Tuesday, May 24, 2005

10 Tips for Saving Money

Some people claim, St. Maarten is expensive, even more St. Martin. Yes, and no! Compared to, let's say, Antigua, Turks and Caicos, or the Bermudas, this island has very moderate prices. Yes, it is more expensive than typical main land destinations, or the USA. There are still plenty of opportunities to stay within a budget. Here ten tips for reducing your expenses:

Money Savers
  1. Go local. Instead of calling a taxi, use a mini bus or "jitney". Just wait and wave at the road side. Typical fares are $ 1.00/person. Plan your trip, get a map!
  2. Buy at Cost-U-Less* in the Dutch part, when you require bigger quantities. Good choice of wine, US food, ... It's a Sams Club type of outlet, no membership required.
  3. Fill gas at CADISCO* at $ 0.72 a liter, approx. $ 2.60 a gallon. There are two stations, one next to Orient Bay, one at Marigot in direction to Nettle Bay. It's about 10 - 20 cents cheaper than at other gas stations.
  4. If you smoke, a carton of Marlboro is as low as $ 9.00 in Philipsburg at Tobacco Plaza*, side street, off Front Street 23 at Touch of Gems. If it has to be the US-version, PRIME Cash & Carry or Cost-U-Less has them for $11.00 - $12.00 a carton.
  5. Internet access at no cost? If you have a notebook with a WiFi card, try public access at the Philipsburg boardwalk area. For a limited time, the provider Smitcoms* provides free service (see the blog of Jan. 17 on this subject) during the trial period.
  6. Can you say 'No' to a sales person? If so, get one of the timeshare promotion vouchers for a reduced rental car rate, or a free meal,and free drinks, often a value of $ 100. The flipside: You got to listen to the sales pitch for buying a timeshare slice. The vouchers are available at various locations, car rentals, along the road, on websites, who offer you freebies with the little string attached!
  7. You need to load your cooler? Shop at Carma Importers* at Cole Bay, and get inexpensive beer and water, or see Netco*, same area, next to PDG (everybody know them), and buy a case of beer (24) for roughly $ 15.00.
  8. Gamble with other people's bucks! Some of the casinos, e.g. Atlantis* , attract people by giving them chips for $ 10, when registering at the courtesy desk. No obligations, just use them as your start capital!
  9. Prepaid mobile phone cards for US phones are best to buy at ECC*, 13 Richardson Street, Philipsburg. It saves you expensive roaming, if you get it working at all. Their cards start at $ 10 only and per minute charges of 29 cents to the USA! More info here under mobile phone.
  10. Departure day has come, you are early at the airport, check in is done, what to do? don't pay the high airport snack bar prices. Go right, like going back to Philipsburg, after 200 yards on the lagoon side, you find 'Turtle Pier'*. This little oasis, right at the water, is a great dining and drinking place. Save and enjoy!

* All quoted companies are unrelated to me, and I don't get commission, or whatsoever!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Maximize Your Vacation - Safe Time

You finally got your week off, you head for St. Maarten, and you may end up waiting at banks, supermarket cashier lanes, rental car agents, ... Not exactly, what you were planning for, right?

Here 4 tips to save precious time

  • The airport in St. Maarten has no rental car park located directly at the airport. Courtesy vans take you somewhere. The next rental agent in walking distance, less than 100 yds. from the exit gate, is Best Deal car rental with its car park right there.
  • When heading to the French side, let's say Orient Beach, don't take the road through Marigot. Traffic jams are very common. Take the road through Dutch quarter, French quarter, and this brings you faster to the Orient beach area. Maps are here.
  • Still sending postcards to friends? Nice! Post offices can be a nightmare, queues everywhere. When using the French postal system, go to the Marigot office, and look for the stamp vending machine. It works - most times. 75 Euro cents for the USA. The Dutch post office is best to see between 1:00 - 2:00 pm, and less queues than the French office in any case.
  • Keen on communicating with many different hotels, villa owners, boat operators, and the like for your trip planning? There are plenty of agencies, who assist you without extra cost, often even get you a better deal. For activities, you may stop by at Oyster Pond, next to Captain Olivers, or at various hotels, and on Front Street. On vacation rentals, click here for more.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Nautical Experience in Marigot

This weekend in Marigot, they had a kind of boat show, a little local fair of those enterprises involved in watersports, from dive operators to yacht charter companies, and those who do a little tail riding including the French police (Gendarmerie), who had a display and tried to hire recruits. The most appreciated fun were the various free rides, either on jet skis, on floats in the marina area of Marigot

or on stylish sailing boats.

Marigot has its own distinct flavor, somewhat like a French seaside town at the Mediterrean coast, and still very Caribbean. There is sometimes a negative attitude of US travelers towards Marigot, which is hard to understand. Language? No, this can't be the case. It happened a few times during my today's visit that I addressed people in French, and they asked me, whether I could speak English. They come from everywhere, and the French could even be a minority. Is it the lower level of commercilisation? Even better! Strongly recommended for your next trip!

Friday, May 20, 2005

American had been the Fastest!

The French police proudly use their new radar equipment, and ... the winner is an American citizen with 117 km/h (approx. 73 miles) on the road! Not bad, as we always thought the locals would be the fastest. Or did they spare the locals, when speed controls were applied? Or did the locals know, where and when the gendarmes are out to measure ?

Fake photo - not taken here.

So, don't assume that the new and only professionally asphalted road on the island, the one from the Dutch/French border towards Bellevue/Marigot is thought to be a speedway. The permitted 90 km/h (approx. 55 miles) are already on the high side considering the driving style and vehicle conditions. If you like to share driving experience 'the Caribbean way' and need a vehicle, see here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hotel or What ?

This island is full of surprises. Sometimes scary, more often funny. In Marigot, the main "capital" of the French side, we found a small hotel, which coexists in a kind of interesting neighborhood. May be, not the way guests intended to peacefully rest.

Don't enter the wrong door!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Popularity of Dawn Beach

The Southern part of Dawn Beach, where the Scavenger beach bar is located, has an excellent reputation as the best beach with a beach bar in the Caribbean, according to a recent issue of Caribbean Travel & Life Magazine. This didn't go unnoticed for tourism managers! Some new development is planned, which will replace the ruins of the hotel blown off by a hurricane 10 years ago.

Scavenger Bar as of 2005

Dawn Beach is also a good spot for snorkeling. Due to its picturesque Caribbean flair, it is a popular spot for beach weddings. May be, some relationships started there under palm trees.

At Dawn Beach In front of Scavenger Bar

Those travelers, who prefer privacy and non standardized accommodation, have plenty of choices on in the Dawn Beach area. A large number of fine villas and condos are on the market, and many times, they are even the less expensive solution. See here for a fine property at Dawn Beach.