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St Lucia

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St Lucia Itineraries

St Lucia’s Best Eco-Attractions

Rainforests, mountains, charming villages and oh so perfect beaches

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Saint Lucia is one of the most naturally beautiful destinations in the Caribbean. The island’s landmark twin-peak mountains, Petit Piton and Gros Piton,  have UNESCO World Heritage status. Rainforests, beaches, marine life, and the world’s only “drive-in” volcanic crater are steadfastly protected by the government. Well-preserved gorgeousness is simply everywhere you look.

This independent island nation floats like a teardrop-shaped emerald between Martinique and Saint Vincent luring visitors to its unspoiled seashore, stunning mountain tops, and charming villages. French and British forces began fighting over the right to possess this fertile volcanic land early in the 16th century with Britain winning ultimate control in 1814. The island officially proclaimed its autonomy in 1979.

Because of her striking beauty and the willingness of men to fight over her, St Lucia has been nicknamed Helen of the West Indies, after the mythological Helen of Troy, who was considered the most beautiful woman in the world and the cause of many battles, including the Trojan War.


Beach Time

Every Caribbean vacation must include ample beach time, and that should certainly be at the top of your must-do list.  Of the more than 20 beaches on St Lucia, choose Reduit Beach for swimming and relaxing on more than a mile of soft golden sand. Scuba or snorkel at Anse Chastanet, where the close-in reef is recognized as one of the best in the Caribbean. Or try Sugar Beach, which spreads below the Twin Pitons and features an ideal drift dive over Superman’s Flight. If you’re looking for romance or just a bit of peace and quiet, take a boat over to secluded Anse Cochon and hide out for an entire afternoon.

All beaches on St Lucia are public, and resorts built on the waterfront must provide access to the beach. Some rent water sports gear and lounge chairs to non-guests.


Out on the Island

This is one of the most mountainous islands in the Caribbean and much of the interior is covered by a thick rainforest. The capital is Castries, a busy city on the west coast that draws shoppers and photographers to its long-running produce and crafts markets. Soufriere is the old French capital and full of narrow streets lined with 18th-century buildings painted in vivid colors. It sits below the Pitons and is home to the Drive-In Volcano, a massive crater that steams and belches a sulfurous stench that will remind you of the high school chemistry lab.

Horseshoe shaped Rodney Bay is a touristy spot with a marina, shops, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and a casino. Just to the north, the little fishing village of Gros Islet hosts a Friday night street party called a Jump Up. Visitors are welcome to join the locals as they kick off the weekend with loud music, dancing in the street, food cooked on portable grills, and plenty of rum.

Marigot Bay has been the setting for several movies, and you’ll understand why when you see the luxury resorts tucked into the flora-covered hills surrounding a sheltered cove. Stop here to enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants, peek into the shops, and sign up for a boat tour of the island.

Vieux Fort is at the far southern tip of  St Lucia with excellent views across the sea to St Vincent. This is the place for windsurfing and bird watching. Around on the eastern coast, the Atlantic batters the rocky shore, and board surfers love to test the waves.


When To Go

St Lucia is wonderful any time of the year. There’s always something going on and the weather is regularly humid and warm. However, hurricane season runs from June through November, so you may want to plan your trip outside that period. But, unless a hurricane is brewing in the area, it rarely rains all day, and showers tend to come in heavy, brief downpours.

Music lovers will enjoy visiting in early May when the St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival takes place at Pigeon Island National Park. Although May is technically a shoulder season month, hotel rates remain high and the island is full of tourists during the festival.

High season runs from mid-December until mid-April. This is the time when airfares and room rates are at their peak. It’s also when the island is most crowded with tourists. Think about visiting during shoulder season, usually the months of May and November, when prices tend to be lower.

How Much Time To Spend

A week on the island will give you enough time to see the major attractions and enjoy plenty of beach time. Add extra days if you plan to learn or enjoy specific water sports, such as scuba or wind surfing.

High and Low Season

St Lucia is a year-round destination, but visitors rush to the island during the winter months to escape the wet and cold at home. This makes mid-April to June the ideal time to visit; after the busy high season and before the summer rains begin. Fall also is a good option, say late October to mid-December; after the summer storm season and before the holiday crowds arrive. Throughout the year, you can expect daytime temperatures in the mid-80s.

Weather and Climate

The mountain areas are cooler than the coast, and evenings can be cool year round, especially near the water. Be sure to pack a sweater or light jacket.

Take hurricane season seriously, but not too seriously. Buy some travel insurance that covers weather-related cancellations, then forget about it.

Events and Holidays

January (1st): New Year’s Day

February (third Monday): Independence Day

Late March/early April: Good Friday Friday before Easter,

Late March/early April: Easter Monday Monday after Easter

May 1: Labor Day

Eighth Monday after Easter: Whit Monday

August 1: Emancipation Day

October 3: Thanksgiving Day

November 11th: Veteran’s Day

December 13: National Day

December (25th): Christmas

December (26th): Boxing Day

Check the website QPPStudio.net for a current listing of this year’s holidays.

The St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival takes place at Pigeon Island National Park in early May.

Time Zone

St Lucia is on Atlantic Standard Time
GMT/UTC-04:00

The island does not observe Daylight Savings Time.

What To Pack and Wear

Pack light.

Shorts, tropical shirts, sundresses, swimwear and a cover up is all you’ll need during the day.

Bring a sweater, wrap, or windbreaker for cooler evenings and breezy outings on the water.

If you plan to hit the finer restaurants and nightspots, women should bring a sundress or lightweight pants and tops, plus a shawl or sweater. Men will need a collared shirt and lightweight slacks. Only the most luxurious places require a coat and tie.

Don’t forget plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and a sun hat.

What it Costs

Expect to spend about US$100-US$200 per day per person for a vacation in St Lucia. Of course, the upper end is infinite, and boutique hotels or trendy resorts will add significantly to your expenses. During high season, a standard hotel room will cost about $100 per night for two people. A luxury resort will probably run about $400 per night, with an all-inclusive upper-end resort averaging around $600. Be sure to figure in taxes and additional fees.

Food may be one of your highest expenses, and St Lucia has many tempting restaurants. If you’re on a budget, plan to have your main meal at noon, when restaurant prices tend to be lower.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, season, and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $US.

See & Do

N/A => Not applicable

Free

$ => Tickets less than $10 per person

$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person

$$$ => Tickets $26 per person

Sleep

$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double

$$ => Rooms $200 for a double

$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double

Eat

$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)

$$ => $16-22 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)

$$$ => $23 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)

Tours

$ => Tickets less than $10 per person

$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person

$$$ => Tickets $26 per person

Currency Converter

The official currency of St Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC), but US dollars are widely accepted at all but the smallest businesses on the island. Many hotels and restaurants quote prices in US dollars.

EC bills are available in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. EC coins come in $0.01, $0.02, $0.05, $0.10, $0.25, and $1 denominations.

The exchange rate is fixed to the US dollar at $1(USD) = $2.70(EC). The rate is floating for all other currency.

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh. But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts.

So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.

 Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.

There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill.

There are some great deals here if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save on  a typical week’s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)

Did You Know: Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to St Lucia goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall into this category.

Medical — Health services are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.

Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” … no matter what.

Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

If you have pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the bindumedia.com – expert itineraries, infinite possibilities travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.

For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.

Exchange Rates and Currency

EC bills are available in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. EC coins come in $0.01, $0.02, $0.05, $0.10, $0.25, and $1 denominations.

The exchange rate is fixed to the US dollar at $1(USD) = $2.70(EC). The rate is floating for all other currency.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

ATMs

If you get money from an ATM machine, you may incur charges (often $2 or $3 per transaction). Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, St Lucia banks will allow you to get cash without an extra charge.

Credit Cards

Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout St Lucia. Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. This goes for U.S. residents traveling to St Lucia.

If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card — which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.

Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any travel experience, whether urban or rural. Tipping is most relevant to dining out and hotel stays, but other costs should also be taken into consideration.

General guidelines include:

Restaurants:

For excellent service, plan to tip 20% on the total bill, before taxes. For less-than- stellar service, 10-15% is customary, as an imperfect experience is often not solely the responsibility of the server. In many towns, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions.

Oh, and one more complication:

Sometimes a tip is automatically included. But at least it probably will be itemized in plain sight on the bill.

Consider tipping servers with cash even when you pay your bill by credit card. It isn’t unusual for tips to be split among all employees or for management to take a cut off the top.

Hotels:

Most bell staff receive $1-$2 per bag they assist with; if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, expect to tip $5-$10.

Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2-$3 per day and about $5 per day in higher end properties.

At properties with concierge services, consider tipping concierge staff who assist you in planning activities, making reservations or acquiring tickets, or simply orienting you with driving directions or public transportation info. Current etiquette calls for $10-$20 per person, per day for concierge help. Car valet staff expect $1-$2 for delivering you your car. Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) usually see 20% tips on their services, whether performed at the spa or in your room.

Other costs:

Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.

Transportation

St Lucia has two airports. Most international jet flights enter through Hewanorra International Airport (UVF); shorter flights from other Caribbean islands land at George Charles Airport (SLU).

Once you’re on the island, the best way to get around is by rental car, which gives you the most flexibility and may work out to be the least expensive.

If you’re on a tight budget or just enjoy the challenge of traveling like a local, the island’s minivan bus service is the way to go. These buses run frequently and have standard routes in the north part of the island, say from the capital of Castries to Gros Islet on the north coast. Just hop on one of the privately owned, 14-seaters at any marked stop or flag down a driver anywhere along the main routes on the coastal road. Your hotel can direct you to the marked stops and map out the most common routes.

Taxis are another good way to get around and many drivers are trained and licensed tour guides. Look for them at the airport, ports, and taxi stands scattered around the island. Your hotels can call a taxi for you or give you the number for calling one yourself. You also can flag down a taxi that you will recognize by a red TX on the license plate.

Getting There

There are two airports: Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) at Vieux Fort is the larger of the two airports and is located in the southern town of Vieux Fort; George F. L. Charles Airport (SLU) is near the capital city of Castries.

Delta, jetBlue, American, and United offer direct flights from the US.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, WestJet, Air Canada, Caribbean Airlines, and Air France have flights from other destinations.

Background

Just the Facts

Current Capital: Castries
Original Capital: Soufrière was the original French capital of the island
Official Language: English
Location: The Windward Islands, south of Martinique
Geographic coordinates: 13.9094° N, 60.9789° W
Terrain: High peaks and rainforests in the interior; the coast is lined with soft-sand beaches and excellent natural harbors.
Elevation: Mount Gimie is the highest peak at 3,143 ft/958 m.

History

For the Record

St. Lucia’s first inhabitants were South American Arawak Indians who settled on the island around 200 CE. By 800 CE Carib tribes had seized control and these Amerindians were most likely the ones who greeted the first Europeans to arrived sometime between 1492 and 1502 during Spain’s early explorations.

Legend claims that Columbus landed on the island on Saint Lucia Day in 1492, but there is no official record of that, and the story is most likely false. The first documented European settler was a French pirate named François Le Clerc, nicknamed Jambe de Bois/ Wooden Leg.

During the 17th century, Dutch, French, and English settlers tried to set up trading posts on the island, but the Caribs fought back with violent hostility. The English were having more luck on nearby Barbados; the French were successfully making claims on nearby Martinique.For the next 150 years, both countries continued to fight for the right to colonize St Lucia.

Finally, in 1815, after the island had been tossed back and forth 14 times, Britain won out and France relinquished all claims to St Lucia. In 1838, the island became a member of the British Windward Islands Administration.

The 20th Century

St Lucia began the long struggle to govern itself during the early 1900s and the island joined the semi-autonomous West Indies Federation at mid-century. In 1962, the United Kingdom and six Caribbean islands, including St Lucia, joined forces to form an associated statehood. St. Lucia attained full independence in February 1979.

Today, the island is an active member of the British Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth II is the island’s titular head of state.

Culture

A Blend of Traditions

Every past and present inhabitant of St Lucia has added to the island’s unique culture. The British hold the most sway, but there are many remnants of other societies, including the Amerindians, Dutch, French, and Africans. You’ll see evidence of these mixed influences in the food, celebrations, town names, music, and language.

For such a small country, the island is famous for an incredible number of successes. St Lucians Sir W. Arthur Lewis holds a Nobel Prize in Economics and  Derek Walcott has a Nobel Prize for Literature.  The yearly Jazz Festival is recognized internationally as a top cultural event which draws famous performers from around the world.

Etiquette

Use the same good manners you use at home.

Do say hello when you pass someone on the street, and be respectful when you ask for directions or help.

Don’t try an accent, and skip the street slang. You’ll just sound silly.

Do wear a cover-up over your swimsuit everywhere except on the beach or at a pool.

Don’t go topless or nude. Some islands have designated resorts or beaches for that sort of thing. Otherwise, it’s illegal.

Do put a towel down before you get into a taxi wearing a wet swimsuit.

Don’t snap a photo of anyone without asking permission. Ask someone on staff before taking a picture of merchandise in a shop or outdoor
stall.

Do tip appropriately, even generously. Most service providers count on tips as a major part of their salary.

Don’t complain about things that cannot be fixed: the weather, the price of food and other imported products, slow internet speed.

Do accept “island time.”  Relax. Breathe. Forget schedules. Expect delays.

Cuisine

What’s Cooking?

Top restaurant chefs and snack shack cooks depend on herbs, spices, fish, and local produce to create inspired dishes with a Creole twist. Most of the restaurants are located in the larger towns: Castries, Soufrière, Rodney Bay, and Gros Islet. You will find basic fast food like pizza and burgers to elegant meals that emphasize or blend Asian, Indian, French, and Italian cuisine.

Fish fries are popular social events, and the villages of Gros Islet and Anse la Rey have Friday night street parties that feature fresh seafood cooked on portable grills.

French and Indian recipes and cooking methods influence the local cuisine, which is known for its attractive presentation and island-grown ingredients, including plantains, green figs, and salt fish.

Coconut water is an island favorite, and you can buy it from street vendors and drink it right out of the cracked shell. Tropical fruit juices are another great thirst quencher, either plain or mixed into a cocktail. St Lucia has a rum distillery and makes a pilsner beer named after the landmark Piton Mountains. Locals like to mix Piton beer with ginger ale, lemon, or sorrel to create a shandy.

Language


English is the official language, but locals often speak Kweyol, a French-based patois.

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