Saint Martin, Sint Maarten… surely they are all different ways of referring to the same place? Well yes, in theory this is the case, since there is indeed an island called Saint Martin that you will find in the Caribbean. However with that said, this article is focusing only on the southern half of that island. This is called Sint Maarten as it is referred to in Dutch, since it was once under Dutch rule. The island uses the Netherlands Antilles guilder and we will find out more about that here.
In the Dutch part of the island, Sint Maarten, the Netherlands Antillean guilder is used – in theory. Now before we go deeper into the reason why we’ve put ‘in theory’, let’s just focus on the coins and notes available here. you can use the 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cent coins, along with guilder coins worth one, two and a half and five guilders. The notes are in five, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 250 guilder note values. The guilder coins are usually referred to as florins, and indeed you will see an F before the amount when it is written down.
Now while this is in theory the currency of the Dutch part of the island, you will actually be far more likely to see the US dollar in use there. You probably won’t see any guilders at all during your stay. This is actually good news for you because you won’t have to worry about trying to get hold of that currency. Instead you can get hold of the US dollar, which as you can imagine will be rather easier for you.
Sint Maarten opts for the Netherlands Antillean guilder as it was originally part of the Netherlands Antilles islands. Sint Maarten now has autonomy but is still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
If you decide you will visit Sint Maarten, you need to get the US dollar. This might seem odd since the US dollar isn’t the official currency used here. It is however popular with tourists and you shouldn’t have much trouble getting it accepted anywhere. Even if you do end up swapping it for some guilders, which is unlikely, you will still be better off starting out with some US dollars in your pocket to use while you are there.
There are several banks available across Sint Maarten and they are more common in the more popular areas of the island. If you go off the beaten track you are unlikely to find them available. You can pay with credit cards while on holiday in Sint Maarten but don’t assume this will be the case everywhere you go. Indeed, you might find smaller places won’t take cards, so pack a few dollars in your pocket just in case.
You can do this online by looking for the ISO code for this currency to speed up your search. It is ANG. However let’s not forget you will probably actually be using the US dollar for much – if not all – if your time on the island. So with this in mind you should also look up the current exchange rate for the US dollar against your own currency. This is easy to do since the US dollar is one of the major world currencies and will be at or near the top of many of the main currencies included on these converters. Although you will get a lesser deal by exchanging your currency through the bureaux de change you have to choose from, it still gives you a starting point and a general idea.
If you are eager to learn more about Sint Maarten and what to expect there in terms of travel advice, there is a page set up for this very purpose on the UK government website. This can be located at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/st-maarten/safety-and-security.
On the whole this is a pretty safe island to visit on holiday. There are some basic rules you should bear in mind when you visit though, in order to make sure you are always safe and not in any danger. Crime does occur here although it rarely involves tourists. The biggest danger is possibly in the case of petty crime, which can happen and tends to involve people choosing easy targets. Thus, if you make sure you take some sensible and very basic precautions you shouldn’t have any problems.
Make sure you never take valuables onto the beach with you, and anything you do have with you should be kept safe and out of sight. People often find their bags are dipped into by pickpockets when these bags are open; by zipping them or closing them in some other way this is far less likely to happen. If you can stay in accommodation that offers a safe that is bolted down, you can make good use of this as well.
Sint Maarten is the southern part of the island mass known as Saint Martin. The capital of the country is a place known as Philipsburg. This is a very attractive place as it benefits from a unique position. It is situated on a strip of land with water on either side of it. The Great Salt Pond is on one side and the other has the equally-attractive Great Bay to enjoy, together with its beautiful beach. It is no wonder many people choose this as their place to stay for the duration of their trip. Look out for the Sint Maarten Museum while you are in town, as this has plenty of information on the lively history behind the island. There is also a national heritage foundation in the town that provides even more information on its history.
One of the more unusual aspects of Sint Maarten is the location of the airport, known as Princess Juliana International Airport. While this is not particularly unusual in itself, its runway is rather on the short side. This means planes have to approach very low and get ready to clear the fence – literally – at the end of the runway, touching down just as soon as they are able to afterwards. This in itself is not particularly thrilling, but there is a road the other side of the fence and beyond that is Maho Beach. People on the beach regularly watch the planes coming in towards them, clearing their heads by an alarmingly-small margin! The jet blast is potentially dangerous but it doesn’t seem to stop people enjoying the experience.
Another major attraction isn’t actually that far from the capital Philipsburg. This is Fort Amsterdam, which is right at the end of a piece of land jutting out into the sea – an appropriate place for such a fort to be built. Little Bay sits on the western side while Great Bay is on the eastern side. This historic fort dates back to the early-mid 1600s, and while it is not that big and has seen better days, it is quite a dramatic place to see. You can let your imagination run wild and imagine the days when the Spanish captured it as their own. A few cannons dating back to the 1800s are still in situ as well.
As you might expect of an island like Sint Maarten, you can indulge in plenty of different water sports here too. There are various places around the island where this is possible. The most laid-back of these is a stint snorkelling out from whatever beach you find yourself at. On the other hand you can try water skiing or kite surfing, or go scuba diving to see what life exists beneath the waves.
Finally why not pay a visit to the Sint Maarten Zoo? This is a popular location for families to visit but it is great for everyone to see. There are all kinds of mammals and reptiles to be seen here, along with all manner of different birds. Watch out for ocelots and monkeys among others, and see if you can spot the macaws.
For many people Sint Maarten provides the ultimate array of great activities and things to see and do that you could want from a Caribbean island. With the chance to enjoy a laid-back and relaxed holiday, or the opportunity to go the other way and enjoy an active holiday filled with things to do, you get it all. Sint Maarten can delight everyone in equal measure, from children to adults. All you have to decide is the kind of holiday you want – and book it here to enjoy.