Roseau (pronounced Rosey-O) remains an old time colonial capitol. I think many cruise ship visitors do not know what that phrase (old colonial capitol) means. It means the compact city has covered markets, barbed wire on the top of walls, rusty metal roofs and fences, and distinctive cornerhouses - plus "ramshackle West Indian colonial houses with louvred windows, intricate fretwork, and sagging second-floor balconies held up over narrow streets by stilts." (photo 2)
Cruisers used to the sanitized Disney version of the past think the town is poor (which it is) and dirty rather than colorful and atmospheric.
So before you go to Roseau, be prepared for what you are going to see.
As you can see the roads are very narrow, this is the main road between two of the major cities, Marigot (where the international airport is) and Roseau (the capitol). In Dominica they drive on the wrong side of the road (my reasoning, in many places they drive on the right side, so if you do not drive on the right side, you drive on the wrong side). You will find many of the sections of road empty, but if you pass someone be sure to honk your horn and wave hello, the people are very friendly here.
Dominica is a green island because the plants grow well. The plants grow well because the soil is rich and there is plenty of moisture. The reason that there is plenty of moisture is that there is a lot of rain, mist, fog, and clouds.
Or to put it another way, Dominica has a tropical wet climate with characteristically warm temperatures and heavy rainfall..
The moisture is brought by the trade winds.
Most of the rain falls between June and October (the Green Season). Average yearly rainfall along the windward east coast may exceeds 200 inches, and exposed mountainsides receive up to 355 inches which is among the highest accumulations in the world.
On the leeward west coast, it is much dryer - getting only about 70 inches which is about the same as the Gulf Coast of the USA. Humidity is closely tied to rainfall patterns.
What this means is that you should expect rain, especially if you go up into the RAIN forest. You may want an umbrella (the street vendors all have umbrellas over their stands and I think this is as much for protection against sun as against rain. Bob took an umbrella in the morning walking around down, but not on the tour bus.
The streets have the old fashioned open gutters to carry the rain down to the harbor.
Intermittent rain also means that you often see rainbows
If you are visiting by cruise ship, try to book your shore excursions early otherwise you may find the best guides already fully booked. I first contacted Bumpiing Tours but he was fully booked so then I tried Reyno Tours which is who we went with.
After reading through some of the comments on the Cruise Critic boards, I wished we had opted for a different tour guide, maybe something a little smaller than didn't hit all the same sights as everyone else. One that appears to be highly recommended for smaller tours of 4-6 people is Woody. It's double the price of what we paid but from the glowing reviews it sounds like it might have been worth the extra money
While not a huge deal, we were not advised that admission to Emerald Pool and Trafalgar Falls was not included in the tour price, it was an extra $5 per place per person, adding $10 to the price of the tour. One of the people on our tour was a bit upset by it, I wasn't but it still would have been nice to know. A lot of people don't think to bring along a lot of extra cash when they go out on a tour, it would be a real shame to show up and not have enough money to see what you thought you were going to see.
Bumpiing Tours, on the other hand, clearly states that site passes are provided and that they have beer, soft drinks and water on every tour which ours did not.
When I was walking around the market, I saw this door with a sign on it stating the the use of the "Public Convenience" was $1.00
I have also heard that one should always carry toilet paper when visiting Dominica.
The island has 6 ATMs....6!! I can get to 6 ATM's from my house in 5 minutes. But...thats Dominica! When you arrive try getting to Rosseau or some bank nearby to exchange money. There is no ATM or bank by the airport. The American dollar isn't super friendly here as it is in some Caribbean islands. Exchange to the EC and it should make your trip easier. Normally, the exchange is around 2.6 EC to 1 USD.
Be aware if you plan to hike there on your own - it's a very short hike and you might be tempted.
There have been several reports of tourists getting mugged on the trail. Two local guides (and then some locals we spoke to) warned us about it.
We decided it's not worth the hassle and gave up on it.
If you still want to do it, hire a guide to be safe.
Just know that flying in to Dominica is a bit tricky sometimes. Some planes have to turn around and go to another island if its too cloudy. So, don't be shocked. Even hotel owners say this is an issue and happens often. This happened to a large group of 19 people we met. They were flown to Barbados and stayed at a 5 star resort and got to swim in a super nice beach...so its not always SO bad! Also, its been known that luggage doesn't get there on arrival, so either don't check your bags or bring an extra outfit in your carry on. Most arrive eventually. I had no problems with my bag.
If you hire out a car in dominica, be very very very carefull of the bends and turns. I don't know if the roads have improved since, but they didn't really have any signs warning you of bends or sharp turns. The locals tend to speed round the cornors. It can be quite dangerous. At the time there was only one traffic light in Dominica, don't know if there is any more.
At night there is no street lights so you have to be extremely carefull.
Be careful when crossing the road by foot or by automobile in Dominica. It's the British driving system which is on the left-hand side. There is no such thing as posted speed limits and very few stop signs on the whole island. I'm from Chicago and driving can be grueling here. I would never drive here for safety's sake. It's kind of like learning how to drive all over again!!!
Other than that situation, I wouldn't actually say there are too many dangers other than dealing with customs at Melville Hall Airport. Be able to open your luggage for customs officials promptly. Unlock them and hold your place in line. You must allow them to look through everything without argument. Dominica has had some issues with drug smuggling from Cuba. Unfortunately, they thought I was Cuban for a fleeting moment. The last time I arrived they looked through every single bag when in previous years they just wanted them unlocked.
The water is safe but I understand the Caribbean in general has had a problem at one point with Ciguatera. This is a toxin from certain fish and the ailments can show up years later. There are no known poisonous snakes or large predators. The few outbreaks of Hepatitis occurred in more rural areas with very little or no contact with civilization.
Not so nice little village in the Carib Territory (same spot where L'Escalier Tete Chien trail starts).
We passed through it twice and both times there were people in the middle of the road blocking us.
First time we stopped - not knowing what was wrong - and they tried to get in the car. It was the only time while on the island when we felt threatened. We had to secure the doors to the car and put up the windows. On our return, same thing happened, but this time we expected it so we were prepared - car being secure, we kept on blowing the horn and we didn't stop.
When we told the story to some locals, they said that the area is known as a trouble spot and we should avoid it.
Weird...the first part of our trip we stayed in an open air room on the humid part of the island and had no issues. Then we went to Salisbury, Central East part of the island...I believe. My legs were devastated by mosquitos. Ask for a net or spray before you go to bed! I also got chiggers on my feet. I loved my time here...and a few itchy bites were worth it!
In one way does Dominica compare to other places I've been. But beware of some people asking more money and some weird, cracked out people walking by. You may have to worry a bit about pick pocketing in the bigger cities, but don't worry about being mugged or violent crime. One guy, he was missing one arm, starting talking to us. Really nice...then asked for money. Also, this wasn't an issue but one woman called me over and said she LOVED my water bottle. I know she wanted it...but I said I needed it and said thanks!
If you get car sick on windy roads and high altitudes, this place might be bad for you! Just prepare by taking some medicine prior. I was the only one that got sick throughout the whole time on the island, but its not uncommon for even locals to get sick.
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