St Lucia Facts
Some essential st lucia facts and st lucia travel tips!
St Lucia is located at 13 53 N, 60 58 W and part of the Windward Islands. St. Lucia’s physical features are strikingly beautiful. Dominated by high peaks and rain forests in the interior, the 616 square-kilometer volcanic island is known for the twin peaks of Gros Piton and Petit Piton on the southwestern coast, its sandy beaches, many rivers and magnificent natural harbors. Mount Gimie , the highest peak, is located in the central mountain range and rises to 958 meters above sea level. A sizable part of the islands lush interior has been designated a forest reserve by the st lucia government. Fertile land holdings, which support banana and mixed crop farming, are scattered throughout the island.
Flora and Fauna
The national bird is the St. Lucia Parrot and endemic species include the Kouwes Snake, the world’s rarest snake, and the Zandoli Te, a ground lizard, found only on the Maria Island Nature Reserve. Other flora and fauna on St. Lucia in similar to other islands. Many of the plants (especially the ornamentals and food crops ) were imported centuries ago, as well as mongoose, mice and rats, cane toads, and livestock. Possums (“manicou” in local Creole) inhabit the island, and a few remaining agoutis (brought there by Amerindians, who domesticated them). Hardwood trees, broad-leaved trees, ferns and flowers are plentiful. The most common varieties of birds include the hummingbird, flycatcher, grackle and pigeon. The marine life comprises of sea turtles, lobsters, game fish and conch. The endemic species as well as some of the marine turtles are protected – however, there is a season for hunting green turtles, and protection is not well enforced. Read more about St Lucia animals…
Historical St Lucia Facts
Indigenous Amerindian tribes referred to as “Arawaks” and “Caribs” came from Central America around 200 AD and 800 AD. The Caribs called the island “Iouanalao” (Hewanorra) meaning “Island of the Iguanas.” The Caribs fiercely defended their territory from Europeans until the French finally established a colony. In 1663, the Caribs abandoned rights to the island. For the next century and a half, “the Helen of the West” exchanging hands 14 times between French and British before ceded to the British in 1814. The Europeans established coffee, indigo, tobacco and cocoa plantations under a system of African slaves and indentured East Indian labourers. Sugar cane was St Lucia’s main export crop from 1765 to about 1940. Emancipation finally happened in 1838. In 1979, St Lucia gained its independence. The island’s population remains of of 80% African origin. Read more about the history of the Balenbouche plantation…
Independence from Britain was obtained on 22 February 1979. The St Lucia government is a parliamentary democracy modeled on the Westminster system. The head of State is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the governor general. A Prime Minister is elected every 5 years. The House of Assembly (11 seats) is elected, the Senate (6 seats) is appointed by the Prime Minister. The two main parties are the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and the United Workers Party (UWP). The St Lucia government consists of 11 quarters/political constituencies; Anse-la-Raye, Castries, Choiseul, Dauphin, Dennery, Gros-Islet, Laborie, Micoud, Praslin, Soufriere, Vieux-Fort. Visit the St Lucia Government Website for more st lucia facts
Throughout the 18th century St Lucia’s main export crop was sugar. In the mid 19th century, the capital of st lucia, Castries, became an important coaling port. After 1960, sugar cane was replaced by coconuts (copra) and bananas. Then St Lucia was discovered as a tourism destination, replacing agriculture in the 1990’s. Banana exports further declined due to the ending of preferential trade agreements with the European Union. Today, the economy is largely based on tourism, which directly and indirectly accounts for more than 60% of jobs. Agriculture employs 7.9%, industry 15.6 % and services 76.5% (2021 estimate). The unemployment rate is 21% and youth unemployment is 38.2%
Despite growth in tourism and diversification of the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, the island remains dependent on external funds and carries a trade deficit. GDP by sector (2020 estimate): Agriculture: 2.2%, industry 10.9%, services 86.9%. (source; Wikipedia)
St Lucia Facts on Crime
Generally, you will find that people in St. Lucia are open, friendly and helpful. However, one of the unfortunate st lucia facts is that in recent years, crime, including violent crime, has been increasing. Visitors should use common sense and caution. For emergencies, dial 999 island wide. As a female, you will probably attract some attention, and should be prepared to experience some (mostly harmless) harassment. However, all visitors should exercise caution at all times. If you are traveling alone, explore more remote areas with an official St Lucia guide or stay where there are others nearby.
St Lucia travel tip: Currently, as of December 2021, a Covid PCR test within 5 days is required to enter St Lucia. A Covid vaccine is highly recommended, but not required. Unvaccinated travellers however must quarantine and are limited in what they can do on island. No other vaccinations are necessary when traveling to St Lucia. There are occasional outbreaks of Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika, mosquito-borne viruses. There are four main hospitals in St Lucia; Tapion Hospital (private), Victoria Hospital in Castries (Covid patients/respiratory hospital), the new OKEU hospital, and St. Jude’s Hospital in Vieux Fort. Soufriere and Dennery have some medical facilities, and every village has a small Health Center. The medical facilities and care on the island are adequate for basic care and very affordable, but anything more serious should be diagnosed and treated overseas.
Most of the island is serviced by the semi-privatized St Lucia Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO). The water quality from the main line is ok to drink in most places, though at times heavily chlorinated. From time to time, the water supply may be interrupted for a day or two. For information on our water supply at Balenbouche estate, please visit our FAQ
Electricity 220 volts, 50 cycle AG (a few hotels are 110 volts, 60 cycles). Most sockets take 3 pin square plugs, UK Standard. Adapters and transformers are available at Balenbouche Estate and in many other hotels and guest houses. The islands electricity is still almost exclusively generated through fossil fuels, though there are some plans for and attempts at solar and geothermal energy. The cost per kWh is about US$ 0.36
Money and Tipping
The local Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$ or XCD) is fixed to the US$ at 1 US$ = $2.6882 EC$. The exchange rate on the street, in hotels and stores varies from 2.50 to 2.65. Bank hours are Monday to Friday 8 am to 2 pm. All ATM’s distribute local currency. Major international credit cards are accepted at most large shopping centers, restaurants, hotels etc. However, many smaller st lucia guesthouses and stores do not accept credit cards. American Express cards are also not accepted everywhere due to high fees. There is a 10% value added tax for tourism services and a 15% VAT for most other goods and services. A service charge of 10% is typically added to your bill by most hotels, guest houses and restaurants. Tips are always appreciated!
Immigration, Customs and Taxes
Most visitors can travel to St Lucia with their passports, but nationals of some countries are required to apply for a visa before entering. Visitors can stay 42 days (6 weeks) on a tourist visa, which can be extended for US$ 80 per month for up to 6 months (you must have a return ticket). As of 2021, there is also a year long multi-entry visa which can be applied for online ahead of travel. This is much more convenient than going to the immigration office in Castries.
Duty free allowance: 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or 50 cigars, one liter of spirit or wine.
The departure tax is already included in ticket prices on International flights. For regional travel, a separate departure tax still applies.
St Lucia Blog posts
St Lucia map | St Lucia facts | Getting around | Attractions | St Lucia must do | Is St Lucia expensive? | Camping | Best time to visit St Lucia | St Lucia with kids | St Lucia animals | Beaches & beach activities | St Lucia food | Restaurants | Pitons | Hiking & Rain forest | Sulphur springs | Plantations & Estates | Botanical gardens | Best area to stay in St Lucia | Vieux Fort | Soufriere | Castries
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