Caribbean Travelweb


Guide To St. Vincent & The Grenadines



Description

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.

Situated about one hundred miles west of Barbados, and nestled between St Lucia to the north and Grenada to the south, the string of islands known collectively as St Vincent and the Grenadines may be physically close together, but vary enormously in character, terrain and appeal.

The overall economy of the St. Vincent & The Grenadines revolves around agriculture, with bananas and coconut palms the major cash crops. Tourism is a growing business (especially on St. Vincent), but on the outer islands, smaller crowds, isolated beaches and quiet days are the norm.

The main centre of activity is St Vincent , the largest and northernmost of the islands. As well as exploring St Vincent's two distinct coastlines - the rugged windward side and the gentle leeward side - and lush, interior hiking trails, don't miss the opportunity to spend time on the tiny isle of Bequia (Bek-way), just a short ferry ride away, a yachters' haven that also boasts shimmering beaches and a fascinating seafaring history. The less developed and less populated islands of Canouan, Mayreau and Union are all easily reachable by ferry and offer a taste of the unspoiled Caribbean, while Mustique , an island hideaway of the rich and famous, makes for an affordable day trip of swimming and snorkelling, though don't expect to find a cheap place to stay.

The uninhabited national park of the Tobago Cays , a cluster of islets which form the eastern point of a triangle between Union Island and Mayreau, are surrounded by coral reefs and unbelievably aquamarine waters and make an excellent excursion from nearby islands.

Getting There

St. Vincent’s main airport is the E. T. Joshua Airport in Arnos Vale, a short distance from Kingstown. This airport services international flights as well as flights to and from the Grenadines and other Caribbean destinations.

The major gateways to St. Vincent & The Grenadines from North America and Europe are Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Martinique and Puerto Rico, with connecting flights to Bequia, Canouan, Mustique and Union Island.

From the US
American Airlines, Delta, Air Jamaica, Jet Blue

The main US cities with direct access are New York, Atlanta, Miami & Charlotte

From Canada
Air Canada, WestJet

From the UK
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic

From Europe
Air France, Condor

Regional airline operators with direct and indirect services to and from St. Vincent:

Liat, Caribbean Airlines

Canouan, Bequia, Mustique and Union Island all have airports with daily scheduled service and charter flights to and from St. Vincent by SVG Air, Mustique Airways and Trans Island Air.
Canouan has a jetport that is serviced by SVG Air

Flight Times

Barbados/St. Vincent: 35 mins.
Grenada/St. Vincent: 30 mins.
London/Barbados: 8 hrs. 20 mins.
Martinique/St. Vincent: 40 mins.
Miami/Barbados: 3.5 hrs.
New York/Barbados: 5 hours.
New York/St. Lucia: 5 hrs.
Puerto Rico/St. Vincent: 2 hrs.
St. Lucia/St. Vincent: 30 mins.
Toronto/Barbados: 6.5 hrs.
Trinidad/St. Vincent: 1 hr.

Entry Requirements

Visitors to St. Vincent & The Grenadines must be in possession of a valid passport and a return or onward ticket. Visas are required from nationals of The Dominican Republic, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, The People's Republic of China, Iraq, Iran and Nigeria.

A Departure Tax of EC$40 (US$15) per person must be paid by all visitors who have been in the country for 24 hours or more.

All visitors, with the exception of Caricom residents, are normally granted a four week stay by Immigration. To further extend this duration, visitors need to seek approval from the Immigration Department, along with payment of an extension fee of EC$25 per person.

Helpful Visitor Information

Getting Around

By Taxi
The government sets the rates for fares, but taxis are unmetered and you should always check the fare before setting off. Fares are raised for journeys late at night or early in the morning. The average fare from Indian Bay into Kingstown is approximately EC$25 and EC$15-20 will get you to the E. T. Joshua Airport from your Indian Bay or Villa hotel. Tipping is suggested at 10% of the fare. You can also hire taxis to take you to the islandís major attractions. Expect to spend EC$40 to EC$50 per hour for a car holding two to four passengers.

By Car
Driving in St. Vincent is on the left. While initially driving on the narrow, twisting roads is a bit of an adventure, you will quickly begin to enjoy the challenge and start driving like a "Vincy". There are limited road signs, but locals are usually quite happy to point you in the right direction. Remember to sound your horn as you make the sharp curves and turns. Avis (784-456-4389) has an office at the airport and the majority of local companies will be happy to pick you up at your hotel or at the airport. Most agencies, such as Rent and Drive (784-457-5601 and Davidís Auto Clinic (784-456-4026) offer similar rates and terms.

A temporary driving licence, costing EC$50, must be purchased at the police station on Bay Street, or the Licensing Authority on Halifax Street, with the presentation of a valid overseas driverís licence. If you have an International Driving Permit you must get it stamped at the central police station.

By Bus
Flamboyantly painted buses travel the principal roads of St. Vincent, linking the major towns and villages. The central departure point is the bus terminal at the New Kingstown Fish Market. Fares range from EC$1 to EC$6 (US$0.40 to US$2.20). Minibuses, which stop on demand rather than at bus stops, run frequently between Kingstown and the popular hotel areas of Indian Bay and Villa.

The number of vans starting in Kingstown and running to Owia or Fancy in the north is limited. The best way is to take the early bus to Georgetown and try to catch one of the two vans running between Georgetown and Fancy (EC$10). To get to Richmond in the northwest take a bus to Barrouallie and seek onward transport from there. A day trip to Mesopotamia (Mespo) by bus (EC$2.50) is definitely a worthwhile experience.

Inter Island Ferry

Grenadines Ferry Schedule

Money and Banking

The official currency of St Vincent and the Grenadines is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$) , although the US dollar is also widely accepted, as are major credit cards, at hotels and restaurants, and by car rental agencies and dive and tour companies. The EC$ is divided into 100 cents. Bills come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 EC dollars; coins in 1, 2, 5, 10 and 25 cents. At the time of writing, the rate of exchange was roughly EC$2.70 to US$1.

There are plenty of banks on St Vincent, including Barclays Bank and Scotiabank on Halifax Street in Kingstown, both of which have ATMs. E.T. Joshua Airport has an exchange bureau which is open 8am-noon and 3-5pm on weekdays. There are also two banks on Bequia and a branch of the National Commercial Bank on Union Island; all have ATMs. Banking hours are generally Monday to Thursday 9am-3pm and Friday 9am-5pm; however, some banks close at 1pm.

Shopping

The capital city of Kingstown is located in the southwestern part of the island, hugging a mile-wide swath of land on Kingstown Bay backed up by a ring of green hills and ridges. Nicknamed the "City of Arches", Kingstown is full of old world charm, with Cobblestone sidewalks, old brick buildings and like many Caribbean capitals, much of the color and bustle of the island can be found in the market square at the corner of Bay and Bedford Streets.

The city consists ot twelve small blocks that are easy to walk and perfect for browsing. Shops and stores range from simple to sophisticated, selling local crafts, books, cameras, binoculars, watches, crystal and bone china, gold and silver jewellery, Sea Island cotton and batik. Port Elizabeth is the commercial center on Bequia and boasts a good selection of stores and shops.

Dining

St. Vincent boasts an eclectic range of dining options from beachside grills and take-away pizzas to simple, casual fare and more elaborate fine gourmet cuisine. Hotel restaurants are generally open to non-resident guests and further increase your choices. Along the Villa and Indian Bay strip is a delightful variety of local and international restaurants. Moorings around the Young Island Cut make many of these restaurants easily accessible to yachtsmen. For those seeking a slightly more adventurous lunch or dinner experience take the picturesque drive out to Pebbles in Mount Pleasant or take a boat ride over to Petit Byahaut or Young Island. Dining in Bequia is more relaxed and informal but there are plenty of choices from small intimate restauants to the more sophisticated.

Night Life

While St. Vincent may not boast a raucous nightlife scene, there are a few spots that offer evening entertainment. A number of hotels feature live weekly entertainment with local steel bands or string bands usually on Fridays and Saturdays. You would be wise to check with the venue before hand for up to date information. The Attic and Emotions are two well known, lively nightclubs in Kingstown and Iguana and Marcomay located in Villa. On Bequia, the waterfront in Port Elizabeth has a good selection of bars and many hotels offer lively "jump ups" each week.

Dress

Casual resort wear is the general rule for both men and women during the day. Out of respect for local customs, swimwear should not be worn on the street, or in shops and restaurants.

Health

There are six public hospitals, including Kingstown General Hospital, and Maryfield Hospital, Lowmans and Bequia Casualty Hospital, Port Elizabeth, and three privately owned hospitals. Community care is provided by 38 outpatient clinics located throughout the country. Each clinic serves about 3,000 people and is easily accessible. Health centers are well staffed and provide a wide range of services, including midwifery, family planning, immunization and emergency care. St. Vincent has a mental health center and a home for the elderly.

Electricity

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a reliable supply of electricity. Electricity is generally 220/240 volt, 50 cycle, except for Petit St. Vincent which has 110 volt, 60 cycle. Most hotels have 110 volt shaver outlets. The standard electrical plug has 3 rectangular pins so remember to pack an adapter.

Climate

Average temperatures range from 75 87 degrees F. Driest season is January to April. Rainy season is June to October. Average rainfall 80" per year on the coast. 150" per year in the interior.

Water

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has an abundant supply of potable water as the level of rainfall is high.

Taxes & Tipping

Hotels and restaurants will automatically add a 7 percent government tax and 10 percent service charge to your bill. Tipping is at your discretion, but not expected.

Telecommunications

St Vincent and the Grenadines has a state of the art fibre optic digital telephone system. Internet, Boatphone, Cellular service, telex, telegraph and facsimile access are also available. The international area code is 1-784 followed by the local seven-digit number. Phonecards are available through outlets islandwide as are Phonecard booths. International Direct Dialing (IDD) service is available to most destinations in the world and International calls can be made using your credit card (MasterCard, Visa, Discover, AT & T and Bell are accepted) by dialing the operator.

Postal Service

The main post office is on Halifax Street in Kingstown (Mon-Fri 8.30am-3pm, Sat 8.30-11.30am). There are also branches in smaller communities on St Vincent, as well as on the other islands.

Internet/E-Mail

Kingstown has a couple of internet cafés , and others can be found on Bequia and Union Island.

Activities and Attractions

Beaches

All beaches on St. Vincent are public, and many of the best border hotels, where you can order drinks or lunch. Most of the resorts are in the south, where the beaches have golden-yellow sand. The only real white-sand beach on St. Vincent is Young Island, which is private. Many of the beaches in the north have sands of a lava-ash color. The safest swimming is on the leeward beaches; the surf on the windward or eastern beaches is often rough and can be quite dangerous.

Nightlife

Nightlife is not what most visitors come to St. Vincent and the Grenadines for. Most nightlife centers on the hotels, where activities usually include barbecues and dancing to steel bands. In season, at least one hotel seems to have something planned every night.

Dining

Restaurants arenot in short supply throughout the islands. From beachside grills and take-out pizzas to simple, casual fare and more elaborate fine gourmet cuisine. Hotel restaurants are usually open to non-guests and further increase your choices. Along the Villa and Indian Bay strip is a delightful choice of local and international restaurants. Moorings around the Young Island Cut make many of these restaurants easily accessible to yachtsmen. For those seeking a slightly more adventurous lunch or dinner experience take the picturesque drive out to Pebbles in Mount Pleasant or take a boat ride over to Petit Byahaut or Young Island.

Shopping
St. Vincent isn't a shop-a-holic destination, but while you're here, you might pick up some of the Sea Island cotton fabrics and clothing that are local specialties. Vincentian artisans also make pottery, jewelry, and baskets.

Since Kingstown consists of about 12 small blocks, you can walk, browse, and see about everything in a single morning. Try to be in town for the colorful, noisy Friday-morning market. You might not purchase anything, but you'll enjoy the riot of color.

While hours of business vary from store to store, they generally open from 8 am until noon, and 1 pm to 4 pm on weekdays and half day on Saturdays.

Hiking

For the real explorer, La Soufrière, is an intriguing adventure. As you travel the island, you can't miss its cloud-capped splendor. The most recent eruption was in 1979, when it spewed ashes, lava, and hot mud that covered the vegetation on its slopes. Belching rocks and black curling smoke filled the blue Caribbean sky. About 17,000 people were evacuated from a 16km (10-mile) ring around the volcano.

La Soufrière is in the sparsely settled northern part of the island, away from most of St. Vincent's tourism and commercial centers. Should it erupt again, volcanologists don't consider it a danger to visitors lodged at beachside hotels along the leeward coast.

At the rim of the crater, you can enjoy one of the most panoramic views in the Caribbean as you see the steam rising from the crater.

If you don't want to face Soufrière, the best hikes are the Vermont Nature Trails. These marked trails (get a map at the tourist office) take you through a rainforest and pass long-ago plantations reclaimed by nature. If it's your lucky day, you might even see the rare St. Vincent parrot with its flamboyant plumage. Good hiking shoes and mosquito repellent are a must.

Sailing

St. Vincent and the Grenadines are one of the great sailing centers of the Caribbean and can be enjoyed by old salts and novices alike. Bare boat charters are available as well as fully crewed. Rentals are available for a half-day, a full day, overnight, or even longer.

Snorkeling/Scuba Diving

St. Vincent & Bequia offer incredible sheer vertical walls, crevices, and extensive shallow reefs, many virtually unexplored and accessible by boat within 10 minutes from resorts. Diving in the Southern Grenadines and Tobago Cays boasts impressive dense shallow coral gardens and a profusion of fish life.

Most of St. Vincent's 30 or so dive sites are sprinkled along its leeward shore, where you might spot seahorses and frogfish. The best area for snorkeling and scuba diving is the Villa/Young Island section on the southern end of the island.

Fishing

You can angle for yellowtail snapper, grouper, marlin, tuna, and wahoo on deep-sea excursions. Costs (for four people) range from $400 for a half-day to $700 for a full day. Prices usually include bait and tackle, instruction for novices, and refreshments. Ask about licensing and insurance.


Area Attractions

Soufriere, St. Vincent
Reaching the top of this 4,000-foot active volcano requires a four-hour hike through the rainforest.

Botanic Gardens, Kingstown
The oldest botanical garden in the Western Hemisphere features flowers and plants from throughout the world.

Barrouallie, St. Vincent
A small historic whaling village that once thrived in the 19th century.

Falls of Baleine, St. Vincent
These picturesque 60-foot falls, primarily reached only by boat, form a pool below that makes for luxurious swimming.

St. Mary's Cathedral of the Assumption, Kingstown
This historic Catholic church, known for its Romanesque architecture, was built in the early nineteenth century.

St. George's Cathedral, Kingstown
This historic Georgian-style church has colorful stained-glass windows.

Kingstown Methodist Church, Kingstown
This Kingstown landmark was built by the Methodists around an old Catholic church purchased in 1790.

Vermont Nature Trail, St. Vincent
Visitors to this scenic nature trail have the opportunity to see parrots as well as a variety of flowers and plants.

National Museum, St. Vincent
Located inside of the Botanical Gardens, this museum features a number of ancient artifacts left by St. Vincent's earliest settlers.

Table Rock, St. Vincent
A quiet area amidst the wilderness near the Vermont Nature Trail that offers a secluded spot for picnics.

Wallilabou, St. Vincent
This small historic village sits next to a gorgeous bay.

Queens Drive, St. Vincent
A scenic drive to the east of Kingstown.

Montreal Gardens, St. Vincent
Although smaller than the Botanical Gardens in Kingstown, these gardens still feature many species of exotic plants.

Fort Duvernette, St. Vincent
Built around 1800 on a tiny island next to Young Island, this fort once protected a chief port of St. Vincent.

Mesopotamia Valley, St. Vincent
Buried in between two mountains, this valley offers tough hiking.

Market Square, Kingstown
This market area is extremely crowded on weekends as locals cart in fresh foods to sell.

Fort Charlotte, Kingstown
Built in 1806 by the English to protect the harbor from French invasion, this fort sits high above the bay of Kingstown.

Buccament Forest Nature Trail, Kingstown

Underwater Attractions

Emmontal Reef, St. Vincent
This reef is named for a brand of Swiss Cheese because of the color of the yellow Finger Corals that cover it.

New Guinea Reef, St. Vincent
This dive site, located along the southwest coast of St. Vincent, is full of corals and sponges.

Anchor Reef, St. Vincent
This reef, which quickly drops below 100 feet, is home to barracudas, lobsters, rays and more.

Bat Cave, St. Vincent
Snorkelers can see hundreds of bats that make their home on the roof of this narrow cave.

Pinnacle Rock, St. Vincent
This dive site, which sometimes receives tough currents, gets its name because of its cone-shaped rock which comes within 12 feet of the surface.

Turtle Bay, St. Vincent
Seahorses and other unusual sealife is often seen in this bay, which drops to a depth of about 60 feet.

Callie's Secret, St. Vincent
A recently discovered spot where muck divers will find an abundance of interesting creatures buried in the sand.

Harbor South South, St. Vincent
Unusual sealife is regularly seen at this dive site.

The Wrecks, St. Vincent
A group of three wrecks located at one site in Kingstown Harbour includes the Semistrand, a cargo freighter, and an ancient wreck stirred up back during Hurricane Hugo.

 
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Caribbean Travelweb