|Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa||Antigua||7 nights||FI|
|Sandals Grande St Lucian Spa & Beach Resort||Gros Islet||7 nights||FI|
Positioned where the Atlantic and Caribbean meet, Antigua and Barbuda is an independent Commonwealth country comprising its two namesake islands and several smaller ones. Most of the action can be found in Antigua, an exquisite island where luxurious yachts drift in the harbour, honeymooners frolic in the surf and scuba divers discover fascinating marine life and colourful corals in the aquamarine waters. The island boasts an extraordinary number of pristine, golden beaches as well as a lively capital, St John’s, which is home to an impressive national museum showcasing numerous indigenous and colonial artefacts. Also worth a visit are the island’s national parks and impressive natural blowholes.
The small fishing village on the northwest tip of St Lucia is within walking distance of the resort town of Rodney Bay - the popular tourist hub of the island. This quiet gem is ideal for visitors looking for some respite from the loud bars and tourist traps. Colourful buildings, an old church and street stalls create the charm of the village, and there’s a picturesque beach out front too. Every Friday night the streets are closed to traffic and food vendors, rum stalls and live Caribbean music fill the lanes. Try out Gros Islet’s famous fish grill.
Antigua and Barbuda is an exquisite twin-island Caribbean country comprised of of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands. Antigua is home to some extraordinary beaches as well as the nation’s vibrant capital, St Johns, which boasts a wonderful cathedral and some excellent museums. A visit to neighbouring Barbuda is an altogether more laidback experience. The island is remarkably undeveloped and is blessed with an abundance of intriguing wildlife and countless idyllic palm-fringed beaches. Whether exploring the old fort, the graceful harbours dotted along Antigua’s curving coastline or the calm clear waters of Half Moon Bay, you are bound to find plenty to keep you blissfully entertained in this charming dual-island nation.
East Caribbean Dollar (XCD; symbol EC$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of EC$100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of EC$2 and EC$1, and 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. US currency is accepted almost everywhere. The EC Dollar is pegged to the US Dollar.
There are no limits on the import of local and foreign currency, provided it is declared upon arrival. The export of local and foreign currency is permitted up to the amount imported and declared.
Banking hours: Monday-Thursday 08h00-15h00; Friday 08h00-16h00. The Bank of Antigua also opens until midday on Saturdays.
Major credit cards including American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted all over the islands.
ATMs are available on the islands, with more found in the major resorts and towns such as St John’s.
Travellers cheques are widely accepted and they can be exchanged at international banks, hotels and larger stores. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars rather than Pound Sterling or Euros.
Although the EC Dollar is tied to the US Dollar, exchange rates will vary at different exchange establishments. There are international banks in St John's, and Pound Sterling and US Dollars can be exchanged at hotels and in the larger shops.
A small airstrip at Codrington on Barbuda is equipped to handle light aircraft. Antigua Barbuda Montserrat Air (www.antigua-flights.com) operates daily scheduled flights between Antigua and Barbuda.
To fly to other islands from Barbuda it is necessary to transfer back to VC Bird International airport on Antigua.
It is perfectly safe to drive around Antigua by road and this is a good way to explore the country. Main roads are of good quality but may become dirt tracks if you go off the beaten track. Travellers thinking of driving to remote locations may want to consider hiring a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
A car is not strictly necessary as public transport does exist, but buses, most of which run from St. Johns, tend to serve local rather than tourist routes.
Car hire services can be organised in advance from your home country but is easy to do on arrival. In addition to a valid driver’s licence, a permit to drive in Antigua is required. The hire company can assist in getting this temporary licence. There are several reputable car hire companies on Antigua (some of which also hire out mopeds and bicycles). Hire rates are for the day and there is no mileage. Cars are driven on the left side of the road and few streets are lit at night.
If travelling with young children, be aware that car hire companies do not provide child or booster seats. It is not a legal requirement to use these, but the conditions of the roads on Antigua make it advisable.
Taxis are available everywhere with standardised rates. US Dollars are more readily accepted by taxi drivers. Taxi drivers are also qualified as tour guides for sightseeing trips. Taxis are identified by ‘TX’ on licence plates.
Dress for a tropical climate - lightweight cottons or linens will be appropriate for most of the year, but those visiting the islands from June to September should bring waterproofs so that they’re not caught out when the rains come.
Mains water is normally chlorinated and, whilst relatively safe, may cause mild abdominal upsets. Bottled water is available and is advised for the first few weeks of the stay. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption so there is no need to be overly cautious. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat.
Fresh catches are amongst Antigua's gastronomic specialities with lobster, red snapper, conch, mahi mahi, shrimp and other fish always worth sampling. Most resorts have their own restaurants, but to sample authentic Antiguan fare, head to one of the excellent local restaurants, which are scattered around both the islands. Renowned for their hearty Caribbean dishes, some of these restaurants also offer beach views.
On Antigua you will find all types of international cuisine including French, Italian and American food as well as local specialities. Meanwhile, delectable street food, such as barbeque chicken, fish and rotis, can be found around St John’s and English Harbour.
10 to 15% is included on hotel bills for staff gratuities, plus an 8.5% government tax.
In Antigua and Barbuda the standard voltage supplied by outlets is 230 V. The standard frequency is 60 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type A / B.
The islands enjoy a very pleasant balmy tropical climate which remains warm and relatively dry throughout the year, with relatively little variance. Temperatures range from lows of 22°C (72°F) to highs of 40°C (104°F) all year round, with October to January being the hottest time of year, staying in the region of 30°C (86°F) to 35°C (95°F). Cooling winds blow in from the south east so the heat rarely feels too unbearable. In general, humidity in Antigua and Barbuda is quite low.
The rainy season runs from around June to November, and during this time daily rain showers are common; there is also a good chance of tropical storms and hurricanes across the islands. Their location in the hurricane zone means the islands are vulnerable to powerful storms every two or three years, whilst hurricanes can hit every two to six years.
The Caribbean island of St Lucia is home to beautiful, volcanic, palm-fringed beaches, excellent reef-diving sites, countless little luxury resorts and some charming fishing villages. With a lush interior featuring soaring mountains, dense rain forest, fertile valleys, and acres of banana plantations, St. Lucia is mostly distinguished by the Pitons - a pair of dramatically tapered mountains on the southwest coast. Hike through the rainforest to discover magnificent waterfalls, zip-line over forest canopies or see boiling sulphur springs bubble away atop a volcano. If you’ve still got the energy for a night out, you will find a lively party scene the north of the island. Whether you're after romance, rejuvenation or adventure, Saint Lucia is the perfect destination.
Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD; symbol EC$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of EC$100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of EC$1, and 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. US Dollars are also accepted as legal tender.
The Eastern Caribbean Dollar is tied to the US Dollar at EC$2.7 to US$1.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency.
Banking hours: Generally Monday-Thursday 08h30-15h00, Friday 08h30-17h00. Some banks at Rodney Bay Marina are open Saturday 08h00-12h00.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted at all large shopping centres, restaurants, hotels etc. Most banks have ATMs.
Travellers cheques are accepted. US Dollar cheques are preferred and will help to avoid additional exchange rate charges. Change may be given back in EC$.
When exchanging currency US Dollars ensure a better exchange rate.
Helicopter transfers operate between George F L Charles and Hewanorra airports.
All major centres are served by a reasonably good road network. The main cross-island route runs from Vieux Fort in the south of the island to Castries in the north. Roads are narrow and mountainous roads are steep, often with hairpin bends which are not marked. In rural areas watch out for livestock crossing the road.
You can hire cars in Castries, Soufrière and Vieux Fort, or through hotels. Most cars are suitable for driving in St Lucia, but if you're driving through mountainous terrain or in bad weather conditions, a 4-wheel drive may be your best option. Hotels and local tour operators run coach trips for groups. Vehicles are driven on the left side of the road. You need to show your national driving licence or International Driving Permit to obtain a temporary local licence. These are available from car hire firms or police stations for a small fee.
Hiring a taxi is easy and cheap. Standard trips usually have fixed rates, but you should agree upon these before you get in as tourists are vulnerable to being overcharged. Doublecheck what currency the taxi driver is quoting (US Dollars or EC Dollars). When hiring a taxi at night, always choose a reputable company. Tipping is unnecessary.
Boat charters are easily available at Castries, Marigot Bay and Rodney Bay. Water taxis are an easy way to access private beaches or go island hopping.
In general, light breathable fabrics are best, along with beachwear. A light waterproof jacket may also come in handy during rain showers. Hikers should pack sensible footwear and warm clothes as temperatures drop at higher altitudes.
Mains water is normally chlorinated, and whilst relatively safe, may cause mild abdominal upsets. Bottled water is available. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat but take care to ensure that all foods are properly prepared and cooked. Barracuda should not be eaten due to risk of ciguatera poisioning.
St Lucian food is a combination of Creole with French and West Indian influences. Most hotels have restaurants, in addition to a wide range in the major towns serving many different types of food. Waiter service is the norm.
Tipping: An optional 10 to 12% is sometimes added to bills.
Electrical sockets in Saint Lucia are the "Type G " British BS-1363 type. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in.
Electrical sockets Saint Lucia usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance is not compatible with 220/240V output, a voltage converter will be necessary.
The weather in St Lucia is typical of most Caribbean islands. There is a hot, tropical climate tempered by trade winds throughout most of the year with temperatures ranging from 21°C (70°F) to 32°C (90°F). The driest period is from December to May and there is increased rainfall in summer and towards the end of the year (June to November). Regionally, there is some variation. The beaches around the North (Castries, Gros Islet) whilst hot, receive cooling trade winds, whilst the rainforested interior of the island can get very hot and humid. St Lucia can also suffer from hurricanes; typically the hurrican season runs from June to November.