Getting Around St. Martin - St. Maarten
The best way to get around St. Martin and St. Maarten is in a rental car. But really, outside of walking, just about any means of navigating between the French and Dutch sides of the island is manageable. Having a car will allow you more mobility and you'll find reasonable rental rates. Agencies are clustered on the outskirts of Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), located in St. Maarten. Unfortunately, traffic can be pretty heinous on both sides. The island buses also cater to tourists and are fairly cheap to ride. If you don't like the idea of waiting on a bus, consider splurging on a taxi. And if you're feeling adventurous you might want to use a scooter; there's nothing like feeling the sea breeze in your hair – ahem, helmet.
Renting a car is a cheap and easy way to get around either St. Martin or St. Maarten. Some travel sites report rates starting as low as $35 a day. Rental kiosks are located just outside the airport. Don't worry about motoring between the two sides – chances are you won't realize you've crossed the French-Dutch border – but do watch out for traffic jams around tourist haunts like Marigot, Philipsburg and Grand Case.
Similar to the United States, you'll drive on the right side of the road when touring both sides of the island. Honking is considered a friendly way to say hello; don't be alarmed if you get honked at frequently. If you're driving on the French side, you'll need an International Driving Permit, which you can purchase here or here. Past visitors recommend you forgo the GPS rental and instead purchase a quality map from one of the shops on the island (according to some, the maps provided by car rental shops and hotels aren't extensive enough for navigating the island's roadways).
Scooters are certainly a cool way to see the sights, and they'll make island traffic more manageable. But we can only advise this method if you've had experience maneuvering one before thanks to the island's narrow roads. You can rent a scooter at the airport for around the same daily price as a car. Past travelers praised Johnny’s Scooter and ATV Rental and Splash in the Sun for their rentals and tours. Rental prices vary by company, but you should expect to pay at least $60 for a full-day scooter rental, and around $100 for ATV rental.
Look for minivans that say "bus" in the license plate – these are the most affordable way to get around. Unfortunately, the minibuses aren't very efficient – they're prone to pick you up and drop you off anywhere you'd like, so there's no set schedule to follow (similarly, their start and end times are hard to determine each day). It'll cost somewhere between $1 and $1.50 for a one-way trip.
During the day, these vans mostly cater to cruise ship traffic, motoring travelers to and from the top sites. But the taxis are also great transportation at night, particularly as the minibuses are less likely to run. They're unmetered, so agree on a fare before entering the cab. And keep in mind it will cost you about $12 to get from the airport to Philipsburg or Marigot and about $20 or $30 to get from the airport to Dawn Beach. Some taxis, especially those on the Dutch side, only accept U.S. dollars.
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