Thursday, April 19, 2012

Planning to go to St. Lucia?

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
There are several things I learned from a week in St. Lucia that may help others who are planning to go.  It is a popular Caribbean destination, and St. Lucians are trying to make it known as a romantic getaway and the destination for honeymooners.  In this essay I will address the kind of dress that is appropriate, the situation regarding food, and transportation.
Trying to plan, in advance, for all eventualities is difficult, to say the least.  For this week’s trip to St. Lucia every member of our seven-member party decided to take carry-on baggage only: no checked luggage.  What I took worked well for me.  The “uniform” of preference on the island is a tee-shirt and bermuda shorts.  I took two or three pairs of bermudas and a couple of extra shirts.  For the purposes of traveling there and back, and also for the purpose of going to a restaurant while there, I took one pair of long pants and 3 collared, knit shirts.  I used them all.
The preferred type of shoe, of course, is flip flops.  But, if you’re going to do a great deal of walking or hiking, a pair of gym or tennis shoes works well.  I took one pair of each plus some low-rise white socks for the shoes (to absorb sweat).
There is no need for a jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt unless, of course, you will be spending time in air conditioning.  Many homes have air conditioned bedrooms only because electricity is so expensive.  Even the ventilating breezes that blow in the evening are warm — not cool or chilling in any way.
A swimsuit is mandatory as is sun screen.  (I used sun screen with an SPF of 50.)  If you are traveling during the insect season (we were not), you will need insect repellant or insect wipes.  Wipes are especially effective if you will be walking on the sand beaches during the summer to protect yourself from the sand fleas.  (Purchase inexpensive sun screen at Walmart, and squeeze it into a 3-ounce plastic container.  That can last you for a week of moderate use.)
A backpack will help you when you go shopping in the markets, for going to the beach, and for carrying extra water bottles.  We put our water bottles in the refrigerator freezer overnight and found the cold water delightful the next day.  The hot, humid temperatures do not allow it to stay frozen for too long.
In addition to dress, there is a concern about food.  We stayed in a house and had to purchase all our food (except the two times during the week when we ate out) at the local grocery store.  Food on St. Lucia is very expensive.  We had to plan for dinners for seven.  For breakfasts we had Cheerios along with orange juice, toast, and a banana. For lunches we had peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches along with cut-up carrots and an apple.  We bought a large bag of 16 pieces of chicken.  They were legs connected with thighs, and they served our purposes well.
We cooked 8 pieces that we sliced for sandwiches we had on one of our island tours.
We covered one set of 8 pieces with bread crumbs, cooked them in the oven, and had them with mashed potatoes (from the box), gravy from a can, and two cans of green beans.  It proved to be a great and tasty dinner everyone enjoyed.
For our last big meal on the island we had leftovers, and there was enough chicken left over for everyone to have a piece.
(For one evening meal we had macaroni and cheese along with hot dogs, for another we had spaghetti, and for yet another we had frozen Tombstone pizzas.  Along with two meals out, and one of leftovers, that covered the evening meals we had while on St. Lucia.)
Staples such as milk (although we had to buy Lactose-free because regular skim milk was out because deliveries were not made to the grocery store), bread, yogurt, and bananas were all available — although expensive.

Moving from dress and food to transportation, I want to discuss the problem.  First, there is no public transportation.  All transportation is private.  There are private vans moving between all the towns on the island, and the rates are controlled — and cheap.  Vans, for example, moving between Castries and Rodney Bay (a 20-30-minute trip depending on the traffic) carried passengers (about 10-14 per van) for about $2.00 EC$ or less than $1.00 U.S.
We had to make a decision about whether or not to rent a car.  The owner of our rental home said he would take care of transportation for us, and, in retrospect, he did.  But that made us totally dependent on him.  Also, to get us to and from the airport, and for our tour of the island, he charged us — and he wasn’t inexpensive!  It took us two vehicles to get to and from the airport and cost us $80.00 U.S. each.  To tour the island it was $80.00 per adult; there were three of us.
Perhaps we could have rented a car and saved money; however, it is unlikely that renting a car would have worked out well, and there are at least six reasons for this.  First, driving on the left (as the British do) makes it somewhat difficult at the outset.  It isn’t that U.S. drivers cannot or should not drive on the left, but our normal instincts and natural reflexes are the opposite; thus, in trying or stressful traffic situations, we are likely to respond in the opposite way we should.
The second reason that renting a car would not have worked out well is that there are no road signs nor speed limits.  Ali Breen, our designated taxi driver, told us that the hilly, twisty, narrow roads of St. Lucia impose their own limits regarding speed.  Third, it is difficult to find your way around.  Main roads may go through the two large cities (Castries and Soufriere), but they do not flow in a straight line by any means, and with no highway numbers, without a local map, which would, perhaps, make things easier, it can be a maze that is best pursued through trial and error!
There are three other reasons.  The fourth is that local drivers tend to be fast and aggressive.  The deference and respect shown to other local drivers is negotiated and follows local customs — which foreign drivers don’t know.  Fifth, roads are narrow, twisty, with lots of hills.  Cars pass on hills and curves with abandon — and high risk.  It’s a wonder there aren’t more accidents, and Greg, who drove us around most of the time, said there are a lot!  The sixth reason, and the best one, is that I’m not sure I’d even like to do it.  There are far too many arguments against it!  (One argument I did not use was the cost.  It is not just expensive to rent a car or van, but the gas is expensive, too.)
Dress, food, and transportation are some of the factors that need to be considered if you are planning to go to St. Lucia.  We went to accompany our older daughter and her 3 kids, and it was a great choice (very expensive to get there, to rent a house, and to buy food), but we saw the island, experienced the culture, enjoyed the cuisine, swam in the water, and would want to experience another place for another time.
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The website VirtualTourist has a page called “St. Lucia Favorites” that gives numerous hints about what to see and do (and how to prepare) by people who have been there.

Visit St. Lucia: Traveler’s Essentials has a brief essay entitled “Safety in St. Lucia that is a must read for anyone planning to go there.

The website St. Lucia discusses the seasons, when it is best to visit, and in “Time’s On Your Side,” also offers information on the events and festivals.  There is, for example, a two-week jazz festival in May of each year that is popular and well attended.
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Copyright April, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.


1 comment:

  1. If you are Planning to go to St. Lucia? villa rental in st lucia is best for you for staying and enjoying purpose.

    Thanks for sharing such type of information.


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