To check if o is an instance of str or any subclass of str, use isinstance (this would be the "canonical" way):

if isinstance(o, str):

To check if the type of o is exactly str (exclude subclasses):

if type(o) is str:

The following also works, and can be useful in some cases:

if issubclass(type(o), str):

See Built-in Functions in the Python Library Reference for relevant information.

One more note: in this case, if you're using Python 2, you may actually want to use:

if isinstance(o, basestring):

because this will also catch Unicode strings (unicode is not a subclass of str; both str and unicode are subclasses of basestring). Note that basestring no longer exists in Python 3, where there's a strict separation of strings (str) and binary data (bytes).

Alternatively, isinstance accepts a tuple of classes. This will return True if o is an instance of any subclass of any of (str, unicode):

if isinstance(o, (str, unicode)):