Travel Fundamentals for Guadeloupe

There is much to learn about this enchanting Caribbean destination

Photo credit: © Cowbell Solo

Guadeloupe, made up of a number of small islands at the south of the Leeward Islands chain, offers the possibility of a diverse Caribbean experience, with fine food and French designer goods available alongside quiet, unspoiled islands and exciting eco-tourism adventures.

Guadeloupe is an overseas territory of France, and the culture and life on this collection of islands is a wonderful mix of French and Caribbean influences. English-speaking travelers may have more trouble navigating social exchanges and business transactions, but should not let this prevent a visit to the islands. Brushing up on important information such as hours of operation and postal services will help, but travelers should also make themselves aware of local etiquette and regions.


Thousands upon thousands of tourists make their way to each island in the Caribbean year after year. Showing the local population respect by displaying proper social etiquette is important in maintaining good foreign relations with Guadeloupe's residents. Travelers should never forget that they are visiting someone's home. Most vacationers will find islanders to be welcoming when treated with friendliness and respect.

Language barriers signify one of the most challenging obstacles that travelers must overcome when visiting a foreign country. Guadeloupe is in every way a part of France, and the official language is French. The second language on the island is a Creole patois, while English runs a distant third. Members of the tourism industry may speak some English, but travelers will not be able to rely on this. Despite these obstacles, travelers should make attempts to communicate in basic French that can taken from a trusty phrasebook. Making efforts to speak the local language will do much to endear travelers to the local population. Travelers should begin all communication with "bonjour" (hello).

Local dress etiquette and custom is also deeply important in Guadeloupe and the Caribbean. There is one clothing-optional beach in Guadeloupe, located at Pointe Tarare near Pointe-des-Châteaux. Going topless may be acceptable practice at a number of other beaches on the island, but travelers should always take their cue from the locals. The beachwear and revealing clothing that is worn by the pool or on the beach is not acceptable attire in any other environment. Wearing this type of clothing in restaurants, shops, streets, cities, and towns will be considered rude and inappropriate. Dinner dress should consist of pants and a button down shirt for men, and casual dresses for women.

With thousands of visitors pointing their cameras and camcorders at residents of Guadeloupe each year, it is important for travelers to show respect for the privacy of residents by asking permission before pointing a lens in their direction. Whether permission is granted or not, this step shows respect for Guadeloupe's inhabitants, and may prevent travelers from suffering the ire of an angry resident.

It is also important to tip appropriately when on the island to display appreciation for the workers in the service industry who make the experience of traveling to Guadeloupe so accommodating and memorable.

Finally, travelers should maintain a policy of leaving Guadeloupe unaffected by their time spent on the islands. Being respectful of the local environment, property, and people will leave this island beautiful for all who live there and those who visit. While travelers may find it hard to leave Guadeloupe, they should leave nothing behind when they do.


Region Description
Grand-Terre As the more developed side of the butterfly shaped island formation that makes up the primary part of Guadeloupe, the flat and dry Grand-Terre also attracts the majority of tourists looking for sun, shopping, food, and entertainment.
Gosier This is Grand-Terre's primary tourist area, with beaches, nightlife, and more available to travelers. It is located southeast of Point-à-Pitre.
Point-à-Pitre Ferries carrying travelers to neighboring Caribbean islands primarily stop at the port in Point-à-Pitre. This busy city has a number of markets in the harbor, and also boasts museums, churches, and a nearby aquarium. Crime can be a problem in the evening here.
St. François Another popular tourist area, St. François has the island's only golf course, along with a marina with shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Basse-Terre This mountainous and largely unspoiled island is home to the island's capital and a national park. Eco-tourism opportunities, from hiking to fishing, abound here.
Basse-Terre The capital city of Guadeloupe, this small city in the southwest part of the island is home to the national theatre, a fort, and a peaceful and scenic botanical garden.
Parc National de la Guadeloupe This expansive national park was recently deemed a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This rainforest is home to waterfalls, an active volcano, and hundreds of species of plants and trees.
Iles des Saintes A collection of eight islands off of the southern coast of Basse-Terre, this largely unspoiled part of Guadeloupe is home to only a small population. Boats make the ferry trip from Bass-Terre.
Terre-de-Haut Wonderful beaches and a picturesque bay make this peaceful island attractive for travelers looking for an excursion from the main part of Guadeloupe. Le Bourg has shops, restaurants, and a gallery.
Terre-de-Bas This is the largely isolated western neighbor of Terre-de-Haut.
Marie-Galante This flat and densely lush island is an hour south of Grand-Terre by ferry. The island is known for sugarcane and rum, and travelers will quickly notice the undeveloped and unhurried life on the island. Grand Bourg is the capital, and the island has a number of beautiful beaches.
La Désirade A small island only an hour off of the eastern coast of Grand-Terre, this is another of Guadeloupe's small island that remains largely unvisited and undeveloped. Only a small community of residents call this island home, and travelers will not find many amenities here. Still, the beaches offer peace and seclusion.

While Guadeloupe is obviously French, it is also undeniably Caribbean. Travelers can experience the joy and flavor of both cultures as they visit the islands that comprise this part of the French West Indies.


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