St. Vincent and the Grenadines Planning Tips and Fast Facts
Slip Away to Deserted Islands, Powder Beaches, Fun-Splashed Beach Bars, and Better than Postcard Sunsets
Our Expert Opinion
One-way yacht charters from north to south are best due to the prevailing winds. For sailing yachts, a one week sailing itinerary from St. Vincent to Union island is ideal; add a few more days, and you can sail on to Grenada. Motor yachts can easily cruise from St. Lucia to Grenada in a week. In the winter, the seas are more robust in this stunning destination.
Off-the-beaten path locale, pristine natural beauty, postcard beaches, snorkelling with turtles in the world famous Princess Margaret Beach, Happy Island, Botanical Gardens, Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, Tobago Cays Marine Park, kite surfing and an underwater wonderland
Location and Size
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an archipelago of 32 beautiful islands spread across the Caribbean Sea, has a total area of about 150 sq. miles (389 sq.km). It is located to the south of Saint Lucia - 100 miles west of Barbados and to the north of Grenada, in the Lesser Antilles’ Windward Islands. The main island of Saint Vincent covers an area of 133 sq. miles (344 sq. km), while the other portion of the region, which is the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines measure around 17 sq. miles (45 sq. km). The remainder of the Grenadines are a part of the territory of the neighboring Grenada.
The original inhabitants of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were a group of Amerindian adventurers who migrated here from South America. They called this place 'Hairoun' (Land of the Blessed). Their discovery of this place around 150 AD paved the way for more explorations from their native land. Until the late 15th century, when Christopher Columbus made a sighting of these Caribbean islands, this place was only known to the Amerindians – one generation succeeding another, establishing a culture distinct from the ancestral, and unique to this region.
However, Columbus did not disembark here. 'Outsiders' only explored this place after a Dutch ship carrying West African slaves sank off St. Vincent in 1635, allowing them to escape. They consolidated with the locals to begin a new ethnic group called as Garifuna or Black Carib.
European occupation of the islands began with the French in the early 1700s. Gradually, the British also began to express their interest in the region. This led to a series of battles between the British and the French from 1795 to 1796, with the Black Caribs, led by Joseph Chatoyer, allying with the latter. Britain eventually
succeeded in winning the possession of the islands, and like their French counterparts, deployed slaves on sugar, tobacco, coffee, cocoa, indigo and cotton plantations. After the abolishment of slavery in 1838, the economy of the region declined. The eruption of the La Soufrière volcano, twice – in 1812 and again in 1902, further crippled it.
Independence from Britain was achieved in 1979. By then, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had already begun its slow, but sure resurgence. Today, this beautiful Caribbean locale is a famed tourist spot, and on the itinerary of many, consumed by wanderlust!
E.T. Joshua Airport on St. Vincent and the Union Island Airport are the two major ports of entry. Connecting flights are available from the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Best Time to Go
The prime time for tourism at St. Vincent and the Grenadines is November through April. The average high during these months is about 85°F (29°C), while the evenings remain around a pleasant 80°F (27°C). This period also witnesses some of the major festivals on the islands. However, the period from May through October is idle for those looking to evade large crowds, and yet join some fun: namely, the Vincy Mass Carnival. Although hurricane season is June to October, this chain of islands is less impacted by hurricanes then its northern neighbors.
Local Customs to Observe
The people on the islands are essentially characterized as warm and easy-going. Casual dressing complements the local lifestyle. Handshakes are perfect in introductions.
Helpful Fast Facts
Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD). US Dollars are also widely accepted.
Time Zone: Eastern Caribbean Time Zone (UTC-4:00)
Local language: The official language is English, though a large portion of the population speak Vincentian Creole, which is the actual mother tongue of the local inhabitants.
Population: 109,373 (as of 2013)
Airport: E.T. Joshua Airport (SVD) and Union Island Airport (UNI).
Entry Requirements: Every national visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines requires
a valid passport. Citizens of the US, UK, Australia, Canada and EU countries do not need a visa for touristic stays. The duration of stay is decided by immigration officers on arrival.
Departure Tax: Travellers aged 12 and above are required to pay a departure tax of $40 XCD (approx. $15 USD).
Legal Drinking Age: Minimum 18 years.
Smoking Regulations: None.
Staying in touch: Cellular phone communication, with international roaming facility is available in most parts of the nation. Internet cafes exist in fair numbers, while Wi-Fi is accessible at major places.
Medical Information: Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown is one of the superior medical facilities in the region. Another destination for medical services is the Georgetown Hospital in Georgetown.
Public Holidays: January 1 (New Year Day), March 14 (National Hero's Day), April 6 (Good Friday), April 9 (Easter Monday), May 1 (Labour Day), May 28 (Whit Monday), First Monday in July (Carnival Monday) ,Day After Carnival Monday (Carnival Tuesday), August 1 (Emancipation Day), October 27 (Independence Day), December 25 (Christmas Day), December 26 (Boxing Day).
Shopping Information: There are numerous local produce markets, souvenirs outlets, boutiques, vending stalls, tattoo shops, and duty free shops in the capital city Kingstown. The Oasis Art Gallery & Gift Shop in Bequia offers a great range of handicrafts, jewelry, paintings and pottery.
Top Ten "Must Do's"
Gallop the beaches of Mustique on a horseback adventure
Set foot on a guided hike of Gros Piton on St Lucia
Belly up to the bar at Seckie and Vanessa’s in Chatham Bay
Bask in the sun at Saltwhistle Bay
Snorkel with the turtles at the Tobago Cays
Learn to kite surf at Union Island
Explore Bequia's picturesque waterfront and visit some model boat building shops.
Explore the wild blue under at Mayreau Gardens
Play castaway for the afternoon on Mopion with its solitary palm tree and shimmering waters
Make plans with a local to cook you a private lobster dinner on a secluded beach in the Tobago Cays
Major Local and Regional Events
Bequia's Music Festival – an annual event held every January that showcases the talents of musicians from all over the world
Mustique's Blues Festival – a musical fund-raiser for education celebrated every year in the month of January
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