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Saint Martin is an overseas collectivity of France on half of the island of the same name in the Caribbean. The island is popular among tourists, especially French, which can be explained by the availability of direct flights from France. The other part of the Island is part of the Netherlands Antilles, and called Sint Maarten.
At Columbus's time, St. Martin was populated, if populated at all, by Carib amerindians. The former Arawaks had been chased by the Caribs coming from the North coast of South America a short time before the arrival of the Spaniards who followed in Columbus' wake.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus embarked on his second voyage to the New World. According to legend, Columbus sighted and perhaps anchored at the island of Saint Martin on November 11, 1493, the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours. In his honor, Columbus named the island San Martin.
The Caribs' territory was not completely conquered until the mid-17th century when most of them perished in the struggle between the French, English, Dutch, Danes and Spanish for control of the West Indies. The Dutch first began to ply the island's ponds for salt in the 1620s. Despite the Dutch presence on the island, the Spaniards recaptured St. Martin in 1633 and, one year later, built a fort (now Ft. Amsterdam) and another artillery battery at Pointe Blanche to assert their claim and control access to Great bay salt pond. On March 23, 1648, France and the Dutch Republic agreed to divide the island between their two nations, so they signed the Treaty of Concordia.
In 1994, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France signed the Franco-Dutch treaty on Saint Martin border controls, which allows for joint Franco-Dutch border controls on so-called "risk flights". After some delay, the treaty was ratified in November 2006 in the Netherlands, and subsequently entered into force on 1 August 2007.
The French overseas collectivity of Saint Martin occupies the northern half of the island which is called Saint Martin itself as well. The southern half, Sint Maarten, is part of the Netherlands Antilles. It became an overseas collectivity on 15 July 2007, encompassing the northern parts of Saint Martin island and neighbouring islets, the largest of which is Île Tintamarre. It is separated from the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla by the Anguilla Channel. The collectivity covers about 53 square kilometres and has about 37,000 inhabitants.
Ilet Pinel is completely undeveloped and falls under the the national forest system. It is on of the most visited offshore islands of Saint Martin and mainly daytrippers come here, because there are no opportunities to spend more time here. Ilet Pinel offers perfect snorkelling and swimming at its beautiful white sand beaches as well as a choice of places for lunch.
Fort Louis is sometimes also called Fort de Marigot. It was was built in 1789 to protect warehouses of Marigot from the frequent raids by British privateers based on nearby Anguilla. Unfortunately, nowadays not much remains of Fort Louis other than some partially intact stone walls and a couple of cannons. Still, the hilltop location offers a fine view of Marigot and Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Grand Case and the Baie de Grand Case are known mainly for its great food and that's what almost all is about if you visit this nice area. Still, apart from eating, there are also art galleries here and of course there is a beach. As it is the gourmet capital of St Martin and this village offers dozens of choices, lined up along the beach front road.
This festival takes place on July 21 every year and sees families come together to commemorate the abolition of slavery. Slavery was officially abolished in 1833, and events prior to and since have had a huge effect on the history and cultural make-up of this Caribbean society.
Also known as Martinmas, this festival celebrates St Martin of Tours and is a traditional time for feasting celebrations. St Martin Island was named so by Christopher Columbus because he spotted the country on this saint’s feast day in 1493. The festival is celebrated on November 11 and is a public holiday so most stores close.
This is another major racing event on St Maarten’s sailing calendar. The boats commence the race from Simpson Bay in St Maarten, setting sail for St Barts and then on to Anguilla before returning to Margot Bay in French St Martin to cross the finish line.
Saint Martin has a hot and humid tropical climate with average temperatures of between 28 °C and 30 °C during the day, and around 23 °C at night. Most rain falls between June and October with a chance of hurricanes from August onwards. The drier (and slightly cooler) December to April period is the best time to visit, weather-wise. However, prices rise sharply during this period. Nevertheless, the months of November and May still have good weather so budget-wise these months are good options as well.
Only a few airlines have regional flights to and from Saint Martin as all big airplanes arrive and depart in the Dutch part, Sint Maarten. The airlines that do fly to Saint Martin's L'Espérance Airport (SFG) in Grand Case are Air Antilles to and from Guadeloupe, Air Caraibes to and from Guadeloupe and Martinique and St Barth Commuter to and from Saint Barthélemy.
Saint Martin - Anguilla vv
In season, ferries operated by the Anguilla Ferry System run between the islands of Anguilla and Saint Martin. They leave daily between 7am and 7pm roughly every 20 minutes between Blowing Point (Anguilla) and Marigot on the French part of St. Maarten/St. Martin.
Saint Martin - Saint Barthélemy vv
There are possibilities to go by ferry from Saint Martin to Saint Barthélemy. The MV Voyager travels two times daily between Marigot to Gustavia, except on Wednesdays and Sundays, when it leaves from Oyster Pond on Sint Maarten (Dutch part of the island). It takes about 75 minutes from Marigot, 45 minutes from Oyster Pond.
Renting a car is the best way to cover a lot of Saint Martin (and Sint Maarten) and offers maximum flexibility. It also saves you a lot on taxi rides, which can add up. A national driver's licence is valid here as well and minimum age usually is 21 or 23, but sometimes 26. Driving is on the right. There are many agencies, both on the airport of Espérance and Juliana Airport on the Dutch side, and in low season you can find one for 30 USD a day.
Bus services run from Marigot to Grand Case and Orleans and there are taxis from Espérance Airport to Marigot and other places on the islands. Private minibuses also ply the major routes and you can flag a bus down anywhere.
Visa requirements are the same as for France, although the Schengen Visa is not valid.
See also Money Matters
As an overseas collectivity of France, Saint Martin has adopted the Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) as its official currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Some countries in the Eurozone have law which requires cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
Dutch and French are the official languages on their respective sides of the island. English is an official language of the Dutch side as well and is widely spoken on both sides, especially in tourist areas. Children on both sides of the island are educated in French, Dutch, English and Spanish so language is typically not a barrier when visiting the island.
The island has some 300 restaurants with a wide variety of offerings available to both tourists and locals. Tuesday evenings in Grand Case are not to be missed. The main street dons carnival atmosphere and opens up to street vendors. The excellent local restaurants are open 'till late. Restaurant L'Auberge Gourmande is one of the region's culinary highlights with exceptional French dining.
The French cuisine and local creole fare is an exciting experience to most, but if you are apprehensive about trying new things, there are other restaurants. The island has restaurants that are American, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, vegetarian and more.
If you are not feeling adventurous, the Dutch Side has several American fast food franchises including McDonalds(2), Burger King(2), Subway(5), Pizza Hut(3), Dominoes(6), KFC(4) and Bubble Tea(4).
If you want to save some cash, eat where the locals eat on the cheap, both the French and Dutch sides of the island feature many Chinese restaurants, but the Dutch Side is the hands down winner with over 40 of them. In addition to the regular far eastern fare, these inexpensive eateries feature many local dishes, and "Caribbeanized" (no,that's not really a word, but you catch my drift) Chinese food.
Want to try something really different, stop at one the roadside food trucks for some take-away, one of these trucks located in Phillipsburg serves some of the best Suriname food on the island. Try the Chicken Sate with Bami or go light with a Soato Soup.
Enjoy Lunch, swim on a beautiful Beach and watch the Airplanes land at Tortuga at Maho.
St. Martin's hotel rooms, almost without exception, rent for US$100+ per night and often much more, and generous taxes and service charges are then also applied. High season is from December through April. Accommodations are considerably less the rest of the year. If you are doing last minute travel when you call ahead ask for the "local rate" rather than what you will normally get which is the "walk-in rate", it can save you a considerable amount of money in some situations.
|Anse des Sables Residence||Route de Sandy Ground 1 Marigot||Apartment||-|
|Case a Ti Case||27 Res Pinel Est 97150||Apartment||-|
|Le Royale Louisiana||Rue du Général-de-Gaulle Marigot||Apartment||-|
|Nettle Bay Beach Club||St. Martin 97150||Apartment||-|
|Pavillon Beach Residence||Route de Grand-Case Grand-Case||Apartment||-|
|Villa Lonvilliers||Hauts de lAnse Marcel Anse Marcel||Apartment||-|
As of October 2009 the drinking age in town is sixteen, but in tourist areas they are not so strict about it. St. Martin's nightlife consists of many bars, nightclubs and casinos where drinking is prevalent. Start out with a happy hour at "Bamboo Bernies" where drinking is free for a half an hour and continues until seven with the highest drink price of a dollar! Many of the clubs have ladies' nights as well as other nightly drink specials. The Dutch side of the island has more night clubs than the French, so if you're up for the party scene, this side is the one where you should stay.
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Saint Martin. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Saint Martin) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Saint Martin. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Though the island is generally a safe place, like everywhere else in the world there is crime, and you should be aware of your surroundings at all times. Obviously you should lock your doors, avoid unpopulated areas and do not flash your money and jewelry around. Remember that this is a foreign country, and act accordingly. Tourists report many instances of parked rental cars being rifled. Organized teams can break in effortlessly. Best advice: Leave nothing of value in them at any time.
See also International Telephone Calls
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