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, Sao Vicente, Santo Antao, Sao 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 ever-growing numbers 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 flight connections via charter 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, DC (3415 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20007, tel. 202-965-6820) or the Cape Verdean Consulate General in Boston, MA (607 Boylston Street, 4th Floor, Boston, MA 02116, tel. 617-353-0014). Visit the website of the U.S. Embassy to Cape Verde for the most current visa information. 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 therefore 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 U.S. 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 even 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, including campaign rallies and demonstrations, were peaceful. However, the Embassy advises you to avoid crowds at local festivals, cultural events, etc. to minimize exposure to pick-pockets (see “CRIME” below) or involvement in disturbances caused by the widespread availability of alcohol.
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CRIME: Petty thievery 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 three 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 showing 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 targeted 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 abuse against women is widespread in Cape Verde. Although the Cape Verdean national assembly adopted a law criminalizing it 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 them risk legal penalties 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 U.S., 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 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 don’t have your passport with you. In some places, driving under the influence 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 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 Cape Verde, 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 go.
Persons violating 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:
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, if you are arrested in Cape Verde, 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. To ensure that the United States is aware of you circumstances in the event of an arrest, 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 Antao, 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 to poor visibility from dust or rain and related safety concerns. During peak travel seasons (summer and Christmas 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 inter-island 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 few 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 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 both CV Telecom and a competitor called 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 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 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.
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, and the frequency of power outages that shut down elevators in large urban buildings 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 rainiest months (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. No final data has been received for 2011. At least two cases were reported in 2011, with no confirmed deaths.
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 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 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 go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one 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 used to be 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), the roads are still narrow, winding, and mostly cobblestone, though there are ongoing projects to convert them to 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 time for drunk drivers is on Sundays, 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 Mardi Gras (“Carnaval”).
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 reliable and 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 August 9, 2012.