Earlier this year, back in April to be exact, my friend sent an email blast about a flight deal to the Guadeloupe Islands in the French Caribbean. Everyone has that friend. The one with the travel bug itching to pass it along to anyone and everyone with a few vacation days to spare. Usually, when I get these emails my first thought is, "Hell yeah, that's an amazing deal," but then my second thought, and the one I usually listen to is, "Mmm, you see, the way my budget is set up...." Then it's, "Mmm, you see, the amount of vacation days I have left..." And, then I opt out of the opportunity and mentally prepare myself to deal with the FOMO that will occur once the trip in question happens and everyone starts flooding their Instagram timelines with photoshoot fresh images captioned with #travelnoire.
That's how it usually goes. This time it was different. This time I thought, "Hell yeah, that's an amazing deal" and then I bought a $200 round-trip ticket to Guadeloupe, a country I had never heard of until I opened the email.
Seven months later I went to Guadeloupe with seven friends and now I'm sharing my top traveling tips with you. It's basically everything I wish I knew before visiting Guadeloupe. Thank me later and send me vacation pics!
All images below shot by Yours Truly.
1. Make sure your passport is up-to-date.
Don't wait until the last minute to renew your passport because, yes, you do need a passport to travel to Guadeloupe. My friend learned this the hard way but was able to get her passport expedited.
2. There are strict luggage requirements.
U.S. flights to Guadeloupe are all through Norwegian Air, a budget airline with strict luggage requirements. Make sure you read their website thoroughly to know what bag works best otherwise you'll end up paying an extra $60 (both ways) to check in your bag. Norwegian Airline does not play games and they also don't provide in-flight snacks which leads me to my next tip.
3. Pack snacks.
Like I said before, Norwegian airline won't feed you for free. Buy a bottle of water at the airport because they charge for water too. Budget airlines will always find a way to make money.
4. While you're at it, also pack insect repellent.
The mosquitoes are no joke. Yes, Zika outbreaks have been reported in Guadeloupe. Pack accordingly.
5. You need to rent a car to get around.
Public transportation exists, but don't bother. Renting a car through Eurocar or a local car rental company like Avis is the best way to get around. Car rental options are conveniently located by the airport. There are shuttles that transport guests from the airport to the car rental offices. This is not the time to be cheap. One cab ride from the airport will cost you at least 30 euros, so ultimately car rental is the most economical option. Driving in Guadeloupe is like driving in the States. It's the same side of the road, but please note that people drive fast in Guadeloupe and they have little patience for slow turtle drivers. Oh, I should note that you will need to bring a credit card because the car rental company will place money on-hold as a security deposit in case you end up damaging your rental car. In other words, don't f*ck up your rental car or else you will pay dearly.
6. Brush up on your French.
Guadeloupe is a French territory, so naturally, people there speak French and would prefer if you spoke French too.
7. If you want to impress the locals then learn Creole.
Both French and Creole are the primary languages in Guadeloupe, but speaking Creole will get you in well with the locals who are mostly of African or mixed descent. I should note that different islands in the Caribean have their own forms of Creole, but if you speak Haitian Creole then you are in a good position to speak Creole in Guadeloupe. Don't fret, you will come across some English speakers too, but so many more doors of happiness will be open to you if you can utter a few phrases in French, so better download Duolingo or get the Google Translate app on your phone.
8. Opt to stay in an Air BnB.
Hotels are fancy and nice, but for the more budget-conscious traveller Air BnB is the way to go, plus, hosts are typically more than happy to point out what the best non-touristy things to do are. I'm talking about the things that even Trip Adviser doesn't know about. Use this code to get credit on your next stay.
9. Brings Euros not Dollars.
Euros are the currency in Guadeloupe, so either work with your local bank to exchange money prior to your trip (easiest option) or bring cash to exchange at the airport once you land. If you forget to convert your money then you can also find a local bank and withdraw money from an ATM. Visa Card and Mastercard are widely accepted. Leave your AMEX at home.
10. A lot of shops are closed on Sundays.
The islands are practically dead on Sundays, so make sure you do your grocery shopping ahead of time. The only place we could find to eat on a Sunday was a Burger King which was actually the last thing you would think to eat there.
11. Bring your own Wi-Fi hotspot, download Whatsapp.
You're in a different country, so your service will change depending on your carrier. While you may have Wi-Fi at your Air BnB or hotel you may have trouble when exploring the sights. Bring whatever you need (including electrical outlet adapters) to stay connected. If you want to text while abroad then download Whatsapp and for the love of all things holy keep your phone on airplane mode to avoid high charges on your data. Look into your cellular provider's international services before you leave the U.S.
I hope you found this helpful! Look out for a future post where I share things to do in Guadeloupe!