The first thing to note is that the currency here in Cape Verde is called the Escudo (CVE) and is hard linked to the Euro at a rate of 110.265 to one. So, around 110 CVE equals 1 Euro. The second thing to understand is that you can only obtain your CVE in Cape Verde. I’m not sure whether you would call it a ‘closed currency’, but you cannot obtain your cash in the UK prior to travelling and you cannot exchange any unspent CVE back to Sterling when you return home.
The third and probably most important point to appreciate is that in resort, the vast majority of retailers work on the principle that 100 CVE equals 1 Euro. Mathematicians among you will calculate that if paying in Euro for goods and services will be 9% more expensive. The fourth and final consideration is that credit and debit card acceptance as a payment method, albeit becoming more popular, is still pretty much non existent. Banks will exchange hard currencies. Main hotels and some restaurants will accept Visa Debit cards, though Credit cards are rarely used.
That all said and done, obtaining cash is pretty simple. There are various banks and ATMs in the towns. Banco Interatlântico, Banco Comercial do Atlântico and Caixa Económica are pretty common.
The paper currency has changed in 2016 to a new format, the 200CVE note being of a polymer design akin to our new £5.00 and £10.00 notes. The symbol for the Escudo is $ where it is used as a decimal separator. By example 110$265 being 110.265.
Bills: 200$00, 500$00, 1000$00, 2000$00, 2500$00, 5000$00
Coins: 1$00, 5$00, 10$00, 20$00, 50$00, 100$00
Arriving At Amílcar Cabral International Airport
My recommendation is to bring a couple of hundred Euro and obtain your CVE in resort. If arriving into Sal’s Amílcar Cabral International Airport, once you collect your luggage and exit customs into the arrival area where all the taxis are waiting, immediately to your right is an ATM. Ensure you have some lower denomination Euros if you need a taxi to get to Santa Maria. There are three banks and ATMs in Santa Maria, here, here and here.
When Sterling was strong against the US Dollar and Euro, I could make two separate 20,000 CVE withdrawal transactions a day with no fee. Today and with the rather weaker Pound Sterling, I can withdraw a maximum 35,000 CVE being one transaction of 20,000 and one of 15,000. There is also now a 165 transaction fee to withdraw cash, so maximise your withdrawal to 20,000 or 15,000 CVE. I find I prefer to transact one 20,000 withdrawal every two or three days rather than 20,000 and 15,000 every four of five days. I am finding that my Santander 123 account is also charging a £2.45 fee, which is also new.
Most ATMs are located in a booth or lobby area of the bank. Local etiquette is to wait your turn and remain outside the ATM booth if someone is using the ATM. They use a system called ‘Vinti4’ and once you insert your card, you will be offered a selection of languages to use. Simply follow the instructions on screen.
One thing I have found is that popular ATMs can run out of money and are therefore unable to dispense cash. If you find that an ATM is inoperable, then try another. However my obvious top tip is not to leave your withdrawals to the 11th hour. Empty ATMs are typically rife Fridays and Saturdays.
Carry Euro As A Backup
As aforementioned, the Euro is accepted everywhere and there is no need to obtain CVE if you would prefer. Just be aware that that you will be paying 9% more for goods and services. One top tip is that if you travel to Europe frequently, if you pay in CVE and receive your change in Euro, keep the Euro in your pocket and take it home. Effectively you are making a 10% uplift.
My recommendation is to bring 200 or 300 Euro with you to top and tail your visit and keep as an emergency backup or contingency, obtaining your CVE here. Keep 30 or 40 Euro in your wallet or purse on a daily basis in case you find an empty ATM. Keep your credit and debit cards in your apartment or hotel safe, unless you are visiting an ATM.