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Saint Lucia travel guide - Travel S helper

Saint Lucia

travel guide

Saint Lucia is a sovereign island nation located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, near the Atlantic Ocean’s border. It is situated north/northeast of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados, and south of Martinique. It has a land area of 617 kilometers (238.23 square miles) and a population of 165,595 people as of the 2010 census. Castries is the capital.

The French were the first Europeans to settle on the island. In 1660, they made a pact with the indigenous Carib Indians. From 1663 until 1667, England ruled the island. It was at war with France 14 times in the subsequent years, and the island’s rulers changed often (it was seven times each ruled by the French and British). The British gained full possession of the island in 1814. Saint Lucia was often dubbed the “Helen of the West Indies” due to its frequent transition between British and French rule.

In 1840, representative government was established (with universal suffrage from 1953). The island was a member of the Federation of the West Indies from 1958 to 1962. Saint Lucia became an independent Commonwealth of Nations member state affiliated with the United Kingdom on 22 February 1979. Saint Lucia is a hybrid jurisdiction, which means that its legal system is influenced by both civil and common law. St. Lucia’s 1867 Civil Code was based on the 1866 Quebec Civil Code, augmented with English common law-style laws. Additionally, it is a member of La Francophonie.

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Saint Lucia - Info Card

Population

184,961

Currency

East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Time zone

UTC−4 (AST)

Area

617 km2 (238 sq mi)

Calling code

+1 758

Official language

English

Saint Lucia | Introduction

Tourism in Saint Lucia

Tourism is vital to the economy of Saint Lucia. Its economic importance is expected to increase further as the banana market becomes more competitive. Tourism is most important during the dry season (January to April). St Lucia is popular for its tropical climate and landscape, as well as its many beaches and resorts.

Other tourist attractions include an open-air volcano, Sulphur Springs (in Soufriere), botanical gardens, the majestic twin peaks “The Pitons”, a World Heritage Site, rainforests and Pigeon Island National Park, home to Fort Rodney, a former British military base.

The majority of tourists visit Saint Lucia on a cruise. They spend most of their time in Castries, but Soufriere, Marigot Bay and Gros Islet are also popular destinations.

Weather & Climate in Saint Lucia

The local climate is tropical, tempered by north-easterly trade winds, with a dry season from 1 December to 31 May and a rainy season from 1 June to 30 November.

Average daytime temperatures are around 29°C, average nighttime temperatures are around 18°C. As the country is quite close to the equator, the temperature does not vary much between winter and summer. Average annual precipitation ranges from 1300 mm on the coast to 3810 mm in the mountain rainforests.

Geography of Saint Lucia

The volcanic island of St Lucia is more mountainous than most Caribbean islands. The highest point is Mount Gimie, which is 950 metres above sea level. Two other mountains, the Pitons, are the island’s most famous landmarks. They are located between Soufriere and Choiseul on the western side of the island. Saint Lucia is also one of the few islands in the world to have an open-air volcano.

The capital of Saint Lucia is Castries (60,263 inhabitants), where 32.4% of the population live. The main towns are Gros Islet, Soufrière and Vieux Fort.

Demographics of Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia had a population of 165,595 in the 2010 census. In 2015, the United Nations Population Division estimated Saint Lucia’s population at 184,999. The country’s population is evenly split between urban and rural areas, with more than a third living in the capital, Castries.

Despite a high rate of emigration, the population is growing rapidly at about 1.2 per cent per year. Emigration from St Lucia is mainly to English-speaking countries, with the United Kingdom receiving almost 10,000 St Lucian-born citizens and over 30,000 people of St Lucian origin. The second most popular destination for Saint Lucian emigrants is the United States, where nearly 14,000 people (both foreign and local) live. A few thousand Saint Lucians live in Canada.

Ethnic groups

The population of Saint Lucia is predominantly of African and mixed African and European origin, with a small Indian-Caribbean minority (3%). Members of other and unspecified ethnic groups make up about 2% of the population.

Religion

About 70 % of the population is Roman Catholic, a legacy of the French colonisation of the island. The remaining 30 % belong to other Christian denominations, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church (7 %), Pentecostals (6 %), Anglicans (2 %) and other Evangelicals (2 %); in addition, about 2 % of the population belong to the Rastafarian movement.

Economy of Saint Lucia

An educated workforce and improved roads, communications, water, sanitation and port facilities have attracted foreign investment in tourism and oil storage and handling. However, with the United States, Canada and Europe in recession, tourism experienced a double-digit decline in early 2009. Recent changes in the European Union’s import preference regime and increasing competition from Latin American bananas have made economic diversification increasingly important in Saint Lucia.

St Lucia has been successful in attracting foreign business and investment, particularly in offshore banking and tourism, which are St Lucia’s main sources of income. The manufacturing sector is the most diversified in the Eastern Caribbean and the government is trying to revive the banana industry. Despite negative growth in 2011, economic fundamentals remain strong and GDP growth is expected to recover in the future.

Inflation has been relatively low, averaging 5.5% between 2006 and 2008. Saint Lucia’s currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), a regional currency shared by members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCL) issues the EC$, manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in member countries. In 2003, the government began a major restructuring of the economy, including the removal of price controls and the privatisation of the state-owned banana company.

Visa & Passport Requirements for Saint Lucia

Citizens of the following countries do not require a visa: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Begium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark (including Faroe Islands and Greenland), Dominica, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, South Korea, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Zambia.

For outbuildings :

  • The Dutch municipalities of Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius and the Dutch constituent states of Aruba, Curaçao and San Marino.
  • The French Overseas Communities of French Polynesia and St. Martin
  • The French overseas regions of Guyana, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
  • The British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St Helena and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
  • The three British Crown Dependencies (Crown Dependencies)
  • Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

If your nationality is not listed above, you will need to apply for a visa. At the moment, citizens of Haiti need a visa, but this is only temporary.

Most nationalities pay $50 for a single entry tourist visa. It lasts 6 weeks and can sometimes be extended at Saint Lucia Immigration.

You must have a completed application form, passport, photo ID, funds to cover your stay, the $50 fee and a ticket to travel from St Lucia to obtain the visa.

Everyone needs a passport except citizens of OECS countries. For stays of 6 months or less, citizens of Canada or the United States can enter with any identity card and proof of onward travel ticket.

How To Travel To Saint Lucia

By air

Saint Lucia has two airports,

  • George FL Charles Airport (SLU), which is located near Castries.
  • Hewanorra International (UVF), which is located near Vieux Fort.

George FL Charles Airport is closer to many of the all-inclusive resorts. It has a modest terminal and runway capable of handling inter-island commercial flights with ease. For less experienced pilots in high performance aircraft, the approach over the water and hills on either side of the runway can seem a little tedious, but the prevailing winds are generally favourable. The airport is right next to Vigie Beach, so you can enjoy the sun while you wait for your flight. The terminal is about two miles from the centre of Castries, so it’s a short walk if you don’t have a lot of luggage.

Hewanorra is the larger of the two airports on St Lucia. International flights from Europe and mainland North America arrive at this airport. Most resorts in northern St Lucia take an hour to an hour and a half drive from Hewanorra. However, driving north is a good way to experience the island unless you arrive at night. It is recommended to have a rental car available or take a taxi as public transport is inconsistent throughout the island. A taxi ride to the resort of Rodney Bay in the north of the island costs between $80 and $90.

For more information on both airports, visit the official website of the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority.

With the boat

Cruise ships (usually one or two at a time) are frequent visitors to the picturesque little port of Castries. An open-air shopping centre adjoins the main jetty and offers duty-free shopping. See “Shopping” below. Visiting St Lucia by cruise is a popular option for travellers. During the cruise season, many of the island’s attractions can be crowded due to the large number of ship visitors.

Ferries to and from the neighbouring islands are available, but quite expensive.

The most extensive official service is provided by Express des Isles, which serves Martinique, Guadeloupe, etc.

Channel Shuttles Inc. offers a slightly cheaper ferry service (235 ECD, including departure tax) to Martinique, departing from Castries on Wednesdays at 10:00 and Thursdays at 15:00. They can be contacted on 7139701/4518161 or their office is in the ferry terminal outside Castries.

Catamaran trips from Soufriere to Rodney Bay are also offered by a local tour company (to be updated).

How To Travel Around Saint Lucia

The main mode of transport for tourists in St Lucia is by taxi, whether organised by the hotel, taxi agency or individual operators. Tours organised by hotels are usually the most expensive way to travel, but they can provide food and drink. Using a local taxi company to organise your own adventure is much cheaper. Your hotel staff should be able to give you the number of a taxi office or taxi company they use regularly. Rates are usually fixed, but you can shop around for the best rate if you get several numbers. Many taxi drivers who shuttle between resorts and markets offer tours of the island for around $145 per van. Each van can hold between 6 and 12 people.

For budget travellers or adventurous tourists, local buses are a cheap and fun way to get around. These are small vans that seat 10-14 people and vary in quality. They run irregularly but frequently between rural towns and urban centres (e.g. Soufriere to Castries, Soufriere to Vieux Fort, Vieux Fort to Castries), with most going to Castries in the morning and returning to Soufriere in the late afternoon. They are very affordable and offer a unique experience each time; the vehicle operators often decorate the interior and play their own music, a mix of Caribbean or country flavours. If you want to try out transport, discuss your route and journey time with one of the local staff who are familiar with the bus system. Many of them probably use transport to get to and from work.

Water taxis are a major source of income for many residents and can be a much faster, more convenient and scenic way to travel short distances to private beaches or coastal towns. Many of the water taxi operators in Soufriere City are located on the pier. Fares for these drivers are somewhat high and can be negotiated down. There are a few taxi owners near the Hummingbird Hotel and Soufriere Beach who regularly play dominoes and sell drinks. They can offer a much cheaper fare. From Soufriere you can take a water taxi to the beaches of Anse Chastenet and Jalousie.

A helicopter taxi can be taken from Hewannora Airport to Vigie Airport. This is a quick and spectacular way to get to the northern resorts of the island.

It is also possible to rent a car at prices similar to those in the USA or Canada. There is left-hand traffic and you need a driving licence (US$12 for one day, US$21 for 3 months).

Things To See in Saint Lucia

  • The Pitons – Two volcanic plugs jutting out of the sea, formed by past volcanic activity. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are depicted on the national flag.
  • Pigeon Island Nature Reserve – located north of Gros Islet, the park is home to some of St Lucia’s oldest buildings and offers views of Martinique.

Things To Do in Saint Lucia

  • Sulphur Springs – just south of Soufriere, these hot springs are one of the island’s main attractions. The hot water flows into a pool, so don’t forget to pack your swimsuit and take a dip!
  • Hiking in the rainforest – there are several official hiking routes on the island. On the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries you will find links to information about the projects they support.
  • Climbing Gros Piton is an achievable goal for most people. The trail starts at about 180 m above sea level and requires about two hours of moderate to strenuous hiking to reach the summit at about 800 m above sea level. The descent takes another hour and a half. Guided tours are required and entry costs US$30. You can use taxis or local buses to get to the starting point of the hike.
  • Snorkelling is popular and a number of beaches are suitable for it.
  • Diving – on Pigeon Island, one of the island’s historic sites, and among the Pitons, a World Heritage Site. (758) 484 3346/ (758) 285 7354.
  • Zipline – Several courses are offered on the island. The courses in the northern part of the island are more complex and offer views of the tropical forests. The course in the Morne Coubaril area, near Soufrière, is easier and offers views of the Pitons.

Things To Do in Saint Lucia

  • Sulphur Springs – just south of Soufriere, these hot springs are one of the island’s main attractions. The hot water flows into a pool, so don’t forget to pack your swimsuit and take a dip!
  • Hiking in the rainforest – there are several official hiking routes on the island. On the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries you will find links to information about the projects they support.
  • Climbing Gros Piton is an achievable goal for most people. The trail starts at about 180 m above sea level and requires about two hours of moderate to strenuous hiking to reach the summit at about 800 m above sea level. The descent takes another hour and a half. Guided tours are required and entry costs US$30. You can use taxis or local buses to get to the starting point of the hike.
  • Snorkelling is popular and a number of beaches are suitable for it.
  • Diving – on Pigeon Island, one of the island’s historic sites, and among the Pitons, a World Heritage Site. (758) 484 3346/ (758) 285 7354.
  • Zipline – Several courses are offered on the island. The courses in the northern part of the island are more complex and offer views of the tropical forests. The course in the Morne Coubaril area, near Soufrière, is easier and offers views of the Pitons.

Food & Drinks in Saint Lucia

Food in Saint Lucia

Local

Food in St Lucia consists mainly of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and a variety of curry, jerk, rice and stew dishes. Pot au feu is a delicious stew traditionally from the indigenous cultures of the Caribbean and can be found in many local restaurants in Castries, Soufriere and Vieux-Fort. Vegetarian and meat roti are available in many small local restaurants. Ask any local for the best roti shop and they will tell you how to get there. Rotis are usually made fresh in the morning, which is highly recommended if you want to have a spicy meal early in the day. Local cuisine is prepared all over the island. Depending on where you are staying, ask a local if they know someone or something that prepares local dishes and you are sure to be welcomed somewhere nearby. Many rum shacks in rural places also prepare food if you let them know in advance. Fish, vegetable, chicken and goat dishes are very common and are usually accompanied by a variety of side dishes such as salad, plantains, breadfruit, macaroni and rice prepared in different ways.

For a quick snack, there are chicken and pork barbecue stands in every community on Friday nights. The food is well marinated and spicy. Soak up the sauce with a grilled or fried patty. Fried chicken and fish are also available and quite tasty.

Weekly festivals and parties are held in various communities around the island, where you can also sample a range of local products such as seafood, grilled meats, salads and drinks. These festivals are filled with dancing, drinking, food and music. Let yourself go, sample the cuisine and hone your skills. Don’t forget to ask what’s in the jars before you try the food. For the environmentally conscious: the black fish is a porpoise.

  • Friday evening: Anse La Raye “Seafood Friday
  • Friday evening: Rodney Bay Ski Jump
  • Every second Saturday: Canaris Creole Pot
  • Saturday: Dennery (East Coast) Fish Fry

International

Rodney Bay is populated by people from all over the world and the restaurants reflect this diversity. In a small space, you’ll find a variety of cuisines, from East Indian to Italian to local, of course.

Drinks in Saint Lucia

St Lucia has a fantastic rum punch. It’s hard to go wrong. Highly recommended:

  • Chairman’s Reserve (barrel-aged dark rum)
  • Crystal Lime (clear rum infused with lime)

Most bars offer both, even in small resorts.

Besides rum, Piton Lager is also brewed and bottled on the island and is quite good (although it has a slightly higher alcohol content than most American beers). It is usually available in eight-ounce bottles, often for US$1.

You can also see them in coolers: Heineken, Champagne, Wine, Water, Coke (usually $1 US)

Money & Shopping in Saint Lucia

Castries Market is a good place to buy gifts, as is the JQ Shopping Centre in Rodney Bay. There is also La Place Carenage, a duty-free shop and gift and souvenir shop in the main port of Castries. Here you will find quality jewellery, arts and crafts, ideal for gifts.

Supermarkets offer pretty good prices for rums produced or bottled on the island, for example Elements 8, Admiral Rodney and especially Chairman’s Reserve.

Cruise ship visits over the years have given rise to a duty-free shopping centre (on the harbour, in Point Seraphine, Castries) with jewellery, souvenirs, art, spirits and rum and other offerings typical of cruise ship customers.

Cheaper prices, “duty free”, can also be found in the island’s shopping centres and resorts. You may need a visitor’s pass to take advantage of duty-free.

Festivals & Holidays in Saint Lucia

St Lucia’s cultural festivals include the Rose and the Daisy, the former representing the indigenous St Lucian fraternal society known as the Order of the Rose, shaped in the mould of Rosicrucianism, and the latter its traditional rival, the indigenous St Lucian equivalent of Freemasonry, known as the Order of the Daisy. Clues to their origins as versions of pre-existing external secret societies can be found in a mural by Dunstan St Omer depicting the holy trinity of Osiris, Horus and Isis.

The biggest festival of the year is the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival. It takes place in early May at various locations around the island and attracts visitors and musicians from all over the world. The grand finale takes place on Pigeon Island, located in the north of the island.

Traditionally, St Lucia, like other Caribbean countries, celebrates a carnival before Lent. In 1999, the government moved the carnival to mid-July to avoid competition with the much larger Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and to attract more foreign visitors.

In May 2009, the people of Saint Lucia commemorated the 150th anniversary of the island’s Caribbean heritage.

Culture Of Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia’s culture has been influenced by African, Indian, French and English heritage. One of the minor languages is St. Lucian Creole French, which is spoken by almost the entire population.

Saint Lucia has the second highest ratio of Nobel laureates to total population of any sovereign country in the world. Two laureates are from Saint Lucia: Sir Arthur Lewis was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1979 and the poet Derek Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.

Music and dance

Besides Caribbean music genres such as calypso, soca, dancehall, reggae, compas, zouk and salsa, Saint Lucia has a strong tradition of indigenous folk music. Since 1991, Saint Lucia has hosted an internationally renowned jazz festival every May. In 2013, the festival was renamed The Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, which encompasses culture, visual arts, alternative music, education, fashion and food.

Dancing in Saint Lucia comes from the Caribbean and is very active.

A popular folk dance is the Kwadril.

Kitchen

The national dish of Saint Lucia is green fig and salted fish.

The island’s cuisine is a unique blend of West African, European (mainly British and French) and Indian; resulting in vibrant dishes such as macaroni pie, stewed chicken, rice and peas, hearty fish broths or water, hearty soups with fresh, locally grown vegetables. Typical staples are potatoes, onions, celery, thyme, coconut milk, the very hot Scotch Bonnet pepper, flour and cornmeal. All common meats and poultry are eaten in St Lucia; meats and seafood are usually braised and browned to create a rich sauce, sometimes served over staples or rice. The island is also home to the famous fried pastry, bake, which others call “Johnny Cake”.

These casseroles can be served with a variety of accompaniments, such as salted fish, either sautéed or lightly fried with red and green peppers, onions and well seasoned. This is the most common way of preparation. If you don’t like seafood, other meats such as braised chicken or beef can be served with it. One of the best desserts that Saint Lucians prepare is called “Turnover”. This pastry is made from sweetened coconut that is cooked with spices, sugar and anything else that is satisfying. The coconut is cooked until it turns a light or dark brown colour, then the mixture is divided into different sized portions and placed on a rolled out piece of dough. The size of the dough can also vary depending on the quantity desired. Finally, the dough is baked in the oven until the colour of the “turnover” is nice and golden.

Due to the Indian-Caribbean population in St Lucia, curry is very popular, but due to the mixture of cooking styles, curry dishes have a distinctly Caribbean feel. Roti is usually served as a quick meal, the bread itself is very flat (sometimes very thin) and is wrapped around curried vegetables such as chickpeas and potatoes, seafood such as prawns and mussels, or meat such as chicken, beef, goat and liver.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Saint Lucia

Stay Safe in Saint Lucia

St Lucia is not an incredibly dangerous place, but the rates of murder, rape and assault have risen dramatically in recent years. You should exercise the same caution that you would at home. Also, try to stay in groups and be careful in remote areas. Robberies at gunpoint in water are an increasingly popular criminal activity, so hide your valuables well. Pickpockets exist in all countries – just be careful in crowded places.

The use of camouflage bags is illegal in St Lucia unless you are a member of the military. If you turn up at the airport with such a bag, it will be confiscated.

Street vendors are definitely less aggressive than in most Caribbean countries. A simple “no thank you” is enough.

Some locals will offer you gifts when you stop, but don’t be naive, they expect something in return. So refuse the gift in the first place or be prepared to pay a dollar or two for the “gift” offered. These people are very poor and unemployment is high. So tourists are often their only way to earn a little money.

Driving can be fun, but you need to be a safe driver as driving on the left side, the roads can be narrow, steep and in poor condition. A 4×4 or similar high safety vehicle is required if you want to venture into the mountains. There is only one main road so it is difficult to get lost, but if you do, the locals will help you find your way.

Sexual acts between men are illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison, although it is not known to what extent this provision is enforced. Homosexual travellers should be safer here than in Jamaica, for example. However, caution is advised and public displays of affection can be met with hostility. There is no law explicitly prohibiting lesbianism.

Stay Healthy in Saint Lucia

This island is made up of a series of hills and mountains. The main west coast road is the most dizzying series of hairpin bends you’ll ever see, especially between Castries and Soufriere. The east coast road is more direct, but it still takes about 90 minutes to get from Hewannora Airport (UVF) to Castries and Gros Islet in the north. In anticipation of the commute, those staying in the north who are prone to motion sickness should carry Dramamine and take it immediately upon arrival at Hewannora Airport.

Tap water is safe to drink, but bottled water is widely available for those who want it.

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