5 Must-Know Tips for Driving in St Lucia
St Lucia is a beautiful Caribbean island and one well worth exploring. It may be small at just 617 square kilometres but great things come in small packages. The islands rocky mainland is covered with lush green rainforest which is home to a variety of tropical plants and wildlife. At the coastline the rainforest recedes, making way for friendly fishing villages’ full of unique Caribbean homes, all painted bright and proud in Lucian colours. Shooting imposingly from the rocky landmass of South West St Lucia are the Pitons. These volcanic remains can be seen standing gracefully from all over the island, creating a truly specular backdrop for every Caribbean sunset.
To get around St Lucia you could catch a water taxi, call a taxi-car or hail a bus and ride with the locals. However, hiring your own car gives you the freedom to lay some new tire-prints on some dusty untraveled roads.
If you do choose to burn some rubber then head down to The Balenbouche Estate, this is a gloriously preserved sugar mill and manor, which is over 130 years old. You can adventure (on foot) around the estate pretending to be Indiana Jones discovering the ruins of the sugar mill which have been engulfed by the rainforest. Another delight not so well known is the M+M Bar in L Ivrogne Soufriere. This locally owned bar has an open balcony right next to the soaring Gros Piton, producing the most breath taking views.
Hopefully you are eager to explore St Lucia, so here are some tips to bear in mind as you travel the island on four wheels.
Hire a 4×4
Even the best-paved main roads of St Lucia are going to be the steepest and most winding roads you are likely to have faced, not to mention the barren village roads. Your best bet is to hire a 4×4 to negate any problems these twisting streets could cause. An off-road vehicle will navigate these roads without problem and ensure if you take a wrong turn onto bumpy dirt track, your wheels can keep spinning while you turn around. Another tip many employ is to hire a 4×4 with an automatic gearbox. This will save you continuously changing gear through the hairpin bends and steep inclines which could prevent an arm ache on a long drive.
Honk That Horn
Due to the mountainous terrain of St Lucia finding a straight road anywhere is tricky. You are much more likely find yourself snaking around hairpin after hairpin on a descent to the sea-level villages littering the coastline. As you approach the tight and often blind corners, it is customary to lightly sound your horn to alert drivers of your presence. You won’t get far without hearing a horn, so use yours too and let the locals know you’re coming!
Plan, Plan, Plan
Looking at your map of St Lucia (top tip: get a map!), you will notice just how small 617 square kilometres is and how close everything appears. Well, looks can be deceiving and on the slow winding roads driving anywhere can take far longer than expected. Plan your journeys with time to spare to avoid delays and allow extra time to stop roadside and admire the beautiful views.
Quench the Cars Thirst
It is often overlooked how thirsty a car can be when labouring up and down mountainous roads. So take this as your warning, they get thirsty! Be sure to plan your journeys and take note of where the petrol stations are located on the Island. Perhaps a jerry can in the boot isn’t a bad idea if you are plan on adventuring!
Drains for When It Rains
As much as the sun can shine, the rain can fall. The tropical climate of St Lucia ensures that when it rains you know about it. Because of this the St Lucian government has wisely installed deep drains at the roadsides edge to encourage irrigation and protect its infrastructure. Even the large tyres of a 4×4 will be no match for these open drains, which will easily devour your wheels and leave stuck in the road. Be careful of these drains as you keep left on narrow roads, turnaround or park roadside.
About the Author: This article was written by CJ, a Caribbean fanatic currently working with luxury Caribbean property around the world.
Photo Credits: Flickr cc