St Lucia

About St Lucia

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Although many tourists are not very familiar with St Lucia, it has grown increasingly popular in the last few years. And so accommodations, attractions and facilities have greatly improved. Rodney Bay and Marigot Bay are dotted by most of the all inclusive and luxury resorts. The locals are incredibly friendly and hospitable. Wonderful Creole and international meals can be enjoyed, and great duty-free deals can be found.
But the biggest attraction of the island is its natural beauty and surroundings. This volcanic island has two incredible pitons, a tropical rainforest, sulphur springs, mineral baths and a drive-in volcano. Numerous parks and reserves offer incredible trails to explore by foot, bike or on horseback. St Lucia is a true gem and has rightly earned its nickname Helen of the West Indies

Capital :
Castries Currency : Eastern Caribbean dollar Driver's License : International driver's license required or a temporary St. Lucia's driver's license (US $20) must be purchased. Must be 25 years old and have a credit card. Electricity : 220 V, 50Hz. A few hotels have 110 V, 60Hz Entry Requirements : A passport, valid 6 months beyond intended stay, and an ongoing or return ticket are required. It is the traveller's responsibility to check with the country’s Embassy for up-to-date information. GMT Time : -4hr. Daylight savings time is not applied Government : Independant democratic nation within the British Commonwealth. Land size : 616 km2 Language : English, French patois National Airlines : None Population : 166,312 approx Religion : Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 7%, Anglican 3%, other 10% Required Vaccines : None Tourist Season : December through May

St Lucia offers a very diverse cuisine with many influences. The main inspiration of the traditional dishes is from the West Indian, French and Creole cuisine. Hints of Asian, British and American tastes can also be detected.

Fish and seafood make up most traditional dishes, such as conch chowder, Creole fish, fried jackfish and the ever popular national dish consisting of salt fish and green figs. Other popular dishes are fried plantain, rotis, pepper pot stew and callaloo soup. Cassava, breadfruit and sweet potatoes are very present as well.

Desserts are often laced with locally cultivated fruits like bananas, coconuts, guavas, mangoes, papayas, passion fruit and pineapples.

The locally brewed Piton Lager beer can be found and, of course, a great selection of rum from the St Lucia Rum Distillery in the Roseau Valley.

Culture The various ethnic groups that make up today's St Lucia have all brought different traditions. The two biggest influences are the French, with the cuisine and the arts, and British, through the political, educational and administrative systems.

St. Lucia is proud of its two Nobel Prizewinners: the late Sir W. Arthur Lewis, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1979, and poet Derek Walcott, who won the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature. . Great art and crafts are produced by the people here. Batik and silkscreen designs are wonderful.

The Creole Heritage Month, know as Jounen Kwélyol Entenaysonnal, is celebrated throughout the month of October, by hosting Creole food fairs, dancing lessons and demonstrations, and historic walking tours.

Geography St Lucia is part of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. Its 158 km of coastlines are bathed by the Caribbean Sea to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The island measures 43 km long and 22 km at its widest.

This volcanic island is quite mountainous with lush forests and some broad, fertile valleys. Beaches dot the perimeter. The highest point is Mount Gimie at 950 m above sea level. Castries is the capital and other notable towns include Gros Islet, Soufrière and Vieux Fort.

History The first settlers of the island were the Arawak Indians, arriving around the 3rd century AD. By the 8th century AD the Arawaks were over taken by the cannibalistic Caribs. Christopher Columbus is said to have identified the island in 1499 but probably never landed on its shores. Several attempts to colonize the islands failed until the French bought the island in 1651. The next 150 years consisted of battles between the French and the British over ownership. After 14 changes of hand, the British won the final battle in 1814.

The country's economy was based on the sugar plantations, worked by West African slaves sent to the New World. Slavery was finally abolished in 1838. The 13,000 freed slaves made up close to 90% of the population. Today banana crops have replaced the sugar plantations. The island gained its independence on February 22, 1979.

Nature This island offers incredibly varied natural settings that are great source of pride for the local. Environmental efforts are very present, whether inland or beyond its shoreline with its beautiful coral reefs. The tropical rainforests display giant ferns, birds of paradise, jasmine, scarlet chenille and wild orchids. There are sulphur springs, natural waterfall, mineral baths, mangroves and cactus valleys also to explore. But most recognizable to St Lucia are the two volcanic cones: the Gros Piton at 797 m and the Petit Piton at 750 m.

The tiny Maria Islands, now a nature reserve, are home to two species found nowhere else in the world: the Kouwes snake and the Zandoli Te lizard. The male lizards can be identified by their blue tail. From mid-March to the end of July, on the north coast, you can observe the leatherback turtles nest on the beaches.

Many of the parks and refuges are inhabited by numerous bird species. There are many indigenous species, like the colourful St Lucia Parrot, known as a Jacquot, the White Breasted Thrasher, the St Lucia Peewee, and the St Lucia Oriole.

Sports Hiking and biking are a wonderful way to explore the many nature parks and reserve found on St Lucia. Discover old sugar plantations, secluded beaches and waterfalls hidden in the rainforest. Those looking for a challenging hike can even go up the Gros Piton. Another option is horseback riding.

Water sports are very popular too, like sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, water-skiing and parasailing. Excursions can take you out on a deep-sea fishing expedition. Diving and snorkelling is excellent in St Lucia. This volcanic island is surrounded by wonderful array of coral, sponge and marine life. There are even a few sunken ships.

Golfers will enjoy the St Lucia's Golf and Country Club which has an 18-hole golf course with a par 71. The Sandals St. Lucia and the La Toc Golf Course which offers a 9 hole par 33 course.

St Lucians are big fans of soccer and cricket.

Banks & Money
The legal tender is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar. Money can be exchanged in the many banks and change offices found though out the island. There are also numerous ATM machines across the island as well.

Most credit cards and Traveller's cheques are accepted at all large shopping centres, restaurants, hotels, etc.

Climate The climate on the island is tropical, which is tempered by breezy trade winds, with temperatures oscillating between 21 C and 32 C. The rainy season is from June to November. The water temperature hovers around 26 C.

For monthly average temperatures please refer to your destination of choice.

Communication Telephone services have been modernized, as have cellular roaming service, and offer direct dialling. The country code for St Lucia is 758.

Internet dial-up access can be found in hotels or Internet cafes. Cable TV is available in most hotels. Local newspapers include The Crusader, The Mirror, The Star and The Voice of St Lucia.

Health The water is safe to drink. Fruits and vegetables should be peeled or thoroughly washed before consumption. Mosquitoes and flies can be bothersome in the rain forest or during the odd rain shower, so bring repellent.

There are no required vaccines to enter the country, unless you are arriving from a yellow fever affected destination. The following vaccines are recommended for any tropical destination: hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever.

Official Holidays January 1 - New Year's Day February 22 - Independence Day March/April - Good Friday/Easter Monday May 1 - Labour Day May/June - Whit Monday August - Emancipation Day October - Thanksgiving Day December 13 - National Holiday December 25 - Christmas Day December 26 - Boxing Day

Safety St Lucia is considered relatively safe and enjoys a low crime rate. However as a tourist you are more likely to be a target of petty crime.

Use good judgement, take advantage of the safety deposit boxes provided by the hotels, do not leave valuables unattended in public and carry your wallet and camera discreetly. Also make sure to lock your hotel room and rental car.

Shopping The 100-year old Castries market is a must-see for visitors to the island. Local vendors and artisans sell souvenirs, spices and foods, and the fishermen display the daily catch. You can head to the 100 year-old Caribelle hilltop house and the Choiseul Arts & Crafts center for more local handicraft. Traditional St Lucian crafts are batik and silkscreen designs, as well as hand-woven and wood craft.

Duty-free shopping (with passport or airline ticket in hand), offering great deals on designer perfumes, crystal, china, jewellery, cigars and clothing, is available at a few shopping centers: Pointe Seraphine, La Place Carenage and J.Q. Mall.

Taxes & Tips The departure tax of around EC $68, per person, is payable cash at the airport when leaving the country.

There is no sales tax on purchased goods. Hotels and restaurants add an 8% government tax and, in most cases, a 10% service fee in lieu of tipping, make sure to inquire. If no service fee is added, it is customary to leave about 10% to 15% of the bill. Taxi drivers appreciate also a 10% to 15% tip, porters should receive $1 per bag.

Transportation Most flights arrive at Hewanorra International. A few flights, mostly charter, arrive at Georges F.L. Charles Airport. Short flights between other islands are easy and affordable with small charter companies like Caribbean Star, BWIA Express and LIAT. Helicopter transfers are available between Hewanorra International and Castries or Soufrière. Small ferries travel daily from Port Castries to Soufriere and larger ones travel to other Caribbean destinations.

St Lucians drive on the LEFT side. To rent a car you must purchase a temporary driver's permit (US$20), if you do not have an international driver's license, which is valid for three months. Scooters can also be rented. Taxis charge fixed rates set by the government. Minibuses can be hired as taxis for groups. Buses run frequently along the coastal and interior routes are inexpensive.

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