|Government||Westminster-style parliamentary democracy|
|Currency||East Caribbean dollar (XCD)|
|Area||total: 616 sq km |
water: 10 sq km
land: 606 sq km
|Population||160,145 (July 2002 est.)|
|Language||English (official), French patois|
|Religion||Roman Catholic 90%, Protestant 7%, Anglican 3%|
Saint Lucia is a British Commonwealth country that is an island in the Caribbean, off the coast of Central America. It lies between the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago.
The twin Pitons (Gros Piton and Petit Piton) are striking cone-shaped peaks south of Soufriere that are one of the scenic natural highlights of the Caribbean.
- Administrative divisions
- 11 quarters; Anse-la-Raye, Castries, Choiseul, Dauphin, Dennery, Gros-Islet, Laborie, Micoud, Praslin, Soufriere, Vieux-Fort
- Castries - Capital
- Vieux Fort
- Soufriere - Old Capital
Tropical, moderated by northeast trade winds; dry season from January to April, rainy season from May to August; Experiences hurricanes.
Volcanic and mountainous with some broad, fertile valleys; Natural hazards : volcanic activity.
- Highest point
- Mount Gimie 950 m
The island, with its fine natural harbor at Castries, was contested between England and France throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries (changing possession 14 times); it was finally ceded to the UK in 1814. Self-government was granted in 1967 and independence in 1979.
- 22 February 1979 (from UK)
- National holiday
- Independence Day, 22 February (1979)
- 22 February 1979
St. Lucia has two airports,
- Vigie Field (near Castries)
- Hewanorra International (near Vieux Fort)
Vigie Field is closer to many of the all-inclusive resorts, but is a fairly small airfield, and only light aircraft tend to land there. It can be a little harrowing to land at, and can be crowded to depart from.
Hewanorra is larger, but tends to be 45 minutes by Taxi from most of the major resorts in the north. However, the journey north is a good way to see the island.
The main way for tourists to get around St. Lucia is by taxi.
St. Lucia has regulated Taxi service. Prices are fixed between destinations and must be disclosed in advance. Many taxi drivers that run from the resorts to the marketplaces will offer tours of the island for around $145 per van load. Each van will hold between 6 and 12 people. This tends to be far less expensive than the resort tours, but the organized resort tours typically offer some extras such as food and drinks (alcoholic and non). Also, the drivers typically do not speak English as well as the tour guides.
A helicopter taxi is much quicker as it takes less than 20 minutes from Hewanorra airport to the resorts on the Northern end of the island.
- English (official), French patois
You will inevitably be offered some Banana Ketchup at least once during your stay at St Lucia. It's worth trying, although it's not to all tastes.
Castries market is a good place to buy gifts, although most of the stalls stock more or less the same thing.
The supermarkets do amazingly good prices on Bounty Rum.
St Lucian food consists mainly of fresh fruit, fish and vegetables.
St. Lucia has fantastic Rum Punch. It's hard to go wrong. Highly recommended:
- Chairman's Reserve (cask-aged dark rum)
- Crystal Lime (clear rum infused with lime)
Most bars will have both, even at the smaller resorts.
In addition to fantastic rum, Piton Lager beer is is brewed and bottled on the island and is very good (although it seems to have a higher alcohol content than most American beers...be warned!). If you're a beer drinker, you must have one. If you're not at a resort that offers it, check in coolers at the marketplaces - you'll likely find it in there for $1 US.
Also spotted in the coolers: Heineken, Champagne, Wine, Water, Coke (All for $1 US)
St. Lucia is home to a huge number of resort hotels. They're mostly all-inclusive and generally very nice. They include:
The island has a rather turbulent history. It's worth taking a "Jungle Safari" around the rainforests, as this also includes much information on the island itself.
Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (includes Special Service Unit and Coast Guard)
Castries Central Market is a good place to watch your wallet.
Driving--- DO NOT DO IT!!! This is the craziest driving and road conditions that I have ever seen. Winding hills, where minivans pass going up hill around bends. Stick to the taxis.
This island is as series of hills and mountains. The driving is the most hair-raising series of winding hair pin turns you will ever see. Think of driving up and down Lansdown Street in San Francisco for an hour or so. Needless to say if you are at all prone to motion sickness, bring the Dramamine. If you fly into the big airport and stay in Castries, as most tourists do, take your pills the minute that you clear customs. It is probably the biggest health risk that you face in St. Lucia.
- All beaches on St. Lucia are open to the public, even at the resorts.
- Nude sunbathing is illegal on St. Lucia
- Locals do take offence if you do not buy their products/give them money.