- Visited: April 2019
- Time spent: 6 nights
- 3 friends
- Accommodation: Apartment through Homeaway.com in La Trinité (area in the north-east of island): $510 (in total)
- Flights: Amy and I flew from St Lucia to Martinique – $120 pp (25 mins), Erin took the ferry – $60 (1h 30mins)
- Car rental: $250 (in total)
- Food, drink (miscellaneous, e.g. gas/petrol): approx. $300 pp
- Catamaran day trip: $85 pp
- Total spend per person: $753
Getting There: We flew from Chicago to St Lucia first, which cost approx. $1,000 pp, then flew from SLU in St Lucia to FDF in Martinique. Erin decided to join us after Amy and I had booked our flight, by which time there were no flights left, so she took the ferry. I had read that in inclement weather ferry journeys could be cancelled for days at a time, so hadn’t wanted to risk it. In the end, both journeys to Martinique ran smoothly. Apparently there used to be super cheap Norwegian Air flights (from New York) to Martinique but these don’t seem to be running anymore. From Chicago, if we didn’t fly on a Saturday, most flights had us going via Paris!
Getting Back: We flew back from Martinique to Chicago via Miami with American Airlines (or you can fly via Montreal with Air Canada, or via Paris with Air France!). Our flights from Miami to Chicago got cancelled due to a few flakes of snow in Chicago. We stayed the night in Miami and ended up on a stand-by flight the next day, after having spent 8 hrs waiting at the airport and being told there wouldn’t be an available flight for 3 days!
Unfortunately, Martinique doesn’t seem an easy place to get to, at least not from Chicago or New York (from a quick search on Skyscanner). Flights have multiple stops and cost from $1000 to $2000. There are non-stop flights from Miami for around $800 or from Montreal for $660. A non-stop flight from Paris costs around $600! No wonder we didn’t hear any other English voices while we were there!
Where to stay: We ended up using Homeaway.com to find our accommodation, as Airbnb was much more limited. This is comparable with what I’ve found with renting apartments in other French speaking countries, i.e. Corsica. Homeaway seems to be the preferred choice.
I wouldn’t recommend either our apartment (which is why I haven’t linked it) or the area in which we stayed (La Trinité)!
Apartment: Online, our apartment seemed basic but fine. We figured we needed a cheaper choice after splashing out on a nicer villa in St Lucia, and when we booked it we thought there would only be two of us, so we budgeted accordingly. We were wowed by the gorgeous pictures of the shared pool and view.
I feel at this stage I should point out that I’m not a complete princess. I have camped for weeks at a time in Canada and Alaska, often without access to flush toilets or showers. The Airbnbs we rented across Hawaii never had a/c. Our gorgeous villa in St Lucia had enclosed, air-conditioned bedrooms but the rest of the house was open with no glass windows. We hadn’t had a major problem with bugs or mosquitoes.
So, we were unprepared for the bugs, mosquitoes, darkness and damp where we were staying. Granted, it was very cheap and the bathrooms and linens were clean (important!). And it looked like the pictures online.
But, the bugs! And mosquitoes! When we sat outside for drinks (above photos), we got absolutely eaten alive, despite repellent. Amy’s room was enclosed and had a/c so Erin took refuge there! The other bedroom was small, dark and damp with holey mosquito nets. And after rainfall everything seemed damp. Our towels never dried. Our hostess was a lovely but eccentric old French lady who talked a million miles a second. The internet didn’t work reliably. All very #firstworldproblems . Basically we didn’t spend any time here except to sleep.
Areas: We struggled to find information on where to stay in Martinique. I read that Les Trois Ilets was more set up for tourists and we found a lovely apartment there online. But in the end, we loved the look of the pool and gardens at the place in La Trinité. And thought that would be a fairly easy spot to get around the island (which it was). If you’re looking to stay in the La Trinité area, the Domaine de Saint Aubin should definitely be on your list of places to stay. We had dinner at the restaurant here, and the whole place is completely stunning.
For more information about which area to stay in, check out my posts on Le Marin (in the south-west), Saint Pierre (north-west), Presqu’île de la Caravelle, and Sainte Anne (south-east), which was our favorite!
Getting around: We did a ton of research of car hire in Martinique. People on Trip Advisor raved about Autorent Caraib but they didn’t have the car we wanted. We went with Jumbo Car and hired a Renault Clio IV Diesel for 6 days at a cost of $250. We had read that a diesel was better to deal with the hills of Martinique. I grew up driving a manual car so that wasn’t an issue for us; however, there were automatic cars available.
The roads in Martinique are very well kept and there are highways connecting the main towns. Apart from the first night when we arrived, and had to drive in the dark, and I was trying to get to grips with driving a stick after 13 years of driving an automatic, and there were roundabouts every 5 minutes, and we didn’t know where we were going, and the other cars were zooming all around us, driving in Martinique was very easy! Oh, and they drive on the right.
- Roadway Guidance on Martinique (we didn’t experience any traffic jams or congestion)
- Car Rentals on Martinique
- Driving in Martinique (Trip Advisor Forum)
- rental car advice
- Guide to Driving In Martinique – Drive Safe in Martinique
Language: French is the official language in Martinique, with most people speaking both French and Antillean Creole (Créole Martiniquais). As I mentioned, all of the locals and other tourists we heard were also speaking French. We met a few people in the service industry (in the more touristy areas) who spoke some English and wanted to practice with us. Otherwise, we spoke French. The French spoken there was easy to understand, with no strong accent that I could tell.
It’s easy to think that a language difference isn’t an issue when you speak it! I know if I were traveling in Korea or Japan or any other country where I don’t speak the language, it would make me very nervous. But smiling and pointing goes a long way! And there are fantastic apps nowadays where you can hold your phone over any text (such as a menu), and it automatically translates it for you. Amazing.
Currency: As Martinique is one of the eighteen regions of France, it is part of the European Union, and its currency is the euro. While we were there, the euro cost pretty much the same as the US$, which made it easy to work out prices. We either used our credit cards or euros.
Food: The food in Martinique was one of the highlights of our trip! I can’t rave about it enough. And cheap, especially compared with our week prior in St Lucia.
Breakfast – every morning we would jump in the car and head down into the town of La Trinité to pick up some pastries. My favorite is a ‘pain au raisin’ (sort of a swirled sweet bread with raisins), but we also sampled croissants (obvs) and other ‘vienoisseries – pastries’. There was lots of smiling and pointing in the boulangerie (bakery) as we picked out different things to try every day. A pastry cost about 1.5.
- Delicious baguette sandwiches and soft drinks at La Guérande in Les Trois-Ilets – 8 euros pp.
- Crepes, coffees, guava juices and ice-cream at Le Cercle in Saint Pierre – 17 euros pp.
- The most incredible platter of accras (fried cod fritters), stuffed crab, fish and blood sausage at Le Rendez-Vous in Sainte Anne. Two courses plus cocktails – 30 euros pp.
- Baguette sandwiches and soft drinks at Pains Plaisirs & Cannelle in Tartane – 6 euros pp.
- Sandwiches, salads and soft drinks at Lina’s in Fort-de-France – 13 euros pp
- Pizzas and wine at Le Kalicoucou in Tartane – 13 euros each
- Accras, tuna tartare, steak-frites and cocktails at La Dunette in Sainte Anne – 40 euros pp
- Appetizers, steak-frites and cocktails at Brasserie du Manoir – 31 euros pp
- Take-away pizza and soft drinks at Pizza Mariano – 12 euros pp
I hope this overview has been of some help. Let me know if you have any questions about Martinique and I will try and answer them! Also, check out the links below for others’ views and guides!