So you want to visit Dominica?! Wonderful, now how do you get here, which airport do you fly into? what should you pack? what is the currency? Eeek! HELP!
Here is a short primer on visiting Dominica whether you are friends or family visiting us personally, a guest or camper visiting once SALT is up and running or you are just someone searing for information about vacationing on the nature isle. It will give you all the basic information to get yourself here and plan properly for the trip of a lifetime.
How to get here: (the three letter notations after a city name is the airport code for that city)
There are 2 airports in Dominica. The primary airport is (DOM) and Canefield (DCF) – this airport is very small and located near the capital city of Roseau, there aren’t as many flight options here, but many private planes and small freight crafts land there.
Unless you live on a handful of Caribbean islands you will have a layover somewhere on your voyage to Dominica (DOM). If you are coming from the USA I highly recommend flying through Barbados or St Martin. I personally try to avoid San Juan International at all costs because the airport is HUGE and you have to walk the entire length of it with your baggage between flights and it’s a nightmare when you’ve got a short layover. You may have to book your flights separately and if you are booking with LIAT – DO NOT BOOK THROUGH A 3rd party. LIAT is known for having nightmarish delays and cancellations for no apparent reason. Unless you purchase your tickets directly from them; they will not inform your connecting flight regarding cancellations, they will not issue refunds, and they won’t always cover your hotel costs if they strand you somewhere due to a cancellation. I recommend Seaborne, Antilles Air, Winair, if you have to take LIAT, try to avoid San Juan (SJU). Connecting through Barbados (BGI) seems to be the most reliable, and there seem to be a few new airlines popping up with legs from Barbados (BGI) to Dominica (DOM). If you want to go all out and hire a private charter (or need to travel with your animal on your lap) we recommend Island Birds, which is who we used on our trip here with the cats!
SHOULD YOU RENT A CAR?:
Do you feel confident driving in a right hand drive vehicle on the left side of the road?
Do you have a current driver’s license from your home state / country?
Are you comfortable driving on narrow winding roads, single lane roads, dirt tracks, high grade inclines/declines, cliffs, bailey bridges, overtaking and being overtaken?
If you’ve answered yes to all of the above then yes get yourself a car, there are several rental agencies on the island most of whom will deliver a car to the airport for you and two that are located at the airport. Definitely PREBOOK your rental car if its something you want. Locals here rent cars too since many people don’t own cars so there can be a shortage of available cars on the island.
If you answered NO to any one of those questions…. just don’t, unless you plan on moving here. Driving here can be a scary thing, even I am still learning to drive here comfortably! That being said it’s easy to get around without a car. You can hire a driver for the duration of your trip or you can book them daily. We have a few recommendations you can ask us about. All the taxi/ bus drivers here are also tour guides so they are great resources. There is also a vibrant ‘bus’ system here on the island. I say vibrant because it really is, almost frenetic. Many times if you start walking in the direction you want to go you can hail a bus along the way if they have room and are going in your direction. There are bus stops and bus depots where you can find buses going to specific areas of the island, prices are based on where you are going. I should tell you, these ‘buses’ are 14-16 person passenger vans for the most part. If you have a large group plenty of these bus drivers, like our buddy Mr Broons, are available for private tours. Recognize that though the island is small the roads are long. The road down the west coast of the island is about 45miles long and the island itself is only 29miles long. It takes about an hour to get from Douglas Charles Airport (DOM) in Marigot to where we live in Glanvillia, and about an hour and 15 min from where SALT will be located in Toucari. DOM to Roseau is also about an hour but on a completely different route even though all three towns are on the west coast.
Will they take my credit cards? US Dollars? What is the currency?
Easter Caribbean Dollars: XCD is the official currency but everyone calls it EC, the paper money is pretty, the coins are similar to US coins except that they’ve got a two versions of their dollar coin in regular rotation and have phased out 1 cent pieces. Many places will accept credit cards but having pocket money is always a good idea. You never know when the ‘system is down’ and everywhere is unable to accept credit cards and ATMs are unavailable, and you don’t want to be stranded unable to buy yourself some snack or juice on the street or in small village shops & rum shacks. More established places will generally take USD but will more than likely give you EC change, which is good as long as you make sure the math is correct and that you’ve agreed upon the exchange rate before the transaction occurs. Some also might accept Euros but I haven’t yet had the occasion to ask.
What to pack?
This is the nature isle, bring a raincoat and compact umbrella, Dominica is green and lush because it rains, A LOT. This means your beautiful super sunny not a cloud in the sky day could begin, end or be punctuated by a shower or several depending on where you are on the island and even your altitude. Visiting the interior of the island, expect it to get cold and wet. Going on a hike up almost any mountain on Dominica you can experience extreme heat and get a chill on the same trek! Depending on where you are from you might understand the need to prepare for anything when you leave the house and the concept of LAYERING, to others this might seem crazy being that we are in the caribbean where people generally bring swimwear and sandals and call it a day.
I don’t want to scare you, obviously there are days without any rain, we have a dry season, and there are gorgeous sunny days that are pure perfection, but only planning for those days won’t make you prepared.
Plan accordingly for your lifestyle and what activities you plan to do on the island because you really can’t just go out and find whatever it is you forgot, especially if it’s proper footwear. Bring shoes that are good in water and on wet rock if you are going to hike my favorite are these : MERRELL – all out blaze they grip famously, you can walk through water and they dry out quickly. Ladies SKIP THE HEELS – this is coming from a woman who lived in high heels before moving here. Bring some cute sandals if you need to ‘dress up’, don’t expect tuxedo / gown dining or any places to require a dress code of any kind.
Hope this helps ! Feel free to leave any other Dominica travel questions as comments if you’d like your questions answered on our blog!
Stay Salty !