Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island nation in the Caribbean, north of Trinidad and Tobago. The main island of Saint Vincent has most of the land area and population of just over 100,000. The many small islands and islets of the Grenadines trail in a curve spanning more than 60km to the south, where the southernmost Grenadines are part of the independent island nation of Grenada.
Bananas and other agricultural products remain the staple of this lower-middle income country's economy. Although tourism and other services have been growing moderately in recent years, the economy is not well diversified. Unemployment remains high, and economic growth hinges upon seasonal variations in the agricultural and tourism sectors.
While the English were the first to lay claim to Saint Vincent in 1627, the French would be the first European settlers on the island when they established their first colony at Barrouallie on the Leeward side of Saint Vincent shortly before 1700. Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. African slaves, whether shipwrecked or escaped from Saint Lucia or Grenada and seeking refuge in St. Vincent, intermarried with the Caribs. Saint Vincent was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763), restored to French rule in 1779 and regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles in 1783.
Slavery was abolished in 1834; the resulting labour shortages on the plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and east Indians in the 1860s. From 1763 until independence, Saint Vincent passed through various stages of colonial status under the British and it was granted associate statehood status on 27 October 1969, giving it complete control over its internal affairs. Following a referendum in 1979, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain full independence.
Natural disasters have plagued the country throughout the 20th century. In 1902, Soufrière volcano erupted, killing 2,000 people. Much farmland was damaged, and the economy deteriorated. In April 1979, La Soufriere erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands had to be evacuated, and there was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes devastated banana and coconut plantations; 1998 and 1999 also saw very active Hurricane seasons, with hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.
Saint Vincent is tropical with little seasonal temperature variation and a rainy season lasting from May to November.
Saint Vincent is volcanic and mountainous with little flat land. Its highest point is Saint Vincent's Soufriere volcano at 1,234m
The largest airport is E.T. Joshua Airport just outside of the capital of Kingstown. Most flights in and out are relatively local, mostly flying to nearby islands such as Canouan, St. Lucia, Barbados, and Saint Kitts. A new international airport is under construction and is estimated to be completed in 2015, at which time E.T. Joshua will cease operation.
The Grenadines Islands of Bequia, Mustique, Canouan and Union Island have relatively small airports which have daily domestic flights to and from mainland Saint Vincent and some of the other Grenadines Islands and also provides direct international flights to and from Barbados, Carriacou, Grenada and Martinique. The main airlines operating in these islands are SVG Air, Grenadines Air Alliance, and Air Mustique using DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft or otherwise. Chartered flights are available on request.
40km south of Saint Vincent, the Canouan Airport is the largest and closest runway to the Tobago Cays and able to accommodate super mid-size jets.
On this, the southernmost Grenadine island belonging to Saint Vincent, the airport is your access point to the private island resorts of:
Two large berths located in Kingstown and Chateaubelair on mainland Saint Vincent can accommodate cruise ships.
To the Grenadines
Ferry services operate between the Grenadines and Saint Vincent every day except for Wednesday with either the MV Barracouda, MV Gemstar, MV Guidance or the MV Jaden Sun (a fast ferry). Check online for these boats' schedules. Ferry services also operate bi-weekly between Ashton, Union Island and Hillsborough, Carriacou (Grenada) on Mondays and Thursdays.
Small water-taxis provide daily transportation between the islands.
Saint Vincent is relatively small, but the mountainous landscape makes it difficult to get around.
The main highways run along the coasts and as such it is necessary to drive around the whole of the island to get from one side to the other. Driving is on the left.
In terms of public transport, the island is served by a large number of privately owned vans that act as a bus service. These vans have an "H" at the beginning of their number plates, meaning they are "for hire." Cost to ride is as low as XCD1. Many of them have graphics on the front. These mini buses are the main mode of transport and hence they are usually cramped and over-crowded and play loud music. On the other hand, taxis (used mostly by tourists) are way more expensive ranging from XCD20 upwards.
If you are driving, be aware that the roads on the island are generally quite narrow. It is also advisable to be extra cautious as many roads on the island have sharp turns, steep inclines, and are generally quite bumpy, although most are paved. Many of these roads do not have sidewalks, so there can be pedestrians on the street sharing the road. Many bus stops are also on the side of roads where there are no sidewalks. Additionally, beware of impromptu passing as slow drivers are often passed by others. Rental services provide small vans or cars for affordable prices.
Ferries, schooners, catamarans and small water taxis provide water transport between the islands. Day tours can be organised with a local hotel or guest house.
The cost of using small water taxis is regulated by the Water Taxi Association prices are in a range from XCD55 to XCD1400.
The main language on the islands is English. As a former British colony, British spellings are more common than US spellings.
The official currency of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is the East Caribbean dollar (XCD). It's been pegged to the United States dollar since 7 July 1976 at an exchange rate of USD1 = XCD2.70.
Most merchants accept both paper US and all forms of East Caribbean currency. US coins are not accepted, as the central bank does not accept them as currency. Keep in mind that exchangers in hotels and banks may take an additional percentage of the exchange (typically 5%).
In Kingstown, the water is safe to drink, but be a bit careful at some other locations. The water quality can vary depending upon the season of the year and how the water (often rain water) is collected.
Bitter Lemon is a popular soda.
Hairoun is a popular locally produced beer. Adventurous drinkers will want to try Black Wine.
Many tourists arrive in the Grenadines, stay at a resort, and never get the opportunity to interact with the citizens. If you want to get a taste of the true culture, consider a guest house or apartment in Kingstown.
Hurricanes are an annual risk. The La Soufriere volcano on the island of Saint Vincent is occasionally active, but a sophisticated advance warning system is in place and resulted in zero casualties in its latest eruption in 1979.
The US government suggests that hepatitis A and B shots be given to anyone travelling in the Caribbean, however there are no major health risks in the country.
Saint Vincent uses the North American style of calling codes, where all local numbers are seven digits. The area code for the islands is 784, which makes all international numbers for Saint Vincent in the form of +1 784 XXX-XXXX