Thanks to John Guy who started the research for this page
Much of the Eastern Caribbean falls into the North America Numbering Plan (NANP). The country code for all NANP countries is 1 and the numbers that follow work just like area codes in the U.S. and Canada. These countries and their country codes are as follows:
USA 1 + areacode
St. Lucia 1-(758)
St. Vincent 1-(784)
St. Kitts 1-(869)
Sint Maarten 1-(721)
This does not apply to the French Islands. Of these there are basically two: Martinique and Guadeloupe, which includes St Barts and St Martin. Let us take Guadeloupe, St Barts and St Martin first. All their phone numbers begin with 0590 (regular phones) or 0690 (cell phones) this is followed by a 6 more digits. eg: 0590-71-92-92. Within any French territory this is what you dial.
When dialing from overseas, the country code for Guadeloupe is also 590. So if you are dialing from abroad you first dial the exit code for that country (in the USA 011) then you dial the country code 590, then you dial the number, but you leave off the first 0. Thus to get the same number from the USA we showed before, you would dial 011-590-590-71-92-92. If it was a cell phone you would dial: 011-590-690-71-92-92
Martinique is the same, except the country code is 596 and the phone numbers start either 0596 (regular) or 0696 (cell). So to give the same example – within French territory 0596-71-92-92. From abroad exit code plus 596-596-71-92-92
That leaves the Saba and Statia. All their numbers begin with 599 followed by 7 digits. When you dial from overseas you dial the exit code plus this number. If dialing within the Dutch Antilles you leave off the 599 and dial 0 instead.
If you have someone in a major country who wants to call you a lot, while you are stationed in one country in the Caribbean, there is a phone card they can buy that might be helpful (does not work the other way round) It is called Enjoy Prepaid. It is cheaper when used to fixed phones.
GSM phones are now widely available in the Caribbean and work well on yachts. With a GRSM enabled phone or USB aerial card, you can use this system for both phone calls and internet connection. Any yachtsperson can own one of these for a minimal investment and have a phone on board. Overseas calls are, by international standards, reasonable (Antigua excepted). For those going on holiday and wishing to stay in touch with home or office. This is a good way to way to go.
The Range is about 20 miles offshore and in many cases the phones work seamlessly as you sail through the islands.
SIMS. If you start with an unlocked GSM phone you can just buy SIMS as you need them, they cost about $10 US. To buy a SIM you will need some form of identification. Some people may want to see a receipt or some evidence you did not steal your phone. If cost is a consideration, Antigua SIM call rates are higher than most other islands. The SIM becomes defunct if you do not use the phone for about 6 months.
Buying a phone locally. You can buy a phone locally, but it will usually be locked to the phone company you buy it from. You need to make sure it will at least roam and accept the same company’s SIMS throughout their range. This is not automatic. I had a Grenada Cable and Wireless phone that roamed but was locked to Grenada Cable and Wireless, so I could not replace the SIM with a Cable and Wireless SIM from another island. However, that was in the early days, these days most phones roam all over the place if expensively. If you need to buy a phone prices vary widely, but you should be able to find a phone for around $50-100 US.
You can store numbers in your GSM phone either in the phone itself or on the SIM card. Selection is normally through the contacts setup menu. If you are going to be changing SIMS, store valuable numbers in the phone, not on the SIM. (This works very well till you you flood the phone but manage to save the sim at which point you will wish you had done the other!). I notice on the internet now you can buy a program so you can back up your sim phone infomation. Here is one site offering such programs
Roaming charges are currently very expensive (bye-bye to the old “roam like you are home of last year). It pays to change sims as you change countries. You can easily save this on one phone call. This is not difficult or expensive, but it does change your phone number. I suggest having one phone you keep the number for incoming calls and another you change sims on for outgoing calls.
Call companies (See links above). Lime and Digicel work well through the English-speaking islands and can roam in the French and Dutch islands. For years I could not get my Grenada Digicel phone to work in Martinique. The answer turned out to be that when making an outgoing call you must put a + in front of the number in French islands. If you are spending time in the French and Dutch islands it may pay to get a local phone. Orange works well in all French territories. Their French cards are all interchangeable. In the Dutch islands Telcel or UTS phones work well throughout as do the cards. If you are hanging out in Trinidad TSTT works well.
Internet Connection. You can use GRSM enabled phones or USB GSM cards to do internet from your boat. I have experience of the French one which is was a Huawei 3G and fast enough, but it is quite expensive to run. 3 and 4 G is purported to be comning to all islands soon.
Current Best deal 2013. Call rates have increased significantly in recent years. If you use your cell a lot the current best deal is LIME buying something called “anywhere minutes”. The downside is you buy a minimum of 100 minutes and must use them (or buy more in which case they roll over) within a month. They are only a good deal bought and used in the island you buy them in. The good side is you can call any phone in that island, any phone except Digicel in the rest of the Caribbean, you can call the US (any phone) UK (except mobiles) all for a fixed price which is about half of the regular local calling rate. (currently 0.36EC a minute in St. Lucia, $0.40 EC in St. Vincent). To buy these minutes you dial *129# “send” for the menu. You are looking for “plans” then “voice bolt on”.
Wifi internet coverage now brings broad-band high-speed internet access right into your boat, and makes surfing the web on board really practical in many places. Various companies are supplying this service, and it is generally only available where yachts congregate, which means in or somewhere near a marina. Alternatively you can sometimes piggy back of a restaurant or hotel customer system.
Getting enough power. It is easy enough for a wifi company to set up a shore station powerful enough to cover an area like Simpson Bay Lagoon, but internet is a two way process so this is not a big help if you are using a weak system like a laptop with a regular wifi card. To take full advantage of Caribbean wifi you will need a more powerful on-board system, available on the internet or through many of the marine electronics shops.
The simplest and easiest of these is an aerial with a USB connection, you can find them for as little as $30, and they take the power to run them from your USB port. Omni-directional is usually better than directional, unless you are on a dock. A few have two USB port connectors so you can get a bit more power. For these you have to download software on your computer, and you need to make sure it is compatible with your operating system.
Another system now becoming more popular is a good bit more expensive ($200 up) and it uses more power – 12 or 120 volt. This is a system where the software is in the aerial, and you have to connect it to a power source. The take off to your computer is by Ethernet cable, which can be long as you do not have the power loss that practically limits USB to about 25 feet. You can also attach them to a router and get boat wide wifi, useful if you have more than one user.
Whatever you get needs to operate on the IEEE 802.11 b and/or g standard, and have an output power of at least 100mw.
This is not to say a laptop with a regular wifi system is useless, but being close to the supplier’s transmitter (hot spot) becomes very important. Some suppliers have multiple hot spots to extend the range, in which case you may get fair reception when you are in or very close to a marina. The position of your computer is important and you can often significantly improve a weak signal by moving from down below to up into the cockpit or on deck. The regular wifi laptop is also excellent for taking ashore to a wifi internet cafe.
Using wifi is simple. Normally you just click on the wireless connection icon on your laptop and follow the directions. Occasionally you may need to go ashore to pay.
Receiving emails and surfing the web is easy, and outgoing mail through webmail outfits like hotmail is no problem. If you are using Outlook Express with an STMP address for your outgoing mail, this will be seamless with some operators, but with others you may have to add a new address into your system.
Providers. Recently a company based in the Signal Locker, Antigua: Hot hot hot spot has set up stations in many islands, including Antigua, Guadeloupe, The Saintes, Dominica, Bequia, Union Island and Grenada. Grenada also has a good system based at De Big Fish with bases in several locations, polus Trinidad and Carriacou
SSB and ham are both very popular among cruisng folk. I don’t have one. I stick my head outside of the weather, so better information must be available. If youy know of any I will happily put a up link.
The National Association for Amateur Radio (AARL) has a web site with all the regulations pertaining to USA hams using their radios abroad. Basically you can use your radio legally (following the correct procedures) in the French Islands under CEPT agreement and in Trinidad and Tobago or Venezuela under IARP agreement. For most of the the rest you should have a local license, though you can operate in international waters if your vessel is the same registry as your license. Clearly International waters does not mean at anchor in an island!
The general AARL website is: www.arrl.org
If you are interested in using your ham radio for digital communication including email, check www.winlink.org
Here is the link the Compass with thieir list of stations and broadcast times
Long before cell phones I got a Globalstar phone and used it for a few of years. It was very exciting to stand on my boat waving the thing at the sky and being able to call the USA. Of course it depends on the satellites being in the right place, so the connection could go bad. With the advent of local cell towers and GSM, not too many people use these for local communications, though they are valuable when crossing oceans.
Globastar is probably one of the less expensive brands. I was using it very happily for a while and then the signals just went to pot and I could not make contact. It turned out to be a phone problem, not a systems problem. There was no way to tell from the symptoms. They gave me a new phone and it worked fine for a while, then the signal seemed to go to hell so I gave up. When it was working I also used it for internet – they have a very easy kit to hook it to your laptop and it works well.
If any of the below is out of date, if you want to email me Sailorsguide@hotmail.com, I wll update it.
Dialing is different for each system, so we give the number here. For each phone we give the same example to call Grenada 444-4266
If you use a Globalstar phone set up for the Americas, it works just like a USA phone. for USA and NANP countries dial 1 plus the country (or area) code plus 7 digits.
example dial 1-473-444-4266
Dial 00 plus the country code – e.g. for the USA dial 001 then area (or Caribbean country) code plus 7 digits
example dial 00-1-473-444-4266
Dial 00 plus the country code – e.g. for the USA dial 001 then area (or Caribbean country) code plus 7 digits plus #. The # key is used after all numbers are entered to initiate the call.
example dial 00-1-473-444-4266-#