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Spread out around the island are 37 white-sand beaches, from busy stretches lined with pumping bars to tranquil hidden bays and coves. Water sports from snorkeling and diving to Jet Skiing abound, along with land-based adventures like hiking and zip-lining.
Calamity struck in September 2017 when monster-hurricane Irma unleashed eight hours of fury over St-Martin/St Maarten. Th devastation was thorough and wide-spread with some 90% of all buildings damaged or destroyed. Although recovery is still ongoing, the island is well on its way back. A reliable indicator was the return of the cruise-ship industry with up to seven vessels docking at Philipsburg port at once.
The trade winds cool the island to a pleasant 66–83 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. In summer, the days can be sizzlers, with frequent tropical showers and little wind. The showers are often brief but can come down in a torrent so be prepared. On the whole, the island is warm and sunny all year round with the best times being from November to June.
The Friendly Island is served by more than twenty US, Canadian, European, South American, and Caribbean-based carriers, including the following:
American Airlines: 1 800 433 7300
United Airlines: 1 800 864 8331
Some nationals require a visa before entering St Maarten/St Martin and all nationalities require a valid passport and onward/return airline ticket. Canadian, US and EU citizens require a passport and onward/return ticket when arriving on the Dutch side. Many nationals are exempt from obtaining a visa for St Maarten if they are in possession of the following: a Dutch Caribbean visa; a multiple entry visa for the US or Canada; a multiple entry visa for the European Schengen region; or a residence permit for the UK, French St Martin, Bonaire, St Eustatius, or Saba. For any changes, check the websites for the tourism offices on both sides.
Buses are inexpensive and run unscheduled routes around the island. They are clearly marked with their destination and each bears an identifiable license plate. Taxis are available at all key entry points (airports, ferry docks, cruise ship pier and dock), and at designated points in Philipsburg and Marigot. Car rentals are a good way to get around on an island tour.
Calls between the French and Dutch side are considered international calls and require the following dialling codes: 001 721 for the Dutch side and 011 590 for the French side. For local calls in St Maarten, only the number needs to be dialed, but on the French side, you must first dial 0 before the 9-digit number. Top-ups and phone cards are available at corner grocery stores and gas stations.
Wi-Fi is widely available in many restaurants and cafes, either free or at a low cost, and some will charge a fee for a plug-in.
The main religious influences on St. Martin come from European cultures. The majority of the people on both sides of the island follow Roman Catholicism. The Methodist church is the second most popular denomination on both sides of St. Martin.
A service charge, sometimes masquerading as a ‘tax,’ is often included on the bill in St Maarten. Servers appreciate tips of between 10 and 15%. On the French side quite often the service charge is not included, but some of the restaurants are following the trend of St Maarten by adding the service charge separately.
St Maarten/St Martin is a duty-free island. A Departure Tax is charged at the Princess Juliana International Airport.
The official currency of Dutch St Maarten is the Netherlands Antilles Guilder, while the official currency of French St Martin is the Euro. However, both sides happily accept US Dollars. The Guilder is pinned to the US Dollar and the exchange rate floats around 1.78 and 1.80. The Euro/Dollar exchange rate is more volatile so check it before shopping or dining out on the French side. ATMs dispense Guilders and Dollars on the Dutch side and Euros on the French side. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, but check other cards before using them. Some of the smaller restaurants do not accept credit cards.
Generally, banks on both sides of the island are open from 8:30 am to 3 pm, Monday to Friday. Banks on the French side also open on Saturday morning. ATMs are open 24 hours. Money can be changed at Cash Points. Some hotels and casinos also offer a currency exchange service, but the rates may be less favorable.
The St Maarten Medical Center is located in Cay Hill, 1 721 543 1111. Proof of insurance or adequate funds may be required before admission.
The Louis Constant Fleming Hospital on the French side is located in Concordia, (590) 590 52 25 25.
Drop-in clinics and pharmacies are available on both sides of the island and a list of physicians and dentists can be found in the local telephone directory.
There is a medical shuttle that runs between Grand Marche on Bush Road to the St Maarten Medical Center and to other medical facilities in the immediate area. They run from 6 am – 8 pm. To find out where they are on the road, if a lift is required to or from the Medical Center, 1 721 559 2323 and tell them your location. The cost is $1 either way.