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Worldworx Travel> Safety> Americas> French West Indies

Safety Travel Safety: Americas: French West Indies

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
The French West Indies consists of two French overseas departments containing the islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin (the French side) and St. Barthelemy. These islands are well developed. In St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, English is widely spoken and U.S. currency is accepted.

CRIME ^
Petty street crime, including purse snatching, occurs throughout the French West Indies. Visitors should take care whenever traveling to safeguard valuables and always lock hotel rooms and car doors.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating French laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the French West Indies are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Under French law, no bail is offered for those arrested with illegal drugs in their possession and they can expect to wait several months before their case is heard. Detained persons are presumed guilty and must prove their innocence.

MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical care is available throughout the French West Indies. Martinique has the best medical care in the Eastern Caribbean, with 13 hospitals. Le Maynard Hospital is located in Fort-de-France. Guadeloupe also has good medical care. Not all doctors speak or understand English. Hyperbaric chambers are available in Guadeloupe at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Abymes and in Martinique. Hyperbaric chambers are available in Guadeloupe, in Abymes, and in Martinique. Saint Barthelemy has no hospital; persons requiring medical attention are taken to St. Martin or Guadeloupe.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS ^
The French West Indies can be affected by hurricanes. The hurricane season normally runs from June to the end of November, but there have been hurricanes in December in recent years. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the U.S. The information below concerning the French West Indies is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Guadeloupe:
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good 
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Martinique: 
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good 
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

Driving in the French West Indies is on the right side of the road. Children under 12 are not legally allowed in the front seat. Seatbelt laws are strictly enforced. The roads in the French West Indies are the best in the Eastern Caribbean. Roads are well paved and well maintained. Main roads are well marked; secondary roads and tourist sites are adequately marked. Excellent maps are available and local residents are helpful, especially if greeted in a friendly manner. Both Martinique and Guadeloupe have some six-lane highways. Traffic safety is enforced by the police. Night driving can be dangerous, especially in the mountains and on winding rural roads. Public transportation in the form of taxis, vans, and buses is relatively safe.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning French West Indies driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the French National Tourist Organization offices at http://www.franceguide.com/.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of France's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of French air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 1 618 229-4801.

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Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

January 12, 2004

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Source: U.S. State Department | Disclaimer: Worldworx is not responsible nor liable for any travel within the countries/regions mentioned within Worldworx Travel as a result of information supplied. Some countries/regions may not be considered safe to travel. Please contact your embassy/consulate and appropriate authorities for latest situations and information. For further safety information, click here.

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