Sao Tome and Principe
These remote islands lie approximately 200 kilometres off the west coast of Gabon, in the Gulf of Guinea and offer rugged beauty and isolation. The islands form Africa's second smallest nation and are comprised of two exquisite archipelagos surrounding two main islands. In the small island nation of Sao Tome and Príncipe, there is a popular expression ‘leve leve’ which loosely translates to 'take it easy’, which perfectly encapsulates the relaxed laidback atmosphere that permeates this unspoilt little piece of paradise. The extraordinarily diverse local fauna and flora range from the world's smallest ibis to the world’s largest sunbird. The landscape is equally as varied, with mountains blanketed in lush tropical forests and pristine golden-sand beaches which, despite their remarkable beauty, see surprisingly few visitors.
Banking and Currency
Dobra (STD; symbol Db) = 100 cêntimos. Notes are in denominations of Db50,000, 20,000, 10,000 and 5,000. Coins are in denominations of Db20, 10, 5, 2 and 1.
Banking hours: Monday-Friday 07h30-11h30.
Some hotels accept Visa and MasterCard. There are no ATMs in the country.
There is limited acceptance of traveller’s cheques by banks and hotels. To avoid additional exchange rate charges travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Euros
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks and some hotels.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
STP Airways (www.stpairways.st) runs flights between the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. Note that this airline is banned from flying in the EU. Seats on the small aircraft that operate between the main island of Sao Tome and the smaller island of Principe need to be booked well in advance.
There are over 380 km (236 miles) of roads, although in general these are deteriorating. Some of them are asphalted around São Tomé town, but 4-wheel drive vehicles are necessary to get further afield; animals on the road and potholes may cause problems. There is street lighting only in the capital. In rural areas there is no street lighting and drivers are expected to honk the car's horn periodically as a warning signal of their approach.
Vehicles are driven on the right hand side of the road.
There is a bus system on Sao Tome island - mostly hand-me-down buses from Portugal. They are not very useful for tourists as they connect population centers, not tourist sites. You are better off renting a car - with or without a driver/guide. Although the guide/driver is only a minor additional expense, given the small size of the island, reasonable quality (paper and electronic) maps and the modest amount of traffic on the roads, driving yourself makes more sense here than in some other parts of Africa.
You can arrange car hire through tour operators such as Navetur Equatour (www.navetur-equatour.st).
Yellow share taxis and minibuses are in operation on São Tomé. There's also a limited minibus service on Príncipe.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. Milk is often unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
There are several restaurants in the capital, augmented by a considerable number of more informal eating establishments patronised by the inhabitants. Reservations are nearly always required, even at the higher profile restaurants, not because of lack of space but to allow the proprietor to obtain sufficient food in advance. Dished are often highly spiced.
Local specialities include grilled fish and chicken, fried fish, cooked bananas, Buzios (large land snails), and tropical fruit.
Tipping is not always welcomed.
Climate and Weather
Sao Tome and Principe has an equatorial climate with heavy rainfall, high temperatures and humidity. The south of the main island, being mountainous, is wetter than the north. The main dry season is from early June to late September. There is another dry season, the 'Pequenha Gravana', from the end of December to the start of February.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Tropicals and lightweight cottons throughout the year. Umbrellas or light waterproofs for the rainy season are advised.
Electricity and Plug Standards
For the most part, electrical sockets (outlets) in São Tomé and Príncipe are the "Type L" Italian CEI 23-16/VII. Also reported to be in use is the "Type C" European CEE 7/16 Europlug. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in São Tomé and Príncipe usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance is not compatible with 220-240 electrical output, a voltage converter will be necessary.