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Picturesque beaches, lush vegetation, mountains, waterfalls and volcanoes make up the French islands of Guadeloupe. These stunning islands have been attracting visitors for centuries, and their culture and scenery have much do to with their appeal. The largest two islands, or mainland Guadeloupe, are separated by a sea channel. They are joined by two bridges that make exploring both islands, by car, easy.
Discover the Atlantic Ocean beaches along the coast of Grande Terre or drive to the highest point in the country, La Grande Soufrière. Main roads on Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre are of European standard, while smaller routes can be bumpy and unpaved. The expressway is toll-free and offers a fast way to zip around the mainland. Signs are adequate but are posted in French.
Driving licences: UK drivers can use their UK driving licence for up to 20 days. After 20 days, an International Driving Permit is required.
Which side does Guadeloupe drive on: the right.
Motorways: 55mph (90kph) to 68mph (110kph)
Rural areas: 50mph (70kph) or 55mph (80kph)
Built-up areas: 31mph (50kph)
Alcohol limits: the same as the UK at 0.08 per cent.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: are required by all passengers and the driver. Children under the age of 12 must ride in the back seat.
Mobile phones and GPS: drivers can only use a mobile phone if it is accompanied by a hands-free system. GPS systems are allowed; however, all major attractions are signposted.
Cost of fuel in Guadeloupe: significantly cheaper than in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: large petrol stations and car hire suppliers accept credit cards but small vendors do not. Before arrival, notify your credit card company that your card will be used overseas.
Insurance: third-party insurance comes inclusive with car hire but additional insurance is recommended.
Traffic and parking: there is parking at nearly all hotels as well as at major sites. Traffic is rarely a problem in the cities but can get congested along the coastal roads.
Travelling around Guadeloupe by taxi can be expensive. Most taxis do not have metres but charge according to destination, so it is best to confirm a price before heading off. Keep in mind that on Sundays and holidays an additional 40% surcharge is added, as well as daily between 21:00 and 07:00. The fare from the airport to Gosier is around £15, but less for the capital.
Buses are a great way to explore the island as they are reasonably priced, but are much slower than self-drive and not always reliable. They stop at all main points of interest and are easy to negotiate. Most inter-city buses start and finish in the capital city of Pointe-à-Pitre. There are no bus services on Sundays. Buses from the capital to the south coast cost less than £3.
The port at Pointe-à-Pitre receives ferries from the nearby islands of Dominicana, Martinique and St Lucia, and the smaller Guadeloupe islands of Marie Galante and Les Saintes. Trips between the main island and offshore islands cost around £18. For ferry schedules and prices, visit Express des Iles. Private yachts are also available to get to the country’s smaller islands or for island-hopping tours.
Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport is the main gateway and a common jumping-off point for visits to other surrounding locations, such as Cuba, Puerto Rico and Trinidad. UK travellers can connect to the airport via Paris or Antigua as direct flights aren’t available. Air passes which allow unlimited air travel within the Lesser Antilles for one month cost around £300 (not inclusive of airport taxes). Inter-island flights to St Barts are popular.
Pointe-à-Pitre is the main entry point of Guadeloupe and where the majority of visitors start their exploration of the mainland islands. Shopping, which is best in the morning along the waterfront or at the outdoor market, is the main draw here. The city also has some pretty colonial buildings and the interesting Musée Saint-John Perse, and nearby is the impressive 18th century Bas du Fort.
Saint-Anne, to the east, is the most popular destination for tourists thanks to its spectacular beaches, all-inclusive resorts and vibrant nightlife. It is also home to many great local artisans so some unique crafts and souvenirs can be had here.
The Saint-François region at the southeast tip of Grande Terre is another popular tourist destination. Here, visitors can enjoy all sorts of water sports, 21 miles of beaches and hiking to the iconic Pointe des Chateaux.
Basse-Terre is home to Guadeloupe National park where lush jungle and magnificent waterfalls can be seen, as well as the highest peak in the country, La Grande Soufrière. Saint-Claude is the starting point of this volcanic mountain which is famous for its superb coffee.
The less visited Trois-Rivières, on the south coast of Basse-Terre, is noted for its indigenous archaeological park.
The weather in Guadeloupe is tropical, so it is hot throughout the year, with an average temperature high 30°C and low of 22°C. La Grande Soufrière protects the west coast of Basse-Terre from wind and rain, while the east coast is cooler and wetter. December through May is the dry season, while June to November is the wet season and the most humid time of year. Hurricanes are common in September so this month is best avoided.