Tropical rainforest, Caribbean sunshine, spectacular dive sites and romance combine to make St Lucia the holiday destination that dreams are made of. Here’s some useful information to bear in mind before you visit.
The Caribbean island of St Lucia is warm, beautiful and friendly – and is also one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world. Popular with divers, adventurers and couples seeking a romantic getaway, Saint Lucia is a true paradise and an idyllic holiday destination.
If you’re planning a visit to St Lucia, it’s worth knowing a bit about the island before you visit. Here is some useful information about the island to note before you travel.
1. Geography and people
At just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, St Lucia is a small island which is part of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean Sea, between Martinique (21 miles away) and St Vincent (26 miles). The island of Barbados is 110 miles away, to the south east of St Lucia.
The island’s climate is sub-tropical, with tropical showers between June and November. These showers are usually sudden and over pretty quickly.
St Lucia is an independent democratic nation and is part of the British Commonwealth. While English is the official language of the island and is spoken very widely, St Lucians also speak a French Creole – Kweyol – commonly known as ‘Patois’. The vast majority – some 80% – of St Lucians are Roman Catholic. In common with the UK, St Lucians drive on the left hand side of the road, and mostly use three-pin square plugs on their electrical appliances – so remember to bring an adaptor when you visit the island from a country that doesn’t use three-pin square plugs.
2. Getting to St Lucia
There are two airports on the island. The international airport – Hewanorra at Vieux Fort – is served by a number of international airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, British Airways and Liat. The second airport – George F L Charles airport at Castries – is the airport for inter-island flights.
Cruise lines and local ferries tie up daily at Port Castries (the island’s main sea port) and Soufriere. Cruise ships anchor at Pointe Seraphine and La Place Carenage. There are marinas at Marigot Bay and Rodney Bay; unsurprisingly, St Lucia is a very popular destination for sailing enthusiasts.
3. Getting around the island
Minibus is a popular mode of transport for getting around St Lucia – but there isn’t a scheduled timetable, so knowing when to expect a bus can take a bit of practice! The minibus/bus is a very cost effective mode of transport, with fares ranging between EC$2.50 and EC$8.00 depending on the route.
Car is also a popular way to get around the island, with car hire available at several locations around St Lucia including airports, hotels and car hire outlets in the island’s main towns. Taxi, too, is a popular and convenient way for tourists to travel, although of course this can be a fairly expensive way to get around if you’re making many trips.
One of the nicest ways to see Saint Lucia is by taking a water taxi trip. Fares vary depending on the operative and the length of the trip. Ask your water taxi operative to show you the bat caves – this is really quite an experience!
4. Shopping in St Lucia
There are several great places to go shopping in St Lucia, the majority of these being in Castries and Rodney Bay. Castries Market, Pointe Seraphine and La Place Carenage – all in the island’s capital, Castries – are all highly recommended. Many of the island’s larger hotels have shops, boutiques or market stalls of one kind or another.
Duty free shopping is available at Pointe Seraphine and La Place Carenage (remember to show your passport), and at Hewanorra Airport’s departure lounge. The duty free allowance into St Lucia is 200 cigarettes or 250g or 50 cigars, and one litre of spirits or one litre of wine.
5. Money matters
St Lucia’s currency – the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, currency code XCD – is linked to the US dollar at a rate of US$1 to EC$2.70. You’ll find that US dollars are accepted in many shops, bars and restaurants around the island, and often you’ll see prices listed in both US and EC dollars – so do make sure you know which is which before you order.
Banks on the island are open from 8am to 2pm Monday to Thursday, and from 8am to 5pm on Fridays. Major international credit and debit cards are widely accepted around St Lucia, but should you find you need to withdraw cash during your stay, there are plenty of ATMs around the island.
Tips are not automatically added to bills, but it is customary on St Lucia to tip bell hops, taxi drivers and other service providers about 10-12% of the bill. On hotel and restaurant bills a government tax of 8% is added, while a 10% service charge is also applicable (sometimes these are included in the price you’ve been quoted, so if in doubt it’s best to ask).