Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island nation in the Caribbean, north of Trinidad and Tobago. It shares the southernmost Grenadines Islands with the independent island nation of Grenada.
Bananas and other agricultural products remain the staple of this lower-middle income country's economy. Although tourism and other services have been growing moderately in recent years, the government has been ineffective at introducing new industries. Unemployment remains high, and economic growth hinges upon seasonal variations in the agricultural and tourism sectors.
While the English were the first to lay claim to St. Vincent in 1627, the French would be the first European settlers on the island when they established their first colony at Barrouallie on the Leeward side of St. Vincent shortly before 1700. Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. African slaves, whether shipwrecked or escaped from St. Lucia or Grenada and seeking refuge in St. Vincent, intermarried with the Caribs. St. Vincent was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763), restored to French rule in 1779 and regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles in 1783.
Slavery was abolished in 1834; the resulting labour shortages on the plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and east Indians in the 1860s. From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent passed through various stages of colonial status under the British and it was granted associate statehood status on October 27, 1969, giving it complete control over its internal affairs. Following a referendum in 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain full independence.
Natural disasters have plagued the country throughout the 20th century. In 1902, Soufrière volcano erupted, killing 2,000 people. Much farmland was damaged, and the economy deteriorated. In April 1979, La Soufriere erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands had to be evacuated, and there was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes devastated banana and coconut plantations; 1998 and 1999 also saw very active Hurricane seasons, with hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.
Tropical; little seasonal temperature variation; rainy season (May to November).
Volcanic, mountainous. Highest point: Soufriere volcano (St Vincent) 1,234 m
The largest airport is E.T. Joshua Airport just outside of the capital of Kingstown. Most flights in and out are relatively local, mostly flying to nearby islands such as Canouan, St. Lucia, Barbados, and Saint Kitts. A new international airport is under construction and is estimated to be completed in 2011, at which time E.T. Joshua will cease operation.
The islands have many docks and bays, including two large enough to accommodate a cruise ship. Despite this, very few cruises stop in the country and the vast majority of travellers come to the country by aeroplane.
The island is relatively small, but the mountainous landscape makes it difficult to get around. The main highways run along the coasts and as such it is necessary to drive around the whole of the island to get from one side to the other. In terms of public transportation the island is served by a large number of privately owned vans that act as a bus service. These vans have an "H" at the beginning of their license plates, meaning they are "for hire." Cost to ride is EC$1. Many of them have graphics on the front. Driving is on the left.
Windward Islands - Windward Islands, one of the worlds largest yacht charter companies, can take care of all crewed charter (no bareboat available) in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Operating from 8 international offices (USA, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Caribbean, Monaco).
TripSailor - Marinas and Cruising Logs in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The main language on the islands is English. As a former British colony, British spellings are more common than American spellings.
Ju-C Cola & Hairoun Beer
The official currency of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the East Caribbean Dollar (XCD). The exchange rate is US$1 = EC$2.67. A helpful hint: When using US dollars, multiply the price you see by .4 and you will get change back. Most merchants accept both paper U.S. and all forms of E.C. currency. U.S. coins are not accepted, as the central bank does not accept them as currency.
Surfside Restaurant - between Calliaqua and Ratho Mill (turn at Sunsail)
In Kingstown, the water is safe to drink, but be a bit careful at some other locations. The water quality can vary depending upon the season of the year and how the water (often rain water) is collected. Bitter Lemon is a popular soda. Hairoun is a popular locally produced beer. Adventurous drinkers will want to try Black Wine.
Many tourists arrive in the Grenadines, stay at a resort, and never get the opportunity to interact with the citizens. If you want to get a taste of the true culture, consider a guest house or apartment in Kingstown. Fort View Guest House in Edinboro is a good choice. It is within walking distance of downtown Kingstown.
Hurricanes are an annual risk. The La Soufriere volcano on the island of Saint Vincent is occasionally active, but a sophisticated advance warning system is in place and resulted in zero casualties in its latest eruption in 1979.
The US government suggests that hepatitis A and B shots be given to anyone travelling in the Caribbean, however there are no major health risks in the country.
St. Vincent uses the North American style of calling codes, where all local numbers are seven digits. The area code for the islands is 784, which makes all international numbers for Saint Vincent in the form of 1-784-XXX-XXXX