Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe Beach

Guadeloupe Tourist Guide & Info

Introduction

A welcome to the islands of Guadeloupe usually includes a warm greeting with a glass of Ti-punch and the sound of local Biguine music. The islands described in this section consist of Grande Terre, Basse Terre, Marie Galante, Les Saintes, la Désirade. 

Each island has its own culture and history to be explored through the many museums, activities, festivals and musical performances. But when it comes to the unsurpassable natural beauty, the islands all link to form an incredible mangrove swamp and lush rain forest. The turquoise sea and white sand beaches invite you to linger or participate in the many water sports available. With a variety of accommodations at your disposal, wonderful shopping opportunities, delicious local cooking and an exciting nightlife, Guadeloupe is sure to be one of your most memorable holidays ever.

 

Essential Info

  • Capital :
    Basse-Terre
  • Currency :
    Euro
  • Driver's License :
    If renting for less than 20 days, a valid driver's license is accepted. For a longer rental period an international driver's license is required.
  • Electricity :
    220 V, 50Hz
  • Entry Requirements :
    A passport, valid 3 months beyond intended stay, and an ongoing or return ticket are required. It is the traveller's responsibility to check with the country’s Embassy for up-to-date information.
  • GMT Time :
    -4hr. Daylight savings time is not applied.
  • Government :
    Overseas department of France
  • Land size :
    1,702 km2
  • Language :
    French, Créole
  • National Airlines :
    Air Caraïbes
  • Population :
    448,700 approx
  • Religion :
    95% Roman Catholic
  • Required Vaccines :
    None
  • Tourist Season :
    December through April
  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada :
    Consult the "Country Travel Advice and Advisories" of Guadeloupe

 

Origin & Culture

Cuisine
Food lovers are in for a real treat while on staying in Guadeloupe. The traditional Créole dishes are married exquisitely with French flavours and African spices, blended at times with subtle hints of Indian and Asian cuisine. Fish and seafood are staples in almost every meal. Common dishes found on menus include shellfish stews, smoked cod, accras fritters, crab sausages, stewed conch. Goat or pork curries and beef stews are a delight as well. Local exotic produce (plantains, carambole, christophine, igname and Cythère plums) accompany most meals. Traditional desserts are blanc manger, tourment d'amour, cocoa sticks and exotic fruit sorbets

Local rum is used to prepare delicious cocktails, favourites being the Ti-Punch and Shrubb. Guadeloupean coffee is among the best in the world, as are the vanilla pods grown in Deshaies. Delicious preserves are made from the many local fruits and vegetables. Every August, Guadeloupe hosts a Fête des Cuisinières.

 

Culture

Guadeloupeans are terrific craftsmen and work with the raw material furnished by nature to create utensils, jewellery, clothes and children's toys, which are sold at the many markets. Several art galleries display and sell the works of local artists. Greater writers have emerged as well from these islands, the most renowned being the poet Saint-John Perse (Alexis Léger). 

The islands have a thriving music industry and claim fame to several genres originating from this part of the world. One of these is Zouk, a folk music style started in Martinique and Guadeloupe. Gwo ka is a family of hand drums used to create seven basic rhythms, and multiple variations on each. Gwo ka singing is typically guttural, nasal and rough, and is accompanied by uplifting and complex harmonies and melodies. Another music style, called Biguine, created here is know for its hip-swaying dance.

 

Geography

There are 306km of coastline. Eight of the nine islands are of volcanic origin, the largest being Basse-Terre which is mountainous and home to the still active La Soufrière volcano. Grande-Terre is the exception, being mostly a limestone formation. The two larger islands, Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre, a separated by a narrow channel called Riviere Salée.

 

History
First sighted by Columbus in 1493, the Spanish made never could lay claim to the island due to lost battles with the fierce Carib Indians. The Caribs had also forced out the original settlers, the Arawak Indians. The French successfully colonized the islands in 1635. Within 40 years the plantation system was fully functional with African slaves toiling the land. Pointe-à-Pitre was founded and developed by the British during a a short lived English rule, lasting from 1759 to 1763. Guadeloupe returned to the French following the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. 

The British attempted another invasion in 1794 but were defeated by Victor Hugues, who freed and armed the Guadeloupean slaves. Following this uprising, a reign of terror ensued, resulting in many deaths. The next years saw a continuous power struggle over the islands; slavery was reinstated, the French regaining power and slavery finally abolished for good in 1848. Labourers from a French colony in India were brought in to work the land. The political atmosphere still remains tense at times.

 

Nature

The animal life can be a bit sparse. The racoon is the emblem of the national park and is protected. The occasional guimbo bat and the mongoose can be spotted. But one could joke that the island has gone to the birds with so many species present. Bird watchers can spot the endemic black peak, mocker corossols and grivottes, green herons and a variety of egrets. Many hummingbirds can be seen, such as the garnet-red and the crested hummingbird.

 

Sports

The blue (water) section emphasizes on the many water sports available for practice. There are excellentswimming beaches, good surfing and windsurfing, canoeing, body boarding, jet skiing, sailing and many more. You will find here wonderful snorkelling and diving sites. With such outstanding aquatic flora and fauna, nearly every kind of coral and tropical fish can be found here. Deep-sea fishing excursions are organized, offering the chance to catch marlins, bonitos or breams. 

The green (nature) section concentrates on the wonderful hiking trails that take you through canyons, rainforests, waterfalls and botanical gardens, or even up a volcanic summit. In some cases, these can also be explored on horseback rides. Golfers will enjoy the popular international 18-hole Saint François Golf Course.

Favourite sports by the natives include cycle races and the annual oxen pull races organized by the farmers.

 

Other Useful Info

Banks & Money
In Guadeloupe, the legal currency is the Euro. Dollars can be exchanged in the many banks and change offices. Banks ATMs are available throughout the more populated areas of the islands. 

Most major credit cards and traveller's cheques are accepted almost everywhere. Smaller shops may only accept cash so always carry a bit with you.

 

Climate
Daytime temperatures vary between 25C and 32C. Nights can be a little cooler so bring a light sweater. The dry season, also known as lent, lasts from January to April. The heat is tempered year round by a breezy trade wind. 

For monthly average temperatures please refer to your destination of choice.

 

Communication

Internet services are available at most hotels, Internet cafés, libraries or Tourist Information Centers. A small fee may have to be paid. The post office can be easily identified by the bright yellow logo.

 

Health
Tap water is safe to drink everywhere. The most common illnesses are sunburns and traveler's diarrhea (turista). Some types of fish can cause food poisoning, so if you catch a fish, show it to a native. Do not swim in rivers that post warning signs that warn of the dangerous Bilharziosis (a parasitic disease). 

There are no required vaccines to enter the country, unless you are arriving from a yellow fever affected destination. The following vaccines are recommended for any tropical destination: hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever.

 

Official Holidays
January 1 – New Year's day
March/April – Easter Monday
May – Ascension
May 1 – Labour day
May 8 – Victory Day
May/June – Whitsun Monday
May – Emancipation day
July 14 – Bastille Day
August 15 – Assumption
November 1 – All Saints' Day
November 11 – Armistice
December 25 – Christmas day

 

Safety
Guadeloupe is considered relatively safe and enjoys a low crime rate. However as a tourist you are more likely to be a target of petty crime. Shoplifting by motorcyclists has been reported. 

Take advantage of the safety deposit boxes provided by the hotels, do not leave valuables unattended in public and carry your wallet and camera discreetly. Also make sure to lock your hotel room and rental car. Don't wander alone at night on the streets.

 

Shopping

A must is a bottle or two of Guadeloupean white or old rum, and also delicious fruit punches made from coconut, guava, passion fruit or banana. At the market you can buy wonderful spices and flavours, such as vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa, saffron, cumin, pepper, cloves, hot peppers and ginger. The local coffee is highly praised by connoisseurs.

 

Taxes & Tips
There is no government sales tax in stores. Hotels often add a 10 to 15% service fee. Restaurants always include a 15% service charge on the bill, but a bit of change can be left for extra special service. Taxi drivers own their cars but may be tipped 10% for extra help. Airport porters should receive $1 per bag. 

The departure tax, required on scheduled flights, is already included in the airfare.

 

Transportation

Car, motorcycle or scooter rentals are available throughout the island. Taxis or taxicos (shared taxis) have fares that are set by the government. The only public transport is the privately owned buses that cross the island. Except for the bus station, there are no official stops so wait by the side of the road and flag down the driver.

 

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