A trip to St. Lucia can be a great escape for travelers but before you let yourself get caught up in the breathtaking views and the friendly people, take a few minutes to budget for your tropical getaway.
Anticipating the expenses you'll encounter may not be the most exciting aspect of your travel planning, but knowing what to expect when you arrive can help you to get the most out of your vacation. Transportation and accommodations represent a large percentage of your budget, of course, but don't forget about the smaller costs that can really add up. By being prepared for the price of food, tours, souvenirs, and taxes, you can avoid any unpleasant surprises you may encounter upon reaching St. Lucia.
As with many Caribbean islands, the price of lodgings on St. Lucia can vary greatly according to the type of accommodations you prefer, the part of the island you wish to stay on, and even the time of year in which you choose to visit. Fortunately, however, lodging options run the gamut; from small eco-friendly campgrounds to lavish all-inclusive resorts, every visitor should be able to find the perfect arrangements for their travel style.
During the winter months, travelers will find that a standard, double-occupancy room at a hotel can cost anywhere from $90(USD) to well over $400(USD). A similar room at an all-inclusive resort will vary from $130(USD) to up to $600(USD) per night. Remember that these estimates do not include any applicable taxes and fees.
While it may seem like a much better deal to stay in one of the less expensive properties, bear in mind that the price of a hotel room generally reflects the quality of service and amenities that are included. All-inclusive resorts, for example, are markedly more expensive than other types of lodging, but you should recall that this price includes allowances that will diffuse food and entertainment expenses. If a particular amenity is important to you, be sure you verify that your hotel, villa, guest house, or resort offers this feature before booking your vacation. In some cases, the lower rate for a standard hotel room or guest house indicates that you're getting only the room, which may or may not be all you had in mind.
Travelers hoping to save some money should note that during the off-season, which runs from May through November, hotel prices on St. Lucia tend to be dramatically reduced. There are fewer tourists at this time and lodging expenses reflect the decreased demand for accommodations, enabling vacationers to find great bargains on top-notch properties all over the island.
The biggest daily expense you'll encounter while on St. Lucia may be the plentiful and tempting food which can be found everywhere, from roadside stands offering barbeque and biscuits to extravagant restaurants that showcase the island's French heritage. Small vendors and local eateries can cost between $5(USD) and $15(USD). Dinner at a high-end or gourmet spot, on the other hand, could amount to well over $30(USD) including drinks. If you'd like to experiment with the regional cuisine, or dine well without spending too much money, consider trying new restaurants for breakfast or lunch, when prices are generally lower.
You should be sure to include tips in your budget as well. On St. Lucia, tipping is usually left entirely to you, although 10 to 15 percent is customary. Remember that tipping provides an opportunity for you to reward good service. If you are staying at a hotel or inn that permits tipping, allot about $1(USD) per day to your maid or housekeeping staff.
Another major factor to consider when planning your budget will be the cost of transportation once you arrive on the island. In St. Lucia, travelers are able to take advantage of a wide variety of options, from rental cars to ferries. If you plan to try several of the methods available to you, make sure your budget reflects this.
Taxis can be a fairly inexpensive way to see St. Lucia. Keep in mind that fares may be quoted in either Eastern Caribbean Dollars or U.S. Dollars, so, when negotiating, you'll need to specify the currency. Travelers can spend less than $50(USD) to ride from the northern city of Castries to the southern Hewanorra International Airport, and shorter trips can cost considerably less. A guided tour can sometimes be arranged for about $120(USD) for a day of travel for four people.
Buses, on the other hand, provide the least expensive and most culturally immersing method of on-island transit. A cross-city ride will cost travelers about EC$1.50 ($0.60(USD)) , while travel around the island start at EC$7 (less than $2(USD)) and are rarely over $5(USD). However, travelers will want to be careful to have correct change on hand, as fares are usually paid in the Eastern Caribbean Dollar.
Another method of on-island transportation on St. Lucia is the rental car. Rental cars cost travelers approximately $50(USD) per day, depending on the style of vehicle and the length of the rental - longer rentals often get discounted rates. However, this can be the most convenient way for travelers to see the island. If you plan on renting, don't forget to add in taxes, fuel expenses, insurance costs, and the $20(USD) fee for a temporary driving license on St. Lucia.
Helicopters are also popular on St. Lucia, as they are the fastest way to cross the island which will come in handy for travelers who are staying on the opposite side of the island from the airport. But you don't have to be going somewhere to enjoy the local services, as many offer island tours and both trips will be just over $100(USD). Other forms of recreational transportation include mountain bikes, which range from $25(USD) to $70(USD) and local ferries that can take both children and adults to nearby Martinique for $91(USD) and $116(USD) respectively.
Other incidental costs, such as cover charges for clubs or admission fees for local museums, should also appear in your budget planning. Souvenirs and presents for the folks at home might be another important factor for generous travelers to consider.
Vacationers should also note that even the best budgeting will not completely reflect your actual spending. A day or two of shopping, for example, may cost more than you anticipated, but can be easily counteracted by a few days spent swimming or hiking. After all, it doesn't cost a cent to enjoy St. Lucia's natural beauty.
Travelers who would like to return from their vacations with something a little more lasting than a great tan will enjoy the island shopping. In several locations, visitors will be pleased to find duty-free jewelry, designer perfumes, and cigars. The charm and craftsmanship of the local crafts, particularly hand-woven baskets and batiks prints, also tempt many shoppers who find that these unique pieces are great souvenirs from their trip to St. Lucia.
Keep in mind, however, that certain items may cost extra when traveling through customs. U.S. citizens who have been on St. Lucia for at least 48 hours will be able to return with the following items without incurring any additional taxes: two liters of locally-produced alcohol, 100 non-Cuban cigars, original artwork, and other good worth up to $600(USD). International travelers are encouraged to contact their own customs houses to learn about their individual allowances.
All visitors over the age of twelve will be subject to St. Lucia's departure tax, which is around $22(USD) and must be paid in cash at the airport. Occasionally, airlines will include the price of this tax in your ticket, but do not assume this is the case. It is always best to check with the airline or your travel agent directly to avoid paying the fee twice.
While shoppers are exempt from sales tax in the island shops, hotels and restaurants will add a government tax of 8 percent. Many hotels do not incorporate this fee into their rate quote, so feel free to ask the property if there is some question. When looking over your hotel bill, you may also find that a 10 percent service charge has been assessed. This is done in order to keep guests from having to tip the bellhop, room service, and housekeeping staff individually.
Taking the time to budget for your trip before you leave home can help you enjoy your time on St. Lucia to the fullest. Good planning allows travelers to experience everything the island has to offer - from the depths of the underwater marine parks to the dizzying height of Les Pitons.
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