COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: São Tomé and Príncipe is a developing nation, comprised of the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, located off the western coast of central Africa. Portuguese is the official language; few São Toméans speak English. Facilities for tourism exist on both islands and are adequate. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on São Tomé and Príncipe for additional information on U.S. - São Tomé and Príncipe relations.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or travel to São Tomé and Príncipe, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date. It is important during enrollment or when you update your information to include your current phone number and email address where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
Although there is no U.S. Embassy in São Tomé and Príncipe, the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon, is accredited to São Tomé and Príncipe and can provide assistance to U.S. citizens there.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa, or authorization to enter, are required. Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for entry. A visa or authorization to enter must be obtained in advance, as airport visas are not available. You may apply online for an authorization to enter at http://www.smf.st/virtualvisa/. You must receive the authorization to enter by email, print it out, and take it with you to the airport. São Tomé and Príncipe does not currently maintain an Embassy in the United States. Travelers transiting Gabon can obtain visas and the latest information on entry requirements from the Embassy of São Tomé and Príncipe in Gabon, B.P. 49, Libreville, Gabon, telephone 241-72-15-27, fax 241-72-15-28. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of São Tomé and Príncipe.
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 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: You should maintain security awareness at all times. There have been isolated incidents of civil unrest in the capital city. There were minor demonstrations during the presidential election on July 16, 2011. You should avoid large gatherings or any other events where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest.
In the event of a fire, dial 112.
Stay up to date by:
CRIME: Crimes such as burglary, pick-pocketing, and armed home invasions do occur on the islands, particularly around the winter holidays. Pick-pocketing can occur anywhere but is more prevalent in public places, such as in markets, on the streets, or near hotels. Do not display large amounts of cash in public. Store valuables and extra cash in your hotel safe while sightseeing or visiting the beach. Carry a minimal amount of cash and avoid wearing flashy or expensive jewelry. If you are the victim of an attempted robbery or carjacking, you 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.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. You will find these products being sold on the streets, local shops, and in market places. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, carrying them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in São Tomé and Príncipe is 2-22-22-22.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in São Tomé and Príncipe, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own and 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. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in São Tomé and Príncipe, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you are.
Persons violating the laws of São Tomé and Príncipe, 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.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in São Tomé and Príncipe, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Language: Portuguese is the official language of São Tomé and Príncipe; travelers who do not speak Portuguese may face communication difficulties associated with the language barrier.
Identification: You should always carry identification in the event you are stopped by police.
Photography: Taking photographs of the Presidential Palace, military, or other government buildings is strictly forbidden.
Currency: São Tomé and Príncipe is 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 privatebanks in São Tomé, but transaction fees can be high. U.S. dollars and Euros are widely accepted at tourist establishments.
Airlines: Airline service to São Tomé and Príncipe is limited. There are currently two flights from Lisbon, Portugal - TAP Air on Fridays and STP Airways on Tuesdays. Regionally, Ceiba Airline has service on Mondays and Fridays from Libreville. African Connection flies between São Tomé and Príncipe four times a week.
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 a few clinics, but the service provided is very basic. For all but minor medical needs, it is necessary to travel to Libreville (Gabon), Lisbon (Portugal), or elsewhere. You should carry an ample supply of properly-labeled prescription drugs and other medications with you; an adequate supply of prescription or over-the-counter drugs in local stores or pharmacies is generally not available.
Tap water may not be potable and you should drink and cook with bottled water only. Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is endemic to São Tomé and Príncipe. For further information, please consult the information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on schistosomiasis.
Malaria is endemic and travelers should discuss prophylaxis with a physician well before planned travel to São Tomé and Príncipeas some prophylactic medications must be started two weeks before arriving in a malarial zone. Even with prophylaxis you should familiarize yourself with the symptoms of malaria and seek medical treatment immediately if you experience symptoms. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on malaria.
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 website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of 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 can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s 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 expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. Medicare does not pay for any medical care received outside of the United States or its territories. If your policy doesn’t cover you when you travel, it is a good idea to take out another policy for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. 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 sides 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 on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for São Tomé and Príncipe dated November 8, 2012, with updates to the Medical Facilities and Health Information section.