Anguilla

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Introduction to Anguilla

Anguilla, the most northerly of the British Leeward Islands, retains the laid-back character of a sleepy backwater. It's small and lightly populated, but the islanders are friendly and easy going. It also has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean.

The interior of the island is flat, dry and scrubby, pockmarked with salt ponds and devoid of dramatic scenery. Anguilla's main appeal to visitors is its beautiful fringing beaches, aquamarine waters and its nearby coral-encrusted islets, which offer great swimming, snorkelling and diving.

The island has only recently developed visitor facilities; it made a decision in the 1980s to develop tourism with a slant toward luxury hotels and villas. It has since become one of the trendier top-end destinations in the Eastern Caribbean. Inexpensive ferries shuttle between Anguilla and bustling St Martin, making Anguilla easy to visit as a day trip.

Full country name: Anguilla

Area: 60 sq km

Population: 11,797

Capital City: The Valley

Language: English

Religion: Anglican (40%), Methodist (33%), Seventh-Day Adventist (7%), Baptist (5%), Roman Catholic, other

Government: dependent territory of the UK

Head of State: Governor Alan Eden Huckle (representing Queen Elizabeth II)

Head of Government: Chief Minister Osbourne Fleming

GDP: US$88 million

GDP per capita: US$7,900

Annual Growth: 6.5%

Inflation: 2.5%

Major Industries: Fishing, tourism, boat building

Major Trading Partners: USA, EU

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Traveler Facts

Visas: US and Canadian citizens can enter Anguilla with proof of citizenship (in the form of a birth certificate with a raised seal accompanied by an official photo ID such as a driver's license). Citizens of most other nations only require passports, but not visas.

Health risks: sunburn, diarrhoea, intestinal worms

Time Zone: GMT/UTC -4

Dialling Code: 264

Electricity: 110V ,60Hz

Weights & measures: Imperial



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Events

There's an annual Anguillian Cultural Festival in February. Moonsplash is an annual reggae festival held in March in Rendezvous Bay. But the big party in Anguilla is Carnival, a week-long festival that begins the weekend prior to August Monday (the first Monday in August). Carnival includes costumed parades, music and dancing. If you tire of shaking your booty you can cheer on the locals as they buffet the waves with their fishing boats during Race Week, which is held at the same time as Carnival.

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Best time to Visit

If you want to avoid the rainy season (August to November) and the hurricane season (June to October), Anguilla is best visited in the winter - when prices are highest. In the summer months (June to August) the weather is wetter and hotter, and the costs are lower.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar

Meals

Budget: US$5-15

Mid-range: US$15-30

High: US$30-50

Deluxe: US$50+

Lodging

Budget: US$20-75

Mid-range: US$75-200

High: US$200-300

Deluxe: US$300+

Anguilla caters mainly to wealthy travelers, so if you're looking for luxury you'll have no problem whatsoever testing the limit of your credit card. Pampering yourself at a resort or quality hotel could easily cost US$400 a day.

If you're on a budget, the least you can expect to pay for a room is US$20-30 in summer, slightly more in winter. Decent double rooms with private baths generally start around US$50. Seafood is plentiful but expensive, so allocate at least US$60 or more a day for basic accommodations and simple fare; renting snorkeling equipment or taking horseback rides will bring the total closer to US$100.

Generally hotels, car rental agents and restaurants list prices in US dollars, while grocers and local shops mark prices in EC dollars. However, you can readily use either currency, and most places give a fair rate of exchange. You can change money at Barclays Bank and Scotiabank, both in The Valley. Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards are accepted at many (but not all) hotels and moderate to high-end restaurants.

A 15% service charge is added to most restaurant bills, and no further tipping is necessary. An 8% government tax and a 10% service charge is added onto hotel bills.

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Attractions

The Valley

The Valley, the island's only real town, is the geographic, commercial and political centre of Anguilla. It's a small, rambling area consisting of little more than a bunch of mini-malls, with an administrative relocation to St Kitts in 1825 explaining the lack of colonial architecture.

But there are jewels to be unearthed, such the historical displays of the Anguilla National Trust Museum, the exterior of Wallblake House, and the design of the adjacent church which has a unique decorative stone front, open-air sides and a ceiling shaped like the hull of a ship.

Island Harbour

Island Harbour is a working fishing village, not a resort area, and its beach is lined with brightly coloured fishing boats, rather than chaises lounges. There's a few cafes and places to bed down in, and travellers in search of a more unvarnished day-to-day atmosphere often make their base here.

Island Harbour's main historic site is Big Spring, a partially collapsed cave containing Amerindian petroglyphs and an underwater spring that was once the village water source. Now under the jurisdiction of the National Trust, there are plans to clean it up and make it accessible to visitors.

Meads Bay

Meads Bay, backed by a salt pond for most of its length, boasts a lovely mile-long sweep of white sand lapped by calm turquoise waters. It's a good beach for swimming, a great one for strolling and a fantastic one for annual boat races on the first Thursday in August.

Although a couple of the island's most stylish hotels and a few small condominium complexes are scattered along the beach, Meads Bay is certainly not crowded and you'll hardly be wanting for elbow room as some of the hotels are a good five-minute walk from their nearest neighbour.

Sandy Ground

Sandy Ground is the closest thing Anguilla has to a travellers' haunt. Located about 3km (2mi) west of The Valley, it has a white-sand beach lined with restaurants, a dive shop and a few low-key places to stay. Its well-protected fishhook-shaped bay is Anguilla's main port of entry for yachts.

Sandy Ground is backed by a large salt pond that was commercially harvested until just a few years ago, when the cost of shipping the salt began to exceed its value. If you enjoy birding, the quieter northern end of the salt pond attracts egrets, stilts, herons and other wading birds.

Shoal Bay East

Beach connoisseurs consider Shoal Bay East to be Anguilla's premier strand. On the northeastern side of the island, Shoal Bay East (sometimes called simply Shoal Bay, so don't confuse it with Shoal Bay West) is broad and long with radiant white sands and clear turquoise waters.

It's ideal for swimming, snorkelling and soaking up the sun. To add to its laid-back appeal, there are a couple of small hotels and restaurants on the beach, but virtually no other development in sight. Anguilla's top archaeological site, the Fountain, is nearby.


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Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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