Nikki Oginni – A language barrier should never hinder you from taking adventures. With no prior knowledge of Portuguese, our delectable and stylish guest nomad opted to travel to the beautiful Island of Cape Verde to celebrate her birthday. Read all about her exciting experience and tips for travelers dealing with the language barrier.
My friend and I had our birthdays coming up and we decided to take a trip somewhere serene and relaxing to celebrate. We wanted somewhere close and visa free (I really don’t enjoy filling visa forms/going to embassies) so we opted for a country in Africa. Cape Verde Island won the vote. Cape Verde is made up of 10 main islands and we decided to visit 2 of them, Praia and Sao Vicente. Using Nigerian cities as description, Sao Vicente is like Lagos while Praia is like Abuja. Sao Vicente is considered to be the best Island to visit and it is the perfect spot for music and art lovers.
Our cheapest and shortest option was flying Arik Air through Dakar, Senegal. We decided to spend sometime in Dakar as we had a friend who was visiting around the same time.We took a 3-hour flight to Dakar, connecting through Lagos and spent 2 nights before transiting to Cape Verde. Total cost of flight Lagos – Dakar = N187, 240 each. There are no visa requirements for Cape Verde but ensure you have an updated yellow card.
In Dakar, we stayed in the beautiful King Fahd Hotel in West coast of Senegal which came up to $150 (N30,000) per night.
However, if you do decide to transit through Dakar and spend sometime there, a budget of $115 (N 23,000) will get you a decent hotel. So back to why we are here, Cape Verde . After our 2 day rest, we got on our connecting flight from Dakar to Praia, the Capital city of Cape Verde Island. We took a 1 hour 40 minutes flight on Royal Air Maroc (It is a small plane so brace up). The total cost of our return ticket, Dakar-Praia = N72, 000.
Piece of advice–You should try to book your connecting flight from Dakar in advance. Surprisingly, we could not access the Dakar-Praia route on the Royal Air Maroc website and we subsequently booked our flight via a travel agency.
For our stay in Cape Verde, we decided to be a bit adventurous and get all the required tourist information on arrival. Huge mistake! For a country big on tourism, you would expect to see a few English speakers at the airport right? The lingua franca in Cape Verde is Portuguese and we had absolutely no knowledge of the language. I kept thinking to myself WHY our Nigerian high school syllabus only contained basic French and not Portuguese (at least most African countries speak either English, French or Portuguese). No one could understand us and it was quite frustrating to buy something as basic as a SIM card. We got so worried as we had not booked our hotel nor googled activities for our stay. As luck would have it, we found a Ghanaian brother working at the airport who assisted with interpretation and helped to sort everything out. I would advice you download a translator app (speak and translate is a good one) prior to your trip, as you might not be lucky with finding any “Ghanaian brothers” at the airport.
DAY 1: Based on the inquiries made at the airport, we stayed at the Oasis Atlantico in Santa Maria and settled into our rooms at midday. The hotel is decent and cozy with an amazing view overlooking the beach. The rooms were a bit rusty, but adequate. We took a tour around the hotel, found the perfect spot for taking pictures and the photo shoot session started.
- Awesome view behind our bedroom
- Sun on my face
Because it was a Friday, we decided to go to a bar for a few drinks before we hit the local club. We got dressed, hopped into a taxi and headed out. The taxis were pretty affordable. We had made enquiries about the popping nightclubs in the city and we had been informed that there was very little class distinction in Cape Verde. However, we definitely were not expecting what we met at the club. The club scene in Cape Verde is pretty different from the Nigerian club scene; less champagne popping and no VIP section. The clubs are like an assembly of people in one big auditorium, rocking the dance floor till about 4am. At first, I was not too comfortable with what they consider “rocking the dance floor”. Everyone had a partner and you basically had to hold your partner in a salsa position and grind against each other. I tried to be open-minded about it and I ended up having one of my best and most random nights!
DAY 2: The next day, we agreed to do the city tour and visit the beach. We headed to the restaurant to grab something to eat and God sent us ANOTHER angel (our Ghanaian brother from the airport being the 1st). We met our 2nd angel at breakfast, a Norwegian guy named Alfredo, and he was visiting Cape Verde for the first time. We were so excited to hear someone speak a language we understood and we immediately warmed up to him. He informed us that he was originally Cape Verdean and asked that we join him and his cousins for a city tour. Yay!! Of course we cancelled our earlier scheduled tour IMMEDIATELY and began the tour with our new friends!
We drove around the scenic Santiago and stopped by the road to enjoy the beautiful view of the ocean.
We visited some historical centers and proceeded to have lunch by the beach. Good lord, Cape Verde is definitely seafood paradise and seafood lovers will love it here. There is excess seafood to eat plus it’s very affordable too.
- Feed the body, nourish the soul
After lunch, we visited some more sites and gained some historical knowledge on Cape Verde. We visited the Se Cathedral , Serra de Malagueta and Fortaleza Real de San Felipe. As a seasoned hiker, Serra de Malagueta felt like paradise and this was definitely the best part of my holiday. We were able to watch the beautiful sunset from the top of the mountain.
- Breathtaking view from the hike at Serra de Malagueta
We thought the whole of Praia was filled with ancient buildings, until we drove the top of the plateau, where we saw a couple of beautiful ‘Portuguese architecture’. Rumor has it that loads of celebrities purchased houses there and unfortunately, our devices had run out of battery life so we could not take any pictures
DAY 3: We visited more beaches on our 3rd day, ate more seafood and ended the night at a local nightclub (like really local) but a lot of fun. We tried local cuisine called “Cachupa”…..uhmm expect a lot of beans, chopped beef and potatoes in one place. After our meal, we were shown how their local gin called “Grogo” was made & we definitely had a lot to taste. (Don’t know which tastes “better”, the Nigerian or Cape Verdean local dry gin, but this was really bitter!) We got back to our hotel slightly intoxicated and it was also Alfredo’s last night in Cape Verde so we had an excuse
- Too much Drogo in the system.
DAY 4: We decided to move to another hotel, Pestana Tropico, as the bed bugs in the previous hotel had tortured us. It is slightly more expensive, about $125- $130 (N26,000) per night, but way more convenient and is located very close to the city center. We had a ‘how did we not find this hotel earlier’ moment. We found more English speaking people in this hotel and service was way better than the previous hotel. We spent our last day visiting the local market where we got some cheap souvenirs. We were shocked to see a Nigerian man, Igbo to be precise, at the market selling fabrics and local DVD’s. Like people say, you are sure to find Nigerians EVERYWHERE in the world. We spent the rest of our night with some new friends we made on the beach and called it a day.
- My cute little African rag doll
In totality, Cape Verde is a very peaceful &beautiful country; as ancient and less educated the people are,they have an European standard of living so a lot of things are in order. I can’t deny how pretty their women are, but can’t speak much for their men. The Cape Verdeans are really warm people and the weather is just perfect. My friend and I went with $1000 and came back with at least $400, so the holiday was very affordable.
P.S: I advice you carry your own extension box or travel adapters. Their sockets are entirely different from ours so you might not be able to charge your devices conveniently without borrowing from the front desk of your hotel. And also be careful if you have to change money locally, they can easily cheat you because of the language barrier.