurring annually, almost always among recent West African migrants who contracted the illness before arriving in the islands. Although many expatriates do not believe there is a need for malaria prophylaxis, it is important to be aware that there is an elevated risk of contracting the disease from July to December, especially during the rainy season (August-October).
In 2009, Cape Verde experienced its first-ever epidemic of dengue fever, another mosquito-borne illness, the spread of which was facilitated by an unusually heavy rainy season. Unlike malaria, no prophylaxis exists against dengue fever. Ultimately, 21,000 cases were reported, affecting all nine inhabited islands, with six fatalities nationwide. Since then, the number of dengue cases has dropped drastically. In 2010, the Cape Verdean government received notification of 405 cases, 16 of which were confirmed by a laboratory. No deaths were reported. At least two cases were reported in 2011, with no confirmed deaths. As of August 2013, there was only one case of dengue reported by state television, although with the rainy season ahead, travelers should exercise vigilance. Even with reduced risk of dengue as a public health threat in Cape Verde, travelers are advised to minimize exposure to both dengue and malaria by taking precautions against mosquito bites, which are most common at dawn and dusk, particularly from July to December. Like malaria, no vaccine exists for dengue, so travelers in Cape Verde who exhibit symptoms as described on the CDC’s dengue fact sheet should immediately seek medical attention. Depending on how long you are in Cape Verde, symptoms may not present themselves until after you return to the United States. Since medical professionals in the United States often do not test patients for either illness, make sure you tell the doctor evaluating your symptoms that you have recently been in a country where both malaria and dengue fever exist.
If you need a doctor in Cape Verde, a list of medical providers and hospitals is available on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Praia.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You cannot assume your insurance will cover you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t cover you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out additional coverage for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Cape Verde, or any 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 apply in a particular location or circumstance.
Cape Verde has an extensive road system. Asphalt roads previously were relatively uncommon, except for airport connector roads. However, on the islands of Santiago, Sal, and São Vicente, many urban and rural roads are now asphalt. On the other islands (Fogo, Brava, Maio, São Nicolau, and Boa Vista), some roads are still narrow, winding, and mostly cobblestone, though an increasing number of roads are asphalt. Although a clear improvement in terms of the country’s overall transportation infrastructure, the new asphalt roads often lack speed bumps and as a result enable a degree of reckless, high-speed driving previously unseen in Cape Verde. During the rainy season, cobblestone roads are especially slippery, and mud and rockslides are common on roads that cut through mountains.
Houses are often located adjacent to roadways, and drivers must be on the lookout for pedestrians, especially children, as well as herds of livestock. Roads and streets are often unlit, so driving at night is hazardous. Most accidents result from aggressive driving, excessive speed, passing in blind curves, and/or on inclines or declines in the rain. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a problem in Cape Verde. The peak times for drunk drivers are on Sundays and at night, but one can encounter them at any time. Also, extreme caution toward both pedestrians and other drivers should be exercised after celebrations, festivals, and open-air concerts as well as during holiday periods, such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Carnival.
Full-service gas stations (no self-service) are available and quite modern, often with their own convenience stores. Taxis and buses generally offer clean, dependable service on all islands. Bus service in Praia is inexpensive, and most buses are fairly new. Intra-island service usually consists of minivans (typically a Toyota Hiace) or converted pickup trucks that have benches along the edges of the pickup bed. However, intra-island service can be dangerous because some drivers overload their vehicles, exceed the speed limit, or drive after drinking alcohol. Before entering any vehicle, riders should pay close attention to the appearance and 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. Bicycling is common in Praia and in some other areas. The use of helmets, gloves, and /or other protective gear while bicycling is more widespread than in mainland African countries but not governed by local laws/regulations and not at all universal. Pedestrian striped crosswalks are common in Praia, Mindelo, and other large cities/towns, and are widely used and heeded by motorists.
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. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Cape Verde dated February 11, 2013.