Caribbean Travelweb


Guide To Dominica





Dominica is called the "Nature Island of the Caribbean. Tropical rainforests cover two thirds of the island, and are home to 1,200 plant species. Without a doubt, the rolling hills, energetic rivers and beautiful forests contribute to it's name. Dominica covers about 289 square miles, but is home to only about 70,000 people, many of whom live in the capital city of Roseau.

Ready to get physical? How about a 3 hour hike over challenging terrain to Boling Lake? Of course there is the 3 hour hike out as well. If that's not challenging enough, there is always an excursion to the peak of Morne Diablotin (Devil's Mountain) in the Northern Forest Reserve (4747ft.)

Or you can do nothing at all. Miles of secluded beaches beckon. Take a leisure cruise on a bike and enjoy the wonders of the contryside at your own pace. Take in some shopping at the numerous little shops offering arts and crafts of the island. Or sample the many restaurants offering local creole cuisine, fresh fruits, and of course home made ice cream.


Getting There

Air Travel

There are no nonstop direct flights to Dominica from the mainland US or Europe, mainly due to the fact that the airports (there are two) cannot accommodate jets. Connections with local carriers are readily available from nearby island gateways such as Antigua, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St, Maarten and St. Lucia. These gateways are served by international carriers including .

American Airlines

LIAT

BVI Airways

Winair

Seaborne Airlines

Air Sunshine


The Melville Hall Airport is on the northeastern coast, almost diagonally across the island from the capital, Roseau, on the southwestern coast. Melville Hall is a 1 1/2-hour taxi ride from Roseau, a drive that takes you across the island through the forest and coastal villages; the fare is $18 per person when there are four passengers. On your own, the fare could be $50.

The newer Canefield Airport is about a 15-minute taxi ride north of Roseau. The 2,000-foot airstrip accommodates smaller planes than those that can land at Melville Hall. From here, the typical taxi fare into town is $15. There's also a public bus (with an H that precedes the number on the license plate) that costs only $2 per person; buses come every 20 minutes and hold between 15 and 18 passengers.

From Antigua, you can board one of the five daily LIAT flights to Dominica. Another possibility would be to fly via St. Maarten. From there, LIAT offers one nonstop flight daily and two other daily flights with intermediary stops.

You can also fly to Guadeloupe and make a connection on Air Guadeloupe, which has two flights a day to Dominica except on Sunday, when there is no morning flight (flying time is 30 minutes). If you're in Fort-de-France on Martinique, you can take a LIAT flight to Dominica.

Ferry

A 300-seat catamaran operated by L'Express des Îles ferries passengers between Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia. The ferry departs and arrives at the Roseau Bayfront, a short walk from the heart of the capital.

Entry Requirements

Immigration officials require most visitors to the Commonwealth of Dominica to present a valid passport on arrival. All visitors need to show a return ticket. Canadian citizens can show documents certifying proof of citizenship that also bears a photograph, and French nationals can stay for up to two weeks by presenting a valid identification card.

Visitors arriving from countries that are members of the Commonwealth of Nations do not require a visa. However, nationals of Nigeria and other exempt nationalities will often require proof of visas into Dominica from Third Countries in order to disembark as in-transit passengers in these countries. Nationals of Haiti and the Dominican Republic require a visa to enter.

Visitors who will remain on Dominica for less than 24 hours (including cruise-ship passengers) do not require a visa to enter.

Visitors coming from the countries listed below who intend to stay for 21 days or less, do not require a visa:

Argentina
Belgium
Costa Rica
Denmark
France
Germany
Greece
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Japan
Luxembourg
Malta
Mexico
Netherlands
Norway
Portugal
South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Taiwan
United Kingdom
United States
Venezuela

Please note that the following nationalities now require visas: China, India, and Nigeria.


Helpful Visitor Information

Getting Around
The best way to get around Dominica is walking, bus or by organized tour. Dominica is such a rich and beautiful island. Unfortunately for drivers, roads are narrow with sharp curves and switch backs. Locals familiar with the roads will drive very fast on the inland roads making renting a car a nerve racking proposition.

Public transportation is readily available in the form of the ubiquitous mini-bus (look for number plates that begin with 'H'); the Old Market in Roseau is the 'terminus' for busses travelling south; the West Bridge for those travelling north. Fares are set by the government.

Auto Rentals
There are a handful of small, usually family-owned car-rental companies, the condition and price of whose vehicles vary widely.

Language and Culture
English is the official language. Creole (French patois) is widely spoken also.

Climate
Average daytime temperatures range from 75-85 F, with cooler temperatures in the mountains. Dry season is from January to April. Rainy season is from July to October.

Bank Hours
Monday to Thursday: 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
Friday: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Currency/Credit Cards
Local currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, U.S. dollars are accepted at most businesses, where the rate of exchange is EC$2.60. You are advised to exchange your currency at banks, where you will get the most favorable exchange rate.

Electricity
220/240 volts. A transformer is required for all appliances. Outlets are three-prong European-style. Adapters may be needed. Appliances rated at 110 volts (US Standard) works satisfactorily with a transformer. Most hotels provide dual voltage shaver units. An adaptor plug is necessary for small appliances.

Emergency
In case of emergency please dial 999 for the police, Fire, and Ambulance.

Medical
The main hospital is the Princess Margaret and there are smaller ones in other parts of the island. Portsmouth the second town, Marigot in the East and Grand Bay to the South. Clinics and Doctors can be found through out the island.

Pharmacies
The island's best-stocked drugstore is Jolly's Pharmacy, in Roseau at 37 Great George St., and 12 King George V St. Both branches share the same phone number and hours (tel. 767/448-3388). They're open Monday and Friday from 8am to 6pm, Tuesday to Thursday from 8am to 5pm, and Saturday from 8am to 2pm.

Safety
Although crime is rare here, you should still safeguard your valuables. Never leave them unattended on the beach or in a locked car.

Taxes
A 10% government room tax is added on accommodations, and a 5% tax on alcoholic drinks and food items. Anyone who remains on Dominica for more than 24 hours must pay a US$19 departure tax.

Telephone
To call Dominica from the United States, dial 1, then 767 (the country code for Dominica) and the local number. To call Dominica from another island within the Caribbean, just dial 767, plus the seven-digit local number. International direct dialing is available on Dominica, as well as U.S. direct service through AT&T. You can contact AT&T in Dominica by dialing tel. 800/872-2881. Most hotel telephone operators throw up their hands at even placing a long-distance call for a resident. Instead, they connect their clients to the island's long-distance phone operator, who dials the call for a client, and then calls are billed directly to a client's room.

Time
Dominica is on Atlantic Standard Time, 1 hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. Dominica does not observe daylight savings time, so when the United States changes to daylight saving time, clocks in Dominica and the U.S. east coast tell the same time.

Tipping
Most hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to bills; check carefully to see if it's been added. If this charge has not been included, tipping is up to you, though an additional 5% for particularly good service is always welcome.

Water

The water is drinkable from the taps and in the high mountain country. Pollution is hardly a problem here.


Activities and Attractions

Scuba Diving
As dramatic as the topside terrain of Dominica is, so will divers find below the waves. Over the past few years, Dominica has earned the reputation as one of the top five dive destinations in the world. In addition to unique dive sites like "Champagne" which features a bubbling, underwater hot spring, Dominica's reefs are full of gorgeous multi-coloured hard and soft coral, an abundance of reef fish and fascinating marine life such as seahorses and frogfish. The underwater terrain is unique and diverse, providing dive sites suitable for all skill levels, from beginner to the very experienced.

Diving off Dominica offers an amazing diversity of reef, wreck, dramatic wall, pinnacle and drift dives. Dominica has a profusion of sponges and unique creatures... Seahorses, Frogfish and Snake Eels.

Water Temp 78 - 83F 25 - 28C -- Visibility - Can reach 100+ ft 30 m depending on river runoff.

Snorkeling
Snorkeling sites are never very far, regardless of where you are on Dominica. In all, there are some 30 separate and first-rate snorkeling areas immediately off the coast. The western side of the island, where nearly all of the snorkeling takes place, is the lee side, meaning the waters are tranquil. You can explore the underwater hot springs at Champagne and Toucari, the Coral Gardens off Salisbury, and the southern shoreline of Scotts Head Beach, with more than 190 species of flamboyantly colored fish. The closeness of the reefs to shore makes snorkeling here some of the best in the Caribbean. Your hotel or one of the dive shops can set you up with gear.

Beaches

Dominica beaches are far from the best of the Caribbean. Most are rocky with gray-black volcanic sand. But some beaches, even though they don't have great sand or shade, are still good for diving or snorkeling in the turquoise waters.

The best beach on the island lies on the northwest coast. Picard Beach stretches for about 3km (2 miles), a strip of grayish sand with palm trees as a backdrop. It's ideal for snorkeling or windsurfing. You can drop in for food and drink at one of the hotels along the beach.

On the northeast coast, four beaches -- L'Anse Noire, Hodges Beach, Woodford Hill Bay, and Hampstead Beach -- are among the island's most beautiful, although none are great for swimming. Divers and snorkelers often come here, even though the water can be rough. Watch out for the strong currents.

The southwest coast also has some beaches, but the sand here is black and rock-studded. Nonetheless, snorkelers and scuba divers flock to Soufrière Bay Beach and Scotts Head Beach for the clear waters and the stunning underwater walls.

Swimming
The beaches may be lousy, but Dominica has some of the best river swimming in the Caribbean. Some say the little island has 365 rivers, one for every day of the year. The best places for swimming are under a waterfall, of which there are dozens on the island. Almost all waterfalls have a refreshing pond at the base, ideal for a dip. Your best bets are on the west coast at the Picard or the Machoucherie Rivers. On the east coast, the finest spot is White River, near the hamlet of La Plaine. Consider also the Layou River and its gorges. Layou is the island's largest river, ranging from tranquil beach-lined pools ideal for swimming to deep gorges and turbulent rapids. All the rivers are pristine and make nice spots for a little sunbathing or perhaps a picnic lunch to enjoy along their banks.

Whale Watching
Whale watching ranks at the top of the list for exciting excursions. Who wouldn’t get caught up in the spectacle of seeing these majestic giants up close and personal? Dominica’s temperate seas and underwater contours are ideal for hosting numerous whale population.

Kayaking
Dominica is probably the best place in all the Caribbean for kayaking. You can rent a kayak for a unique adventure around the rivers and coastline of the lushest island in the West Indies. You can combine bird-watching, swimming, and snorkeling as you glide along. Consider Soufrière Bay, a marine reserve in southwest Dominica. Off the west coast, you will discover tranquil Caribbean waters with rainbow-hued fish along the beaches in Mero, Salisbury, and in the region of the Layou and Macoucherie Rivers.

Fishing
For sport fishermen who want the thrill of chasing 200 lb marlin, dolphin fish, barracuda, and yellow fin tuna then Dominica should be a major attraction.

Hiking
Whether you're an experienced explorer or a novice adventurer, Dominica has a trail waiting for you to discover. Trailheads are found throughout the forest reserves, national parks and island resorts. These pathways provide you with a tour of the lush, green rainforests and some trails lead to romantic waterfalls with excellent swimming and photo opportunities.

For the experienced - Boiling Lake
Morne Trois Pitons National Park
Said to be the second largest in the world, this hot springs lake is a caldron of gray-blue water at a temperature ranging from 180 to 197 degrees Fahrenheit; a full-day rigorous hike with a guide is needed to visit this awesome sight. A well-maintained trail begins at approximately 1,600 ft, where a level stretch of rocky pathway blends alternately with wooden steps. But don't be fooled by the flat beginning, it grows steeper. Although this is a strenuous trail, the trip is among the best ways to experience the rainforest of the Caribbean’s Nature Island. See and hear rainforest birds and other rare tropical animals while truly experiencing the heart of the island.

Moderate experience - Sari-Sari Falls
Sari-Sari Falls is off the East road. After parking next to the Banana field, you begin descending down a steep incline to the bed of the Sari-Sari River. You will travel along the river bed, crossing several times as the exact path you travel depends on the flow of the river. The hike is only about a mile each way, can be slippery when wet. Sari-Sari is a beautiful waterfall, but most of its appeal is its location on the remote Atlantic side of the island.

Bird Watching
Bird watchers will take pleasure in sighting our 160 bird species, including the Dominica trademark Imperial Parrot and the purple-throated hummingbird.

Cabrits National
This reserve encompasses history and the natural environment, with an 800-acre marine reserve as well as a museum and ruins of colonial outposts.

Fort Shirley
This English colonial fort is among the ruins found at the Cabrits Historical and Marine Park, which preserves remnants of the islands tumultuous history.

Roseau Museum
This museum highlights the island's cultural and natural history.

Horseback Riding
Leisurely cruise through the rain-forest on a fully guided nature adventure! Our docile, well-trained, riding horses will take you deep into the rain-forest along mountain trails. Relax in your western style saddle and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

Mountain Biking
Although the mountains of Dominica look very imposing, you will be surprised to find a fantastic selection of trails suitable for any skill level. We will help you pick the best route for your experience and energy level.

Shopping
Store hours are usually Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm and Saturday from 9am to 1pm.

In Roseau, the Old Market Plaza, of historical significance as a former slave-trading market and more recently the site of a Wednesday-, Friday-, and Saturday-morning vegetable market, now houses three craft shops, each specializing in coconut, straw, and Carib craft products.

Outlets for crafts include Dominica Pottery, Bayfront Street at Kennedy Avenue, Roseau. An array of pottery made from local clays is on sale, as well as other handcrafts. Balisier's, 35 Great George St., Roseau. The shop has some of the most original T-shirts on the island, as well as an assortment of Carnival dolls and handmade jewelry. Ego Boutique, 9 Hillsborough St. in Roseau, has the best selection of clothing, much of it in the classic West Indian style, along with some crafts and home accessories, much of it made locally.

The casual shopper seeking souvenirs and crafts can also drop into Island Stuff, 25 Hanover St. in Roseau, a small shop that's jam-packed with intriguing items including handcrafts and fine art. Try also The Crazy Banana, 17 Castle St. in Roseau, which offers a little preview of some of the best items for which the Caribbean is known, including handcrafts, handmade jewelry, bottles of rum, cigars, and regional paintings.

Restaurants
Dining in Dominica is a savory story with a happy ending. Spend a day touring the island and it’s easy to see why restaurants set such a varied and tasty table. Fruits and spices abound. Tables overflow with red, pink, yellow, orange and green vegetables. Nowhere in the Caribbean will you find such a culinary assortment.

The country’s cuisine, like the island, is a blend of cultures. African, Carib Indian, French and Oriental influences provide an assortment of dishes, which are waiting to be sampled during your visit.

Nightlife
When the sun sets on the day’s adventures, evenings in Roseau and Portsmouth unfold with a blend of music that includes reggae, jazz, soca, zouk, steel band, blues, rock and roll and resounding dance hall disco. Some hotels have regularly scheduled entertainment. Catch a first-run movie at Carib cinema in Roseau or Portsmouth.

Dominica Carnival
Dominica's Carnival, held at the traditional pre-lenten time, is a feast of calypso, shows, and two-exciting days of street jump-up. Carnival is formally opened about a month before the two final days of jump-up.

 
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Caribbean Travelweb