Why go to St. Vincent?
Ecotourists flock here for volcano hikes, waterfall swims and scuba diving
Don't expect much high-quality shopping, dining or cultural attractions
Plenty of scenery to go around whether you're driving, walking or swimming
St. Vincent Cruise Port Facilities?
Shops in the Kingston Cruise Terminal offer souvenirs, local crafts, duty-free goods and other odds and ends. It's a clean, attractive space with shops arranged around a terra-cotta-tiled courtyard. A mural depicts a scene at St. Vincent's annual Carnival celebration; dubbed Vincy Mas, it's held for 10 days starting the last weekend in June. The retail area presents the best shopping opportunity for those on a quick port stop. There's also a helpful tourist office in the complex.
The bustling streets and markets of downtown Kingstown are within easy walking distance of the cruise terminal. If you need Internet access, visit E@gles Internet Cafe (Beachmont Street, Kingstown; 784-457-2020; one hour of access costs about EC$5). A longer walk from the port (30 to 40 minutes, some of it uphill) or a quick cab ride will bring you to the Botanical Garden.
Good to Know?
If you choose to rent a car, look out for the privately owned vans that make up St. Vincent's public bus system. The locals who drive the vans are used to the island's narrow roads and often go careening around curves at a speed much higher than yours. If possible, let them pass you when it's safe to do so.
On Foot: Walking to Kingstown from the cruise terminal takes only about five minutes, and the whole city is easily navigable on foot.
By Taxi: Taxi drivers line up outside the cruise terminal. Cabs aren't metered, so be sure to agree on the price beforehand (and be aware of which currency is being quoted). The fare to Villa Beach is about $10; a quick ride to the Botanical Garden is even less. Cab drivers can also take you on guided tours of the island; expect to pay about $25 to $30 per hour.
By Car: You'll need to purchase a temporary driver's license (about $28) at either the police station on Bay Street or the Licensing Authority on Halifax Street, both in Kingstown. Car rentals start at about $55 a day. One local operator is Star Garage (Grenville Street, Kingstown, 784-456-1743). Note that St. Vincentians drive on the left, and many rural roads are winding and poorly maintained. Be sure your rental car has a spare tire before you leave.
By Bus: St. Vincent's bus system is an informal network of privately owned vans that do ongoing loops around various parts of the island. You'll recognize them by their bright colors and personalized decals -- gems like "Hot Wax," "Burps," "Ooh-La-La" and "Jesus the Finisher." The vans are a much cheaper alternative to cabs (we paid about $0.40 each to ride from the Botanical Garden down into town), and are a good option if you're willing to deal with the informality of the system and the fearlessness of the van's drivers.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar. For current exchange rates, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. The nearest ATM to the cruise terminal is at Heritage Square, a 10-minute walk. A number of banks are a 5-10 minute walk from the terminal. All stores accept U.S. dollars, though you'll receive change in local currency.