Other than at the market in Marigot, no bargaining takes place on St-Martin/Sint Maarten; you're expected to pay the stated price.
Dangers & Annoyances
- The disparity between wealthy tourists and islanders can give rise to opportunistic crime such as pickpocketing and muggings.
- No-go areas at night include Marigot, Sandy Ground (2km southwest of Marigot), Quartier d'Orléans (3km south of Orient Beach) and Lower Prince's Quarter (the area immediately north of Philipsburg). During the day, Marigot is generally safe to walk around, but the other places are still best avoided.
- Be aware that all leased cars on the Dutch side of the island have an ‘R’ ('Rental') marking on the license plate, making them easy targets for petty thieves and carjackers.
- Do not leave anything whatsoever in your car when you leave it parked, especially in isolated destinations and car parks (but it’s not worth taking a chance anywhere or at anytime). Even if you don’t mind that something minor was stolen, you might end up paying dearly to repair your smashed-in window.
- Before taking your rental car off the lot, check the car doors – many have had the locks jimmied open at some point.
- Take photos when you pick up the car to avoid rental-company scams claiming you caused pre-existing damage.
- In the evenings, muggers have been known to follow cars home, and when the victim is driving through a quiet area, the assailants will purposefully bump the car. After you pull over to check for damages, the thief will mug you (and may take off in your car). Petty criminals have also followed victims all the way back to the victim’s hotel and robbed them as they walked from the car to their lodging. Be mindful of who is behind and in front of you. If you feel like you are being followed, simply pull into a very public place, or continue driving past where you are staying until the driver goes in another direction. If you are bumped by another car, just continue driving.
Other Dangers & Annoyances
- On the Dutch side in and around Simpson Bay and especially Philipsburg, there's a high number of gentlemen’s clubs, casinos and raucous beach bars, which won't appeal to all travelers.
- Traffic can be astonishingly heavy for such a small island; allow plenty of time to get to your destination.
- Bus travel is not advised after dark.
- Mosquitoes, which can carry diseases such as the Zika virus and dengue fever, can be problematic – cover up at dusk and use good insect repellent (applied after sunscreen).
French side: 220V, 60 cycles, European-style sockets; Dutch side: 1100V, 60 cycles, North American–style sockets.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Ambulance (Sint Maarten)||912|
|General emergency (Sint Maarten)||911|
|Police (Sint Maarten)||111|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Visitors need a passport valid for at least six months after their arrival date.
A round-trip or onward ticket is officially required of all non-EU citizens, including Americans and Canadians, regardless of whether you enter on the French or Dutch side.
St-Martin/Sint Maarten is a duty-free port, with no restrictions on items for personal (but not commercial) use.
Visas are not necessary for citizens of the USA, Canada, the EU, Australia and New Zealand. Some former Soviet states, Latin American countries and many African nationals will need visas, especially for the French side. Remember that different visa situations apply for the neighboring islands, so read up on the red tape before planning a day trip.
- Sunbathing Topless sunbathing is common island-wide; nude sunbathing is acceptable on the more remote beaches.
- Greetings On the French side, always greet/farewell anyone you interact with, such as shopkeepers, with ‘Bonjour (bonsoir at night)/Au revoir'.
- Conversation In French, tu and vous both mean ‘you’ but tu is only used with people you know very well, children or animals. Use vous until you're invited to use tu.
Wi-fi is widely available across the island at cafes, bars and the airports. Almost all hotels offer free wi-fi; a few also have computer terminals or business centers. There are no public internet terminals but hotels will generally print documents such as boarding passes.
Drugs of all kinds are strictly forbidden on both sides of the island; being caught with any in your possession will result in prosecution.
The French side uses euros; on the Dutch side items are posted in US dollars. ATMs blanket the island but not all accept foreign cards.
If you're paying with cash, establishments on both sides invariably accept one-for-one dollars to euros and vice versa, though depending on the current exchange rate, this may work against you.
As not all ATMs accept foreign cards, it's worth keeping cash on hand.
Credit cards (including foreign cards) are widely accepted.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Hotels Many (but not all) hotels and restaurants include a 15% service charge, in which case no further tipping is necessary (otherwise, add 15% to the bill).
- Restaurants Diners commonly leave a small amount for exceptional service.
- Taxis It's customary to round up taxi fares.
Some activities operators, bars and restaurants shut in September and/or October.
Restaurants both sides lunch 11.30am–2.30pm; dinner French side 7pm–10pm, Dutch side 5pm–10pm
Shops & supermarkets 8am–8pm Monday to Saturday, 9am–1pm Sunday
New Year's Day January 1 (both sides)
Good Friday March/April (Dutch side)
Easter Sunday March/April (Dutch side)
Easter Monday March/April (both sides)
King's Day (Koningsdag) April 27 (Dutch side)
Labor Day May 1 (both sides)
Victory Day May 8 (French side)
Carnival Monday Monday before Ash Wednesday (both sides; unofficial)
Carnival Tuesday Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (both sides; unofficial)
Ash Wednesday February/March (both sides; unofficial)
Ascension Thursday Fortieth day after Easter (both sides)
Abolition Day May 27 (French side)
Whit Sunday Seventh Sunday after Easter (Dutch side)
Pentecost Monday Eighth Monday after Easter (French side)
Emancipation Day July 1 (Dutch side)
Bastille Day July 14 (French side)
Assumption Day August 15 (French side)
Constitution Day October 9 (Dutch side)
All Saints’ Day (Toussaints) November 1 (French side)
Sint Maarten Day/Armistice Day November 11 (both sides)
Christmas Day December 25 (both sides)
Boxing Day December 26 (Dutch side)
- Smoking On both sides of the island, smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces including hotel rooms, restaurants, cafes and bars. It's permitted in outdoor areas, however, such as terraces, so you may still encounter smoke.
Taxes & Refunds
St-Martin/Sint Maarten is duty-free.
- St-Martin’s country code is 590; Sint Maarten’s is 1-721.
- Be aware that St-Martin's 10-digit landline numbers then begin with 0590 (10-digit mobile-phone numbers begin with 0690); drop the initial '0' when calling internationally.
- Sint Maarten's local numbers are seven digits; landline numbers begin with 54, while mobile numbers begin with 55.
- Calls between the two sides are treated as international calls.
- The exit code for both sides of the island is 00.
- To call the Dutch side from the French side, dial 00-1-721, then the seven-digit number.
- To dial the French side from the Dutch side, dial 00-590, then drop the '0' and dial the remaining nine digits.
Check with your home provider about roaming capabilities and costs. Digicel is the main local provider on both sides, followed by Chippie. Orange and Dauphin Telecom are French providers, while TelCell is a Dutch service. Post offices and supermarkets sell SIM cards that can be used in an unlocked phone.
St-Martin/Sint Maarten is on Atlantic Time (GMT/UTC minus four hours). Daylight saving is not observed.
- There are public toilets at both airports and some marinas.
- Public toilets exist in Marigot, Orient Beach and Philipsburg, but aren't recommended as they're not necessarily safe (or hygienic).
- Your best bet is to use the facilities of a hotel, restaurant or bar; some incur a charge of around US$1.
Travel with Children
St-Martin/Sint Maarten has plenty to offer younger travelers, with shallow beaches to splash about in the warm sea, water sports galore and family friendly attractions including the Butterfly Farm. Many resorts also have activity-packed kids' clubs.
Most accommodations can arrange cribs/cots by prior request. Especially on the French side, many restaurants have kids' menus but high-chairs are rare. Supermarkets stock baby-care items such as diapers/nappies.
Although St-Martin is rugged and quite mountainous, the massive amount of tourist development has made it relatively hassle-free for travelers with disabilities to experience the island.
Many resorts have wheelchair-friendly rooms and bathrooms with rails and barrier-free showers. Not all restaurant bathrooms are equipped for wheelchair users, however – confirm when you book.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Opportunities for volunteering are limited on both sides of the island.
- Check first with the French and/or Dutch representation in your home country to see whether volunteering affects your visa status.
- One popular volunteering option for both locals and visitors is the annual Heineken Regatta.
- You could also try contacting the Nature Foundation St Maarten (www.naturefoundationsxm.org) to inquire about monitoring wildlife such as sea turtles as well as various island rehabilitation projects.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Both sides of the island use the metric system and 24-hour clock.
Check online at www.diplomatie.gouv.fr (for the French side) and www.sintmaartengov.org (for the Dutch side), or contact the French or Dutch representation in your home country to find out what options apply in your situation.
While same-sex marriage is legally recognized on both sides of the island – and although the French side is generally more tolerant – some homophobia does exist, so it's best to avoid public displays of affection.
Larger and/or more upmarket resorts tend to be open minded, so booking a double room shouldn't pose any problems.