Caribbean Island of Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, having a land area of 1,128 km2 (436 sq
mi). It is an overseas department of France. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia.
As with the other overseas departments, Martinique is also one of the twenty-six regions of France
(being an overseas region) and an integral part of the Republic. As part of France, Martinique is
part of the European Union, and its currency is the euro. Its official language is French, although
many of its inhabitants also speak Antillean Creole (Créole Martiniquais). Martinique is pictured
on all euro banknotes, on the reverse at the bottom of each note, right of the Greek ΕΥΡΩ (EURO)
next to the denomination.
The north of the island is mountainous and lushly forested. It features 4
ensembles of pitons and mornes: the Piton Conil on the extreme North, which dominates the Dominica
Channel, the Mount Pelee, an active volcano, the Morne Jacob, and the Pitons du Carbet, an ensemble
of 5 rainforest-covered extinct volcanoes dominating the Bay of Fort de France at 1,196 meters. The
most dominating of the island's many mountains, with 1397 meters, is the infamous volcano Mount
Pelée. The volcanic ash has created grey and black sand beaches in the north (in particular between
Anse Ceron and Anse des Gallets), contrasting markedly from the white sands of Les Salines in the
south. The south is more easily traversed, though it
still features some impressive geographic features. Because it is easier to travel and because of
the many beaches and food throughout this region, the south receives the bulk of the tourist
traffic. The beaches from Pointe de Bout, through Diamant (which features right off the coast of
Roche de Diamant), St. Luce, the town of St. Anne all the way down to Les Salines are
The snake flag of Martinique has no official status
on the island. It is a historical flag dating from an edict issued 4 August 1766, specifying
that vessels of the French Colony of Martinique and Saint Lucia should fly a version of the
French ensign, which at the time was a white cross on a blue field, with L-shaped (for Lucia)
snakes in each quarter of the cross.
The snakes are fer-de-lance vipers (Bothrops lanceolatus, French trigonocéphale) native to
island is dominated by Mount Pelee,
which on 8 May 1902 erupted and completely destroyed the city of Saint Pierre, killing 30,000
inhabitants Martinique, a mountainous island lying in the Lesser Antilles about 300 mi (483
km) northeast of Venezuela, was probably explored by Columbus in 1502 and was taken for France
in 1635. Martinique became a domain of the French crown in 1674. It became an overseas
department of France in 1946.
Public Transport in
Martinique is very limited, which could explain the reason why there are more cars registered in
Martinique per person than anywhere else in France.
Despite the traffic,
if you are going to make the most of your stay in Martinique, it is recommended that you hire a
car. Without a car you will miss some of Martinique's best landscapes and
Due to the Taxi Union
demands, there is no public transport from the airport, which means that you can either hire a car
or take a taxi.
Taxis in Martinique
are not cheap. The taxi fare from the airport to Fort-de-France is around 20 euros, 38 euros to
Pointe du Bout and Le Francois and 55 euros to Sainte-Anne. Be warned that taxis operate an
extortionate 40% surcharge between 8pm and 6am as well as on Sundays and public holidays. To call a
taxi 24hrs dial 0596 63 10 10 or 0596 63 63 62.
Buses There are very few buses in
Martinique. Most bus services are mini buses marked "TC", which stands for "Taxi Collectifs". The
destinations of the buses are marked on a board either on the front window or on the side door. Bus
stops (arret autobus) are normally a square blue sign with a picture of a bus in white. Most Taxi
Collectifs depart and arrive at the Taxi Collectif Terminal at Pointe Sinon in Fort-de-France. They
cost approximately 5 euros to Saint-Pierre, Pointe du Bout and Diamant, 7 euros to Sainte-Anne and
9 euros to Grand-Rivière. There are no timetables and the service can be unreliable. Most services
are finished by 6pm weekdays and 1pm on Saturday. There are no services on
Shuttle BoatsThere are
shuttle boats every 30mins from Pointe du Bout and Trois Ilet to Fort-de-France. It is a very
pleasant way of getting to Fort-de-France and also avoids the traffic. Services finish between 5:45
and 8pm depending upon the day.
is very common in Martinique, although like anywhere in the world not recommended. If you are going
to hitchhike, take lots of water and try to stay out of the sun. There are very few footpaths in
Martinique, so be careful and take the usual precautions that you have to take when hitchhiking
anywhere. If you are unsure about getting into a car, just keep walking or wait for another
MartiniqueDriving in Martinique will be a pleasure in comparison to other Caribbean islands. The
majority of roads are of an excellent standard.
Your driving license
from your home country is valid in Martinique. Driving laws are the same as in France and you have
to drive on the right hand side of the road. Distances and speed limits are in Km and Km/h. There
are several speed cameras on the island and the Gendarmerie are carrying out an increasing number
of speed checks, so you should always watch your speed. Unless otherwise stated, the speed limit is
generally 50km/h in towns, 90km/h on major roads and 110km/h on the auto route between the airport
When travelling to the
airport during rush hours, allow plenty of time. The N5 and Lamentin can get very busy. It is
particularly busy between 06:30 and 09:30 and between 15:30 and
Language: French and Creole patois are
spoken on the islands; English is known by some
Martinique is a dependent territory of
France and uses the euro as currency. US dollars are not accepted in shops, but many restaurants
and hotels take credit cards. The best exchange rates can be had at banks. Not all banks will do
foreign exchanges and may direct you to Fort De France to do such
What to Eat in
Martinique is unique in contrast to the majority of the other Caribbean islands
in that it has a wide variety of dining options. The Ti Gourmet Martinique (2000) lists 456 cafés
and/or restaurants on the island – not including the various bars some of which serve food as well
as alcohol. The 1998 brochure produced and published by the ARDTM counts up to 500 food-service
related establishments (this corresponds to over 3,000 jobs). Restaurants in Martinique range from
the exclusive high-end gourmet restaurants to the crêpes, accras, boudin, fruit juices, and coconut
milk one can purchase from food merchants on the beach or at snack stands/restaurants in town.
Restaurants, Créole cookbooks, public fairs and
festivities, and the expensive dining rooms of foreign-owned luxury hotels where food is served,
all present themselves as crucial staging grounds where ideas about Martiniquan cuisine, and
therefore, identity, authenticity and place are continuously tested.
|As an overseas département of France, Martinique's
culture blends French and Caribbean influences. The city of Saint-Pierre (destroyed by a volcanic
eruption of Mount Pelée), was often referred to as the Paris of the Lesser Antilles. Following
traditional French custom, many businesses close at midday, then reopen later in the afternoon.
The official language is French, although many Martinicans speak Martinican Creole, a subdivision
of Antillean Creolevirtually identical to the varieties spoken in neighboring English-speaking
islands of Saint Lucia and Dominica. Mostly based on French and African languages, Martinique's
creole also incorporates a few elements of English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Originally passed
down through oral storytelling traditions, it continues to be used more often in speech than in
writing. Its use is predominant within friends and the family cell. Though it is normally not to
be used in professional situations, it is being increasingly used in the media and by politicians
as a way to redeem national identity and by fear from a complete cultural assimilation by mainland
France. The local Creole is, for the most part, intelligible to speakers of Standard French, as it
has lost some of its distinct dialectal qualities.
Most of Martinique's population is descended from enslaved Africans brought to work on sugar
plantations during the colonial era, generally mixed with some French, Amerindian(Carib people),
Indian (Tamil), Lebanese or Chinese elements. Between 5 to 10% of the population is of Eastern
Indian (Tamil) origin. The island also boasts a small Syro-Lebanese community, a small but
increasing Chinese community, and the "Béké" community, White descendants from the first French and
British settlers, which still dominate parts of the Agricultural and Trade sectors. Whites
represent 5% of the population. The Béké people (which total around 5,000 people in the island,
most of them of aristocratic origin by birth or after buying the title) generally live in mansions
on the Atlantic coast of the island (mostly in the François - Cap Est district). In addition to the
island population, the island hosts a metropolitan French community, most of which lives on the
island on a temporary basis (generally from 3 to 5 years).
There are an estimated 260,000 people of Martinican origin living in mainland France, most of
them in the Parisian region.
Today, the island enjoys a higher standard of living than most other Caribbean countries. The
finest French products are easily available, from Chanel fashions to Limoges porcelain. Studying in
the métropole is common for young adults. For the rest of the French, Martinique has been a
vacation hotspot for many years, attracting both upper-class and more budget-conscious
Martinique has a hybrid cuisine, mixing elements of African, French, and Asian traditions. One
of its most famous dishes is the Colombo, a unique curry of chicken (curry chicken), meat or fish
with vegetables, spiced with a distinctive masala of Tamil origins acidulated with tamarind and
often containing wine, coconut milk, and rum. There is also a strong tradition of créole desserts
and cakes, often employing pineapple, rum, and a wide range of local ingredients.
Music and Carnival in
The former French colony of Martinique is a small island in the Caribbean. Its musical heritage
is intertwined with that of its sister island, Guadeloupe. Despite their small size, the islands
have created a large popular music industry, which gained in international renown after the success
of zouk music in the later 20th century. Zouk's popularity was particularly intense in France,
where the genre became an important symbol of identity for Martinique and Guadeloupe. Zouk's
origins are in the folk music of Martinique and Guadeloupe, especially Haitian kompa, Martinican
chouval bwa, Guadeloupan gwo ka, and the pan-Caribbean calypso tradition.
French Antillean Carnival in
Carnival is a very important festival, known as Vaval on Martinique. Music plays a vital role,
with Martinican big bands marching across the island. Vaval declined following World War II,
bouncing back with new band formats and new traditions only in the 1980s. Like Guadeloupe,
Martinique features participatory, call-and-response style songs during its Vaval celebrations.
In the early 20th century on Martinique, Creole bands travelled on trucks or small carts during
Vaval, playing a music known as biguine vidé (or just videé). After the decline of Vaval in World
War II, the tradition began anew in the 1980s, when large marching bands of fifty or more people
became common, including a number of horn players, percussionists and dancers. These large bands,
known as groups à pied, are each identified with a neighborhood. Biguine vidé is participatory
music, with the bandleader singing a verse and the audience responding. Modern instrumentation
includes a variety of improvised drums made from containers of all kinds, plastic plumbing, bells,
tanbou débonda, chacha, tibwa and gwoka drums. Aside from the biguine vidé bands, Vaval includes
song and costume contests, masquerading and zouk parties.
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Chouval bwa: Chouval bwa is a kind of Martinican traditional music,
featuring percussion, bamboo flute, accordion, and wax-paper/comb-type kazoo. The music originated
among rural Martinicans, as a form of celebratory holiday music played to accompany a dance called
the manege (which translates as merry-go-round; chouval bwa is a Creole version of cheval bois,
which refers to the wooden horses seen on merry-go-rounds). Chouval bwa percussion is played by a
drummer on the tanbour drum and the ti bwa, a percussion instrument made out of a piece of bamboo
laid horizontally and beaten with sticks; the most traditional ensembles also use accordions,
chacha (a rattle ) and the bel-air, a bass version of the tanbour .
Though Martinique and Guadeloupe are most frequently known only for the
internationally-renowned zouk style, the islands have also produced popular musicians in various
updated styles of traditional biguine, chouval bwa and gwo ka. The world-famous zouk band Kassav'
remains easily the most famous performers from the island. Chouval bwa has diversified into pop
genres like zouk chouv, which includes electric instrumentation and has been popularized by Claude
Germany, Tumpak, Dédé Saint-Prix, and Pakatak. Germany is the most traditionally-styled of the
popular zouk chouv performers, while Marce Pagoof Tumpak is particularly influential, and is also
known for coining the term zouk chouv in 1987.
Martinique is also the birth-place of the Gibson Brotherswho achieved significant chart success
worldwide, most notably with their single "Cuba".
Biguine: Biguine is a Martinican form of clarinet and trombone music which
can be divided into two distinct types:
bidgin bélè or drum biguine - originates in slave bélè dances and characterized by the use of
bélè drums and tibwa rhythm sticks, along with call and response, nasal vocals and improvised
instrumental solos; has its roots in West African ritual dances, though ceremonial components do
not survive in Haitian biguine.
orchestrated biguine: - originates in Saint-Pierre in the 18th century,
highly influenced by French music though vocals are usually in creole.
Evolving out of string band music, biguine spread to mainland France in the 1920s. Early stars
like Alexandre Stellio and Sam Castandet became popular. Its popularity abroad died relatively
quickly, but it lasted as a major force in popular music on Martinique until Haitian compas took
over in the 1950s and mini-jazz artists like Les Gentlemen and Les Vikings de Guadeloupe became
popular in the late 1960s. In the later part of the 20th century, biguine musicians like clarinet
virtuoso Michel Godzom helped revolutionize the genre. Biguine moderne, a pop form, has maintained
some pop success in Martinique, especially artists like Kali, who fuse the genre with reggae.
Kadans: In the 1970s, a wave of Haitian immigrants to Martinique
brought with them the kadans, a sophisticated form of music that quickly swept the island and
helped unite all the former French colonies of the Caribbean by combining their cultural
influences. These Haitians drew upon previous success from mini-jazz artists like Les Gentlemen,
Les Leopards and Les Vikings de Guadeloupe.
Zouk: Zouk arose in the mid-1980s, a combination of European, African and
Indian musics. Elements of gwo ka, tambour, ti bwa and biguine vidé are prominent in zouk. Though
there are many diverse styles of zouk, some commonalities exist. The French Creole tongue of
Martinique and Guadeloupe is an important element, and are a distinctive part of the music.
Generally, zouk is based around star singers, with little attention given to instrumentalists, and
is based almost entirely around studio recordings.
The band Kassav' remain the best known zouk group. Kassav' drew in influences from balakadri and
bal granmoun dances, biguines and mazurkas, along with more contemporary Caribbean influences like
reggae and salsa music. Zouk live shows soon began to draw on American and European rock and heavy
metal traditions, and the genre spread across the world, primarily in developing countries.
Music Festivals: Two large, international music festivals have
further bolstered Martinique's music scene. Jazz à la Martinique and Carrefour Mondial de Guitare
alternate years. The country's best jazz musicians are featured during Jazz à la Martinique, but
major worldwide players like Branford Marsalisalso perform. Honoring the guitar, Carrefour Mondial
de Guitare celebrates a wide range of guitar genres, including flamenco, blues, jazz, rock, and
pop. Both festivals last approximately a week, with concerts in various locations throughout
Things to do in Martinique
Going to a museum while vacationing in the Caribbean may
not seem very exciting, but Martinique’s museums are different. Designed for the traveler who
is more interested in, say, bananas than history, the island's museums are small, colorful and
feature topics somewhere within the range of quirky to bizarre.
Musée de la Banane: This museum contains an
impossible amount of information about the banana: how to pick it, how to package it for shipping,
even how to make perfume out of it. The best part of the museum is that it is also a functioning
plantation, and you can walk through groves of banana trees.
Paul Gauguin Art Center: Paul Gauguin lived
in Martinique for six months in 1887, painting the women of the island as well as its pristine
beach landscapes. Unfortunately, Martinique’s art center contains only reproductions of his works,
which are now spread out among the famous museums of the world. But the museum's insight into
Gauguin’s life on the island is valuable nonetheless.
Museum of “Rhum”: That would be the French
spelling of rum, the alcoholic beverage. Martinique’s sugar industry was closely linked with rum
production, and this museum chronicles the history of both. There are rum samples at the end, so
it’s best not to plan on driving yourself back!
While Martinique’s tropical climate makes some people want to lie on the beach all day, it
encourages others to get outside and play some sports. Here is a small sampling of Martinique’s
Tennis: Most of the island’s hotels have
tennis courts, including the Habitat Lagrange, Sofitel Bakoua and the Club Med Resort. The courts
are open at night; it’s cooler and more pleasant to play later in the day. The courts have adjacent
locker rooms well equipped with all the amenities you’ll need.
Water Sports: As an island, Martinique is
obviously ideal for water sports. Kayaking, scuba diving,
windsurfing, and snorkeling are all popular, and most resort hotels can
handle any reservations or rentals you require. The best beach on the island is Les Salines,
located in southern Martinique near the town of Ste-Anne. The waters are gentle, so many families
come here to sunbathe and swim.
Hiking: The landscapes of Martinique are so
diverse that even short hikes can take you through mountains, rainforests and beaches. Casual
hikers should try the Jesuits’ Trail, a relatively easy trek through one of Martinique’s tropical
forests. Ambitious hikers should attempt to scale Mt. Pelee. A guide for this hike is mandatory, as
the trail is often difficult to locate through the dense bushes.
Martinique is truly a little bit of France in the Caribbean. It exudes a distinctly French
feeling...in the excellence of its cuisine, the beauty of its language. Yet Martinique has a
chachet all of its own, an endearing West Indian warmth in its personality, a special spice in its
music and dance, its local dishes and its way of life. It is an island with style.
Getting Married in Martinique
Martinique is truly a little bit of France in the Caribbean. It
exudes a distinctly French feeling...in the excellence of its cuisine, the beauty of its
language. Yet Martinique has a chachet all of its own, an endearing West Indian warmth in its
personality, a special spice in its music and dance, its local dishes and its way of life. It
is an island with style.
Martinique Marriage Requirements
The information below outlines the marriage requirements for getting married in Martinique
Martinique Destination Weddings
There is a waiting period of one month for one of the
* birth certificate (or copy with
* proof of single status - notarized
* certificate of good conduct
* residency card from immigration department issued upon arrival - one of the
couple must have resided on the island for at least one month
* medical certificate (including blood test) issued within three months of marriage>
French translation of all English documents is required. There are no fees. A "Bulletin de Mariage"
and "Livret de Famille" are delivered at the ceremony.
The registrar's office should be contacted for specific rules regarding planning your destination
or beach wedding in Martinique. They will also provide information regarding marriage licenses and
Passport required by all citizens except for US and
Canadian citizens who can provide a birth certificate or certificate of citizenship with a photo
ID. Return or onward ticket is required by all visitors.
The Tourism Offices can often help provide specific details about
wedding planning in Martinique.
Office du tourisme de la
Rue Ernest Deproge
Fort de France
Tel: 596 6379 60
Fax: 596 7366 93
source: Over 70% of the information on this page was taken from http://wikitravel.org the other information was from knowledge of the island