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First time to Martinique #70778
10/11/2015 10:05 PM
10/11/2015 10:05 PM
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 35
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caribbeankate Offline OP
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caribbeankate  Offline OP
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I just learned recently that Norwegian Airlines is starting direct flights from Baltimore (BWI) to Martinique in December. They are offering awesome intro rates so we decided to take advantage of these low fares. There will be 2 of us going a long weekend. Weve never been and we have spent the last week or so researching as much as we can. For this trip we want to go to the beach (an obvious), do some snorkeling if possible, go to the Coffee & Cocoa Museum and/or one of the rum distilleries, and definitely going to the Banana Museum simply because its a banana museum and Im super intrigued by this. <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/Banana.gif" alt="" /> <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/Banana.gif" alt="" /> <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/Banana.gif" alt="" /> I do have some questions for those who have been. I may be over-thinking some of this so I apologize in advance if any of my questions sound silly.

1. Language: I read that very little English is spoken there. I know absolutely no French and my friend knows a few words but not many. We will attempt to learn the very basics in the coming weeks and rely on Google translator while there. Im hoping this will be enough that the language barrier wont be too much of an issue. Am I being overly optimistic or should this be enough to communicate?

2. Car rental: Originally I was hoping not to rent a car but as soon as I heard about the banana museum, I knew we would need a car. How easy are the roads to navigate? I have read mixed about how well the roads are marked. Also, any recommendations on car rental agencies?

3. Rum distillery: Habitation Clement or Rhum J.M? Im leaning towards Habitation Clement because it looks really interesting based on what I saw online but Rhum J.M also looks neat and is near the volcano and if time allows we could go check out part of that as well.

4. Safety: I get the impression it is a relatively safe island. As of right now, I am looking at hotels in Schoelcher, Fort-De-France, or Trois-Ilets areas. Would you consider these relatively safe areas? Are there any areas we should absolutely avoid?

5. Beaches: Are there any beaches in the Schoelcher, Fort-De-France, or Trois-Ilets areas with decent snorkeling right off the beach? I did find an all day boat outing that would include snorkeling but I would like to find a beach with snorkeling nearby if possible and save the boat trip for next time.

6. Money: I know the Euro is used in Martinique. Is it better to get Euros ahead of time from my bank here, exchange it at the airport, or try to find a place there to do so? I have not had to exchange currency in a long time so I just want to do whatever is easiest and with the least amount of exchange fees.

7. Food: Looking for restaurant recommendations. Were not picky eaters and definitely hoping to try some local cuisine.

Sorry this is so long! Im sure I will have more questions as we continue to plan. Any and all advice is welcome! Thanks in advance!!!

Last edited by caribbeankate; 10/11/2015 10:11 PM.
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Re: First time to Martinique [Re: caribbeankate] #70779
10/12/2015 07:54 AM
10/12/2015 07:54 AM
Joined: Sep 2001
Posts: 5,884
St. Thomas, USVI
Nutmeg Offline
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Nutmeg  Offline
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St. Thomas, USVI
It has been a while since I have been to Martinique. I am not sure if the increase in cruise ship traffic has caused an increase in English speakers, but I have heard that, at least in the Fort-de-France area, you can get by. I only was there on sailboats, so I can't help you with roads.

I will suggest that you take a trip to St Pierre. This is where Mt Pelee destroyed the town in 1902. VERY interesting history, and they have preserved walls and buildings that they could. When we visited, the museum interpretation was only in French, but you could get a sense of the destruction from the pictures, etc.

Also, the Ste. Anne area has beautiful beaches.

The food is French, in other words, great. If you can read French menus, you will do fine.


[color:"red"]NUTMEG[/color]
Today is the tomorrow you talked about yesterday.
Re: First time to Martinique [Re: Nutmeg] #70780
10/12/2015 08:48 AM
10/12/2015 08:48 AM
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Posts: 35
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caribbeankate Offline OP
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caribbeankate  Offline OP
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Thank you for the suggestions and advice, Nutmeg! I will add St Pierre to our list of things to do.

Re: First time to Martinique [Re: Nutmeg] #70781
10/12/2015 09:14 AM
10/12/2015 09:14 AM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 78,114
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
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Carol_Hill  Offline
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Central Florida!
Nutmeg--we've only visited Martinique on cruise ships, and while we got the impression that many people in Fort-de-France understood English, they were not inclined to speak it and we felt distinctly unwelcome there. Only place we've ever been on a cruise that we felt very unwelcome.


Carol Hill
Re: First time to Martinique [Re: Carol_Hill] #70782
10/13/2015 03:21 AM
10/13/2015 03:21 AM
Joined: Sep 2002
Posts: 3,931
U.K. and Spain
Jeannius Offline
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Jeannius  Offline
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Fort de France is not a great place to be. Like capital cities in most parts of the world, there are parts of it with a lot of druggies and they can make you feel a bit uncomfortable at times.


However, the rest of Martinique is brilliant... St Anne down in the south then Grande Anse d'Arlet, Trois Islets, up the west coast to the pretty little village of Case Pilote (spent some time there having my generator rebuilt), then on to St Pierre (go up the volcano, you can drive most of the way then walk) magnificent views and much cooler than at sea level so very welcome. Then down the wild east coast to watch the guys fishing off the beach. Lovely island.

To finally answer some of your questions...

Driving is easy except in FdF itself. You can't get lost for long as you can usually see the sea.

Money... I never change money before I go anywhere, just use ATMs to get cash, and use credit cards whenever I can but that's just me.

Snorkelling... I did snorkel in some of the smaller coves around Grande Anse d'Arlet area but don't really remember that much about them.

Safety... I've mentioned FdF not being great but it is probably no worse than your local city (wherever that may be) so just take your normal precautions. Away from FdF it feels fine.

Food... It's part of France so quite difficult to eat badly.

Rhum... The local stuff is pretty disgusting, in my opinion, but it gets the job done. Worth doing one distillery visit but probably not two.

Language... Mostly you'll be talking to people in shops, restaurants, hotels etc. If people want to sell you something they'll find a way to communicate with you <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/Grin.gif" alt="" />


Some photos and lots of descriptive text in my Wife's blog from one of our trips back in 2009 http://sailingjeannius.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/20-miles-off-guadaloupe-to-anse-lane.html . Work forward in time from that post.

Last edited by Jeannius; 10/13/2015 03:58 AM.
Re: First time to Martinique [Re: Jeannius] #70783
10/13/2015 01:24 PM
10/13/2015 01:24 PM
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 840
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Sunset_Sammy Offline
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I didnt care for FdF either St Peirre has a great little market along the waterfront. As for food I just learned the basics, poulet, canard, poisson, bouef so I knew what type of meat I was getting and hoped for the best on how it was prepared


Drink all day at home, your friends worry about you; do it on vacation and they say "what a good time you're having". Save your friends needless worry, travel more!
Re: First time to Martinique [Re: caribbeankate] #70784
10/13/2015 01:32 PM
10/13/2015 01:32 PM
Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 1,552
LI, NY & Compass Point Marina,...
Carolyn Offline
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Carolyn  Offline
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Posts: 1,552
LI, NY & Compass Point Marina,...
We spent a month in Martinique last year. Tho we were on our boat, we did rent a car. Road maps are easy to follow.
Definitaly bring some sort of French/English translation source. We found in Restaurants that had wifi, we could use Google Translate on my Iphone to translate what was on the menu.....to a degree. LOL
If you ask for wifi, ask for WeeFee.
There are a number of nice restaurants along the waterfront in Ste Anne. There is a hotel south of Ste. Anne called Le Caritan. There you could snorkel/swim. It is south of LeMarin.
If you plan to bring cash, be sure to change it before you get there. We only had a few Euros and a bunch of US cash. We could only find one place that changed money and that was in FdF.
We always felt safe in Martinique and the people were very friendly and tried to help as best they could.
Our funniest experience was to ask if they spoke English and they would reply "a little bit". Actually those were the only words they knew. LOL
Also, in Ste. Pierre all the signage and info about the volcano is in French.
Next time we go, it will be with someone who can understand and speak French. Hopefully that will be soon!


Carolyn
M/Y Cattitude
Re: First time to Martinique [Re: Carolyn] #70785
10/13/2015 02:34 PM
10/13/2015 02:34 PM
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 308
Tampa, FL
denverd0n Offline
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denverd0n  Offline
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Posts: 308
Tampa, FL
First off, if you walk into a MacDonalds in the United States, go up to the counter, and say "Big Mac and fries, please," everyone will think you are very polite, because you said "please." In Martinique (anywhere French, really) they will think you are very rude, because you did not say hello first. So, always, ALWAYS start with "bonjour." Do that and you will find that people are much more receptive to you.

Second, do try to learn a few phrases. Honestly, if you walk into any shop, restaurant, or hotel and can say to them (in French, of course) "Hello. I don't speak French very well. Can you help me?" 99% of the time you will find that they are perfectly happy to speak English. Of course, learning how to say "hello," "goodbye," "please," and "thank you" in the language of the country you are planning to visit is just the minimum that you should do.

Contrary to those who say that the French are rude and unpleasant, and don't like Americans, my experience has always been exactly the opposite. I have always found them friendly, helpful, and accommodating. Indeed, the first time I visited France I was kind of shocked at how friendly and helpful everyone was, because of the stories I had heard. If you make just a small effort to understand and adapt to their culture, I think you will find them just as pleasant as I always have.

Re: First time to Martinique [Re: caribbeankate] #70786
10/13/2015 07:47 PM
10/13/2015 07:47 PM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 921
Michigan
rhans Offline
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rhans  Offline
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Posts: 921
Michigan
I got stuck in Martinique for a couple of weeks a few years ago waiting for a sail repair <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/Clapping.gif" alt="" />. Id go back in a minute.
Around the ship yards and in the larger population areas English was no problem.
Away from there communication took some effort on both parties but really no problem.
Agree that FdF is just another Big city with the same issues as most but St. Anne and St.Pierre with others are phenomenal.

Re: First time to Martinique [Re: Carol_Hill] #70787
10/13/2015 09:05 PM
10/13/2015 09:05 PM
Joined: Sep 2001
Posts: 5,884
St. Thomas, USVI
Nutmeg Offline
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Nutmeg  Offline
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Posts: 5,884
St. Thomas, USVI
Carol: I had read on Cruise Critic or somewhere that there were tourism people in Fort-de-France to guide cruise ship people to various destinations. But I agree with others, if you know a little French and are willing to try, you will have a better chance. Like many Caribbean islands, once you are out of the main city, you are in a different world.


[color:"red"]NUTMEG[/color]
Today is the tomorrow you talked about yesterday.
Re: First time to Martinique [Re: Nutmeg] #70788
10/13/2015 11:10 PM
10/13/2015 11:10 PM
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 35
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caribbeankate Offline OP
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caribbeankate  Offline OP
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Thank you everyone for the responses. I really appreciate the honest advice, especially about FdF. The hotel there was at the bottom of our list of choices so we're definitely not longer considering staying in that area.

Jeannius- Thanks for sharing the link to your wife's blog. Looking forward to reading it. Good to hear an opinion about the local rhum. I'm not 100% sure now if we're going to make it to a distillery since we're adding St. Pierre to the list of places to see.

Sunset Sammy- Good call on learning the types of meat!

Carolyn- Thanks for the heads up on the difficulty finding a place to exchange currency. Too funny about the "a little bit" I will keep that in mind!

denverdOn- Thanks for the tip about greeting with bonjour. Definitely don't want to offend anyone! Looking forward to learning a little French before the trip.

Thanks again everyone!

Re: First time to Martinique [Re: caribbeankate] #70789
11/02/2015 01:26 PM
11/02/2015 01:26 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 3,160
Greensboro, NC
charlieh Offline
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charlieh  Offline
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Posts: 3,160
Greensboro, NC
Kate - hope you do a trip report. FYI, Martinique has the lowest murder rate in the Caribbean.

Our daughter did a semester in college on Martinique, as she majored in French. She loved it there (mid 1990s).

One of my best friends was stationed there when he was in the French army and of course loved it. He is an expert at making Ti Punch which is my favorite mixed drink in the world using Agricole Rhum from Martinique. That is easily my favorite Rum anywhere. You mentioned Clement - I've had at least a dozen bottles of it, but ALL of the Agricole rhums are GREAT - and I mean GREAT.

I've driven most of France, and did not have much of an issue, even in Paris, so I imagine Martinique will be OK.

Guess you know this, but be sure to have at least one credit card with 0% foreign transaction fees and better to have more than one. The chip & password card seems to be impossible to get in the US at this point, as all of ours are chip & sign. At least make sure your credit cards have a chip.

As said earlier, please do a trip report. I know you're trip will be short, but something is better than nothing.

Re: First time to Martinique [Re: charlieh] #70790
11/03/2015 06:48 PM
11/03/2015 06:48 PM
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 35
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caribbeankate Offline OP
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caribbeankate  Offline OP
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Thanks for the info Charlie. Yes, I'm planning to do a trip report afterwards. <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/Cheers.gif" alt="" />

Re: First time to Martinique [Re: caribbeankate] #70791
11/03/2015 07:11 PM
11/03/2015 07:11 PM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 78,114
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
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Carol_Hill  Offline
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Posts: 78,114
Central Florida!
Looking forward to seeing that trip report, as it will be a relatively unusual destination for us here.


Carol Hill
Re: First time to Martinique [Re: Carol_Hill] #70792
12/14/2015 04:03 PM
12/14/2015 04:03 PM
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Posts: 35
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caribbeankate Offline OP
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Thank you again for all of the great advice. We just got back today. We had a great time and I look forward to going there again but for at least a week the next time instead of just a long weekend. I will post my trip report soon.

Re: First time to Martinique [Re: caribbeankate] #70793
12/14/2015 09:10 PM
12/14/2015 09:10 PM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 78,114
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
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Carol_Hill  Offline
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Posts: 78,114
Central Florida!
Looking forward to reading all about it!!!


Carol Hill
Re: First time to Martinique [Re: Carol_Hill] #70794
12/18/2015 07:36 PM
12/18/2015 07:36 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 3,160
Greensboro, NC
charlieh Offline
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charlieh  Offline
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Greensboro, NC
Quote
Carol_Hill said:
Looking forward to reading all about it!!!


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