Heading To St. Lucia For The First Time? Here Are Some Helpful Tips
Photo Credit: TN

Photo Credit: TN

Heading To St. Lucia For The First Time? Here Are Some Helpful Tips

St Lucia
Spencer Jones
Spencer Jones May 18, 2022

St. Lucia’s nickname is Helen of The West, in reference to Helen of Troy- one of the beauties of antiquity. It’s easy to see why. Verdant hills, lush rain forests and turquoise waters look like paintings, and the people are the nicest you’ll ever meet. They can banter with each other in lively St. Lucian Creole and switch to English with visitors. If you’re looking to flex on Instagram, there’s no need to use a filter to pump up the color because the scenery is infused with it.

The bulk of the tourists are American, British and Canadian. But before tourism seriously took off in the 1990s, agriculture was the chief source of revenue.

According to All About St. Lucia, “crops produced for export include bananas, coconuts, cocoa, avocados, mangos and citrus fruits. Items grown chiefly for local consumption are coffee, christophene, breadfruit, plantain, cabbage, pumpkin, carrots, dasheen, yams and sweet potatoes.”

Ready to hop on a plane to magical St. Lucia? It’s serviced by Hewanorra International Airport near Vieux Fort and George Charles Airport in Castries for inter-island flights.

Here’s some helpful information about the island, its culture and the social norms.

1. Pleasantries Matter

Whether you’re in bucolic Soufrière or animated Gros Islet, hospitality abounds.

Saying “hello!,” “good morning!” and “how are you?” is common between familiars and strangers.

This may be challenging if this isn’t done in your culture. You’re not expected to have a drawn-out conversation with a stranger, but it doesn’t hurt to follow local habits in this regard.

2. The Locals Can Be Forward

If you’re a woman, locals may want to know if you’re married.

“Oh, you’re not? Well, do you have a boyfriend? Are you planning to marry him? When? Do you have children and if you don’t, then why not?”

In some countries, these questions are considered forward, but don’t be surprised if you hear them in St. Lucia. Getting married and starting a family is a cultural expectation.

If you don’t want to answer, a simple, “I’d rather not talk about that,” should put an end to it.

In the same vein, if somebody shoots their shot and you aren’t interested, a firm “no” will suffice- respectfully of course.

3. The Pitons Are The Main Landmark

 

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Whether you’re climbing Gros Piton, Petit Piton or both, you’ll need a guide.

The hike up Gros Piton starts 600 feet above sea level. It takes about two hours to ascend the remaining 2,000 feet depending on your fitness level. Take your time going down- it’s even more demanding.

There are three resting stations: the quarter mark, the halfway mark and the three-quarter mark, and these are great for pictures. There’s a vendor at the halfway mark selling beer, water and sometimes cannabis.

Petit Piton is almost vertical throughout and you’ll need decent upper body strength to haul yourself up with ropes.

The Piton hikes start around 7 AM and the last one concludes around 2 PM.

4. It's A Paradise, But Moving There Is Another Matter

Outsiders fantasize about living in the Caribbean. They envision eternal sunshine and white sand beaches just outside the door. Fantastic, right?

But you shouldn’t move to St. Lucia unless you can adapt to a totally different pace of life.

You won’t have the same conveniences of home. Shops close earlier. The infrastructure may be lacking in places. Job opportunities can be scarce. And total anonymity is about impossible since it seems like everybody on the island knows each other.

5. It's Crucial To Have A Transportation Plan

Aside from the minibuses, there is no mass transit system on the island. If walking isn’t viable, you’ll either need to rent a car or hire a driver.

Prepare for winding roads especially if you’re going from one end of the island to another. The differences are vast.

Drivers honk to let pedestrians and other drivers know they’re turning a corner. Vehicles share the road not just with people but stray dogs, chickens and goats. Look out for them.

6. Try The Delicious Local Beer

Crisp, refreshing and easy on the stomach, Piton beer can be paired with any meal or enjoyed alone.

The beer has won multiple awards internationally. Some say it vaguely recalls Stella Artois or Carlsberg with an island twist.

Piton beer is available in glass bottles and cans. Side note: get the bottle version if you can- it tastes better.

7. Show Your Drivers And Guides Some Love

Gratuities in US or Eastern Caribbean dollars are appreciated and encouraged.

Drivers and guides work hard to make sure your trip exceeds expectations. They are also your allies on the island, which they know thoroughly.

Don’t be surprised if your driver shares random chapters of St. Lucian history, some of which were grisly. For instance, the town square in front of the Catholic Church in Soufrière was where criminals were executed by guillotine.

If you’re hiking the Pitons or zip-lining, your guides will ensure that you are safe.

8. The Gros Islet Street Party Is A Vibe

After two years, the Gros Islet street party is back and it doesn’t cost a cent to go.

On Fridays around 6 PM to 2 AM, traffic is blocked off, allowing locals and tourists to turn up to everything from island jams to 80s music.

There are makeshift bars so you can buy your rum punch without missing a second of the party. The bartender might be a little heavy on the liquor!

Vendors have tables set up with keychains, bracelets, and other mementos which are pretty affordable. You can buy food as well.

Parking can be tricky, so plan accordingly.

9. It's Not That Expensive

You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy yourself in St. Lucia, unless you want to.

If the resort lifestyle isn’t your thing, Air BnB offers affordable, safe alternatives.

Check out LaKay Mwen in quiet Soufrière with classic Caribbean architecture, or this modern unit in Gros Islet.

Both are owned by native St. Lucians and the nightly rates won’t hurt your wallet.

10. You May Have To Plan If You Don't Eat Meat Or Fish

Most in St. Lucia eat animals or animal products, so the cuisine reflects this.

Resorts offer a broader selection. But humble eateries on the side of the road? Not so much.

Stock up on foods you can eat at Massy, the main supermarket. They are scattered all over the island.

Destination: Mexico

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