When I found out I was going on a trip to the tropical Caribbean island of St Lucia, I did what I always do, and try to research as much as possible before I go. Unfortunately, there didn’t really seem to be a lot of useful information available in the travel blogging world. So upon my return I thought I would put together this guide of things to know before arriving, to help others who might find themselves in the same situation.
You’re gonna need cash – and I’d get it before you go.
I’m used to travelling abroad with no cash and then using a ‘Revolut’ or Monzo card to withdraw cash from an ATM when I arrive. So naturally, I arrived in St Lucia with no cash. This wasn’t too much of an issue to begin as we were staying at an all-inclusive Sandals resort and had a private transfer from the airport included with our flights. At the airport, I didn’t see any ATMs, only a Bank of St Lucia desk. Our Sandals resort also didn’t have an ATM. You could get cash at the reception with a minimum of 100 USD into Eastern Caribbean Dollars, with a $10 USD charge. There are atm’s in the main town of Castries, but I’m not sure about charges or exchange rates. My advice would be to bring some USD from your home country.
USD or Eastern Caribbean Dollars?
You can pay pretty much anywhere with USD, so if it’s easier for you to get some USD exchanged in your home country than it is Easter Caribbean Dollars (which I’d imagine is the case), then bring USD. That being said, it is similar to places like Cambodia, where if you pay in USD you may still get your change in the local currency. Our Airbnb host advised us to use Eastern Caribbean Dollars in markets, to avoid being short-changed. You can use ATMs in the cities to get EC$.
Taxis have a minimum charge
We found in and around Castries in particular, the taxis have a minimum charge of $20 USD (probably just for tourists). Even for a 5-minute trip, we had to pay $20 USD, so I’d recommend using public buses wherever possible. Buses are extremely cheap – around 1.75 EC$ (50p) for a bus to or from Castries. They run pretty frequently but have no set timetable, so be aware of that if you are limited on time.
Rent a car and drive yourself!
Renting a car is really easy, and an affordable alternative to getting taxis everywhere if you don’t fancy using the public buses. Driving is also pretty easy, especially if you are used to driving on the left. Just be very careful of the never-ending winding roads, and of other drivers – some of the locals drive pretty fast.
Camouflage is a no-no
It is illegal to wear clothes or have any bags in camouflage print. This is because the islands Police uniform is camouflage. It is illegal no matter where you are, even in resorts, so bear that in mind when packing your case!
Outside of the resorts, you will often smell that people around you are smoking cannabis. We even got offered some on the private beach at our Sandals resort! Just remember Cannabis is illegal in St Lucia, despite how commonly used by the locals it may seem.
Everyone wants a tip
We learnt on one of our tours that the average monthly salary is $310 USD. With this in mind, it’s understandable why taxi drivers, hotel staff, airport assistance and tour guides rely so heavily on tips. It will sometimes come across as quite pushy, which can be frustrating. Don’t be pressured into over-tipping, just tip what you think is fair.
Everyone is super friendly.
With this being said, all of the staff and locals we met were so helpful and friendly. My friend and I stayed in an Airbnb in a very local, residential area about a 15-minute drive outside of Castries. We went to a local shop and the lady working in there was so helpful to us. She helped us pay in USD and Caribbean $ and helped us make sure we had the exact change for the bus so that the driver didn’t try to overcharge us.