Preface Last Updated: 6/29/2004 7:49 AM
Cape Verde is a fascinating and unique place to call home. The
country is made up of 9 populated islands situated 15 degrees north
of the equator and about 400 miles due west of Senegal, West Africa.
The total country covers just over 4,000 sq. Km (1,500 sq. Mi.) and
is about the same size as Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. State. The
islands have about 450,000 inhabitants. The official language is
Portuguese, but the real spoken language of the Cape Verdean people
is Crioulo, an original combination of African dialects and
Portuguese. The climate is sub-tropical, dry and sunny throughout
most of the year - a byproduct of the Canary Current from the north
and the northeast trade winds that arrive from the Sahara in
northern Africa. Seasonal temperature variations are small on
Santiago Island (where the capital Praia is located), ranging within
the 70's and 80's most of the year. Throughout the island
archipelago, micro-climates can be found offering cool, mountain
breezes to dry, desert heat. Cape Verde offers a range of activities
for the outdoor enthusiasts. The three easternmost islands are
relatively flat and feature mile after mile of deserted tropical
beaches. The ocean waters and dry desert sun are inviting year
round, resulting in the recent growth of tourist destination
resorts. Snorkeling, swimming, diving, windsurfing, and fishing are
featured recreational activities. The remaining six islands are
predominately mountainous and offer endless opportunities for
trekking, hiking, sightseeing, photography and general exploring
throughout the volcanic "ribeiras" or canyons, numerous rural
villages, agricultural regions and rugged coastlines. Elevation
gains can be dramatic. Pico de Fogo towers over 8,600 ft. and the
many scenic peaks on Santiago and Santo Antão each offer
opportunities for high adventure. Cape Verde is a rare jewel for
nature lovers, since it possesses some species, mostly birds, which
exist nowhere else in the world. Not surprisingly, it has a
dedicated following of ornithologists and amateur birdwatchers who
are particularly interested in some of the prized sea birds living
on cliffs around the islands. Additionally, the water around the
islands is abundant in undiscovered marine species, making it an
exciting place for both divers and biologists to explore.
Cape Verde can offer a rich and varied cultural experience,
especially for music lovers. The islands of Santiago and São Vicente
possess vibrant music scenes with opportunities to hear live music
at many local venues. In addition, there are several popular
nightclubs. Cape Verdean music is increasingly gaining an
international reputation, as witnessed by Cesaria Evora's award for
Best World Music Album at the 2004 Grammys. With its mixture of
African and European roots, Cape Verdean music has also often
incorporated new ideas from Latin America and today it is influenced
by a variety of other styles. This demonstrates the Cape Verdean
tendency to absorb and transform multinational influences which
endow Cape Verdean music with its distinctive style. Similarly, Cape
Verdean society has been shaped by a rich mix of mostly Brazilian,
Portuguese, African and even American cultures. This provides any
visitor with priceless exposure to an eclectic blend of languages,
customs, and experiences.
Residents here can enjoy both the peacefulness of island
isolation and the relative easy connections to the U.S., Europe, and
mainland Africa. Although still very much a developing country
economically, the extent and variety of the mostly imported consumer
goods increases annually. Since independence from Portugal in 1975,
the political climate has been stable, multi-party and democratic.
With the country still quite dependent on immigrant remittances, aid
and investment, there is a sizable international presence,
especially in the capital city of Praia. If you choose, life in
Praia can quickly become busy with social obligations, events to
attend and activities in which to participate. Or, a more relaxed
lifestyle can be enjoyed pursuing your special interests.
Most foreigners living in Cape Verde take advantage of "local"
travel to the other islands, which does require planning and is
moderately priced. Each island has its own flavor and unique appeal.
The more adventuresome can take advantage of alternative travel
experiences off the beaten track but may encounter some of the
inconveniences that travel in Africa inevitably brings. Those who
prefer a more relaxing, care-free vacation will find that they can
obtain most of the services and amenities found in tourist
destinations of more developed countries. Either way, the rewards
can be enriching. Encounters with local residents, breathtaking
vistas and unique cultural experiences will often be unforgettable.
For anyone interested in working in a diverse and increasingly
dynamic country, an assignment to Cape Verde can be a fondly
remembered and rewarding experience.
This is the official post report prepared by the post. The
information contained herein is directed to official U.S. Government
employees and their families. Any other information concerning the
facts as set forth herein is to be regarded as unofficial
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 9/7/2004 9:25 AM
A little over 500 years ago, early Portuguese explorers
discovered an archipelago of ten islands just off the coast of West
Africa (620 km./385 miles due west of Senegal) and about half-way
between Portugal and Brazil. Because there was inadequate water, the
islands had no permanent settlements at the time. The Portuguese
Crown found the location strategically important, despite the water
shortage, and established a colony called "Cabo Verde." The new
colony acquired a population-Portuguese, other Europeans, and
Africans (initially as slaves)-who soon intermarried and founded a
Creole culture, with subsequent additions from the Netherlands,
Morocco and New England when Cape Verde became the refueling and
crewing center for whaling vessels, as well as an entrepôt for other
parts of Africa. These three elements-location (between Europe and
the New World; off Africa but not part of the mainland), the lack of
water, and the mix of peoples-have continued to play a major role in
shaping the history, prospects, and the sense of identity of Cape
The 10 islands, totaling about 4,033 sq. km., are volcanic and
have limited arable land. Nine of them are inhabited. Santo Antão,
São Vicente, Boa Vista, São Nicolau, and Sal, (plus the uninhabited
Santa Luzia) make up the six Windward Islands, while Maio, Santiago
(which contains the capital, Praia), Fogo (with a semi-active
volcano), and Brava comprise the four Leeward islands. The total
population, according to the 2000 census, is 434,812. Santiago
Island (with the city of Praia) alone contains over half of the
total population and Mindelo (the second largest city) on São
Vicente accounts for an additional 15%.
In terms of climate, Cape Verde is part of the Sahel region.
Annual dust storms, originating in the Sahara, tend to erode the
windward side of the islands, and bring a seasonal "harmattan" or
smog-like dust. The climate otherwise is superb, with sub-tropical
temperatures mediated by the surrounding water and the prevailing
north-westerly winds. The average temperature in Praia is 75 degrees
F (24.4 degrees C), but summers are hot and humid. The range of
monthly averages is from 72° F to 79 degrees F. Rainfall is almost
absent even in a "normal" year-average precipitation is less than 10
inches. In addition, Cape Verde suffers periodically from drought.
For 10 years, 1989 until 1999, Cape Verde suffered severe drought,
receiving less than half the average amount. In 1999 and 2000, the
drought was relieved by a normal "wet season" (August to October.)
Population Last Updated: 7/15/2005 12:12 AM
As a Portuguese colony, Cape Verde never managed to feed, or even
produce enough water, for its growing population. However, the easy
access to all of West Africa and the opportunity for ships to stop
between the Old World and the New World and especially the slave
trade made it worthwhile to maintain the colony. So the colony
imported many things and grew for five hundred years. During that
period, population growth and tree-cutting (for some local use but
especially for fuel for trans-Atlantic steamships) further reduced
the islands' ability to retain soil and to feed the population.
Limits on water supply have been a fundamental constraint on
economic development and the development of an infrastructure for
basic services. The small size of the population scattered among the
islands and isolated by poor inter-island transport and
communication, further limited socio-economic development.
From its creation, Cape Verde's principal economic resources have
been its location and its people. The Portuguese allowed Cape
Verdeans, especially after intermarriage had created a Creole
population, to have greater access to education than in other
colonies. As a Portuguese colony, it provided Creole administrators,
teachers, clerks, guards and other colonial staff for other
Portuguese colonies in Africa and in Brazil. The Cape Verdeans-mixed
African and Portuguese, but with a Portuguese cultural leaning-were
ubiquitous colonial administrators. One result of this
colonialization was a sizable Cape Verdean population living both in
Portugal and in Potuguese colonies. After independence, Cape
Verdeans continued to seek work in Portugal and to a limited extent
in former Portuguese African Colonies, often through relatives
already residing there.
Cape Verde provided skilled sailors and workers for the whaling
ships from New England and the Netherlands. Since those ships
concluded their multiyear voyages by signing off the crew at their
home ports, large Cape Verdean communities came into existence in
New England and Northern Europe. The first U.S. Consulate in Cape
Verde was established in 1816 to protect the whaling fleet and its
crews. In the 20th Century, Cape Verdeans in the United States
established themselves across the continent, and are now found as
far away as Hawaii. In all, there are more Cape Verdeans living
outside the archipelago than within it, including an estimated
350,000 in America. Senegal and Angola each have tens of thousands
of Cape Verdeans. There are emigrants in Portugal, Italy,
Luxembourg, France (10-15,000) and Holland (8-10,000). There are
substantial numbers in Argentina, Brazil, Spain and Sweden. These
processes have given Cape Verde its international connections and
perspectives, with a constant flow and interchange of peoples to
other parts of the world.
Portuguese is the official language of Cape Verde. All business
is conducted in Portuguese; it is used for correspondence,
newspapers, road signs or anything that needs to be written down (Crioulo
is not a fully written language). But only very rarely will Cape
Verdeans speak Portuguese to each other. Everyone uses Crioulo - it
is their national language, and the mother tongue of all Cape
Verdeans. Cape Verdean Crioulo has its origins in the pidgin used by
Portuguese slave masters to communicate with their slaves, who were
brought mainly from Guinea Bissau. It is at root Portuguese with a
simplified grammar. Phonetics and some words have been added from
the family of Niger-Congo African languages.
Cape Verde currently has about 500,000 inhabitants (according to
The World Bank Group figures) and they range in ethnicity from
virtually white to black: about 70% are mixed race,, 1% are white.
The intermingling of European and African peoples has resulted in an
intriguing synthesis of racial types. More than half the population
lives on Santiago and of these about 117,000 live in Cidade de
Praia, the capital of Cape Verde. The only other big city is Mindelo
on São Vicente. The island of Santa Luzia is uninhabited. Women
outnumber men because of emigration. The lack of men, together with
the intermittent returns and lengthy absences, are why marriage and
family units of father, mother and children are unusual. Men
typically have children by many women and are often married to none
of them. The responsibility for bringing up children invariably
falls to the women- 41% of heads of household are women.
The population is also extremely young-the average age is 23 and
45% are under 15 and 55% are under 20. Fertility rates used to be
high with an average of 5.8 children per woman in 1990. However, due
to an extensive family planning campaign, the fertility rate dropped
significantly to 3.77 children per woman by 2002 and this downward
trend is expected to continue. Life expectancy is 64 for men and 71
for women. Some 70% of the people are literate.
Other social indicators also show positive trends-net enrollment
in schools is up to 90%, and both infant mortality rates and
maternal mortality rates have improved significantly since
independence. Government at the central and local levels remains
broadly committed to public services, with alleviation of poverty
and the protection of women and children as important goals. In the
health sector, conditions for children, while still poor, have
significantly improved since independence. There has been a decrease
in infant mortality of over 50% (from 89 per thousand in 1975 to
33.4 per thousand in 2000). In the education sector, the literacy
rate for children 7-12 has reached 90%, with equal access to
education by boys and girls. However, some thousands of adults and
teenagers of both sexes are still illiterate, and girls'
school-dropout rate remains high (6.2 %.) Education is mandatory and
free to age 11. Thereafter, students are required to contribute
according to their family income. Those who live at or near the
poverty level are often exempted from paying these fees. The
Government of Cape Verde budgets over half of its resources for
Contributing significantly to the country's well-being is the
fact that Cape Verde continues to remain stable. There has never
been a war or large-scale violence in Cape Verde. Schools,
hospitals, roads, and other civic structures, once built, continue
to function. Additionally, Cape Verde has had much success in
building a viable democracy, illustrated by two peaceful changes of
power since 1991, as well as one of the best human rights records in
the region. There are no political prisoners, freedom of religion is
respected, and there is an active free press.
The islands have been Catholic from the beginning and most other
denominations have had little chance to win converts. Some 95% of
the nation is at least nominally Catholic and the largest minority -
less than 1% - is the Nazarene church. The islands are seen as
fertile recruiting grounds by several groups, including the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) - this church claims
around 3,000 members in Cape Verde.
Cape Verde does not suffer from many of the diseases that are a
menace in mainland Africa. There is a limited incidence of malaria -
and polio, diphtheria and measles have successfully been combated.
Food-borne diseases, from diarrhea to cholera, are common, though.
At present, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection appears to be much lower
than in other African countries. However, this rate is expected to
grow significantly in coming years due to a lack of AIDS awareness,
sexual habits (multiple partners) and the high levels of sexually
transmitted diseases reported. In collaboration with the World Bank
and international donors, in 2002 the government instituted a 5-year
comprehensive AIDS awareness campaign valued at 9 million dollars
focusing primarily on AIDS prevention.
Public Institutions Last Updated: 6/29/2004 7:57 AM
Cape Verde is a democratic republic with no political prisoners
and a good human rights record. However, the country's record is not
perfect - the police at times use excessive force in dealing with
accused lawbreakers, and in the rural areas domestic violence is a
deeply embedded social phenomenon.
In 1975, Cape Verde was granted its independence, as part of
Portugal's liberation of all its African colonies. The oldest party
is the PAICV, which won independence for the country and ruled it as
a one-party state for many years. Cape Verde, under the leadership
of Pedro Pires, instituted a constitution which called for a
single-party socialist/Marxist state, with a parliamentary system
and a presidency with real, but limited powers, and government
ownership of most economic entities. Government was highly
centralized, with local authorities subordinate to the central
government in Praia. The population of Cape Verde was organized into
cooperatives devoted to "education of the masses" and to a
successful public works program. Cape Verde received substantial
assistance from the Soviet bloc and from China, but Portugal
remained its most important aid-giver.
Until 2001, Cape Verde had never been led by a government that
did not hold an absolute majority in Parliament, with total control
over all agencies of government. Since independence, however, it has
undergone important political changes. During its first 16 years of
independence, Cape Verde was governed under a socialistic
single-party constitution. A schism in 1990, within the ruling PAICV
and pressure from donors, forced a change in the electoral rules.
The break-away branch of the party, the MpD (Movement for
Democracy), won a majority in the country's first fully democratic
elections in 1991. Cape Verde adopted a new, multi-party
constitution, and the MpD maintained its majority in the second
elections in 1996.
The MpD, warming to the West, emphasized economic development
through the promotion of the private sector and foreign investment,
promotion of tourism, and privatization of government enterprises.
These policies have increased Cape Verdean prosperity, but also
incurred the usual short-term effect of increasing unemployment as
redundant employees were let go from privatized companies. The MpD,
therefore, became susceptible to criticism. In the January, 2001,
elections, the MpD, weakened by a schism, lost its Parliamentary
majority to a resurgent PAICV, which campaigned not as a socialist
party, but as a modern social-democratic party, with a greater
emphasis on service to the people. Pedro Pires was elected President
by direct popular vote by a margin of twelve votes in the 2001
elections and Jose Maria Neves, the PAICV President, was officially
appointed Prime Minister.
In the 2001 elections, the PAICV had a modest majority, which had
important implications for the further development of democratic
give-and-take. In fact, Cape Verde is showing signs of becoming a
more stable democracy, as witnessed by the noteworthy results of the
city council elections of March 2004. MpD gained significant ground,
winning municipalities on several islands previously held by PAICV;
and two municipalities went to independent parties backed by the MpD.
PAICV's poor showing prompted party leaders to reshuffle the Council
of Ministers, moving some ministers and firing others. It remains to
be seen how this government restructuring will impact current
The constitution of 1991, which replaced the 1980 (single-party)
constitution adopted following independence, calls for a politically
independent President, who approves a government led by the Council
of Ministers, which is elected by the majority party in the National
Assembly. The President is the head of the state and of the armed
forces. The Council of Ministers is the executive and administrative
organism; it consists of the more powerful Prime Minister, who is
the head of the government, plus a number of government ministers
and secretaries of state. National elections take place every five
years. Local government consists of a locally elected Mayor (Presidente
da Camara) for each of Cape Verde's 17 municipalities, assisted by a
city council. Local governments have no authority to keep any tax
revenues, and so are financially dependent on the central
government. The judiciary's independence is enshrined in the
constitution. There are courts of original jurisdiction, with
appellate review by a Supreme Court and a Constitutional Court. The
President appoints judges based on the Prime Minister's
The Roman Catholic Church, headed by the Bishop of Cape Verde, is
a significant religious, social and even political institution in
the country. The Bishop is widely credited, for example, with
enabling the change from single-party to multi-party democracy
through his sermons and moral suasion. In addition, the church plays
a significant role in public education, often filling the gap where
central government resources prove insufficient. Protestant churches
are also appearing in more abundance in Cape Verde.
The military is quite small and among its roles it protects Cape
Verde's waters from narcotics trafficking, illegal fishing, and
traffic in persons intending to immigrate illegally to Europe. In
addition, the Cape Verdean military has a constitutional
responsibility to assist the civilian population. In this role, the
military is an important element in vocational training and disaster
preparedness. The police are much more numerous. Except for some
incidents early in the history of independence, neither the police
nor the military has been used for political purposes.
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 6/29/2004 7:58 AM
The cities of Praia and Mindelo offer the best opportunities for
a foreigner to enjoy the local visual, performing and literary arts.
Art and photography exhibits, dance shows or theater performances
are occasionally booked at a cultural center, National Library,
hotel or private establishment. While well-known international
cultural events are rare, there are excellent visits by Cape Verdean
artists of the diaspora that liven up the local cultural scene. The
Portuguese Cultural Center's Instituto de Camões and the French
Cultural Center often hold interesting cultural events in Praia. The
Performing Arts Center, known as the National Auditorium, is perhaps
the most popular venue for professional performances, where in 2003
they hosted such acts as the Harlem Dancers. There is one movie
theater in downtown Praia that gets a good selection of popular
movies, mostly from the U.S. They are in English with Portuguese
subtitles, however, the sound system is poor and the spectators can
be rather noisy. Balcony seats are comfortable and homemade popcorn
can be purchased just outside the theater. There is also an outdoor
theater for the more adventuresome which often gets the same movies
as the downtown movie theater.
Without a doubt, it's the internationally recognized music of
Cape Verde that holds center stage. Music underpins Cape Verdean
life. There are several musical forms that have evolved over the
last 500 years. Some are essentially European, some are African and
many lie in between the two. Latin American and Brazilian rhythms
and styles can also be recognized. For such a small country, the
variety of music seems unending. Types of music range from the more
traditional, Portuguese-influenced Morna, with its bittersweet,
melancholy sound created from the interplay of guitars and violins,
to the livelier Funana with its African roots and unique percussion
based rhythms. Like the Funana, the Tabanka and Batuko contain
powerful rhythms, simple harmonies and much repetition. Another
principal form of traditional music is the popular Coladera, which
is a fast, danceable music with singing that is influenced by
Afro-American music. Music making happens everywhere - in the
nightclubs of Mindelo where people dance all night, in restaurants
and in people's homes.
The Cape Verdean music scene is thriving, with an increasing
number of bands joining the renowned Cesária Evora on the
international scene. In addition to Cesária, the barefoot diva,
several other Cape Verdean artists are gaining popularity on the
international stage, including Simentera, Ildo Lobo, Tcheka, and
Tito Paris. Live music is everywhere - in every little village and
valley - and of course in the cities of Praia and Mindelo. To hear
the music in a planned way, Praia and Mindelo are the best bet, even
though venues constantly change. Mindelo, in particular, is where
live music abounds; most restaurants have a Cape Verdean music
night. In fact, Mindelo is considered the cultural capital of the
archipelago and many Cape Verdean artists and thinkers were educated
here. This city is proud of its intellectual and artistic tradition.
Cape Verde's two most exuberant annual festivals are here: the
exotic carnival, a miniature Rio, in mid-February, and the beach
music festival in August. Its music scene, numerous restaurants and
bars, and various cultural centers make this lively city a
worthwhile place to visit.
With the gradual growth of the tourist trade, locally produced
crafts are becoming increasingly available. These include horn and
lava carvings, weavings of the traditional "pano" cloths and pottery
from local clays. A more adventuresome way to experience the arts is
to simply venture (best by foot) into the rural villages. One will
often stumble upon a group of musicians or local celebrations in
which you will be welcomed to observe or even participate.
Cape Verde opened the "Institut Piaget" (from Portugal) in 2000,
which offers degree programs ranging from the European Bachelor's
degree (3 to 4 years) up to master's level, and even offers the
equivalent of a doctorate, but only in one or two subjects. Note
that this school is still in an embryonic stage and consequently the
curriculum and degrees offered are constantly changing. In addition,
this university generally may contract professors locally so the
quality of teaching may not meet international standards. In terms
of adult education, only literacy programs or vocational training
are available in Praia. Praia does have a two year program to train
teachers, ISE (Institute for Superior Education). Cape Verdeans who
desire to pursue advanced education and college degrees often do so
overseas in the United States, Portugal, Brazil, Cuba, the
Netherlands, Germany, etc. Additionally, there are opportunities for
Portuguese, French, German and English language studies at various
locations. Courses or individual instruction in guitar, piano, and
other instruments, in addition to voice lessons, are offered at
Pentagrama, a local music school. There are occasional opportunities
for classes in technical areas. Essentially all education and
classes are given in the Portuguese language.
Because of the existence of internet service here, opportunities
for distance learning exist. This might include some advanced
courses offered through U.S. universities. On-line time, although
not totally cost prohibitive, is expensive.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 7/15/2005 12:31 AM
Cape Verde is a developing country striving to achieve its
potential in a world economy. Because of the lack of significant raw
materials for exploitation, and because its young skilled workers
tend to emigrate, Cape Verde has developed no significant local
industries. Local occupation is largely limited to agriculture,
fishing, trade and services. The economy is service oriented, with
commerce, transport and public services accounting for almost 70% of
GDP. Cape Verdean émigrés have been an important source of economic
return for centuries. Currently, the largest single portion (about
28%) of GNP consists of remittances sent home by the Cape Verdean
community abroad. An estimated 60-70% of those who identify
themselves as Cape Verdean live abroad.
Despite the poor natural resource base, the per capita GDP of
$1,400 USD places Cape Verde amongst the highest in the West Africa
region. However, serious water shortages exacerbated by cycles of
long-term drought make economic independence difficult. Although
nearly 70% of the population lives in rural areas, and over 50% of
employment is in agriculture, the share of agriculture in the GDP is
only about 13%, of which fishing accounts for 1.5%. The archipelago
is at the center of one of the last great underused fishing grounds
of the world. Tuna and lobster abound, but at present fishing is a
trade of artisans, though there is some export of fish and
crustaceans. There are great hopes that shipping services, including
repair yards and refrigerated storage, can be improved. Some
progress was made in this area when Japanese donors inaugurated a
new fishing dock and a refrigerated storage facility for fish in
Unemployment was 21% in 2000- although some of these people are
occupied for at least some of the time in fishing or farming. The
economy has grown steadily since 1975. It is largely subsistence and
the World Bank classifies 14% of the population as very poor, and
30% as poor. Women comprise two-thirds of the poor, and the large
majority of the poor live in rural areas.
The islands receive one of the highest amounts of international
aid, per capita, in the world (US$270 per person annually in 1997).
A huge percentage of their grain is imported by aid organizations or
other governments. Imports far exceed exports, and over 75% of food
needs are provided by international assistance. For example, the
U.S. PL - 480 program alone provides for some 20% of the country's
basic grain requirements. In FY 2003, this food aid was $3.5 million
dollars, in the form of donated corn which was monetized in Cape
Verde, with the proceeds used to support programs on drip
agriculture, micro credit, and soil and water conservation. The
program is managed by ACDI/VOCA, a U.S.-based NGO. Foreign aid money
comes principally from Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.S.
and France. The results are evident everywhere: new harbors and
ports, paved roads, forests of acacia, freshly painted hospitals,
schools and town halls.
Cape Verde annually runs a high trade deficit, financed by
foreign aid and remittances from immigrants. Economic reforms,
launched by a new democratic government in 1991, were aimed at
developing the private sector and attracting foreign investment to
diversify the economy. The current administration has generally
continued economic reforms and encouraged foreign investment and
private sector development as an engine of economic growth. Proof of
this is their continued commitment to privatizing or liquidating
inefficient government controlled entities such as EMPA, the state
enterprise in charge of the import and distribution of staple foods
until 2002. In addition, plans are now underway to privatize
EMPROFAC, the state run monopoly responsible for distributing
medications, as well as other state owned entities such as ENAPOR
and CABONAV, which regulate the ports and ship building,
respectively. Prospects for the future also depend heavily on the
maintenance of aid flows, remittances and the momentum of the
government's development program. Inflation in recent years has been
kept in check at a rate between 2.5 and 3.5%.
Since 1990, tourism, currently accounting for more than 3.5% of
GDP, is considered a strong area targeted for economic growth. In
fact, tourism may explode with increased access to the white beaches
and the mountains. Various regions have been earmarked for beach
tourism development, such as Sal, Boavista, Santiago, and São
Vicente, while other regions have been targeted for adventure
tourism, in particular Santo Antão, Fogo, and São Nicolau. Labor
intensive light industry also shows promise with the introduction of
garment and shoe manufacturing in Sao Vicente. With a current
population growth in Praia, construction trades as well as commerce
in general are expanding, resulting in an increased quantity and
variety of consumer goods and foodstuff available through import.
Significantly, in 2004, the United Nations is considering
"graduation" of Cape Verde from being considered a least developed
nation to a developing country, which may impact the country's
ability to qualify for lower lending rates and some foreign aid
programs. Due to concerns that the country remains extremely
dependent on international economic assistance and emigrants'
remittances, one of the government's most urgent priorities is to
expand the economic base and promote exports. As previously
discussed, it has made tourism and fisheries, in addition to air and
maritime transport, some of its top development priorities.
The U.S. Embassy is currently working with Cape Verde on several
programs to expand the Cape Verdean economy, link it more closely to
the world economy, and provide economic opportunity. Much of this
effort has been directed at the air transport sector. Under the Safe
Skies for Africa initiative, the Federal Aviation Administration has
been working intensively with Cape Verde. These efforts came to
fruition in September 2003 when Cape Verde achieved Category I
status, only the sixth country in Africa to achieve Category I
status. This opens the possibility for further development of air
transport in and out of Cape Verde, which will help the country take
advantage of its unique geographical position. More specifically,
the hope is that Cape Verde's air transport sector will increase
jobs and stimulate regional and bilateral trade. As part of this
overall effort, in FY 2003, the U.S. provided airport security
equipment valued at $1 million. In addition, a recent grant from the
U.S. Trade and Development Agency (TDA) will fund a feasibility
study for future expansion of the international airport on Sal
Another important initiative consists of U.S. technical
assistance, including a resident advisor funded by the U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID), to help Cape Verde in its bid
to join the World Trade Organization. Successful Cape Verdean
accession to the World Trade Organization would link this country
more effectively into the world trading system. Therefore, this is a
priority of the Cape Verdean government.
An additional quantifiable achievement in the economic area is
that Cape Verde made its first textile exports under AGOA in
December 2002. The U.S. government is expanding efforts to increase
the number of AGOA exporters.
In May 2004, Cape Verde was included in the list of 16 countries
eligible for Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) grants. This
reflected outstanding leadership in democratic governance,
transparency, fighting corruption, and creating a world class fiscal
On July 4, 2005, Cape Verde signed a Compact for $110,000,000
with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). These MCA funds
will be used to improve agricultural productivity, replenish the
water table, and raise the standard of living in rural areas. In the
medium term, it will improve infrastructure to ease access to
employment and social services, and reduca transportation costs. And
over the long term, it will make the private sector more competitive
and stengthen government institutions to attract more investment,
and create jobs.
Automobiles Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:01 AM
People assigned to Praia need a private automobile (4-wheel drive
is recommended) for transportation around town and across the
island. The Embassy can usually provide transport after hours or for
weekend use until your car arrives, and can arrange car rental for
temporary duty personnel.
Traffic moves on the right, as in the U.S. The streets and roads
are narrow and many are hand-made from volcanic basalt cobblestones.
Traffic signals are rare. Traffic police are common in Praia at
major intersections during rush hour. The recent improvement in the
economy is most easily seen in the increase in the numbers of cars
on the inadequate roads, resulting in occasional traffic jams and a
lack of parking in Praia and the other larger towns. However, except
for minor delays during rush hour, traffic generally runs smoothly.
Occasionally, road discipline is lacking and drivers will fail to
use signals or will drive erratically. Drunk driving is common,
especially during holidays. In addition, pedestrians and wandering
livestock can make driving hazardous.
Most roads on the island demonstrate maintenance that is uneven
at best. If you wish to use your car outside Praia, a four-wheel
drive vehicle is highly recommended, but is not absolutely
essential. However, beginning in 2003, there has been a marked
improvement in the quality of some of the roads because the
government, in collaboration with donors, has funded an extensive
campaign to pave key roads and improve roadways. For example, the
government has paved highly traveled roads along the wharf and up to
the airport, as well as installed roundabouts. Essentially, the plan
is to pave roads in a circle around the city. This has greatly
facilitated transportation. In addition, the government is currently
paving the main road leading to the other side of the island, which
will lower transport costs as well as improve the ease of traveling
to various project sites and tourist destinations, such as Assomada
Cars imported by non-residents (which includes all official
American staff) are considered in transit, and no tax is levied. A
second car imported by the same individual is, however, subject to
all duties and taxes, which can be prohibitive.
European and Japanese makes, especially Toyota, VW and Mercedes,
are most popular. Some spare parts may be available, but parts must
often be imported for any repair. Ship separately from your car a
supply of such parts as spark plugs, extra tires, points, condenser,
fuel pump, fan belts, light bulbs, and wiper blades. A heavy duty
battery is essential. Air-conditioning is useful in dusty and warmer
months, but most people do not consider it essential. Rough
cobblestone roads cause tires, suspension systems and brakes to wear
rapidly. Spares may be useful. The ocean breezes are salty, and rust
is a severe problem; you may wish to bring a good supply of car wax.
Cars should have heavy-duty suspension, undercoating, and radial
tires. Adjust the carburetor for low-octane unleaded fuel. Leaded
fuel is unavailable. Strip the car of radio, jack, tool kit and
removable items prior to shipment, and ship those items separately.
Local Transportation Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:01 AM
Praia's local public transportation system is moderately
effective. Good taxis are relatively inexpensive and are readily
obtained on busy downtown streets and close to popular locations
(major hotels, airport, hospital, etc.). Calling and arranging for a
taxi in advance is also possible, though there may be a small extra
charge (an extra 100 CVE, roughly $1.20 USD) especially at night,
and these taxis are usually reliable. There is no extra charge for
luggage. There are often standard, informal rates for trips around
town, but to avoid problems, it's best to ask drivers to turn on the
meter. Taxi fare from the Embassy to the residential area in Prainha,
where most Americans live, is about 150 CVE (roughly $1.60 USD). The
minimum starting fee is 100 CVE. Note that after 10:00 p.m., the
taxi meter charges more per/minute. Tips are welcome but not
standard. By African standards, taxis are generally clean and well
maintained. Bus service is available, but schedules are uncertain,
breakdowns are common, and overcrowding is inevitable. Without a
car, the best way to get around is on foot. Walking from Prainha to
the Embassy takes about 25 minutes. Bicycling on the uneven roads
and on the steep inclines may be difficult and may also be
Transportation between towns is provided by "Yazzies"-converted
vans, often Hiace brand, whence the name-which are not recommended
for American personnel. They are usually overloaded, and the drivers
are addicted to speed. Numerous accidents result.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 3/16/2005 6:35 AM
Travel from Praia to the other islands of Cape Verde is normally
by air. There is but one inter-island airline option. TACV (Cabo
Verde Airlines), still a government-owned corporation. Flights to
some islands are available daily, but reservations may be
unreliable, delays (sometimes of a day or more) are common, and
during the peak tourist months (Christmas and summer), seats are
scarce. During the dust season (Feb-April), some airports may close
for a few days.
There is also a modern ferry which sometimes runs between
Santiago, Fogo, Brava (an overnight trip one way) and São Vicente (a
three-day trip) which is comfortable and convenient, especially in
the sleeping cabins. Schedules change often. Numerous small ferries
and taxi-boats also provide ferry service between islands, but are
usually overcrowded and are not recommended for safety reasons. A
new company with two more modern ferry boats started offering
inter-island service in 2003, with one boat based in Praia and the
other in São Vicente, but operating schedules have not been
dependable. In addition, the reputable Moura and Company, a
privately owned bus company, is planning to import 3 high speed
passenger catamarans to offer a viable alternative to inter-island
air travel at a lower cost.
Cape Verde is served (for connections to the Canary Islands and
some major cities in Europe) by TACV, TAP (Air Portugal), and
Condor, and (for connections to South Africa or direct to the U.S.)
by SAA-South African Airways. The international airport is located
on Sal Island (roughly a 1-hour flight from Praia). A local flight
from Praia to Sal is necessary for any of those international trips
or to meet and greet visiting dignitaries. Stopovers in Sal can be
problematic because of long waiting lists or unexpected delays. It
is not uncommon to arrive there in the middle of the night and to
have to get a hotel while waiting for the next available flight to
TACV recently started offering direct flights once a week
(Tuesdays) from Sal to Boston. Note that in accordance with the Fly
America Act, most official travel requires routing through European
airports to connect with U.S. Flag carriers. However, the recent
liberalization of the Fly America Act may allow for greater
flexibility regarding choice of carriers, so it is best to research
available options with the embassy travel specialist on a case by
case basis. In addition, Air Senegal and TACV provide flights
directly from Praia airport to Dakar, Senegal, where it is possible
to connect with regional African airlines as well as to other
flights to the U.S. and Europe. That routing, however, is often
subject to delays and lost baggage. There are also direct flights to
Fortaleza (NE Brazil) from Sal via TAP, the Portuguese airline, and
Varig, the Brazilian airline. Usually if an international ticket on
TACV to Cape Verde is purchased, then discount tickets for internal
flights may also be brought in conjunction with the international
ticket. Praia continues to await the final completion and opening of
a new airport that promises to offer direct international flights to
Lisbon and other destinations.
Communications Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:04 AM
Communications count as one of the advantages at this post.
External communications links from Praia are good to excellent, and
internal links are improving. Praia is served by an international
satellite downlink system with modern switching and good landlines
in Praia and Mindelo. Cape Verde also connects to several
transatlantic cables, which are in the process of being upgraded to
fiber-optic cable. Fiber-optic underwater cables connect the major
islands. Telephone service from the smaller islands, and smaller
towns on all islands, are sometimes problematical because of poor
local lines. However, most of the country is accessible on mobile
phones. Direct dialing to and from Cape Verde is widely available.
The Embassy provides a telephone hookup with FAX and an internet
connection (generally reliable but slow) at each embassy residence.
Dial-up connections are possible from most islands. High-speed
internet has just arrived in Cape Verde and costs about $70 a month
plus an installation fee. ISDN lines are available, but pricey. All
calls within Cape Verde (including internet connections) are priced
as local calls. Card payphones are widely available. International
calls from Praia are very expensive-currently about $4/minute-but
calls from the U.S. are cheaper. However, one can take advantage of
call-back services or of internet telephony, which costs
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 12/8/2003 10:48
Communications count as one of the advantages at this post.
External communications links from Praia are good to excellent, and
internal links are improving. Praia is served by an international
satellite downlink system with modern switching and good landlines
in Praia and Mindelo. Cape Verde also connects to several
transatlantic cables, which are in the process of being upgraded to
fiber-optic cable. Fiber-optic underwater cables connect the major
islands. Telephone service from the smaller islands, and smaller
towns on all islands, are sometimes problematical because of poor
local lines. However, most of the country is accessible on mobile
phones. Direct dialing to and from Cape Verde is widely available.
The Embassy provides a telephone hookup with FAX and an internet
connection (generally reliable but slow) at each Embassy residence,
and dial-up connections are possible from most islands. ISDN lines
are available, but pricey. All calls within Cape Verde (including
internet connections) are priced as local calls, and card payphones
are widely available. International calls from Praia are very
expensive—currently about $4/minute—but calls from the U.S. are
cheaper, and many take advantage of call-back services or of
internet telephony, which costs cents-per-minute.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:07 AM
The Department of State now sends all official and personal mail
(including magazines, newspapers, packages, etc.) to Praia via
weekly air pouch. Size and weight limits apply-currently 50 lbs. is
the maximum weight and package dimensions should not exceed 62
inches in length or width. Transit time averages two-three weeks
each way. However, there have been lengthy delays in some instances.
Personal mail can be sent to the U.S. via diplomatic pouch, but no
packages over 2 lbs. are permitted except for returned merchandise.
Mail sent in either direction cannot be insured. Liquids and glass
are prohibited in the pouch. Praia has no APO service. Use the
following address for all first-class mail and packages:
Full Name 2460 Praia Place Dulles, VA 20189-2460
Transit time for international mail for first class letters, via
the diplomatic pouch, averages two-four weeks, but can greatly
exceed this, and some mail has been delayed for months in transit or
has been lost. The international mail address to receive mail at the
embassy is (note that this mail may be irradiated):
Full Name American Embassy Rua Abilio Macedo 81 Caixa Postal 201
Codigo Postal 7600 Praia, Cape Verde.
Praia has a DHL office for courier mail, which is generally
reliable, but expensive. As courier pouches are often misdirected,
only DHL is recommended for courier service, since the local office
can track and redirect packages. (Neither UPS, FedEx, or any other
courier service has a local representative.) If someone is sending a
courier package to you, it is strongly recommended that the airway
bill number be sent ahead via email, to assist in tracking.
Radio and TV Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:07 AM
Radio-Television Cabo Verde (RTC) broadcasts FM radio. Broadcasts
focus on music and local news in Portuguese and Crioulo. Each
Embassy Officer's residence has a short-wave radio, which can
receive broadcasts from Europe, North America, and Africa, although
reception is not always good. Local television broadcasts, in color,
include the state television TCV, which broadcasts after 5:00pm
weekdays, earlier on weekends. There is also a French channel, TV5,
as well as a Portuguese channel, the state owned RTP. Embassy
residences are also equipped with individual satellite dishes, which
enable the reception of the U.S. Armed Forces Network (AFN), with
selected U.S. commercial-free content, CNN in color, and four other
non-U.S. satellite broadcasts.
The local SECAM D.K. system is not compatible with U.S. sets.
While it is possible to get a U.S. television set converted, it is
not recommended. A multi-system television set and VCR are supplied
to each Embassy residence. If you wish to bring a second set, a
similar product is recommended.
Cable TV service is available through one company based in South
Africa called Multi-choice. This company provides over 100 channels
in a variety of languages, including French, Italian, Portuguese and
English. Clients select the bouquet of a specific language and then
receive some or all the channels available in that language bouquet
or a combination of different bouquets. For example, one might
choose the entire Portuguese bouquet consisting of 6 channels, in
addition to two out of the many French channels available. Monthly
cable subscriptions are reasonable but the initial investment of
roughly $1,200 USD for the required Multi-choice satellite and
decoder box is somewhat cost- prohibitive. This is a worthwhile
investment, however, for those who find the 3 locally available
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
6/29/2004 8:16 AM
All local publications are in the Portuguese language. Several
weekly/monthly newspapers are available. These have limited world or
international news and are often influenced by one political party
or another. There are three local weekly newspapers: "A Semana" (PAICV),
"Expresso Das Ilhas" (MpD) and "Horizonte" (State owned). Another
newspaper is published in Mindelo but available in Praia - the Terra
Nova. The "Cifrao" is a monthly newspaper featuring economic and
business news. And, the "Arte & Letras" is a quarterly publication
featuring news and articles on performing and literary arts.
There are no locally published magazines or technical journals.
Magazines from Portugal (in Portuguese) can be obtained locally at
the Shell gas stations or at the Kiosk in the plaza near Café Sofia,
on the plateau. Note that magazines are not always consistently
available. One noteworthy Portuguese magazine is "Visão," a weekly
magazine focusing on a range of subjects but especially local and
some international politics. There is also the weekly magazine
"Focus," which covers a variety of news topics, especially health
and science related issues. Other well known Portuguese home or
fashion magazines, such as "Lux" and "Mulher," as well as some
Spanish magazines like "Hola," can often be found, though all
imported magazines tend to be expensive. The French Cultural Center
has (in French) a library that includes magazines, journals, films
and other media that can be checked out by members. Membership is
quite inexpensive (about $25/year) and includes discounts on
concerts and occasional exhibits. There are currently no English
publications in Cape Verde.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:17 AM
The Regional Medical Officer (RMO), stationed in Dakar and
responsible for Praia, makes regional visits to Praia about once
every 3-4 months. An American Nurse Practitioner is assigned as the
Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) in Praia, and, in addition to
caring for PC Volunteers, provides basic medical care to Embassy
personnel and families, with the assistance of two local nurses. A
limited supply of medicines is stocked at the Peace Corps medical
unit. However, the medical unit cannot supply prescription drugs.
Each person assigned here must arrange for their own prescriptions
to be supplied through the mail.
A review by U.S. military medical personnel rated the local
hospital as unacceptable. Nevertheless, visitors and Peace Corps
Volunteers have successfully received emergency treatment there.
Praia has a number of medical specialists trained in Europe, Cuba,
Brazil, the U.S.S.R., or China, but they are hampered by lack of
supplies, trained assistants, and facilities. The RMO is consulted
on medical problems, and, when necessary and possible, treatment is
conducted in Dakar, in South Africa, or in European facilities.
If you wear eyeglasses, bring an extra pair of both regular and
sunglasses. Some people who regularly use contact lenses elsewhere
have difficulties with them in Cape Verde because of lots of dust.
Praia does not have contact lens cleaning or soaking solutions, so
bring or ship a full supply for your tour in your consumables.
Community Health Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:18 AM
Although community health is relatively good by West African
standards, it remains well below acceptable levels by U.S.
standards. Praia has weekly garbage collections, but remains a dirty
city, with refuse littering the streets. The city sewage system is
under construction, but most of the city relies on septic tanks, at
best. City water comes from springs, wells, or a desalinization
plant, but is not considered potable because of unsafe delivery
systems. The Embassy supplies bottled drinking water. Fresh fruits
and vegetables should be considered contaminated, and must be
cleaned and soaked in disinfectant (such as bleach) before eating.
During the annual dusty season, personnel in Praia regularly suffer
from upper respiratory problems, colds and allergies. Eye irritation
is common. Ants can often be a problem and during drought
conditions, flies and cockroaches flourish and are annoying. After a
rain, they are endemic.
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:19 AM
Personnel traveling to Praia should have current inoculations
against typhoid, IPV, hepatitis A & B, rabies and tetanus. Malaria
suppressants are not normally required for Cape Verde, but are
recommended prior to travel elsewhere in West Africa. While malaria
is not a problem, mosquitoes are. Bring a good supply of mosquito
repellent such as 90% DEET. There have not been any cases of rabies,
but it is still recommended. Yellow fever and meningitis are highly
recommended, but sometimes this is not given since it is not
mandatory. However, these immunizations are mandatory to travel to
Senegal, which many people do during their time in Cape Verde.
The dry air can be a problem for skin. Some well known brands of
moisturizers such as Nivea and Vaseline are available here, but they
tend to be expensive. Bring a good supply of strong sunscreen, as
well as skin creams, eye drops, sunglasses and common first-aid
medicines. The sun is intense, and dust storms from the Sahara can
be very irritating.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 8/4/2005 9:22
Because unemployment is very high-nearly 50%-opportunities for
local employment are scarce. A bi-lateral agreement between the U.S.
and Cape Verde was signed in June 2005. Work permits are required
for dependent family members to work on the local economy. An offer
of employment, or documented ability to become self-employed, is
required to obtain a work permit. Where local-hire contract
positions are available, salaries are very low by U.S. standards,
even when the employer is not local. Most professional employment in
the local economy requires fluency in Portuguese. Occasionally, the
UNDP, other UN agencies, or international aid missions or NGOs
require personnel. If interested in full-time professional
employment, it is strongly recommended to apply to the prospective
employer prior to coming to Cape Verde.
The Embassy currently has limited Eligible Family Member (EFM)
positions available. There is a part-time Community Liaison Officer
(CLO) and possible opportunites in GSO. There sometimes is part-time
contract work as well. EFMs interested in any of these positions
should bring a completed SF-171 (Personal Qualifications Statement)
to post with you. The post makes every effort to hire eligible
family members who wish to work.
American Embassy - Praia
Post City Last Updated: 7/15/2005 12:40 AM
Praia, a city of 120,000 people, is the capital of the Republic
of Cape Verde, and both the largest urban center and the principal
port on the island of Santiago. Praia combines some of the character
and architecture of a small Portuguese town with the bustle, color,
food and traditions of West Africa. Housing is limited, but the town
is filled with new construction as builders try to keep up with
rapid population growth.
Praia is far from being a modern city, but some amenities are
available, from pizza parlors to continental restaurants, numerous
music venues to discos. There is a small but interesting set of
museums, including one exhibiting treasures from sunken ships, and
cultural centers with a continuing series of art and other exhibits.
There is also a high caliber Performing Arts Center known as the
National Auditorium. As the economy of Cape Verde improves, a
greater variety of imported goods are available for sale. However,
this growth also results in growing traffic congestion, higher crime
rates and puts stress on an already limited infrastructure.
Security Last Updated: 3/7/2005 5:41 AM
Overall crime and safety situation:
Owing to its geographical isolation, strong historical ties to
the United States, and a large American-Cape Verdean population
resident in the United States, there is little anti-Americanism and
no known indigenous terrorist threat to visiting or resident
Americans. Fueled by transit drug trafficking, crime is rising and
becoming more violent. Armed attacks are now occurring with some
regularity in the city of Praia and resort areas on the islands of
Sal and Maio. Most crimes are burglaries and pick-pocketing or purse
and cell phone snatching by groups of youths who are immune from
criminal sanction, by national law and practice, until the age of
16. Traffic accidents are the most serious risk to residents and
Cape Verdean Police:
Authorities are generally good-willed and responsive, though
capacity to assist and respond effectively is limited by lack of
resources and little language capability beyond Portuguese and
How to avoid becoming a victim:
Visitors and residents should observe the same kinds of security
precautions one would exercise in unfamiliar and economically
disadvantaged areas anywhere. In Praia, the Sucupira and Fazenda
areas are especially prone to muggings and purse-snatchings. Both
should be traversed with great care in daylight and avoided at
night. Similar precautions apply to beach resort areas on Maio and
Sal. Local guard services are widely employed in Praia and are
generally considered effective in protecting property and
individuals within guarded areas.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 7/15/2005 12:46 AM
The first American resident Ambassador was assigned to Praia in
April, 1983, although an embassy was established in Praia in
January, 1979. In addition to the Ambassador, Embassy personnel
currently include a Deputy Chief of Mission (who serves also as
Management Officer and Post Security Officer), a Consul, a POL/PD
(with back-up consular duties) Officer, and an Office Management
Specialist (OMS) who performs Information Management (IM) functions.
The Embassy does not have an IMO or IPO. The Embassy is on Rua
Abilio Macedo on the "Plateau" (the center of the city), and the
telephone number is (238) 261-56-16; FAX (238) 261-13-55.
In addition, there is a fairly large Peace Corps program in Cape
Verde. From the head office in Prainha, the Country Director, two
Associate Country Directors, the Peace Corps Medical Officer and the
Cape Verdean staff oversee the activities of some 42 volunteers
spread out on seven islands. Approximately two-thirds are working
with the Ministry of Education and the remaining work with local
governments and local non-profit organizations.
There is an office of ACDI-VOCA, which, under contract to USAID,
administers a PL-480 Food-For-Peace program. Project proceeds
support agricultural development and a micro-credit program. Another
USAID funded project includes US technical assistance, implemented
by Booz Allen Hamilton, to prepare Cape Verde for entry into the
World Trade Organization.
Arriving personnel will, under almost all circumstances, be
assisted at Sal airport by a contract expeditor, and met at Praia
airport by an Embassy vehicle (red letters on a white background
license plate, CD-16) and driver. Otherwise, take a taxi to your
assigned location in Prainha (a ten minute drive at 300+$CVE.). Taxi
fares double after midnight. Embassy hours are Monday to Friday,
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There are no Marine Security Guards, but a
local guard is on duty 24 hours daily.
Housing Last Updated: 7/15/2005 12:48 AM
Housing for all Americans is in the area to the south of the
central Plateau, either in Prainha, near the sea-shore, or above
Prainha, on another raised plateau - Achada Santo Antonio. There are
few street addresses in Praia. For social invitations, houses are
identified by area landmarks, by the name of the owner or a prior
inhabitant, or by locally-produced maps.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:23 AM
Arriving Embassy personnel will usually move directly into
assigned furnished quarters with a welcome kit. If the quarters are
not ready, the Embassy maintains a TDY apartment suitable for up to
two persons. If neither is available, personnel occasionally stay in
one of two hotels. The Hotel Praia-Mar and the Hotel Tropico, both
in Prainha overlooking the sea, have air-conditioned rooms, bar,
restaurant, and salt-water pools. The Praia-Mar also has a tennis
court and a disco.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 7/13/2005 1:30 PM
The U.S. Government owns one residence (identified as Prainha 6)
in Prainha,. All others are leased. The Ambassador's Residence is on
Achada Santo Antonio, overlooking the drop to the Quebra Canela
Beach. The Ambassador's Residence, a four bedroom two-story house on
the edge of the plateau, features a multi-level terrace suitable for
entertaining. It has adequate family living area, a study, a small
living room for entertaining, and a large service and kitchen area.
The DCM's residence, Prainha 6, is a four bedroom, two-story house,
with a paved garden and rooftop patio for entertaining in good
weather. The current Consul's residence, Prainha 10, features lovely
curved stone walls in the large dining room, a living room, a TV
area, four bedrooms plus a study, a small backyard patio and five
verandas. Prainha 7, the Pol/PD Officer's residence, is a new
addition to the housing. It is a three-level house with nice views
of the ocean. There are two bedrooms, four bathrooms, a living room,
a dining room, a TV room a large front terrace and four verandas.
All residences contain sufficient storage space.
In addition, the Embassy leases a connected row of four small
houses, used for Peace Corps offices, TDY quarters, a recreation
room, and the OMS residence. The OMS residence has two bedrooms,
kitchen, two bathrooms, a small living room, dining room, TV room
and a small back terrace.
The Embassy also owns a property on Achada Santo Antonio. It
currently houses the Embassy Outdoor Recreation Facility - a lighted
tennis court (artificial grass/sand surface), a heated fresh-water
swimming pool that doubles as an emergency water supply, a
volley-ball court on sand, and a paved area for ceremonials (e.g.
the July 4th party) or private barbecues and picnics.
Photos of most residences are available at the Overseas Briefing
Center on the FSI campus.
Furnishings Last Updated: 7/13/2005 1:32 PM
Homes are furnished with major appliances- gas stove,
refrigerators, vacuum cleaner, microwave, freezers, washer & dryer,
and water distiller. All rooms are furnished from standard sets of
furniture. Lamps, bookcases, and basic lawn furniture are also
supplied. The post either provides drapes or permits an allowance of
$500.00. All drapes should be machine washable. Most employees order
from various catalogues, but drapes can be made locally.
The Embassy also supplies a television, VCRs, and a coffee-maker.
The Welcome Kit for new arrivals consists of pots, pans, cutlery,
towels, linen, glassware, and miscellaneous cooking and serving
equipment and is adequate for a family for a brief time.
Bring small decorative and colorful items such as pictures to
personalize your home. Remember dust problems and the need for easy
cleaning when you are selecting items to bring.
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:28 AM
Embassy housing has heaters, which supply adequate hot water (at
minimum in the kitchen and master bedroom suite), and split-unit air
conditioners. Electric power is 220-volt, 50-hz, but may fluctuate
as much as 50%. A limited supply of transformers and voltage
regulators are available. It is advisable to bring a couple of your
own transformers as well. Note that power supply is often erratic.
For valuable items such as a computer or stereo system, use of a
voltage regulator, and a 110 transformer as needed, is advised.
Bring small transformers for any personal 110-volt equipment such as
hair dryers. All residences are connected to an electric generator
for back-up power as the supply from the city can be erratic. Unless
you have 220 volt, 50-cycle clocks, ensure that all clocks you bring
are battery powered. A good supply of batteries, and/or battery
charger, can come in handy.
Cooking gas is supplied locally by the Embassy GSO. Each
residence has its own water storage system, since city water supply
is erratic. The Embassy fills that system with non-potable water
when there is a problem with the city water supply. In addition, the
Embassy supplies an adequate amount of bottled water. Water pressure
(from overhead tanks and/or pumps) is adequate for showers.
Food Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:30 AM
Employees rely on the local economy for their basic food needs.
There is one supermarket similar to those that exist in the U.S.,
which normally has produce, meat, and other standard grocery items,
permitting "one-stop" shopping. Nevertheless, the typical shopper
might still go to other stores or the outdoor market for a greater
variety of vegetables, meat or products. There are several small
mini-markets which stock a mix of meat, some produce, and a wide
variety of imported goods, including food and household items. In
fact, shopping is often done at a variety of these small stores. At
the outdoor food market on the Plateau, there is a bigger selection
of fresh produce as well as fresh fish, early in the mornings.
Prices often fluctuate greatly for some produce depending on
seasonable availability, such as for green beans, eggplants, and
Cape Verde is not food self-sufficient, but local supplies of
fresh fruit and vegetables are increasing every year, in part due to
the ACDI-VOCA supported drip irrigation projects. Local fish,
especially tuna, garoupa (like a red snapper), and serra (wahoo),
are good, as are local shellfish when in season. The locally canned
tuna-fish is reputed to be the best in the world. Local markets
normally have a stock of fresh or frozen poultry, beef, pork and
occasionally lamb. Good quality meat of limited variety can be
found, though the selection seems to improve with time. For example,
stores have increasingly been importing high quality frozen beef
roast and tenderloin roast from Brazil, and one store has been known
to sell good pork tenderloin. This particular store also sells good
quality frozen cuts of meat, including chicken and turkey breasts,
hamburger patties, chicken legs and wings, pork chops, and leg of
lamb. Perhaps better quality meat is available in Dakar, and on
order from South Africa, but shipping is expensive. Also available
are some good local and imported sausages that are popular in
Portugal and Cape Verde, called linguiça and chorizo, which are both
spicy sausages. There is also a small variety of bacon, ham, salami
and occasionally roast turkey available. However, in general there
is a limited selection of luncheon meats.
Available fruits include bananas, mangoes, papaya, passion-fruit,
and imported apples, grapes, kiwi and citrus fruits. Potatoes,
carrots, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, green
beans, eggplant and lettuce are almost always available, while
seasonal stocks of more exotic fruits and vegetables (such as
strawberries and broccoli) have longer seasons and better quality
than a few years ago. Dried beans and manioc are always in the
market. Some frozen vegetables can also be found, including peas,
corn, green beans, and sometimes spinach and broccoli. While there
are some fruits and vegetables not commonly found in the U.S., the
availability of fresh herbs and the variety of vegetables overall is
less than that found in Washington, D.C. area supermarkets.
Most of the stores tend to buy through the same
wholesalers/importers-which means that when one runs out, they all
do. The wholesalers also seem to buy and ship what is available at a
good price. Thus, the items in the stores tend to be what came in on
the last ship. So some goods, even basics, can be occasionally
unavailable. Fresh dairy products, with the exception of excellent
ice-cream, and local goat cheese, are scarce. Most residents consume
either UHT (ultra-pasteurized) milk, imported from Europe or
powdered milk. Butter, gouda cheese, and margarine are imported and
are almost always available. Other imported cheeses such as edam,
camembert, brie, swiss and roquefort can occasionally be found in
the supermarket and in some of the more exclusive mini-markets.
Employees generally buy things whenever they see them, and maintain
a stock in their own freezers and store room. Prices in general are
higher than in U.S. supermarkets. See the consumables list for
suggestions of what foodstuff to bring to Cape Verde.
For added variety, employees assigned to Praia may want to use
their consumables allowance to ship the following: preferred brands;
special items such as spices; dry goods such as paper products,
plastic wrap, cold-water detergents; and favorites such as preferred
breakfast cereals, cooking chocolate, nuts, cake mixes and other
baking goods. However, note that an adequate selection of some of
the above mentioned items can also be found here. For example,
cereal brands and types popular in the U.S. are available, such as
corn flakes, Kelloggs All Bran flakes, Nestle Honey Nut Cheerios and
Nestle Golden Grahams. Also consider shipping coffee if attached to
specific U.S. brands or other imported coffee because these are
rarely available. However, note that the locally produced coffee is
quite good and is an adequate substitute. Since liquids are not
permitted in pouch mail, all liquid supplies for a full tour must be
included. Staples such as flour, sugar, yeast, and baking powder are
available locally, as are fresh and canned vegetables, though not
always in convenient sizes. There are several small bakeries that
sell a variety of types of fresh bread daily, much of it pretty
good. In fact, one bakery now sells excellent whole wheat and mixed
white and wheat bread. Apart from this bakery, though, the
availability of wheat bread is scarce.
Baby food is available, but not in the varieties and styles seen
in the U.S. Disposable diapers are also available but tend to be
poorer quality. Occasionally good quality imported brands are
available such as Huggies, but are more expensive here than in the
U.S. Ship a good supply of non-perishables, and consider a blender
or food processor to make your own baby food at home.
A foreign-run brewery produces acceptable beer and soft drinks,
including good tonic water. There is a local Coca-Cola bottler.
Imported lager style beer, especially from Portugal, is usually
available. The variety of soft drinks is limited (very few diet
drinks) and your preference should be included in your shipment.
Portuguese wines are good and attractively priced. A couple of
stores sell quality imported wines, usually from Spain and Portugal
and occasionally from France, South Africa, or elsewhere.
Nevertheless, you may wish to ship some superior bottles given the
somewhat limited selection. Liquid concentrates or dried drink mixes
are another good addition to a consumables order. A large supply of
"zip-lock" style plastic bags and containers for food (against
insects) and mechanical items (against dust) will be necessary. Fill
out your consumables space with such items.
Praia has no commissary, PX, or Embassy cafeteria. The Embassy
staff irregularly orders dry goods from Europe or fresh/frozen/dry
goods from South Africa on a shared shipping-cost basis. Some people
have had good success ordering dry groceries via the internet. While
not usable for fresh, frozen or liquid items, mail-order groceries
can be an effective way to supplement your consumables.
Cape Verdean cuisine closely resembles Portuguese food with its
emphasis on grilled fish, fish stews, and boiled vegetables. In
fact, fish lovers will be in heaven here. The grilled lobster, fresh
tuna, wahoo, octopus and a multitude of other delicacies are superb,
but expensive. A specialty is cachupa, a delicious, hearty dish that
contains boiled maize, beans, herbs, cassava, sweet potato, chicken
and other meat. Popular for breakfast is to fry up cachupa from the
night before and eat it with eggs. Another popular local dish is the
feijoada, which is essentially a flavorful bean stew, usually with
pork. Dried papaya in a honey syrup is often served as dessert along
with fresh goat's cheese, making a delicious end to the meal.
Clothing Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:31 AM
Dress in Cape Verde is less formal than in Washington or European
capitals, but generally follows U.S. standards. Suits and ties are
customary for formal occasions, but nothing fancier is required. In
general, clothing suitable for tropical or sub-tropical climates is
appropriate (summers are hot and humid), but the nights get cool in
the winter when the wind blows, so sweaters, wraps or jackets are
Praia has one dry cleaner, but their supply of fluid is
irregular, so they cannot be depended on. Wash-and wear items are
best. Dust and dirt make frequent washing necessary. Garment bags
and/or shoulder protectors help maintain clothing in a usable state.
Local tailors and dressmakers are relatively rare, but adequately
skilled. They work best copying existing garments, but can work from
pictures-they do not use patterns. If you intend to have things
made, bring an adequate supply of buttons, zippers, interlinings,
facings, etc. All are hard to find. Local thread is poor quality so
for better work, bring your own thread. You may also consider
bringing a supply of good material-all-cotton or cotton mixes are
the best bet.
Bring all necessary clothing for sports or preferred
activities-especially footwear. Tennis shoes and hiking shoesof high
quality are hard to find. Bathing suits, beach towels, goggles, swim
fins, snorkel, tennis rackets, and the like should also be shipped.
Men Last Updated: 7/15/2005 12:53 AM
Casual dress for men is slacks and sport shirts. Everyday dress
is more American than African. Nevertheless, African dresses and
shirts, such as those popular in Senegal and other West African
nations, are worn in Cape Verde.
"Formal" events require a jacket and tie. We are not aware of any
true "formal" (i.e. gown and tuxedo) events in Cape Verde.
Wash-and-wear suits are also popular for work and social events.
Cotton bush jackets are occasionally seen.
Women Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:42 AM
Long dresses are rarely worn. Women generally find blouse and
skirt/slacks comfortable for everyday wear. Hosiery is rarely worn
and thus is difficult to find. Suits or luncheon/cocktail dresses
are suitable for more formal occasions. Informal social functions
require only skirts and blouses/tops. There are some local boutiques
that sell a variety of attractive shoes, leather purses and
accessories, and clothes. However, clothing styles and sizes are
somewhat different here than what might be worn in the U.S.
Children Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:42 AM
Clothing worn during the summer in the U.S. is suitable here.
Jeans and t-shirts, or shorts and t-shirts are everywhere,
appropriate and popular. Most children wear sandals or comfortable
sneakers. There is a limited selection of adequate shoes and clothes
for children so it's best to purchase everything in the U.S.
Office Attire Last Updated: 7/13/2005 1:34 PM
Office attire for both men and women is similar to what you will
see in the Department during the summer, except women should not
plan to wear any slim heels. Roads and streets in Praia are
cobblestone, and—while attractive—are slippery and treacherous for
heels. In general, footwear will wear out quickly, so bring a good
supply of regular shoes, as well. Local repairs are uncertain, and
local supply tends to be poor quality.
In Praia, an invitation stating "formal" dress means coat & tie.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:32 AM
American brands of toiletries and sundries are not often
available. A limited supply of French African or European brands is
usually in stock. Bring your preferred brands of makeup, OTC
medicines, shampoo, mosquito repellant, vitamins, sunscreen, etc. If
you have preferences in cleaning products, ship them in consumables.
Keep in mind that cleaning is usually done on a daily basis and
cleaning supplies are used in large quantities by the maids and are
very expensive to buy in Cape Verde. Bring more than you would
generally use in the U.S., especially furniture polish.
A small tool-kit will be useful in keeping your home in
order-hammer, nails, screwdrivers, glues, WD-40, etc. Walls here
tend to be ultra-hard concrete, so hard-wall picture hangers may be
If you plan to garden, bring seeds appropriate for desert
climates, as well as all your necessary tools, including
pots/planters. Though gardening space is limited in all the
residences, there are stores that sell potted plants and soil, so
some expatriates enjoy growing herbs and occasionally produce. Also
ship plenty of hobby materials-games, playing cards, sewing notions,
and the like. Books are in short supply here, so bring your favorite
reading material, and plan to trade it around.
Basic Services Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:45 AM
The Embassy handles basic housing maintenance. Since auto repair
is unreliable, many employees hire Embassy mechanics for after- hour
repairs. No appliance repair shops exist, and computer
service/repair is erratic. Parts for any of these repairs are hard
to find locally. Barbers and hairdressers exist, as do masseuses and
one physical therapist. All these services are very reasonably
Domestic Help Last Updated: 3/7/2005 5:42 AM
Domestic help is customary in Cape Verde, but is neither
exceptionally cheap nor exceptionally skilled. Trained cooks,
especially, are rare. A more typical employee is a maid who helps
with the cooking. In the diplomatic community full-time cook/maid
(8:30-5:00 pm M-F and half day on Saturday) receives around 20,000 -
28,000 CVE a month (about $220 - $300 USD), and the salary usually
includes the cost of transportation to your home. In the embassy
community, the employer customarily provides uniforms and one meal
per day. Holiday gratuities are dependent on the employer. Upon
departure, it is nice, but not required, to provide one or two
months salary especially if there is a gap in the arrival of your
Currently it is up to each employer and employee to decide
whether or not to pay into the social security plan. (Note: There is
no Cape Verdean law for paying pension, social security or health
insurance for domestic help.) You can negotiate with the employee on
percentages, but the local law (for other professions) is that the
employer pays 15% and the employee pays 8%. However, most domestic
staff choose not to participate. If you choose to have a contract
with your domestic help (which is not typical here), be sure to
fully understand Cape Verdean Labor laws. All household help should
have a medical exam and a security check. In many cases newly
arrived personnel will hire the domestic employee of the officer's
predecessor. It is essential to have some Portuguese language skills
in order to communicate with domestic help. They do not speak any
English and their Portuguese is heavily influenced by Crioulo which
further complicates communication.
Nanny's and childcare are also available. There are no
credentials or formal training for such workers, so people go on
word of mouth recommendations from others in the diplomatic
community. Often, these individuals have raised children of their
own. In any case, on-the-job training and at least initial close
supervision would be advised, especially if the individual does not
have excellent references and experience working for other "western"
families. There are a few adequate day care centers that even offer
some pre-school instruction in their programs. However, the
teacher-to-child ratios are poor, usually ranging from 10 to 20
students per teacher, whereas U.S. law generally requires a ratio of
about 4 students to 1 teacher, depending on the child's age. For
more information, speak with the Embassy CLO.
Gardening services and tools are available in Praia, however, if
gardening is your hobby, you will want to bring your favorite tools,
gloves, and other accessories.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:47 AM
Cape Verde is predominantly Roman Catholic, and there is a church
in each community. Services on Saturday night as well as Sunday are
common. The Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, and Church of the
Nazarene are also widespread. All services are in Portuguese or
At Post Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:48 AM Cape Verde does not have
an International or American School. The Cape Verdean education
system is primary and secondary only, and is beset with resource
problems. Those in the international community who have dependent
children of primary school age use one of two available options.
There is a private Cape Verdean school, Colégio Semear, with grades
1 through 6. The instruction, with the exception of foreign
language, is all in Portuguese. The other option is a primary school
operated by the French mission. The instruction is in French with
some Portuguese classes available. Home schooling and-or
correspondence courses would also be an option, depending on the
resources of the parents. For secondary school aged children (grades
7 through 12), there are no recommended education options in Praia.
Correspondence Courses could be considered. Among correspondence
courses, some parents and children have used the Calvert School
system or the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School system. For
employees considering this option, it is highly recommended that you
consult with the education specialists at the Family Liaison Office
in the Department prior to departure. Otherwise, the Post CLO can
provide information on education options in Praia.
Away From Post Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:48 AM Dakar,
Senegal-about a two-hour flight away- has two English-language
schools which families at that post consider satisfactory. (See the
Dakar Post Report for specifics.) However, neither offers boarding
facilities, so a family stay would have to be arranged privately.
From Sal Island, there are direct flights to Europe, South Africa
and the U.S., so boarding schools there can be considered. Again, a
consultation with the FLO in Washington is highly recommended.
Special Needs Education Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:49 AM
Only very limited special education facilities or services for
the disabled or handicapped persons are available in Praia. Neither
the public nor private schools offer services to those with special
needs. Private, professionally trained service providers are
essentially non-existent. If you or any member of your family have
special needs that may require services, equipment and/or
accommodation, please consult with the post CLO and FLO in
Washington prior to considering an assignment in Praia.
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:33 AM
Hiking/trekking/walking is a major sport in Cape Verde, and the
impetus for much of the tourism. The volcanic geography results in
spectacular vistas and beautiful niches, many of which can only be
reached on foot. The beaches and water sports (swimming, diving,
snorkeling, fishing, and kayaking) are the other major option. There
are a few attractive beaches and numerous hiking trails on Santiago
Island, easily within reach from Praia.
Football (Soccer) is a passion, with sports teams in every
locality. A variety of other athletic or sporting opportunities
exist locally (basketball, martial arts, volley ball and the like).
Praia has a well-used arena and an outdoor stadium completed in
2000-01. There is little otherwise in the way of organized sports.
Praia has an inexpensive tennis club, with 3 hard surface (cement)
tennis courts. Courts can be hard to get during peak hours and
weekends, and there is a nominal fee of 200 CVE per/hour for a
court. There is a grassless golf course just outside of Praia that
consists mostly of rock, scrub and sand, and which is a challenging
physical trek. There is also a partially grassed golf course on the
Island of São Vicente. The Praia-Mar hotel also boasts a hard
surface tennis court, newly renovated and re-opened in March 2004.
Tennis can also be challenging here due to the constant winds in
winter or mid-day heat in summer. But, due to the temperate climate
and absence of rain, tennis can be a viable means of regular
recreation. Both hotels in Prainha offer salt-water swimming pools,
usable for a fee, which can offer socialization with the
international community in addition to recreation.
Since 2000, the Embassy has had the only fresh-water swimming
pool in Praia, a lighted regulation tennis court with an
artificial-grass surface, and a sand volleyball court. The swimming
pool now boasts a heater that generally keeps the water temperature
at a very comfortable 76 degrees, making the pool usable all year
To enjoy treks, excursions and picnics, it is recommended that
you bring coolers, thermos jugs, beach chairs, and portable cooking
equipment. With the fairly constant winds, kite flying would have
great potential. Some people use tents for long treks, camping or
for beach picnics. Beach umbrellas or open-air tents require strong
anchoring against the wind, but given the lack of shade at the
beaches, can add greatly to outing enjoyment. A wind-block would
also be useful at the beach. Gas grills, if brought in your
shipment, can be adapted to use local gas.
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:34 AM
Many staff members enjoy visits to West Africa and especially to
nearby islands. Trips to other islands, by air or by ferry provide
an opportunity for a change of scenery and of pace. Inter-island
travel is reasonable, with TACV Airline rates generally ranging from
8,000 to 14,000 CVE ($90-160 USD). Each island is unique and offers
excellent opportunities for photography, hiking, diving, fishing,
beaching, sightseeing, or interacting with the local culture. All of
Cape Verde is considered safe for travel, but only the largest towns
offer amenities like hot water. Fogo offers a semi-active volcano
(last major eruption was 1995, although there was rumbling and
venting in 1999). Brava and Santo Antão offer spectacular green
volcanic scenery. Boa Vista, Sal, and Maio specialize in beaches.
São Vicente offers the bustling and cosmopolitan port city of
Cape Verde is a superb hiking destination, especially on
Santiago, Santo Antão, Fogo, Brava, and São Nicolau. A Peace Corps
volunteer put together a readily available manual on stunning hikes
in the Santa Catarina region of Santiago. This is a handy guide for
weekend forays into the scenic outskirts of Praia; hikes range from
short and flat to steep and hilly and everything in between. Note
that many of these trails are also ideal for mountain biking. On
Santo Antão, classic walks are up or down the ribeiras, taking
transport at the beginning or end. On Fogo the great challenge is to
ascend the pico, the 2,829m spectacular volcano cone. On Brava there
are endless walks criss-crossing the steep 'flower' island and you
are unlikely to meet any other travelers. São Nicolau is a gentle
and quiet island with a hidden, green and mountainous heartland
filled with beautiful walks.
Cape Verde has 965km of coastline, so the potential for surfing
and boogey boarding is high. The water is warm and the swell from
the open Atlantic, during the winter, can be big. The best-known
island for surfing is Sal, and there are also surfing spots on
Santiago- Tarrafal, and the coast in the southeast, south of Ponte
de Lobo. Cape Verde is a popular destination for windsurfers from
Europe to Hawaii, and regularly hosts championships. The two main
islands for windsurfing are Boavista and Sal, with São Vicente
offering a lot of potential but little in the way of facilities.
Opportunities for diving and fishing are also numerous. Diving in
Cape Verde can be unique because one can observe big fish and large
schools of fish relatively close to shore. In addition, there are
shipwrecks of all types and vintages, especially off of Sal. Several
companies, operating mainly out of Sal, Boavista and Santiago, offer
high-sea fishing for blue marline, wahoo, yellow-fin tuna, shark,
white marlin, sailfish and spearfish. Around the archipelago it is
also possible to join local fishermen on their trips.
When inter-island travel is not an option, Santiago possesses an
array of interesting opportunities for outdoor fun. Cidade Velha,
the first settlement on Santiago Island, is a great place to explore
several points of interest, including a renovated convent; the ruins
of the old fortress; the oldest Cathedral in Africa; and the
prolific mango trees along the ribeira grande, or big valley. Also
fascinating to visit on foot is Rui Vaz and its surrounding areas.
Located at an altitude of 2,700ft, this locale boasts a cooler
climate, lovely panoramic views and scenic hikes. In fact, this
region is the starting point for hikes up to the Pico de Antonia,
which is the highest mountain in Santiago at 4573 ft. Santiago also
offers a variety of nice beaches for weekend getaways, such as
nearby San Francisco beach, popular for boogey boarding, snorkeling
and kayaking. Another popular place to visit is Tarrafal, a small
fishing village on the other side of Santiago with excellent tourist
facilities, a white sand beach, and good surf. For calmer surf,
there is a wide beach (although like many beaches here, there is a
lot of trash) situated along a lagoon at Praia Baixa, just 25
minutes outside of Praia.
Dakar is 2 hours away by direct flight from Praia (a roundtrip
ticket costs about $400). This French African city boasts fine
restaurants, museums, and rewarding, if aggravating, shopping
experiences. The local airlines irregularly offer special fares
(about $300) to the Canary Islands, for a traditional modern tourism
From Sal Island, a round-trip ticket (around $700- $800) takes
you to South Africa for shopping, safaris and game parks, the wine
country, and a decided change of scene. Sal also offers direct
international access to Fortaleza, Brazil and several locations in
Entertainment Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:35 AM
Praia has a number of reasonably priced restaurants featuring
Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, and local Cape Verdean cuisine. In
addition, there are several small restaurants spread out in downtown
Praia on the Plateau, which offer a variety of very reasonably
priced local specialties as well as grilled fish and meats.
Given its size, entertainment in Praia is somewhat limited,
however, the exciting music scene, the prolific art and photography
exhibitions, and the occasional international act help liven up the
city. There is one indoor movie theatre, which often shows U.S.
'blockbuster' movies in English with Portuguese subtitles. The
French and the Portuguese Cultural Centers compete with offerings of
movies, musical groups, and art shows. The Palacio da Cultura,
National Library, and National Archives in Praia all offer
occasional art exhibits and handicraft shows. The National
Auditorium and occasionally the National Assembly hold popular and
sometimes renowned international performances of singers, music
trios, dancers, or other acts. Several clubs and other venues offer
regular musical events featuring local or foreign artists. Much of
the local Cape Verdean music can be spectacular and world class.
There are small ethnographic museums in Praia and in Assomada (in
the interior of Santiago Island) which are interesting but have
Vocal and instrumental music and dance competitions are popular.
The Carnival (Mardi Gras) celebration (especially in Mindelo and in
Praia) is one of the year's major events, and features spirited
costume and music competition. Each village and town celebrates its
own Saint's Day with a festival every year. A visit to these can
offer a unique view of the Cape Verdian culture as well as on
opportunity to sample local foods, crafts and music at their finest.
Special events (e.g. The Blessing of the Boats) provide additional
opportunity for marches, costumes, music and a viewing experience.
Social Activities Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:35 AM
Perhaps the most popular form of entertainment is the dinner
party, either at home or at one of the numerous local restaurants.
The international community is small, and it is easy to meet
compatible people. There are fewer than 12 official Americans,
including family members. Praia also hosts Embassies from France,
Portugal, China, Russia, Brazil, Senegal, and Angola, as well as
Cuba and a delegation from the European Union. In addition, Austria,
Canada, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland have small technical
assistance missions in Cape Verde. There is an official United
Nations community of about 50, with offices of UNDP, UNICEF, FAO,
WFP, and WHO, plus a variety of NGO's and usually a dozen or so
experts here for a shorter term. If you find a language in common,
you will find easy access to all these groups. There are no formal
clubs or social organizations within the community.
Those Cape Verdeans with a fluency in a language other than
Crioulo enjoy opportunities to socialize with the international
community, but their own resources for entertaining foreigners are
limited. Most socializing with Cape Verdeans will occur outside
Official Functions Last Updated: 6/29/2004 8:55 AM
Praia's representational activity is somewhat intense for all
officers given the small number of Mission personnel to attend a
variety of official functions. Numerous opportunities exist to
develop useful contacts and there are a wide range of social
activities, including cocktail parties, buffet suppers and dinners,
with occasional large Embassy receptions. Dress for official
functions depends on the occasion and ranges from casual wear to
suits for men and short fancy dresses for women. Formal receptions
(suit and tie) are often held out-of-doors in one of the two Prainha
hotels, the Tropico and Praia Mar. Somewhat formal dinners occur
occasionally at the Ambassador's residence or at a restaurant. U.S.
Government employees are expected to attend official functions and
to reciprocate personal invitations from Cape Verdean officials. At
the Ambassador's residence and other high-level Embassy social
functions, all officers assist in developing Embassy contacts and in
making social events a success. Officers and spouses assigned to
Praia should bring a supply of business cards or be prepared to
produce them on their computers. Local commercial facilities for
printing cards and invitations are limited.
Special Information Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:36 AM
It is useful to bring with you to post a good supply of personal
leisure-time equipment. After a few weeks, you will find that your
schedule fills up with activities. For a small island post, days and
evenings can quickly become very crowded with activities. However,
it is essential to have a hobby to occupy those weekends when not
much is happening or it is too hot or too dusty to be outside.
On arrival, bring several changes of clothing in your hand
luggage, because baggage often fails to accompany you from Sal to
Praia. It usually follows within 2 days.
Photographers should note that film is expensive and sometimes
hard to find, and that the pervasive dust can damage equipment.
Local film processing is also expensive and the quality can be
variable. Some employees have been happier with digital cameras.
Others will use mailers for sending film to the U.S. for processing.
Bring a supply of film (or diskettes/flash cards, etc.), fresh or
rechargeable batteries, cleaning equipment, and protective
(airtight) containers. Similarly, for computer equipment,
dust-covers and UPS protection are essential.
With the addition of a part-time CLO, Praia is developing an
orientation program. Since the number of Americans in the community
is so small, orientation can be individually customized to each
individual's needs. Each incoming employee is provided a Welcome Kit
and offered area tours, local outings or shopping.
A basic knowledge of Portuguese is important for a successful
tour. The Portuguese spoken here is closer to continental than to
Brazilian Portuguese, but Brazilian speakers can adjust easily.
Spanish-speakers find it relatively easy to learn Portuguese. The
foreign community also includes numerous speakers of French, German,
and Russian. Portuguese and Crioulo language instruction can be
arranged at post. Given Cape Verde's links to West Africa and the
large UN Mission here, knowledge of French is particularly useful in
both formal and informal social situations.
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 7/13/2005 1:37 PM
There is one primary approved route to reach Cape Verde from the
U.S. - any of several U.S. carriers to Lisbon, then either TAP
(Portuguese Airline) or TACV from Lisbon to Sal. An overnight in
Lisbon is recommended. TACV also has connections from Amsterdam,
Paris, and Munich, but reservations and schedules can be changed
without notice. The direct SAA (South African) flight from Atlanta
to Sal Island (one day a week), while it is listed as code-share
with a U.S. airline to Johannesburg, is NOT code-share to Sal, so is
presumed not to meet Fly America requirements. Check the Department
for the latest interpretation of this requirement. It is also
possible to fly NYC/Dakar/Praia, but because the flight is
difficult, there is an absolute limit of 20 kilos of luggage per
person, and schedules change without notice. That flight is never
recommended. If flying from other geographic areas, check with the
Embassy in advance.
The international airport is on Sal Island, an hour away via TACV
to Praia airport. Reservations for the Sal-Praia segment are
difficult to confirm outside of Sal, so advise the Embassy of your
schedule well in advance, so that every effort can be made to get
you on a good connecting flight to Praia. However, delays of up to
12 hours are not uncommon, so bring enough cash for a hotel
overnight (about $75). Also have funds for a possible overweight
charge, as TACV does not accept Government Travel Requests (GTR's.)
Normally, the Embassy expeditor will arrange for transport of
baggage, including overweight, at no charge, but you should be
prepared if she is unable to do so.
Surface shipments are usually routed from the U.S. to ELSO in
Antrwerp, and from there, when a ship is found, to Praia. Shipping
time can be up to six months, but most shipments have recently been
received in three months. Be sure that any goods shipped as
consumables can last this period without deterioration. Airfreight
is normally shipped NYC/Lisbon/Sal. Air shipment crates should be
limited to 5' x 5'in size and 400 pounds in weight, to match the
carrying capacity of the small planes from Sal to Praia. Air
shipments take about 6 to 8 weeks. Check with your desk officer
before you consign your shipments to a packing company, and ensure
that the packing company is aware of these constraints. All effects
should be wrapped in waterproof paper. Mark your name and address on
each crate. Do not send shipments via Dakar for any reason.
Before coming to post, advise the Embassy of the details of all
shipments to Praia. Insure all shipments. Effects shipped from Praia
should be marked as follows:
Full Name American Embassy Praia, Cape Verde (West Africa)
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 7/6/2004 7:59 AM
Shipments usually clear customs easily if the Embassy has full
details. Duty-free entry is extended for all personal effects and
automobile shipments, both initial and following. You may also order
items (except liquids and oversize items) from the U.S. for delivery
via diplomatic pouch.
It is a good idea to bring passport photos for each family member
to be used for identity cards, visas, etc.
Passage Last Updated: 6/29/2004 9:00 AM
American citizens, including diplomats, require visas for entry
into Cape Verde. They can be obtained through the Cape Verdean
Embassy in Washington, D.C. or the Cape Verdean Consulate in Boston,
Pets Last Updated: 7/6/2004 8:00 AM
Quarantine is not required for pets imported to Cape Verde.
Inoculate dogs and cats against rabies within 6 months prior to the
animal's arrival at post. If possible, bring the animals as excess
baggage to avoid inadequate handling at airports along the way. The
Overseas Briefing Center (OBC) has very good information on
transporting pets. It is advised to check with them before bringing
Pet food of a limited variety is available in Praia. You may wish
to ship in your air freight and consumables an adequate supply of
the food of your choice.
There are one or two Cape Verdean veterinarians in Praia, with
inadequate facilities and supplies but adequate training. Importing
medications may be necessary, but first aid is available.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 6/29/2004 9:01 AM
You should not import firearms or ammunition into Cape Verde. If
you believe an exception to this rule is necessary and justified,
write directly to the Ambassador well in advance of your shipping
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
7/6/2004 8:00 AM
Cape Verdean Escudos (CVE) are linked to the European Euro, so
exchange rates change weekly. In fact, the dollar has devalued
significantly against the escudo since 2001. To make up for this
loss in purchasing power, employees began receiving 10% COLA as of
November 2003, though the COLA rate has since dropped to 5% with the
strengthening dollar. The currency is not officially convertible
outside Cape Verde, but is normally both bought and sold at exchange
counters in the airports in Lisbon and New York.
Employees assigned to Praia are paid bimonthly from Charleston
Financial Services Center (CFSC). A U.S. checking account is
indispensable. Arrange for pay allotments to your U.S. bank. The
Embassy can cash personal checks and traveler's check although
personal checks are preferred.
The banking system has undergone rapid modernization in recent
years and banking is done with relative ease. Most banks have
branches on all islands, complete with ATM's. Many employees find a
local checking account (which provides a local ATM card) useful and
desirable, but it is not a necessity.
Electronic bill paying through the internet is increasingly
popular. With today's irregular mail delivery, having a means to
receive and pay bills through the internet is advised. These can be
set up either through you bank or there are private bill paying
services (such as Paytrust) available. Fees usually cover all
postage plus a timely presentation and payment of bills. This
process should be set up before leaving the U.S.
Cape Verde uses the metric system of weights and measures.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 7/15/2005
In January 2004, Cape Verde began charging a Value Added Tax (VAT
or IVA in Portuguese) of 15% on many purchases, including food,
restaurants, and an array of other goods and services. Currently
embassy personnel pay the tax at the time of purchase, and are
supposed to receive refunds upon presenting saved receipts. However,
this has not worked so far. The Embassy is still formulating a
policy with the Government of Cape Verde to exempt diplomatic staff
from this tax, either by allowing them to show I.D.s or by refunding
the tax at the end of the year. Embassy staff purchase gasoline duty
free with a book of coupons.
The Embassy handles car registrations and licensing via
diplomatic note to the Foreign Ministry. There is no charge. A valid
U.S. driver's license is acceptable for driving in Cape Verde when
accompanied by a diplomatic ID. All personnel and dependents are
issued diplomatic identity cards. Local third-party car insurance is
legally required to drive in Cape Verde. Cost averages about $260.00
a year depending on your car's weight.
There are no Cape Verdean restrictions on the resale of personal
property with the exception of cars. (The Ambassador must approve
the sale of any items valued above $250.00.) A car is assessed a
customs tax equal to 50% of its value if sold while in the country 2
years or less. After 3 years, a car becomes exempt from customs
duty. A new "consumer's tax" charged to the buyer and based on the
cubic inches of the engine tends to make older, larger U.S. cars
difficult to sell. Automobiles can be purchased locally. However,
variety and availability are not constant.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 6/29/2004 9:03 AM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published in or about this country. The Department of State does not
endorse unofficial publications.
Bradt Travel Guide - Cape Verde Islands. Aisling Irwin and Colum
Wilson. Revised 2001.
Abshire, David M. and Michael A. Samuels, eds. Portuguese Africa:
A Handbook. Praeger. New York, 1969
Albuquerque, Luis de and Maria E. Madeira Santos, coordinators.
Historia Geral de Cabo Verde, Vol. 1. Lisbon, Centro do Estudos de
História e Cartografia Antiga, Instituto de Investigação Cientifica
Almeida, Raymond A. and Patricia Nyhan. Cape Verde and its
People: A Short History. American Committee for Cape Verde. Boston,
Lefcourt, Marc and others. Cape Verde: An Emerging Democracy.
Embassy of the Republic of Cape Verde, Washington, DC . 1993
Lobban, Richard A., Jr. Cape Verde: Crioulo Colony to Independent
Nation. Westview Press: Boulder, CO, 1995
Lobban, Richard A., Jr. and Marilyn Halter. Historical Dictionary
of the Republic of Cape Verde. 2nd edition. The Scarecrow Press,
Inc. Metuchen, NJ & London, 1988
McGaffey, David C. Cape Verde 2000, A Country Assessment, United
Nations Development Program, UNDP. Cape Verde. November, 2000.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 7/15/2005 12:38 AM
New Year’s Day January 1 Democracy and Liberty Day January 13
National Heroes’ Day January 20 Ash Wednesday February 28 (variable)
Good Friday April 13 (variable) Easter Sunday April 15 (variable)
Laborer’s Day May 1 (Praia) Municipal Day May 19
Internationa Childrens Day June 1 Independence Day July 5
Assumption Day August 15 (variable) All Saint's Day November 1
(variable) Christmas Day December 25
In addition, the GOCV often declares a “bridge” holiday or
half-holiday between any of the above holidays and a weekend. Such
declarations are observed by the Embassy.