Driving in Sao Tome and Principe


What do you think of the way people drive in Sao Tome and Principe? How different is it from your home country?

Respecting the road safety rules, driving etiquette such as general courtesy, speed excess… what are the characteristics of the driving style in Sao Tome and Principe?

Share with us the difficulties one may face when driving in Sao Tome and Principe: peak hours, road conditions, accident, etc. and your advice to drive safely in the country.

Thank you in advance for participating,


Driving can be hazardous, especially at night. While there have been some improvements on the main roads, there are many areas where the roads are in ill repair and largely neglected.

There are dogs everywhere and at any moment one can dart into the road. People use the roads as sidewalks. Why? Because there are no sidewalks. You will find that many of the houses are built right up on the road. So you will see people sitting and lounging near the roads. You will find cars double-parked on the roads. Why? Because many of the people have no place to park their cars. It is just the way it is. So you have to be very careful when driving. You just have to slow down and ever so watchful of the people and the dogs.

Peak hours are from 4pm to 7pm as children are getting out of school and they are in the roads.

Friday nights and on days when their are festivals and holidays, many of the roads are busy with people. Just slow down and be patient. Watch out for the taxis as they drive very fast. If they honk at you, just slow down and let them pass you.

Since there is not a lot of "road surface" like one would find in the USA or in Europe, surprisingly there are not a lot of accidents. Yes, there are accidents, but one does not see them with great frequency.

While there are stop signs (I did not see any other type of sign such as yield signs), it can be a wild-wild west when driving. Courteous driving is not something you will see in Sao Tome. One does not see "traffic cops" who will stop one for speeding. On occasion, you will see traffic checkpoints but these are are primarily checking to make sure people are driving with a valid license and have insurance.

There are motor bikes everywhere, so watch out for them too as they can get in you blind spot. Be careful of four-way stops. Do not assume that you have the right-of-way. Stop. There are several traffic circles. Be careful as you enter them.

You will find at night from 11pm onward, there is very little traffic on the roads or people on the street. (except on the weekends, you may see more people out and about).

The first time I drove in Sao Tome, I was a nervous wreck. After several months, I became an experienced driver and felt more comfortable driving.

I recommend, a strong SUV 4x4 vehicle because during the rainy season, the unpaved roads get muddy and even the paved ones may flood. (I had a Dodge 4x4)

Just slow down and be careful