St. Martin - St. Maarten Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- The official language In St. Martin it's French. Meanwhile, St. Maarten's official language is both Dutch and English. Confused yet? Don't worry -- English is widely spoken throughout.
- How to say "watch out" in Dutch You should definitely go to Maho Bay to see a few 747s land at the neighboring SXM Airport. But uitkijken! This can be a scary, noisy and windy experience. Click here to see what we mean.
- How to say "Live and Let Live" in French St. Martin's beaches are well-known for their vivre et laisser vivre philosophy on swimsuits (In other words, expect to see a lot of bare chests and bottoms).
If you associate the Caribbean with a laid-back atmosphere, a tranquil beach and a quiet sunset, then you haven't been to feisty St. Martin and St. Maarten. What's the best part of visiting this dual-governed island? You can get a taste of two distinct, lively cultures all for the price of one vacation. This 37-square-mile dot is increasingly popular with travelers who like to eat well, party hard and duty-free shop in between trips to the beach. The north side, St. Martin, is controlled by the French government. It's the home of the island's tastiest restaurants and party beaches. Whereas cosmopolitan St. Maarten shelters the most animated casinos, bars and clubs. A territory of the Netherlands Antilles, St. Maarten takes up the southern 16 square miles.
But for all the excitement, St. Martin and St. Maarten still foster a stress-free vibe -- starting out with how easily you can pass between both sides of the island. So catch a few morning rays on a quiet Dutch-side beach; later, take a leisurely afternoon stroll through a French-side mountain. You'll be more than primed to sneak back over the border for a night in the casinos.
How To Save Money in St. Martin - St. Maarten
- Don't tip extra You'll see some restaurants have put an extra 15 percent "tax" on the bill that the wait staff might neglect to tell you is their service charge. Don't tip extra unless your service was really exceptional.
- E-mail, don't phone Making a call from the French side to the Dutch side, and vice versa, is considered an international call. Some businesses will have two numbers (to help you avoid this particular nuisance), but if not, attempt to make restaurant reservations and book island tours by e-mail.
- Take the bus Things move at a more leisurely pace in the Caribbean, so take advantage of that by taking the bus to the top tourist sites. There's no set schedule for drop-off and pick-ups, but you'll get where you want to go for about $1.50 USD one-way.
St. Martin - St. Maarten Culture & Customs
A true Tale of Two Cities, the island of St. Martin and St. Maarten is proud of its dual heritage and customs. According to St. Martin-Direct, casual clothes in light fabric are the norm on both the French and Dutch side during the day, but women dress more formally in the evening hours. Wearing swimsuits is reserved for the pool or the beach.
The Dutch side's official currency is the Netherlands guilder (NLG) while the official currency of the French side is the euro (EUR). However, the United States dollar (USD) is widely accepted, as are most major credit cards.
St. Martin - St. Maarten Dining
Bring your appetite to St. Martin/St. Maarten, because you'll most assuredly put it to good use. Some say the island's dining is some of the best in the Caribbean, especially in the Grand Case area on the French side. If you don't feel like a frou frou sit-down menu with table cloths and seating hosts, try one of the lolos, or open-air restaurants on the beach. Recent guests especially like the bar and grills along Simpson Bay.
Plan Your Trip to St. Martin - St. Maarten
- Top Things to Do in St. Martin - St. Maarten
- Best Hotels in St. Martin - St. Maarten
- Map of St. Martin - St. Maarten
- St. Martin - St. Maarten Photos