Blog of the trip to Caribbean States

Pictures of the Caribbeans
Pictures of Cuba

Sunday, February 10, 2013, 02:31 PM

No visa required
Regular bus from airport to town ($1)
Maraval Guesthouse $35 with bathroom (cheapest in the whole island)
All cheap guesthouses are in the same loop across from Graeme Sanctuary in Warthing
All buses and minibuses cost $1 (or $B2) regardless of destination and duration
The Andromeda Botanic Gardens are ridiculously expensive and tiny ($12.50)
Farley Hill national park is tiny but at least it's free (if you arrive by bus)
Internet: $4/hour

Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 02:34 PM

St George's is French-style pretty
$1=2.6 Eastern Caribbean Dollars
Airport to town only by taxi $20
Town to airport take bus #1 and ask driver to drop you off at airport for EC$10
St Anne's guesthouse $30 shared bath
Green's bicycle $18/day
Internet $3/hour
No tourist info at the airport but the immigration officials "helped" me find a guesthouse (they wouldn't stamp my passport unless i had a place to sleep)
Grenada actually does have some character. Maybe that's why it is not as popular with tourists as the other "black" islands of the Caribbeans :-)
St George's and some of the other towns have a French feeling.
I biked one day from St George to Concord Falls (1h), then hiked to Fountainbleu Falls (20' each way), then biked to Gouyave (1h), then biked to Crozier (very steep 1h) to Birch Grove (downhill 30') to Grand Etang Lake (very steep 1h30') back to St George's (30' mostly downhill).

St Vincent
Thursday, February 14, 2013, 01:53 PM

No visa, another coun try that uses the East Caribbean dollar like Grenada.
Bus airport to town 2EC$
Roundtrip boat to Bequia 45EC$ = $18 (pay on board)
Port Elizabeth on Bequia has one guesthouse, Julie's Guesthouse, $37
This is supposed one of the "hidden jewels" of the Caribbeans: half of the people are white and the main dish seems to be pizza.
Internet: about $3 for 20 minutes = $8-9 per hour!

St John's Antigua
Saturday, February 16, 2013, 08:28 PM
I spent one day in St Lucia, which has two good things: the town of Soufriere (mountain by the ocean) and the market of Castries.
Soufriere has several guesthouses. It takes about 1 hour from Castries.
The main attraction in Castries is the market.
Bus from Castries to the airport: $1 to the airport roundabout and then walk 1km.

My flight to Dominica was diverted to Antigua because of strong winds so i am spending the night at the Grand Royalk Hotel of Antigua paid by the airline...

Roseau, Dominica
Monday, February 18, 2013, 02:24 PM
Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, this is a former French colony. Like the previous ones (except Barbados) it uses the East Caribbean dollar and requires no visa.
The airport is very far from Roseau and the road in 2013 was in terrible conditions (1 hour). Taxis charge 80 EC$. On weekdays there are regular buses that ply the road to Roseau.
Roseau has the best botanical gardens in this part of the world and they are free (Jack's Walk to the top).
Internet: EC$7 for 1 hour ($3/h)
Ma Bass Guesthouse: $33 shared bath. Other guesthouses that are slightly more expensive: Symes Zee, St James ($38, a bit out of town).
From Roseau a bus takes to the Trafalgar Falls hike (10 minutes). Not much of a hike or a waterfall.
Much better is the hike from Laudat to Boiling Lake in Morne Trois Pitons park. The bus from Roseau to Laudat starts running at 6:30am and takes about 20-30 minutes (EC$4). The hike itself is steep and muddy (high chances of slipping and getting dirty) and requires crossing a few tiny creeks. It took us 2.5 hours each way. Before the lake there are geysers and the lake is permanently enveloped in its sulphuric fumes. Basically you are hiking into an ancient crater.
Tomorrow i have to get to the airport early in the morning for the flight to St Kitts. It really sucks that these islands don't have ferries. These are very short flights that require a nightmare of bureaucracy and shuttling around.
Realy ridiculous that the airport is so far from the capital, and there is no infrastructure (no restaurant, souvenir shop, etc)
To get there by bus take a bus for Marigot (10 EC$) but they start running only at 10am. Before that, go to Canefield at the National Bank and there should be transportation starting at 7am. It takes at least one hour from there to the airport. You'll have to walk the last 500 meters.
There is also a departure tax of $23 not included in your air ticket.

Basseterre, St Kitts
Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 08:48 AM

Airport to town 2.50 EC$
No tourist information at the airport.
Park View Inn (Star of India restaurant) $US 40 with shared bath but with tv and AC
Rude immigration
Most expensive accommodation in the Caribbeans (second cheapest is $53 Glimbaro, third cheapest is Seaview $75 recommended by Immigration)
EC 3.50 to go to sandy Point and then hike 1km to Brimstone Hill Fort , which is the only reason to come here (entrance $USD 8), best preserved of the old forts.
Internet: $6/hour

St John's, Antigua
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 03:49 PM
Probably the least interesting of all these island states.

No visa like the others, EC dollar like most of the others, but no character and no major attractions.
From the airport walk 500 meters through the parking lot to the main road and take the Coolidge bus (EC2.50, 20 minutes). There are several guesthouses in town, all overpriced: Joe Mike's $63, Mel's $53, Samy's $50. Eventually after much bargaining i got a colossal room at Happy Acres with A/C and tv and private bath for $45, but the place is about 20 minutes outside town near a gas station on Fort Rd.
There is also a Waterfront Hostel in English Harbor for $45 but i figured it was too far. This is the last of the tiny English speaking island states. Next: Dominican (Spanish) and Haiti (French).

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 03:49 PM
Done with the island states, now i have four big ones: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Bahamas.
This is the only country so far that requires a visa, although it is issued at the airport for $10. The staff at the airport is trained to tell tourists that there is absolutely no bus to go to town and the only way is the taxis, but eventually one girl told me the truth: at the very beginning of the departure level there's a yellow minibus that leaves when full ($2 instead of $25!) I took the first guesthouse i found in the center of Santo Domingo, two blocks from the cathedral: $20 in Betty's dormitory (no other guests).
Santo Domingo is a totally different experience from the island states: it's a typical congested Latin metropolis. First country that speaks Spanish (and probably the only one after Cuba).
$1=40 Dominican pesos
And finally cheap internet: 50 pesos for one hour *$1.25/h)
Art everywhere
Cafes open till late and people walking up and down the Conde (2km pedestrian street)
Men playing chess in the street
Motorcycle taxis (similar to the ones in Indonesia and China) are a major plus.
The farther from the Zona Colonial you stay the cheaper it gets. All bus terminals are off Avenida Mexico, roughly where it intersects Avenida Duarte (near Chinatown). There are 3 hotels near the Parque Enriquillo (Hidalgo $20) which is a few blocks away.
To go to the airport you can also take a bus to Bocachica (the terminal is on Marti near Avenida Mexico) and then walk 2 kms.
Anybody offering to change money in the street is, by definition, a thief. There are plenty of official money changers and banks.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Friday, February 22, 2013, 05:49 PM
Traveled the whole day from Santo Domingo (which is not bad at all) to the north of the country to see the 27 waterfalls of Damajagua.
Puerto Plata is pleasant and pretty. As long as you stay away from the tourist places this country is really nice.
Bus from Sto Domingo to Puerto Plata 8USD
Get off 3km before Imbert across from a gas station and walk 400 meters on the upaved road to the tourist place that runs the waterfalls. $14 (i am including a $1 tip for the mandatory guide).
Beware that there are many towns called Damajagua. Make sure you are going to the one near Imbert.
Open 8am till 3pm.
Slept in Puerto Plata for $10 with private bath and fan, unnamed new hotel three blocks right of the cathedral if you are facing it (west of).
Several hotels west of the cathedral.

Damajagua is fun although none of the waterfalls is spectacular per se.
It takes 2 hours at my relatively fast pace to get to all 27 falls.
There is a reason if guide and helmet are mandatory: you physically have to slide down some of the waterfalls and dive from the top of one. There is no other way to continue. Not recommended if you are afraid of heights. The places where you need to swim are short but the water is deep. The guide is mandatory but you can be in a group of 1 for the same price.

If you are coming from Puerto Plata:
Bus to Damajagua 60 pesos = $1.50
Bus Damajagua to Navarrete 50 pesos
If stopping in Santiago:
Bus Santo Domingo-Santiago 280pesos 3 hours
Bus santiago-Dajabon 200 pesos 3 hours
Hotels in Santiago: several on 30 de mARZO (EG El Dorado $10)

Cap-Haitienne, Haiti
Sunday, February 24, 2013, 05:38 PM
Haiti is a surreal country that uses a currency that does not exist. All prices are quotes in Haitian dollar but the notes and coins are in gourde. A Haitian dollar is 5 times a gourde. So a 1000 gourde note is actually 200 Haitian dollars. A gourde is approximately the same value as the peso of the Dominican Republic. $1=40 gourdes = 8 Haitian dollars.

The border crossing is even more surreal. Between the two immigrations you are surrounded by a thousand money changers, taxi drivers, fruit vendors, motoconcho riders, souvenir sellers, etc. Absolute chaos.
The border is very near the Dominican town Dajabon (5 or 6 blocks) but about 2 kms from the Haitian town where you catch the bus to Cap-Haitienne.

The bus ride alone is worth the trip because you see a country that still lives in the 19th century. Donkeys are the normal means of transportation and women carrying water are a regular sight. The water comes from wells. You see the children happily pumping water for the ladies.
It's fun until you get to Cap-Haitienne: then the chaos becomes overwhelming. The moment you arrive you are surrounded by millions of motorcycles (the local form of taxi). It is also very filthy and completely dark after sunset. Don't count on the lights of the restaurants and bars because power outages are frequent.
However, i never felt in danger. People are superfriendly and honest. I routinely overpay because of the silly ghost currency and they routinely roll their eyes and give me back money.
Everything is cheap... if you can find it. The only expensive thing is hotels (see later) otherwise the cost of living for someone who buys from the market (and basically the whole town is THE market) is cheap.
Get used to power outages.
And don't even think of ATMs and credit cards. This is a cash only country. Internet if you are lucky (and patient).

Surprise: Haiti still uses the old 500ml bottles of sodas. Glass bottles! If you were born after the 1970s, probably you've never seen one except in some museum. Plastic is making inroads, however.
And it's cheap: 3 Haitian dollars for a soda, which is about $0.40 for a bottle that is 1.5 times the regular US plastic bottle.

Bus Navarrete to Dajabon (border) 210 pesos = $5 (2 hours)
Border exit Dominicano $20 (ouch)
Border entry Haiti $5
Bus border to Cap-Haitienne 100 gourdes = $2.50 (2 hours)
Several hotels near the bus station: Bon Dieu Bon $10 excellent but requires walking through the vegetable market which is quite an adventure.
In town there is Hotel Colibri $38 and Universelle $40. Hotels are the only thing that is really expensive, as usual in countries that have a lot of United Nations and humanitarian aid workers (they don't bargain prices so they cause inflation in room prices).

Citadelle, Haiti
Sunday, February 24, 2013, 05:49 PM
This is Haiti's main tourist attraction: a giant fortress built by a crazy Frenchman. From the village of Milot it's 8 steep kms to get there on a bad cobblestone road. First you pass by the ruins of the Frenchman's palace Sans Souci and then ascend the road and it's hard to believe that a motorcycle with two people can make it. You have to walk the last 2 kms that are closed to traffic so about 45 minutes.
You can easily get rid of the guides that hunt tourists in Milot but you won't get rid of the children. The good news is that there is no ticket office at the Citadelle itself: if you make it, it's free. Very few souvenir vendors along the road. Needless to say, great views.
Because of its location it reminds a bit of Machu Picchu.

Bus Cap-Haitienne to Milot 25g=$0.60 (1 hour)
Motorcycle to Citadelle 200g = $5
Immigration in the other direction (Haiti to Dominicana): $10 exit from Haiti, $10 entry in Dominicana.

Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Tuesday, February 26, 2013, 07:44 PM
Landed in Jamaica and immediately ran away from Kingston. But even the small towns seem to be the same filthy mess with countless people following you to offer their "help".
I don't think i will stay long. I should have stayed longer in Haiti (bigger mess, but much friendlier people)
Funniest thing: you think Jamaica is reggae, right? All the buses seem to play country music and soul/hiphop music nonstop and people sing along. Not a single reggae tune so far.
Worst country so far. All the nice things are private and very expensive (and that includes every single mm of beach). There are constantly people approaching to sell everything from drugs to taxi rides.Nonstop, day and night.Impossible to find a corner of a street or a park where someone won't comeand bother you within a few minutes.

$1=83 J$
Bus airport to Kingston 30 minutes 80J$ (the bus stop is 100 meters from the exit of the arrival terminal).
Bus from Kingston to Ocho Rios 2 hours 320J$
Guesthouse in Ocho Rios $30 with private bath, tv set

Kingston, Jamaica
Thursday, February 28, 2013, 11:06 AM
Kingston is two cities in one. Downtown is old and messy, but has character. Uptown is modern and residential and clean, but has no character.

Airport to town: take bus 98 for $1 to downtown.
Hotel Prestige, uptown (near King's House Rd), $42 for a single with shared bath and no AC (take bus 76 from downtown $1). Cheapest is Roosevelt Guesthouse, very near the stadium on Roosevelt Ave.

Nassau, Bahamas
Friday, March 1, 2013, 11:01 AM
Walked to Atlantis and back. Not much to do in Nassau other than shopping and watching tourists shopping. Four big cruise ships in town.
Last day of the Caribbean trip.

$1=$1 (you can use the US dollar anywhere)
No scheduled bus from the airport to Nassau but walk to the roundabout and hitchhike and most likely someone will offer a ride to town for $10-15 (a taxi costs $27) or you'll be lucky and a bus will pass by.
It's a 30-minute ride to town.
From town to the airport take bus number 10.
Cheapest hotel is Morris Motel in Oakes Field on Davis St, about 20 minute by bus 10a and then 2 km walk: $60 with AC, tv, bath. Second cheapest is Mignon Guesthouse right downtown ($66) but they only have five rooms so they tend to be full. Next $69 at the Grand Central Hotel. Next $82 at the Arawak Inn (West Bay St). Everything else is over $100.
All buses cost $1.25.
There are many ferries to the other islands of the Bahamas.
Internet $5/hour
Pictures of the Caribbeans

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