Sao Tome and Principe

The Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe is located off the west coast of Africa.

The island state in the Gulf of Guinea attracts with beautiful beaches and rich flora and fauna. Hiking enthusiasts explore jungles, waterfalls and the Pico Cão Grande. However, the tourist infrastructure is limited, so careful planning is advisable.

In addition to the economy, tourism is also underdeveloped. There are no cinemas, newspapers or bus services. Although there is a lot of talk about “paradisiacal beaches” in advertising, the small, often pebbly or rocky strips of sand isolated in small bays do not stand up to comparison with islands in the Indian Ocean. Near the city there is also the problem of pollution. It is common to wash clothes and cars in the rivers; due to the lack of a sewer system, they also serve as public toilets.

To this day, the country is considered desperately poor - the country's practically only source of income is the export of cocoa, which is naturally heavily dependent on world market prices. All other things - food, machinery and so on have to be imported from abroad, which is why the country is heavily indebted and on the verge of bankruptcy. In 2017, $9 million in revenue from cocoa, pepper and vanilla exports compared to $100 million in imports. The country's only other source of income, apart from tourism, has been the oil exploration in the sea, which has been attempted together with Nigeria since 2012. The enthusiasm about this has now subsided because it has been recognized that the government is cheating itself when it comes to contracts for concessions from American companies let it go. In 2016, around 13,000 foreign visitors came.

The history of this country is marked by colonization, slavery and political changes.

Discovery and Colonization: The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe were discovered by the Portuguese in 1470. They were the first European colonists to settle on the islands. The Portuguese used the islands to grow sugar cane and later coffee and cocoa. The plantation economy depended heavily on African slave labor, which was kept in cruel conditions.

Slavery and the plantation economy: The colonization of São Tomé and Príncipe led to the enslavement of many Africans who had to work on the plantations. Conditions were often inhumane, and many slaves died due to hard work and disease.

Independence movement: Independence movements emerged in São Tomé and Príncipe over the course of the 20th century. The nationalists fought against Portuguese colonial rule and gained independence in 1975.

Political Developments: After independence, São Tomé and Príncipe experienced various political changes, including coups and political instability. The country alternated between different governments and political systems.

Democratic era: From the 1990s onwards, a democratic form of government was established in São Tomé and Príncipe. Elections were held and the country developed into a multiple party democracy.

Economic challenges: Despite rich natural resources, including oil and cocoa, São Tomé and Príncipe remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The country's economy was affected by fluctuations in the world price of raw materials and political instability.



The islands:
1 Príncipe and neighboring islands (Ilha do Príncipe) . Príncipe is the second largest island in the country and is located about 150 kilometers northeast of São Tomé. It is also of volcanic origin and has impressive natural beauty. Príncipe is less populated than São Tomé and offers a quiet and relaxed environment. In addition to São Tomé and Príncipe, there are also some smaller islands and islets that belong to the national territory. These include, for example, Rolas, Caroço and many others.
2 São Tomé (Ilha de São Tomé) . São Tomé is the largest island in the country and also the main island. The country's capital, São Tomé City, is located on this island. São Tomé is known for its lush vegetation, volcanic landscapes, and beautiful beaches.



1 Sao Tome. The country's capital and largest city, São Tomé, is the cultural and economic center of São Tomé and Príncipe. Here you will find historic buildings, museums, markets and charming colonial architecture.
2 Santo Antonio. Santo António is the capital of the island of Príncipe and the second largest city in the country. The town offers a picturesque harbor, a relaxed atmosphere and access to the island's beautiful beaches and rainforests.
3 Neves. This is a city on the northwest coast of São Tomé known for its beaches. It is a great place to enjoy the island's untouched nature.
4 Trindade . Trindade is a historic city on the east coast of São Tomé and was once an important trading port. Here you can visit old churches and colonial buildings.
5 Guadalupe. Guadalupe is a coastal town on São Tomé known for its plantations and cocoa production. Here you can experience the country's traditional culture and agricultural activities.
6 Santana. Santana is a town on the north coast of São Tomé and a good base for trips to Obo National Park, where you can explore native wildlife and lush tropical forests.


More destinations

1 Obo National Park (Parque Natural Ôbo) . This national park on São Tomé is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and offers a rich biodiversity, including rare endemic birds and plants. There are hiking trails and bird watching opportunities.
1 Roca Agostinho Neto (Agostinho Neto, Sao Tome and Principe) . This historic cocoa plantation in São Tomé offers insights into the country's colonial past and the production of cocoa, one of the country's most important exports.
2 Pico Cao Grande. An impressive, isolated monolith on São Tomé that is a climber's paradise and offers fantastic views.


Getting here

Entry requirements
EU, Swiss and Liechtenstein citizens do not need a visa to enter for a stay of up to 15 days. This relief also applies to all third-country nationals who have a valid permanent residence permit for the Schengen area or the USA. Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required.

Tobacco products and perfume in “appropriate quantities” for personal use. There are import bans on alcohol and lottery tickets.

The ban on the import and export of the national currency has been lifted. Larger amounts of foreign currency must be declared and re-exported up to the specified amount.

By plane
São Tomé Airport is the only international airport in the country. Details in the city article.


Local transport

Rental cars are available on site. With weekly prices of €400 for a Suzuki (2018), you might expect vehicles that are in perfect condition. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.



The country's official language is Portuguese, and various creole languages based on Portuguese are also spoken in the country.

French is also spoken as a foreign language by many people.

English is rarely understood and German is not understood at all. Without at least a rudimentary knowledge of Portuguese or alternatively French, it will be very difficult to communicate.



Exchange rate (fixed since 2010): € 1 = 24500 Dobra (STD) = 24.5 new Dobra (STN or nDb).

Import and export of Dobra banknotes is no longer prohibited. The euro is accepted as a method of payment in some shops, but in general you should change your money in the country. The fixed exchange rate, in conjunction with the higher inflation in the country, leads to an overvaluation in which quality and price are no longer in an appropriate relationship.

The notes from the new 2018 series, shortened by three zeros (1000:1), with denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Dobra focus on the local wildlife. The old notes featured the portrait of Rei Amador, remained valid until Dec. 31, 2018 and can no longer be exchanged at the central bank.
Coins were also produced again: 10, 20, 50 centimos as well as 1 and 2 nDb.



A large part of the food has to be imported. At most, they keep chickens on site, and there is also a lot of fish. Filling side dishes are mainly beans, corn, rice and plantains. The latter two together as pap. Coffee is also used as a spice or in sauces. Many snacks are based on dried or fried bananas. Tropical fruits are grown for home production. A very simple snack is fire-roasted breadfruit, the seeds of which are then eaten sprinkled with coconut.

If you don't eat the leftovers from the day before for breakfast, there is arroz doce: rice with corn and coconut. Cachupa is a bean stew adopted from Cape Verde with more or less (meat) side dishes. Pork stew is cooked with various vegetables. Estufa de morcego, bat stew, is more of a dish for special occasions. Boca de Inferno, “Hell's Mouth,” is not only a “blowhole” on the East Coast, but also the name of a spicy sauce that its name adequately describes.

For dessert there are, in addition to chocolate variations, e.g. B. Açucarinhas, a fried coconut and sugar mixture. Canjica is a sweet corn porridge cooked in milk/coconut milk, similar to the mugunzá common in Brazil.

Coconut water is drunk, possibly fermented into palm wine. The local beer is Nacional, brewed in Neves. Otherwise you get Portuguese imports, which also applies to wines. Sugar cane schnapps is Aquardente, mixed with honey to make a cocktail it is called Ponche.



For stays of less than 15 days a tourist tax of €3 per night is charged. Hotels tend to “forget” to mention this when booking.

There are no simple accommodations because such services are not in demand by the natives due to the small size of the islands.


Public holidays

Jan 1 New Year; Jan 4th King Amador Memorial Day; February 3rd Dia dos Mártires, commemoration of the Batepá massacre in 1953; May 1, Labor Day; July 12, Independence Day; Sept. 6 Armed Forces Day; September 30th Dia da Reforma Agrária, commemoration of the nationalization of the Roças (plantations); December 25th Christmas.

In mid-August is the Auto das Floripes festival. An important component is traditional theater (Tchiloli). It depicts the legend of how Charlemagne snatched Christian relics from the Moors, a story that is based on a novel by Baltasar Dias, who lived on Madeira in the 16th century. The performances with colorful costumes last up to six hours.



Compared to other countries in Africa, São Tomé and Príncipe is an absolutely safe country, you can move around freely without any major problems. However, there are crooks and fraudsters who specifically target tourists and their supposedly fat wallets. Valuables should always be kept out of sight in the rental car, even for short breaks.

The minimum age for sex is 16. Homosexual acts have no longer been punishable since 2012.



Medical care in the country is completely inadequate. You should definitely take out international travel health insurance that will provide transport back to Germany (or at least to a country with sufficient medical infrastructure) if the worst comes to the worst.

There have been several attempts by development workers to eradicate tropical diseases in the country, which appears more promising than on the African mainland due to its island location. These attempts were initially successful, but they didn't last long. Therefore, as elsewhere in Africa, you should carry malaria prophylaxis and take safety precautions such as mosquito nets.

Tap water is not drinkable, so you should use bottled water from the supermarket.


Practical tips

Emergency call: ☎ 112
Since 2010, all telephone numbers have had 7 digits. Landline numbers have a 2 as the first digit, mobile numbers have a 9.

Numerous unusual species of mussels can be found along the coast. If you are unable to identify them, you should avoid such souvenirs, as imports into the EU are often subject to species protection.

Friendly scrounging is widespread, which can become annoying in the long run, especially when it turns into aggressive begging in children.


Príncipe and neighboring islands

Economically and culturally, the island is even less developed than São Tomé. The residents are descendants of workers who came from Angola or Cape Verde. Children beg every European for candy and money because they learned early that “white skin” equals wealth. The entire island and the surrounding sea have been a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 2012. Three levels of protection are defined. Only the transition area, especially in the north of the island, is inhabited. The buffer zone, which is followed by a core zone, is more strictly protected. 85 km² are considered part of the Parque Natural Ôbo with the area on São Tomé. The islands of Bela Vista, Bombom, Futuro, Neves Ferreira, Paciência, Ponta Fonte, Ribeira Ize, Santo António de Ureca and Vila Rosa are uninhabited.
Bays with sandy beaches are mainly in the north of the island.

Electricity is available outside the resorts until midnight in the evening and briefly in the morning. This also means that food is usually freshly prepared because it simply does not last due to a lack of refrigeration.

In the north of the island is Príncipe Airport (Aeroporto Príncipe, ​IATA: PCP)
Arrival is usually via São Tomé airport. One flight every day - the price for the 40-50 minute event is well over € 200 return - with STP Airways.

To get around the island you have to rent a car - very expensive - possibly with a driver. Guided 3-hour quad excursions are available in 2016 for € 40, equally long boat trips (max. 6 participants) in the Baía das Agulhas cost from € 150. Around Porto Real is the island's only designated hiking trail, six kilometers long.

Only ruins remain of the Fortaleza de Santo António da Ponta da Mina.

With 1200 inhabitants, Santo António is the only larger settlement on the 136 km² Príncipe. Right next to the market is the Afriland First Bank. There are plenty of food options and a few corner shops scattered around the town. Prices are much higher here than in São Tomé, as freight costs apply on the ferry, which takes 8-12 hours. There are no souvenirs, you simply can't buy anything.

Post Office, Marcelo da Veiga Sq. (the only).
Capitania (port office; directly at the jetty). The hospital is less than a hundred meters away.



Residential Palhota. Tel.: +239 2251060. Painted in a striking light blue.
Pensão Arca de Noé. Tel: +239 991 0813.
Residencial Apresentacao, 14 rua Oua 23. Tel.: +239 996 4860. last changed: Aug. 2018 (information may be out of date) edit info
Mira Rio is a restaurant with an attached four-room guesthouse (Rua Martires da Liberdade).

The Mission Santa Casa da Misericórdia also accepts paying guests for little money. But you don't need to expect electricity or running water on a regular basis.

Luxury resorts
Mark Shuttleworth, the operator of the Omali Resort in São Tomé, also owns the resorts here, although the “sustainable development” that is talked about in a very promotional way is certainly not pure charity, especially when you look at the prices:

Sandy Beach Resort. Price: € 400+ p.p.
Roca Sundy Hotel. With the Discoteca Catacumba. Price: €200+ p.p.
Bom Bom Island Resort. 19 bungalows on a secluded beach connected to a small island via a wooden bridge. Price: € 400+ p.p.



The islands were discovered by Portuguese navigators in 1471-1472 and were named after the names of the respective saints. So, the island, discovered on December 21, 1471, on the day of St. Thomas the Apostle, was called the "island of St. Thomas" (port. São Tomé, in the domestic literature the name "island of St. Thomas" was previously used, since the 1920s the name "island Sao Tome). A few weeks later, on January 17, 1472, on the day of St. Anthony, a neighboring island was discovered, originally called the "Isle of St. Anthony" (port. Santo Antão). In 1502, the island was renamed "Prince's Island" (port. Ilha do Principe), in honor of the Portuguese heir to the throne, in whose favor duties were levied on sugar produced on the island. In domestic literature, the name “Princes Island” was previously used, since the 1920s the name “Principe Island” has been used.



The Portuguese seafarer João de Santarém is considered to have discovered the islands. This was in the service of the merchant Fernão Gomes, who had acquired the right from the Portuguese King Alfonso V to explore 100 Léguas of the African coast annually at his own expense in the name of the Portuguese crown. On December 21, 1471 he discovered São Tomé and on January 17, 1472 Santo António (or Antão); the latter was renamed Príncipe in 1502.

The first Portuguese branch was founded in 1485. On the one hand, the islands served as a transshipment point for the slave trade between Africa, Portugal, Brazil and the Caribbean islands, and on the other hand, Portugal resettled Portuguese Jews and prisoners expelled by the Inquisition here. In 1572, São Tomé and the following year Príncipe were placed directly under the Portuguese crown. In the period that followed, a plantation economy developed with changing monocultures, first sugar cane in the 16th to 18th centuries, then coffee in the first half of the 19th century and finally cocoa since around 1850; At the beginning of the 20th century, the islands were even the largest cocoa producer in the world.

On August 13, 1913, a treaty was signed by Germany and England, according to which the two islands were to be incorporated into the German colonial empire as compensation for Germany in the event of Portugal's insolvency. Due to the loss of the German colonies in the Peace Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the Anglo-German treaty of 1913 also became invalid.

On May 29, 1919, the solar eclipse expedition led by Arthur Stanley Eddington on the volcanic island of Príncipe experimentally confirmed the correctness of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.

The end of the colonial period began with the founding of various liberation movements outside the country. In Ghana, the Comité de Libertaçao de São Tomé e Príncipe (CLSTP) was founded in 1960 as a forerunner of the Movimento de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe (MLSTP) (from 1972). In 1974, after the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, the MLSTP was recognized as a legitimate representative body, which ultimately led to its independence on July 12, 1975. The MLSTP dominated the country as a single party for the first 15 years after the end of the colonial era.

In 1991, Miguel Trovoada was elected president of the country. There was a coup in 1995; the following governments proved relatively unstable.

On January 5, 1999, Guilherme Posser da Costa was appointed Prime Minister. However, corruption scandals involving counterfeit Treasury bonds worth $500 million quickly put the government in trouble. In March 1999, the finance minister and the central bank president resigned.

In August 2001, Fradique de Menezes was elected president.

On July 16, 2003 there was a military coup led by Major Fernando Pereira. President Fradique de Menezes was on a state visit to Nigeria at the time, so only the prime minister and a few other ministers were arrested by the coup plotters. The very next day, the putschists announced a transitional government and new elections. The reason given for the coup was the uncertain political situation on the island, which had arisen as a result of oil discoveries a few years earlier and the resulting disputes. After eight days, the military coup was bloodlessly ended under pressure from the international community. In a “Memorandum of Understanding” greater participation of the population in important government decisions was granted. There was a government reshuffle with the Prime Minister remaining but seven ministers being replaced.

In September 2004 there was another government reshuffle following a bribery scandal involving Prime Minister Maria das Neves and other ministers. In July 2006, President de Menezes was re-elected.

Manuel Pinto da Costa won the 2011 presidential election in the runoff election on August 7, 2011. He took up his new office on September 3, 2011. Pinto da Costa previously served as President. He did not appear in the runoff of the next election on August 7, 2016, which meant that Evaristo Carvalho won as the remaining candidate. Carvalho was replaced by Carlos Vila Nova in 2021.

On November 25, 2022, there was an attempted coup that was suppressed, and in this context the President of the National Assembly, Delfim Neves, was arrested.



São Tomé and Príncipe is the second smallest country in Africa after the Seychelles. The two eponymous islands lie between the islands of Bioko and Annobón, which belong to Equatorial Guinea.

Over 90 percent of the residents live on the southern, larger island of São Tomé, which is 48 kilometers long and 32 kilometers wide. It is the more mountainous of the two islands. The highest elevation is 2024 meters. The capital of the same name is located on São Tomé. The northern, smaller island of Príncipe is about 16 kilometers long and six kilometers wide; its highest point is 927 meters.

Course of the Cameroon Line
Both islands are part of a mountain chain formed by volcanic activity along the Cameroon line, which continues on the African continent in Cameroon. The volcanoes in São Tomé and Príncipe are no longer active. The Pico Cão Grande is the natural landmark of the island, it is a volcano with a height of 663 m.

The southern tip of São Tomé is only two kilometers north of the equator, and the associated island of Rolas is directly crossed by the equator.

São Tomé and Príncipe has a hot and humid tropical climate with rainy and dry seasons, influenced by the mountainous topography. The temperature shows hardly any seasonal fluctuations; The average annual temperature is 28 °C on the coast and 20 °C inland. Annual precipitation ranges from 1000 mm in the northern lowlands to 5000 mm on the southwestern mountain slopes. The rainy season lasts from October to May.

Large sea creatures are:
Blue and white dolphin
Clymene dolphin
Slim dolphin
Chinstrap dolphin
Bryde whale
Humpback whale
blue whale
Bottlenose dolphin

The islands are home to a variety of bird species, as well as frogs, snakes and chameleons. There are also large populations of African gray parrots in the Obo National Park on Príncipe.