St Maarten travel guide
About St Maarten
Sun-lovers, water babies, sailors and divers alike will find St Maarten an alluring Caribbean getaway. This popular destination in the former Netherlands Antilles is lined with delicious coastline, on which to frolic, bake, or get active.
The most prominent physical feature in St Maarten is Mount Flagstaff, an extinct volcano, but the most important for visitors is the excellent beach that follows the south and west coasts; beach activities and shopping at duty-free centres firmly satisfy most tourists.
St Maarten is also popular with sailing enthusiasts and divers. The excellent diving conditions feature striking coral reefs located close to the shore. One of the most popular dive sites is the wreck of HMS Proselyte, a British man-of-war which sank in 1801. Body boarding is increasingly popular way of enjoying the gleaming waters and getting refreshed in the pouring sunshine.
34 sq km (13 sq miles).
39,538 (UN estimate 2016).
1,092 per sq km.
Kingdom of the Netherlands.
King Willem-Alexander since 2013, represented locally by Governor Eugene Holiday since 2010.
Prime Minister William Marlin since 2015.
110 volts AC, 60Hz. (Note that St Martin, the French side of the island, uses 220 volts). American-style plugs with two flat pins (and sometimes a third grounding pin) are used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Most visits to the Dutch Caribbean are trouble-free. However, petty theft and street crime occur. There is violent crime amongst members of the illegal drugs world, but this rarely affects tourists. The main tourist areas are generally safe, but you should take sensible precautions. Avoid remote areas at night. Do not take valuables to the beach. Make sure purses and handbags are closed and not easy to snatch.
The islands of the Dutch Caribbean continue to be used to smuggle illegal drugs from South America to Europe and North America. You should have a heightened sense of awareness of this problem and never leave bags unattended. Under no circumstances should you discuss or agree to carry a package for anyone. Some airports have installed “body scanners” and you may be required to have a scan. Dutch authorities generally screen all baggage and passengers from the Dutch Caribbean.
When taking a taxi, always check that it is a registered one and negotiate the price before taking the ride. Most taxis do not have meters.
Traffic drives on the right-hand side. Main road conditions are relatively good, but roads can become slippery when wet.
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
St Maarten is an autonomous country within Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with Aruba and Curacao. It has a separate government, and currently shares a central bank with Curacao. The island lies about 100 miles east of Puerto Rico. St Maarten is the Dutch side of an island that is half French (St Martin).
English is the dominant language in St. Maarten although Dutch, Papiamento, and Spanish are also spoken. The Creole language, Papiamento, is a mixture of Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, English and French.