St Martin

By | 16th January 2018

Do you need a car in St Martin?

Do you need a car in St Martin > Should you rent a car in St Martin St Martin > St Martin ( SXM ) Do you need a car in St Martin? Is it worth hiring a car in St Martin? Should you rent a car in St Martin?

St Martin Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]

20%

  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in St Martin but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
  • Cost factors include - price of car hire (peak and off peak season), car hire extras, fuel, tolls and parking costs.
  • Quality factors include - scenic drives, road quality and upkeep, general safety and congestion levels.
  • A complete index of all 10 factors will be uploaded shortly.

Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]

€100

 #107/300

  • This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in St Martin during the quiet season.
  • You will almost always end up paying more than this figure, but any extra costs or supplementary charges are usually determined by the renter, so we cannot easily compare like with like.
  • In many cases, rental companies will offer a cheap rental and then expect you to take out expensive insurance waivers. There are always ways to avoid this!

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]

 €X

300/300

  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "why not" section for more suggestions.
  • For most featured destinations, the peak season will be during the summer, typically July and August for northern hemisphere destinations. However, peak demand might occur at different times, for example in some ski resorts or winter sun destinations etc.


Free parking score

Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 242 - of which 80 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

33%

#189/300

  • Free hotel parking is very useful to have when you are hiring a car, and it's always worth checking ahead beforehand.
  • If free hotel parking is not available, you might want to consider renting a car for a single day, rather than for your whole trip.
  • The availability (or lack of) free hotel parking can be a really important factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in St Martin, as it can be a significant extra daily cost which you won't usually be paying at home!
  • Parking costs play a very major part in our consideration of whether or not it's worth hiring a car in each destination.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

St Martin public transport quick facts

Train score

Higher scores go to the systems which don't just take you to the most amazing places, but also to the ones which are easy to use, fast, reliable and frequent. A good train system on its own is usually enough to determine that you don't need to hire a car in many destinations.

00%

  • [full notes trains]
  • Trains include all kinds of urban rail system from trams up to metro and suburban networks.
  • Trains also include mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Generally, places with a good rail network will automatically mean that you don't "need" to hire a car, but you can still might find that on balance you are better off by having one.

Water travel score

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in St Martin

70%

  • [full notes - water score]
  • The water score looks at means of transport on water - it does not consider water based activities like surfing or kayaking.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel, and also including ferries and other boat services, where they are part of the public transport network.

20%

  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in St Martin good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?
  • Even if public transport is cheap and reliable, you might still feel that you should hire a car in St Martin because it will still give you more flexibility to reach out-of-the-way places, especially in rural areas.

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around St Martin. It includes factors such as the quality of the street environment, and whether you are likely to feel safe walking or cycling, together with the availability of bicycle hire and the ease of linking walking or cycling routes with public transport.

00%

  • [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city /  country).
  • A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in St Martin, because you can see everything you need to see using a combination of your own two feet and the public transport system.

Car rental in - St Martin Need v worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in St Martin", "is it worth hiring a car in St Martin", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme. Here we break each one down according to the criteria we use for each question. This is a weighted score based on the values above. These are explained further in the text which follows - [#why] [#whynot]. Do you need a car in St Martin?

Do you need a car in St Martin?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city. For the lowest "need" score, the destination should have a combination of excellent all-round public transport, great opportunities for walking and cycling, together with poor value car hire or generally poor quality roads. 
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "do I need a car in  St Martin " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in St Martin?

Is it worth hiring a car in St Martin?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares? This question mainly looks at issues of cost and practicality.
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "is it worth hiring a car in  St Martin" will swing towards whichever option offers the lowest overall cost for a group of 2-4 people travelling together.
Should you rent a car in St Martin?

Should you rent a car in St Martin?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
  • The final "carometer" swing is much more opinion based, and it takes into account which options will give you the truly best travel experience (n our humble opinion of course). Where a destination offers an excellent score with or without a car, the swing will go towards whichever option we feel gives the most truly unforgettable experience.
  • Ultimately, it's your choice whether or not you rent a car here. We're trying to give you something that's sufficiently far enough away from a "maybe" to help you make that choice. Ultimately, people only come to us because they are uncertain, but we don't really know what each person's preferences are. Whether we say you should or you shouldn't rent a car in  St Martin, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  St Martin compares with other destinations in  St Martin or  North America.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.


What does everyone else do?

Do most people hire a car in St Martin?

This is based on our observations of (a) car rental facilities and (b) what we think most people will do here. It's not an exact figure, just an estimate of how likely people are to get hold of a rental car here.
  • his is based on the percentage of people "in the market" who we think are likely to hire a car. This includes anyone arriving on holiday here who would usually hire a car on their travels, so it doesn't include people who don't usually drive (or don't drive), people staying with friends etc.

20%

Visitors per year (million)

  • Cities with more visitors are more likely to have more complex airport car rental arrangements, and generally they will also have better public transport, but this is not always the case, especially in North America.

1

  • [full notes - do as everyone else does?]
  • You may wish to go with the flow, or you might prefer to avoid doing the most popular or obvious option. This will vary according to the range of choice available. This tends to be much higher in destinations which are closer to the middle of the car or no car scale.

Who is travelling?

Your group size and travel budget has a major impact on whether or not getting a rental car is good value compared to using public transport as your main means of getting around. Ultimately, these are all "worth" questions:

Is it worth renting a car in St Martin if I am a solo / budget traveller?

Generally, hiring a car is not good value for solo travellers for multiple reasons, especially as most of the costs of renting apply to the car, not the occupants. With public transport, the reverse is usually true! However, there are always some places where you will need a car, simply because they are almost impossible to reach using public transport.

Is it worth renting a car in St Martin for 2 people travelling together?

A rental car can be good value for couples or for friends travelling together, but since most cars come with at least four seats, it's often still better value to use public transport. However, if you prefer to keep yourselves to yourselves, then you might still want to rent.

Is it worth renting a car in St Martin for families?

Families of groups of 3-4 people travelling together will always get the best value from a rental car. However, you may also be burdened with extra costs for car seat hire, and you well also prefer to use local trains and buses, if they are quicker than getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Where are you staying?

The place you are staying, together with the sort of places you want to see, will have a large impact on whether or not you "need" to rent a car:

Do you need a car in St Martin if we are staying in the city centre / main resort area?

Most large towns or purpose built holiday resorts will have some kind of public transport, whereas parking provision will vary greatly from one place to the next. 

Do you need a car in St Martin if we are staying on the edge of the urban area?

Typically you may be staying in an apartment or hmall house on the edge of a resort or urban area. These places usually have some level of public transport, but not as much as city / resort centres.

Do you need a car in St Martin if we are staying in a rural area?

Rural proprties might include larger villas or apartments, but they can still be within a short walk of a bus stop or local railway station, and the opportunities for hiking and cycling might also be substantial, depending on the destination.

What is your attitude towards driving?

We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to St Martin, but ultimately your decision is also going to be influenced by whether or not you ususally prefer to hire a car in the first place.

Should I hire a car in St Martin if I prefer not to drive?

This is especially the case when there is only one main driver in the group, and it's based on the attitude of the driver rather than their passengers! The main driver may also simply prefer to use public transport, or they may prefer to take scenic train journeys where available.

Should we rent a car in St Martin if we are easy either way?

This is more aimed at the typical visitor who isn't that bothered about how they get around, as long as it is the most convenient / best value option.

Should I rent a car in St Martin if I prefer to drive?

For people who usually prefer the freedom and flexibility of having a hire car. Is it still best to rent a car in St Martin, or are there good reasons not to?

Tiny St Martin is one of the smallest divided islands in the world, although there are no border controls between the larger Dutch side (Sint Maarten) and the smaller French side (Saint-Martin). Technically, the usage of the Anglicised name St Martin would imply a reference to the island of the whole, and English is widely spoken throughout the island anyway.

Do you need a car in St Martin? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in St Martin?", this often breaks down to two key questions:
  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in St Martin? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?
Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in St Martin as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in St Martin?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Given the compact size of St Martin, and given that many people visiting the island are just passing through on their way to a cruise ship or between connecting flights, is there any reason to hire a car there?

Why should you rent a car in St Martin?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip? In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in St Martin?
  1. Variable public transport — if you’re just trying to get between places on the major roads, then you should be able to flag down a bus quite easily, and one should pass every few minutes, but there are no formal bus stops, therefore there aren’t any published timetables or on-street indicators.
    Instead, you just hope the bus will turn up sooner or later, and take what comes. If you want to transfer from one bus to another, you will pay again.
    In some cases, bus routes end abruptly, and you will have to walk to continue onwards — for example there is no bus between Cupecoy Bay and Mullet Beach.
  2. No French airport connection — to travel between the main Princess Juliana airport (SXM) and Phillipsburg, which is capital of the Dutch side, you should have no problem going by bus, although they run along the adjacent Airport Road, and don’t actually call at the terminal.
    However, there is no direct bus to Marigot, the capital of the French side. Instead, you will have the change in Cole Bay. Plenty of taxis are also available, and they can operate islandwide.
  3. Freedom and flexibility — a hire car will let you explore the island in your own time, at your own pace. St Martin car hire options usually include open buggies as well as more conventional cars.
  4. Getting away from it — given its compact size, St Martin is one of the most overdeveloped islands in the Caribbean, and a lot of the time, this development has not been sympathetic to the local environment, especially on the Dutch side. The buses tend to run between the developed areas, so to find a more secluded beach, a hire car can be extremely useful.
  5. No-go for cyclists — you might have thought that an island with a shared Dutch and French heritage would be able to combine the very best of Dutch cycling infrastructure and French passion for cycle touring, but alas, this is sadly not the case. In fact, just as with anywhere else in the Caribbean, there is no designated cycling infrastructure whatsoever on St Martin, and when this is combined with the generally unsympathetic attitude of local drivers, St Martin is actually a very unpleasant place in which to ride a bike.
  6. Walk at your peril — many of the roads have no pavements (sidewalks), especially if you are trying to walk between, rather than within, the built-up areas.
  7. French chic — the French side of the island is generally more sympathetically developed than the Dutch side, but it is easier to get there, and then to get around, if you have a hire car.

Why not? Visiting St Martin without a car

What is public transport like in St Martin? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in 2?
  1. Maho Beach — if there is one unique and enduring image of St Martin which sets it apart from any other Caribbean island, it is that of arriving heavy jets landing over the world famous Maho beach, situated at the western end of the runway at Princess Juliana airport. Many aviation buffs come to St Martin just to get so up close and personal with these huge metal beasts, and videos of landings are a perennial Youtube favourite. Maho Beach is a short (but not particularly pleasant) walk from the airport terminal.
  2. Accessing remote beaches — a hire car might take you closer to some beaches than a bus will, but ultimately to reach some of the more inaccessible beaches, such as Back Bay or Geneve Bay to the east of Phillipsburg, you will still need to walk the last few miles.
  3. Traffic — travelling around St Martin can mean sitting in a virtually endless queue of traffic, so you might prefer to let someone else do the driving.
  4. Walking in St Martin — St Martin has some excellent walking trails, affording stunning views of the island itself and of some of the nearby islands. Make sure you arm yourself with a good map, plenty of water, repellant and long clothes to minimise the risk of getting stung by some of the vicious wasps which inhabit these areas.
  5. Excursions by air — St Martin is an ideal base for some of the most hair -aising flights in the world.
    The most famous is the short hop over to nearby Saba, which has the shortest runway in the world for a commercial airport. The approach into Saba runs under some very dramatic cliffs, and if you get the chance to sit at the front, you will see the airport appear like a tiny postage stamp above the sea.
    Another famous approach is into St Barts, where pilots have to navigate their way past a steep hill before diving down to the runway. These islands, together with Anguilla, can be visited on a day trip from St Martin, as there are multiple flights.
    Of course, there are numerous other delightful islands which can be reached by excursion from St Martin, although you will usually have to stay at least one night, as most of these flights only operate once each day.
  6. Excursions by sea — there are three ports on the island offering departures to nearby islands — Oyster Pond and Pelican Key, which both offer boat trips to Saba and St Barts; and Marigot, which offers boat trips to St Barts and Anguilla.
  7. Easy transfers — you should have no problem transferring by bus between Juliana Airport and Phillipsburg, from where cruise ships depart.

St Martin car hire verdict

Do you need a car in St Martin? Given that St Martin is so heavily developed, it is hardly surprising that you can get around between the main communities on the island by bus, but it really isn’t a particularly easy system to get used to, especially if you’re only here for a day or two.

As most of the development is on the Dutch side, and as the island is a generally unpleasant place to get around on foot or by bike, a hire car becomes the best option by default.

Do you need a car in St Martin?

Verdict — yes

Ratings

Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Verdict

What is our final score for St Martin on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.

5


St Martin car hire notes

Do you need a car in St Martin?

  • The official currency on French St Martin is the euro, whereas Dutch St Martin uses the Netherlands Antillian Guilder, which is set to transfer to the Caribbean Guilder dollar “in the near future”.
  • In reality, the US dollar is widely used on both sides of the island, but especially on the Dutch side. Avoid paying in euros in Dutch St Martin, as you will usually be given a very poor exchange rate of 1 to 1 against the US dollar.
  • French St Martin is treated as French territory, with a status similar to that of Corsica. However, if you fly into Princess Juliana airport from Paris or any other French territory, you will still have to go through brief immigration and customs checks, as the Dutch side of St Martin is administered separately, and neither part of the island is within the Schengen zone.
  • St Martin is generally used to refer to the whole island, and it is also the French way of writing the island’s name, abbreviated from Saint Martin. The Dutch language spelling of the island is Sint Maarten. For Sint Martin car hire options, searching in English will still result in Sint Maarten car hire locations being presented, as these are all around the site of the island’s main Juliana International Airport (SXM).

Would you hire a car in St Martin?

Have you driven in St Martin? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in St Martin}? Do you need a car in St Martin? For some or all of the time? Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

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