Dominica

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Introduction to Dominica

Largely rural, uncrowded and unspoiled, Dominica touts itself as a 'non-tourist destination' for divers, hikers and naturalists - partly because it lacks those white-sand beaches so favoured by holidaymakers to the Caribbean. Getting to the island's main attractions will see you work up a sweat.

It has a lush mountainous interior of rainforests, waterfalls, lakes, hot springs and more than 200 rivers, many of which cascade over steep cliff faces en route to the coast. The only real way to experience this fabulous terrain is to pull on your hiking boots and start walking.

Apart from its natural splendours, including the highest mountains in the Eastern Caribbean, the island has an interesting fusion of British, French and West Indian cultural traditions, and is home to the Eastern Caribbean's largest Carib Indian community.

Full country name: Commonwealth of Dominica

Area: 751 sq km

Population: 71,540

Capital City: Roseau

People: African descent (90%), native Carib (4%)

Language: English

Religion: Roman Catholic (77%), Methodist, Pentecostal, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, other, none

Government: independent state within the British Commonwealth

Head of State: President Nicholas Liverpool

Head of Government: Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

GDP: US$225 million

GDP per capita: US$3,400

Annual Growth: 2%

Inflation: 1.1%

Major Industries: Agriculture (primarily bananas and coconuts), tourism, shoes, furniture, cement blocks

Major Trading Partners: Caricom countries, Italy, USA, UK, Japan, Canada

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Most visitors to Dominica must have a valid passport, but US and Canadian citizens can enter with just proof of citizenship, such as a photo ID and an official birth certificate. French nationals may visit for up to two weeks with a Carte d'Indentité. Citizens of former Eastern Bloc countries may require visas. A round trip or onward ticket is officially required of all visitors.

Health risks: sunburn, diarrhoea, intestinal worms

Time Zone: GMT/UTC -4

Dialling Code: 767

Electricity: 230V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Imperial



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Events

Dominica's Carnival celebrations are held during the traditional Mardi Gras period, in the two weeks prior to Lent (February/March). It includes calypso competitions, a Carnival Queen contest, 'jump-ups' and a costume parade. Creole Day, usually held on the Friday before Independence Day (3 November), is a celebration of the island's Creole language and culture. It includes traditional dancing, folklore, food and music.

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Best time to Visit

Dominica is balmy, rarely getting below 29°C (85°F) on the coast, though the mountains are cooler and wetter. Peak-season winter (December to February) rates are similar to off-season summer (June to August) rates, so the best time to visit Dominica is definitely in winter.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar

Meals

Budget: US$5-10

Mid-range: US$10-20

High: US$20-35

Deluxe: US$35+

Lodging

Budget: US$25-50

Mid-range: US$50-80

High: US$80-120

Deluxe: US$120+

Dominica has few frills, a fact reflected in its prices. Most lodgings are simply bases for further exploration of the island's many natural attractions rather than destinations in themselves, so Dominica is probably not the best place if you're looking for luxury or resort accommodation. Top-end food and lodging costs around US$150 a day. A moderate daily budget would be between US$75 and US$150, and a shoestring budget between US$35 and US$75. Obviously you'll need to bring more money if you intend to spend your nights grooving to zouk bands or plan to go home with a suitcase full of local artifacts, but there's a lot to do in Dominica that costs little or nothing.

US dollars are widely accepted by shops, restaurants and taxi drivers, but you'll often get a better exchange rate at a bank. Most hotels, car rental agencies, dive shops, tour operators and top-end restaurants accept MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards. Hotels add a 10% service charge to bills.

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Attractions

Roseau

While Roseau (pronounced 'rose-oh') is one of the region's poorer capitals, it's not the grimmest. Shopkeepers wash down the sidewalks every morning, the streets are lined with old stone-and-wood buildings, and mountains form a verdant backdrop.

The city has rebuilt its hurricane-damaged waterfront and now boasts a new cruise ship dock and promenade. There are a growing number of modern cement structures too, since this is a functional market town. For the most part walking the quieter backstreets feels like stepping back in time.

Cabrits National Park

Located on a scenic peninsula just north of Portsmouth, this park is best known as the site of Fort Shirley, a large 18th-century British garrison that housed 600 soldiers. Some of the fort's stone ruins have been partially reconstructed; others are half-hidden in the jungle and are fun to explore.

This vast national park actually encompasses the peninsula, the surrounding coast (complete with coral reefs), and the island's largest swamp. Exploring the ruins of the Officer's Quarters will afford you some very fine views of Prince Rupert Bay.

Carib Territory

The 3700ac (1497ha) Carib Territory is home to most of Dominica's 3000 Carib Indians. After exposure to European-borne diseases in the 17th century, the Carib population here fell to just a few hundred, but that was fortunate compared to the decimation Caribs suffered on other Caribbean islands.

In the mid-18th century the remaining few were removed to a small 'reserve' - the nucleus of the present-day Territory. Although their numbers have increased since then, their culture has been eroded by Roman Catholicism and the English and French Creole languages.

Layou River Area

The Layou River, Dominica's longest, empties into the sea just south of St Joseph, at the centre of the west coast. The river basin is a peaceful rural area, with bamboo leaning over the river banks and banana and coconut trees at the side of the road.

When it's not running strong, the river is a popular place for freshwater swimming. St Joseph, a simple fishing village of 2600 people, rises up the slope from a small black-sand beach, but the area's best beach is farther north at the Castaways Beach Hotel in Mero.

Portsmouth

Portsmouth, Dominica's second-largest town, sits on the banks of Prince Rupert Bay. Columbus entered the bay during his fourth voyage to the New World in 1504. Portsmouth centre doesn't have any sights per se, but there are a couple of oddities to check out.

For one thing, there's the small but colourful monument at the bus stop dedicated to Lord Cathcart 'who died of the bloody flux off Dominica in 1741'. Nearby, there's a line of shipwrecks piled up in the shallow waters at the back of the police station.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

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

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