Only kidding, the best way to discover guadeloupe is by renting a car, as buses dont take you to these beautiful hidden places.
Buses run to almost every towns and touristic sites , there is no specific schedule, just wait by the road anywhere(preferably not in a band!!!) , you will surely hear them coming well in advance as most of them play really loud music, and just wave the bus to stop.
but you can fligh on these aquaplanes to discover a bit of the island from the sky( go to the last hotel in the hotel street in Gosier)
Because a lot of mainattractions on Guadeloupe cannot be reached by public transportation, and because the public transportation doesn't run during weekends, renting a car is often the only possiblity to get around on the island. Luckily, there are car-rentals everywhere and the prices are not too bad.
If you're renting a car for a the complete duration of your stay it'll probably be the easiest to arrange one on the airport. All big companies have an agency here, and the rates for long-term are pretty good. But if you're just renting a car for a weekend or even a day, there are more then enough possibilities in every touristy town as well. In small Sainte-Anne there are at least 4 for example.
Prices for a day can start at 30 euro's in low season, up to 45 euro's in the peak season. If you're paying more, you'd better look for a different agency because some simply charge you too much. This price includes insurance and tax. The car you get for this money is always a surprise: it can be a brand new 5-doors or an old and noisy Renault Twingo. But at least they always drive...
Especially towards high-season it's wise to reserve a car a few days in advance. During the rest of the year you can simply walk to the agency and have your car 15 minutes later.
Marie-Galante, by favourite island of the archipelago of Guadeloupe can be reached by several boatconnections: one from Saint-François, some days of the week from Sainte-Anne, and from Pointe-à-Pitre. Both times I went there, I took the boat from "PAP".
The biggest company connecting the mainland with Marie-Galante is Express-des-Îles. Three times daily they have a connection to Grand-Bourg: at 8:15, 12:45 and 17:15. The trip takes about 45 minutes and half an hour after arrival the boat returns again to the mainland. A one way trip costs € 24.15 and a return-ticket costs you € 39.90. For more info, check out www.express-des-iles.com.
Another company is Caribbean Spirit with connections at 7:45, 12:15 or 15:30, and 18:00. The boats are smaller, and can be a little bit less comfortable, but the prices are much better: € 26.- for a return ticket! Check out www.caribbean-spirit.net for more info.
Both connections depart from the boatterminal just west from the centre of Pointe-à-Pitre.
The public transportation is not that perfectly organised on Guadeloupe, so you might think that the taxi's on the island would fill up the gap. Nope! The taxi's are very hard to find and they are ridiculously expensive! Use them in case of an emergency, or if you really don't have any other option, otherwise: find another solution!
Generally a taxi costs you 1 euro per minute. That means that for a single trip from the airport to Sainte-Anne you pay 40 to 45 euro's. And on Sundays and at night you pay 50% extra, so a trip of 25-30 kilometres can cost you up to 60 euro's in this case! In this case it's better to rent a car for a full day and drive yourself! Or even if you are leaving and you have a plane to catch: rent a car, pay for it and ask somebody to drive you! At least you make somebody happy with a car for one day and still it saves you money.
Of course (let's be responsible) a rental car is no option if you go out, but at least try to share the costs then with some other party-people. :)
La Désirade, the small island at the southeast of Guadeloupe, measures 2 x 10 kilometres, and has ONE road. How do you get around on an island like this? You could rent a car for these 10 kilometres, but be honest: isn't that ridiculous? A better option would be to rent a scooter, but an even better one: rent a bicycle!
By bicycle you have all the time in the world to look around and enjoy the great surroundings, and even when you're only visiting for a day you have plenty of time to go to the end of the island and back and still taking it easy. You have to be prepared to either get tired of climbing some of the hills in the road, or to walk up. But if this is no problem for you, you'll have a great time!
There is one rental place on La Désirade, and if it's closed you should ask one of the people hanging around at the harbour: everybody knows eachother to that will be arranged. For a day you pay 10 euro per bike.
There are two way to get to the fascinating island of La Désirade: by plane (ridiculously expensive, starting from Pointe-à-Pitre Airport), or by boat from Saint-François. It's clear which of these option I took: the boat.
The boats to Beauséjour (the capital of La Désirade) depart from the marina in Saint-François daily at 08:00 and 16:45, and during weekends there is an extra boat at 14:00. The other way the boats go back at 06:00, 15:45 and the extra weekend-one at 10:00. For a return ticket you pay € 22,-. Just to compare: the ticket for the flight is € 180,- for a return ticket.
Be prepared though: as soon as you are in the water between the eastern end of Guadeloupe and the western end of La Désirade, the water can get rough! The boat is pretty small and the waves can be high, so if you're easily seasick; better take a pill!
For by far the most of the visitors to Guadeloupe, you stay will start on Pôle Caraïbes; the only international airport of the island. This airport is located about 10 kilometres north from the biggest city Pointe-à-Pitre, and is one of the most busy ones in the West Indies with almost 2,5 million passengers in 2007.
Long-distance flights to "PTP"-airport are serviced by Air France, Air Caraïbes, Air Canada and American Airlines. I'm not into flights from North-America to Gwada, but at least I know that most of the times Air Caraïbes has the best rates on flights from Paris to Pôle Caraibes.
The airport is big for Caribbean standards, but don't expect a big shopping mall in the tax-free area. In fact there is hardly anything to do. The advantage is that even if you arrive 45 minutes before take-off you won't have a problem checking in. The disadvantage is that the personnel has problems handling a full intercontinental airplane: you can wait for 45 minutes at customs, and after that another 30 minutes for your luggage: pretty annoying.
For info about taxi's out of the airport (the only way of getting out), check my 'taxi-tip'.
Guadeloupe is a great island, but to be honest it is still pretty European. To see the real Caribbean vibe it's better to visit another island of the West Indies as well, to make your vision complete. Luckily there are more then enough possibilities to do so from Guadeloupe. Option one is to take the plane:
LIAT Airlines is pretty cheap and has an intensive network of flights covering almost all islands of the West Indies. The hub where you have to start from when departing on Gwada is Antigua. From there they fly to almost everywhere. But: LIAT is infamous because of their huge delays!
Air Antilles is a small airlines with connections to Saint-Martin, Saint-Barths and Martinique.
And Air Caraïbes has much better connections to a lot of islands: Saint-Martin, Saint Barths, Martinique, Saint-Lucia, but also French Guyana, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Panama for example.
It is possible to book the tickets on the airport (always Pôle Caraïbes) itself, but it's better to check in advance to make sure you take the cheapest option: this can make a huge difference!
A cheaper, easier and maybe even more exciting way of getting to other countries from Guadeloupe is to take an international boat from the harbour in Pointe-à-Pitre. Two companies offer connections, that are not very cheap, but at least cheaper then a flight.
Express-des-Îles has daily connections to Dominica, Martinique and Saint-Lucia. For adults the tickets costs between € 100,- and € 150,- for a return ticket and they can even be bought an hour before departure. To be sure that you have space, it might be better to arrange it in advance though.
Caribbean Spirit only has connections to Martinique and the islands of Guadeloupe at the time of writing, but has serious plans to establish connections to Dominica and Saint-Lucia as well. Looking at their prices for other connections they are a lot cheaper then "Express", so for these trips their prices will probably be lower as well. Worth giving it a look.
All boats depart from the international boatterminal in Pointe-à-Pitre, right west from the city-centre.
When you are going on a daytrip to the islands of Les Saintesand you're only there to do some shopping and to lie on the beach, you don't need any transportation at all: you can walk to the beach from Terre-de-Haut. But if you want to see something of the fantastic island, with its many beautiful bays and viewpoints renting a scooter is a perfect solution!
When you arrive in the harbour of the village you cannot miss the many scooter-rentals who all offer a scooter for the same price: 30 euro's per day. For this 30 euro's everything is included (even petrol).
It's a great way to drive around on the island, and when you see how steep the hills are you'll be happy that you're not on foot or by bike. In a day you can really see the whole island like this: all the way to every end of the island, to Fort Napoléon and even go to a beach to relax a bit.
The public transportation system in Guadeloupe is not the best system in the world. There are busses that connect most towns, but the possibilities are pretty limited. If the connections fit to you plans however, it's a great experience to try them out!
Almost every town on the island has at least one busstop along the mainroad. These stops normally are signposted, but if you can't find a sign you can also stop the bus by waving with your hands. The destinations of the busses (that are privately owned) are written on it. There is no fixed schedule, but busses normally arrive at least every half an hour, so you'll never have to wait too long. The costs are reasonable: for a trip of 45 minutes you pay 3 euro's, when leaving the bus. By the way: in Pointe-à-Pitre there are two main busterminals: one in the west for destinations on Basse-Terre and one in the centre for destinations on Grande-Terre.
What makes the bussystem a lot less attractive however is the fact that they are only functioning on workdays from early morning until 18:00 and some busses on Saturdays until 12:00. At night and during the weekends there simply is no public transportation...
The islands of Les Saintes are the number one tourist destination on Guadeloupe. No wonder there are many different connections to the islands. There is an airplane-connection as well, but 99,9% of all tourists go there by boat. These boats depart from Pointe-à-Pitre, Basse-Terre, Trois-Rivières, Gosier, Sainte-Anne and Saint-François. You'll understand that I'm not going to decribe all six of them: I'll stick to the one I took from Sainte-Anne, at 200 metres from my (former) appartment.
The Company that offers the connection is called Iguana and is based in Saint-François. The boat towards Les Saintes departs in Saint-François every day, and some days of the week (Tue, Wed and Thu when I was there) it makes a small detour to pick up some extra passengers in Sainte-Anne. On the way back you're stopping in Sainte-Anne again as first, and afterwards the boat proceeds to Saint-François.
A ticket costs 25 euro's per person for a return-trip. The boat departs at 7:45 in the morning and the boat back departs in Terre-de-Haut around 16:00. The trip takes about 50 minutes and the sea can be ROUGH!
Our flight was delayed in San Juan Puerto Rico so we ended up getting into Guadeloupe after nightfall. The taxi drivers jacked up the price by 40% calling it a night fee to drive us to our hotel. So try to arrive plenty of time before nightfall esp. if you don't have a lot of money and need to take a taxi.
Rent a car to tour the Island, it's really worth it. Otherwise, rent a tour bus, like I did. You wont have to bother with the driving and you guide will take you places you maybe didn't know existed. Downside: you're stuck with the established timetable. Maybe a mix of both is better. Use the guided tour (avoid big buses, prefer mini-van) for south Basse-Terre or cultural sites where you need a little explanation, and rent a car to tour the beaches and things like that.
Bus. It's a private system very easy to use. Signal a coming bus by waving your hand like a cab and hop in! You pay when you get out, depending on how long was your trip. Zouk music inside will make the trip very enjoyable! Becareful to watch where the bus is going. The driver buy a license for a pre-determined route and can't go beyond this point.
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Route de Sandy Ground 1, Marigot, St. Maarten/St. Martin, 97150, Caribbean
Good for: Families