We suggest that you skip a shopping tour of Pointe-à-Pitre if you're going to Fort-de-France on Martinique, as you'll find far more merchandise there, and perhaps friendlier service. If you're not, however, we recommend the following shops, some of which line rue Frébault.
Your best buys will be anything French -- perfumes from Chanel, silk scarves from Hermès, cosmetics from Dior, crystal from Lalique and Baccarat. Though they're still expensive, we've found some of these items discounted (but not often) as much as 30% below U.S. or Canadian prices. Most shops will accept U.S. dollars, but they'll give these discounts only for purchases made by traveler's check. Purchases are duty-free if brought directly from store to plane. In addition to the places below, there are also two duty-free shops at Aéroport Guadeloupe Pôle Caraibes (tel. 590/21-14-66) selling liquor, rums, perfumes, crystal, and cigarettes.
Most shops open at 8:30am, close at 1pm, and then reopen between 3 and 5:30pm. They're closed on Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and holidays. When the cruise ships are in port, many shopkeepers stay open longer and on weekends, and sometimes remain open throughout the midday closing.
One of the best places to buy French perfumes, at prices often lower than those charged in Paris, is Phoenicia, 121 rue Frébault (tel. 590/82-25-75), which has a good selection of imported cosmetics as well. Another leading perfume shop is Au Bonheur des Dames, 49 rue Frébault (tel. 590/82-00-30), also known for its skin-care products.
If you're adventurous, you may want to seek out some native goods in little shops along the back streets of Pointe-à-Pitre. Look for the straw hats, or salacos, made in Les Saintes islands, usually created from split bamboo. Native doudou dolls are also popular gift items.
Open-air stalls surround the Marché Couvert (covered market) at the corner of rue Frébault and rue Peynier. Here you can discover the many fruits, spices, and vegetables that are fun to look at as well as to taste. In madras turbans, local Creole women make deals over their strings of fire-red pimientos. The bright fabrics they wear compete with the rich colors of oranges, papayas, bananas, mangos, and pineapples. Best times to visit are Monday to Saturday 7am to 1pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.