Martinique Arrival Briefing
Expect to pay Paris prices.
Area: Martinique is 425 square miles; 50 miles long and 22 mile wide. Dominica is 15.5 miles to the north, St. Lucia 23 miles to the south.
Language: French and Creole. English is spoken only in larger tourist hotels. You may be viewed as uneducated if you do not speak French.
Population: Martinique has 392,000 residents, of which about 200,000 live in Fort-de-France.
Time Zone: Atlantic Standard Time, one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Rainy Season: Considerably more rain falls in Martinique than on many other islands because of the high mountain contours. Wettest period is from June to November; rain can be heavy and sudden. Always be prepared.
Documents: Martinique is part of Europe. Passports, s'il-vous-plait? And a return or ongoing ticket. Visas are required of some nationalities, but not U.S. or Canadian citizens.
Currency: The local currency is the French franc (F) valued at about US$1=6.85F. Some stores give a 20% discount on goods purchased with a credit card or foreign traveler's checks. If you attempt to exchange your traveler's checks for francs, you will pay a commission to the bank or exchange houses, then pay full price for any items you purchase. Banks are open weekdays from 7:30 - noon and 2:30 -4.
Taxes & Tipping: A 10% service charge may be added to your hotel room, 15% in restaurants. A resort tax ranges up to US$1.50 per day per person. Porters expect 1F per bag. Surprisingly, it's not necessary to tip cab drivers.
Electrical Current: 220 volts, 50 cycles, requiring a French plug adapter.
Getting There: American Eagle (www.aa.com) flies here from San Juan. LIAT (www.liatairline.com) and Air Martinique fly in from neighboring islands. Air France (www.airfrance.com) flies directly from Europe and through Miami. Most of those flying in are French. However, most of the visitors from cruise ships are North Americans.
Getting Around: Rental cars are available at the airport, though you want to avoid driving in the incredibly congested downtown of Fort-de-France , where parking is legal only if you have a season pass. For the best rates, make reservations while in the U.S. and rent only from one of the U.S. Big Three: Avis, Hertz or Budget because of billing/mechanical complaints about local rental companies. There is a 9.5% VAT tax added to the rental total. Mopeds and bicycles are also easily available. Buses and taxis are other options for getting out into the countryside. Taxis are unmetered so agree on price in advance; a 40% surcharge is in effect at night, from 7p.m. to 6a.m. The roads are incredibly well marked and well maintained. Driving is on the right.