Martinique Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- That sound you hear is zouk People in the Franco-Caribbean listen to a very rhythmic type of calypso music called zouk. Expect to hear a lot of it playing in the restaurants and hotel lobbies.
- That scent you smell are orchids Known as "The Island of Flowers," Martinique flourishes with anthuriums, frangipani, bougainvillea and more than 100 species of orchids. For the best sample of what's growing, stop by the Balata Gardens.
- That sauce you taste is chien The Martiniquais cook with a spicy, aromatic vinaigrette made with herbs, lime juice, garlic and chiles. Try it on grilled fish or chicken.
Stunning beaches border tropical rainforests and towering cathedrals share skyline with an imposing volcano. Tourists and residents crowd the store-lined streets and restaurant-filled back alleys of Fort-de-France, while a few miles north, foliage dampens the sounds of bird tweets and hikers. In a word: Martinique. If you want to hit the beach one day then get the adrenaline pumping the next, you'll find that this island offers both -- and does both -- well.
Of course there's a catch. The fine dining, luxury resorts and impeccable sand don't come cheap. Vacations to the area are notoriously expensive, especially during the winter. And as an overseas region of France, Martinique's currency is the euro, so your U.S. dollars won't go as far. Still, this island has a storied history, a French-tinted cosmopolitan culture and a varied landscape unparalleled anywhere else in the Caribbean. There's a good chance that your experience here will exceed your vacation budget.
How To Save Money in Martinique
- Stick to the basics The Anse Cafard Slave Memorial, La Savane Park or Les Salines beach are free -- something we can't say for lesser known sites like the Parc Floral et Culturel or Musée Gauguin.
- Avoid the winter Martinique is virtually empty for seven months of the year. Although May or June are the best months to visit, the spring, summer and fall all offer much-lower hotel rates and airfare than wintertime.
- Skip the taxi It could cost you nearly $80 USD to get from the airport to your hotel. That's painful enough to keep you out of a cab for the rest of your trip.
Martinique Culture & Customs
The major hurdle that visitors face when visiting this island is the language barrier. Martinique's official language is French, but many island residents speak Creole as well. Although it's possible to find English speakers in the tourist districts, you should bring a French dictionary or phrasebook; you'll be received more warmly if you attempt to speak the language.
Martinique also falls under the French monetary system, making the Euro (EUR) the island's official currency. Money can be exchanged at Change Caraïbes Bank, which can be found at either the Aimé Césaire International Airport or in the island's capital, Fort-de-France. Change Caraïbes banks offer better currency exchange rates than hotels.
When it comes to tipping, all Martinique restaurants include a 15-percent service charge in the bill. But it is acceptable to add a bit more if the service was particularly good, especially if you plan to frequent the establishment.
Visitors staying in all-inclusive resorts won't have to worry about finding a restaurant, but if you're on your own, you'll find the most popular restaurants in Fort-de-France. Food on Martinique is some of the best of the Caribbean, but it can be very expensive. Many restaurants offer a prix fixe tourist menu, which often includes several courses and a drink for about the price of one entrée off the regular menu.
Martinique's cuisine is a rich fusion of French, African and Creole flavors with seafood taking the spotlight. Fishy favorites, such as conch, crab and lobster, have been given a French edge in creamy sauces and crispy gratins, accompanied by local sweet potatoes and plantain-like tubers. Travelers with a spicy palate should try a dash of chien sauce, made from onions, hot peppers, shallots, oil and vinegar.