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Why buy in St. Lucia?

Known as the "Helen of the West Indies," St. Lucia is simply one of the Caribbean's most beautiful destinations and a wonderful place to live.

History & Background

The island, with its fine natural harbor at Castries, was contested between England and France throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries (changing possession 14 times); it was finally ceded to the UK in 1814. Self-government was granted in 1967 and independence on February 22nd 1979, which is a national holiday (Independence Day).

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Geography

Saint Lucia is a volcanic and mountainous island with some broad, fertile valleys. It is located in the Caribbean, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and south of Martinique and Dominica;

The island covers 616 km2 which is 3.5 times the size of Washington D.C. It has 158km of coastline, boasting beautiful black or yellow sand beaches. The climate is tropical, moderated by northeast trade winds; the dry season is from January to April, and the rainy season from May to August. Among the natural resources of Saint Lucia, you can find forests, sandy beaches, minerals (pumice), and mineral springs.

The highest point is Mount Gimie at 950m and the most spectacular scenery is the twin Pitons (Gros Piton and Petit Piton), striking cone-shaped peaks south of Soufriere, are one of the scenic natural highlights of the Caribbean, now among the UNESCO's classified sites. The natural hazards that rarely occur are hurricanes and volcanic activity.

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Population

Saint Lucia counts 164,213 inhabitants (July 2004 estimate). The average age is 24.5 years, a very young population. There is a majority of black people (90%), mixed and East Indian people constitute 9% and the white people 1%. People here are very religious, and visiting mass can be a fun and interesting experience thanks to the gospel choirs and the cheerful crowds.

The main religions are Roman Catholic (90%), Anglican (3%), and other Protestant (7%). The official language for the island is English, but a majority of citizens speak and English version of French Creole they call Patois.

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Government

Saint Lucia's government functions with a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The capital is Castries, and it has 11 administrative divisions called quarters or districts: Anse la Raye, Castries, Choiseul, Dauphin, Dennery, Gros-Islet, Laborie, Micoud, Praslin, Soufriere, and Vieux-Fort.

The legal system is based on the English common law. Saint Lucia is part of the Commonwealth. The chief of State is Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Dame Pearlette LOUISY (since September 1997). The head of government is Prime Minister Sir John Melvin Compton (sworn in December 15).

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Economy

Changes in the EU import preference regime and the increased competition from Latin American bananas have made economic diversification increasingly important in Saint Lucia. The island nation has been able to attract foreign business and investment, especially in its offshore banking and tourism industries. The manufacturing sector is the most diverse in the Eastern Caribbean area, and the government is trying to revitalize the banana industry.

Economic fundamentals remain solid. The inflation rate for 2001 was estimated at 3%. The unemployment rate has reached 25% in 2004. Saint Lucia's mains industries are agriculture (bananas, coconuts, vegetables, citrus, root crops, cocoa) and clothing, assembly of electronic components, beverages, corrugated cardboard boxes, tourism, lime processing, coconut processing. Saint Lucia mainly exports bananas (41%), clothing, cocoa, vegetables, fruits, coconut oil.

The main export partners are the UK (48%), US (24%), Antigua and Barbuda (6%), Dominica (6%), Grenada (4%) (2003 estimate). The main imports are food (23%), manufactured goods (21%), machinery and transportation equipment (19%), chemicals, fuels; and come from the following import partners: Brazil (47%), US (19.2%), Trinidad and Tobago (10.4%) (2003 estimate).

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Other practical facts about St Lucia Currency

The East Caribbean dollar (XCD) is Saint Lucia's national currency, and 1 dollar is divided into 100 cents. The exchange rate for the US dollar is fixed at EC$ 2.67 for US$1.00. The rates for other currencies fluctuate, as shown below: GBP £1.00 = EC$ 5.00 EUR €1.00 = EC$ 3.50 CAD $1.00 = EC$ 2.25

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Communications

The Country code is 1-758; The Island has payphones at your disposal, either with phone cards or with coins. Cable TV is widely accessible; Internet access is provided as well. Electricity 220 volts, 50 cycles AC (a few hotels are 110 volts, 60 cycles). Most sockets take 3 pin square plugs (UK standard) but some take 2 pin round plugs or flat American plugs, which are rarer. Adaptors are generally available at the hotels.

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Transportation - Customs Regulations

The duty free allowance into St. Lucia is 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or 50 cigars, one litre of spirit or wine. Duty free shopping is available at Pointe Seraphine, La Place Carenage and at the departure lounge of Hewanorra Airport. Luxury items include Jewelry, Batiks, Giftware, Local Crafts, Liquor, Cigarettes and Cigars.

Entry Requirements Visitors must carry valid passports, except USA and Canadian citizens who possess valid return tickets and I.D., staying for less than 6 months. Visas are not required where the visitor is a citizen of the USA or a Commonwealth country, or where there is agreement for exemption between the home country and St. Lucia.

Departure Tax Departure Taxes for all passengers over 12 years old leaving the island by air cost EC $54 or US $22, and EC $30 or US $12 leaving by boat. Airports: Saint Lucia has two airports: The George F.L. Charles Airport in Castries (located to the northwest of the island, also called the Vigie Airport); it welcomes international flights from the Caribbean region.

The Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort (southeastern tip of the island) welcomes long haul international flights from the US, and the UK and some Caribbean destinations. Saint Lucia has many roads, and four main roads called highways, going across and along the island. Most of the roads are paved, but beware of the potholes and potential damage caused by the weather.

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Ports and Harbours

Castries and Vieux Fort are the main commercial marine ports. Saint Lucia has several marinas and harbors for yachts and ferryboats from Martinique: Marigot Bay is a breathtaking bay with a small marina, this is the anchor point for some chartered boats and catamarans; Ganter's Bay is Castries' marina for yachts and sailboats; the Castries port has a recently renovated pier for the large ferryboats that come in regularly from Martinique.

Rodney Bay Marina is the largest yacht and sailboat marina of the island; it is the international host for the annual ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) rally that departs from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands in late November and arrives in Saint Lucia in early December.

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Taxis and Buses

Taxis: It is very easy to find a taxi on the island, and they offer a variety of services, from airport transfers to day tours around the island. Airport transfers cost US$65 from the Hewanorra International Airport to Rodney Bay, US$20 from the George F.L. Charles Airport. Day tours to the south of the island may vary according to the drivers. Tip: to recognize taxis, all have red license plates, with the letters TX and a 3 to 4 digit number.

Buses: Public buses are generally 14-seater vans, and they all depart from Castries towards the main towns of the island. Buses running from Castries to Gros Islet drive past Rodney Bay. These buses follow the route called Route 1A, and a one-way trip Rodney Bay – Castries will cost you EC$1.75. Public buses are easily recognizable, they have a yellow sticker on the front indicating the route and they have a green license plate.

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Embassies in St. Lucia

A few countries have their consulates or embassies in Saint Lucia. Countries represented are:

Argentina:

Argentine Embassy Reduit Beach Castries, Saint Lucia W.I. Tel: (+1 758) 452-9999 int. 3302 Email: eluci@cancilleria.gob.ar, eluci@mrecic.gov.ar Website: eluci.mrecic.gov.ar

China:

Embassy of the People's Republic of China Cap Estate, Box GM 999 Gros Islet St Lucia, W.I. Tel: 758 450 8300 or 758 450 0911 Fax: 758 452 9495

Cuba:

Embassy of Cuba Rodney Heights Gros Islet St Lucia, W.I. Tel: 758 458 4665 Fax: 758 458 4666

Denmark:

Denmark Royal Danish Consulate Box RB2500 Rodney Bay Village St Lucia, W.I. Tel: 758 450 0190 Fax: 758 450 0002

Dominican Republic:

Dominican Republic Consulate Cnr Brazil & Mongiraud Sts Box 45 Castries St Lucia, W.I. Tel: 758 452 7865 Fax: 758 452 2931

France:

French Embassy Nelson Mandela Drive, Vigie, PO Box 937 Castries St Lucia, W.I. Tel: 758 455 6060 \Fax: 758 455 6086

Germany:

Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany P.O. Box 2025 Gros Islet St. Lucia, W.I. Tel: 758 450 8050 Fax: 758 450 0255 Email: karencave@candw.lc

Sweden:

Consulate of Sweden See Danish Consulate

United Kingdom:

British High Commission NIS Building, Waterfront Box 227 Castries St Lucia, W.I. Tel: 758 452 2484 Fax: 758 453 1543

Venezuela:

Venezuelan Embassy Gardina Avenue Sans Soucis Castries Vigie Box 494 Castries St Lucia, W.I. Tel: 758 452 4033 Fax: 758 452 6902

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