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St Lucia Travel Guide
St Lucia is indeed a Caribbean dream: a small, lush tropical gem of an island that is still relatively unknown and undeveloped, although it does offer a good variety of accommodation for tourists, including a few discreet resorts. St Lucia is one of the Windward isles of the Lesser Antilles, situated midway down the Eastern Caribbean chain between Martinique and St Vincent, just north of Barbados. It is tiny - only 27 miles (43km) long and 14 miles (23km) wide - and shaped a bit like an avocado. The volcanic island's main landmarks are the Pitons, two soaring peaks on its southern coast that rise up from the sea and shelter a magnificently dense rain forest, where wild orchids grow and brilliantly-plumed tropical birds abound. The Creole people of the island are as warm as the tropical climate, and visitors are treated to plenty of smiles as they make the most of the island's natural beauty and secluded golden beaches, where coral reefs beckon snorkellers and scuba divers. Most visitors are day-trippers who arrive on cruise liners at the island's main port, Castries, and generally do little more than shop for souvenirs. Those who have time to explore, however, are enchanted by the walks, cycling trails and natural beauty spots on the island, including the fascinating Soufriere volcano, with its bubbling sulphur springs. The island has been left with a distinct French flavour, although its earliest colonists in the 17th century were British. The colonial history of the island, first settled by Arawak Indians around 200 AD, is a long saga of battles for control between the French and British. Britain eventually won the war in 1814, and granted independence under the Commonwealth to St Lucia in 1979.
240 volts, 50Hz. Three square-pin plugs are standard.
The unit of currency in Saint Lucia is the East Caribbean Dollar (XCD), which is tied to the US Dollar. The EC$ is divided into 100 cents. US dollars are also accepted at most tourist establishments and ensure a better exchange rate. ATMs are available in Castries, Rodney Bay, Soufriere and Vieux Fort. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 2pm, some are open till 5pm. Major credit cards are accepted at all large hotels, shops and restaurants. Most hotels will exchange foreign currency, and there are change bureaux in Castries.
English is the official language, but St Lucian Creole is widely spoken.
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.
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 travellers 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.
Most visits to St Lucia are trouble-free, but visitors should take common-sense precautions against robbery and theft. Isolated areas, such as beaches, should be avoided after dark. Hurricane season is generally from June to November.
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 travellers 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. Travellers 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.
It is an offence for anyone to dress in camouflage clothing. Homosexuality is illegal.