Escaping the cold grey British winter for a week of Caribbean sunshine and beach days has to be the dream. But with peak prices in winter and a reputation for luxury, it’s never going to be cheap holiday. You can probably bag a bargain winter sun package to the Dominican Republic or Jamaica if you shop around, but what about the more unusual islands – the ones where not many tour companies go or where you can’t get a direct flight? Are you going to end up paying a premium – or does being a bit off the tourist track mean you avoid tourist prices? Here’s how my spending broke down for a seven-night trip to Guadeloupe.
Note: these costs are based on my travel style – mid range with a touch of affordable luxury – so I keep the costs down where I can to can splash out on special experiences that are worth the extra. So there’s usually a mixture of hotels and apartment rentals, cooking and eating out, free activities and paid excursions.
Read more: Guadeloupe: Where France meets the Caribbean
The Caribbean isn’t exactly known for its budget accommodation so this was always going to be our biggest expense. There are a few resort hotels on the south coast of Grande-Terre, but most of the accommodation in Guadeloupe is a mix of guesthouses, villas and apartments. As there were three of us it was better value to rent a self-catering place – which also meant we could cook some of our own meals. We split our time so we could see a bit more of the island, with four nights in Grande-Terre and three nights in Basse-Terre.
Our first stop was a two-bedroom AirBnB apartment in Sainte-Anne with a big lounge and a little balcony overlooking the street. It was only three minutes’ walk to the beach and there was a supermarket in the next street. Four nights cost us €617/£552 (€154/£138 a night or €51/£46 per person per night). Our second stop was a super-cute cabin, just outside the village of Saint Claude in the hills of Basse-Terre. It was small but perfectly formed – and beautifully decorated – with one bedroom downstairs and a open-plan loft with two more beds. We were way out in the middle of nowhere but it was so peaceful and surrounded by tropical gardens. Three nights cost €456/£408 (€152/£136 a night or €50/£45 per person per night).
Total accommodation cost: €1074/£960 or €358/£320 per person – an average of €51/£46 a night each.
There’s a bus service around the islands but we wanted to get out and do lots of exploring so it was easiest to hire a car. Car hire isn’t cheap in Guadeloupe – we got a couple of quotes from local car hire companies but ended up going with Europcar. An ‘economy’ car (a 1-litre Seat Ibiza) cost €338/£303 for seven nights. We could’ve done with a bit more power on the hills, but it was cheap to run. We covered most of both islands and only filled the petrol tank up once on our way back to the airport for €42/£38.
I haven’t included flight costs in this breakdown as they vary so much depending on where you’re coming from. From the UK, you usually have to go via Paris to get to Guadeloupe. Our cheapest route was to book separate flights from Birmingham to Paris (€143/£128) and from Paris to Point-à-Pitre (€400/£358 – though we ended up getting that refunded in compensation as the flight was so late!). You can get flights from Paris to Guadeloupe with budget airlines XL Airways, Air Caraibes and Corsair from €370/£330. Or from the US you can fly direct to Guadeloupe from Atlanta for €268/$330 or Miami for €425/$523.
Total transport cost: €381/£341 or €127/£114 per person plus flights – an average of €18/£16 a night each.
The Caribbean is all about the sun, sea and sand, so you could easily get away with spending nothing on activities. Mostly we spent time on the beach, did a few road trips around the coast, toured a rum distillery, went walking up in the hills in Basse-Terre and explored some of the little villages. We did pay an entry fee at a couple of places – the Deshaies Botanic Gardens and Guadeloupe Zoo cost €15/£13 each and there was a €4.40/£4 entry fee for the walking paths to the Chutes du Corbet waterfalls, so still not a lot.
Total activities cost: €34.40/£31 per person – an average of €5/£4.50 a night each.
Food and drink
After my trip to the Seychelles last year I was expecting island life to equal crazy expensive food and drink prices, but Guadeloupe was nowhere near as bad. We had kitchens in both places we stayed so we could mix up eating out and self-catering. Supermarket prices (including wine) were similar to what you’d pay in France, plus there were markets selling local fruit and veg. We usually ate out at lunchtimes and made our own breakfasts and dinners – partly because our second cottage was down a tiny winding road in the middle of nowhere so we didn’t fancy heading out at night. And in Saint-Anne most restaurants bizarrely opened for lunch and then closed in the evenings, so the one place that was open was fully booked.
Between the three of us we spent €162/£144 at the supermarket plus €24/£21 at the bakery and fruit stall for breakfast. Lunches out normally cost around €12–€15 each for one course and a drink, though had a really good seafood meal in Deshaies for €80/£71. Altogether we spent €164/£147 on eating out. Then of course there were a few rum cocktails in there, with €85/£76 spent on drinks. Both the places we stayed left us a bottle of local rum and limes so we could make our own ti-punches, we also bought a bottle for €13/£11 from the distillery. A (potent!) cocktail from a beach bar cost around €7/£6 or a Carib beer €4/£3.
Total food and drink cost: €435/£388 or €145/£129 per person – an average of €21/£18.50 a night each.
The grand total
When you add it all up, our total spend worked out at €641/£572 per person (€92/£82 per day). That doesn’t include flights (with them the cost just tops £1000), but it’s still not a bad price for the Caribbean in peak season. I expected our DIY version to be pricier than a package would be, so I had a look at prices for the same dates next January. All inclusives in the Dominican Republic started from £1100 per person so we managed to beat that – with a lot more flexibility. So you can go independent in the Caribbean too.
Lower budget? If you want to keep costs down then the car was a big expense so you could use local buses to get around instead. Cooking more for yourself or buying from street stalls would also help save money – and as most accommodation is self-catering then the more of you there are, the cheaper it is.
Higher budget? Guadeloupe isn’t really somewhere with a lot of five-star luxury hotels, but there are some beautiful villas to rent (most of which have appeared as a location for Death in Paradise at some point), particularly the ones with infinity pools in the hills above Deshaies. You can also charter a boat to explore the coast and nearby islands or add on activities like diving the marine reserve off Pigeon Island.