Documentation becomes important for daytrips to Anguilla and other islands.
Population: Over 30,000, most on the Dutch side.
Language: Dutch and French in their respective domains; English is widely spoken.
Time Zone: Atlantic Standard Time, one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Rainy Season: This is a fairly arid place, with rainfall of only forty-five inches a year. Rain falls mostly between September and December.
Documents: A valid passport for U.S. and Canadian citizens. Other passengers may need visas. Cruise ship passengers or those in transit for a stay of less than 24 hours need some form of ID but not necessarily a passport. Air travelers need an onward ticket.
St. Martin's entry requirements become important if you decide to take the 20-minute ferry ride from St. Martin to neighboring Anguilla; the ferryboats depart and return to Marigot. U.S. and Canadian citizens need some sort of picture ID and birth certificate; a passport is required of everyone else.
There are no formalities for traveling between St. Maarten and St. Martin . The border is unmanned, designated only by signs or markers. After a few days, you tend to forget you're crossing from one country into another.
Currency: The guilder, the French franc and the Euro are the official currencies, but dollars are accepted everywhere. You need never change; in fact, you'll probably get a poor rate for the franc if you do. Banks are open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Taxes & Tips: St. Maarten has a 5% room tax; a 15% service charge is common for both. When dining anywhere in St. Martin, look for "Service Compris" on your bill; that means the tip has already been included. There is a $20 departure tax.
Electrical Current: It differs on the
Dutch and French sides: 120, 60 cycles on the Dutch, 220, 50 cycles on the
French. Most hotels have transformers.
Getting here from other Caribbean islands is also not difficult because of the many inter-island airlines that stop here. As mentioned, cruise ships make St. Maarten a regular stop because of its convenient location in the northern Caribbean near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands .
Getting Around: Taxis are plentiful. Rental cars are reasonable and in good supply except the peak season; arrange one if you're traveling then when booking your hotel. International and foreign drivers' licenses are accepted. All driving is on the right side.
Where to Stay: Every type of resort imaginable, including gambling casinos, thrive on the Dutch side. Small hotels and guesthouses are also available (get a list from the tourist board) although some will not accept young children or credit cards. The French side has far fewer rooms for visitors though the number is increasing. Nudists should prefer the French connection. St. Maarten has a new Sonesta Resort.
Camping: Not available.
Hiking/Walking Services: Tri-Sport is the Eco adventure outfitter on the St. Maarten side. It has 2 locations, on Simpson Bay in St. Maarten and Rue de Hollande in Marigot. Many of the access points to the trails are marked and the trails blazed, each in different colors. You're advised not to leave the trails because the vegetation is thick and it's easy to get lost. Also, following several days of heavy rain, the trail and its markers may be nearly obscured by vegetation. Hike early. It can get very hot on these open trails.
Safety/Health Warnings: Beaches are not the most secure places. Leave nothing valuable in your car, and leave nothing valuable on your beach blanket when you go for a swim. It might not be there when you get back. This is a very hot island; drink plenty of water, juice and other non-alcoholic liquids.
Snakes & Other Venomous Creatures: None.
St. Maarten: website
St. Martin: website