Area Codes – The country and area code for French St. Martin is 590/590, for Dutch St. Maarten 721.
Business Hours – On the Dutch side, most banks are open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 3:30pm. On the French side, they are usually open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 1:30pm. It’s easy to find ATMs. Store hours vary, but the French side shops generally are open 10am to 5pm (closing for lunch), while Dutch side shops often stay open continuously and as late as 11pm during high season.
Drugstores – Both sides have several pharmacies, though none are open 24 hours.
Electricity – Dutch St. Maarten uses voltage (110-volt AC, 60 cycles) with the same electrical configurations as the United States, so adapters and transformers are not necessary. However, on French St. Martin use 220-volt AC, so you’ll usually need transformers and adapters. To simplify things, many hotels on both sides of the island have installed sockets suitable for both European and North American appliances.
Embassies & Consulates – On St. Maarten/St. Martin, citizens of the U.S. are represented by its consulate at St. Anna Boulevard, Willemstad, Curaçao (tel. 599/961-3066). There is a Canadian conuslate at 16A Topaz Dr., St. Maarten (tel. 599/544-5023). Citizens of the U.K. can register with the consulate at 38 Jan Sofat in Willemstad, Curaçao (tel. 599/747-3322).
Emergencies – On the Dutch side, call the police at tel. 542-2222 or an ambulance at tel. 542-2111; to report a fire, call tel. 911 or 120. On the French side, you can reach the police by dialing tel. 17 or 87-50-10. In case of fire, dial tel. 18. For an ambulance dial tel. 15 or 29-04-04.
Etiquette & Customs – Despite the clothing-optional beaches on the island, flaunting (or any flagrant display) is frowned upon. Except at casual beach bars, men should wear some kind of shirt, women a wrap. Smart resort wear is recommended for most restaurants, especially at dinner. “Sunday dress” is appropriate when visiting churches, though ties aren’t mandatory for men. In general, profanity is frowned upon.
Holidays – National holidays are New Year’s Day, January 1; Epiphany, January 6 (French side); Carnival, early February; Good Friday and Easter Monday, usually April; Labor Day, May 1; Ascension Day, early May; Bastille Day, July 14 (French side); Schoelcher Day, July 21 (French side); Assumption Day, August 15; All Saints’ Day, November 1; Concordia Day and St. Martin Day, November 11; Christmas Day, December 25; and Boxing Day, December 26.
Hospitals/ Emergency Care – On the Dutch side, go to the St. Maarten Medical Center, Welegen Road, Cay Hill (tel. 599/543-1111, while on the French side, the local hospital is Hospital Louis-Constant Fleming, near Marigot in Concordia (tel. 590/52-25-25).
Internet Access – Cybercafes can be found in both Marigot and Philipsburg, and most hotels have a computer center and/or high-speed Internet access.
Newspapers & Magazines – In addition to several local newspapers (The Daily Herald is the leading English-language publication), visitors can pick up one of several useful tourist magazines including Discover St. Martin/St. Maarten.
Restrooms – Public facilities are few and far between other than a couple of options in Marigot, Philipsburg, and Orient Beach. Hotel lobbies and restaurants are the best options, though technically you should be a guest or customer.
Smoking – While many larger properties offer nonsmoking rooms, there are no regulations against smoking.
Taxes – For departures to international destinations from Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side, there’s a departure tax of $35 (if you’re leaving by ferry from Marigot Pier to Anguilla, the departure tax is $4). There is a 3€ ($4.50) departure tax for departures from L’Espérance Airport on the French side. Note: The departure tax is often included in the airfare. On the Dutch side, a government tax of between 5% and 8%, depending on the category of hotel you stay in, is added to hotel bills. On the French side, hotels must levy a taxe de séjour (hotel tax); this differs from hotel to hotel, depending on its classification, but is often 5% a day. In addition to these taxes, most hotels add a (mandatory) service charge of around 10% to 15% to your hotel bill.
Telephones – To call St. Maarten/St. Martin:
1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S.; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia.
2. Dial the country code 721 for St. Maarten and 590 for St. Martin.
3. Dial the city code 590 (a second time) and then the six-digit number on St. Martin. The St. Maarten city code is 54, then dial the five-digit number.
4. To call the French side from the Dutch side and vice versa is an expensive international “long distance” call, going through Byzantine routing to Europe and back. From the French to Dutch side, dial 00, then 721, 54 and the five-digit number. From the Dutch to the French side, dial 00, then 590590 (590690 for cell phones) and the six-digit number.
To make international calls: From St. Maarten/St. Martin, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next dial the area code and number. For example, if you wanted to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial 00-1-202-588-7800.
On the Dutch side there are facilities for overseas calls, but from the French side you cannot make collect calls to the States and there are no coin-operated phones. At the Marigot post office you can purchase a Telecarte, giving you 40 units. A typical 5-minute call to the States takes up to 120 units. There are two public phones at the Marigot tourist office from which it’s possible to make credit card calls. There are six public phones at the post office.
For directory assistance: Dial 150 if you’re looking for a number inside St. Maarten/St. Martin, and dial 0 for numbers to all other countries.
For operator assistance: If you need operator assistance in making a call, dial 0 if you’re trying to make an international call and a number within St. Maarten/St. Martin.
Toll-free numbers: There are no toll-free numbers on St. Maarten/St. Martin and calling a 1-800 number in the States from them is not toll-free. In fact, it costs almost the same as an overseas call.
Time Zone – St. Maarten/St. Martin operate on Atlantic Standard Time year-round. Thus in winter, if it’s 6pm in Philipsburg, it’s 5pm in New York. During daylight saving time in the United States, the islands and the U.S. East Coast are on the same time.
Tipping – Porters and bellmen expect $1 per bag. Taxi drivers should receive 10% of the fare, more if they offer touring or other suggestions.
Water – The water on St. Maarten/St. Martin is safe to drink. In fact, most hotels serve desalinated water.