Guadeloupe - Getting There

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You will fly into the brand new Pole Caraibes airport. It is large, clean and visually very attractive with long steel buttresses and oval windows. It really is an extremely nice airport.

Air France flies into Guadeloupe from Miami (about $540 round trip). If you fly on Air France, you will have a stop in Haiti. In Haiti, everyone must disembark the plane for fumigation. The Port-au-Prince airport is not nearly as nice as Guadeloupe's, although you can buy Haitian cigarettes during your wait.

American flies to Guadeloupe from most major U.S. cities, changing planes in San Juan. If your layover in San Juan is an hour or less, the total travel time is about the same as the Air France flight, due to the Haitian vacation. American's rates are usually $60 less than Air France, and American frequently runs specials during the summer, whereas Air France maintains the same rates year-round.

A rent-a-car is a must. Many of the more scenic and less visited locations are accessible only by car. Guadeloupe has wonderful, well maintained roads. I drove extensively, and did not ever see a pot hole. One guest, who had just returned from the BVI, noted that the worst road on Guadeloupe was still nicer than the best road in the BVI.

Some roads are scenic and very interesting drives. The N2 on Northern Basse Terre twists along the cliffs on the sea side before swooping down into the town of Deshaies. One stretch north of Deshaies has a 360 degree spiral around a small cove; ascending when heading from the South, descending from the North. I have concluded the the extra money spent on the roads in Guadeloupe must have come from the Guard Rail Fund, as there aren't any. Have fun driving the cliffs!

In four days of driving, I did not see any police, unless they were undercover as skinny cows. One thing is for sure - no one has ever received a speeding ticket on Guadeloupe. Traffic is quite fast on the open roads. One stretch on Basse Terre has a six lane divided highway; just when I thought driving 120 kmph was pretty speedy, a Mercedes blew past me like I was stationary, putting everything in perspective.

I do not recommend renting a car at the airport. It's faster (and cheaper) to get a taxi to your hotel, spend the afternoon and evening wandering and dining in town, and pick up the car the next morning. You will probably want to take a taxi to dinner, anyway, so you are not concerned about the strength of your Ti Punch.

All of the major rental agencies have offices within walking distance in all of the resort areas on Gran Terre and in the city of Basse Terre. Call at least a week or two in advance from the U.S. to make sure the car that you want (convertible, minivan, etc.) will be in your town on the day that you want it. All businesses except for restaurants close for a long lunch hour in Guadeloupe, so try to pick up your car before noon. Unlike the Airport, you will not have to wait in line before an agent can assist you, nor will you (and your group) have to wait with your luggage for the shuttle to the far away car lot.

You will thank me for this advice on the day that you leave. The actual rental location is at the old airport, physically close, but quite a (confusing) drive from the new airport. The route that the shuttle took on pick-up is restricted to airport vehicles only, so you will have to find your own route to the drop-off location (hint - go back out to the main highway, go through the round-about, and drive towards Pointe-a-Pitre). The shuttle from the drop-lot back to the airport is infrequent. The drop-off experience adds at least thirty-five to forty frustrating minutes to your return trip, and that is stress no one needs when catching a plane in a foreign country.