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Banks and Exchange Services
Few places accept U.S. dollars, so plan on exchanging for euros. You must exchange cash at your hotel or a bureau de change. One favorite company is Change Caraïbe, with branches near the tourist office and market in Pointe-à-Pitre. It's easier to use your ATM card to get euros. Make sure you have a four-digit PIN. ATMs, particularly those in smaller towns, don't always accept foreign bank cards. Visa and MasterCard are most often accepted, followed by American Express. There are just two ATMs on the main island, one at the ferry dock and the other next to the mayor's (Maire) office. Come with a cash reserve, for it's not unusual for the machines to run out of euros or to malfunction during electrical blackouts.
220 volts/50 cycles. North American electronics and laptops require an adapter and a converter.
Police emergencies (17.)
SAMU. SAMU is a medical service when you need to see a doctor fast. 0590/89-11-00.
Pointe-à-Pitre has several Internet cafés (there is one right at the new cruise pier); the tourist office can point you in the direction of several more in the immediate vicinity.
Guadeloupeans are deeply religious and traditional, particularly the older generations. Revealing shorts or swimwear away from the beach may be considered indecorous by some, and you should ask before taking a picture of any islander. The children, however, will probably flash you one of their happy smiles. Observe the courtesy of saying bonjour or bonsoir when you enter or leave a place or before asking someone a question or directions.
The official language is French, though most of the islanders also speak Creole, a lyrical patois that you won't be able to understand. Often, their French has a heavy Creole accent. Most of the staff in hotels knows some English as do some taxi drivers, but communicating is decidedly more difficult in the countryside. Arm yourself with a phrase book, a dictionary, patience, and a sense of humor.
Postcards cost €0.85 to the US, €1 to Canada; letters up to 20 grams are €0.85 to the US, €1 to Canada. If sending mail to Guadeloupe, be sure to include the name of the specific island in the archipelago (e.g., Grande-Terre, Basse-Terre), as well as the postal code, then "Guadeloupe" followed by "French West Indies."
You must have a valid passport as well as a return or ongoing ticket to enter Guadeloupe.
To make on-island calls, dial 0590 (0690 if it is a cellular phone) and then the six-digit phone number. To call Guadeloupe from the United States, dial 00-590-590, then the local number. For cell phone numbers, dial 00-590-690, then the local nufmber. If you're on one of the other islands in the French West Indies, dial 0590 and then the local number.
Taxes and Service Charges
The taxe de séjour (room tax), which varies by hotel, is usually €1 but never exceeds €1.80 per person per day. Most hotel prices include a 10% to 15% service charge in their rates; if not, it'll be added to your bill. A 15% service charge is included in all restaurant prices, as are taxes.
Restaurants are required to include a 15% service charge in the menu price. No additional gratuity is necessary (although it's appreciated if service is particularly good). Tip skycaps and porters about €1 a bag, cabdrivers 10% of the fare (if they work for a cab company rather than having their own taxi), and housekeeping €1 per night.
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