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Trip Report St. Lucia Report

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My husband and I just returned from 10 days in St. Lucia. We highly recommend the island for many reasons. We also had some tips that we would have liked to know in advance.

First - we did not stay in a resort. We rented a lovely house in the very southern part of the island. We liked being in a real neighborhood. That said, the difference between the way the majority of real St. Lucians live, and the resort population is disturbing. The poverty is fairly appalling. Even so, the St. Lucian population that we ran into was overwhelmingly friendly, helpful and charming.

The beaches are all free and available for everyone. We LOVED Jalousie beach. There is a section for 'riff-raff', like us, and a wide swath for the paying guests of the resort. Leave there in the evening and have drinks at Ladera overlooking the Gros Piton. A luxury day on the cheap!

Do make sure to arrange a rental car with 4-wheel drive absolutely. Arrange it through a name brand company. Check the fine print. We rented through two smaller car rental companies. The first rented us a small, dirty, non-4 wheel drive car -- we returned it less then 2 hours later and endured their 'return charges' and other silliness. The second, rented us a much larger, cleaner 4-wheel drive Toyota, large enough for us and our two friends when they joined us, but also wanted to charge us the cost of a new tire when the no-tread tire went flat. You need a working spare tire as well. The roads are mountainous, twisting, two-lane, dangerous and hair-raising, and that is the main highway. Once off the highway the roads are steep, unpaved, rutted and impassible without 4-wheel drive. You also need a driver with nerves of steel - which we had-- my husband. An international driver's licence will save you the $22. needed to buy a St. Lucian permit.

You can use US dollars all over St. Lucia. The locals, including banks, will not accept US dollars that are in any way damaged: no rips, holes, bends, etc. Watch out, I think that several damaged bills were passed to us before we were aware that they were useless on the island. Also, off the resorts, credit cards are not usually accepted. Even gas stations require cash (good condition cash!). Prices listed in the tour guides may not be current, so bring lots of cash.

We climbed the Gros Piton, which I recommend, although it is a tough, tough, climb. It is straight up all the way, over rough terrain. The views at the top were terrific, but, you truly need to be a fit climber to do this with ease. Also, consider who you would like to guide you up the Piton. There are guides in the small tourist area of Fond Gens Libre, who charge $30. per person. These guides literally just 'guide' you up the mountain - no info, no help, no pointing out of sights. We had a very cute 15 year old who could climb like a happy goat, but, was not at all helpful. Apparently, if you hire a 'tour guide' you will get an expanded experience.

There are two supermarkets in Vieux Fort - one right in downtown, and the second on the highway going towards Soufriere - the second is considerably better. Buying fish at the fishery in Vieux Fort got us a whole small FRESH tuna at about $5./lb with a bit extra for cleaning and filet-ing. We had great food in tiny, local places as well as the resorts. Try it all.

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