Praia

Praia — literally "Beach" in Portuguese — is Cape Verde's capital and busiest city. While it's maybe not comparable to a western metropolis, with a population of only about 130,000 (2010 census), one in four Cape Verdeans call the city home and the city is an important thoroughfare for international visitors to the archipelagic country.

Understand

View from the Diogo Gomez memorial

Praia and its suburbs is by far the largest urban area in Cape Verde. The center of the city lies on a plateau (port. Platô) overlooking the bay to the southeast and the airport lies a few kilometers to the northeast. The port is important for the export of agricultural products and seafood, which besides tourism is the most important industry in the country.

Praia is located in the southern end of Santiago Island and has year round good weather. The city is divided into various small unofficial districts, the most important ones being, Platô (city center), Achada Santo Antonio, Palmarejo, Fazenda, Achada Grande, Varzea, Safende, Sucupira (bazaar area), Calbeciera, Terra Branca, Vila Nova, Achadinha, Bairro, Prainha, Monte Vermelho, Achada Mato, Achada Sao Felipe, and other smaller ones. Most part of the city are residential areas, so probably not worth visiting in itself, but worth a half-day exploration if you are passing through to another destination.

The Cape Verdean escudo is denoted "$", the same sign that is used by dollars and pesos around the world. In this article, prices after the "$" signs are in escudos, unless otherwise stated.

History

Settlements in Praia started in the 1615. Back then the beach was known as Praia de Gamboa and the village below Santa Maria. Its natural harbor was a popular alternative to the one in Cidade Velha (then known as Ribeira Grande) with its high harbor fees. Santa Maria became the capital of the region in 1770, and with this started the growth of the city. Much of the historical old town dates from this time.

The plateau was the focus for development and services at this time. After independence from Portugal in 1975 the city has rapidly grown in all directions, and the population has quadrupled.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 25.0 25.0 25.6 26.1 27.2 27.8 28.3 28.9 28.9 29.4 27.8 26.1
Nightly lows (°C) 20.0 19.4 20.0 20.6 21.1 21.1 23.9 24.4 25.0 24.4 23.3 21.7
Precipitation (mm) 2.5 1.3 1 2.3 0 1 13.2 99.3 29 47.5 7.9 4.6

Source:w:Praia#Climate

The weather is warm and pleasant around the year. The climate is classified as mild desert, and daytime highs are above +25°C throughout the year. Some rain occurs from August to October, but much less than what's experienced in places with tropical monsoon climate. The rainiest month, August, averages eight rainy days and just under 100 mm of rain.

Get in

Nelson Mandela International Airport

By plane

Praia is served by   Nelson Mandela International Airport, around 3 km northeast of downtown. TACV (the national flag carrier) and some European and African airlines fly to various destinations in Europe, Africa, South America and United States. There are also domestic flights, both to Cape Verde's largest airport in Sal (45 mins) and other airports in the country. Flights to Boa Vista take half an hour.

Taxis from the airport to Plateau cost $500. After 18:00 the cost is $800. There is one bus line that serves the airport but it’s better to just take a taxi since there is actually only one or two buses that serves this line.

By boat

You can also enter the city through the port. There are ferry boats that have irregular service to and from the islands of Maio, Boavista, Sal and Sao Nicolau, and more regular and scheduled service to and from Sao Vicente and Fogo.

Boat travelers arrive in   Porto de Praia. As of 2014, there were regular ferries from Fogo (4 hours) and Brava (just 40 min from Fogo). However, the sea is often rough and will probably make you seasick — flying is much more comfortable. Porto de Praia is also where you will land if you're a cruise passenger.

Get around

The city has countless bus stops, and taxis are everywhere waiting for customers.

By bus

There are two main bus companies that serve the city, Moura Company and Sol Atlantico. Each route has their own numbers. The main lines are from Safende to Achada Santo Antonio, Vila Nova to Achada Santo Antonio, Calbeceira to Palmarejo, Pensamento to Terra Branca, Achada Grande to Achada Santo Antonio, Sao Felipe to Plateau, Ponta D'Agua to Plateau,Achada Mato to Palmarejo. Most of these lines pass by Plateau (city center), Varzea and Terra Branca, the bus fare is about $35.

By taxi

When it comes to taxis you should be careful with illegal taxis that sometimes roam around and might rip you off. The normal taxi fare between two furthest points of the city, for example Pensamento to Palmarejo, or Palmarejo to Achada Mato, shouldn’t be more than $1500 during the day or $1800 at night. Taxi drivers usually expect to get a tip, give around $50-$100. Just be careful and always use taxis that have a taximeter, so that they don’t overcharge you.

By foot

The lack of an official map makes the city a little hard to navigate, especially since large parts still lack proper street names and house numbers. Fortunately, most streets in the city center and in the more important parts of the city do have names and numbers and most people are friendly and will give you directions. Walking between the different districts is not recommended, especially since most of the city's sidewalks are made out of loose cobblestone that make it difficult to walk. Also keep in mind that this town is full of hills that can be tiring to walk. However, if you want to have a good cardio-workout, try it!

A bike can be a good way of getting around both Praia and the island itself. The problem is that bike rentals are sparse, so if you're looking forward to a bike vacation, you may need to bring your own.

By rental car

Rental cars can be found mainly at the airport, but with the boom of tourism some downtown locations have opened as well. Rates are around $4500 per day including tax and insurance. Usually the first 100km are included in the price too, after this it's $0.10 for each additional kilometer.

See

Praia Catedral
The presidential palace and the Diogo Gomes monument
Fundação Amílcar Cabral

A large part of the sights are located at the plateau. The old city wall complete with the old cannons protected it from attackers arriving by sea. The governmental district is in the southern part of town.

Buildings

Museums and culture

In addition, the markets listed below in the Buy section are worth visiting for the experience.

Geography and viewpoints

Do

Carnival

Events

Cape Verdeans like to party, and there are many events throughout the year. The largest of them is the carnival, taking place in the beginning of the year as elsewhere in the Catholic world. With its procession and dances it is not too dissimilar to the Brazilian version, but here the processions aren't strictly arranged by samba schools but rather a spontaneous and informal event where everyone can partake.

Other religious festivals (for example honoring a saint) are also reminiscent of the carnival, starting with a mass and continuing as a street festival.

Activities

Reportedly having some of the best waves in the world, Praia is a good destination for surfing and water skiing. If you are a beginner, hotels often have courses in these activities. If you want to relax instead, head to some of the beaches in and around Praia.   Praia de Quebra Canela is probably the most popular among locals and visitors alike. Other beaches are   Praia de Prainha,   Praia da Gamboa (not suitable for swimming) and   Praia Negra.

Buy

Market in Praia

There are several markets in Praia. Even if you don't intend to buy anything, it's worth a visit if you want to experience a real African market. A great souvenir to bring home is one of the patterned, colorful cloths made in the countryside.

Eat

Budget

Mid-range

Street vendor

Splurge

Drink

You won't find an abundance of nightspots in Praia.

Sleep

Quartel Jaime Mota — old colonial barracks

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Praia's high-end options are located south of the main town in the area of Prainha.

Stay safe

Gamboa beach

Being the capital and biggest city of the country, Praia has a higher crime rate than most parts of the country. Most crimes involve petty thievery and these are mostly focused on residents and not on tourists, although there have been a few cases which have involved tourists. So though Praia in general is still a very safe city, be careful not to flaunt any expensive jewelry or gadgets like iPhones and such. Cape Verde in the past few years has seen an increase of petty crimes which are done mostly by groups of young people, so avoid groups of young men especially at night.

Praia is also badly lit at night, so be careful in places that might not have street lights and are somewhat isolated, and always travel in pairs or larger groups for safety. However, if anything does occur there are police stations in various parts of the city and a general hospital in the city center.

Emergency numbers

Stay healthy

Hospital Agostinho Neto

There's one hospital in the city:

There are also five community health centers.

Cope

Embassies & Consulates

Connect

There are a couple of Internet cafes in Praia:

Go next

Forte Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha.
This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 01, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.