Surface area : 150.0 km2
Population : 187400 inhabitants
Tortoise shell jewellry and diverse objects are one of the archipelago's specialities, but it is strictly prohibited to import them back into Europe. Other than that, carved wooden objects are the essential Santomean handicraft: marquetry caskets, masks, statuettes, trays. Ideally, try and buy these objects directly from the person who made them (ask for the necessary information from the locals). They can also be haggled from children who go up to tourists at the airport or near hotels. In Sao Tome, there is an official shop, next to the offices of the company Air Sao Tome, near the post office, but the choice is limited and the prices higher. Another shop has a wider range opposite the town market. Hotel boutiques aren't recommended, because the prices are excessive. Collectors will be interested in the very beautiful stamps and telephone cards.
The very few shops on the island are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 12pm and 4pm to 7pm, and on Saturdays from 8am to 1pm (these times are not guaranteed).
Traditional cuisine is highly influenced by Cape Verdean and Portuguese cuisine. Fried fish, often served with fruta pão (breadfruit) or plantain, and the tropical fruits (avocado, pineapple, bananas) are used a lot in local cuisine. The national dish is calulu, a rather spicy dish made with chicken or smoked fish, palm oil and various vegetables. All around Sao Tome's main market, you will be able to buy bread rolls, stuffed with sausage or salami, imported from Portugal.
Unless you eat at somebody's house, it is difficult to try typical dishes. The best restaurant is Filomar, located near Marlin Beach, on the road to the airport. Do not miss out either on Roça São João, in the South of the island of Sao Tome, an old plantation, transformed into a restaurant and a contemporary art centre. The menu consists of only the plantation products.
For your meals at the restaurant, reserve beforehand so that the chef is sure to have enough food.
Believe the locals when they tell you that their red chilli (malagueta) is the world's hottest. You may not want to even try it!
Keep some dollars on you, because, unlike restaurants, many hotels and taxi drivers prefer them to dobras.
If you are using an analogue camera, bring your own films with you. It is preferable to ask for permission before taking a picture of people, and it is strictly prohibited to take pictures of official buildings (ports, airports, departments of the government, presidential palace).