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Pristine Caribbean Beach ©therealaxalady
The beautiful island of Montserrat has a distinctly explosive history that has drawn intrepid travellers to its dangerous, yet beautiful secluded shores. It seems quite clear the earth is trying to rid itself of this small Caribbean island, as its recent history is a list of major natural disasters. A hurricane swept over the island in 1989, damaging 90 percent of the buildings.
Then a volcano erupted in 1995 after staying dormant for hundreds of years. It then erupted again two years later, covering the capital city in ash and mud, limiting the 39 square mile (101km) island to a much smaller inhabitable safe zone. Most of the 12,000 inhabitants got the message and emigrated.
For those that stuck behind, a new tourism industry is rebuilding and visitors are now eager to take tours of the active volcano where an ominous dome over the volcano's crater rebuilds and periodically collapses sending great plumes of ash into the air. Much of the island is within the 'volcanic exclusion zone' where islanders have determined it is unsafe to visit and this includes the old capital of Plymouth, which is accessible only by sight, from afar.
However, the volcano adds a great twist to typical tropical beach activities. Divers can see unique coral formations that have grown healthier from the volcano's substrates. Sun lovers can relax on soft volcanic sand at a number of eaches. Even ature walks have lush vegetation from the fertilised soil.
The country often refers to itself as the Emerald Isle, homage to its Irish settlers escaping religious oppression. The Caribbean is an unlikely place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but the national holiday highlights Monserrat's unique charm. Unlike Columbus, who sailed right past the islands, visitors to the Caribbean should make this a place to explore. Flights from Antigua and some surrounding islands arrive daily.
English is the official language.
Travellers to Montserrat 18 and older may bring up to 200 cigarettes/50 cigars/200g of tobacco, 40 ounces (1.14 litres) of liquor, six ounces (168g) of perfume, and gifts valued to EC$500 ($180).
Electrical current is 230 volts, 60Hz. They use two-flat-pin plugs and three pronged plugs with two flat pins and one round pin (Plug types A and B).
All foreign passengers to Montserrat must hold return/onward tickets, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. Note that visa exemptions are for a maximum period of six months, although extensions are possible, by applying to the Immigration Department. NOTE: 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.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Montserrat. No visa is required, for stays of up to six months.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Montserrat. No visa is required for British citizens and British Overseas Territories citizens for stays of up to six months. British passport holders with other endorsements should confirm entry requirements before travel.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Montserrat. No visa is required, for stays of up to six months.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Montserrat. No visa is required, for stays of up to six months.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Montserrat. No visa is required, for stays of up to six months.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Montserrat. No visa is required, for stays of up to six months.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Montserrat. No visa is required, for stays of up to six months.
The most common ailment for guests is travellers diarrhea and is easily avoided by following basic food procedures. Drink only bottled water, or boiled, disinfected and filtered tap water, eat only hot foods and don't eat street food or uncooked/unwashed fruits. It is recommended to get an update on a MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, a diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, and to get vaccines for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and a yearly flu shot. Those travelling from a yellow fever zone will be required to produce a certificate of proof of receiving a yellow fever vaccine. People who are likely to come into contact with animals should consider a rabies vaccine. Take along a set of basic medication and insect repellent is necessary because visitors are at risk of dengue fever; all medication should have a Dr.'s letter to explain your medical problems and the medications required for it and bring medication in its original container. There are adequate medical facilities, but expect to pay in cash regardless of whether or not you have medical travel insurance.
Crime against tourists is rare, but basic travel precautions are still necessary. For example, if there is no safe in the hotel, it is better to carry your valuables with you than to leave them in the room. The biggest safety concern in Montserrat is not from the locals, but from the environment.
While the Soufriere Hills Volcano is active and dangerous, the last major activity was in 2010. As a result of the volcanic activity, a third of the island is considered safe and inhabitable. It is advisable to stay out of the other two-thirds. Only explore it with the explicit permission and guidance from local authorities. Travel insurance with provision for emergency evacuation is highly recommended (both for natural disaster or medical emergencies).
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
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Embassies of Montserrat
Foreign Embassies in Montserrat
By all accounts, Montserrat might be one of the easiest places for western travellers to visit, with many tourists reporting that they felt like they couldn't have offended the locals they encountered, even if they'd wanted to! While, of course, this theory shouldn't be tested by visitors to the 'emerald isle of the Caribbean', travellers can look forward to a pleasant mix of typically European manners and customs, and a laid-back, relaxed and accepting social atmosphere. Visitors should be aware of the dangers posed by the Soufriere Hills Volcano, and make sure they stay out of restricted areas. Ask permission before taking photographs of locals, although more often than not, they will indulge your request with a suitable pose.
A five percent bonus over and above normal service charges illustrate appreciation for excellent service at restaurants. Porters are given $1 per bag and maid services are often tipped at $2-3 per night. Taxi drivers will expect a ten percent tip and it is a good idea to arrange a flat rate from the start. All tour guides appreciate gratuity, which should be between 10-20 percent, at your discretion.
Public Holidays in Montserrat
Pivoting around a vital volcano, bordered by beautiful black sand beaches and criss-crossed by rugged hiking trails, Montserrat is a unique island getaway in the Caribbean, both thrilling and serene all at once. Immediately following a volcanic eruption in 1997, most locals abandoned ship and Monserrat fell silent. However, when the ash settled, fearless explorers answered the island's fiery siren song.
Today, intrepid travellers relish its rugged trails and, while most of the southern part of the island is a restricted zone, you'll find some daring spots for photo-ops with the Soufriere Hills Volcano close in the background. Verdant paths wind through endangered flora set among orchards, willows and fascinating wildlife, all contained by some of the most pristine and quiet beaches in the Caribbean.
These are not the traditional bleached Caribbean beaches found in movies and, rather, dense vegetation leads out to quiet stretches of dark sand dipping into choppy waves. A diver's paradise bursting with colour lies beneath the water's surface and so, offering excitement, seclusion and all the rewards of the road less travelled, Montserrat is one of the most satisfying spots for a Caribbean holiday.
Travel Guide powered by www.wordtravels.com, copyright © Globe Media Ltd. All rights reserved. By its very nature much of the information in this guide is subject to change at short notice and travellers are urged to verify information on which they're relying with the relevant authorities. Globe Media and UNIGLOBE Travel does not accept any responsibility for any loss or inconvenience to any person as a result of information contained above.