By Rental Car
Unless you never plan to leave the beach, you probably want to rent a car to explore the island. Martinique has several local car-rental agencies, but clients have complained of mechanical difficulties and billing irregularities. We recommend renting from one of the U.S.-based firms. Driving in Martinique is on the right side of the road. Note: An international driver's license is required.
Budget has an office at 30 rue Ernest-Desproges, La Baie, Cruise Terminal, Fort-de-France, in addition to one at Lamentin (tel. 800/472-3325 in the U.S. and Canada, or 596/42-04-04; www.budget-martinique.com). Avis is located at Airport Martinique Aimé Césaire (tel. 800/331-1084 in the U.S. and Canada, or 596/42-11-00; www.avis-antilles.fr), as is Hertz (tel. 800/654-3001 in the U.S. and Canada, or 596/51-01-01; www.hertzantilles.com).
Regardless of which company you choose, you'll be hit with a value-added tax (VAT) of 8.5% on top of the final bill, plus either a charge of around 25€ if you ask the car to be delivered to your hotel, or an airport pickup charge of about 20€ if you retrieve your car at the airport. Collision damage waivers (CDWs), which eliminate some or all of your financial responsibility in the event of an accident, cost between 12€ and 25€ per day at Budget and Hertz, and usually a bit more at Avis. Of these three car-rental companies, the rates at Budget tend to be the least expensive, although that depends on a wide array of seasonal variations.
Local laws demand that any bona-fide Martiniquais cab must contain a working meter. For specific itineraries -- wherein a passenger tells the driver where he or she wants to go -- the meter must be "on" and functioning. The island's largest dispatcher advises us that if a taxi driver quotes a flat rate to a passenger instead of activating the meter, you're being robbed, and you should immediately get out and find another cab. For an idea of prices, taxi rates between Fort-de-France and any hotel of La Pointe du Bout are 65€, but only 50€ from Airport Martinique Aimé Césaire to any hotel of La Pointe du Bout. For a general tour of the island, prices are negotiable with the driver. Between 7pm and 6am, a 40% surcharge is assessed.
The rule about using a taxi's meter does not apply to passengers who want to hire a taxi for a general tour of the island. If that is your goal, expect to pay from 50€ per hour for up to four passengers, depending on the itinerary and routing you negotiate with the driver. Frankly, we find touring the island by taxi so expensive, and so easily corrupted by the whims of the individual driver, that we advise visitors to rent their own car for the day, driving themselves -- armed with a good map -- around the island's many rutted but often panoramic roads.
Taxi companies include Airport Taxi Stand (tel. 596/42-16-66) or Madinina Taxis (tel. 596/70-40-10), the latter offering more luxurious cars, such as a Mercedes-Benz.
By Bus & Taxi Collectif
There are two types of buses operating on Martinique. Regular buses, called grands busses, hold about 40 passengers and cost 2€ to 2.50€ anywhere within the city limits of Fort-de-France. To travel beyond the city limits, nine-passenger taxis collectifs are used. These are privately owned minivans that traverse the island and bear the sign TC. Their routes are flexible and depend on passenger need. A one-way fare from Fort-de-France to Ste-Anne is about 8€ to 10€. Taxis collectifs depart from the heart of Fort-de-France from the parking lot of Pointe Simon. There's no phone number to call for information about this unpredictable means of transport, and there are no set schedules. Traveling in a taxi collectif is for the adventurous -- these vehicles are crowded and not very comfortable.
The least expensive -- and most colorful -- way to transfer between Fort-de-France and the hotel and tourist district of Pointe du Bout is via one of the vedettes (ferryboats) that depart from rue de la Liberté in Fort-de-France. Transit costs 4.30€ one-way or 6.50€ round-trip. Schedules for the ferryboats, at least 20 of which run at regular (usually 60-min.) intervals every day between 6:30am and 9pm, are printed in the free visitor's guide Choubouloute, in French and English, which is distributed by the tourist office. However, because the ferries are so frequent, most visitors dispense with attempting to understand the schedule altogether, and meander down to the waterfront to wait for the next boat.
There's a smaller ferryboat that runs between Fort-de-France and the unpretentious resorts of Anse Mitan and Anse-à-l'Ane, both across the bay and home to many two- and three-star hotels and modest Creole restaurants. The boat departs from rue de la Liberté in Fort-de-France at intervals of between 20 and 30 minutes every day from 7:30am to 6pm. The trip takes about 20 minutes. One-way and round-trip passage cost 3.80€ and 6€, respectively. If seas are extremely rough