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Fish may be bought directly from fishermen Local restaurants are cheerful and cheap All-inclusive buffets are bland

Choosing your holiday accommodation

Self-catering, eating in restaurants or all-inclusive?

Self-Catering villa or flat

Staying in a private Cape Verde villa or flat at Murdeira or Santa Maria permits you to choose whether to eat out at restauants or buy some of your own meals to prepare at home. There are plentiful, low and medium priced restaurants in Santa maria and a beautifully positioned one overlooking the ocean at Murdeira. Dishes there which are typically chicken, meat or fish cost from £5 to £8 and the restaurant also offers a three course meal for £10. Wine from Portugal is about £1.50 a glass

If you choose to buy your own food you can buy fresh tuna in season for £2-3 per kg, according to the catch which would provide several meals for four people. Around mid-day when the boats land their catches at the pier in Santa Maria or the quayside in Palmeira is the best time, The hotels tend to buy whole tuna buit if you negotiate tyou can usually persuade a fisherman to hack off a few kilos for you. Take your own wrapping bags and perhaps an ice box to keep it fresh until you get back to the refrigerator or freezer.

Tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and peppers are grown locally in glass houses using a hydroponics process which economises on water. These can be bought direct from the grower on Sal or at the pletiful small local shops, which also have fresh proiduce from the other, miore fertile islands. Portuguese wine or local beer can be delivered to your villa at duty-free prices along with staple food items.

Hotel restaurant half/full board or eating out

The more established Cape Verde hotels along Santa Maria beach offer a choice of half or full board dining, usually in an open air restaurant, perhaps overlooking the sea. The Dunes Park is one of the few hotels on Boa Vista that offers this option. But on the outer islands it is the norm. The quality of meal varies greatly but is nearly always superior to what you would get at an all-inclusive hotel.

Prices range from £100-£150 weekly per adult for half board and £200-£300 for full board, which normally does not include any drinks. This is therefore considerably more costly than the all-inclusive rate, but in return the food is much better and the location at the water`s edge hotels idyllic. In fact even f you do not opt for full board it is worth trying it for a special meal.

The hotel restaurants, which are the only ones that accept credit cards are much more expensive than the simple, local Cape Verde restaurants of which there are dozens in Santa Maria on Sal but only a few on Boa Vista. Mindelo on Sao Vicente is also very well supplied with inexpensive restaurants. At ethe bottom of the scale a simple plate of cachupa ( beans and rice) may cost oas lttle as £3/4 and a glass of wine 30/50p in the places that the locals favour. The decor may be basic and the seats uncomfortable but the food is undeniably good value.

In Santa Maria, particularly there are also plenty of pizza/pasta places and bars that provide simple food at low prices. For better meals there are a chioice of mid-priced restaurants offering fresh fish and seafood as well as chicken and meat dishes, cooked in Continental styles. Some of the chefs are French, some Italian or Spanish and of course there are also Cape Verdeans offering local specialities.

The Cape Verdes are not like the West Indies where restaurant meals can be so costly that they drive people into all-inclusive buffets. On the contrrary you could try a different resaurant evey day for a week, without running out of good value ones. ,

All-inclusive hotels

Most ot the large hotels on Boa Vista and about one third of the beachfront hotels on Sal offer only all -inclusive prices. This means that all meals, soft drinks, wines and beers are free once you have paid for your holiday. But , of course, you would not expect haute cuisine at the competitive prices, these hotels have to offer. The Budget per day for an adult is usually abiout £10 and that must cover all food and drink. Most of the hotels are Spanish or Italian owned so that the cuisine relies heavily on pizza and pasta and other cheap fill-me-ups. Wine is the cheapest plonk obtainable in Spain and is reputedly brought in to the Rius as a powder before being mixed with locally produced alcohol. If you like wine you will not want to drink it even for "free"The beer is brewed in Santiago, but is the cheapest, weak brew available. Generally it is not possible to obtain better quality drinks although the Decameron Colmbian owned offers nice sherry on Boa Vista.

Some of the all-inclusive hotels offer featured restaurants with ethnic cuisine, but in practice neither the dishes offerred nor the quiuality differs much from the free buffets. The Decameron on Boa Vista does have a proper waiter-served dining room and the food here is more interesting although few customers bother to try it out. The all-inclusive attract mainly those who like to sit by the pool al day, interrupted only by a shuffle to the buffet.

Some all-inclusive restaurants leave food out on the buffet tables all day long. Whilst this is convenient for guests who want to wander in and out from the pool and snack all day long, it is not always a good idea in a hot climate. Couple this with very poorly-paid kitchen staff with poor personal hygiene and you get a worrying number of cases of stomach upsets, food poisoning and amoebic dysentery. This could really spoli your holiday.

Nobody has reported sick from the cheap Cape Verdean restaurants that cook food whilst you wait.

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