CapitalMargiot (French side) and Philipsburg (Dutch side) AirportJuliana (in Dutch St Maarten) Size20 sq miles (French part) and 17 sq miles (Dutch part) CurrencyUS$ (£1=$1.6) and Euros (£1=1.24 Euros) Population35,000 on French side; 38,000 on Dutch side Average temperatureabout 27 degrees Centigrade. July through October sees heat, humidity and, often, hurricanes; the best times to visit St-Martin are November to early December and May to June.
Gourmet restaurants on the French-side, particularly in Grand Case and Marigot Bay; Creole cuisine in beach shacks and local cafes; zouk music, a kind of Creole music unique to the French Caribbean; Carnival at the beginning of Lent (taking place over Easter on the Dutch side); 40-plus beaches; fantastic beach bars, particularly on Friar’s Bay, with great full-moon parties; local speciality of sticky ribs and a beachside lolo shack; catamaran trips to smaller satellite islands such as Ilet Pinel, Tintamarre or Prickly Pear all the way out near Anguilla; Sunset Beach Bar on Maho beach at the end of the airport runway, not for the faint-hearted (bikini contests a regular feature), but a real St Maarten’s institution; the Oyster Pond, a quiet half-French, half-Dutch harbour in the east of the island; historic towns of Philipsburg (Dutch side capital) and Margiot (French side); diving Wreck Alley, including a 200-year old British frigate.
Although the island is divided into two separate land claims, there are no official borders, so you can travel to both parts quite freely. Buses are by far the cheapest method of transportation, but with no set schedules, it’s a bit hit and miss. Few official bus stops, so you need to flag them down. Ttaxis are good for short distances, hire cars better if you want to explore the island further. You can also take trips by boat and plane from St Martin to the nearby islands of Anguilla, St Barts, Saba and Statia.
Access to St Martins is via Paris with Air France, with a flight time of about 9 hours. St Martins can also be reached via Antigua, flying on with LIAT (about 35 minutes). Flying time London to Antigua is approximately 8 hours. British Airways and Virgin have direct flights to Antigua. BMI flies from Manchester.
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Find out more about the Caribbean
Antigua and Barbados are the main international gateways from the UK but flights from the UK also serve Grenada, St Lucia, Tobago, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Nassau, Grand Cayman and San Juan. CurrencyVarious, including the East Caribbean Dollar (£1 = $4.34), the Euro (£1 = Euro 1.17) on Guadeloupe, with US Dollars (£1 = $1.61) almost universally accepted throughout SizeSome 7,000 islands, reefs and cays stretching 2,500 miles from Venezuela to Cuba Population36 million Average temperatureAlmost constant 27 degrees
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