Tipping: On the French side a service charge is included in the menu price or at the end of your bill as required by law. A small additional tip of 10% - 15% is appreciated for good to excellent service.
On the Dutch side in general a service charge is not included in menu prices. In some cases establishments will add 15% to the check and call it a tax….there is no tax, however, often this service fee is not given to service staff. The expectation is that the guest will add at least 15% gratuity to the check. If confused just ask the manager.

Maids and housekeepers in villas and hotels work for minimal wages and expect tips from $3 per day per guest served based on services.

Island Wear: St Martin Island is a recreational tourism island. Some places may request that you to wear a collared shirt and closed toed shoes in the evening, but for the most part, sandals, shorts and tee shirts are fine. If you are planning any special activities, don't forget to bring the appropriate clothing and footwear. In the winter months, it can get slightly cool at night (70-75 degrees) with the tropical breezes. You may want to bring a light cover up.

Languages: Dutch is the official language of St. Maarten and French is the official language or St. Martin. English is spoken by nearly everyone and Spanish is also widely spoken. Papiamento, a local language based on Spanish and Dutch is spoken on the Dutch side as well. You may also hear Italian, German, Creole, Chinese, Hindi and many others. Over 80 nationalities are represented on the friendly island of St Martin.

Currency and Banks
: Both sides of the island have numerous banks and ATM machines. Banking hours are typically Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm and Saturdays from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm. These hours vary depending on the banking institution. ATM machines are located at every bank as well as many grocery stores and shopping areas. The US dollar and US travel's checks and most major credit cards are accepted and welcomed on both sides of the island. On the Dutch side, the official currency is the Netherlands Antilles Florin (N.A.F.). One U.S. dollar equals approximately $1.80 N.A.F. On the French side, the official currency is the Euro. The Euro is currently significantly stronger than the dollar; however, the rate of exchange fluctuates daily. Most prices will be listed in the local currency on either side of the island. Many businesses on the French side will offer lower exchange rates to be competitive. Just ask before you shop or dine what exchange rate is offered.

Credit Cards: Most stores and restaurants accept Visa and MasterCard. American Express is not as readily accepted and very few places accept Discover Card. There may be a service charge associated with using a credit card at some establishments. You credit card bank may also charge you a foreign exchange fee of up to 3%. Traveler's Cheques are usually accepted like cash with identification (passport recommended).

Electricity: The Dutch side runs on 110 voltage and the French side runs on 220 volts (European). Many newer villas and hotels on the French side have 110v electricity instead of or in addition to 220v. Transformers and converters can be bought from local hardware stores on either side of the island. While most luxury villas and hotels have converters available if needed. It is always safer to bring your own.

Drinking Water and Health: The Island’s water desalination plants provide you with safe purified tap water. We recommend bottled water which is readily available and inexpensive. The island has a broad range of medical services available including emergency clinics, hospitals and pharmacies.

Driving: Foreign and International driving licenses are accepted when renting a vehicle on St Martin. Traffic is on the right with International signs. Patience and good humor are required while driving on island where locals still take time to stop and greet a friend or to drop off their delivery. Be aware of frequent stopping. It is common to use the horn or high beams (during the day) to greet another driver or to thank them for the right of way. Recently, the laws were changed to make DUI and using cell phones without a headset illegal.

Business Hours: Stores in Philipsburg are typically open 7 days a week in high season and closed on Sundays in low season. They are open from 9am to 6 pm. In Marigot, the shops are generally open from 9am to 7pm and tend to close between 1pm and 3pm. Most are closed on Sundays. Plan your activities accordingly.

Airport Information: Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) is located on the Dutch side. It is linked to 3 continents and most Caribbean islands. L'Esperance Grand Case regional Airport is located on the French side. It is for inter-island transfers.

Departure Tax: Saint Martin requires a departure tax when leaving the island. Airport departures from Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) are US $30.00 for all flights to non-Antillean destinations and US $10.00 for all Antillean destinations (Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire, and Curacao). Many airlines such as Air France, American Airlines and US Air include this tax in the ticket price. Ask when you check in to be sure. If you are departing from a ferry terminal the tax is typically US $3.00 or Euro 2.50 depending on the side of the island.

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