COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
The Republic of Cape Verde consists of nine inhabited and several uninhabited volcanic islands off the western coast of Africa. Most are rugged and mountainous; three (Sal, Maio, and Boa Vista) are flat, desert islands with sand beaches. The capital city of Praia is located on the island of Santiago. Cape Verde International Airport is located on the island of Sal, 100 miles north of the capital. While the tourist industry is bringing ever-growing numbers of tourists, facilities on many islands remain limited. The island of Sal has the most developed tourist industry. Cape Verde enjoys a stable, democratic government. Portuguese is the official language, although Crioulo is also spoken.
SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political gatherings, and street demonstrations. Visitors traveling to Cape Verde wishing to partake in water sports, swimming, boating and fishing should note that the tides and currents around Cape Verde can be quite strong. Several small fishing boats have been lost at sea in recent years.
Petty thievery (especially in market areas) and burglary are common. Local police statistics reflect an increase in crime in Cape Verde, particularly in the city of Praia. Petty thievery and burglary are common events, and muggings are occurring more often, particularly at night and in more isolated areas. Occasionally violence is associated with these crimes. Crimes associated with drugs and drug use are also on the rise. At night, be vigilant, always travel accompanied, keep vehicles locked and windows up, and stay away from dark and isolated places.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is 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 Cape Verdean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cape Verde are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical facilities in Cape Verde are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. Further information on prescription drugs is found in the section below on Customs Regulations. A list of medical providers and hospitals is available at the U.S. Embassy in Praia.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS ^
There are several inactive volcanoes in Cape Verde. U.S. citizens should be aware of the possibility of tremors associated with these volcanoes on the islands of Santao Antao, Fogo, and Brava. The last eruption occurred on the island of Fogo in 1995. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a 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 be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of public transportation: Fair
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Fair
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Fair
Availability of roadside assistance: Fair
Cape Verde has an extensive road system. Paved roads on most islands are narrow and winding and almost always paved with cobblestones. Cobblestone roads are slippery when wet and some are in poor repair. Roads and streets are often unlit. Driving at night can be hazardous. Service stations are widely available. Taxis and buses offer reasonably dependable service. Bus service in the capital is reliable, relatively inexpensive and buses are fairly new. Inter-urban van service can be hazardous due to careless driving of van drivers.
In Cape Verde, one drives on the right side of the road. At intersections, the car on the right has the right-of-way. At roundabouts (traffic circles), cars in the circle have the right-of-way. According to
Cape Verdean law, seat belts must be worn at all times by the driver and the person seated in the front passenger seat. Children under 12 years old must sit in the back seat of the car. Additionally, motorcyclists must wear crash helmets and must illuminate headlights at all times.
For emergency assistance on the island of Santiago in the event of an accident, call 130 for medical assistance; 131 for fire; and 132 for police. Each of the other eight islands has its own emergency numbers. Some form of ambulance service is available on all islands. However, there are few ambulances on each island and limited emergency care. There is no organized system of roadside assistance. Third-party insurance is required and will cover damages if you are involved in an accident resulting in injuries and you are found not to have been at fault. An individual found to have caused the accident may be charged a fine. A person involved in an accident that results in death may be incarcerated.
For specific information concerning Cape Verdean driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Cape Verdean Office of Tourism, at Achada Santo Antonio, Caixa Postal 89brc, Oraia, Cape Verde, tel. 238-622-621.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Cape Verde's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Cape Verde air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Please also refer to the separate
Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
October 4, 2004