Useful Information about St. Maarten / St.Martin

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Useful Information about St. Maarten / St.Martin

The following contains some general information about St. Maarten/St. Martin and a few guidelines you will need to make your vacation one to remember.

Location/Size

Located at 18°02’N, 63°07’W, in the northeastern lesser Antilles, the island is located approximately 150 miles southeast of Puerto Rico, with the Atlantic Ocean on the windward side and the Caribbean Sea on the leeward side. The island is 37 square miles, with Dutch St. Maarten to the South covering 16 square miles and French St. Martin to the North covering 21 square miles. It is one of the smallest landmasses to be shared between two nations, St. Maarten, a country within the Kingdom of The Netherlands, and St. Martin, the French Overseas Collectivity of St. Martin.

Capital

Dutch side, Sint Maarten – Philipsburg
French side, Saint Martin – Marigot

Climate

The island offers a year-round, warm and sunny tropical climate with some cooling trade winds. Average temperature during the Winter season is 80°F (27°C) and a few degrees warmer and a little more humid in the Summer with an annual rainfall of about 45 inches.

Language

Although Dutch and French are the official languages on the respective sides of the island, St. Maarten / St. Martin is a cosmopolitan island, home to 140 different nationalities from all over the world. The island’s unique local dialects are Creole and Papiamento. The most commonly used languages are English, French, Dutch & Spanish. You will hear English spoken everywhere and all tourist services are staffed with bi-lingual personnel. Street signs on the Dutch side are all in English and it is easy to make your way around, guided by signs, all over the island.

Population

Dutch side, Sint Maarten – Estimated 41,000

French side, Saint Martin – Estimated 36,000

Total Estimated Population – 77,000

Banks

On both sides of the island, banking hours are generally from 8:30 AM to 3:00/3:30 PM, Monday to Friday. Some banks on the French side also open on Saturday morning. ATMs are open 24-hours. Money can be changed at Cash Points with the majority located on the French side of the island.

Topography

There are many bays and creeks along the shores of the island and some salt ponds on the lands by the coast. At 1,392 feet, Pic Paradis, is the highest point of the island located in the center of the island. Simpson Bay Lagoon, located in the western part of the island, is the largest lagoon in the Caribbean and has two lifting bridges, one on each side, to allow maritime traffic to pass.

Communication

The international dialing code to call Dutch St. Maarten is +1-721 and +590 to call French St. Martin (011-590 from USA/Canada and 00-590 from Europe).

Calling from Dutch St. Maarten:

  • To call within St. Maarten – dial the 7-digit number
  • To call French St. Martin:

Landline – 011-590-590 + 6-digit landline number

Mobile – 011-590-690 + 6-digit mobile number

  • To call USA or Canada – 1 + area code + number
  • To call Mainland France – 011-33 + 10-digit number

Calling from French St. Martin:

  • To call within St. Martin – dial 0 + 9-digit number
  • To call Dutch St. Maarten:

Landline – 001-721 + 7-digit landline number

Mobile – 001-721 + 7-digit mobile number

  • To call USA or Canada – 001 + area code + number
  • To call Mainland France – 10-digit number

Please note calls between the Dutch and French sides of the island are considered international calls.

Some of the villas and condos are equipped with a cell phone for your use during your stay and offer complimentary Internet Access. If not, cellular phones can be rented from a number of locations. If required, additional, top-ups and phone cards are available at corner grocery stores and gas stations.   Wi-Fi is widely available at many restaurants and cafes, either for free or a low cost. We will be happy to assist you with your needs while on island.

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Credit Cards

Major credit cards are accepted in most places to include American Express, MasterCard and VISA.  You will need to check with individual merchants as some establishments may not accept credit cards.  U.S. dollar traveler’s checks are accepted everywhere with proper identification.

Currency

One island with two Governments and three Currencies.  The official currency of Dutch St. Maarten is the Netherlands Antilles Guilder or ‘Florin’ (Naf); the official currency of French St. Martin is the Euro. The main hotels, shops, restaurants & various activity centers on both sides of the island accept US Dollars.  It is usually better to spend US dollars on the Dutch side.  On the French side, look out for stores and restaurants that take €1 – $1 to make the most of your dollar. NA Guilders are not accepted on the French side.  Both traveler’s checks and major credit cards are widely accepted all over the island.

Customs

St. Maarten is the only completely duty-free port in the Caribbean. No vaccination certificates are required unless arriving from an area experiencing an epidemic.

Dress Code

The island is casual and laidback. Daytime attire is casual, but swimwear should stay on the beach and is not appropriate attire for the streets. Light cottons, linens and a good sun hat are your best options.  In the evening, the island’s finer restaurants and nightlife spots gives you the opportunity to dress up a little and wear something a little more special with a tropical flair.

Drinking Age

The legal drinking age on St. Maarten/St. Martin is 18 years.

Drinking Water

Tap water on the island comes from desalinated seawater and is drinkable.  We do recommend drinking bottled water which is readily available throughout the island.

Electricity

Dutch side – 110 volts (60 Hz) American sockets

French side – 220 volts (50 Hz) European sockets

On both sides of the island, electrical goods stores selling electronics, cameras, cellular phones, etc. sell transformers and American and/or European adapters that allow you to use your electrical appliances in both St. Maarten and St. Martin.

Emergency Numbers:

Dutch side:

Emergency – 911

Ambulance – 912 or 542-2111 or 520-6262

Doctors on Duty – 5111

Police – 911 or 542-2222

Fire Department – 919 or 542-6001

Hospital – 910 or 543-1111

Coast Guard – 913 or 545-5075

French side:

Emergency – 0590 52 25 52

SAMU (Ambulance) – 15

Gendarmes (Police) – 17

Fire Department – 18 or 911

Hospital – 0590 52 25 25

Sea Rescue – 0590 29 20 46

Medical Facilities

In a medical emergency, the hospital in the Dutch side is the St. Maarten Medical Center located on Cay Hill (Telephone +1 (721) 543 1110) and the hospital on the French side is L.C. Fleming Hospital located in Concordia (Telephone +590 590 29 57 57).  The island also has numerous private doctors and specialists.  Pharmacies carry prescription drugs and the over-the-counter variety.

For those with high risk medical conditions, we strongly suggest obtaining medical evacuation insurance through your trip insurance policy.

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Post Offices

There is a post office located on each side of the island.

Dutch side location – Walter Nisbeth Road, Philipsburg.

French side location – Marigot

Print Media

The main newspapers on island are:

The Daily Herald – Dutch side daily newspaper in English. This paper is printed daily, except Sundays and Holidays.  It features news about St. Maarten / St. Martin, the neighboring Caribbean islands and international news.  On Thursday, it comes out with a handy supplement, Out & About which lists information about restaurants & bars as well as entertainment & live music schedules for the upcoming week.

The Miami Herald – Dutch side daily newspaper in English. This paper is printed daily, except Sundays and Holidays, by The Daily Herald and features international news. This particular newspaper is mainly distributed to Hotels.

The Today – Dutch side daily newspaper in English. This paper is printed daily, except Sundays and Holidays.

 

Saint-Martin’s Week – The main French side newspaper (printed in French) is printed every Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

Shopping

Shopping Hours

Hours of operations do vary between the two sides of the island.  On the Dutch side, in Philipsburg, stores are typically open from 9:00 or 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Monday through Saturday.  Some of the stores also open for a few hours on Sunday morning if there is a cruise ship in town.  On the French side, in Marigot, stores are generally open from 9:00 or 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM – 6:00 or 7:00 PM, Monday through Saturday.  The Maho Shopping District, located at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, is open late into the evening seven days a week.

Sun Protection

Situated between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, St. Maarten/St. Martin receives the full force of the Caribbean sun. A high SPF sunscreen is very important and sunblock is recommended for those who are not used to the intense sunlight. A good pair of sunglasses and a hat are strongly recommended.

Tipping

When dining out, it is normal to tip on St. Maarten/St. Martin.  Before you leave a tip, check the bottom of the menu or your bill as some establishments automatically add on a 15% Service Charge.  Additional tipping for fine service is appreciated.

Time Zone

St. Maarten is on Atlantic (Eastern) Standard Time year round.  During the summer months when daylight savings time is not in effect, the island is on the same time as the East Coast of the U.S. During the fall and winter months, when daylight savings is in effect, St. Maarten/St. Martin is 1 hour ahead of Atlantic (Eastern) Standard Time.

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Tourism Offices

 There is a tourism office on each side of the island.

DUTCH SIDE – St. Maarten:

St. Maarten Tourist Bureau

Krippa Building, Unit 10

Juancho Yrausquin Blvd. #6

Philipsburg, St. Maarten

Tel: +1 (721) 542-2337

Fax: +1 (721) 542-2734

Email: info@vacationstmaarten.com

Website: www.vacationstmaarten.com

FRENCH SIDE – St. Martin:

St. Martin Office de Tourisme

Route de Sandy Ground

Marigot 97150 Saint Martin – FWI

Tel:  +590 590 87 57 21

Fax:  +590 590 87 56 43

Email: contact@iledesaintmartin.org

Web: www.iledesaintmartin.org (French) or www.stmartinisland.org (English)

On the Dutch side, there is an information desk at the cruise ship pier as well as a booth at Princess Juliana International Airport.

Transportation

There are various forms of transportation available while on island.  The two forms that we recommend to our visitors are as follows:

Car Rentals – This is the most convenient and cost effective way to move around St. Maarten/St. Martin.  Rates are reasonable and offer unlimited mileage, pick up, delivery, emergency services and additional insurances.  In order to rent a car, you will need a valid driver’s license and a major credit card.  Once you have driven around the island for one day, you find driving here is easy to pick up as there is basically one main road that goes around the island.

Taxis – Taxis are available at all key entry points (airports, ferry docks, cruise ship pier and dock) and at designated points in Philipsburg and Marigot.

U.S. Shopping Regulations

Visitors from the United States who travel to St. Maarten/St. Martin are allowed to take back up to $600.00 worth of items, per person, without paying duty when going through customs. You can also include up to two liters of alcohol with the $600.00 exemption.

Orient Beach in St Martin
Imagine waking up in a beautiful St Martin villa rental to the sounds and sights of a 5-mile stretch of beautiful white sandy beach beckoning you for your early morning walk. Located on the French side of the island, not only is this one of the most popular St Martin beaches, but it's one of the largest as well. Some would even say that with all Orient Beach has to offer it is the perfect vacation spot. The beach features a variety of exciting watersports, great restaurants, bars and nightlife, and don't forget the duty free St Martin shopping. Read More
Deep Sea Fishing
Deep sea fishing in St. Martin is an exciting adventure and the migration period of large fish is awaited with much anticipation every year. One reason why deep sea fishing generates so much excitement is because Saint Martin is situated close to Saint Thomas, which is known as "the capital of marlins". Another reason why fishing in St. Martin is so popular is because there are opportunities to fish in both The Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Read More
Casinos & Nightlife
There are 13 Dutch St Maarten casinos and much of its nightlife revolves around them. Some of the casinos have themes like Atlantis and Rome, but all casinos offer blackjack, craps, roulette and slot machines. Most of St Maarten's casinos are located in hotels, but several operate independently. Remember, you must be at least 18 to drink or gamble on the island. If you are not into gambling you can still enjoy the casino scene because some of the St Marteen casinos offer great entertainment such as live bands, variety shows and even circus acts. Read More
Restaurants
There are many things to do in St Martin/ St Maarten, but watersports are by far the most popular activities on the island. With an average temperature of 80°F and steady trade winds almost all year long, it comes as no surprise that St. Martin is heaven on earth to watersports enthusiasts. Read More
St Martin Shopping Guide
St Maarten is one of the Caribbean's leading sailing venues, a status that is annually reconfirmed every March by the St Maarten Heineken Regatta, one of the world's biggest sailing events. This race draws hundreds of participants from Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean to the island of St Martin all battling to win this prestigious race. Read More
St Maarten Beaches
With its warm, shallow waters, 100 foot visibilities and ideal conditions divers have long recognized the Caribbean as one of the world's best diving venues. St. Martin diving offers over 40 sites around the island where you can experience views of coral reefs and shipwrecks all while enjoying the beauty of the under sea world and making friends with the interesting sea life such sea turtles, angelfish, grouper, stingrays and tangs. Read More
Watersports & Activity
There are many things to do in St Martin/ St Maarten, but watersports are by far the most popular activities on the island. With an average temperature of 80°F and steady trade winds almost all year long, it comes as no surprise that St. Martin is heaven on earth to watersports enthusiasts. Read More
Sailing & Boating
St Maarten is one of the Caribbean's leading sailing venues, a status that is annually reconfirmed every March by the St Maarten Heineken Regatta, one of the world's biggest sailing events. This race draws hundreds of participants from Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean to the island of St Martin all battling to win this prestigious race. Read More
Diving & snorkeling
With its warm, shallow waters, 100 foot visibilities and ideal conditions divers have long recognized the Caribbean as one of the world's best diving venues. St. Martin diving offers over 40 sites around the island where you can experience views of coral reefs and shipwrecks all while enjoying the beauty of the under sea world and making friends with the interesting sea life such sea turtles, angelfish, grouper, stingrays and tangs. Read More