St Maarten and St Martin, Caribbean - Stein Travel
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St Maarten and St Martin

Visiting St Maarten/St Martin is a unique experience: it is an eastern Caribbean island divided between two sovereign states, France and the Netherlands, with an unpoliced border cutting through its southern portion, allowing you to sunbathe in French St Martin in the afternoon, and stroll over to dine in Dutch St Maarten in the evening.

The French and the Dutch have shared this Caribbean gem peacefully for more than 350 years ever since, as legend has it, a gin-drinking Dutchman and wine-imbibing Frenchman walked around the island to see how much territory they could claim for their country in a day. The Frenchman gained two-thirds of the island, but the Dutch maintain that their representative claimed the prize part of the property.

The Dutch portion is in the south, with the capital Philipsburg being a duty-free shopping Mecca that draws thousands of tourists every day of the year. Dutch St Maarten arguably has the best (certainly the most developed and crowded) beach resorts, clustered along the southwest coast near the island's international airport. French St Martin is more scenic and less developed, but no less popular as a holiday destination.

The island is renowned as being the gourmet capital of the Caribbean and for providing the liveliest nightlife, mostly centred on the island's 35 enticing white-sand beaches. The small island's main attractions are shopping, relaxing on the crowded beach or dipping in the clear turquoise waters; there is little of historic, cultural or architectural interest or natural attractions beyond the sand and sea.

Information & Facts


On St. Maarten/St. Martin things are fairly informal, but jackets and ties should be worn by men for meetings. English is spoken widely throughout both the French and Dutch parts of the island and is often the language used in meetings. Business hours are generally 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.


The island is sunny and warm all year round, with average monthly temperatures varying little throughout the year. Temperatures in coastal areas range from 72-86ºF (22-30ºC) and from 66-81ºF (19-27ºC) in inland areas. Cooling winds buffet the island all throughout the year. Showers can be expected at any time of year but rainstorms pass quickly. Winter and the Christmas/New Year holidays are traditionally the most popular time to visit the island but summer is a great time to visit because lodging rates are much lower and the beaches, roads and restaurants are not crowded.


The country code for St Maarten, as part of the Netherlands Antilles, is +599. The code for French St Martin is +590. To dial Dutch St Maarten dial 599-54 plus a five-digit number, and to dial French St Martin dial 590-590 plus a six-digit number. Phoning from one side of the island to the other is considered to be an international call. The outgoing code for both sectors is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are not in use. GSM 900 and 1800 mobile network coverage extends across both parts of the island. Internet access is available at Internet cafes, and in most resorts.


Island culture on St Maarten and St Martin is very relaxed, and there are few dress codes aside from high-end restaurants and clubs. Dressing provocatively will attract unwanted attention, however, and wearing beachwear off the beach is considered disrespectful.

Duty Free

Arrivals in St Maarten/St Martin will not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco, 2 litres of alcohol and gifts to the value of ANG100.



110/220 volts, 60Hz. Standard, flat, two and three pronged plugs, as found in the United States, are used.


No vaccination certificates are required for entry into either St Maarten or St Martin, however a yellow fever certificate is required for travellers arriving within six days from infected areas. The Manchionneel tree that grows all over the island, mainly along the beaches, is extremely poisonous: the sap and fruit, which look like small green apples are caustic and burn the skin. Water is safe to drink. Medical care on the island is good, but patients are likely to be transferred to the US for anything serious. Medical insurance is strongly advised.


Dutch and French are the official languages, but English is widely spoken. Locals commonly use a language known as Papiamento, a mixture of Portuguese, African, Spanish, Dutch and English.


On the Dutch side the currency is the Netherlands Antilles Guilder or Florin (ANG), where one guilder is divided into 100 cents, but US Dollars are also widely accepted and prices are usually quoted in Dollars as well as Guilders. On the French side of the island the Euro (EUR) is the local currency, although establishments will also accept US Dollars. There are numerous bureaux de change and banks throughout the island and ATMs in the main towns in both national sectors; travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted.

Passport Visa

On 10 October 2010, the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved, however St. Maarten will continue to function as an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. All tourists must have return or onward tickets, all documents needed for next destination and sufficient funds. Passports must be valid for the length of stay. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA a valid passport will be required by immigration authorities. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Most visits to the island are trouble-free, however crime has been increasing in recent years and visitors should refrain from leaving valuables unattended on beaches, in cars and hotel lobbies. Burglaries and break-ins occur sometimes at resorts, beach houses and hotels and there have been incidents of armed robbery. Precautions should also be taken against car theft and insurance cover is advisable.


GMT -4.


On the Dutch side of the island hotel bills include a tax of 5%, and often a service charge of 15%. Waiters and bar staff should be tipped between 10 and 15% if not included in the bill. On French St Martin hotels usually add 5% occupancy tax per person, but a small gratuity is appreciated for good service. Restaurants and hotels usually add a service charge of 10 to 15% to the bill, and it is always best to check the bill. Taxi drivers and porters expect to be tipped, particularly if they have handled luggage.

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