I must admit, when I bought the flying ticket to Praia, Santiago, I didn’t think very deeply about it. I knew I wanted to get to Fogo island, as there’s a volcano, not too different from Teide. After I got the flying ticket, I started to search for information and realized, there is little if some. Which is actually the reason I’m writing this down. Maybe it’ll help somebody who has decided to do similar trip.
First of all, Cabo Verde is a tourist destination, but majority of the tourists will go to Sal or Boa Vista, if they feel adventurous, they’ll go to Santo Antao. If you decide to go to Santiago, you’re pretty much out of tourist buzz. That brings good things and bad things. You certainly get some authenticity, but you don’t get by using other language than Portuguese or Creole. Forget about English.
One of the first things you might notice is the lack of tourist guides and maps. There’s only one chapter of the Lonely planet guide to West Africa. Luckily enough they sell pdfs of the sole chapters individually, so one doesn’t have to spend unnecessary money on the whole book. The chapter has 30 pages and it’s nearly not enough. Though, you’ll get some tips out of there, considering what to see etc.
Transport between the islands
Most of the islands have airport, exception being Brava and Santo Antao. Santiago and Sal have international ones, so that might be your entry point to the country. Both of them issue visa on arrival. If you want to do little bit of island jumping, there are two options: boat and plane. I met quite a few people who went by boat to Fogo, all of them claiming that they go back by plane. Plane is not that much more expensive, if you book directly on TACV website. If you book in advance, you end up with something like 100 euro for a return trip Santiago – Fogo. According to locals, not a bad price. Boat was 70 euro. Some travel Cabo Verde pages will claim that you might have troubles with booking and offer to book for you for 10 euros. Skip that, at least with Safari and paying online by Visa, I had no problem.
I had trouble getting maps for any place in Cabo Verde. You can get decent hiking maps for Santiago in a souvenir store in Plateau in Praia (close to the end of the main pedestrian road, the end with lyceum), for Fogo, the maps are available in Zebra travel in Sao Felipe . The towns… well, people rarely use street names there, city maps won’t get you anywhere. Deal with it, it’s hard only during the first day.
Santiago is not prepared for tourists. Yes they do have quite a few fancy hotels, occupied mostly during volcanologists conferences, but the budget options are scarce and probably will be. I found my accommodation in Praia through AirBnB, Brothers & Barros Hostel, newly opened hostel with nicely clean rooms for 20 euro/night. If you happen to get the tip from here, say hi to Danilson, the owner, from Jana from Czech republic. The hostel is not located on Plateau, but you can get there easily by public bus (they have quite convenient system of buses in Praia, once you figure which number goes where). Plus, you cannot get more authentic than this. Don’t forget to get a fish on a street corner grill. It’s the best one I had, and costs only 2 euros.
The situation on Fogo is slightly better, still there are not many places to choose from. I went for Pensao Las Vegas as it was the cheapest option (20 euro/night), but if the next time, I’d go for Casa Beiramar, slighly more pricey, but worth it (read further). Both are located in the old town, so you’re pretty much in the center of everything, close to the markets etc.
Hiking and sightseeing on Santiago
If you decide to hike on Santiago, you’ll likely be the only hiker on the path. There are two hiking areas, national park Serra Malagueta and Rui Vaz, above Sao Domingues. In Serra Malagueta, you can even pick up very non- accurate map, but the guys from the local visitor’s center will show you the way and let you pay couple of ECV for the entrance. Not a big deal, but you’ll have to guess big part of the hike. Luckily enough, it’s circular. But the surroundings are stunning. Area around Rui Vaz is also really nice. You can just get of the bus in Sao Domingues, hike up to Rui Vaz (road) and from there, go to Sao Jorge, where is a small botanical garden. It’s a stunning hike amongst beautiful rock formation, but check out WikiLoc (I marked the path there). There are few path markers, but don’t rely on them. The botanical garden is free. You’ll be able to catch a bus in Sao Lorenzo, on the main road, otherwise taxi it is. Buses from praia cost about 3.5/4.5 euro one way.
There’s also a nice walk from Cidade Velha to Fortaleza above the city. All in all, Cidade Velha is worth visiting, it takes just 15 minutes from Praia to get there. But bear in mind, the bus doesn’t go from the main ‘bus station’ in Sucupira market, but from Terra Branca. The bus costs approximately 1 euro.
Hiking around Fogo
Fogo is easily a hikers paradise. But, there’s but… In November 2014, the volcano exploded and buried two villages, which served often as a base camp for hikers, under the lava. Sad for locals, sad for hikers. The prices for a simple hike therefore rocketed up because of the cost of transport. You sure can rent a car there, but at 80 euros/day you just don’t want too. Hiring a driver for the whole day will cost you the same. Besides he know where to go and knows how to drive on those stony roads. If you want to arrange a trip, your bet is Casa Beiramar, Mustafa, the owner is a climber/mountainer and loves Fogo. He can help you arrange a hike or climb anywhere on the island. He’s got some accomodation up in Cha de Caildeiras… well, rebuilding now, so even the trip to the peak will be doable with him again. He arranged a drive around the island for me, with a stop for a hike amongst the coffee plantations in Moisteros, 80 euros for the whole day. Transport to Caldeiras, without the facilities can be also arranged there. Without guide, 50 euros.
Needless to say, it’s not cheap, but if you don’t know your way around (you most likely don’t as the inaccuracies are big), it might easily be an only option. I did the hike above the new explosion, which was memorable, but little bit short. A recommendable hike might be Bandeiras, hiking along the rim of the big caldera. Sadly at the current prices, it’s 140 euros, which for me alone was way over my budget.
It’s sub-saharian Africa and you should act accordingly. While on Fogo, every crime rises attention, in Praia, petty crime is arising. I wouldn’t go around alone at night, but otherwise the country felt reasonably safe.
All in all the general cost of things
- flight between the islands 100 euros
- Accomodation 20 euro/night cheapest
- taxi praia intl – city center 10 eur
- public transport in Praia 40 cents/ride
- Local transport half the Santiago island for 5 euros
- moderate restaurant 6 euro/dinner
- cup of coffee around 1 euro