Guadeloupe

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Introduction to Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe is the centre of the Caribbean's Creole culture, boasting a spirited blend of French and African influences. As well known for its sugar and rum as for its beaches and resorts, the archipelago offers an interesting mix of modern cities, rural hamlets, rainforests and secluded beaches.

Mainland Guadeloupe comprises two islands, Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre. Their principal city is bustling Pointe-à-Pitre at the centre of the land mass; the islands' sleepy capital, also called Basse-Terre, is on the remote southwestern side.

Guadeloupe's offshore islands to the south and west make worthwhile side excursions. The most visited, Terre-de-Haut, is a delightful place with a quaint central village and harbour, good beaches and restaurants and some reasonably priced places to stay. The other populated islands - Terre-de-Bas, Marie-Galante and La Désirade - have very little tourism development and offer visitors a glimpse of a rural French West Indies that has changed little over time.

Full country name: Department of Guadeloupe

Area: 1,780 sq km

Population: 412,000

Capital City: Basse-Terre (pop 14,000)

People: Mixed African, European &East Indian descent (75%), French

Language: French

Religion: Roman Catholic (95%), Hindu & pantheistic African

Government: overseas département of France

Head of State: Prefect Paul Girot de Langlade (representing Jaques Chirac)

Head of Government: President of the General Council Jacques Gillot

GDP: US$3.7 billion

GDP per capita: US$9,200

Inflation: 4%

Major Trading Partners: France, Martinique, US

Member of EU: Yes

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Visas are not required of citizens of the US, Canada, Australia or the European Union. Citizens of the EU need an official identity card, passport or valid French carte de séjour. Citizens of most other foreign countries need a valid passport and visa for France. All visitors officially require a return or onward ticket.

Health risks: sunburn, diarrhoea, , schistosomiasis (bilharzia) (Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is found in fresh water throughout Grande-Terre and in much of Basse-Terre)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC -4 (Atlantic Time)

Dialling Code: 590

Electricity: 230V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

Carnival celebrations, held during the traditional week-long Mardi Gras period that ends on Ash Wednesday, feature costume parades, dancing, music and other festivities. The Fête des Cuisinières (Festival of Women Cooks) is held in Pointe-à-Pitre in early August. Women in Creole dress, carrying baskets of traditional foods, parade through the streets to the cathedral where they are blessed by the bishop. The parade is followed by a banquet and dancing. Also in early August is the Tour Cycliste de la Guadeloupe, a 10-day international cycling race.

Public Holidays:

January 1 - New Year's Day

Easter Holidays - Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday

May 1 - Labor Day

May 8 - Victory Day

40th day after Easter - Ascension Thursday

8th Monday after Easter - Pentecost Monday

May 27 - Slavery Abolition Day

July 14 - Bastille Day

July 21 - Schoelcher Day

August 15 - Assumption Day

November 1 - All Saints' Day

November 11 - Armistice Day

December 25 - Christmas Day

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Best time to Visit

Guadeloupe is warm year-round, but the evenings are coolest in winter (December to February), when temperatures linger in the mid-balmies. February to April are the driest months, with rain falling an average of seven days a month and the humidity keeping in the realm of the tolerable. This is the best time to go, and as such it's also the peak tourist season. The wettest months are July to November, which is also hurricane season, so keep an eye on the weather reports. Most cultural events take place in the spring and summer.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Euro

Meals

Budget: €5-15

Mid-range: €15-25

High: €25-35

Deluxe: €35+

Lodging

Budget: €30-60

Mid-range: €60-90

Deluxe: €120+

You can travel in style on Guadeloupe for about US$200 a day, though that figure rises with the number of islands you choose to visit. Travelers on a moderate budget should be able to get by on about half that, depending on whether they rent a car or not; budget travelers can expect to spend around US$50 a day.

Hotels, larger restaurants and car rental agencies accept Visa (Carte Bleue), American Express and MasterCard (Eurocard). For most other situations, you'll need to use euros. Avoid changing money at hotel lobbies, where the rates are worse than at exchange offices or banks. You can exchange major foreign currency notes using the 24-hour currency-exchange ATM next to the Crédit Agricole bank in the arrival lounge at the airport; other franc-dispensing ATMs take credit and bank cards and are located throughout the island. Taxes and service charges are included in the quoted rates at hotels and automatically added to your restaurant bill.

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Attractions

Parc National de la Guadeloupe

At the heart of Basse-Terre, this national park makes for a great drive and/or hike through orchid-filled rainforests and fern-covered hillsides. Maison de la Forêt, in the middle of the park at the very centre of Basse-Terre, has an exhibit centre with (French-only) displays on the forest.

The large forest reserve is bisected by the Route de la Traversée, a lovely mountain drive that passes thick bamboo stands, enormous mahogany and gum trees, heliconia and ginger. Cascade aux Ecrevisses, a jungle waterfall in the centre of the park, is worth a visit.

Pointe-a-Pitre

Bustling Pointe-à-Pitre is a mix of old and new: largely commercial in appearance, it's peppered with colonial architecture and West Indian flavour. The city began as a fish market at the edge of the harbour in 1654, and is now Guadeloupe's largest city as well as its economic centre.

Pointe-à-Pitre is a small town, and though it may see a lot of traffic, it's not exactly over-endowed with tourist traps. There are a couple of small museums, but other than that its most interesting sight is the hullabaloo of the busy harbourside market.

Saint-François

This former fishing village has boomed into the country's second-largest resort area, not always with a high degree of sensitivity. While the western side of town is still largely provincial in character, the eastern side has been given over to tourism development.

The deep U-shaped, yacht-filled marina is lined with restaurants, luxury hotels, car rental agencies and boutiques and appeals to the 'sunbath by the pool' kind of traveller. Saint-François is the major jumping-off point for the smaller islands of Terre-de-Haut, Marie-Galante and La Désirade.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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