Sao Tome and Principe, usually called only Sao Tome, is just a small island nation that’s located on the Atlantic Coast of Central Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea. The island was discovered in the 15th century by Portugal, which also claimed it at that time.
Though small, Sao Tome and Principe has quite a lot to offer. Here, you can find the Obo National Park, where flora and fauna enthusiasts will have a great time – as there are around 109 species of orchids and plenty of birds for someone to see. Moreover, the Obo National Park is also home to the Pico de Sao Tome peak, standing as high as 2,024 meters.
As a tourist, you can explore the isolated beaches of Sao Tome and Principe, underwater caves, and gaze at the colonial-style architecture.
However, before traveling to this country, one might wonder how safe is Sao Tome and Principe for tourists – we all know that safety is of utmost importance.
Therefore, in the following paragraphs, we have gathered all of the information we could find on this island nation so that we would answer the question probably all tourists ask themselves, that if is Sao Tome and Principe safe to visit.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Sao Tome and Principe
Overall Risks in Sao Tome and Principe: LOW
When it comes to safety and security, Sao Tome and Principe is quite safe. Various reports state that the only things a tourist should be worried about when visiting this country are the limited medical facilities that are available and the petty crime.
However, you shouldn’t worry about the latter as the crime rates are reportedly much lower here than in any neighboring countries.
Still, usual precaution measures should be taken so that you won’t get in any trouble. You should watch out for any scam attempts that might be tried by the locals and for any suspicious individuals that might follow you.
Basically, all you have to do is avoid displaying any valuable items, such as mobile phones, money, or jewelry, and going out during the night – especially in poorly lit areas and the suburbs of the cities.
Moreover, if you are driving, you should pay increased attention to the roads, as they are filled with potholes that can damage your vehicle. If you drive outside the capital, Sao Tome, you can expect areas that have no lighting and which could be fairly dangerous.
Wildlife could also be found roaming on the roads you might be traveling on, so be extra careful if you don’t want any unpleasant situations to happen.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Sao Tome and Principe: LOW
First on our Sao Tome and Principe safety guide is an analysis of the crime rates of this country. As mentioned before, when it comes to theft and robberies, they don’t happen often at all.
While all crime rates in Sao Tome and Principe are quite low, armed robberies and burglaries have been reported as to occurring more than pickpocketing, for example.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Sao Tome and Principe?
Even though the crime rates are low, one of our Sao Tome and Principe safety travel tips is to always be cautious, no matter how safe is the place you are in.
Therefore, you should not leave any of your valuables in sight – this is an important thing to remember, especially if you are at the beach. While you are in the sea, for a swim, or just taking pictures, common thieves may appear and snitch some of the items you have left on your beach towel.
It is better to be prepared for anything – avoid large crowds of people, and don’t venture too far away from your hotel during the night. Also, driving or walking outside the capital city during the night is highly advised against – not only because of the dangers you expose yourself to but also because it’s pitch dark in those areas.
Scam Risk in Sao Tome and Principe: LOW to MEDIUM
How safe is Sao Tome and Principe for tourists when it comes to scams? Well, no one could ever answer this question and be sure of what he or she is saying.
It’s true, crime rates are low, but a tourist could always be tricked by locals or by potentially rigged machines, such as ATMs. That’s why, as a tourist, you should get informed on the types of scams that can occur throughout the world – and, of course, take the necessary precautions.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Sao Tome and Principe?
For example, you should avoid withdrawing money from an ATM – instead, do it from inside the bank, where the risk of being scammed or pickpocketed is much, much lower.
In case anything happens, you should alert the authorities as soon as possible and let them solve the problem – don’t confront any thieves or scammers as they might be armed and dangerous.
Kidnapping Risk in Sao Tome and Principe: LOW
There have been no reports, in the recent years, of any cases of kidnapping in Sao Tome and Principe.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Sao Tome and Principe?
However, our Sao Tome and Principe safety guide advises you to stay alert at all times – that’s why you should avoid walking or driving during the night, as well as visiting any remote areas of the country.
You should also stay with your group of friends if you are traveling with them, or with the group of tourists that has been organized by your travel agency. In case you are traveling alone, you should be very careful when exploring the city.
Still, you shouldn’t worry about being kidnapped – but if something happens, you must remain calm and with a clear mind, and try to alert the authorities as soon as you can.
Terrorism Risk in Sao Tome and Principe: LOW
Well, as you’ve probably guessed it so far, Sao Tome and Principe is generally a pretty safe country. There have been no major incidents reported lately, and there is currently no threat of terrorism for this country.
- How to avoid terrorism in Sao Tome and Principe?
When it comes to aspects such as this one, our Sao Tome and Principe safety travel tips advise you to have nothing more than common sense and basic levels of caution – for example, if you notice something out of the ordinary, or dangerous, it would be better if you went to the police station and report what you saw.
If anything occurs, it is better for you to leave the area as soon as possible – as easy as that.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Sao Tome and Principe: LOW to MEDIUM
We’ve asked ourselves the following question as well, that if is Sao Tome and Principe safe for solo women travelers. Naturally, given the country’s situation, our answer was no.
However, you may never know what can happen – especially if you are a woman, and traveling alone. While the risk of something happening to you is very low, you should still be careful and avoid venturing into any unknown areas – that’s why we’ve labeled this section of our Sao Tome and Principe safety guide as having a low to medium risk; simply because you should expect the unexpected and be prepared for it.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Sao Tome and Principe?
Just stay on the beaten path – namely, the areas of the country that are meant for tourists and visited by these regularly.
Rape Risk in Sao Tome and Principe: LOW
When it comes to this type of unwanted scenarios, we inform you that, in 2011, the rape rate of Sao Tome of Principe was of 1.7 cases per 100,000 population – and that it has reportedly been decreasing ever since.
Therefore, if you are traveling alone and ask yourself if is Sao Tome and Principe safe to visit, then the answer is yes! Of course, as long as you are still cautious and don’t take any risks.
- How to avoid getting raped in Sao Tome and Principe?
You should dress appropriately and avoid visiting any unknown areas. Keep away from the suburbs and slums and don’t travel into any low-populated regions of the cities.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Sao Tome and Principe: LOW
If you are traveling with your family, including with your children, then you should have no worries. As long as you keep an eye on them and don’t let them get too far away from you, everything should be just fine.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
When visiting Sao Tome and Principe, just behave the way you would behave if you were visiting any unknown country in the world – with the required caution.
Natural Disaster Risks in Sao Tome and Principe: MEDIUM
As you can see here, up until 2015, earthquakes were occurring quite frequently and causing the most deaths (64.3%). So, you should be prepared and know the procedures you have to follow in case of an earthquake.
Other than that, there is the risk of floods, storms, and mass movement. While floods happen more often, mass movement is the natural disaster that took the most lives. That’s because they occur on the poor roads we mentioned earlier – careless drivers could easily get caught in a landslide if their reflexes are not on point, so you should be careful if you plan on driving on any of the roads outside of the capital.
Naturally, you should check the weather reports and the local news so that you know what to expect before leaving your hotel.
Transportation Risks in Sao Tome and Principe: MEDIUM
If you want to hire a car while traveling through Sao Tome and Principe, you’ll need a valid International Driving Permit or an equivalent. Reportedly, roads are not too crowded and there are not too many risks in terms of reckless drivers or such. However, roads are known to be in a poor condition, especially outside of the capital city.
It is advised that you avoid driving during the night as most roads are often unlit and there’s the chance of animals crossing them as well. There have also been some reports of mudslides and landslips during heavy rainfall – you should avoid driving in such circumstances.
In terms of public transport, your only choices are motorbike taxis (also known as motoqueiros) and taxis. Be aware of the fact that taxis are usually shared – this is a common practice in Sao Tome and Principe and, thus, you might find yourself sharing a taxi with a person going in the same direction as you.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Sao Tome and Principe: MEDIUM
When it comes to night-clubs, pubs, and bars, you should be particularly careful around and within those located near the beaches. Even though crime rates are generally low, it is known that most muggings and robberies (even armed) happen in the country’s beach areas.
Other than that, there are no reports of other serious incidents occurring in night-clubs, pubs, and bars. There are also no reports of spiked drinks being used, so you shouldn’t worry about that – however, we do recommend you buy your own drinks and keeping an eye on them at all times, just in case.
If you plan to visit one of the mentioned facilities during the night, you should not be alone, or at least have a safe way of returning home – a reputable taxi company, for example; you can ask your accommodation for the number of a such company. Also, avoid bringing valuables with you in night-clubs, as they can get lost or stolen quite easily if you are not paying attention to them. Take only the basics with you and only the needed amount of cash.
Health Risks in Sao Tome and Principe
There are no diseases, viruses, or outbreaks that you should consider when traveling to Sao Tome and Principe. However, keep in mind that, in case of a medical emergency, you might have to be transferred to either South Africa, Europe, Gabon, or Ghana for treatment, as Sao Tome and Principe’s medical facilities are quite limited and not able to provide you with treatment in case of certain health conditions.
It is also important that you inform yourself as to what medicine you are allowed to bring into the country. This is because we recommend you to have a sort of first-aid kit with you, containing all of the medicine that you might need during your trip. If you travel into remote areas, for example, the medicine supply might be limited and you will most likely have a hard time getting to the nearest city and buying what you need.
We strongly advise you to travel only with proper travel health insurance and with enough funds for any medicine or emergency medical treatment. Remember to contact your medical insurance provider if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
List of Vaccines You Need in Sao Tome and Principe
Here is a list of the vaccines that are recommended for foreigners before entering Sao Tome and Principe:
- Routine Vaccines: MMR, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, chickenpox, polio, and flu shot.
- Hepatitis A
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis B
Most Dangerous Areas in Sao Tome and Principe
As you have seen, Sao Tome and Principe is overall a safe country to be in. Therefore, there are no areas that you should try to avoid or be careful in, other than the usual shady alleys, bad-reputed neighborhoods, remote areas, and the city outskirts.
Be careful around the beach areas, as most crimes/ petty thefts occur here. If you keep your valuables safe and don’t wander off the beaten path, you should be out of trouble. We also recommend you to check with either locals or your accommodation in terms of areas you should stay away from, as they may have more insight on danger zones and such.
Concluding Remarks: Is Sao Tome and Principe Safe to Visit?
We can say that, if you treat most of the things you’ll come across in Sao Tome and Principe with a medium level of caution, you’ll be very safe.
There are little to no threats in this country, so you can enjoy the 109 types of orchids we talked about at the beginning of this article, as well as the bird-watching, that is said to be a must when finding yourself here.
Therefore, act with a bit of caution and you will have a delightful trip!