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The island of St-Lucia is one of the delights of the Caribbean. This Windward Island attracts visitors with a heady mix of fabulous beaches and terrain, welcoming local people and a relaxed lifestyle, as well as access to unique sights. The bulk of the tourist accommodation is found on the northwest coast of the island between Castries, the capital, and the legendary Rodney Bay. Car hire is the best way of reaching attractions such as Soufriere’s hot springs and the pristine inland countryside.
Who to Book With
International suppliers Avis, Hertz and Sixt, as well as island-based companies such as Drive-A-Matic and Best Rates, offer vehicle rental on St-Lucia. To ensure you get optimum rates and your desired vehicle, it is best to book online before arrival. Vehicles from both local and international outfits can be booked online.
Best Time to go
Although St-Lucia is a year-round hotspot, the majority of tourists tend to land here between January and April, although the dry season actually runs from December to June. Resorts and roads are less busy either side of the peak visitor season and rates for rentals and accommodation are often significantly cheaper.
Need to Know Essentials
When picking up a vehicle, the rental firm’s representative will ask to see the following:
- A current driving license from the UK or an international license
- The hirer’s passport
- The same bank card used to confirm the original reservation
- A printout of the rental confirmation form or its unique serial number.
With stunning backdrops around every corner, driving almost anywhere on St-Lucia is an absolute pleasure. Apart from in the streets and alleys of downtown Castries, there are few parking restrictions in place. Resorts and hotels, especially the larger ones, mostly have their own car parks. There are also car parks near key tourist spots, including Pigeon Island.
Roads in reasonable condition ring the southern half of the island and also travel up the northwest shore to Rodney Bay. Hairpin bends without warning signs are common on some of these routes and are even more prevalent on mountainous routes of the interior. Due to the unmarked bends, narrow roads, the occasional pothole and the unpredictability of local drivers, it is better not to drive too fast.
Motorists are required to carry their local driving permits, which most rental companies supply at the time of hire. St-Lucia is renowned for its lack of road signs, as there are few roads marked with street names and even fewer speed restriction signs.
In terms of convenience and freedom, cars are the perfect mode of transport in St-Lucia. Other means of getting around are taxis and minibuses. There are no trains on St-Lucia, but water taxis can be hired for short hops to road-inaccessible beaches on the coast. A helicopter taxi service runs between the island’s main airport, Hewanorra, and its secondary one near Castries.
People travelling on St-Lucia’s minibuses usually pay the driver when they get on. The national government sets prices for standard routes. A single daytime journey from Castries to Gros Islet costs around XCD3 (£0.75). Water-taxi operators invariably quote high prices to tourists and can generally be bartered down. Passengers pay the water taxi fares after arriving at their destination.
Taxis are readily available on St-Lucia and can be found near the resort hotels and in towns. It is also possible to flag taxis down from the side of the street. Official cars can be recognised by their red license plates with the number prefixed by ‘TX’. Taxis are not equipped with meters, so the usual procedure is to agree on a price with the driver before getting in. There are fixed prices for standard routes; for example, the journey from Castries to Hewanorra Airport costs XCD120 (£30).
Minibuses, St-Lucia’s equivalent to public buses, operate on fixed routes around the island. Services are fairly frequent until the mid-afternoon, but after this passengers might have to wait quite a while for one to turn up. They run on main roads such as Castries to Soufriere and Vieux Fort. The minibuses hold around 14 passengers and are a much cheaper travel option when compared to taxis.
Ferries & Water Taxis
There are ferries to St-Lucia from nearby ports such as Fort de France on Martinique. L' Express Des Isles operates high-speed catamarans on routes linking Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique and St-Lucia. Water-taxis are an option for short trips on coastal routes. Common water-taxi routes include Reduit Beach to Pigeon Island and Soufriere to Jalousie Beach.
Although it is possible to explore St-Lucia by taxi or minibus, rental car is a more comfortable choice as it gives the option of stopping and starting at will. Pigeon Island National Park and Fort Rodney, the iconic Pitons mountain peaks, pristine rain forest, colourful botanical gardens, deserted beaches and bubbling hot springs are among the fabulous draws that are accessible on St-Lucia road trips.
Pigeon Island National Park - This is linked to the northern part of the island by a manmade causeway. Hiking trails in the park lead to peaks offering majestic views of Reduit Beach and the Caribbean. The remains of old colonial-era forts and cannons offer a glimpse into Pigeon Island’s former strategic significance.
Anse Cochon Beach - Located midway between Castries and Soufriere, is a pastoral spot with verdant vegetation ringing golden sands. The sea here is ideal for snorkelling and swimming. A trip to this beach can be combined with a visit to one to the 25 hot springs of Soufriere.
Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens - A six-acre tropical paradise featuring lush shrubs, trees and exotic blossoms. A beautiful cascade, a rejuvenating mineral spring spa and baths, hiking paths and an ambient restaurant have made the gardens one of the most popular spots on the island. The Pitons, the island’s most recognisable landmark, are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Gros Piton and Petit Piton are the twin peaks that soar above the western shoreline and offer hiking and climbing. The Pitons plug volcanic outflows feed the hot springs at Soufriere.