Both are correct. St. Maarten is the Dutch side of the island and St. Martin is the French side of the island. If you are reading various newsgroups or bulletin boards you may also see SXM used for the island. SXM is the airport code for Princess Juliana Airport and is commonly used on BB's and newsgroups as an overall abreviation for St. Maarten/St. Martin.
What voltage of electricy is used on the island?
The Dutch side uses 110 volts while the French side uses 220 volts. Although the French side uses 220 volts it is not uncommon for there to be a shaver recepticle in the bathroom for 110 volts.
What are the entry or exit requirements when coming from the United States?
You need either a current passport or an original birth certficate (with raised seal) and a photo ID. And because of the security requirements of the airlines today, you will also need these items in your possession at check-in for the airlines. There is a $20 per person departure tax that you will need to pay prior to leaving the island.
What is the time zone on St. Maarten/St. Martin?
SXM is on Atlantic Standard year around. During the summer months when Washington, DC is on Daylight Savings Time, then you would be on the same time as SXM. During the winter months when Washington, DC would be on Eastern Standard Time, then you would be one hour earlier than SXM. For example, if it was noon in Washington, DC it would be 1:00 pm in SXM.
Which side of the road do you drive on in St. Maarten/St. Martin?
You drive on the right side of the road, same as in the United States. Also a valid US drivers licenses is all that is required to rent a car in SXM, so there is no need to obtain and international drivers license.
How far/driving time is it from the airport?
You can drive from one side of the island to the other in approx. 20 minutes depending on the traffic. Yes, SXM does have some traffic. I have listed minutes vs miles, because you are not dealing with an interstate highway in SXM. Typically you can drive from the airport to Orient Beach area in approx. 20 minutes, which is basically on the other side of the island from the airport. Some other driving times are as follows:
Airport to Maho resorts less than 5 minutes
Airport to Marigot approx. 10-15 minutes
Orient to Grand Case less than 5 minutes
Orient to Atlantis Casino approx. 25 minutes
Orient to Bobby's Marina approx. 20 minutes
Orient to Marigot approx. 10 minutes
These times do not take into account some areas of SXM where you have to get off the main road and then go up, down and around various roads/hills to get to your particular villa or resort. The above times assume that you can get from where you are staying to the main road in a short period of time.
So when is there traffic?
You will find traffic in Marigot and Philipsburg between 4 PM and 5 PM during the week. This could add 5 to 15 minutes to your drive time. You will also find traffic in Philipsburg late in the afternoon when any cruise ship is in port. Most cruise ships leave port between 5 PM and 6 PM, so you will see more traffic in the hour before they leave port because they are getting their passengers back to the ship.
What is the currency used on the island and do I need to exchange money?
The official currency on the Dutch side is the Antillean Florin/Guilder and on the French side it is the French Franc. Although these are the official currencies on each side of the island, the US Dollar and Travelers checks are accepted virtually everywhere. Also accepted at most places are MasterCard, Visa, American Express and DinnersClub International. It is common for prices to be listed in both the local currency and the US Dollar.
What is the temperature and how much does it vary during the year?
The temperature on the island will be in the range of 80-90 on a year around basis.
Is English understood on the island?
English is widely spoken on the island and it would be rare that you would have a problem communicating with anyone you should meet on the island.
What is the typical dress code on the island?
The typical dress code on the island is shorts and short-sleeve shirt for both men and women. A sun dress for women is also quite acceptable. This applies to most (not necessarily all) restaurants and casinos on the island. There is probably that restaraunt or two that prefer long pants and nice shirt for the men and dress for the women, but this writer has yet to find that restaurant. Feel free to take a nice outfit, but don't expect to need it. We have almost always taken one nice outfit for those just in case circumstances, but have yet to use them, except for the trip home. The suitcase space would be better served for your swimming suits and suntan lotion.
Where are the grocery stores?
There are several grocery stores on the island. On the Dutch side you have a couple of large grocery stores. Food Center, Food World (?) and one other. They are located on the main road going to Philipsburg and Marigot. On the French side, the largest is Match located in Marigot on the Grand Case side of Marigot. All of the smaller towns have their own small grocery store, but don't expect them to have much more of a selection than your local 7-11 type of store, but they are good in a pinch for that small item that you may need.