Introduction to St Lucia
St. Lucia (Loo-sha) is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, with some of its finest resorts. The heaviest tourist development is concentrated in the northwest, between the capital, Castries, and the northern end of the island, where there's a string of white-sand beaches.
The rest of St. Lucia remains relatively unspoiled, a checkerboard of green-mantled mountains, valleys, banana plantations, a bubbling volcano, wild orchids, and fishing villages. The island has a mixed French and British heritage, but there's a hint of the South Pacific about it as well.
A mountainous island of some 623 sq. km (243 sq. miles), St. Lucia has about 160,000 inhabitants. The capital, Castries, is built on the southern shore of a large harbor surrounded by hills.
Access to the Islands
Just a short flight away, stunning anchorages everywhere. Find out more about access to the islands here...
Banks-- Banks are open Monday to Thursday from 8am to 3pm, Friday from 8am to 5pm, and Saturday 8am to noon. ATMs can be found at all bank branches, transportation centers, and shopping malls.
Currency-- The official monetary unit is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), which is pegged at EC$2.70 per U.S. dollar (EC$1 = US37¢). Unless otherwise specified, rates in this chapter are quoted in U.S. dollars, as nearly all hotels, restaurants, and shops accept them. Always ascertain which dollar prices are listed in.
Customs-- At either airport, Customs may be a hassle if there's the slightest suspicion, regardless of how ill-founded, that you're carrying illegal drugs.
Documents-- U.S., British, and Canadian citizens need valid passports, plus an ongoing or return ticket. If your stay is less than 6 months, you can also enter with proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate with a raised seal and a government-issued photo ID.
Electricity-- St. Lucia runs on 220- to 230-volt AC (50 cycles), so bring an adapter if you plan to use U.S. appliances. Some hotels are wired for U.S. appliances. Ask when you book.
Emergencies-- Call the police at tel. 999. For an ambulance or in case of fire call tel. 911.
Hospitals-- There are 24-hour emergency rooms at St. Jude's Hospital, Vieux Fort (tel. 758/454-6041), and Victoria Hospital, Hospital Road, Castries (tel. 758/452-2421).
Language-- English is the official tongue, but islanders often speak a French-Creole patois similar to that heard on Martinique.
Pharmacies-- The best is M&C Drugstore, Bridge Street, in Castries (tel. 758/458-8147), open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, and Saturday from 8am to 1pm.
Safety-- St. Lucia has its share of crime, like every other place these days. Use common sense and protect yourself and your valuables. If you've got it, don't flaunt it! Don't pick up hitchhikers if you're driving around the island. The use of narcotic drugs is illegal, and their possession or sale could lead to stiff fines or jail.
Taxes-- The government imposes an 8% occupancy tax on hotel rooms, and there's a US$21 departure tax for both airports. Children under 12 don't pay departure tax.
Telephone-- The area code for St. Lucia is 758. Make calls to or from St. Lucia just as you would with any other area code in North America. On the island, dial all seven digits of the local number. If your hotel won't send a fax for you, try Cable & Wireless, in the SMC Building on the waterfront in Castries (tel. 758/452-3301). To access AT&T Direct, call tel. 800/225-5288; to reach MCI, dial tel. 800/888-8000.
Time-- St. Lucia is on Atlantic Standard Time year-round, placing it 1 hour ahead of New York. However, when the United States is on daylight saving time (Apr-Oct), St. Lucia matches the clocks of the U.S. East Coast.
Tipping-- Most hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge (ask if it's been included in the initial hotel rate you're quoted). If you're pleased with the service in a restaurant, by all means, supplement with an extra 5%. Taxi drivers expect 10% of the fare.
Water-- Water here is generally considered safe to drink; if you're unsure or have a delicate constitution, stick to bottled water.
Weather-- This little island, lying in the path of the trade winds, has year-round temperatures of 70°F to 90°F (21°C-32°C).