Whether you stay on Dutch Sint Maarten, French St. Martin, or go between the two, travelers to the island should research the costs of staying, eating, and playing while there. Beaches, resorts, fine dining, and shopping provide vacationers with plenty of opportunity to spend their money.
To avoid getting into trouble with the shopping and dining options, travelers should research, plan, and organize their budget prior to leaving for St. Martin and Sint Maarten. The extra time spent planning a budget can save you from the anxiety and worry of getting into monetary trouble while on vacation. In addition, assessing your essential costs of accommodation, transportation, dining, and taxes, will help you to realistically assess the money you will be able to reserve for duty free shopping and other recreation and amenities, such as watersports and tours.
Hotels and resorts in St. Martin and Sint Maarten range from intimate inns to complex like all-inclusive resorts that offer a full range of services and amenities to their guests. Those looking for a quiet experience in a secluded part of the island will opt for one of the small inns while those looking for a pampered experience will opt for an all-inclusive resort. In either scenario, the general price of accommodation will be contingent upon the services and amenities offered, the type and location of the hotel you are staying in, and the time of year during which you will be staying.
Those who will be vacationing in St. Martin and Sint Maarten during the Caribbean high season of mid December to mid April will need to book their hotel reservations months in advance, as this is the time when the greatest number of tourists are drawn to the region. The increased demand of the swarms of crowds will mean a significant increase in prices on all sorts of services throughout the island, including accommodations. The finest all-inclusive resorts on the island can set travelers back anywhere from $350(USD) to over $1000(USD) a night. The price at more expensive hotels can range from $250(USD) to $850(USD) while the prices at smaller inns will run from $80(USD) to $190(USD). Rental properties on the island can start at $100(USD) and go to $300(USD). Prices during the off season are slashed 20 percent to 50 percent, and this may be a good time to experience some of the finer resorts at a reduced price.
The inflated price of lodging at all-inclusive resorts may put some travelers off, but travelers should always consider the full list of what is included with the room rate at your place of lodging. All-inclusive resorts are designed to allow guests to have nearly their entire vacation experience within their complexes and room rates will generally include meal plans and activities. Guests will have access to health and fitness centers, watersports equipment, tennis courts, spas, bars, clubs, and casinos. Make sure to get a full list of what is included in your room rate when researching any hotel or resort. While the price of a room at another hotel or inn might be cheaper, it may also be all that you get.
The final cost to consider when thinking of your accommodations is service charges and tipping. Most hotels have a service charge of 10 percent to 15 percent. Travelers should again check to see what is included in their room rate. Porters and bellhops should receive about $1(USD) a bag and cleaning service staff should get up to $5(USD) a night.
An expense that can add up just as quickly as your lodging is dining. Luckily, for vacationers who do not have meal plans at their all-inclusive resorts, or for those who simply want a taste of island cuisine, there are a spectrum of offerings and prices. Visitors who opt for fast food or a bite at one of the lolo shacks along the beach can eat for under $10(USD). Moderately priced restaurants will serve varied fare at prices ranging from $10(USD) to $26(USD) to even $35(USD), while the elegant and refined French and Italian fine dining establishments will have prices that range above $35(USD) a person. Waitstaff in St. Martin and Sint Maarten should be left 15 percent. More can be given for attentive and helpful service.
For those who will not be staying at one of the all-inclusive resorts, transportation around the island will be an issue. Rental cars will range from $30(USD) to $50(USD) a day but the cost of collision damage insurance (which can be $9(USD) to $14(USD) ), gasoline, and other extras will drive this daily cost upward. Scooters can be an economical and mobile way of getting around the island for those traveling alone or with one other person, and start at around $23(USD) a day. Bikes can be rented for $18(USD) a day.
Those doing limited touring should consider taxis and buses as a cost efficient means of transportation. Taxi rates vary, and drivers are generally tipped 15 percent, plus a dollar for each bag. Rates increase significantly in late evening and early morning hours. Bus fares run from $1.50(USD) to $3.00(USD).
Prices for watersports and recreational activities vary, but expect to pay $40(USD) to $50(USD) for bike tours, $90(USD) for a double scuba dive, to $50(USD) for a kayak. Tours, souvenirs, drinks, and museum fees will also drive up your daily spending.
Shopping is a large reason, apart from the captivating beaches, many visitors choose St. Martin and Sint Maarten over other destinations in the Caribbean. St. Martin and Sint Maarten are both completely duty free ports, meaning that shopping throughout the island is without hefty government taxes. This usually results in a saving of anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent on designer items in jewelry, electronics, cosmetics, clothing, cigars, and alcohol. Local woodwork, jewelry, artwork, and liquor are also widely available on the island.
Travelers coming back to the United States from any Caribbean Basin Initiative country have an allowance of $800(USD) which can include up to 200 cigarettes, 100 non-Cuban cigars, and two liters of alcohol, as long as one liter is produced in a Caribbean Basin Initiative Country.
Departure tax for leaving Princess Juliana International Airport is $30(USD) for international destinations and $10(USD) for destinations in the former Netherlands Antilles. Departure taxes on ferries can run from $2(USD) to $4(USD) depending on the destination. Taxes at hotels (not including service charges) will generally be about 5 percent.
With shopping being such an attractive option for travelers to the island, vacationers should plan their budget carefully to give themselves the vacation experience that they desire while still giving themselves of money to spend on shopping. After all, in St. Martin and Sint Maarten, you have to spend money to save money.
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