St. Maarten/St. Martin is a Caribbean island with a dual personality, because it is really two sovereign countries. This can make travel and passport arrangements to the island confusing for first-time travelers. The island has two names and is a part of two different island chains. St. Maarten is located in the Dutch Antilles and is under Dutch rule. The other half of the island, called St. Martin, is governed by the French, and is part of the French West Indies island chain. Travelers visiting much of this island will actually be seeing two nations.
While travelers will be visiting two countries, they can expect to hear English frequently throughout both, since it is the uniting language of the island. Be aware, however, that each country does have an official language: Dutch in St. Maarten and French in St. Martin.
To enter both countries, travelers must have a valid passport and return or continuing plane ticket. Cruise ship travelers will be barred from both countries without a valid passport. Dutch and French governments do not regularly require vaccination certificates; however, it is recommended that travelers coming from any areas experiencing an epidemic bring verification of vaccinations to avoid being barred from entry.
At this time, a visa is not required to enter either country unless travelers plan to remain on the island for longer than 90 days. If that is the case, travelers must obtain a visa from one or both countries. Requirements change, so check with each country's embassy for current visa requirements.
Customs requirements vary between St. Maarten and St. Martin. The port in St. Maarten is duty free. French customs authorities in St. Martin, however, have strict regulations on imports and exports into the French West Indies. Travelers should check with the French Embassy regarding current requirements. All American travelers should check with the U.S. Embassy on Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean for current travel warnings or travel changes in the area.
Island Departure Tax
Travelers departing from either country should expect a departure tax. On St. Maarten, departure taxes currently cost $30 for international travel and $10 for travel to St. Martin. This tax is a per-person fee for anyone older than age two. At this time, there is no departure tax on St. Martin.
For 350 years, St. Maarten/St. Martin has been an island divided. Once travelers adjust to the dual nature of the island and its governing nations, vacation travel to this destination is extraordinary. Travelers all enjoy the unique influences that each sovereign nation's culture brings to this beautiful island in the Caribbean.