Travel TIPS

Frequently asked questions about St Lucia

What will the weather be like?
Do I need a passport? Mine expires in the next six months; is that a problem?
Are there mosquitoes and other insects in St Lucia?
What is Zika and will I get it if I visit St Lucia?
Will my phone work in St Lucia?
what should I know about Immigration and Customs in St Lucia?
May I bring alcoholic beverages or food into St Lucia?
What voltage is the electricity in St Lucia?
What currency is used in St Lucia?
On which side of the road do St Lucians drive on? Do I need a local driving permit or an international driver’s license?
Is the water safe to drink in St Lucia?
What is the minimum drinking age?
What language does everyone speak in St Lucia?
What foods and other products are local?
Tipping – do you or don’t you?
Where do I get more information?

What will the weather be like?

85° F
Rain
Rain

The number one question asked about St Lucia is about the weather. If you look at weather.com, you’ll most likely see every day shows at least a 10-30% chance of rain.  Don’t panic!  That doesn’t mean you have a 10 – 30% chance of being rained out. Here is our personal experience with the weather in St Lucia: We’ve spent two weeks a year for the past twelve years in St Lucia, all of it in the rainy season (June through December).  During those 24 weeks, only two days were complete rain-outs.  Another ten days had rainy mornings or afternoons.  The rest were either dry (during the day), or had a few brief periods of rain sometime in the day.

Most of the time, the rain will be overnight or in the morning for a few minutes. Sometimes, there is a late-afternoon shower for 10-15 minutes.  On very occasionally is the rain persistent enough to shut down outdoor activities. St Lucians call the rain “liquid sunshine” – even when it rains, it can be sunny (rainbows are frequent, especially in the morning), and the rain is warm. And the rain is what makes the island so green and beautiful. So don’t get nervous about the weather – St Lucia is blessed with abundant sunshine!

Temperatures – mid-to-upper 80’s in the summer, peaking in August and September – great beach and pool weather! Nighttime – low to upper 70’s. Villa Grand Piton is blessed with cooling breezes – the house is open (no glass in the windows – only plantation shutters), and we are at the top of a mountain ridge next to the rainforest. It can actually get a little cool at night (“long sleeves” cool), especially in the “winter” (November through April).

The length of the days range from 11-1/2 to 13 hours long, with sunset about 5:30 in the “winter” and 6:30 in the summer. St Lucia does not observe daylight savings time, and is on Atlantic Standard Time – so it matches the Eastern coast of the US in the summer, and is an hour ahead of the Eastern US in the winter.

We have our own weather station at Villa Grand Piton, so you can check out the weather before you leave home!  For the 10-day forecast, click here. If you want to see the weather history, click here and select your dates of interest about half-way down the page. You will be able to see when during the day or night it rained, how much it rained, the high and low temperatures, the wind speed, etc.

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Do I need a passport? Mine expires in the next six months; is that a problem?

Yes, you need a passport. But it’s hard to find hard-and-fast regulations on the expiration date. I’ve read that St Lucia requires your passport to be valid for 90 days after your arrival, and I’ve read the airlines won’t let you on the plane to St Lucia if your passport expires within 6 months.

Therefore, we STRONGLY recommend your passport be valid for at least six months past the date of your flight to St Lucia. Showing up at the airport and being denied boarding by the airlines is no way to start your vacation!

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Are there mosquitoes and other insects in St Lucia?

St Lucia is in a very temperate climate and much of the island is a rainforest, so, yes, there are mosquitoes and insects in St Lucia! We do try to manage “Mother Nature” by having an outdoor mosquito-control machine, eliminating or treating standing water, and targeted use of some insecticides to keep the mosquito and other insect populations down. Indoors, we have “bug zappers”, mosquito rackets, and all the beds and the Jacuzzi have mosquito nets. Ask Doxie about how to use the rackets and the nets (the nets are not effective if you do not use them correctly). We also suggest you use the oscillating standing fan at night in the bedrooms – the nice breeze keeps the mosquitoes away at the same time you stay cool.

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What is Zika and will I get it if I visit St Lucia?

Zika is a mosquito-borne viral infection which is transmitted by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits dengue and chikungunya viruses. The most common symptoms of zika infection are mild fever and skin rash, usually accompanied by conjunctivitis, muscle or joint pain, and general malaise that begins 2-7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya and can last 2-7 days. Only about 20% of people infected with zika experience any symptoms.

The greatest risk is to pregnant women – or those that become pregnant shortly after exposure to the zika virus – due to the link between zika and the birth defect microcephaly.

No one can predict with certainty whether someone will get Zika or not. As of early July 2016, there have only been a few cases of Zika confirmed in St Lucia. This means that the virus is not widespread in the local population. In order to pass the disease to you, the mosquito must bite an infected person, then bite you. This kind of mosquito does not usually fly far (only a few hundred meters), so being in places of low population density (such as at Villa Grand Piton) lowers the likelihood that a mosquito will bite an infected person and then fly far enough to bite you and transmit the disease. However, we still advise you to:
• Review the CDC information on zika.
• Prevent mosquito bites, being especially vigilant during the day, as the Aedes aegypti mosquito is a “day biter”:
• Use insect repellents on exposed skin. Insect repellents that contain DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or IR3535 are the most effective and safe when used according to the label. If also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
• Where possible, wear light colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants, socks and shoes to minimize exposed skin.
• When indoors, especially while sleeping, use the standing fans at fairly high speed to keep a breeze blowing on you (dilutes the CO2 you exhale and makes you less “visible” to the mosquitos) and sleep under mosquito nets to prevent bites.

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Will my phone work in St Lucia?

Your phone will probably not work in St Lucia, unless you have an international service plan.
You can contact your service provider prior to your trip and have them upgrade you to an international plan. Another way to get your phone to work in St Lucia is to get a local St Lucian number by getting a SIM card if your phone is “unlocked”. You can order one over the internet prior to your trip and bring it with you, or you can get it at a Digicel or Lime stores (the two service providers on the island). There is a LIME store in Soufriere. The SIM card should cost about $10EC. I did this on my last trip, and it took about 20 minutes (they had trouble getting the case off or it would have been faster!).

Texting from your phone should work when connected to WiFi, but we’ve noticed it depends on your phone type and the type of the recipient. For instance, I have an iPhone and I can text others with iPhones, but I cannot text people with Androids. So we highly recommend that you install “What’s App” (it’s free) which allows you to send texts, pictures, and voice messages via WiFi to any other phone or tablet. Your friends and family will have to install What’s App, too. There is WiFi in Villa Grand Piton, and some restaurants and bars provide it also.

There is an extremely helpful discussion on cells phones in St Lucia on the Tripadvisor forum.

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What should I know about Immigrations and Customs in St Lucia?

When you arrive at the airport in St. Lucia, you have to go through immigration where they will stamp your passport and look at the “St. Lucia Declaration Form” that you have filled out (your airline most likely distributed these on the plane before arrival in St. Lucia). You will have to state on the form where you are staying. Write in “Anse Chastanet Hotel and Villas in Soufriere” (the government does not know where “Villa Grand Piton” is located).

You will then proceed through customs, where they will review your customs declarations about items (if any) you are bringing into the country with you.

For more information and to ensure you have the up-to-date information, see the St Lucia consulate website.

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May I bring alcoholic beverages or food into St Lucia?

Yes, you may, with some restrictions. The current (July 2016) duty-free allowance for alcoholic beverages is 40 ounces per person. You may bring more than that, but you will have to declare it and pay the duty on the excess. The duty is calculated on your purchase price, so please bring a receipt for the excess volume.

The grocery stores have the basics, but you may want to bring food into St Lucia if you have a particular preference. Since only food that is “fit for human consumption” is allowed to be brought into St Lucia, we recommend that you leave the food in its original packaging. (We bring in high-quality steaks in packages having the USDA label, and grill them on the grill located on the deck.) If you come in on the weekend, there is a possibility they will detain any raw meat you have brought in for inspection (only one or two people are authorized to inspect meat). If this happens, don’t argue! Be sure to get the paperwork, and when you get to the villa, tell Doxie. She will help you take care of it.

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What voltage is the electricity in St Lucia?

You may have read that St Lucia power is 220V and 50 Hz. That is correct, but our villa has a transformer, so we have 110V (U. S.) power available throughout the villa, as well as 220V. We’ve labeled the outlets to identify which are 110V and which are 220V.

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What currency is used in St Lucia?

The official currency of St Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$). The exchange rate varies a tiny bit, but is right around $2.70 EC to the US$. There is a bank currency conversion place at the airport; they give a good rate for US dollars. Almost everyone takes US currency, and many businesses take credit cards (particularly those places where people tend to spend larger amounts of money – groceries, restaurants, tour companies, etc.). You may find a few places “off the beaten path” that want EC, but most of them will take US$ if that is all you have. We recommend you convert some “pocket money” ($50-$100US) to EC for tips or trinkets. You can always use it up at the restaurants or duty-free shops at the airport when leaving.

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On which side of the road do St Lucians drive on? Do I need a local driving permit or an international driver’s license?

The driving is on the left-hand side of the road. If you wish to rent a car, most places require a minimum age of 25 and a maximum age of 65 (with some going up to 70), and will require a minimum amount of time as a licensed driver. You will need a St Lucian driving permit – bring your valid driver’s license and you can purchase one for about $20 US that is good for three months. An International Driving Permit/License is acceptable instead of purchasing the St Lucian driving permit. Getting an international permit is easy – if you are AAA members, you can stop at your local AAA office and purchase an international license that is good for one year. (We did this last fall.) The fee for the picture for the license was $9, and the license itself was $15, so the total cost was $24. The St Lucian permit is $20US and is good for three months, and the car rental company will issue you the permit in just a few minutes, so you may prefer to just purchase a permit when you arrive in St Lucia.

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Is the water safe to drink?

St Lucia is not like Mexico, where the water supply is notorious for causing problems for travelers. Most travelers have no issues with the drinking water anywhere on the island. The water supply for the villa is rainwater that has been treated and filtered. However, rain water is different than the city water you are likely accustomed to drinking, and our treatment includes chlorine. So we suggest, particularly for those of you with delicate constitutions or if you dislike the taste of chlorine, that you drink the water from our water cooler.

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What is the minimum drinking age?

The minimum drinking age is 18.

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What language does everyone speak in St Lucia?

The official language is English, with a French-based Creole patois spoken by many St Lucians.

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What foods and other products are local?

Fruit: Five Fingers (Starfruit), Golden Apple, Wax Apple, Gooseberry, Sour Orange, Sweet Orange, Grapefruit, Soursop, Star Apple, Papaya, Passionfruit, Mango, Pineapple, Melon, Banana, Coconut, Sugar Cane, Guava, Avocado, Noni

Vegetables and herbs/spices: Breadfruit, “Ground Provisions” (aka Sweet Potato, Dasheene, Yam), Green Banana (fig), Plantain, Callaloo, Spinach, Kale, Moringa, Lettuce, Cucumber, Pigeon Peas, Salad Peas, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Parsley, Tropical Basil, Sweet Pepper, Seasoning Pepper (Scotch Bonnet), Tomato, Eggplant, Jamaican Akee, Pumpkin, Turmeric Root, Ginger Root, RouCou (Annatto) and more

Other local products: cashew nuts, peanuts, green or yellow plantain chips, cassava chips, cassava bread, cocoa sticks, bay leaf (for bush tea), whole Nutmeg w/the mace, cinnamon

Beer: Piton, Heineken, Guinness

Rum: Bounty (gold), Chairman’s Reserve (gold), Chariman’s Reserve “White Label” (clear), Chairman’s Reserve Spiced (gold), Admiral Rodney (amber), 1931 (super premium), Toz (gold or clear), Kweyol Spice (gold), Crystal (white), Crystal Lime, Denros (high-proof white), and others! See St Lucia Rums for more information.

Other local products:
Green Gold Mountain Coffee (very smooth coffee)
Viking Trader’s products (Hot Sauce, Banana Ketchup, BBQ sauce, etc.)
Rainforest Granola stlucianewsonline.com/local-entrepreneurs-cr…
Logwood Honey
Cassava Farine
Back To Roots 100% Virgin Coconut Oil
Jus Juice and Jus Juice Ice Lollies
Mauby (bottled by Hairoun Brewery, St. Vincent & the Grenadines)

SWEETS… Tamarind Balls, Guava Cheese Squares, Fudge, Gooseberry Jam, Pearay, Coconut Drop, Coconut Tablet, Coco Confit

PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS… Leather Back Health & Beauty Soap (Cassialata/Sulpher and Neem), Go Caribbean Blue All-Natural Hand-Crafted Soap (Rejuvenating Red Clay, Toning Green Clay, Nourishing Pink Clay, Clarifying Yellow Clay)

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Tipping – do you or don’t you?

Unlike the United States, the expectation of a 15% tip is not built into the salary of service personnel such as waiters and waitresses. This means that service personnel don’t expect a tip.

However, the average hourly wage of a St Lucian in the service industry is about what we pay for a coffee at Starbucks (or less!). And the St Lucian economy is highly dependent on tourism – so there are few jobs available outside of the service industry. So, we usually tip our tour guides, taxi drivers, waiters and waitresses, housekeepers, masseuse, bartenders, etc. – if we were pleased with their service. When we pay by credit card, we try to leave the tip in cash, as anything added to the credit card bill may not be received by the person that helped us.

You may notice that many restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill. That’s just a way to keep the price of the food and drinks lower on the menu – the restaurants that don’t add it explicitly to your bill already have it in their pricing. That service charge may or may not make it to your server. If you were happy with their service, consider a tip of a few percent.

Bottom line – unless you are at a place that specifically prohibits tipping, a few extra dollars along with your warm “thank you” is highly appreciated.

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Where can I get additional information about St Lucia?

If you are looking for a good reference for more St Lucia information, check out this website: allaboutstlucia.com

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