Thursday, May 31, 2012

St. Martin Traveller's Tips

 Bienvenue! Welkom! Bienvenido! ......... Welcome to the international island of St. Martin!


- They might ask to see your proof of return to US documentation. So have a printout of you return flight info with you.
- You'll have to provide the address of where you are staying.
- Airlines no longer provide you a pen to fill out International Documentation, so be sure to have one in your carry-on.


 - To have a local cell number.  You need a triband GSM phone, then you can buy a SIM Card around $20 and a prepaid Phone Card for phone credit $20 credit should be more than enough for a short stay. 

- Cell phone service can be tricky at La Samanna. But there is Wi-fi.


- Rental Cars are fairly inexpensive about $35/day.
- Gas prices on the French side are slightly higher.
- Parking Garage in Maho that can be validated at restaurants and Casino.
- There are taxis and Buses. Dutch and French Taxis pick up and drop off anywhere on the island, regardless which side you travel. Make sure to ask the driver the fare in advance. And make sure they don't charge you more just because you are headed to La Samanna. 
- The vans / minibuses are a great idea, for a few people to team up when all headed to the same event. These buses can be scheduled through the front desk. This is a great idea for a bunch headed back to your hotel after the wedding. 
- But you can also rent ATVs, Jet Skis, and even dinghies. 
- Hide belongings in trunk when parking your rental car. Many cars get broken into, especially when thieves see rental plates and when parked at tourist locations, like beaches. Even loose change in the center console will tempt them to shatter the window. 
- The French Police (The Gendarmerie) are very strict on Drinking & Driving and Speeding. 
- For police on the Dutch side, call 111 for Police, 130 for an Ambulance, and 911 for an Emergency. The French police can be reached for emergencies by calling 17 from the French side. 
- It’s good to keep the Bridge Schedule in mind, to avoid traffic and delays. 
Simpson Bay Bridge (Dutch side) 9am, 9:30am, 11am, 11:30am, 4:30pm and 5:30pm
Sandy Ground Bridge (French side): 8:15am, 2:30pm, Sundays and Holidays: 8:15am and 5:30pm.

- US Dollar widely accepted throughout the island.
- A good map of the Casinos! Slot Machine tip: Always good to cash out after winning over $30.00
- Table games at Atlantis after 8pm.
- There are many casinos on the Dutch side, including Casino Royale, The Dunes, Atlantis and Paradise everyone has different luck so I recommend checking out each casino. Princess ad Atlantis have cool automated roulette table. If you stay in Oyster Bay near the Westin Hotel and Tables can be a blast!

- There are fun boat charter trips. You should book your reservation at least the day prior. If you try to call in the morning they are often full. This should include a lunch. Sometime the advertisement for these tours is tricky. They may advertise as $85 but it may end up at $150 for some, they list tours by the day, but may decide to have the "Thursday" Tour on Friday. There is one tour that takes you on a full round-trip on St. Martin. Lots of people book charters to Prickly Pear and Anguilla through Blue Beard to see a different island. check out their online reservation $10 discount. 

- Another suggestion is a day trip to Pineal Island on the French side. It's $7 for a round trip wooden boat ferry that pack in about 20 people. It’s an experience. Pineal is not far off the coast so the ride isn't long. But then spend a nice day on the small island with a couple restaurants (check out the iguanas in the back) and decent snorkeling (bring your gear from your hotel). Also you can rent Paddle Boards, not too expensive, before heading to Pineal and just paddle over there! The ferry makes trips all day until 4pm, so if you want to call it quits early, no problem mon.

Bars / Restaurants 

- TAX is included in the cost of the item and should not be an additional charge at bottom or you bill.
- TIP might be included on bill, so watch out for double tipping!  For example at Le Moulin Fou
- Look out for Happy Hour deals.
- Often you can ask the Bartender for Bug spray.
-There is several "Subway" which is a good little something to pick up before heading to your beach day to save a little $.

- Local Supermarkets "Le Grand Marche" and Smaller "Chinese" Stores, such as the one in Maho at the traffic are great places to pick up food items. Like fresh French Bread and cheese. BUT be sure to check the dates, Milk and sliced bread are often stale the next day! 

Day Trips

Marigot - a nice touch of France meets the Caribbean. Get into that vibe. Sit at a coffee shop or taste a nice croissant. Do the cafe time, and hit the market for souvenirs and local produce, 

La Samanna -  work your way past the guard, say you’re there for dinner or drinks or a possible stay. This is the nicest hotel on the island and worth checking out, with an expansive private beach.

Philipsburg - lots of shops and a main street to stroll down. This is where all the cruise ships dump their passengers to shop and eat.
Restaurants & Bars..... I'd Recommend 

- Lal's Indian Cuisine "Curry in a Hurry" behind Le Grand Marche, which has plenty of parking.
- Pineapple Pete, locals have given me good reviews.
- Top Carrot - for a healthy meal or treat
- Topper's - The owner Topper is a friendly Bostonian and is often there! Food is fantastic and there are two locations, Including Topper's By The Sea which has brunch.
- There is a fancy Sunday Brunch Buffet offered up at the Westin in Oyster Bay. Perhaps a special group rate can be offered.
- Karacter is a fun Dutch beach bar worth checking out on Simpson Bay Beach. Parking is only accessible from the Simpson Bay side not Maho. On the Maho side of the beach has a new lovely French spot called Tahoma. Also worth checking out and lounging around in a fancier Miami style setting.
- Simpson Bay Yacht Club is great for drinks and boat watching,
- Rancho - Can have slow service, but some lively entertainment

Bamboo Bernies - Sushi in Maho $$$
Cheri's Cafe - is popular with tourists, as it has some live entertainment and is centrally located street-side in Maho.
Le Moulin Fou - Behind Cafe Cheri Maho
Pizza Pasta - a hidden less-expensive gem behind Le Moulin Fou
Sunset Beach Bar - is a favorite among tourist to watch planes arrive and take off. Hold on to your Hats! 
Dritwood Boat Bar - across the beach from Sunset Beach Bar, where the locals prefer to hang out and still watch the plane action and/or pretend they aren't interested. Say hi to the bartender Rosie! Drink Prices are much better than tourist traps surrounding.

Piano Bars
The Sopranos, Maho
The Red Piano, Pelican / Simpson Bay

NIGHTCLUBS (Believe it or not I have not checked out the Club scene, but here is some info)

Both Tantra and Bliss in Maho
Have Wednesday "Ladies"  Night
Ladies free, Men $5
Free Martinis and Champagne for ladies, sorry Fellas!

Tantra $2 Drinks on Fridays.

Prive Hookah and Sky Lounge seems to be pretty cool.

The island has several Strip Clubs and they are not perceived as taboo, just another stop on the Club Circuit. Women often go as well. But beware of the pricey drink cost.
It's Electric!

Dutch Sint Maarten runs on 120 Volt, 60 cycles (American outlets). French Saint Martin runs on 220 volts, 60 (!) cycles (French or European outlets).

Sit back enjoy the culture the sun and a pleasant happy hour sunset!