Omni Country Guide for





Section              1          Contact Addresses


                        2          General Information


                        3          Passport/Visa


                        4          Money


                        5          Duty Free


                        6          Public Holidays


                        7          Health


                        8          Accommodation


                        9          Sport & Activities


                        10         Social Profile


                        11         Business Profile


                        12         Climate


                        13         History and Government



1 Contact Addresses


Location: Leeward Islands, Caribbean.


Country dialling code: 1 664.


Note: Montserrat is still experiencing volcanic activity at the Soufrière Hills (which began erupting in 1995), causing the capital, Plymouth, to be closed and the relocation of businesses and residents living on the southern and eastern sides of the island to the northern side. Scientists at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory have advised that the northern part is safe from immediate volcanic activity. Montserrat continues to welcome visitors to the northern part of the island where economic development is now being planned.


Diplomatic representation: Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory, and is represented abroad by British Embassies – see United Kingdom section.


Montserrat Tourist Board

PO Box 7, Brades, Montserrat, West Indies Tel: 491 2230 or 491 8730. Fax: 491 7430. E-mail: Website:


British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Overseas Territories Department, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH, UK Tel: (020) 7008 2749. Fax: (020) 7008 1589. E-mail: Website:


The UK Passport Service

London Passport Office, Globe House, 89 Ecclestone Square, London SW1V 1PN, UK Tel: (0870) 521 0410 (24-hour passport advice line). Website: or Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0745-1900, Sat 0915-1515 (appointment only). Regional offices in: Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newport and Peterborough. Personal callers for visas should go to the agency window in the collection room of the London office.


Montserrat Government (UK Office)

7 Portland Place, London W1B 1PP, UK Tel: (020) 7031 0317. Fax: (020) 7031 0318. E-mail: Website:


Caribbean Tourism Organisation

42 Westminster Palace Gardens, Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RR, UK Tel: (020) 7222 4335. Fax: (020) 7222 4325. E-mail: cto@carib-tourism.comWebsite:


Note: The British High Commission in Bridgetown deals with enquiries relating to Montserrat (see Barbados section).


Caribbean Tourism Organisation

32nd Floor, 80 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004, USA Tel: (212) 635 9530. Fax: (212) 635 9511. E-mail: Website: or


Note: The US Embassy and the Canadian High Commission in Bridgetown deal with enquiries relating to Montserrat (see Barbados section).



2 General Information


Area: 102 sq km (39.5 sq miles).


Population: 4482 (2001).


Population Density: 43.9 per sq km.


Capital: Plymouth, the former capital, was mostly destroyed by pyroclastic flows in August 1997. Brades is currently the interim capital.


GEOGRAPHY: Montserrat is one of the Leeward Islands group in the Eastern Caribbean. It is a volcanic island with black sandy beaches and lush tropical vegetation. There are three main volcanic mountains on the island and Chances Peak is its highest point at 915m (3002ft). The Soufrière group of hills houses the volcano which began erupting in July 1995 and to date is continuously active. The Great Alps Waterfall, previously one of the most spectacular sights in the West Indies, has been destroyed by the volcano.


Government: British Overseas Territory since 1632. Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II, represented locally by Governor Deborah Barnes Jones since 2004. Head of Government: Chief Minister Dr John A Osborne since 2001.


Language: English.


Religion: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and other Christian denominations.


Time: GMT - 4.


Electricity: 110/220 volts AC, 60Hz.






Full IDD is available. Country code: 1 664. Outgoing international code: 011. Phone booths are operated by coins and phonecards.


Mobile telephone


TDMA network not compatible with GSM handsets. Coverage extends over the northern half of the island. Handsets can be hired from the network provider, C&W Caribbean Cellular (website: GSM 850 network operates, provided by Cable & Wireless West Indies.




Cable & Wireless (WI) Ltd runs international links.




Main ISP is Cable & Wireless (website:




The Main Post Office in Brades is open Mon-Fri 0815-1555




The Montserrat Reporter and The Montserrat Times are both in English and published weekly.


Radio: BBC World Service (website: and Voice of America (website: can be received. From time to time the frequencies change and the most up-to-date can be found online.



3 Passport/Visa




Passport Required?

Visa Required?

Return Ticket Required?




























PASSPORTS: Valid passport required by all except: 1. nationals of Canada and the USA who may enter as tourists with a valid national ID card or other form of identity (birth certificate and return ticket) for a maximum stay of 6 months.


VISAS: Required by all except the following: (a) nationals of countries referred to in the chart above; (b) nationals of Commonwealth countries; (c) nationals of UK Dependent Territories; (d) nationals of French Dependent Territories; (e) nationals of Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Bahrain, Bolivia, Brazil, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, The Philippines, San Marino, Surinam, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.


Types of visa and cost: Tourist and Transit; cost depends on nationality.


Validity: Depends on nationality.


Application to: UK Passport Agency (see Contact Addresses section) or nearest British Counsellor.


Application requirements: Enquiries to The Chief Immigration Officer, Government Head Office, Olveston, Montserrat or nearest British Counsellor.


Working days required: Enquire at Passport Office.


Note: All passengers must hold a return or onward ticket to a country to which they have a legal right of entry and sufficient funds to cover the period of their stay. Passengers not in possession of a return or onward ticket may be required to leave a deposit on arrival. Passengers not complying with any of the entry regulations listed above may be deported.


Temporary residence: Enquire at Chief Immigration Officer, Police Headquarters, Brades (tel: 491 2555).



4 Money


Currency: East Caribbean Dollar (EC$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of EC$100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of EC$1, and 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. US Dollars are also accepted.


Note: The East Caribbean Dollar is tied to the US Dollar.


Currency exchange: There are three banks on Montserrat.


Credit & debit cards: Major credit and debit cards are accepted.


Travellers cheques: Widely accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in US Dollars.


Currency restrictions: There are no restrictions on the import of local or foreign currency if declared. Export of local and foreign currency is limited to the amount imported and declared.


Exchange rate indicators

The following figures are included as a guide to the movements of the East Caribbean Dollar against Sterling and the US Dollar:DateNov ’03Feb ’04May ’04Aug ’04£1.00=4.534.914.824.97$1.00=2.672.702.702.70


Banking hours: Mon-Thurs 0800-1500, Fri 0800-1500, depending on the bank.



5 Duty Free


Duty-Free: The following goods may be imported into Montserrat without incurring customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars*; wines and spirits not exceeding 1.14l*; 168g of perfume; gifts up to a value of EC$250 (only once per 12 months).


Note: *Tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are only available to passengers 17 years of age or over.



6 Public Holidays


Jan 1 2004 New Year’s Day. Mar 17 St Patrick’s Day. Apr 9-12 Easter. May 3 Labour Day. May 31 Whit Monday. Aug 2 August Monday. Dec 25-26 Christmas. Dec 31 Festival Day. Jan 1 2005 New Year’s Day. Mar 17 St Patrick’s Day. Mar 25-28 Easter. May 2 Labour Day. May 16 Whit Monday. Aug 1 August Monday. Dec 25-26 Christmas. Dec 31 Festival Day.



7 Health






Special Precautions

Certificate Required

Yellow Fever






Typhoid and Polio








1: Following WHO guidelines issued in 1973, a cholera vaccination certificate is not normally a requirement of entry to any country. However, Montserratian authorities may require one from travellers arriving from infected areas. See the Health appendix for further information about the cholera vaccination.


Food & drink: Mains water is normally chlorinated, and is safe to drink. Bottled water is available. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat.


Other risks: Bacillary and amoebic dysenteries are common. Hepatitis A is present. Outbreaks of dengue fever may occur. After an ash fall, the ash-laden air may cause breathing problems for persons suffering from respiratory problems such as asthma.


Health care: There is a well-equipped 30-bed hospital, providing 24-hour casualty service. Montserrat is a UK Dependency and a limited reciprocal health agreement exists with the UK. On presentation of proof of UK residence, free treatment is available at the general hospital and at state-run clinics to those aged over 60 and under 16. Dental treatment is also free for school-age children. Private health insurance is recommended. For specialist treatment, visitors are required to travel to neighbouring islands (eg Antigua or Guadeloupe).


Travel - International


Note: Following a recent lull in volcanic activity, the previously designated Day Time Entry Zone (DTEZ) has been rescinded and these areas are now open for 24-hour occupancy. However, at present, there are no utilities in these areas and roads are in poor condition. Anyone visiting these areas should drive with extreme caution, and the wearing of ash masks is recommended. A small portion of the previously designated Exclusion Zone incorporating St George's Hill has been re-designated a DTEZ, and entry is permitted in this area between the hours of 0600 and 1800, seven days a week. A major part of the island is still a total Exclusion Zone where no entry is permitted. Maps showing the designated zones are available at points of entry and at local police stations. The threat from terrorism is low. Though the crime rate is also very low, visitors should take sensible precautions against petty crime. However, the vast majority of visits to Montserrat remain completely trouble-free.


AIR: The nearest international gateway is Antigua. All information on transport and current timetables can be verified by Montserrat Aviation Services (MAS) (tel: 491 2362; fax: 491 7186).


Approximate flight times: From Montserrat to London is eight hours 30 minutes, including an hour’s stopover in Antigua; to Los Angeles is nine hours; to New York is six hours and to Singapore is 33 hours.


International airports: WH Bramble Airport (MNI) has been closed since August 1997 owing to volcanic activity. A heliport has been established at Gerald’s Bottom in the north of the island. Carib Aviation and Montserrat Aviation Services operate helicopter services to Antigua five days a week, two to four times daily (travel time – 20 minutes). A new airport is to be built by the end of 2004. There is also a regular helicopter service from UC Bird International Airport in Antigua to the port at Little Bay.


Departure tax: US$10 or equivalent. Children under 12 years of age and transit passengers who continue their journey within 24 hours are exempt.


SEA: A high-speed ferry service operates regular services six days a week between Little Bay, Montserrat and Heritage Quay, Antigua (travel time – one hour).


Travel - Internal


Note: Following a recent lull in volcanic activity, the previously designated Day Time Entry Zone (DTEZ) has been rescinded and these areas are now open for 24-hour occupancy. However, at present, there are no utilities in these areas and roads are in poor condition. Anyone visiting these areas should drive with extreme caution and the wearing of ash masks is recommended. A small portion of the previously designated Exclusion Zone incorporating St George's Hill has been redesignated a DTEZ and entry is permitted in this area between the hours of 06:00 and 18:00, seven days a week. A major part of the island is still a total Exclusion Zone where no entry is permitted. Maps showing the designated zones are available at points of entry and at local police stations.


SEA: Charter yachts are available. The main harbour is at Little Bay where a new jetty has been constructed.


ROAD: Traffic drives on the left. There are good road networks to all towns. Montserrat has 203km (126 miles) of well-paved roads, but driving can be difficult for those not used to winding mountain roads. Speed limits are restricted to 20mph (32 kph). Bus: Minibuses are available for sightseeing. A bus service between villages and the town is provided by privately owned minibuses. Taxi: There are fixed rates for standard journeys. Drivers can act as guides and a number of different tours can be arranged. Car hire: This is available at the heliport and at Little Bay Port. Documentation: A valid foreign licence can be used to purchase a temporary licence at either the heliport or any police station. This costs EC$50 and the licence is valid for three months.



8 Accommodation


HOTELS: The Vue Pointe is still operating. An 18-room hotel, the Tropical Mansion Suites, is open. There are a small number of bed & breakfast establishments. Some hotels have had to close due to sporadic volcanic activity. Contact Montserrat Tourist Board for more information (see Contact Addresses section).


SELF-CATERING: Villas and apartments are available throughout the island; Montserrat Tourist Board can provide a list. All accommodation bookings must be confirmed with a 20 per cent deposit. A service charge of 10 per cent and a 7 per cent government occupancy tax is added on to all accommodation bills.



9 Sport & Activities


Hiking: The Montserrat Forest rangers offer a wide range of guided walks and hiking tours in the northern part of the island. Popular routes are the Cot trail (which runs through an oki banana plantation to a historic family house), Runaway Ghaut, the Centre Hills trail, and the Silver Hills trail (which passes through one of the island’s oldest volcanic centres). Trained guides are available to inform hikers about the flora and fauna. Contact Montserrat Tourist Board for further details (see Contact Addresses section).


Volcano viewing: Day tours of the volcano area are available. Experienced guides take the visitor to safe vantage points from which they can observe the Soufrière Hills volcano. The Montserrat Volcano Observatory can also be visited (tel: (664) 491 5647; fax: (664) 491 2423; e-mail:; website: Caribbean Helicopters also offer helicopter tours around the volcano (tel: (268) 460 5900 (flight information); fax: (268) 460 5901; e-mail:; website:


Watersports: Most villas have their own swimming pools. Beaches are of ‘black’ volcanic sand. The surrounding waters are excellent for scuba diving. Both deep and shallow dives are available. Equipment may be hired or purchased on the island. Snorkelling equipment is available in resorts. Villa owners or agents can arrange professional instruction, and the tourist board can give details of dive schools. Sea-fishing trips can be organised through hotels or directly with specialist operators.


Cricket: This is popular and matches are played from February to June.



10 Social Profile


Food & Drink: Dining options in Montserrat are varied, with a choice of international or local specialities. The island specialities are fresh seafood and mountain chicken – not actually chicken, but the leg from a local species of large frog (Dominica is the only other island where these frogs can be found). Barbecues are popular and other local dishes include pumpkin soup, goat water (comparable to Irish stew), aubergine patties, salt fish, crêpes and dishes made from abundant local fruits. Waiter service is normal. Most bars serve imported beers, spirits and wines. The local rum punch liqueur is Monserrat Rum Punch. There is also an abundance of local fruit drinks available.


Nightlife: There are numerous clubs open in the evenings and at weekends.


Shopping: Locally made items include jewellery, needlework, ceramics, glassware and some interesting artefacts made from coconut. Local arts and crafts shops are dotted throughout the island. Shopping hours: Mon, Tue and Thurs 0800-1200 and 1300-1600, Wed and Sat 0800-1300, Fri 0800-1700.


Special Events: For more information, contact Montserrat Tourist Board (see Contact Addresses section). The following is a selection of special events celebrated annuallly in Montserrat: Mar 17 St Patrick’s Day, nationwide. Apr 12 Easter Monday Road Relay. Jun 14 Queen’s Birthday Parade. Jul Look Out Day. Aug Cudjoe Head Day. Aug 30 Roman Catholic Fete. Sep Tourism Week. Oct Police, Fire and Search & Rescue Week. Dec 31 Festival Day.


Social Conventions: Casual clothes are acceptable. Beachwear should be confined to the beach or poolside. The lifestyle is generally peaceful, combining many English influences with West Indian. The people are usually friendly and relaxed. All visitors are made welcome. Tipping: Service charge and government tax are added to restaurant and hotel bills.



11 Business Profile


Economy: The island was recovering from the volcanic explosion of January 1997, which destroyed much of the island’s productive capacity, when it was hit by a new series of eruptions in July 2003. Previously, Montserrat had a diverse if fragile economy. The agricultural sector produced vegetables, cotton and livestock. The industrial sector, which employed one-third of the workforce and earned the bulk of Montserrat’s export income, was concentrated in food processing and the assembly of electronic components. In the service sector, e-commerce and financial services were two important growth areas. After the 1997 eruption, the island became largely dependent on foreign aid – in particular, a $125 million aid package from Britain. However, following the latest series of eruptions, Montserrat is reaching the point where the economy is no longer viable.


Business: A short- or long-sleeved shirt or safari suit is suitable for most business visits. Office hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1600.


Commercial Information: The following organisation can offer advice: Development Unit, PO Box 292, Brades (tel: 491 2066; fax: 491 4632; e-mail:; website:


Conferences/Conventions: Contact Montserrat Tourist Board for further details (see Contact Addresses section).



12 Climate


The climate is subtropical, tempered by trade winds. There is little climatic variation throughout the year. The heaviest rainfall occurs between September and November; however, the heavy cloudbursts serve to refresh the atmosphere and once they are over the sun reappears.


Required clothing: Tropical lightweights are worn, with light woollens for cooler evenings. A light raincoat or an umbrella is useful.



13 History and Government


History: Arawak and Carib Indians were the first residents of Alliouagana, ‘land of the prickly bush’, until Christopher Columbus claimed it for Spain in 1493, whereupon he named the island Santa Maria de Montserrat. It was not until 1632 that the British colonised the island, which is still a British Overseas Territory. The actual settlers were mainly of Irish Catholic origin, who appreciated the presence of an ocean between them and Oliver Cromwell. Irish surnames among the present population reflect this history. Between 1871 and 1956 the island was administered as part of the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands. At this point the federation was dissolved; since then Montserrat has been a British colony administered by a Governor appointed by the British government (see Government section). The island’s internal politics during the last four decades have been dominated by the struggle between a small number of key individuals around whom political parties have been organised. The dominant figure has been John Osborne, whose People’s Liberation Movement was the largest single party in the Legislative Council between 1978 and 1991. Osborne himself served as Chief Minister throughout this period. In September 1991, Osborne’s great rival, Reuben Meade, leader of the other main party on the island, the National Progressive Party (NPP), took over as Chief Minister following the election held that month. The NPP remained in power throughout the 1990s, but the ‘New’ People’s Liberation Movement was returned to office – Osborne still at its helm – with a substantial majority on the Legislative Council in 2001. In 2004, Deborah Barnes Jones took over from Osborne as leader of NPLM. For the most part, the major political issue since 1960 has been independence. While a significant minority has backed this option, it has failed to attract a majority owing to uncertainty about the island’s economic future. The main reason is its vulnerability to the elements; Montserrat is located in the Caribbean hurricane zone and has suffered repeated assaults from tempests. However, the damage caused was nothing compared to that wrought by the eruption of a previously dormant volcano, Soufrière, in August 1997. This rendered almost half the island uninhabitable, and much of the 12,000 population left the island. Many original inhabitants have returned to Montserrat, but the island has been left more dependent than ever on aid and support from the British government. The southern part of the island, which bore the brunt of the eruption, has been partially repopulated, but the overriding priority for the government has been to bring economic and social life back to the devastated island. This has been a difficult and gradual process, hampered by disagreements.


Government: Under the 1960 constitution, the Governor, who is appointed by the British monarch, is responsible for defence, external affairs and internal security. The Governor is President of the seven-member Executive Council. The 11-member Legislative Council is elected by popular vote to serve a five-year term.