Banks -- The most convenient bank, with ATM services, is the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank on Central Street in Basseterre (tel. 869/465-2204). Other ATMs are at Port Zante, the shopping mall adjacent to the cruise-ship piers in downtown Basseterre, and at the Marriott Resort in Frigate Bay. Funds are dispensed, depending on the machine, in either U.S. dollars or Eastern Caribbean dollars.
Currency -- The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), pegged at EC$2.67 to the U.S. dollar (EC$1 = US37¢). Many prices, however, including those of hotels, are quoted in U.S. dollars. Always determine which "dollar" locals are talking about. Prices in this guide are quoted in U.S. dollars.
Customs -- You are allowed in duty-free with your personal belongings. Sometimes luggage is subjected to a drug check. If you clear Customs in one of the islands, you don't have to do it again if you visit the other.
Documents -- U.S., British, and Canadian citizens need a passport. A return or ongoing ticket is mandatory.
Electricity -- Electricity on St. Kitts is 230-volt AC (60 cycles), so you'll need an adapter and a transformer for U.S.-made appliances. However, most hotels on the islands have outlets that will accept North American appliances. Check with your hotel to see if it has converted its voltage and outlets.
Emergencies -- Dial tel. 911 for emergencies, tel. 333 for fire department.
Language -- English is the language of both islands, and it is spoken with a decided West Indian lilt; patois is commonly spoken as well.
Safety -- This is still a fairly safe place to travel. Most crimes against tourists -- and there aren't a lot -- are robberies on Conaree Beach on St. Kitts, so exercise the usual precautions. It's wise to safeguard your valuables, and women should not go jogging alone along deserted roads. Crime is rare on Nevis.
Taxes -- The government imposes a 9% tax on rooms and meals, plus another $22 airport departure tax. (You don't pay the departure tax when you travel between St. Kitts and Nevis.)
Telephone -- The area code for St. Kitts and Nevis is 869. You can make calls to or from the United States as you would for any other area code in North America. To access AT&T Direct, call tel. 800/225-5288; to reach MCI, dial tel. 800/888-8000.
Time -- St. Kitts and Nevis are on Atlantic Standard Time year-round. This means that in winter, when it's 6am in Basseterre, it's 5am in New York. When the United States goes on daylight saving time, St. Kitts and Nevis are on the same time as the East Coast of the United States.
Tipping -- Most hotels and restaurants add a service charge of 10% to cover tipping. If not, tip 10% to 15%.
Water -- The water on St. Kitts and Nevis is so good that in the 1970s, Baron de Rothschild's chemists selected St. Kitts as their only site in the Caribbean to distill and produce CSR (Cane Sugar Rothschild), a pure sugar-cane liqueur. In the 1700s, Lord Nelson regularly brought his fleet to Nevis just to collect water, and Nevis still boasts of having Nelson spring water.
Weather -- St. Kitts and Nevis are tropical, and the warm climate is tempered by the trade winds. The average air temperature is 79°F (26°C); the average water temperature, 80°F (27°C). Dry, mild weather is usually experienced from November to April; May to October is hotter and rainier.