St Maarten and St Martin Basics

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The Basics

Time: GMT -4

Electricity: 110/220 volts, 50/60Hz. Standard, flat, two- and three-pronged plugs, as found in the United States, are used.

Money: On the Dutch side, the currency is the Netherlands Antilles Guilder (ANG), and one guilder is divided into 100 cents. But US dollars are also widely accepted and prices are usually quoted in dollars as well as guilders. There are plans to introduce the Caribbean guilder in the future. On the French side of the island, the Euro (EUR) is the local currency, although establishments will also accept US dollars. There are numerous bureaux de change and banks on the island and ATMs in the main towns in both national sectors. Major credit cards are widely accepted.

Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: Dutch and English are the official languages. Locals commonly use a language known as Papiamento, a mixture of Portuguese, African languages, Spanish, Dutch and English.

Entry requirements for Americans: United States citizens require a valid passport. No visa is needed for a stay of up to 180 days.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens require a valid passport, but do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians must have a valid passport. No visa is needed for a stay of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australians must have a valid passport. No visa is needed for a stay of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay, and a visa for entry.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a valid passport. No visa is needed for a stay of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals must have a valid passport. No visa is needed.

Passport/Visa Note: Travellers should note that for some nationalities visa and passport requirements might vary between St Maarten and St Martin - specific requirements should be checked for the desired destination. All tourists, regardless of which side of the island is being visited, must have return or onward tickets, all documents needed for next destination and proof of sufficient funds. Passports must be valid for at least the length of intended stay, but six months of passport validity is recommended. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA a valid passport will be required by immigration authorities. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: The Manchineel tree that grows all over the island and mainly along the beaches is extremely poisonous; its sap and fruit, which look like small green apples, are caustic and burn the skin. The water is safe to drink and medical care on the island is good, but patients are likely to be transferred to the US for anything serious, so comprehensive travel insurance is strongly advised.

Tipping: On the Dutch side of the island, hotel bills include a tax of five percent and often a service charge of 15 percent. Waiters and bar staff should be tipped 10 to 15 percent if a gratuity is not included in the bill. On French Saint Martin, hotels usually add five percent occupancy tax per person, but a small gratuity is appreciated for good service. Restaurants and hotels usually add a service charge of 10 to 15 percent to the bill, and it's always best to check for this before adding a tip. Taxi drivers and porters expect to be tipped, particularly if they have handled luggage.

Safety Information: Most visits to the island are trouble-free, but petty crime is present and visitors shouldn't leave valuables unattended on beaches, in cars or in hotel lobbies. Care should be taken to keep rooms and cars locked, and visitors should refrain from carrying large amounts of cash. Burglaries and break-ins occur sometimes at resorts, beach houses and hotels, and there have been incidents of armed robbery. Precautions should also be taken against car theft, and insurance cover is advisable.

Local Customs: Island culture on Sint Maarten and Saint Martin is very relaxed, and there are few dress codes aside from high-end restaurants and clubs. Though many residents speak English, visitors should not assume this and a little effort to speak French or Dutch is greatly appreciated.

Business: On Sint Maarten and Saint Martin things are fairly informal, but jackets and ties should be worn by men for meetings. English is spoken widely throughout both the French and Dutch regions and is often the language used in meetings. Business hours are generally 9am to 6pm from Monday to Friday, with a break from 12pm to 1.30pm.

Communications: The country code for Sint Maarten is +1 721 while the code for French Saint Martin is +590. Phoning from one side of the island to the other is considered an international call. Mobile network coverage extends across both parts of the island, as does internet and WiFi coverage, especially at cafes, bars and restaurants.

Duty Free: Arrivals in Sint Maarten and Saint Martin don't have to pay duty on any goods. Products such as tobacco, alcohol, cameras and perfume should be limited to an amount needed for personal use.