Warning: a guide for the more adventurous travelers!
Read all the normal guides, and then add some of this tips.
São Tomé and Principe is an amazing country that I would advise anyone to come and visit. To do it though, and to be happy there, you need to leave some of your conceptions behind.
- Be open-minded! In São Tomé people clearly chose a different way for a living, way more relaxed, but they really seem to be happy.
- Don’t give things to kids and adults on the streets. Kids will ask you for sweets, clothes, whatever you have for them, and adults do it too. If you want to bring things to give like books or pens, try to speak to an organization that can help you with what to bring and how to hand it over. (Feel free to write me directly on this matters, I can help you with it).
- In the end, kids just want some attention and to play, if you can take some of your time to do that, they will give you their hearts.
- Mostly for women, men are always trying to flirt, saying dirty jokes, etc. If you don’t answer to that and show confidence, they end up stopping.
- People from São Tomé are really nice, and you’ll read that everywhere. That doesn’t mean that they don’t try to take advantage of you if they can. They always raise the prices for tourists, they try to fool you a lot when they realize you’re new to a place… Just keep it cool, ask for a fair price, or an alternative, show that you know how much things cost, get some information before arriving to anywhere so that you can answer them like someone who knows. They always end up being your friends, and sometimes you can make a good deal for everyone.
You will likely need a car, that’s true! But you don’t need a car for all of the time.
- Get around on a Hiace! Hiace is the popular transportation, it’s a 9 people van, that can take you to most of the places in the main road that goes around the island. They are everywhere, except for Sundays! Get ready for the most authentic experience in the country.
- It’s really hard to go to the South in one! That’s when you rent the car. (If you need any help with this planning, let me know, I’ll do my best.)
- Motorcycles. I have to say that going on a motorcycle without a helmet is not my thing.
- Tourist guides, yes or no? Usually, I would say no, but here is another story. In case you don’t feel very comfortable driving in a different country, get one! In case you feel totally ok with it, I would still do what they call the central Tour with a guide. Going to the Roças, where people used to work on the coffee and cocoa plantations with a guide is a much better experience, and you will feel safer with one who can tell you where to go, and not go.
- Renting a car. Mostly to the South, I think renting a car is really important. It’s really hard to get there by any other transportation, and the distances between the village and the best beaches are quite big. You can rent a car from 35 to 60€.
- Walk! Except for the city, I’ve seen one group of three tourists walking on the streets. Seems that people are not traveling to really know the country, but only to add checks to their lists. There’s nothing else that can show you so much about a culture and help you interact with locals, than walking around. It’s totally safe!
Where to stay?
- There are a lot of hotels, mostly in the city. The prices are around 60€ which is quite expensive. I would also give a chance to the AirBnb solutions for the island.
- There are three places that I recommend:
- Casa Ediana: this house in the center of the island, close to Trindade, the second biggest city in the country, is super cute! You’ll be hosted in the middle of the jungle, with your own fruits and medicinal leaves on the garden. The neighbors are nice, the kids are really friendly. It’s easy to get there from any other point of the island, and it has the most amazing guide I have ever read in any place I have ever stayed! No mosquitos, one or two spiders, mosquito nets, hot water.
- Mucumbli: in the North of the island, this hotel with bungalows is the perfect place to relax and rest, if you’re traveling and dating this is the most perfect spot! The food in the restaurant is also amazing.
- Hotel Praia Inhame: I didn’t stay at this one, but I took a shower there (don’t tell them, it’s forbidden!) at my friends’ bungalow. I stayed at another place closed by, but not only the conditions were terrible for the price, I couldn’t get rid of the mosquitos.
What about eating?
There are a lot of recommended places! I’ve tried only one of those, and I didn’t like it. Where did I eat?
- If you have a place where to cook, buy vegetables and fruits and cook your own dinner! It’s a great way to save some money on an island that is not cheap!
- For lunch, go out and try some of the best meals ever.
The places I like:
São Tome: in the capital, my favorite place is Café Camões. Although it’s run by a Portuguese, really nice man!, the employees and the cook are from São Tomé and you have typical food for a really good price.
Trindade: in this small city you have a restaurant called Maravilha, right in the center, behind the market. The owner is really nice, and she also cooks the food. The prices are also fair, and you can ask for some of the meals in advance so that she gets all the ingredients to cook for you. Since it’s right in the center, you can have a meal while watching all the kids coming from school and everyone going around to work, be with some friends. Local taste!
Salutar or Casa do Ney: the best of them all! Ney is the coolest man on the island and the most delicious food! The “restaurant” is his backyard, but I totally promise it’s worth it! His restaurant is in Porto Alegre, in the South of the Island. Be careful, he will ask for 10€ per person, I paid around 4€, depending on the food. Show it that you know how much a meal cost and that 10€ is too much.
What to do?
- Go surf! There’s one guy on the island, called Zito Pires, that has boards to rent at a very reasonable price (let me know if you need his contact!)
- Snorkeling at Lagoa Azul, on the North. I didn’t have the chance to try it, but I’ve met some people that were going to do it and I love snorkeling. Do it!
- Watch the sunset from Morro Peixe, on the north of the island (remember to take repellent). You have to ask the locals how to climb it (it’s easy).
- Watch the sunrise from the beach! On the East coast, you can watch the sunrise but not from every beach since some of them form a bay that hides the sun. I’ve watched it from our house in Santana.
- Swim in the ocean when it rains! I have no photos from this moment, but it will definitely stay in my memory, when I turned to my boyfriend and our friend Tomás and said, “Let’s go?”. Tomás said yes, my boyfriend followed us, we hid our stuff under a boat and ran to the waters in the beautiful beach of Micondó. What an unforgettable moment.
- Sail to Ilhéu das Rolas and have a meal at the beach Monte Café! By the way, in this small island, instead of buying stuff from the first guys you see right after arriving at the beach, wait a little more. In the end of the community and look for Nikson, he is the real artist! Of course, once there you have to cross the equatorial line!
- Instead of going to Club Santana, go to the Messias Alves beach! It’s the same one, the difference is that if you go from the hotel you have to pay 15€, if you go from the fisherman village you pay nothing! There are always kids on the beach, and they will want to play with you! Just do it, they are awesome. Bring some food and drinks with you, there’s nothing around.
- Eat as many mangos as you can!