Dominica, Caribbean - Stein Travel
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Dominica

The Commonwealth of Dominica is one of the British Windward Islands, situated between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean. Tourism has suddenly exploded on the island, which is increasingly popular as a stop for cruise ships, particularly since it became the setting for the hit movie franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean. Don't come to Dominica for the archetypical Caribbean sandy beaches, though. The coastline is rugged with steep cliffs plunging into the sea. Never mind, because on this volcanic island nature has traded white powdery beaches for other treasures, like thick forests, magnificent waterfalls and gushing rivers. Offshore there is a wondrous world for scuba divers with diverse sloping reefs, pinnacles, walls and underwater hot springs to explore.

Many of those who come ashore from cruise liners have only a day to take in the delights of Dominica, which is certainly not enough for all the activities and excursions on offer. There is the fascinating 'Boiling Lake' in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, tubing down the Layou River, snorkelling among the tropical fish at 'Champagne' (where volcanic fissures make the water bubble), hiking through the forest, plunging into the green depths of the Emerald Pool, riding an aerial tram through the rain forest canopy, or watching a live folklore show, to name just a few of the diversions to be enjoyed.

This unspoilt tropical paradise does not offer luxury resorts and high-rise hotels, but is rather designed for those who want to take a break and relax in cliff-top villas, small mountain spas, guesthouses and apartments. At the same time the island is equipped with all the modern conveniences, including good communications, banks and numerous restaurants, usually run by local families, in which to sample the delicious local West Indian cuisine. Those brave enough might like to tuck into traditional favourites like stewed opossum, or 'mountain chicken' (which is actually a large frog), which can be washed down with some hearty coconut rum punch.

Dominica is one of the few places left in the world, and most certainly in the Caribbean, where it is genuinely possible to 'get back to nature'.

Information & Facts

Business

Business dress is smart, and meetings are formal. Office hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm with a lunch break between 1pm and 2pm.

Climate

Dominica's tropical climate means there is plenty of sunshine, humidity and heat all year round, but this is interspersed with an abundance of frequent rain showers. The rain is not all bad though, dampening the often intense heat and nourishing the island's extensive rainforest. It is dryer on the coast. The island is very susceptible to tropical storms and hurricanes, usually between June and November.

Communications

The international access code for Dominica is +1, in common with the US, Canada and most of the Caribbean, followed by 767. Telephone services are excellent and there are public telephones all over the island. Calling cards can be purchased from a variety of local shops, the post office, or at the offices of Cable and Wireless in Roseau. A GSM 850/900/1900 network is in operation and unregistered roaming is available for credit card holders. Handsets can be hired. There are Internet cafés in Roseau and visitors can also access the web at the offices of Cable and Wireless and at some hotels. The main post office is in Roseau.

Customs

The friendly islanders appreciate having their smiles and greetings returned, and prefer to have revealing outfits confined to the beach or poolside. Nudity on beaches is not acceptable, and nor is haggling at the markets. It is an offence to wear camouflage clothing.

Duty Free

Items that may be brought into Dominica without incurring customs duty are 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, and 2 litres of alcohol. Any other goods or appliances for personal use are allowed.

Electricity

Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. The United Kingdom style plug with three flat pins is used. Round three-pin plugs with ground are also used. US visitors will need adapters and transformers for their appliances.

Getting Around

The public transport system is fairly reliable, and consists of private minibus operators. Fares are standardized and cheap, with bus stops at designated points across the island. Buses are scarce at night. Taxis are freely available, identified by the letters H, HA, or HB preceding the numbers on the number plates. Fares are reasonable. It is easy to rent a car, but drivers must be aged between 25 and 65, and will have to buy a local driver's license at a cost of US$12 (must have two years' driving experience to qualify).

Health

Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations are recommended for visitors to Dominica, and yellow fever vaccination is compulsory for entry for those coming from an infected area. Dengue fever is on the increase and visitors should take precautions against mosquito bites. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Medical facilities on the island are limited, so health insurance with evacuation cover is recommended. It is advisable to bring personal medications. Food and drinks are safe to consume in hotels and restaurants, but it is preferable to drink bottled water.

Language

English is the official language. The local people speak a Creole patois.

Money

The official currency of Dominica is the East Caribbean Dollar (XCD), which is fixed to the US dollar at a rate of EC$2.67 to US$1. US Dollars, the Euro and the British Pound are also usually accepted on the island, but change is given in EC dollars. Travellers cheques and money can be exchanged at major hotels and at the bank. Banks open from 8am to 2pm Monday to Thursday, and 8am to 4pm on Friday. Major credit cards and travellers cheques are accepted by most businesses except small vendors. There are several ATMs attached to banks in the capital, Roseau, which dispense EC Dollars.

Passport Visa

All visitors require a return or onward ticket, entry documents for their next destination, and sufficient funds to cover their stay in Dominica. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers going between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA, a valid passport will be required by immigration authorities. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in Dominca within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Safety

Visits to Dominica are usually trouble-free. There are some instances of petty theft, so it is wise to take sensible precautions with money and valuables.

Time

GMT -4.

Tipping

A 10% service charge is usually added by hotels and restaurants, but if it has not been added a discretionary tip of between 10-15% is acceptable for good service. Taxi drivers do not expect tips.

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