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Surrounded by turquoise waters and sandy white beaches, the British Territory and volcanic island of Ascension is named after the day of its recorded discovery. This remote destination was initially discovered by the Portuguese seafarer, Joao da Nova Castelia in 1501, only for Alphonse d'Albuquerque to rediscover it two years later on Ascension Day.
Visitors mostly head to the capital Georgetown, one of the island's five main settlements and home to a handful of pubs, each of which has its own peculiar opening and closing times. A small Catholic church and the remains of a mosque that served Muslims from West Africa in the early days of occupation are among the town's historic sites.
Nature lovers who visit between January and May will enjoy seeing green turtles on the island's beaches, as the creatures come ashore to lay their eggs. Indeed, turtle tracks accent the coastline beautifully. Golf, scuba diving and open-ocean fishing for tuna, marlin and sailfish complete an exciting list of activities, meaning tourists will have plenty to do.
Visitors can also explore the arid island's 44 dormant volcanic craters and its soft centre, the latter experience offered courtesy of the Green Mountain National Park. As its name suggests, the park surrounds Green Mountain and is home to historic walking trails, all of which provide panoramic views of Ascension.
Ascension Island has a subtropical climate and experiences warm weather all year round, with an average humidity of 69 percent. The average temperature reaches a maximum of 88ºF (31ºC) during the months of January, February and March and temperatures generally stay within the range of 71°F (22ºC) to 88°F (31ºC) all year round. The South East Trade Winds moderate these temperatures and rainfall varies. Temperatures at sea level range from 68ºF (20ºC) to 88ºF (31ºC) and about 58ºF (14ºC) to 78ºF (26ºC) on Green Mountain. The rainiest months in Ascension Island are March to May, though even the peak rainy season averages no more than four days of showers per month. March has the longest days, with up to 8.9 hours of sunshine, while October days are the shortest with only 5.2 hours of light.
The currency in use on Ascension Island is the Saint Helena Pound, which is fixed to the British Pound Sterling. This is divided into 100 pence. Saint Helena banknotes are accepted on Ascension Island and Saint Helena only. They cannot be exchanged in UK banks. Notes and coins are the same as in Great Britain apart from the design. British money is accepted all over the island and the US dollar is accepted occasionally, notably at Cat Hill (US Base). Credit cards are accepted at the NAAFI shop on Travellers Hill and at the Chandlery, but are not it general use. There is one bank on the island but no cash machines.
English is the official language.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Flat three-pin plugs are standard.
US nationals: Visitors from the USA need a valid passport and an entry visa.
UK nationals: Visitors from the UK need a valid passport and an entry visa.
CA nationals: Visitors from Canada need a valid passport and an entry visa.
AU nationals: Visitors from Australia need a valid passport and an entry visa.
ZA nationals: Visitors from South Africa need a valid passport and an entry visa.
IR nationals: Visitors from Ireland need a valid passport and an entry visa.
NZ nationals: Visitors from New Zealand need a valid passport and an entry visa.
Visitors to Ascension need a visa and a valid passport. It's recommended that passports are valid at least six months after the intended departure date, as immigration officials often impose different rules than those stated by travel agents and embassies.
Medical insurance is required when visiting Ascension Island. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is only required for travellers who are one year old or older, and are coming from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission. Non-malarial mosquitoes can be a nuisance and travellers should arm themselves with mosquito repellent. A small hospital is available to deal with day-to-day complaints but sophisticated treatment is not available on the island. Travellers should carry adequate supplies of prescription medication. A UK-qualified dentist is available on the island. Travellers planning on diving should be aware that there is no decompression facility on Ascension, nor are there qualified rescue divers.
Tips of 10 to 15 percent are expected in restaurants and upmarket hotels in Ascension Island if a service charge hasn't been included. Tipping for other services is discretionary.
The level of crime on Ascension Island is very low. Crimes or violence against residents or visitors are virtually unheard of. Visitors hiring cars should be aware that wild sheep and donkeys can congregate on the roads, especially during wet weather.
Customs in Ascension Island are much like those of the UK, with handshakes being customary when introductions are made.
Business is conducted much like in the UK. Politeness and punctuality are key to good business relations, and initial meetings are often conducted formally and impersonally, becoming more open and social as things progress. Business cards are exchanged upon introduction. Dress is formal, with dark suits preferred. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, with an hour taken at lunch.
The international dialling code for Ascension Island is +247. Most hotels provide internet connections.
Travellers to Ascension Island over 16 years with purchased goods do not have to pay duty on these goods, provided they are for personal use or are gifts for family and friends. This does not apply to large quantities of alcohol or tobacco if the amounts exceed the following limits: 200 cigarettes or 250g tobacco, 1 litre of spirits, 2 litres of wine or 12 x 340ml beer.
Aruba Tourism Authority, Oranjestad: +800 862 7822, or www.aruba.com.
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