Introduction to St Vincent
One of the major British Windward Islands, sleepy St. Vincent is just beginning to awaken to tourism. Sailors and the yachting set have long known of St. Vincent and The Grenadines, and until recently it was a well-kept vacation secret. Even if you've not been here, you may have seen its scenery in Pirates of the Caribbean, starring Johnny Depp.
You visit St. Vincent for its lush beauty, and The Grenadines for the best sailing waters in the Caribbean. Don't come for nightlife, grand cuisine, or spectacular beaches. There are some white-sand beaches near Kingstown on St. Vincent, but most of the other beaches ringing the island are black sand. The yachting crowd seems to view St. Vincent merely as a launching pad for the 64km (40-mile) string of The Grenadines, but the island still has a few attractions that make it worth exploring on its own.
Unspoiled by the fallout that mass tourism sometimes brings, islanders treat visitors courteously. British customs predominate, along with traces of Gallic cultural influences, but all with a distinct West Indian flair.
On its own private island off Villa Beach, Young Island Resort is far more stylish and comfortable than its competitors on the mainland. This 14-hectare (35-acre) resort, its grounds full of lush fruit trees, white ginger, hibiscus, and ferns, is supposedly where a Carib tribal chieftain kept his harem. It lies just 182m (597 ft.) off the south shore of St. Vincent; a ferry makes the 5-minute run from the pier right on Villa Beach. Hammocks are hung under thatched roofs, and the beach has brilliant white sand. Set in a tropical garden are romantic wood-and-stone Tahitian cottages (all for couples), with bamboo decor and outdoor showers in little rock grottoes (open but hidden from public view). Floors are of tile and terrazzo, covered with rush rugs. The spacious accommodations come with queen- or king-size beds (rarely a twin) and generous storage.
Dining is by candlelight, and dress is informal. Sometimes a steel band plays for after-dinner dancing, and strolling singers serenade diners.
Restaurant; 2 bars; outdoor pool; tennis court; access to nearby health club; boating; snorkeling; windsurfing; car rental; airport shuttle; babysitting; laundry service; dry cleaning
Access to the Islands
Just a short flight away, stunning anchorages everywhere. Find out more about access to the islands here...
Banks-- Most banks are open Monday to Thursday from 8am to either 1 or 3pm, and Friday from either 8am to 5pm or 8am to 1pm and 3 to 5pm. There are a few banks with ATMs on Halifax Street in Kingstown on St. Vincent (plus one at the airport), and there are also a few on Bequia and Union Island.
Currency-- The official currency of St. Vincent is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), pegged at about $2.70 per U.S. dollar (EC$1 = US37¢). Unless otherwise specified, rates in this chapter are quoted in U.S. dollars. Most restaurants, shops, and hotels will accept payment in U.S. dollars or traveler's checks.
Documents-- British, Canadian, and U.S. citizens should have a passport and a return or ongoing airplane ticket. A birth certificate with a raised seal is often accepted with a photo ID, but we always recommend traveling with your passport overseas.
Electricity-- Electricity is 220-volt AC (50 cycles), so if you're traveling with U.S. appliances, you'll need an adapter and a transformer. Some hotels have transformers, but it's best to bring your own.
Emergencies-- In an emergency, dial tel. 999 or 911.
Hospitals-- There is one hospital on St. Vincent in Kingstown: Milton Cato Memorial General Hospital (tel. 784/456-1185 ), Hospital Road.
Language-- English is the official language.
Liquor Laws-- Liquor can be sold on any day of the week. It's legal to have an open container on the beach as long as you don't get rowdy or litter.
Pharmacies-- On St. Vincent, try The People's Pharmacy, Greenville Street, Kingstown (tel. 784/456-1170 ), open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 8pm. There are a few other drugstores in Kingstown as well.
Post Office-- The General Post Office, on Halifax Street in Kingstown (tel. 784/456-1111 ), is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4:15pm and Saturday from 8 to 11:30am. There are smaller post offices in 56 districts throughout the country, including offices on the Grenadine islands of Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, and Union Island.
Safety-- St. Vincent and its neighboring islands of The Grenadines are quite safe. Even in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent, chances are you'll encounter little serious crime. However, take the usual precautions and never leave valuables unguarded.
Taxes & Service Charges-- The government imposes an airport departure tax of EC$100 (US$40) per person. A 10% government occupancy tax is charged for all hotel accommodations. Hotels and restaurants almost always add a 10% to 15% service charge. Ask whether or not it's included in the initial hotel rates you're quoted. If it's not already added at a restaurant, tip at that rate.
Telephone-- To call St. Vincent from the United States, dial 1, then 784 (the area code for St. Vincent) and the local seven-digit number. Once on St. Vincent, you can access AT&T Direct at tel. 800/225-5288. To reach MCI, dial tel. 800/888-8000.
Time-- Both St. Vincent and The Grenadines operate on Atlantic Standard Time year-round: When it's 6am on St. Vincent, it's 5am in New York. During daylight saving time in the United States, St. Vincent keeps the same time as the U.S. East Coast.
Water-- In St. Vincent and The Grenadines, stick to bottled water.
Weather-- The climate of St. Vincent and The Grenadines is pleasantly cooled by the trade winds year-round. The tropical temperature is in the 78°F to 82°F (26°C-28°C) range. The rainy season is July to October.