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Dominica was once one of the British Windward Islands, situated between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean. Tourism has recently exploded on the island, which is increasingly popular as a stop for cruise ships, particularly since it became the setting for the hit movie franchise Pirates of the Caribbean. Tourists shouldn't visit for the typical Caribbean sandy beaches, though, as the coastline is rugged and dramatic, with steep cliffs plunging into the sea. Nature has indeed traded white-sandy beaches for other treasures on this volcanic island, such as thick forests, gushing rivers and magnificent waterfalls. Offshore there is a wondrous world for scuba divers, with diverse sloping reefs, pinnacles, walls and underwater hot springs to explore.
Many of those who come ashore from cruise liners have only a day to take in the delights of Dominica, which is certainly not enough for all the activities and excursions on offer. Travellers can head to the fascinating 'Boiling Lake' in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, tube down the Layou River, or snorkel among the tropical fish at 'Champagne' (where volcanic fissures make the water bubble). They can also hike through the forest, plunge into the green depths of the Emerald Pool, ride an aerial tram through the rain forest canopy, or watch a live folklore show.
This unspoilt tropical paradise does not offer luxury resorts and high-rise hotels, but is rather designed for those who want to take a break and relax in cliff-top villas, small mountain spas, guesthouses and apartments. At the same time, the island is equipped with all the modern conveniences, including good communications infrastructure, banks and numerous restaurants, usually run by local families, in which to sample the delicious local West Indian cuisine. Those brave enough might like to tuck into traditional favourites like stewed opossum, or 'mountain chicken' (which is actually a large frog), which can be washed down with some hearty coconut rum punch.
Dominica's tropical climate means there is plenty of sunshine, humidity and heat all year round; the island has an average year-round temperature of 81°F (27°C) and the seasons are not very distinct, with little temperature variation. Hot days are interspersed with an abundance of frequent rain showers. The rain is not all bad though, dampening the often intense heat and nourishing the island's extensive rainforest. It is drier on the coast. The island is very susceptible to tropical storms and hurricanes, usually between June and November.
The jury is out on the best time to visit Dominica: some say the best months are February and May, which are safely out of the hurricane season and experience less rain, but can be very hot and humid; others insist that despite the dangers of hurricanes the best time to holiday in Dominica is between October and December, when the days are slightly cooler and less humid (and it is cheaper). It seems that to accommodate both opinions, a December holiday may be ideal. Essentially, Dominica is a year-round holiday destination but most would prefer to avoid the risky hurricane season.
The official currency of Dominica is the East Caribbean Dollar (XCD), which is fixed to the US Dollar. US Dollars, the Euro and the British Pound are also commonly accepted on the island, but change is usually given in EC Dollars. Money can be exchanged at major hotels and banks. Banks open from 8am to 2pm Monday to Thursday, and 8am to 4pm on Friday. Major credit cards are accepted by most businesses, except small vendors. There are several ATMs attached to banks in the capital, Roseau, which dispense EC Dollars.
English is the official language. The local people speak a Creole patois.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. The United Kingdom style plug with three flat pins is used. Round three-pin plugs are also used.
US nationals: US citizens require a passport valid upon arrival in Dominica. No visa is required for a USA tourists for up to six months.
UK nationals: British citizens require a passport valid upon arrival in Dominica. No visa is required for a stay of up to six months for British passport holders.
CA nationals: Canadian citizens require a passport valid upon arrival in Dominica. No visa is required for up to six months.
AU nationals: Australian citizens require a passport valid upon arrival in Dominica. No visa is required for up to six months.
ZA nationals: South African citizens require a passport valid upon arrival in Dominica. No visa is required for stays of up to six months.
IR nationals: Irish citizens require a passport valid upon arrival in Dominica. No visa is required for a stay of up to six months.
NZ nationals: New Zealand citizens require a passport valid upon arrival in Dominica. No visa is required for a stay of up to six months.
All visitors require a return or onward ticket, entry documents for their next destination, and sufficient funds to cover their stay in Dominica. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers going between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA, a valid passport will be required by immigration authorities. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in Dominica within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended for visitors to Dominica, and a yellow fever vaccination is compulsory for entry if visitors are coming from an infected area. For those travellers who will be eating and drinking outside of hotels and restaurants, a typhoid vaccination should be considered. Dengue fever is on the increase and visitors should take precautions against mosquito bites. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Medical facilities on the island are limited, so health insurance with evacuation cover is recommended. There is no decompression chamber in Dominica, meaning that scuba divers with decompression illness will need to be treated elsewhere. It is advisable to bring any personal medications you may need with you; make sure you have all the necessary documents from your doctor to get the medication through customs. Food and drinks are safe to consume in hotels and restaurants, but it is preferable to drink bottled water.
A 10 percent service charge is usually added by hotels and restaurants but, if it has not been added, a discretionary tip of between 10 to 15 percent is acceptable for good service. Taxi drivers do not expect tips.
Visits to Dominica are usually trouble-free. There are some instances of petty theft, so it is wise to take sensible precautions with money and valuables.
The friendly islanders appreciate having their smiles and greetings returned, and prefer to have revealing outfits confined to the beach or poolside. Nudity on beaches is not acceptable, and nor is haggling at the markets. It is an offence to wear camouflage clothing.
Business dress is smart, and meetings are formal. Office hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm with a lunch break between 1pm and 2pm.
The international access code for Dominica is +1, in common with the US, Canada and most of the Caribbean, followed by 767. Telephone services are excellent and Wifi is available at some hotels. The main post office is in Roseau.
Items that may be brought into Dominica without incurring customs duty are 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, and 2 litres of alcohol. Any other goods or appliances for personal use are allowed.
Division of Tourism, Roseau: +1 767 448 2045 or www.dominica.dm
Embassy of Dominica, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 364 6781.
High Commission of Dominica, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7370 5194.
High Commission of Dominica, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 8952.
United States Embassy, Bridgetown, Barbados (also responsible for Dominica): +1 246 227 4000.
British Consulate, Roseau, Dominica: +1 767 275 7800.
Canadian Embassy, Bridgetown, Barbados (also responsible for Dominica): +1 246 629 3550.
Australian Embassy, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (also responsible for Dominica): +1 868 822 5450.
South African High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (also responsible for Dominica): +1 876 620 4840.
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