Grenada on a Budget

Since starting my blog I’ve received a few questions from family and friends asking about how much it costs to take a holiday in Grenada, and if this is achievable on a budget. I’ve conducted some research and I’m pleased to report that with a little creativity it certainly appears to be achievable! Below are the details you need to enjoy a Grenada getaway that doesn’t cost the earth. For the purpose of simplicity, prices quoted here are based on costs during the high season (January to April), as this is when the majority of people choose to travel to the island. Travelling during the shoulder or low seasons may reduce the cost of your holiday significantly.

Flights

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly to Grenada from London Gatwick. If you book in advance you can find a flight for as little as £570 but expect to pay more than double this at short notice. The total length of the journey is about eleven and a half hours, including a short stop in St Lucia. My favourite website for booking flights is Skyscanner. The cheapest prices on this website are offered through third-party travel agents but sometimes there are benefits to paying slightly more and booking a flight directly through the airline’s website. I was relieved I’d booked through Virgin directly when I had to change a flight to London recently. Having full access to their customer service team ensured I was able to amend my details smoothly.

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Accommodation

The Grenadian tourist industry is generally geared towards the luxury all-inclusive market. Despite this you can find a wide range of self-catering options and home stays. Airbnb features self-contained apartments for as little as £30 a night. If you’re the type of traveller who loves venturing from their comfort zone, nearly all parts of the island are fairly safe, but staying outside of the main tourist areas will require renting your own transport. If you prefer to stay on the beaten track, opt to stay in St George’s parish. Lance Aux Epines, Grand Anse, True Blue and Point Saline offer close proximity to the beach. The capital of St George is worth exploring for the day, but considerably more hectic than other parts of the island and probably isn’t somewhere you’d want to stay.

Activities

Apart from visiting the beach, there aren’t many free activities to do on the island. Grenada has some lovely reefs which can be explored with a snorkel. I can’t remember seeing snorkels for sale so bring one with you. The capital of St George is a pleasant city to explore by foot. The most economical way to see the island is usually with a day tour. This way you’ll get to visit several landmarks such as the Nutmeg museum, Concord Falls and the Etang Lake for a set fee.

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Getting Around

Buses are the most simple way to get around the island if you’re on limited funds, but be warned, Grenadian buses ought to come with a health warning. Pulling out into oncoming traffic without indicating, and using full beam headlights on busy roads, avoiding the buses has become something of an in joke among Grenadian road users. If this doesn’t put you off, you can find a bus almost anywhere in the parish of St George, but they’re difficult for newcomers to spot. They tend to be Toyota minibuses with a conductor hanging out one window, but are privately owned and lack any identifiable markings. There are bus stops but it isn’t necessary to wait at one. Walk along the street for half a minute and a bus driver is likely to pull over asking where you’re going and if you want a ride. Otherwise you can simply flag one down on the street. There are no strict routes or fares, most drivers will drop you where you like, as long as the location is convenient and on a main road. If you’re female you may receive some advances from the men on board! These are usually harmless and non threatening, if a little awkward. Make sure you negotiate the fare before getting in the vehicle. A one way journey should only cost a few pounds.

Food

Trying to keep this cost from spiraling out of control may be the most challenging obstacle you’ll face as a budget traveller. The majority of the island’s food is imported and restaurants targeted towards westerners are priced similarly to that of the UK. The simplest way to keep costs down is to eat local. You can buy local produce such as plantain, yam, breadfruit and watermelon from the supermarkets, or street stalls in St George. Restaurants and cafes frequented by locals are also cheap.

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Other Considerations:

Currency

Grenada uses the East Caribbean Dollar. US dollars are widely accepted but it is better to pay in the local currency. Prices are usually quoted in the local currency and in this way you avoid being fiddled by the exchange rate.

Solo Travellers/Female Travellers

Grenada is perfectly safe for solo travellers, including women on their own, but it goes without saying that one must exercise some common sense when travelling without the security of a companion or group. You may be able to meet other travellers by organising a group tour through a reputable operator, but these opportunities aren’t guaranteed, so you’ll need to enjoy your own company if you choose to travel solo here.

If you’re female you’ll also need a high tolerance threshold for catcalls and advances from the locals. Grenadians have no qualms about asking for your number, or if they can join your sunbathing session at the beach. None of this is usually aggressive and a firm ‘no thank you’ is usually enough to send them on the way to their next conquest.

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Health

Book an appointment with a doctor or travel clinic at least six to eight weeks before you travel. They’ll ensure all your vaccinations and boosters are up to date as is recommended for life in Britain. You may also be offered the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Mosquitoes are likely to present the biggest health nuisance to travellers. There are sporadic outbreaks of the Dengue and Chikunguna viruses, and the island is in the midst of a Zika outbreak, which poses a threat to pregnant women. None of these illnesses are likely to present serious problems in otherwise healthy people but could ruin a few days of your holiday if you’re unlucky. If you have any health conditions you should consult your doctor before visiting any country where mosquito borne illnesses are present. DEET is the most effective weapon against tropical mosquitos. Sleep under air conditioning or nets during the night, and try to stay in a property that has mosquito screens over the windows.

Tap water is generally safe to drink and instances of food poisoning are uncommon.

When to go

The island has a tropical climate with temperatures that rarely fluctuate. Year-round, daytime temperatures hoover about the 30C mark. In the night this drops to about 27C. Staying high in the hills or on an elevation facing the sea provides some respite from the heat. Air con or fans are essential for a comfortable night’s sleep.

The best time to visit Grenada is from January to April. This is the dry season and there are cool trade winds that placate the humidity. Another good time to go is August, which is when Grenada has it’s annual carnival. Avoid the hurricane season which runs from September to October.

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Visas

Brits can travel visa-free for up to three months.

If anyone has any suggestions for how I may improve this post please feel free to contact me, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top Picks for Grenada

Grenada is a small island which is relatively easy to explore in a short period of time. A fortnight or even a ten day stay is probably enough to get a feel for what the island has to offer. Most accommodation providers offer tour packages or can refer you to a reputable company. Renting a car is another convenient option but can be expensive at about 1800 East Caribbean Dollars for a fortnight. Grenada drives on the left, and be sure to hire an off road vehicle if you plan on venturing outside of any of the major tourist spots or towns, as the island’s roads are inadequately maintained. Driving on the island is relatively straightforward for those with some experience but road safety is poor compared to Western countries. Grenadian buses are truly a law unto themselves, and don’t be surprised to see the locals speeding and overtaking on blind spots.

If you’re arriving by cruise ship in St George, exercise some caution when choosing a tour operator upon arrival at the port. You’re likely to be offered numerous options, from day tours to adventure activities. Some of these may be licensed companies, others are simply local individuals trying to make a quick buck. Either way, virtually all tours are run by natives so you’re guaranteed an authentic experience. Grenada’s crime rate is low but has been increasing of late, due to high levels of unemployment. There is safety in numbers so try to organise a sizeable group before embarking on any tour. Never dive, snorkel or engage in any other high-risk activity with an unlicensed operator.

Here are my top picks for things to do in Grenada:

Snorkel at Groom’s Beach

IMG_6992Groom’s Beach has an attractive reef

Dr Groom’s is a lovely secluded beach on the south of the island, close to the airport. I almost abandoned my first experience of snorkeling here, prematurely concluding it was an uninspiring spot. I decided to swim out a second time and found a lovely reef awash with gorgeous tropical fish. You’ll need to swim out past the safety line floats to experience the best snorkeling this beach has to offer, but do not attempt this without a guide unless you are a strong swimmer. Whilst most beach lovers will know this; I thought it important to mention that it is inadvisable to swim at any beach if there is a red flag up. This indicates high surf, dangerous currents, or both, which can sweep even Olympic-level swimmers out to sea. Most beaches aren’t manned by lifeguards and sadly there are far too many incidences of both locals and tourists drowning in the Caribbean each year.

Visit Levera Beach in the Undeveloped North

DSC_0875Sugarloaf Mountain from Levera Beach

Nature lovers will adore Levera Beach, a rugged undeveloped spot in the north of the island where the Caribbean and Atlantic Sea meet. Whilst I’ve heard this beach is suitable for swimming, the red flag was up when we visited, and the ocean here doesn’t appear suitable for novice swimmers due to rough waves and currents.

If you’re visiting the island from April to July, you may be lucky enough to witness Leatherback turtles laying their eggs at night. To counteract the threat of poaching, the beach is a prohibited area during this time, but it is possible to book a tour. Tour operators can be found online or booked through your accommodation provider. In order to preserve the safety and well being of these animals, please ensure you choose a reputable operator for this activity.

Visit the The Palm Tree Gardens in St David

IMG_6800The Palm Tree Gardens is a scenic place to spend the afternoon

The Palm Tree Gardens in St David offers a peaceful place to relax in the hills. Owned and run by Lawrence, a Grenadian who set up the gardens to fund his retirement, our group of four were given a detailed tour for 10 Eastern Caribbean Dollars each. We were given an opportunity to smell and touch the specimens, which included numerous varieties of palm, bay leave and garlic.

Explore St George by Foot

10660110_10156748197085422_3222813444978688689_nThe views of St George from Fort George

Whilst I can’t attest to this myself, as I’ve not visited enough of the region, Grenada’s capital of St George is reputedly one of the prettiest capitals in the Caribbean. Be sure to visit Fort George which offers spectacular views of the city and ocean.

Walk along St George’s narrow and winding streets and you’ll come across an eclectic mix of offerings, from a small art gallery, to a Grenadian chocolate factory, and fresh fruit and vegetable stalls.

Spend a day at Grand Anse Beach

DSC_0013Grand Anse Beach at Dusk

No Grenada itinerary is complete without a trip to the island’s two mile stretch of heavenly white sand and crystal clear waters otherwise known as Grand Anse Beach. The sheer size of this beach facilities a wide range of activities and dining catering to all tastes and budgets. Head to the far left or right corners of the beach and you’ll find tranquil and deserted stretches of sand. The middle section of the beach is more lively, with resorts and a range of water sports. Across the beach there are a wide range of restaurants to choose from, from laid back Umbrellas Cafe to the six star Spice Island resort. Grand Anse is also a fantastic place to watch the sun set.

Visit the Nutmeg Museum in Gouyave

DSC_0530The Nutmeg Museum in Gouyave where workers process everything by hand

A visit to the Nutmeg Museum in Gouyave is much like a visit to the island itself: Walk through the doors here and you’ll feel as though time stood still. This isn’t actually a museum, but a working Nutmeg factory where everything from the crop to the packaging is processed tirelessly by hand. Grenada earned it’s nickname as the Spice Isle for being the second largest nutmeg importer in the world behind Indonesia. The factory is small, meaning tours are short and last approximately five to ten minutes, but you’ll have the opportunity to take pictures, speak to the locals and off course purchase some nutmeg! Our tour was organised by the partner of one of my husband’s colleagues so I am unsure as to the entry fee. Whatever the cost, it is likely to be small and contributes to the local economy. Afterwards head across the street to Kelly’s Hotspot for some traditional West Indian fare.

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Grenada, Hello St Lucia…

Apologies, I’ve been utterly useless at updating this blog. I don’t have many excuses for the hiatus, except that I haven’t been feeling very well recently, and a bout of homesickness debilitated much of my creative energy.

We landed in St Lucia on Saturday 25th of June, after what can only be described as four uneventful but emotionally tumultuous months on the island of Grenada. It’s important that bloggers report on their experiences with integrity, so it must be said that I met many a Grenada fanatic whilst staying on the island. It just wasn’t for us.

DSC_0878Grenada’s beauty is unquestionable but we found it a hard place to live

Grenada’s provincial charm has long drawn honeymooners and retirees from the United States and Europe, seeking a peaceful getaway which has shunned the over-development that has blighted other islands in the region. However, this provided a challenging environment for a pair of former Londoners, who, overindulged by the conveniences and efficiency of the UK’s First World infrastructure found it hard to adjust. Every process, from visiting the hospital, to extending visas, to finding a house to live, presented a bewildering and unexpected set of challenges. In the end we didn’t have the patience or the flexibility which was required. The irony is that we moved to the Caribbean in hope of a simple life. The reality is that we stayed in a resort overrun by cockroaches, ordered taxis which failed to turn up and unknowingly moved into a house which resembled a construction site, duped by a landlord which failed to make us aware of the work which needed doing to it. Developing Indonesia, a riotous mix of culture and corruption that we visited on honeymoon, looked as organised as Singapore by comparison.

“I want to go home,” I flatly explained to my husband, about three months into our relocation abroad. “You don’t like the UK,” he explained, “You’ve always wanted to live abroad. Perhaps Grenada isn’t the right country for you but going back to England isn’t the answer.” I wasn’t listening. A spiritual person by nature, I was utterly convinced I’d been sent to Grenada by way of karma for not realising how lucky I was for living in London.

DSC_1080Grenada’s secluded appeal offers the ideal opportunity for a quiet break

My bout of homesickness coincided with the desire of my husband’s employer to send us to St Lucia. My husband had regularly visited the island for work in the last few months but before arriving I’d never been here. We were originally supposed to move to St Lucia but ended up staying in Grenada due to a last minute development. “They’ve asked if we want to move to St Lucia. We can go there or the other manager can go there. I’d like us to go. I love it there. I think you’d prefer it. It’s easier, more developed, less hard work,” my husband enthused. I agreed without any thought or deliberation. Moving offered a small beacon of hope to my current emotional downturn, but essentially my husband’s happiness is imperative. Whilst I have the rather privileged option of crying over Netflix on weekdays, he’s got all the shackles of a major career and had made his preference clear.

We boarded a British Airways flight in Grenada which was bound for London, and exited on it’s short stop off in St Lucia. As soon as we’d entered the taxi to our home the clouds metaphorically lifted. We arrived in Rodney Bay late in the evening, but as my husband had assured me, St Lucia looked and felt very different. Rodney Bay presented a small village of cosmopolitan shops and restaurants which could easily be explored by foot. In Grenada, one must drive, or risk being hounded by incessant bus drivers for business at every given opportunity. Of course I’m careful to rave about St Lucia too soon. We need to seriously explore and find out what this island really has to offer before drawing too many conclusions. I’ll be reporting my findings in the coming weeks, and please bare with me as I deal with the backlog of posts I’ve got on Grenada…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Anse Beach, Grenada, Caribbean

I’m a real beach bum at heart but often wonder how this came to be. I was born in London, one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas. London is about as far-removed from beach life as Alaska is from Dubai. If you’re lucky the sun might shine twice a year and bikini temperatures are even less common. I was lucky enough to travel abroad at least once a year as a child, but my parents always preferred museums and castles to ocean and sand.

The beaches of my native country present a myriad of problems. The occurrence of a few days sunshine per year brings Glastonbury-sized crowds to England’s coastline on warm days. Instead of burning your feet on powder-white sand, you’re more likely to twist your ankle on slippery stones. Intersected by enormous piers selling everything from candyfloss to fish and chips, fun fair rides to arcade machines, you’ll be glad you packed your sunglasses, even when the unpredictable weather brings an unforeseen rain shower in the middle of the day. England has a lot of beauty, but let’s just say it’ll never be famed for it’s beaches. So it is perhaps no wonder that I was most excited about living by the sea when I first learnt I was moving to the Caribbean…

Oddly enough, and unconventional to my nature, I did very little in the way of research before arriving in Grenada. Most of my travel planning revolves around finding the nicest places to stay, and their proximity to the beach. As we’d be staying in a corporate apartment allocated by my husband’s company, I figured it might be better to do some research once we knew which area we’d be staying in.

About a week after arriving, we were introduced to Grenada’s magnificent two-mile stretch of white-sand paradise, otherwise known as the Grand Anse Beach. Situated on the south-east of the island, this beach is at the heart of Grenada’s remarkably laid-back tourist hub. Dotted with upmarket resorts, vibrant restaurants and water sport centres, the beach offers something to every visitor.

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In the middle of the beach, close to the car park, you’ll find the Umbrellas Cafe and Coyaba Beach Resort. Umbrellas is a large beachfront diner catering for students, tourists, and expats alike. It serves cocktails, sandwiches and occasionally features the odd bit of live music. Coyaba is an upmarket resort with beautifully manicured gardens, a relaxing poolside bar and ambient evening restaurant. Head to the far right of the beach and you’ll find Coconuts, a French Creole Restaurant with a cosy intimate atmosphere.

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The real draw is the beach itself. The Grand Anse is one of the prettiest beaches I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Situated on the relatively placid Caribbean Sea and absent of the tourist swarms found on many of the beaches in Europe and Asia, this beach is certainly deserving of it’s prestigious reputation. The white sand is powder soft and the crystal-clear water free of stones, seaweed and other debris. At about 5.45pm, the sun sets over the water, producing a magical sunset worthy of generating some seriously divine holiday snaps. You’ll find a cosmopolitan mix of locals, expats and tourists, who come to cool off, dance to reggae music and even take swimming lessons in cordoned-off lanes in the sea! Whilst commercial, the beach has resisted the pitfall of over-development, something which the Grenadian government are apparently wary of. Head to the far corners of the shore and you’ll find some fairly secluded spots where you can relax completely undisturbed.

We’ve got one more week on Grenada before we head north to Saint Lucia, which is where we’ll be living. I’m quite sure we’ll be spending many more days and sunsets in this beautiful location before our departure…

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Lance Aux Epines Beach, Grenada, Caribbean

The Lance Aux Epines Beach is situated in the suburb of the same name on the far south of the island. It is the first beach we visited on Grenada and one of the closest beaches to our apartment.

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Whilst idyllic, this beach is probably unlikely to win any of the top accolades from TripAdvisor or Conde Nast Traveller. It is small and narrow, with a fairly uninspiring horseshoe backdrop of marshy hills dotted with cottages. Despite this, it is one of the most pleasant beaches I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. You’ll find a mix of traditional sandy beaches and black volcanic ones on Grenada. Interestingly, this beach consists of a compelling mixture of both, and the absence of tourist crowds make for an unspoilt peaceful haven.

The beach is situated in Prickly Bay but there is a slight breeze, providing favourable conditions for windsurfing. The water is scattered with catamarans but these aren’t close to the shore, allowing safe conditions for swimming.

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The beach is home to the famous Calabash resort, a luxury boutique resort famed for it’s Gary Rhodes restaurant and world-class spa. The spa and restaurant are open to the public, and the sun loungers are open to paying guests without an additional fee. The resort may also organise dive trips and other water-sports activities for guests and the public.

One drawback is that this beach is under the flight path, resulting in a thundering accompaniment to your sunbathing. However, aircraft are not frequent in this part of the world, so this shouldn’t cause any significant problems. This beach also isn’t ideal for snorkelling. Swim out a few yards and you’ll be met with a bed of seaweed which doesn’t feel particularly pleasant on the bottom of the feet and invites very little in the way of aquatic life.

Although lacking the world-class reputation of the nearby Grand Anse, Lance Aux Epines definitely deserves a feature on any Grenada itinerary.

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