Escaping the cold grey British winter for a week of Caribbean sunshine and beach days has to be the dream. But with peak prices during the winter and a reputation for luxury, it’s unlikely to be a 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 beaten track mean you avoid tourist prices? Here I share my budget breakdown for seven nights in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.
Note: these costs are based on my travel style – mid-range with a touch of affordable luxury – so I keep costs down where I can to can splash out on special experiences. There’s usually a mixture of hotels and apartment rentals, cooking and eating out, free activities and paid excursions
Budget breakdown for a week in Guadeloupe
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 mixture of guesthouses, villas and apartments. As there were three of us travelling, it worked out as better value to rent a self-catering place – which also meant we could cook some of our own meals.
We split our time between two locations to see 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 €617/£536/$700 (€154/£134/$175 a night or €51/£45/$58 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/£396/$518 (€152/£132/$173 a night or €50/£44/$58 per person per night).
Total accommodation cost: €1073/£932/$1218 or €358/£311/$406 per person – €51/£44/$58 a day each on average.
There’s a bus around the islands, but we wanted to do lots of exploring so it was easiest to hire a car. Car hire isn’t cheap in Guadeloupe – we got a few quotes from local car hire companies but ended up going with Europcar. An ‘economy’ car (1-litre Seat Ibiza) cost €338/£294/$384 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 for €42/£36/$48.
I haven’t included flight costs as they vary so much depending on where you’re coming from. From the UK, you usually have to go via Paris to reach Guadeloupe. Our cheapest route was to book separate flights from Birmingham to Paris (€143) and Paris to Point-à-Pitre (€400 – though we ended up getting it refunded as the flight was so late!). You can get flights from Paris to Guadeloupe with budget airlines XL Airways, Air Caraibes and Corsair from around €370. Or from the US you can fly direct to Guadeloupe from Atlanta for $330 or Miami for $523.
Total transport cost (excluding flights): €380/£330/$432 or €127/£110/$144 per person – €18/£16/$21 a day each on average.
The Caribbean is all about the sun, sea and sand, so you could easily get away with spending very little on activities. Mostly we spent time on the beach, did a few road trips around the coast, took a free tour of a rum distillery, went walking up in the hills in Basse-Terre and explored some of the islands’ little villages. We did pay an entry fee at a couple of places – the Deshaies Botanic Gardens and Guadeloupe Zoo cost €15/£13/$17 each and there was a €4.40/£4/$5 entry fee for the walking paths to the Chutes du Corbet waterfalls, so still not a lot.
Total activities cost: €34.40/£30/$39 per person – €5/£4/$6 a day each on average.
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/£141/$184 at the supermarket plus €24/£21/$27 at the bakery and fruit stall for breakfast. Lunches out normally cost around €12–€15 per person for one course plus a drink, though we did have a really good seafood meal in Deshaies one day which cost a total of €80. Altogether we spent €164/£142/$186 on eating out.
Then of course there were a few rum cocktails in there too, with a total of €85/£74/$96 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/$15 from the distillery. A (pretty potent!) cocktail from a beach bar cost around €7/£6/$8 or a Carib beer €4/£3.50/$4.50.
Total food and drink cost: €435/£378/$493 or €145/£126/$164 per person – €21/£18/$23 a day each on average.
The grand total
When you add it all up, our total spend worked out at €664/£577/$753 per person (€95/£82/$108 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 your costs down, then the car was a big expense so you could use local buses to get around on a budget instead. Cooking more meals for yourself or buying food 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 works out.
Higher budget? Guadeloupe doesn’t have a lot of luxury hotels, but there are some beautiful villas to rent (most of which have been a location for Death in Paradise, 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 activities like diving the marine reserve off Pigeon Island.