How NOT to welcome tourists to Saint Vincent
I’m a dual citizenship (US/Belgium) tourist, travelling with his wife and one year old daughter through the Caribbean. I have travelled all over the world and in all Caribbean nations and have always been passionate about this region. I wanted to share with my family my passion for the islands by travelling to Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada & Carriacou and to Saint Vincent & The Grenadines.
We planned to remain six weeks in the region before leaving to Paris via Saint-Martin.
All went well until we got to The Grenadines. Upon leaving Carriacou we wanted to travel safely to Mayreau with our small baby (so no speed boats). I finally found a guy who had the right kind of boat to go to Mayreau. He said there was no immigration office in Mayreau but that shouldn’t be a problem and we should report to the police once we get to Bequia and things would be fine, it happens all the time.
OK so he dropped us off at Mayreau on a Friday afternoon and we had a great stay there. We decided to make a short stop in Canouan on Monday before heading for Bequia and Saint Vincent.
I read about the resort on the island and thought to myself, hey there must be an international airport and thus also an immigration office. Why don’t I take care of sorting out immigration first thing on Monday morning after arriving from the ferry and renting a car.
The people in the airport were friendly but called their supervisor at the police station. I should go see him and he would give me the necessary stamps.
Great was my surprise to see this supervisor and hear his many questions, not only the relevant ones like how much money did you bring on your trip and what were the different stops on your journey, what kind of job do you do ? (I’m a media executive) but also the complete irrelevant and even humiliating ones like did you meet your wife online (????) What ? No, I didn’t and why is that any of your business ?
He said that even though there was no immigration office at Mayreau and I came myself voluntarily to the Canouan immigration office immediately upon my arrival, I broke such and such a law and said our family had to be deported right away.
He paused long as he was expecting somekind of proposal on my part; but I never bribed anyone before and I wasn’t going to start in Saint Vincent now, so I ignored this, stayed friendly, never raised my voice, explained to him that I was a law abiding citizen who never broke any law, I was going to spend a lot of money during this holiday and had at least 10 more days to spend in the Grenadines. All of this didn’t impress him much and after he spoke to his supervisor in Saint Vincent he treated me and my family as the number one state enemy of this nation. We had to leave the country right away. Never mind all the reservations (and payments) I had made for the rest of our stay in The Grenadines.
I reminded him I was the one who came to see him at the earliest possible time out of my own initiative ( I could have waited till leaving the country) Why would I do that if I had bad intentions and why did he think I needed to be punished for coming forward the way I did.
He also kept threatening me that he was after all doing me a favor by not putting DEPORTED stamps in our passports, stamps that would cause us all kinds of problems & would raise questions for years. This tactic obviously was intended to make sure I wouldn’t question his authority.
He refused to return our passports and insisted on driving with us to the airport without delay. There he made sure I bought tickets to Sint Maarten (our port of entry in the Caribbean) and leave on the first flight the next morning. He wanted us to leave the same day but flights were full.
He insisted on being there the next morning to be sure these dangerous criminals left the country (did I mention our baby girl is one year old ?)
During the whole procedure he had a grin on his face like he was laughing at us, and saying look how small and insignificant you are and how important I am and look what I can do. I can destroy your holiday, force you to buy expensive new tickets to a place where you have no reservations for another two weeks and it doesn’t matter that you will have to travel on five flights with a one year old tomorrow. How many one year olds have you deported Sir ? What harm have we caused your country ? What crime have we commited to be send out of your country ? Drugs ? Theft ? No, we didn’t get a stamp on an island where it is IMPOSSIBLE to get a stamp. How is that a crime or even our fault ?
To made matters worse – and after all the pain he has caused us – he said that we would be welcome to return to Saint Vincent but next time we should use a private jet or yacht.
My astonishment at my treatment changed into anger and later into sadness. How can a nation treat ordinary tourists like our family like this ? What causes this misplaced arrogance into apparently singling out people without boats and jets. I am not a rich man, but not poor either, but no I am not Mr. Trump and I have no jet or yacht.
When travelling I am investing in the community, smaller scale hotels or guest houses, local shops, restaurants, rental car agencies etc….
I realize this nation doesn’t need my few dollars to get by but if treating honest tourists who were only trying to do the right thing is the way to go than things will not end well.
Even though I do not believe that our treatment necessarily reflects the attitude of the Customs and immigration Department and the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the attitude of this officer and his behavior show how one person can create a bad image for the country.
So here we are, in exile on Saint Martin and heading to Saint Barths. It’s nice to feel welcome on these islands. A breath of fresh air after our adventure in SVG
Keep an eye on the weather,...
Keep an eye on the weather, hurricanes can occur between June and December and the ones I have seen so far can make seafaring very hazardous. Don't be caught out on the water in a hurricane.
Or even in a squall - it's lots and lots of wind that start and end suddenly. I survived one - write me to hear my experience!!!
There is a drug culture on St....
There is a drug culture on St. Vincent, though less so throughout the Grenadines. Drugs are illegal, and though law enforcement is not exactly efficient, it is smart to turn down offers from the young men who will offer to find you drugs or other - ahem - entertainment. The roads are not great outside of the Kingstown and Villa Beach areas on St. Vincent, so a cab driver is to be preferred over rental cars. Hikes to Trinity Falls, as well as swimming in the falls, can be dangerous, particularly in rainy weather. Swimming at the Falls of Baleine and the Owia Salt Ponds is fine, but surfaces are rocky. Be careful and bring Aqua shoes. The Machineel tree, which is all over SVG, is the viper in the SVG Garden of Eden. Avoid them!!!! They are poisonous, their sap will cause a burning rash, and standing under them in the rain is guaranteed to get you infected. Fortunately, most are at least marked with a sign or red spray paint.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines...
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is very undeveloped, so roads are often an iffy proposition on the main island and non-existent on some of the Grenadines. Be advised, trips to Trinity Falls and the volcano are not for the faint of heart. Also, if it rains heavily while you are at the Owia Salt Ponds, the Rabacca Dry River may become very wet, and can block your return south for many hours. Also, be VERY careful to make sure that the customs official records the proper departure date in your passport when you first arrive. Vincentian customs officers can be sloppy, and if they record the wrong date, you will find yourself spending several hours in the police station trying to get the error corrected. That is a minor irritation if you are on the mainland with easy access to the capital city of Kingstown, but it is a bigger problem if you are at a resort on one of the Grenadines. There is a drug culture on St. Vincent, though less so throughout the Grenadines. Drugs are illegal, and though law enforcement is not exactly efficient, it is smart to turn down the young men who will offer to find you drugs or other - 'ahem' - entertainment. Hikes to Trinity Falls, as well as swimming in the falls, can be dangerous, particularly in rainy weather. Swimming at the Falls of Baleine and the Owia Salt Ponds is fine, but surfaces are rocky. Be careful and bring Aqua shoes. The Machineel tree, which is all over SVG, is the viper in the SVG Garden of Eden. Avoid them!!!! They are poisonous, their fruit is deadly if eaten, their sap will cause a burning rash, and standing under them in the rain will almost certainly get you infected. Fortunately, most are at least marked with a sign or red spray paint.
Finally, there is a $EC30 per person departure tax that must be paid on leaving SVG. It is smart to pay in Eastern Caribbean Dollars - the coin of the realm - in order to speed things along.
WE ARE NOW IN MUSTIQUE. WE...
WE ARE NOW IN MUSTIQUE. WE ARRIVED FROM BEQUIA WITH THE HELP OF THE BOATSMAN PICTURED HERE. ORIGINALLY, I HAD PLANNED ON RENTING THE BOAT AND MOTORING TO MUSTIQUE MYSELF, WHICH TAKES ABOUT 40 MINUTES. (RENTAL FEE: $100.00.) HOWEVER, 15 MINUTES INTO THE TRIP, AT A POINT WHEN THERE WAS NO LONGER ANYTHING BETWEEN THE TWO ISLANDS, THE WAVES GOT GOSH DARN BIG!. I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO TURN AROUND! I THEN WENT BACK AND PICKED UP THIS BOATSMAN TO TAKE US OVER. (NO EXTRA CHARGE!)
There is little serious crime...
There is little serious crime on the islands, though valuables should never be left unguarded or ostentatiously displayed. The further you travel into the interior, the simpler the lifestyle becomes. As with any country, use common sense. It gets really dark here especially when venturing out of Kingstown. Watch out for cars because there is no speed limit or stop signs!
A dangerous tree
There are many poisoned trees along the beaches in St Vincent and Grenadines. Be careful not to touch them because they can hurt your skin and damage your eyes temporary.Related to:
- Family Travel
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Hotels
Villa Beach, Kingstown, Caribbean
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Couples
Petit St. Vincent
Good for: Solo
This is not on Union Island. It's a small 135 acre island, about a 10 minute boat ride from Union....more
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