About St. Lucia
The tropical island of Saint Lucia lies at latitude 13° 54′ north and 60° 50′ west of the Equator. One of the Windward Islands, it is located in the middle of the Eastern Caribbean archipelago and is approximately 21 miles south of Martinique and 90 miles northwest of Barbados. Its capital, Castries (population 70,596) is situated to the northwest of the island. The Atlantic Ocean rims Saint Lucia’s eastern shore while the Caribbean Sea lines the west coast, which offers the calmest surf and finest beaches.
The official language is English; however Saint Lucian Creole French (Kwéyòl), which is a French-based Creole colloquially referred to as “Patwah” (Patois), is spoken by 95% of the population. It is used in literature and music, and is gaining official acknowledgement.
Physical Characteristics:The Island is approximately 238 sq. miles (616 sq. km), 27 miles long, 14 miles wide with a largely mountainous topography. A central mountain range runs the length of the island, with peaks ranging between 1000 and 3145 feet in elevation. Saint Lucia’s landscape is a combination of high mountains, lush rain forests, low lying lands and beaches. Forests dominate the mountains, while jasmine, scarlet chenille and wild orchids provide splashes of color to the lush green slopes. The two towering volcanic cones on the southwest coast, Gros Piton (797m) and Petit Piton (750m) are one of the Caribbean’s most famous landmarks. The volcanic origin of the island provides visitors with an opportunity to visit a “drive-in volcano” and take a dip in the reputedly therapeutic Sulphur Springs.
Climate:The climate on island is tropical with temperatures ranging from 70 – 90 Fahrenheit.
The rainy season is from June to November and the drier period between December and May. The Average rainfall is between 160-360cm depending on altitude and time of year.
Population:Saint Lucia’s population is predominantly of African and mixed African-European descent, with a small Indo-Caribbean minority (3%). Members of other or unspecified ethnicity groups, account for about 2% of the population.About 70% of the population is Roman Catholic, influenced from the days of French Catholic rule and evangelization.
Safety and Security – Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers.
Maintain at least the same level of security awareness as you would in your country and ensure that your living accommodation is secure. Avoid walking alone in isolated areas, including beaches, after dark and only camp out in large groups. Take particular care at popular late night street parties and “jump-ups”. Be extremely cautious about accepting lifts and use only licensed taxis. Do not carry large amounts of cash and jewellery. Valuables and travel documents should be left, where possible, in safety deposit boxes or hotel safes. If staying in a residential/holiday villa, take precautions to secure your valuables, and lock doors and windows.
Safety and Security – Road Travel
You can hire self-drive cars. However, you will require your full licence in order to purchase a local driving permit, which costs US$20. Motorists drive on the left in Saint Lucia. Most roads are narrow by international standards and in varying states of repair. In mountainous areas roads can be extremely steep and have sharp hairpin bends, some of which are not clearly marked. Four-wheel drive vehicles with automatic gearboxes are popular, and in some areas essential. Driving standards are variable and you should negotiate roundabouts with extreme care. It is common for pedestrians to flag down vehicles in an attempt to get a lift. You should not stop to do so. It is advisable to keep car doors locked when driving. Care should be taken on a number of roads including the main east coast road to/from Hewanorra International Airport, which is still being repaired following damage during Hurricane Tomas in October 2010.
There are regular mini bus services, which provide relatively cheap, but sometimes dangerously fast, travel between all main towns. Standard taxi fares exist for most destinations but you should clarify the fare with the driver before the beginning of the journey.
Local laws and customs
There are severe penalties for all drug offences. A number of visitors have been arrested for trafficking of cocaine. Pack all luggage yourself and do not carry anything through customs for anyone else.
It is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing.
Certain homosexual acts are illegal under Saint Lucian laws.
Entry Requirements – Bringing produce into St Lucia
If you wish to bring meat or plant products into Saint Lucia you must obtain a license in advance from the Ministry of Agriculture
Visitors must hold documents for the next destination, return or onward tickets and sufficient funds. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travelers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. The wearing of camouflage clothing, or to be in possession of camouflage bags is illegal in St. Lucia for anyone not in the military services. Travelers with such items will be asked to change or remove the camouflage articles, which will then be confiscated. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travelers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Currency:Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$) Driving:Is on the left hand side of the road
Time:Local time is GMT -4. Telephone Country Code:-1-758
Electricity:240 volts, 50Hz. Three square-pin plugs are standard.
Language:English is the official language, but St Lucian Creole is widely spoken.
There are few health risks associated with travel to St Lucia, although the mosquito-carried dengue fever is a risk throughout the island. HIV/AIDS is prevalent and precautions are always advised. Bilharzia is endemic. No vaccinations are required; however a yellow fever certificate is necessary for travelers arriving from infected areas. Health care costs are high on the island and health insurance is recommended, which should cover medical evacuation. EHIC card holders are entitled to emergency medical treatment in the case of evacuation to Martinique, on the same terms as Martinique nationals, of which 70 percent of the costs can be reclaimed.
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.
Tipping:A service charge is not automatically added to bills and about 10% of the bill is expected. Taxi drivers, porters and chambermaids also expect small tips.
Local Customs:It is an offence for anyone to dress in camouflage clothing. Homosexuality is illegal.
Communications:The international access code for St Lucia is +1 758. The outgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom); the outgoing code is not needed for calls to Canada and the US. City/area codes are not in use. Pay phones accept coins and pre-paid cards, available at shops throughout the island. AT&T calling cards can be used for cheaper international calls. Mobile phone operators provide good GSM 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 network coverage of the island. Email and Internet access is available at Internet cafes throughout the island.