About St. Lucia
St. Lucia is an independent democratic Caribbean nation and a part of the British Commonwealth. Nicknamed “The Helen of the West”, she is located between Martinique and St. Vincent, and to the north-west of Barbados. The island is a mere 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, totalling of 238 square miles. Below are key things to know when planning a visit to this island. By paying attention to these helpful tips, you will surely be ready for your visit. Get those bathing suits out for your trip to this beautiful island.
St. Lucia is warm and welcoming all year round but experiences it's rainy season during the months of June to November. The peak visiting periods for the island are usually mid-December through to mid-April as well as during the St. Lucia Jazz Festival and St. Lucia Carnival events which are early May and June to July, respectively.
By Air – the most popular way to get to the island is by air. Many airlines around the world provide flights to the island. These include, but are not limited to:
- US: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue & United Airlines
- Canada: Air Canada, Sunwing Airlines, Transat & WestJet
- UK & Germany: British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Fly Thomas Cook & Condor
- Caribbean: Air Caraibes, Air Antilles, Caribbean Airlines & LIAT
By Sea – the island is well serviced by ferries and cruise liners, thus making St. Lucia easily accessible by water. These ships dock daily at Port Castries and Soufriere.
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Foreign nationals visiting or entering St. Lucia are required to have a valid passport (for no less than 3 months) from their country. Visas are not required where the visitor is a US, UK or Canadian citizen or where there is an agreement for exemption between home country and St. Lucia. Other countries do require visas.
There are two main airports in St. Lucia: Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) and George F.L. Charles Airport.
Hewanorra International Airport, located in Vieux Fort, is 40 miles south of Castries, the capital city while George F.L. Charles Airport is an inter-island airport which is just outside of Castries.
Departure tax is included in the ticket price for any passenger 12 years and over leaving the island via air, while for passengers leaving via sea travel, the departure tax is EC$33 or US$13 to be paid at the time of the departure.
Sub-tropical climate is found almost year-round in St. Lucia. However during certain months, specifically June to November, you can expect substantial rain. This period is known as the rainy season in the region. December and January are considered to be the coolest months, June through to August tend to be the hottest and September and October are the most humid.
There are generally four ways to travel within the island:
- Minibuses and taxis – This is the main ground transportation in St. Lucia. Bus fares range from EC$2.50 to EC$8.00, while taxi fares vary depending on the destination and the nature of the trip. Minibuses have a green number plate with an M prefix while taxis have a light blue number plate with a TX prefix. When travelling on the minibus, simply let the conductor or driver know where you need to go, and he'll stop at the appropriate place.
- Car rental – Cars, SUVs and scooters can be booked in advance or once you arrive on the island. To rent a car, you must be at least 25 years old and own a credit card. All visitors also require a temporary driver’s licence to rent a vehicle, and these can be easily obtained by presenting a valid driver’s licence on arrival at the airport, at the police station in Castries or any car rental office. If you do not have an international driver’s licence, you must purchase a temporary St. Lucia driving permit for $21 ($53 EC). This is valid for three months and can be obtained at the car-rental office or the immigration office at either airport.
- Ferries – This is mostly for between island travel, as several ferry lines connect St. Lucia with Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe.
- Helicopters – Not only are these available for aerial tours of the island, but they are available to make transfers between the local airports. Transfers between Hewanorra and George FL Charles airports reduce the travel time between the south and north of the island.
The opening hours of most banks in St. Lucia are:
- Monday to Thursday: 8:00am - 2:00pm
- Friday 8:00am - 5:00pm
The currency of St. Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollar. However, US dollars are also accepted across the island. The exchange rate for these two currencies is $1 US = $2.70 EC. Major international cards and traveller’s cheques are also widely accepted across the island. However, ATMs only dispense local currency. Major banks on the island include Bank of St. Lucia, Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), FirstCaribbean International Bank, and Royal Bank of Canada.
There is no shortage of churches to attend in St. Lucia, as almost 80% of all St. Lucians are Roman Catholic. Times of the services vary however, so after you arrive at your hotel, it is best to request additional information on nearby church services.
Crime in St. Lucia is minimal and well under control. However visitors should still take the necessary precautions, for example refraining from flaunting wealth (such as wearing expensive jewellery, producing large wads of cash, etc.), locking your doors, securing valuables and avoiding venturing into areas that may appear unsafe.
There are some duty free allowances in St. Lucia. For arriving passengers, the duty free allowance is 200 cigarettes, a half pound of tobacco or 50 cigars and 40 fluid ounces of wines or spirits. Duty free shopping is available at select places across the island including Pointe Seraphine, La PlaceCarenage, the shopping malls and the departure lounge at Hewanorra Airport.
The voltage in St. Lucia is 220 Volts, 20 cycles AC (a few hotels carry 110 Volts, 60 cycles). Adaptors are usually available at the various resorts.
- Police, Fire and Ambulance - Tel: 911.
- Police Headquarters - Bridge Street, Castries, Tel: +1 758-452-2854
- Police Rapid Response Unit - Tel: +1 758-452-2854 ext. 167.
- Lucia Tourist Board - Tel: +1 758-452-5968/453-0053/452-4094.
In an emergency, call 911 but there are five medical facilities across the island:
- Victoria Hospital: +1 758-452-2421/7059
- Jude's Hospital Vieux Fort: +1 758-454-6041
- Soufriere: +1 758-459-7258/5001
- Dennery: +1 758-453-3310
- Tapion Hospital: +1 758-459-2000
English is the official language of the island, but St. Lucians also speak a French Creole commonly called Patois.
There is a value added tax of 10% on hotel and restaurant bills and a service charge of 10% is also applicable. These charges are usually, but not always, included in quoted prices, so it is always best to clarify.
St. Lucia has two telecommunications providers: Digicel and FLOW. Pre-paid mobile phone cards can be purchased island-wide from both providers. In addition to this, cell phones are available for rent from either provider, but if you prefer another option, many card and coin public phone boxes are available around the island. Internet access is available at most shopping malls and also at a number of internet cafes island-wide. Both domestic and international direct dialling are available in St. Lucia and facsimiles are available through most hotels or through the FLOW office in Castries.
The international dialing code for St. Lucia is 1 758. To call the UK from St. Lucia, dial 011 44 plus the number, while to call USA dial 1 plus the number.
St. Lucia is 4 Hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
Tipping is not mandatory but is customary at about 10% to 12% of bills. Tips are generally accepted by bell hops in hotels, taxis and other persons providing any type of service.