I Had To Look At A Map To Find Cape Verde
Until I was assigned to work in the Cape Verde islands I hadn’t heard of them either but was remarkably surprised when I arrived.
Republic of Cabo Verde
Cape Verde is made up of 10 islands, they sit, approximately 570 kilometers off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. They cover an area approximately 4000 square kilometres. The capital is Praia on the island of Santiago 14°55’N 23°31’S and they were discovered in 1460. The islands has a time difference and is 2 hour behind GMT. The islands are a distinct ‘V’ shape which points towards the African coast. Each group of islands have their own climate. The Northern islands being almost desert like and the Southern looking like tropical rainforests with their lush vegetation.
Only a 6 hour flight away from the UK and offering the visitor an almost Caribbean like climate, without the long haul flight. Cape Verde is becoming the destination of choice for a relaxing break from the stress of the 9 to 5. After all the island’s motto is “No Stress”. The whole experience is at a much slower pace so don’t be surprised if it takes 20 minutes to get a drink from a local bar. This laid back vibe is the reason why the locals are so chilled and friendly.
They have a diverse culture, each island has a different climate and topography. Each island plays an important role in the economy of Cape Verde. Some providing food in the form of fruit and vegetables others providing specialised wines grown in volcanic soil. However all the inhabited islands have a thriving fishing industry which is mainly to supply food for the islanders rather than export them.
The islands are naturally environmentally friendly due to the self-sustaining practises used throughout Cape Verdes history. Fisherman go out daily to catch the food which is sold in local markets. Farmers in Santiago harvest the fruit and vegetables which supply the other islands. None of this produce is exported, this has been the way for a hundred years or more.
We all of course need to be aware that plastic especially single use plastic is making its way into this environment. I’m sure you are well aware of the damage plastic does. There is a fine balance in maintaining the island’s environment and tourism and we all can play a part. Sal and Boa Vista are special places in the world. During late June to early October these islands are sanctuaries for the loggerhead turtles to lay their eggs in nests along the beaches.
The 2 main islands which tourists visit are Sal and Boa Vista. Although recently the capital of Cape Verde situated on Santiago has started to gear up for tourism. Sal was the very first island to appear from the Atlantic ocean born from volcanic activity. Today it’s covered in Sahara sand and boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the archipelago. You have to visit Fogo to see the black volcanic ash and rocks. Fogo is like visiting the moon except they grow gorgeous tasting grapes and produce some delicious wines.
The official language of the islands is Portuguese but due to the diversity of its people the actual language is Creole Portuguese. The northern islands have been influenced from Africa and Europe. The southern islands are predominately African influence. The island’s music scene is varied but Morna music is the traditional style and the locals like to celebrate life. Sal’s music scene is special and worth searching out when you visit the island.
Sal and Boa Vista are all year round destinations with great weather. Officially there is a monsoon season (July to October) but as the islands are relatively flat it rarely rains on these 2 islands. Most visitors come November to March to get away from the cold European winter. Visiting the island March to October ensures the climate is more tolerable as the area can get very hot. Average temperatures are around 25°c however during my time on the islands there were times 30°c was a normal day.
I think it is important that I point out that Cape Verde is relatively new to the tourism sector and although there is now a purpose-built resort area the island is still raw. You are not going to get all the bells and whistles you get in other countries. I would describe Cape Verdes infrastructure to be similar to the Canary islands in the 50’s and 60’s. I would avoid drinking the tap water, even swallowing water whilst in the shower and wouldn’t have ice in drinks. The food is imported as is almost everything else, so prices are high. The majority of visitors come on an all-inclusive bases to ensure their budget is manageable. I will be posting pricing information in future posts.
Accommodation on the 2 main touristic islands is of a good standard, in fact most of the hotels are new. They are geared up to offer the visitor a relaxing time in the Cape Verdean sunshine. Spa treatments, massages, gorgeous cuisine and an insight into the local culture. There are adults only properties that offer a quieter luxurious setting with direct access to a picture postcard beaches. The chefs in these properties are of the highest standard and create menus that taste amazing.
There is one resort specifically catering to families which has a reasonable size water park situated within its grounds. Sports enthusiasts can choose from tennis courts, cycling, kite surfing and a vast array of water sports, as well as an onsite gym. The majority of these hotels are five-star and offer 24 hour receptions, porters, entertainment and a selection of themed restaurants. The majority of visitors come with major tour operators and have representatives who offer an almost concierge level of service, providing local information and customer care.
Public transport on Sal and Boa Vista is non-existent with the tour operators providing most of the means from getting from A to B . It is possible and easy to use taxis to get everywhere on the island, although they do not have meters like European taxis do. The system is easy as prices are fixed with one tariff for day time and another for night. The taxis aren’t radio controlled either and utilise mobile phones to run a remarkably efficient system. There are no public buses, stops or timetables, to travel longer distances you’ll share a minibus which only leaves when it is full. Also at night it is advisable to make arrangements with a driver before hand to ensure you are not left stranded somewhere.
Cape Verde is a perfect setting for a holiday as it has gorgeous white sand, turquoise waters and sunshine. It would be an ideal setting for a honeymoon, we look forward to seeing you soon.
How To Navigate The Airport On Sal, Cape Verde
No Stress Just Go With The Flow
I’ve updated this post even before it was scheduled to post. I have included the essentials you need to take to Cape Verde at the end. I felt this was important because you may need to re-pack.
Here’s everything you need to know about Sal Airport Cape Verde.
I had (have, I’m back) the pleasure of living and working in Cape Verde for a short time, lovely country. I have seen lots of questions regarding the airport and the island. This blog post is intended to answer those airport questions. I will get to the rest of the island soon. I will write a separate article about the history of the airport later this is the practicalities.
Sat on the left of the aircraft and you’ll think you are landing on Mars. Do not be fooled as Sal is an amazing country. Sat on the right you’ll see how small the terminal building is and that it is being extended. The new departure lounge opened April 2017 and looks amazing.
On arrival you are usually walked across the apron to the terminal building. The airport is run by the military and the procedure for entry can take a while. When we arrived I was allowed in as my visa was stamped in my passport. However my friend had applied online and had to pay to enter the country. Obviously something going on here as all the visas were correct prior to travel. Due to Cape Verde becoming a very popular tourist hot spot the visa situation is changing and sometime in 2018 you will no longer require a visa to enter the country.
The luggage belt area is really small however there are toilets to the left of the first belt. Our luggage came through remarkably quickly and we didn’t even notice walking through customs. There were people there to greet us and point us in the right direction, my friend wanted a cigarette and was guided towards a little courtyard. There were also more toilets there, very clean too.
We headed for the door and noticed that just next to the security guard there where the drivers stood with signs for private taxis. Just to the right was a mobile phone shop and as my phone is unlocked I bought a local sim from cvmobil for €2 and topped it up with 6Gb of data for only €16
We had booked a coach so walked straight on across the zebra and down the ramp to the coach.
Returning to the airport was straight forward and going through the departure doors on the right is toilets, a cafe and a western union. Although you can change Cape Verdean Escudo back to Euros here, it was closed. I was told be an employee that it’s nearly always closed.
As the airport is military we had to show our passports and tickets to the security guard to enter the check in area. There was 2 desks open for our flight but as it was busy we went to the cafe for a coffee. I noticed that there was also vending machines in the check in area to get drinks from.
Inside the departure area was a small shop and a cafe, there’s a smoking area too if that’s your thing. Boarding was straight forward but I did notice the luggage falling off the vehicle that takes it to the plane and the trailer ran over the bag. I was so glad it wasn’t mine.
2018 is going to be a great year for me as I’ll be living and working in Cape Verde so I will post a blog posts here throughout the year. Aiming for this to be a monthly series I’m thinking the 1st of the month.
Things to bring to Cape Verde
The correct currency.
Cape Verde has a closed currency (CVE) Cape Verdean Escudo, a lot of people believe that the currency is the Euro, which is incorrect. The majority of the businesses in Cape Verde will accept the Euro but if you are traveling from the UK you should bring (GBP) Sterling and exchange it locally. You also need to bring some Euro’s but not a lot.
The main reason to bring (GBP) Sterling is the exchange rate mechanism that Cape Verde uses. It is different to countries with open currencies. Currently (Jan 1st 2018) £1 = $124.03 ($ prefix for CVE) where as €1 = $100cve. Over a two-week holiday period this can make a big difference in your budget. Traveling from the UK if you opt to bring Euro’s then you lose even more because of the £ to € exchange rate. Even if you changed Euro’s into CVE Cape Verdean Escudos locally you won’t get a rate which counteracts changing currency twice.
Earlier I said bring some Euros, the reason is if you like to barter, then buying goods with Euro’s can work out better value.
So who can you barter with?
Not as many people as you may first think, local Cape Verdean business run very similar to western businesses. They pay rent, utility bills, wages and offer their goods and services at competitive prices. However there are a large number of street vendors who will barter but buyer beware as you may not get what you bargained for.
A Credit Card
You really need to carry some emergency funding with you and I recommend a Visa or MasterCard credit card. This is because your holiday insurance won’t pay out until you get back home. Cape Verde is a developing holiday destination and the local medical services, doctors, dentists and hospitals aren’t geared up to deal directly with your insurance company. Also these services are very limited, a huge percentage of critically ill patients are airlifted to Gran Canaria for treatment.
Very few businesses in Cape Verde accept credit cards, only medical facilities, restaurants and some of the European owned businesses. The major tour operators on the island do take credit and debit cards but will take payment in Euros and not CVE.
Approx 90% of the economy is cash only, so plan on this when you travel here.
Good (Great) Travel Insurance
It is essential that you have insurance whilst traveling but for a holiday in Cape Verde you really have to be picky. An extensive insurance policy is essential, you are well outside of Europe and Cape Verde is still developing.
I’m not an insurance expert but have seen on multiple occasions insurance companies refusing to help and pay out for things you would take for granted in the EU. Here is a list of what I class as essential insurance cover:-
Cancellation and Delays
Cape Verde has some fierce sand storms which will close the airport for a few days. Ensure you are adequately covered for these events.
Baggage Delay / Loss
There’s a lot of reasons your luggage doesn’t make it to your destinations luggage reclaim belt. Also ensure you cross pack so if 1 case is delayed or lost you can still change. I recommend a non zip suitcase with a good lock too.
You need excellent medical cover so £5 or £10 million isn’t out of the question. Ensure you have repatriation cover and declare all pre-existing conditions. Some insurance companies now offer a pre-qualifying service so you save time when you need it the most.
Your own medication / 1st Aid Kit
Cape Verde is made up of 10 islands in the Atlantic Ocean 570km off Senegal. The supply of drugs and medical supplies is limited, not long ago some of the islands only had what the Red Cross supplied. Bring enough medication for 50% longer than your holiday and carry it all with you in your hand luggage.
Bring a good 1st aid kit and include an anti diarrhoea medication, paracetamol or equivalent, laxatives, rehydrate sachets.
N.B You CAN NOT buy antibiotics over the counter, there are times the islands run out of antibiotics.
The UV index is high which is probably what you want to hear but you need to protect yourself from the sun. A good quality sun cream is essential as well as products to cool your skin at night. You will have your own favourites but it’s important to bring them.
I love Tiger Balm as it comes in handy for all sorts, if someone is going to get bitten then it’s usually me. The environment here is hot, dry and some islands are a desert, others are lush rain forests expect the relevant bugs.
Something for the local kids
Whether it’s colouring books, coloured pencils or school supplies they will be appreciated as Cape Verde still has areas of extreme poverty. Kids clothes and shoes won’t go a miss too even if they are second-hand. TIA
How Good Is Your Holiday Insurance?
To be honest how often do you buy travel insurance based on nothing more than price. I think most of us, me included just leave travel insurance until the last minute. We buy travel insurance because we have too but it shouldn’t be that way. Travel insurance needs to be included as part of your overall budget and you need to consider what future trips you’ll take.
Buying the correct insurance policy for you is important and will make any emergency situation a lot less stressful. The correct annual travel insurance policy will ensure you have a worry free year. Travel insurance should therefore be looked on as part of your annual household budget and not just a one off payment you make each trip. You can then take the annual cost and divide it by the number of trips you plan on taking. Annual insurance will always be the cheaper option rather than buying travel insurance for individual trips.
There are a lot of banks which offer free travel insurance policies as part of having an account with them. It is extremely important that you understand what you are covered for and what you are not covered for. These types of policies tend to miss out features which you would expect them to have. Ensure you read all the documentation and policy terms and conditions. There are a few free bank policies which offer no cover unless you are depositing or have a certain amount of funds in your account. There would be nothing worse than needing cover abroad after an accident to discover you bank has cancelled your policy because you didnt meet their criteria.
Pre existing Conditions
Read this section carefully before purchasing any travel insurance because it’s not you who decides what is a pre existing condition. Over the last 14 years that I’ve been in the travel industry, I have come across hundreds of cases where the insurance company hasn’t paid out. This has mainly been due to a pre existing condition the traveller thought was trivial. Each insurance company has different items on their lists. It is also a good idea to speak to your doctor and get the all clear before travelling. All insurance companies will contact your doctor if there is going to be a substantial claim. Ensuring your doctor is aware of you travel plans means the insurance company will get a timely response. If you have a pre existing condition always contact the insurance company directly to discuss adequate cover, this ensures you get the best value cover. It also means the insurance company can’t refuse a claim because everything was pre agreed.
What are the main factors to look for in a travel policy.
The top feature has to be medical cover and this will depend on where you are traveling. The USA has the most expensive medical costs in the world so £10 million worth of cover is minimum. Asia has some of the cheapest costs but I would suggest £5 million as a minimum. Also ensure you have repatriation cover, a medivac (medical evacuation flight) costs tens of thousands of pounds.
Delays and Cancellations.
Remember the volcanic ash cloud? There are hundreds of things which cause major delays, weather, natural disasters and everything inbetween. Some policies will pay out if you miss a flight due to delayed connection others won’t pay out until you prove it wasn’t your fault. You may have a situation arise before you even leave your home country. A family member falling ill could mean you have to cancel the trip before it has begun. Ensure the policy covers for these eventualities as you don’t want the stress of caring for a family member and losing your holiday.
Lost or Damaged Luggage
There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling when you are stood at the luggage reclaim belt. You hope your bags come out first but what if they don’t come out at all or they arrive damaged. There is no doubt it’s going to have an impact on your holiday but you can lessen that impact by having the right insurance. The majority of insurance companies state that you can not make a claim within the first 12 hours. This is because most luggage turns up within that time in fact over 90% of lost luggage is returned to the owner within 24 hours. Luggage which is damaged can of course be claimed for straight away but in both cases you must get a P.I.R (property irregularity report) before you leave the luggage reclaim area. This is provided by the airlines handling agent so check when booking who that will be.
Loss of Passport
This is becoming an essential as the rules have changed regarding returning to the UK. You can no longer return using a police report, you must have a valid passport. The British Consulate can provide assistance with this and arrange for an emergency passport. However not all countries have a British Consulate and you may have to travel to the consulate to obtain a replacement passport. It can be extremely difficult to travel to a consulate without a passport. Therefore the cost to replace your passport will be substantial.
These are the essentials I ensure I have cover for all the other aspects are either nice to have or are padding to make the policy look better. You must decide what’s is the correct policy for you and your family based on the circumstances.
A good way of reducing the cost of travel insurance is to increase the amount of excess you are willing to pay. This is the amount you pay before the insurance kicks in. You will have an excess on the policy anyway which is usually the first £100 of any claim, increasing this will reduce your initial cost. There will come a point when increasing the excess doesn’t have an affect on the cost of the policy so ask the insurance company what they allow and how it affects the policy cost.
Some insurance companies now require you to have a check up from your doctor before you can get insured. It could help to reduce the cost if you offer this to companies before obtaining a quote.
I also reduce the cost further using an idea introduced by Martin Lewis and that is self insurance. Self insurance in simple terms is you pay for your treatment or replace a lost or stolen item out of your own pocket. If you have a camera worth £500 then rather than insuring the camera at a cost of £5 a month, which the insurance company keeps. You save the £5 a month in a savings account. If the camera needs replacing you use the savings to purchase a new camera, if not you have the cash available for other emergencies. You of course still need insurance cover but if you agree on an excess of £500 and need a dentist in Asia then it is cheaper to pay the dentist directly and not make a claim.
The insurance industry is big and complicated so this article is based on my own opinion and experience. It is very important that you do your own research and decide on the best policy for your given circumstances. Happy Traveling.