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Island Hopping in the Caribbeans

SmarterTravel

Author: Juerg Schneider
Date of Trip: December 2015

Real Island Hopping for individual tourists is difficult in the Caribbeans, as these countries are mainly visited by Cruise Ship passengers, single island visitors who fly to a specific island or then by visitors who have the necessary means (and know how) to own or rent a sailing ship in order to cruise from island to island.

Being fairly experienced senior travelers we still tried and it worked more or less: One has to know that given these circumstances there are only two ways: airline hopping and … the way we preferred as much as possible … using the existing ferries.

Our research showed that there are only very limited possibilities to use ferries in the Caribbean Islands: There is an excellent and regular ferry from Santo Domingo to Puerto Rico (San Juan) and back and there are regular (and relatively cheap) ferries of the French company “Express des Iles” between Guadeloupe- Dominica- Martinique – Sta. Lucia. Besides this the only regular ferries seem to link islands within the same countries, eg. Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, etc. Besides this, island hopping is only possible by using the local airlines, the best alternative we found was using a multi destination ticket of LIAT (www.liat.com) which offers regular services between most of the islands.

Within five weeks departing from Zuerich with a free mile ticket from Zuerich to Bogota and Panama (Lufthansa and COPA airlines belonging both to the Star Alliance) we approached the Caribbean islands via Bogota-Panama-Santo Domingo and then took the ferry to San Juan where Liat brought us via Antigua to Guadeloupe. From there we were able to reach Santa Lucia – Martinique- Dominica by ferry and in a very individual and economic way. LIAT seems technically quite reliable, but do not trust too much their airport services, you never know whether their announcements are reliable, time schedules and departure gates are changed frequently but as a summary we finally didn’t have major problems with them transporting us and the fares are reasonable. The ferry “Express des Iles” is very efficient, reasonably priced (they have a one trip – one price policy independent of distance which means that the trip from Guadeloupe to Sta Lucia costs the same like the short trip from Dominica to Guadeloupe, always – for seniors – Euro 75, roughly $ 80). If you don’t fear water transport its quite comfortabe. Having returned to Guadeloupe we took LIAT again to bring us back to Antigua and from there directly to Santo Domingo.

For Individual travellers the far better way than to be squizzed in a cruise ship or to stay for more than many days on a single small island

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