Time difference: GMT - 4.
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar (although US Dollars are widely accepted).
Language: English. A French creole language is widely used on the island, particularly among the older population.
Population: Approximately 72000.
Visa information: Holders of a British passport can stay for 3 months without a visa.
There are no direct flights from the UK to Dominica so travel is usually via Antigua - fly from the UK to Antigua with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic (flight time approximately 8 hours) then onwards to Dominica with a local airline (flight time approximately 45 minutes).
Visitors to Dominica can easily get around by taxi or local bus. It is also possible to hire a car but it is necessary to buy a temporary driving permit. Driving is on the left and roads might be steep, narrow and winding.
Dominica has been inhabited by South American tribes since around 3100 B.C, firstly by the Ortoroids, then the Arawaks and finally the Caribs who called the island ‘Waitikubuli’. Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493 and renamed the island Dominica as he first made landfall on a Sunday. The Caribs successfully resisted efforts of Spanish colonization, but most fled the island in the 18th century after the British and French battled each other for almost two hundred years.
The French burned down large parts of Roseau in 1805, finally withdrawing from the island and leaving Dominica in Britain’s possession. The British established a legislative assembly and created sugar plantations on the island, abolishing slavery in 1834 and becoming the first British Caribbean colony to have Black legislators. The island’s political situation changed many times, first being part of the Leeward Island Federation, governed as part of the Windwards then joining the West Indies Federation. In 1967 Dominica became an associated state of the United Kingdom, then was granted independence from Britain in 1978.
The new era of freedom and independence brought increased challenges including economic and political struggles, but these settled down by the mid-1980s and Dominica became a stable and peaceful country. The success of the banana trade brought a temporary economic buoyancy to the island, while nowadays the government is investing heavily in tourism to drive economic development. The focus is on the island's unsurpassed natural beauty, and the popularity of diving, hiking and eco tours.
Dominica has a rich Creole culture that blends English, French, African and Carib influences. The island is the only one in the Caribbean with a population of pre-Columbian Carib Indians, most of whom live in the Kalinago territory in the east of the island. Many village names in and around Dominica are a mix of Carib, French and English, reflecting the power struggles of the last 500 years.
A sign of the early French colonisation is that the majority of the island’s current population is Roman Catholic, with many others following another Christian faith.
Dominica’s annual carnival is known as being the most authentic in the Caribbean and has roots in African and French traditions. Carnival music on the island is known as ‘Chanté mas’, performed in a call-and-response form by revelers in masquerades.
Due to its mixed heritage, Dominica is part of both the Commonwealth of Nations and La Francophonie. Although English is the island’s official language, a French-based creole language (Antillean Creole) is spoken by a large part of the population.