Martinique is a truly special place. It’s an overseas department of France, so it’s culturally a blend of French and Caribbean influences. You’ll find the same stores and foods you see all over France (great wine, cheese, baguettes, etc.) alongside incredible curry and seafood dishes, jungles and rainforests, and beautiful beaches.
If you’re wondering whether or not you should go to Martinique, my answer is a big YES for those who love authentic, non-touristy places with distinctive, unique cultures and gorgeous, diverse landscapes. If you fall under that category, I would put it at the top of your bucket list.
However, Martinique is not for everyone, and there are definitely a few caveats.
1. Do I need to speak French?
Short answer: At least a little.
Although you don’t need to be fluent, if you don’t speak any French, I would suggest learning a bit before heading over. And if you don’t have any desire to learn a few phrases, this might not be the best island get away for you.
Though there are plenty of people who speak English, there are plenty who, well, don’t. The locals will also be much more appreciative and receptive if you try speaking their language first, and even more receptive if you do it well.
There were several situations where French seemed fairly necessary to avoid a ton of confusion, so definitely study up ahead of time!
As far as what you should study, the main things I’d suggest learning are:
1. How to order at a restaurant
2. Locations so you can read highway directions (i.e. Anse = Beach)”
3. Beginner vocabulary such as hello, goodbye, excuse me, and thank you
2. Do I need a car in Martinique?
Short answer: Yes.
In fact, if you don’t drive, I would probably not go to Martinique. You pretty much need to drive everywhere if you want to truly discover the island. We stayed in Fort-de-France for part of the time, and unless you’re located directly downtown in the city center, walking anywhere is a struggle.
In general, most of the best places are nearly impossible to walk to since you’d have to pass through busy, narrow highways without any sidewalks.
You COULD hire a taxi, but they are incredibly expensive and I don’t think you’d get as much out of the experience. Driving around the island yourself and seeing the breathtaking scenery firsthand is truly special.
Other towns on the island are much more walkable than Fort-de-France, but they’re super small and you would be robbing yourself of the full Martinique experience if you only stayed in one place the entire time.
There are also public buses on the island, but they don’t go everywhere and are notoriously unreliable. So if you’re on a tighter schedule and need transportation that will get you places at a specific time, a car is the only way to go.
Luckily, there are plenty of car rental options at the airport and they have both stick shift and automatic cars, so getting the car is actually pretty simple!
Just keep in mind that they monitor speed like hawks. You almost definitely won’t get pulled over when you’re there, but you’ll receive a bill in the mail months later if you’re caught by a traffic camera. Keep your eyes out for the signs because even if you’re only going a few over, it’s possible you’ll still have to pay.
3. Would it be good for a beach resort getaway?
Short answer: Eh, that’d be a big stretch.
Martinique has gorgeous beaches, but if you’re looking for a beach-resort-getaway experience, it isn’t the place for that.
Martinique does have a pretty decent tourism industry, but there certainly isn’t a “resort” culture — if there is, it’s EXTREMELY limited — and I can’t imagine going there to just stay in a luxury hotel on one beach (if that even exists). If that’s what you’re looking for, go to Saint Martin.
Ultimately, Martinique is a lot more than just its beaches, and you’d be missing out on so much that the island offers and so much of the culture if you stayed at a resort during your time there. Resorts also aren’t really their focus, so you would find much nicer ones elsewhere.
Instead of a resort, I’d suggest staying at one of the many small, local hotels or an Airbnb! We did one of each, and had a fantastic experience in both cases.
4. Is Martinique easy to get to?
Short answer: NOPE.
Martinique is the opposite of “easy to get to.” And if you hate flying, the trip over to Martinique might send you into the longest anxiety attack of your life.
Unless you already live in the Caribbean, there’s pretty much no way to get there without taking FOUR flights and you’ll likely need to spend the night for one layover.
Depending on where you’re coming from, there are stops in Miami, Haiti, and Guadeloupe or Puerto Rico, St Martin, and Dominica.
When we went, we flew to Miami and stayed the night, then the next day flew to Haiti, Guadeloupe, and finally Martinique. That made the overall travel time something like 24 hours, and on the second day it took us 6.5 hours of flight time to get to Martinique.
You could basically get to Europe (or almost anywhere in the world) in the same amount of time or less, so the trip time is definitely worth considering if you aren’t a fan of long travel days. I personally don’t love flying, but I was so excited to see Martinique that it balanced out any anxiety.
So if you were on the fence about Martinique, I hope this cleared up some questions you might’ve had and helped with the decision making process! I can honestly say it was one of my favorite places I’ve ever been, so if none of this scared you away, get yourself a ticket and go 🙂
And if you’re looking for suggestions on where to stay on the island and what to do while you’re there, check out the following posts!
The Perfect Long Weekend Itinerary in Martinique series: