Imagine it: Thatched-roof cottages rise over turquoise waters; the sweet scent of tropical flowers and rum punch fills the air; bronzed sun-worshippers sprawl along isolated white-sands, hemmed by shimmering waves, coral reefs, and sleek yachts. The only thing luring you away from your beach towel is the intriguing network of secluded islands floating in the distance. Welcome to St. Vincent & The Grenadines.
If you don't want to spend your days sunning along one picturesque isle (St. Lucia) or savoring conch with throngs of tourists on two (St. Kitts & Nevis), then you should venture to St. Vincent & The Grenadines. With 32 remote islands and cays boasting emerald hills, postcard-worthy harbors, and boutique hotels, this Caribbean destination makes a perfect escape. Devote a few days to exploring St. Vincent, the biggest island of the chain, before sailing to Mustique, Canouan, and Bequia—some of the Grenadine's finest (and exclusive) hideaways. However, exploring this quiet, less-traveled tropical paradise requires many hours in transit (there's no direct flight from the U.S.) and a thick wallet.
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The best time to visit St. Vincent & The Grenadines is from May to June and in November. During these shoulder months, hotels drop their rates to attract travelers. The peak season—December through April—lures the most European visitors with its warm Caribbean temperatures. Crowds thin out between July and October when hurricane season threatens the archipelago. But keep in mind the islands' average highs hover around 85 degrees throughout the year.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
Vincy culture doesn't fit Caribbean stereotypes. Though Vincentians are known for their easy-going nature and hospitality towards visitors, you shouldn't expect to see them lounging along the beach with tourists. They're more often found debating politics or promoting tourism through agricultural trade and fishing. Many Vincentians spend their Sundays in church, and stores and restaurants are open only for limited hours. When you're ready to exercise your credit card along shopping streets, you'll fit in by wearing casual, light clothing. That said, some restaurants and venues require semi-formal attire, so be sure to check beforehand to avoid appearing underdressed.
When dining, try authentic dishes like bul jol, (a breadfruit and saltfish medley), pumpkin soup, and conch. Feel free to drink the local drinking water on St. Vincent—it's safe. However it's best to stick to bottled water on The Grenadines. Also bear in mind the water on St. Vincent runs from the island's mountain reserves and can have a chlorinated taste.
As a parliamentary democracy rooted under British common law, St. Vincent & The Grenadines' residents speak English. But you'll likely hear a smattering of French patois (an informal dialect of French) during your stay. The East Caribbean Dollar (XCD) is St. Vincent & The Grenadines' official currency. One XCD (sometimes written as EC$) equals roughly $0.37 USD. As far as tipping goes, it is considered polite to add gratuity, but most restaurants already include a 10- to 15-percent service charge on the bill. Major U.S. credit cards are accepted at most hotels and restaurants.
You'll feel safe while exploring St. Vincent & The Grenadines, but be sure to keep your wits about you when interacting with local vendors (who have been known to scam unsuspecting tourists). You should also beware of Manchineel trees: These seemingly innocuous trees produce poisonous sap that can cause painful blisters if touched. Some Manchineel are labeled with warning signs.
The best way to get around St. Vincent & The Grenadines is by taxi. Taxis are plentiful on St. Vincent and the bigger islands, and fares are reasonable for short trips. Taking a cab is probably the easiest way to get to your hotel from St. Vincent's ET Joshua Airport (SVD), located a few miles southeast of Kingstown. Renting your own set of wheels on St. Vincent, Bequia, and Mustique is also an option, but it's not recommended as roads can be somewhat tough to navigate. Buses are another popular means of getting around St. Vincent, Bequia, and Union Island; however, they tend to be overcrowded and cramped. To get to The Grenadines, head to St. Vincent's central harbor in Kingston, where numerous ferry companies shuttle passengers between St. Vincent and the islands daily.
St. Vincent & The Grenadines has five major airports. Most visitors fly into ET Joshua Airport (SVD), but you can also opt to fly into the small airstrips found on Canouan (CIW), Bequia (BQU), Mustique (MQS), or Union Islands (UNI).See details for Getting Around
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You'll need to present a valid passport and a return or ongoing ticket to enter St. Vincent & The Grenadines. There is a $40 XCD (about $15 USD) departure tax from the islands that applies to travelers above the age of 12. You can pay the tax in either Eastern Caribbean dollars or U.S. dollars at the airport prior to departure. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of State website .
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