St. Martin

The French Flag is the official flag of the Collective of St. Martin although you will see many "unofficial" flags.

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten is part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea. It comprises 2 separate countries, divided between its northern French side, also called Saint Martin, and its southern Dutch side, Sint Maarten. The island is home to busy resort beaches and secluded coves. It's also known for fusion cuisine, vibrant nightlife and duty-free shops selling jewelry and liquor.

French and Dutch have lived side by side on St. Martin/Sint Maarten for hundreds of years—with no border patrols or customs between them. The French side has a more genteel ambience, more fashionable shopping, and a Continental flair. The Dutch tends to be less expensive, has casino hotels, and more nightlife. Water sports abound all over—diving, snorkeling, sailing, and windsurfing are all top draws. And it's easy to while away the day relaxing on one of the 37 beaches, strolling the boardwalk of Dutch-side Philipsburg, and exploring the very French town of Marigot. Although luck is an important commodity at St. Maarten's 13 casinos, chance plays no part in finding a good meal at the island’s excellent eateries. 

Driving

It's easy to get around the island by car. Drive on the right just as you do in the USA. Most roads are paved and in generally good condition. However, they can be crowded, especially when the cruise ships are in port; you might experience traffic jams, particularly around Marigot and Philipsburg. Be alert for potholes and speed bumps, as well as the island tradition of stopping in the middle of the road to chat with a friend or yield to someone entering traffic. Few roads are identified by name or number, but most have signs indicating the destination. Driving is on the right. There are gas stations in Simpson Bay near the airport as well as in Cole Bay, and on the French side, in Sandy Ground and Marigot.

Car Rentals

You can book a car at Juliana International Airport, where all major rental companies have booths, but it is often much cheaper to reserve a car in advance from home. A shuttle to the rental-car lot is provided. Rates are among the best in the Caribbean, as little as $20–$35 per day. You can rent a car on the French side, but this rarely makes sense for Americans because of the unfavorable exchange rates.

Avis (Simpson Bay. 721/545–2847 or 800/331–1084. www.avis-sxm.com.)

Dollar/Thrifty Car Rental (102 Airport Rd. 721/545–2393.www.thriftycarrentalsxm.com.)

Empress Rent-a-Car (721/520–2391. www.empressrentacar.com.)

Golfe Car Rental (Rte. de l'Espérance, Grand Case. 0690/35–04–75.www.golfecarrental.com.)

Hertz (82 Airport Rd., Simpson Bay. 721/545–4541. www.hertz.sxmrentacar.com.)

Unity (6 Sister Modesta Rd., Simpson Bay. 721/520–5767. www.unitycarrental.com.)

Taxi Travel

There is a government-sponsored taxi dispatcher at the airport and the harbor. Posted fares are for one or two people. Add $5 for each additional person, half price for kids. The first bag is free; after that it’s $1 per bag. It costs about $18 from the airport to Philipsburg or Marigot, and about $30 to Dawn Beach. After 10 pm fares go up 25%, and after midnight 50%. Licensed drivers can be identified by the "taxi" license plate on the Dutch side and the window sticker on the French. You can hail cabs on the street or call the taxi dispatch to have one sent. Fixed fares apply from Juliana International Airport and the Marigot ferry to hotels around the island.

Money

US Dollars are accepted just about everywhere.  On French side small shop keepers may ask for Euros instead of credit card because of the exchange rate.  On the Dutch side prices are usually published in Guilders and Euros, but you can also pay in US dollars.

ATMS are numerous and dispense Dollars, Euros, and Guilders.

Electricity

Generally, 110 volts AC (60-cycle) on the Dutch side, just as in the United States. The French side operates on 220 volts AC (60-cycle), with round-prong plugs (many hotels can supply adapters). All our charter boats boats include a 12V DC outlet (a "car" outlet). 

Phones

Calling from one side of the island to another is an international call. To phone from the Dutch side to the French, you first must dial 00–590–590 for local numbers, or 00–590–690 for cell phones, then the six digit number. To call from the French side to the Dutch, dial 00–721, then the local number. To call a local number on the French side, dial 0590 plus the six-digit number. On the Dutch side, just dial the seven-digit number with no prefix.

Tipping

Service charges may be added to hotel and restaurant bills on the Dutch side (otherwise tip 15%–18%). Check bills carefully so you don’t inadvertently tip twice. On the French side, a service charge is customary; on top of the included service it is customary to leave 5%–10%in cash for the server. Taxi drivers, porters, and maids depend on tips. Give 10%–15% to cabbies, $1 per bag for porters, and $2–$5 per night per guest for chambermaids.

Restaurants on French Side recommend by Shirley & George Hollendursky

  • La Tale d’Antoine – Orient Beach.  One of best places we ate.  Excellent service and food.  Went there twice. Dover Sole was AA++.
  • Kakao – Orient Beach.  Very casual on beach.  Good fish.
  • La Cigale -  in Sandy Bottom.  Very romantic table in the sand at edge of water with candlelight.  Excellent food and service.  One of the best we went to.  Expensive.
  • Layla’s - in Nettle Bay.  Secluded restaurant with tables in the sand under trees.  Very, very good food.  Breakfast and Lunch only.
  • Ocean 82 - n Grand Case.  Upscale restaurant right on water, but only tables at windows have a view.  Expensive.  Very, very good food. 
  • Ma Ti Beach Restaurant and Bar – right on Nettle Bay beach.  Very good snapper, good flank steak
  • Dreams Restaurant – on Nettle Bay Beach.  Excellent tuna, huge salads.  Good people watching spot
  • Arhawak – Marigot.  A sidewalk café.  Good snapper, very good crepes.  French waiter highly entertaining.
  • Le Paris Café  - at Marigot Marina.. $20 grilled lobster.  Great service, very good food.
  • Sarafinas – in Marigot on Rue de l'Anguille.  One of the best and largest bakeries on island.

Restaurants on Dutch side recommend by Shirley & George Hollendursky

  • Greenhouse -  Simpson Bay & Phillipsburg.  Very good happy hour specials.  Good food in general. Highly recommend the coconut shrimp.
  • Blue Bitch – Phillipsburg.  Bar and small restaurant with good food (ribs A+) right on board walk.  Great people watching spot and often street musicians perform in front of restaurant.
  • Lazy Lizard - in Phillipsburg. Very small.  Good, fresh, homemade food.  Right on boardwalk.