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The calm and easy lifestyle which combines both Portuguese and African cultures, not to mention the great landscapes and seascapes, are what bring many tourists to this group of islands in the Central Atlantic. Visitors can drive to the first European town established in the tropics, Cidade Velha or Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. They can also head to Sal and Sao Nicolau islands to see the beaches that Cape Verde is known for.
The roads, especially within the more populated islands, are generally in good condition. The road network stretches to around 1,400 miles. One-third of the roads are cobblestones, while the paved routes are mostly narrow. Driving standards are reasonably good, but drunk drivers can be a problem. Driving at night is not advisable as most roads are unlit.
Driving licences: an International Driving Permit is required by law.
Which side does Cape Verde drive on: the right.
Motorways: 50mph (80kph)
Built-up areas: 19mph (30kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.08 per cent. This is the same as the UK limit.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: must be worn by the driver and passengers in the front seat. Violators may be fined. Children aged 12 years and under must sit in the back.
Mobile phones and GPS: there are no specific laws regarding mobile phone use while driving. GPS maps for use on the islands are available.
Cost of fuel in Cape Verde: unleaded petrol is only slightly cheaper, while diesel is considerably cheaper than in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: most petrol stations accept credit card payments. Car hire can be booked via major credit cards.
Insurance: third-party insurance is compulsory and included with the rental. Drivers should consider additional cover to safeguard against all eventualities.
Traffic and parking: parking must be on the right side of the road, in the direction of the traffic, and never on speed bumps. Traffic congestion isn’t an issue.
Metered, modern taxis are available in most cities. They are often found in airports and sea ports to take arriving passengers to their final destinations. Most rides cost around £3 or £4, with the price increasing as the distance covered increases. Hiring a taxi at night implies a night-time supplement to the fare. Cabs can be hired for sightseeing tours within the islands.
There are city buses within the urban areas of Mindelo on São Vicente Island and Praia on Santiago Island. Those venturing to other destinations on these islands must rely on local transport called the aluguer. These shared taxis, found on the inhabited islands, function as buses. Visitors simply need to flag them down on the side of the road. Fares range from £1 to £4.
Ferry services run to and from many islands. In the north, the ports of Sao Vicente, Mindelo and Santo Antao are connected via daily ferry services. Ferries are operated by private companies so quality varies from one company to another. Duration and cost depend on the distance of origin to destination. The new Cabo Verde Fast Ferry operating in the south charges around £10 for the 40-minute ride from Brava and Fogo and about £24 for the ride from Fogo to Praia.
The main international airport is Amílcar Cabral International Airport, which services the city of Espargos on Sal Island. Other international airports with relatively extensive connections are Praia International Airport, servicing the capital of Praia, and Aristides Pereira Airport on Boa Vista Island. The main carrier for inter-island flights is TACV Cabo Verde. If coming in via a TACV flight, a flight passâvalid for 21 daysâcan be purchased. Prices for the first two coupons purchased with the pass begin at around £90, with fares decreasing to about £50 for succeeding coupons.
A visit to Cape Verde is best started by learning about the archipelago's history as a Portuguese colony and its dark past as a participant in the Atlantic slave trade. This can easily be done by wandering around Cidade Velha, or Old City, in Santiago, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Cape Verde is famous for its blend of Portuguese and African influences, and this can be felt in the language, customs and most especially, the music. Listening to live music in Sao Vicente, where visitors can sample the islands’ sultry and melancholic morna folk music, is especially popular.
Beaches and other water-related activities such as snorkelling and scuba diving are of course a must here, and are inescapable for those exploring the island of Sal. It has white-sand beaches and a rich marine life to boot. Watching the sunset on Sal Island is highly recommended. The black sand beaches of Sao Nicolau are worth a visit, too.
In the south, Fogo Island is a particularly great place to go trekking thanks to its volcanic peak and spectacular sea views. In Boa Vista, meanwhile, a desert landscape filled with sand dunes awaits intrepid explorers.
Temperatures in Cape Verde are warm throughout most of the year. December to March is the coldest time, with temperature averages ranging from 15 to 24°C. The rainiest months are August, September and October, which are incidentally also the hottest months, with temperatures from 23 to 30°C. Rains tend to fall only on some islands, with others dry year round. Boa Vista, Sal and Maio tend to be drier than Santo Antao, Santiago and Fogo, which receive the most rainfall. The archipelago can experience hurricanes between July and September. Travel during these months is not advisable, with February, March, April, May and June considered the best months for travel.