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Sao Tome and Principe 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Gabon > Libreville; Africa > Sao Tome and Principe; Africa > Sao Tome and Principe > Sao Tome

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Libreville (Gabon) does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED SAO TOME AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Sao Tome and Principe-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

The archipelago state of Sao Tome and Principe has a population of approximately 190,000 people; the majority live on the island of Sao Tome. Sao Tome and Principe is a Lusophone country, and very few people speak English. Sao Tome and Principe are mountainous islands formed from volcanoes.

Crime Threats

The most common crime reported by expatriates is theft of unaccompanied items.

There are some local gangs involved in robberies, hold-ups, and thefts. Violent crime directed toward expatriates is infrequent, though there are isolated incidents of violence in the commission of robberies.

Caution should be taken when visiting popular Sao Tome night spots.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

There are no highways, and most roads are narrow, two lanes, and very serpentine. While major roads are generally in good repair, drivers should exercise caution. Smaller roads in villages can be dirt tracks. Rural and suburban areas are poorly illuminated and pose safety hazards due to pedestrians and animals crossing the roads. Vehicles are not well maintained and often lack headlights.

Traffic accidents are one of the greatest dangers to visitors. Enforcement for both speeding and reckless driving has been non-existent. This dynamic may be changing. As of January 2017, visitors to Sao Tome have reported that police are cracking down on unlicensed drivers. Road hazards include poor street lighting, failure by drivers to obey traffic signals, a lack of marked pedestrian crossings, livestock/animals on roadways, slow moving vehicles, large trucks, inebriated drivers, and erratic stopping.

Visitors should drive defensively. While stopped in traffic, drivers should scan rearview mirrors to identify potential trouble. If idling at a stop light/sign, drivers should leave adequate maneuver room between vehicles to allow for a hasty departure if necessary. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Villagers may set up road blocks as a form of protest. After the arrival of police, there can be prolonged discussions, and sometimes local politicians are called in to mediate.

  • In 2016, the Embassy received reports of roadblocks on main roads in Sao Tome, cutting off parts of the island to the capital for several hours.


Public Transportation Conditions

Many residents use motorcycle taxis or minivans. Visitors should strongly consider other transportation options over a motorcycle taxi. Every year, there are a number of serious accidents involving these motorcycles. Drivers often lack helmets for passengers and drive recklessly.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Travel by air to/from Sao Tome and Principe and between the islands can be frustrating for even the most seasoned traveler. Planes are often delayed and canceled, sometimes for days. Travelers are advised to carry on required medicines, important documents, and valuables. Baggage frequently goes missing and may not ever be found. Local airlines are not required to pay restitution for lost bags.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED SAO TOME AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED SAO TOME AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Sao Tome and Principe is a relatively peaceful democracy. No notable instance of violence occurred during the 2016 presidential election.

Civil Unrest

When there is protest activity in Sao Tome, it general occurs in the Riboque neighborhood near the Vitoria F.C. soccer stadium. Economic pressures will continue in 2017, and the Embassy has received reports that there will be protests against Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada in 2017.

Common complaints that prompt protests/roadblocks include a lack of running water/electricity.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

During the rainy season, torrential downpours can cause severe damage to villages and bridges. Rising sea levels are threatening coastal communities.

Police Response

The police and security forces often lack communications equipment, weapons/ammunition, and vehicles/gasoline, all of which limits their ability to respond to routine and emergency calls. Any response is often slow and generally limited to writing a report or taking statements.

Crime Victim Assistance

In the event of an emergency, the local police are typically the first point of contact. However, police response is slow, and investigations are often never opened. Prosecutions are very slow, if they are even initiated.

The national police in Sao Tome may be reached at +239.2.222.222

The U.S. Embassy Libreville American Citizens Services (ACS) Officer may be reached at +241.01.45.71.00. In the event of an after-hours emergency involving an American citizen, callers should dial +241.01.45.71.00 and request the duty officer.

Medical Emergencies

There is limited, adequate medical care. Availability of doctors and access to hospital facilities is unreliable, medical equipment does not function or lacks trained operators, medicines/surgical tools may not be available, and sanitary conditions may be sub-standard. Emergency responders and medical personnel likely do not speak English.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

The hospital Central Ayres de Menezes in Sao Tome may be reached at +239.2.221.222.

A few clinics also exist, but services are very basic.

Available Air Ambulance Services

African Medicale Assistance: +(241) 07 41 11 11 (This service is based in Gabon)

Insurance Guidance

Travelers are advised to have medical evacuation insurance. In the event of a traumatic injury or medical emergency, temporary stabilization and medical evacuation, if possible, should be considered. Medical insurance may not cover any procedures. Travelers are advised to have available local currency to pay in advance for any procedures.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Sao Tome and Principe.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no OSAC Country Council in Sao Tome and Principe. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team if you would like to be put in touch with the Regional Security Officer. 

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

There is no U.S. Embassy in Sao Tome and Principe. The U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon covers Sao Tome and Principe, and there are direct flights between Libreville and Sao Tome three days per week (Wednesday, Friday, Sunday). The Embassy is located in the Sabliere neighborhood of Libreville. The U.S Embassy is across the street from the Hotel Onomo.

The Consular Section is open to U.S. citizens on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 0830-1200. For an emergency appointment, contact the Embassy and request the American Citizen Services (ACS) Officer. After-hours, request the Duty Officer.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Operator: Phone: +241.01.45.71.00
Website: http://libreville.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling in Sao Tome and Principe are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.

Additional Resources

Sao Tome and Principe Country Information Sheet