|Location Map ( geo)|
The Falkland Islands (or Falklands colloquially) are a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean, consisting of two big islands – West Falkland and East Falkland – and lots of little ones. The capital, Stanley, is situated at the easternmost point of East Falkland and houses over 80% of the population. The only other settlement of any size is the military base at RAF Mount Pleasant. Politically (and in general), the islands are divided into two: Stanley and Camp (everywhere else).
There are no scheduled ferry services to the Falklands, meaning that seeing a non-Falkland registered vehicle on the islands is extremely unlikely. Cruise ships visit Stanley in summer, sometimes disgorging enough passengers to double (or more) the entire population of the islands for a few hours. The only real connection with the rest of the world is by air. At present there are two flights per week to the UK, one per week to Punta Arenas, Chile, and one per month to Río Gallegos, Argentina. These leave from RAF Mount Pleasant, a military airbase that also allows civilian flights. The flights to Chile and Argentina are by a civilian airline known as LAN Airlines; the flights to the UK are operated by the RAF but allow civilian passengers, and arrive at RAF Brize Norton near Oxford.
As may be expected, tourism is a major part of the islands' economy. Fishing and farming are also important. The flag of the Falkland Islands features a sheep, which has always been a mainstay of the economy.
As recently as 1982, there were no roads outside of Stanley. When travelling overland in Camp it was necessary to go across open country. Islanders always travelled in groups so that if one vehicle became bogged down the others were able to help. It is said that there are more 4x4s per capita on the Falklands than anywhere else in the world – this is due to the terrain.
According to the 2012 Falkland Islands Road plan, the Falklands had a road network of 862 km (East Falkland 489 km and West Falkland 373 km) although the majority of roads are just dirt tracks. Some roads are paved – mostly in and around Stanley and RAF Mount Pleasant (although the main road between the two switches road surface a number of times). The road network is still being expanded, with lots being planned/built. Stanley is classed as important enough to merit a bypass.
There was no road classification system in the Falklands until 2012. In that year, a plan was published splitting all roads on West Falkland and East Falkland into three categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C, in decreasing order of importance. It is not yet known whether a road numbering system will be drawn up. However, it seems likely that road classification is purely for administrative use. The the 2012 Falkland Islands Road plan showed that there were 198 km of A roads, 284 km of B roads and 380 km of C roads. There were three A roads in total: 121 km on East Falkland consisting of a 2 km link between Stanley and Eliza Cove and a 119 km road from Stanley to New Haven while the single A road on West Falkland linking Port Howard to Fox Bay Wharf is 54 km in length. There were 284 km of Class B road (East Falkland 198 km and West Falkland 86 km) and 379 km of C class road (East Falkland 172 km and West Falkland 207 km).
The national speed limit in the Falklands is 40 mph. Stanley has an urban limit of 25 mph and most settlements have their own lower speed limit, although this is frequently unsigned.
There are no roundabouts or traffic lights on the islands but there are a few zebra crossings in Stanley. Owing to the small amount of traffic, there are few road markings. White-painted stop and give way markings do exist on the roads in Stanley but centre lines are generally not painted away from road junctions. Unpaved roads do not have painted markings at all, for obvious reasons.
Stanley also has other forms of traffic management, for example one-way streets and parking restrictions. Yellow lines prohibit parking; the lines are painted on the kerbstone rather than on the road.
There are no scheduled bus services on the Falklands, although buses do exist to take cruise ship passengers on island tours. Buses will also go to the airport to meet international flights but these have to be pre-booked. Taxis exist in the Stanley area but will not travel far out of town, so the only useful way to travel in Camp is to hire a car.
The Falkland Islanders are not seafaring people in general. There is only one scheduled ferry service, which crosses Falkland Sound between East Falkland and West Falkland and links the Class A roads on the two islands.
The usual way to travel outside of East Falkland is by air. Stanley has its own airport just outside town (not to be confused with RAF Mount Pleasant which is much further away) and the Government Air Service operates passenger planes from there to the other inhabited islands. Schedules are generally drawn up the day before travel according to demand.
As a British territory, Falkland road signs are largely based on signs from the UK. However, speed limits are signed explicitly (when signed at all). Out of Stanley, road signs are few and far between – but cattle grids are almost always signed, as are minefields (there's a sign not in TSRGD!). There are no route confirmation signs on the islands and signs informing drivers of the name of the settlement they are entering are almost always absent.
When the Argentine army invaded in 1982, the Falklands changed from a drive-on-left territory (like the UK) to a drive-on-right one (like Argentina). This is the most recent occasion where a place has changed from drive-on-left to drive-on-right. Until Samoa changed to drive-on-left in 2009, the change back to drive-on-left that happened on liberation was the most recent occasion of a place changing the side of the road driven on.