For British citizens taking the plunge and making a lifestyle move to the Caribbean, the purchase of a property in St. Lucia, for instance, is probably the largest investment you'll have to make. However, in my experience, understanding the ins and outs of the day-to-day cost of living in your adopted tropical paradise is also very important if you're to make a successful and informed sea change. |
Knowing what to expect in terms of your projected financial outlays and establishing a realistic budget are key factors during the planning stages. Once you've covered the principal and associated costs of purchasing your property in St. Lucia, see below where I outline some of the basic costs of living you can expect in the three main categories of food, transport and shopping.
If you know where to go, the cost of eating out can be of surprisingly good value, and I always like to steer away from the more 'touristy' establishments – for the ambience as well as the price. Naturally, if you've purchased property in St. Lucia you won't be eating out every night as if you were on holiday, but the fantastic regional cuisine is on aromatic display everywhere you turn, so believe me when I say you'll certainly be tempted on a regular basis!
Depending on your mood you can call in for a bite anywhere from one of the many roadside stalls (ask a local for recommendations) right up to a special occasion dinner (I think any day here is a special occasion!) at an upmarket, French-inspired fine dining establishment. As a rough guide, I've found that for some delicious smoky BBQ bites at a food vendor or casual beach café you can expect to pay the equivalent of between £3.50 and £10, while for something a bit more fancy you'll be paying upwards from around the £20 mark for a main.
A note about tipping: Unlike in the US, it's entirely up to you as to whether you tip and how much, but it's well appreciated by the locals and it's something I certainly like to do. I tip the norm, which is about 10-15% if I've received good service.
With a permanent move to the island you may decide to purchase your own vehicle, and this will certainly make life a lot easier – especially if your property in St. Lucia is in a more remote area. (Don't forget you'll have organise a local driving licence and not just a temporary permit, which you'll be able to get from the Ministry of Infrastructure, Port Services and Transport.) However, I've found it's certainly possible to get around on local buses and in the relatively inexpensive taxis.
For shorter rides, taxis are a great mode of transport. As an example, when I fly in or out, getting from Castries (the capital) to the airport will cost less than the equivalent of £35. In fact, you could actually get from one end of the island to the other for around £50!
The buses are a fun and very cheap way of getting from A to B – and even to C if you don’t mind a couple of changes. Even if you do plan on buying your own car, taking a few bus rides around the island is an excellent way to get your bearings and immerse yourself in a bit of local culture. You can get cross-city or town travel for EC$1.50 (Eastern Caribbean dollars) and it won't cost more than EC$7 to get anywhere around the island. (Rough guide: EC$7 = £3.50)
High fliers' tip: If you want to get a bird's eye view of your property in St. Lucia you can book a helicopter flight, starting from about £65.
One of the reasons shopping is such a popular pastime with tourists on St. Lucia is its cache of tax-free goods – including perfume, alcohol and jewellery. But as a local you'll get to reap the rewards as well, and I've discovered most goods (including luxury items) here cost less than in almost all the other islands in the Caribbean – and certainly far less than in the USA and UK.
In terms of food, shopping for local produce can be very cheap at any of the many markets – my personal favourite – while supermarkets are, naturally, a little more expensive. As an example, a loaf of bread costs around EC$3.60, and a dozen eggs will set you back about EC$7.60.
Over the years of speaking to expats, I've found that much of the allure for those purchasing property in St. Lucia is the inexpensive cost of living. Along with good medical facilities, a wonderful climate, and the spectacular landscape, the laid-back, relaxed lifestyle is becoming attractive to more and more expat British citizens.
Adam Gobat is a renowned expert on the Caribbean, with a passion for its culture, history, people and places. His in-depth local knowledge and wealth of experience in luxury property in St. Lucia, are key to the marketing and sales of the luxury villas and penthouses in The Landings, one of the most desirable freehold beachfront developments in the Caribbean.
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