Montserrat, Caribbean - Stein Travel
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Montserrat

The beautiful island of Montserrat has a distinctly explosive history that has ensured its tourist potential has remained relatively undeveloped. It seems quite clear the earth is trying to rid itself of this small Caribbean island, as its recent history is a list of major natural disasters. A hurricane swept over the island in 1989, damaging 90 percent of the buildings. Then a volcano erupted in 1995 after staying dormant for hundreds of years. It then erupted again two years later, covering the capital city in 39 feet (12m) of ash and mud and limiting the 39 square mile (63km) island to a much smaller inhabitable safe zone. Most of the 12,000 inhabitants got the message and emigrated.

For those that stuck behind, a new tourism industry is rebuilding and visitors are now eager to take tours of the active volcano. An ominous dome over the volcano's crater rebuilds and periodically collapses sending great plumes of ash into the air. Much of the island is within the 'volcanic exclusion zone' where islanders have determined it is unsafe to visit. This includes the old capital of Plymouth which is only viewable from afar. However the volcano has given tourists a great twist on typical tropical beach activities. Divers can see unique coral formations that have grown healthier from the volcano's substrates. Sun lovers can relax on soft volcanic sand at a number of beaches. Even nature walks have lush vegetation from the fertilized soil.

The country often refers to itself as the Emerald Isle, denoting links to its Irish settlers escaping religious oppression. The Caribbean is an unlikely place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day but the national holiday highlights the island's charm. Unlike Columbus, who sailed right past the islands, visitors to the Caribbean should make this a place to explore. Flights from Antigua and St. Maarten arrive daily.

Information & Facts

Customs

By all accounts, Montserrat might be one of the easiest places for western travellers to visit, with many tourists reporting that they felt like they couldn't have offended the locals they encountered, even if they'd wanted to! While, of course, this theory shouldn't be tested by visitors to the 'emerald isle of the Caribbean', travellers can look forward to a pleasant mix of typically European manners and customs, and a laid-back, relaxed and accepting social atmosphere. Visitors should be aware of the dangers posed by the Soufriere Hills Volcano, and make sure they stay out of restricted areas. Ask permission before taking photographs of locals, although more often than not, they will indulge your request with a suitable pose.

Duty Free

Travellers to Montserrat 17 and older may bring with them up to 200 cigarettes/50 cigars, 40 ounces (1.14 litres) liquor, six ounces (168g) perfume, and gifts valued to XCD250.

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Montserrat must hold return/onward tickets, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. Note that visa exemptions are for a maximum period of three months, although extensions are possible, by applying to the Immigration Department. 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.

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