Caribbean's Best Shopping - Part 1

The larger the island, the better the shopping--with these exceptions.

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San Juan and St. Thomas , carrying a large variety of luxury consumer items from china to cognac at prices considerably below U.S. retail, are two of the most famous duty-free ports. Indeed, St. Thomas has long been known as the duty-free supermarket of the Caribbean," and rightly so.

St. Thomas and neighboring St. Croix offer U.S. citizens an even greater shopping opportunity, thanks to special import allowances granted these territories. Normally, each person returning to the States is allowed to bring in up to $800 worth of merchandise without having to pay a tax. However, items bought in the U.S. Virgin Islands are granted a $1,200 tax-free allowance.

The French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique offer more direct price cuts. Made-in-France labeled items which are already at low prices are discounted another 20% if paid for in traveler's checks or credit cards. The total savings will sometimes amount to 50%, a local government incentive available only to visitors.

Willemstad on the island of Curacao also has a long-time reputation as one of the Caribbean 's best shopping centers. Both the Punda and Otrabanda sides of the city offer everything from brand-name fashions and accessories such as Liz Claiborne and Chanel, to bargains on perfume and jewelry.

St. John's in Antigua is another of the emerging shopping towns catering to cruise ships. Heritage Quay's new waterfront development has over 40 shops specializing in fine leather goods, lingerie and designer fashion clothes. Across the street is Redcliffe Quay, a former slave compound, noted for its antiques, spices, custom jewelry and designer clothing.

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