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Living in St. Maarten – Interview With an Expat

Moving to and living in St. Maarten… What is it like?

This interview is part of the Ask an Expat series. In this series I interview people living all over the world but outside of their home country. I try to help paint an honest picture of the ups and downs of life abroad, share tips about moving to the city, town or country the expat lives in, and information about what to see and do here.

I lived on the island of Sint Maarten twice myself: in 2008 and in the winter of 2014-2015 (to enjoy a tropical Caribbean winter).

I met a lot of incredible people from a wide range of countries while I was there. And I’m happy I can share one of their stories about what life in St Maarten is like.

Living in St Maarten, Caribbean

Life in St Maarten, Caribbean

Location: St Maarten (Dutch side of the island)
Name: Debbie
Age: 27
Home town: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Her story:

Debbie first moved to St Maarten in 2013 but stayed for only two months. She continued traveling and then decided to come back to St. Maarten at the end of 2014. She is still enjoying life in St Maarten, working for a company that offers snorkeling trips on powerboats.

“I had been traveling around the world for about 7 years and when I first came to St. Maarten I didn’t plan to stay here long. But I’m enjoying the island and my job. The island became my home. Will I stay forever? I have no idea, we’ll see what happens.”

Why Did You Move to St. Maarten?

“I was living in Australia for about 3 years and got really fed up with their visa system. So I eventually decided I wanted to live somewhere where I don’t have to think about getting a visa and can just enjoy my life!”

Debbie is right, as a Dutch national it’s quite easy to legally live and work in St. Maarten.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy for most other nationalities. Check out Sintmaartengov.org for more information about working and living in St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the island.

What Do You Like About Living in St. Maarten?

“I like the fact that we spend most of our time outside.

The weather here is good most of the year allowing us to spend most of our days outside, on the beach and in the ocean.

Plus St. Maarten is a very lively island and offers a lot of good opportunities when it comes to work and enjoying life”

What Do You Dislike About Living in St. Maarten?

“I have to say: it is an island and it’s really small. Everyone knows everything about each other!

And it’s not that easy to escape the island for a bit… unless you have a lot of money to spend on expensive flights out of St. Maarten.

The cost of living in St Maarten is relatively high, compared to the average salary. So don’t move to St. Maarten if you are looking to live and work somewhere where you can easily save money.”

What Is Your Favorite Place to Eat in St. Maarten?

“Bamboo House in Simpson Bay, without a doubt!

But I have many favorites. St. Maarten has a lot of options when it comes to restaurants. But I love sushi and Bamboo does that very well!”

What Is Your Favorite Bar in St. Maarten?

“Lagoonies in the Lagoon Marina. 

It has amazing staff, a cozy atmosphere plus nice food and cheap drinks. I’m here almost every day! πŸ˜‰ ”

Is There Something You Just Have to See or Do When You Are in St. Maarten?

expats enjoying life in st. maarten
Debbie & friends enjoying life in St Maarten

“Book a boat trip!

St Maarten offers a lot of different boat trips. From a day out on a powerboat or a sailing catamaran to fun sunset cruises.

And St Maarten is a great location for other watersports as well. Think snorkeling, scuba diving, kite surfing and more.”

Also Read: Things to Do in St Maarten & St Martin

Is St Maarten Safe as a Place to Live?

Well, that’s a good question.

I don’t feel unsafe living in St Maarten. But, I wouldn’t walk around alone at night either.

There is definitely crime on the island and I know numerous people who had their homes broken into or their cars stolen.

Crime rates aren’t extremely high in St Maarten though.

So I would say, just use common sense. Yes, there is crime on the island so watch your belongings and be sensible, especially after dark. But I’d recommend that anywhere in the world.

Any Tips for Moving to / Living on the Dutch Side of St. Maarten?

“Its worth a try! It’s a fun island and you’ll definitely meet some great people.

I’m pretty easygoing myself and look at it this way: try it, and if you don’t like it, you move again!”

I love Debbie’s relaxed attitude and really I think she is right: whether it’s St Maarten or any other location you would like to move to, just book a ticket. Visit the location of your choice, speak to as many people as you can while you are there, ask them for information about how to find a job, where to live, etc. and see if you still like it enough to stay.

If you do decide you love St Maarten enough to stay, a possible accommodation is a St. Maarten timeshare. There are tons available to buy or rent via private owners. Also, if you buy one you’ll be able to visit every year for less than the cost of a hotel stay!

And if you don’t decide to stay in St Maarten, there is no shame in going home! At least you have tried something new and I guarantee you will walk away feeling you have experienced something unique!

Also Read: Why Moving Abroad is Such a Valuable Experience

About St Maarten

expat life in St Maarten

St. Maarten is an island in the northeast Caribbean, approximately 300 km (190 mi) east of Puerto Rico.

The 87-square-kilometer (34 sq mi) island is divided between France (53 km2 / 20 sq mi) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (34 km2 / 13 sq mi). The Dutch side is called Sint Maarten, the French side Saint Martin.

St. Maarten island has a tropical monsoon climate with a dry season from January to April and a rainy season from August to December.

St. Maarten’s Dutch side is known for its festive nightlife, beaches, jewelry and casinos. The island’s French side is known for its nude beaches, shopping (including outdoor markets), and French and Indian Caribbean cuisine.

Both sides are also a popular sailing destination and there are many great hotels in St Maarten & St Martin.

The official languages are French for Saint-Martin and both Dutch and English for Sint Maarten.

For more information about what to do when visiting St Maarten check out: Things to do in St Maarten & St Martin.

And if you are thinking about moving to the Caribbean but don’t know which island yet, then also read this interview about living in St. Kitts and this interview about living in Grenada.

I’ve really enjoyed living and working in St Maarten. If you are planning to move to St Maarten and have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!

Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad, and entrepreneur. I spend most of my time living and working abroad and visiting destinations all over the world. I use this website to share "the good, the bad and the ugly" of traveling and living abroad. Visit the About Me page for more info.

77 thoughts on “Living in St. Maarten – Interview With an Expat”

  1. Hi Sanne! I’m looking to move to St. Maarten in October 2022 for about 6 months. I’m from California, so I need some guidance on how to make this work, any insight would be greatly appreciated. I visited the island for 2 weeks and fell in love.
    I’m currently trying to save as much as I can in hopes that what it have will be enough to at least start off with a airbnb, while actively looking for a roommate or studio. I don’t need much space or anything nice, as i’m not moving onto the island to stay home all the time. I assume it would be easier to go to SXM first in airbnb and try to look for places to stay longterm?
    I want to work on the island, from what i understand i will need a work permit. How does this work? When the time is closer do i apply to jobs while still in United States, wait for a reply, then contact the department of labor affairs to approve a work permit? And how difficult would it be to get a job there when a work permit is granted? I assume just like everywhere else and i try apply myself as much as possible?
    As for application of temporary residency, is this something that i should apply for anyways to make things easier once i get there?

    • Hi Jessica,
      Yes, I would definitely rent something short-term and start asking around for long-term rentals as soon as you arrive in St Maarten because many long-term rentals won’t ever be listed anywhere online.
      As for jobs, I’d start looking online now and emailing any company you’d like to work for. I don’t know what type of jobs you are looking for but I’d definitely reach out to various companies and ask them if they can employ you as a US citizen and if they can give you further details about how it works to get the paperwork sorted. The first time I moved to St Maarten the company I worked for helped me sort everything out. Whatever company you end up working for, they most likely have employed foreigners before so they will be able to tell you exactly what the best ways are to work for them legally.

  2. Hello,

    I was offered a job in St. Maarten; I have yet to accept it. I’m a single Mom with 4 children ages 14,10, and 6. My parents would be moving with us to homeschool my children. What is it like for families? We’re from the US

    Thanks in advance for the info


    • Hi April,
      Good question. Since you will be homeschooling the kids you don’t have to worry about the quality of the schools (some have a bad reputation). Then the only other worry I would have is the friends your children might make on the island. If they are likely to get themselves into trouble, Sint Maarten is the perfect place for this. But if instead they are studious, eager to explore new things, then there are plenty of opportunities for them on the island to make great friends and have a lot of fun.

  3. Hello Everyone!
    I’m a single woman considering moving to Saint Martin because my job in the US is 100% remote. If I won’t need to have a work visa, is there any additional paperwork I need to fill out.

    Also, I’ve made note of the areas to live in on the Dutch side, but I’ve always stayed on the French Side (Grand Case/Orient Bay) when visiting and just drove to the Dutch side to party when I wanted to. Are there any areas on the French side you all recommend for a single woman and areas to avoid?

    • Hi Tracy,
      If you don’t stay longer than your tourist visa allows you won’t have to do anything. If you’re interested in moving to St Maarten more permanently I’d recommend just arriving on a tourist visa, spending a few months on the island and if you then decide you still want to stay long term, talk to both the French and Dutch authorities to see which side is easiest to register on.

      As for where to live on the French side, I’d say Grand Case and Orient Bay are nice and generally safe areas where you’ll find a good number of expats living. Around Oyster Pond, both on the Dutch and French side, can also be a good option, but it’s quieter there and maybe less ideal for a single person starting out on the island.

      I hope this helps!

  4. hi sanne,
    I am german and want to move to saint martin this year. I’m living in Argentina with my husband (Argentinian) and our 3 dogs. We own a coffee food truck here in Argentina and eventually would like to do that in saint martin as well.
    Since we are no professionals we are asking ourselves if it’s difficult to get a job (non-professional jobs like maintenance work, restaurants|hotels|bars etc.) on the island to be financially safe for the first months until being able to stand up our own business.
    Also we have to relocate our dogs to the island which seems to be tricky coming from South America. Do you have better information on that too?
    And last, is it possible to find a rental (nothing too big or fancy) where they accept 3 dogs??
    Thank you in advance,

    • Hi Annika,

      What a great plan! πŸ™‚
      Because you have a European passport, but not a Dutch one, I’d highly recommend looking into both the Dutch and the French side. The Dutch side makes it quite difficult for any foreigner (apart from Dutch citizens) to work legally with all the correct paperwork. The French side is run as a part of France, meaning you can legally work there without any issues. I assume it wouldn’t be too difficult for your husband either, since he is married to a European, but I’d recommend asking that once you are on the island.

      Just arrive on a tourist visa and then go to both the Dutch and the French government to find out what you need to legally work.

      Unofficially though, I’m sure that especially maintenance work can be done without or before you have all your documents sorted. Working in hospitality on the Dutch side before your paperwork is ready is more difficult, because the government does check. So again, the French side might be a better place to start…

      Here you can find some useful information about what you need to take dogs into St Maarten: https://www.sintmaartengov.org/services/Pages/Animals.aspx

      And although of course not every landlord will allow dogs, I don’t think it will be too difficult to find a rental. Having dogs is quite common on the island and I know several people who rent a house and have one or more dogs.

      Good luck, I hope you’re plan works out and you’ll enjoy living in St Maarten! πŸ™‚

  5. Going back to St Maarten now to buy some real estate in Cupecoy. This is a wealth of information here about living in St Maarten and real estate and the page should be saved! Thank you!

  6. Hi Sanne!
    My husband and I are Americans who would like to explore moving to St Martin later this year. We spent a few weeks there last summer, and we absolutely loved it. We’re very comfotable with spontaeous travel and went there on a whim, rented a home from a local on the Dutch side, rented a car, and explored as much of the island as we could. We met many local people and truly enjoyed it there.

    I am a licensed Occupational Therapist with 8 years experience working with international students in special needs NYC schools. I’ve also worked professionally as a special needs Red Cross swim instructor, and as a non-profit grant writer and editor. My husband is a professional classical singer (opera tenor), and he also has 8 years NYC architectural drafting experience. We’re hopeful we can find employment and housing. We are financial minimalists used to living on a NYC budget.

    We’re thinking we would go back to St Martin for about 10 days in April 2020 to learn more, then spend July & August 2020 there to prep for a Fall move.

    What do we need to know? Is it easier for Americans to move to Saint Martin or Sint Maarten? What should we make sure to do when we visit in April and when we visit in July /August? Do we really need work visas? What if only I find work ahead of time, can he move there anyway and work “off the books” as a singer? Thank you so, so much!! Sara

    • Hi Sara,

      Great to hear you are thinking about moving to St Maarten! πŸ™‚
      I think moving to the Dutch side is easier than the French side. Firstly because everyone speaks English on the Dutch side and secondly because there are many more Americans living there who can help guide you through the legal stuff.
      Your husband could probably find some work “off the books” but because the government does check businesses, they have gotten more and more hesitant to do that so he might not find a lot of work or where he would want.

      I would definitely use your time in April to talk to Americans to get tips from them. Things in St Maarten aren’t always as straight forward as you’d want so getting local tips is the best way to do it. Just go to any bar and you’ll end up talking to people in no time and very likely will find some Americans there who live on the island.
      Then, once you’ve gotten a better understanding of what it takes (make sure to ask critical questions to find out the downsides to living here too), I would use your time in July & August to find a place to live. It’s so much easier to find something when you are on the island than to do it online. Explore the different neighborhoods and see where you feel at home.

      I hope this helps and I hope you’ll enjoy life in St Maarten! πŸ™‚

  7. I’m considering accepting a six figure job on the island and need to know some reputable real estate companies. Do you recommend anywhere where there are a lot of expatriates or some there that is very safe? I’m a 49 year old male. Also, can I transport my guns to the island?


    • Hi John,

      I would recommend living not too far from where you work since traffic can get quite bad.
      Cupecoy is one of the more upmarket areas, but can be far depending on where you’ll work. Point Blanche is another area popular with expats living in St Maarten, so I’d recommend looking into that.
      Colebay and Simpson Bay are not upmarket but it’s where the nightlife is, so that’s a good choice if you like to socialize a lot.

      I’ve never used an estate agent and therefore can’t really recommend one. If you’ve never been to St Maarten before I’d highly recommend not signing any long term rental agreements (let alone buy something) until you’ve spent some time on St Maarten and have gotten a feel for the island.

      Regarding guns: you are not allowed to carry guns when you fly into St Maarten, that much I know. From what I found on the government website you need a license to carry a weapon, but you’ll have to contact them to find out more about if and how you can get that license and whether you could ship your guns: https://www.sintmaartengov.org/services/Pages/Weapons-and-Ammunition.aspx

  8. Hi Emily,

    If you want to move somewhere to find good jobs and save money I am not sure if I would recommend St Maarten…

    Life is more expensive than in most Latin American countries and you might get paid a little bit more, but you will be spending most of it. St Maarten is not a place people move to to save money.

    As for finding a job, if you would arrive before high season (roughly November until February) you are more likely to find a job. Your boyfriend’s skills will also be very helpful. But, since it’s legally easier for companies in St Maarten to hire Dutch people and Europeans in general in St Martin, you will be competing with them.

    So if you think you will love life on St Maarten I would say give it a try, but if it’s just for finding a job and making money… it’s a small island so your options will be so much more limited than in other places.

  9. Hi, Sanne! My bf and I are planning to travel to a country where we can work and save money. I’m a Venezuelan and know two languages: Spanish and English (Those two are basically my only skills), and he’s an Argentinian who has experience creating building designs, constructing, painting and doing other artistic works, and his English level is very basic, although he’s trying to learn. Do you think we can get a job in Saint Marteen with these skills? And how difficult would it be? Also, are there enough job opportunities there for foreigners? And is life expensive in St Maarten?

    Please, if you, or anyone, has information about work for foreigners in Argentina, let me know! Thank you!

  10. Hi Sammy,
    That’s the perfect ‘island dog’! My friends have the same: 2 dogs that wouldn’t hurt a fly but just because of their size and looks they have been great guard dogs.

    I think it’s great that you will be visiting St Maarten before you decide to move there. I know real estate is often said to be an easy field to get into, especially if you have experience. This is mainly because a lot of agencies only seem to pay commission. And I don’t know anything about whether they are more likely to hire you with experience or someone without experience who doesn’t need a work permit.

    But, what I recommend is when you are in St Maarten do 2 things: talk to people at different estate agencies and expats at local bars. Especially in bars on the Dutch side the expats tend to be very chatty so it’s easy to meet people and find out more about what it takes to move there as an American.

    Based on what they tell you you might decide to talk to government officials but I would start by talking to (American) expats to get their recommendations since the St Maarten government isn’t always the most helpful πŸ˜‰

  11. Thank you! that is very helpful, my dog is 100 lb and looks like a boxer so he would most likely help to keep me safe even though is 7 years old and blind and would never hurt a fly.

    I am currently a real estate agent in NY, I do commercial now but think maybe residential would be easier there seeing as people from all over look to buy expensive homes there. (at least I think that, I don’t know that to be true).

    I am going to St Maarten in 2 months to try and speak with people there on what exactly needs to be done in order to move myself and my dog, and talk to some real estate companies and what I need to do in order to practice real estate there. In your opinion would holding a real estate license and having experience be a special enough skill set?

    My last questions is, while I am there what are the places you would suggest me going to find accurate info (examples: an embassy/government office type)

    • We just arrived home from St. Martin. I am also a real estate agent in the US. While we were on the island we looked at property and spoke with an agent on the Dutch side. He told us that you do not have to have a license on the Dutch side. It costs about $2000 to get your paperwork to sell and then $1500 per year. Also, because of a treaty between the Dutch and US governments in 1956 US citizens don’t need a visa to relocate.

      • Stacy Lee I think you are referring to the Dutch American Friendship Treaty? That might be a good option!
        It does only appy to self-employed US citizens though. The treaty is for entrepreneurs, not for people looking for fulltime employment.

  12. Hi Sammy,

    You can take your dog to St Maarten but it does require some work. This website has some useful info about taking pets from the US to St Maarten:

    There are vet hospitals in St Maarten and I’ve never heard horrible stories about them and had several friends with dogs, so you should be ok there. Many locals don’t like dogs. They also often seem scared of bigger dogs. That could be a plus though, because that means a bigger dog is a perfect guard dog for your home (burglaries unfortunately are common all over the island).

    You need a work permit to work in St Maarten as an American. The company you choose to work for will help you with that (this is assuming they are interested in hiring a foreigner and going through the hassle) but you can find some information about the process here: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/by-country/pettravel-stmaarten

    So it will depend a bit on the type of job you are looking for. If the job can easily be done by a local or someone with a Dutch passport (it’s easier for Dutch people to legally work in St Maarten), then you might find it difficult to convince the company to hire you.
    But if it’s a skilled job or if they are specifically looking for Americans or native English speakers, then they should be happy to make sure you get your work permit.

    I hope this helps and if you do decide to move to St Maarten, have a great time! πŸ™‚

  13. Sanne,

    I am 27 and seriously considering relocating from New York to Sint Maarten. I have a dog and was wondering if you knew how difficult it could be to relocate him there, are dogs typically safe there, and are there vet hospitals in case I ever needed to bring him to one. I also am considering living on the Dutch side and need to find work. Do you know what I would need to do in order to live there and work for one year.


  14. Hi Maria,

    Well, I would focus on areas like Cole Bay, Point Blanche, Bel Air, Pelican Key or maybe Maho (depending on where you work because it’s further away. Oyster Pond can also be nice. All of these are more expensive areas, but they tend to be safer and are favorites of expats.

    I would avoid the parts around Middle Region, Belvedere, Sucker Garden, Dutch Quarter. At least for now, now that you aren’t familiar with St Maarten yet.

    I hope this helps!

  15. Hello Sanne,
    I wanted to know if it is possible for you to tell me the places in the dutch side of St Maarten you wouldn’t recommend living in. I have seen lots of studios and apartments to rent but I don’t really know where is better for me to live as I’m a woman and I would like to stay in a safe place.
    Thank you in advance,

  16. Hi Adaline,

    There is no special minimum wage for foreigners in St Maarten. What you’ll get paid will really depend on the type of job you are looking for.

    Sint Maarten unfortunately isn’t cheap. You easily pay 1000 US$ for a one bedroom apartment or 600 US$ for a room. Public transport is cheap but limited so you might want to consider renting or buying a car (see my other tips in previous replies to comments).
    Alcohol is cheap but everything else, from groceries and utilities to eating out, is not.

    I would say that if you make less than US$ 2000 a month you will definitely have to be careful with your money.

  17. Hi Sanne, May I know what is minimum wage offer for a foreigner in St Maarten? How much salary at least to stay there? Thanks much

  18. Hi Juliet,
    Congratulations on your job in St Maarten! πŸ™‚

    To answer your questions:
    I really liked living in Cole Bay (Cole Bay Villas specifically). It’s right by Simpson Bay where most of the nightlife happens and not too far from Philipsburg. ColeBay Villas is a nice, safe community with a communal pool.
    It depends a bit on where you will be working though since there is a lot of traffic, especially during rush hour, so you don’t want to be too far from your work.

    I would definitely not recommend bicycle riding as your main means of transport. Drivers are not used to seeing bicycles so it really isn’t that safe. And at night as a woman I definitely wouldn’t ride a bicycle.
    There are buses that will get you to almost anywhere you want to go and they are cheap and safe. They just don’t run at night. In the end unfortunately having a car really is the best way to get around St Maarten.

    St Maarten unfortunately does not grow much of its own food. Most of it is imported, a lot comes from the USA and there are also some European supermarkets because of the connections with the Netherlands and France.

  19. Hi Sanne,
    First of all, your “Ask an Expat” series is amazing and I always wanted to give advice to other travelers because there is so much garbage on the internet these days, it’s hard to filter through everything.

    I just recently accepted a job offer in St. Maartens. I will be needing to find housing as soon as possible. I lived in San Pedro, Belize for a couple of years before so I’m used to Caribbean island life.

    I’m a single young professional female.

    Which area do you think would be best to live in St. Maarten? I am looking for a cheaper 1 bedroom or studio. I’d prefer something where mosquitoes are less common too. Safety is always great but I’m used to San Pedro, Belize so I don’t need iron gates or security guards.

    Is bicycle riding a good enough means of transportation? Are there places to buy a bike?

    Where does the island get its food? Is it grown on the island? Imported? In Belize the menonites grow almost all the agriculture so everything is organic. Same in St. Maarten?

    Any advice would be well appreciated. Thank you!

  20. Hi Jody,
    Congratulations on buying a home in St Martin!
    I don’t know much about the French side but I would just get some quotes from different ocean carriers and compare them.
    On the Dutch side Safe Cargo Services in Pointe Blanche I know is used often. I haven’t used them myself though so I can’t say much about the quality.

  21. Hello! We just purchased a vacation home in St. Martin, and I was curious how to go about getting new furniture and accessories over to the island?

  22. Hi Sophie, St Martin is a French territory so it should be the same as moving to a different part of France…
    I’ve been told it’s pretty simple for any European citizen. But I don’t know the law on the French side well so please do check with the authorities there.

  23. Hello Sanne,

    I read that as an American the maximum stay is 6 months uninterrupted with the possibility to extend. Once that time is exhausted and I must leave the island,is it possible to spend a day or two in a neighboring island which is not a part of the Netherlands and then return to Sint Maarten for the next 6 months? Just wondering how long I must be away outside the country before returning?


  24. Well… let’s say I don’t know many people who haven’t had at least something stolen once. Both my office and the boat I was living on have been broken into. So in a way no worse than many major cities but not everyone expects it when moving to “paradise”. There is A LOT of drunk driving and I would avoid walking around alone at night.

  25. Hi Susan, most of my friends send their kids to Sister Regina and are happy about the quality of that school so I would recommend checking that one. In general though, as you probably know, St Maarten isn’t the safest island so that is something to keep in mind…

      • I am staying in st marteen from last 6 months.schools over here are not as good as usa or canada. security is the big problem over here there is robbery very now and then over here,drug is there culture and you can never walk alone in night.

  26. My daughter was born in St marteen ,I am considering moving their.How safe is the public school.She’s six years old.

  27. Hi Teresa,
    That is so funny, I have been saying for a while that that would be my ideal life: 6 months in San Diego, 6 months in St Maarten. I would definitely spend the winter months in St Maarten. So go there mid to late November and then stay for 6 months. This is high season so the cost of living will be a bit higher but there will be much more going on, more job opportunities and the weather is good: it can get too hot in June/July/August and SD can get cold in January/February if you ask me, so perfect time to be in St Maarten!

    As for work… I am reasonably sure you officially need a work visa as soon as you want to work. But… this is the Caribbean! πŸ˜‰ I have never had my work papers finalized and worked on the island twice for 6 months but I am a Dutch citizen which might make it easier for me and of course it might be harder to find a job since companies do get checked and having someone with their work papers in place is better for them.

    A mobile mechanic shop sounds great! The island could definitely use that! πŸ˜‰ A bar/restaurant I personally wouldn’t go for at the moment. Tourism hasn’t been great lately and there is so much competition…
    As to legal matters around starting a business: I would really recommend talking to a lawyer on the island. Rules and regulations aren’t always straightforward in St Maarten so some professional advice is what I would want.

    And yes, they have socialized medicine in St Maarten but unfortunately I don’t know much about clinics and different options. Perhaps you could just walk into a pharmacy when you are next on the island and see if they can give you any information?

    I hope this helps! I am writing this as I am getting ready to leave St Maarten once again so I am quite envious! πŸ˜‰

  28. Hi Sanne!
    Thanks for all of the info you have supplied. It has been very helpful!

    I have visited St. Maarten and stayed on the Dutch side for the last 3 years and am seriously contemplating a move there in the next 4yrs….but my bf wants to go in the next year possibly. We live in San Diego (California). I have made several friends/connections there our last 2 trips and asked a ton of questions but I hear mixed stories. We were told we do NOT need a work visa if we stay for 6mo and then come back to SD for 6mo, but other people have said we do. (To be honest, I haven’t done my research on this yet.) I was told we could work with out one for 6mo no problem. Have you heard this?
    I was also told that living on one side you pay no taxes, but working on the other side you pay no taxes. Do you know what the taxes are working on the Dutch side?
    I am a Physician Assistant by trade, but I have also worked/bartended/managed restaurants for years prior to this. My bf is a retired mechanic/diver/millwright so we were contemplating moving there and opening our own small rest/bar, maybe a mobile mechanic type shop (yes, we noticed the cars there are poorly taken care of, and he actually helped some people out with car problems while we were there on vacation :p )
    Do you know if this would be possible? I am wondering all the license we have to obtain…and is there insurance to pay?

    I spoke with some physicians there that said they do hire PAs from the US, but are you familiar with any type of clinics they have there besides the ER (we unfortunately needed a visit there :p ), such as Urgent Cares/Acute Care clinics? Do they have insurance/socialized medicine?
    What would you say are the ideal 6months to live there for the best weather- lots of sun and very little rain? San Diego is amazing almost year round except for the May gray and June gloom as we call it.
    ANY help would be GREATLY appreciated!
    Thank you soooo much!

  29. Hi Judi, that is a difficult question to answer… Most of the things available in the US you will be able to get in St Maarten (if not on the island itself then through Amazon / online shopping) but everything is just more expensive…

    Don’t bring alcohol because that is the only thing that is cheap on the island πŸ™‚ In general I would say a Dutch person would love to receive any gift that has a story to it. So get her something typical from your or your aunt’s home town and share the story of how you / your aunt grew up with this…

    Alternatively, the Dutch are very practical so there is no harm in having your aunt ask if her friend needs something from the US… A useful gift is normally very much appreciated! πŸ™‚

  30. I have an Aunt living on the Dutch side and has had some medical problems. I am coming down next week to bring her bock to the US for surgery. She has a Dutch friend who has been helping her and would like to do something for her or bring something down from the US that she may not be able to get there or might be difficult to purchase/find there. Or if you have any other suggestions

  31. Hi Jacqueline, unfortunately I don’t know that. I would check with your construction company first, they should know this. Alternatively I have had good experiences with Remax in St Maarten and I am sure they will know and would be happy to give you the information you need.

  32. Hi. This is such a wonderful post to stumble apon. We would like to spend a month on st Maarteen next maY. We have a 5 year old too. Looking for somewhere beautiful and lively. Where is the best place to rent a house on the beach. And can you recommend any real estates? Thank you!

  33. Hi Sanne, I’m not sure if you can help or point me in the right direction. We have bought a piece of land on the Dutch side with pre-agreed plans which have to be built exactly how the other buildings are designed. My question is is it ok to build a temporary building on the land to stay in whilst the building works are going ahead?
    Thanks in anticipation.

  34. Hi! My wife and I are very interested in moving to Saint Martin. We are from Canada but don’t know what we need in order to qualify for immigration. Do you have any contacts or advice for Canadians looking to move here πŸ™‚


    • Hi Adam, unfortunately I don’t know much about moving to St Maarten as a Canadian but check out the official government website here: https://www.sintmaartengov.org/Pages/default.aspx

      There is a form here for temporary residency you might want to look at. And in any case the sintmaartengov.org website is what I would recommend going through to find out more about immigration. Contact details are on the site so you might just want to call them.
      Be prepared for things to be slow and not too straight forward! In the end you might decide to fly to St Maarten, spend a few months there on a tourist visa to find out more about how things really work. It definitely is easier to figure things out when you are actually there. Plus, that way you get a good feel for what life is really like in St Maarten, including bureaucracy, inefficiencies, etc πŸ˜‰

      If you are thinking about moving to the French side, you would fall under French law so it is pretty much the same as moving to Europe (not easy!). If you can read French then I recommend using this website for more information about moving to the French side: https://www.saint-barth-saint-martin.pref.gouv.fr/

  35. Hi Laura,
    Yeah finding a good place to rent is not easy, especially if you are not on the island yet. I have used this Facebook group for a lot of different things: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bstsxm/ You could post a message there and see who replies. As for expat communities… I feel that because most people on the island are foreign there is less of a typical, somewhat separate expat community. I recommend just going to Simpson Bay for drinks and you will meet people instantly. Or try Karakter (a beach bar) if you are less of a nightlife person. Alternatively go diving, sailing, etc., chat with the staff and you will probably end up having drinks with them and building your network there. Really most people on the island are very outgoing and easy to connect with. That being said, my French is limited and without the language I found it difficult meeting people on the French side.

  36. Hi Sanne, Thanks for your helpful post. To you and others, perhaps: I am moving to SXM and would love to find a place in Grand Case, but it’s tough to find a long term rental that has updated amenities, but I am looking. If anyone has any leads, please email me at LHartman at depaul dot edu. The main reason for my post, however, is because I was wondering if anyone can point me to any expat groups that get together regularly on the island (on either side) – book clubs, eating (cooking or restaurant) groups, anything really that would help me to get to know people since I plan to stay. I run a school in Haiti and will be using SXM as my base. Thanks a ton!

  37. Hey!
    I’m coming to St Maarten (Dutch side) from Trinidad in 2017. Can you give me an idea of the average the following –
    rent in a reasonably safe area there (1 bedroom furnished apartment)
    -utilities (water, electricity and Internet at home)
    -average groceries for the month
    – average gas for the month
    -purchase of cell phone and to have a data plan
    – gym fees
    – whether it makes more sense to purchase or lease a car for a 2 or 3 year period and an average cost of the lease or even rent option vs buying a used vehicle
    – waxing and other spa services
    -activities on the island for socializing (dance classes)
    -average price of business attire (what is acceptable business attire)

    Overall, whats the minimum amount net ANG per month would you consider a reasonable amount to live comfortably for 1 person or 2 persons..

    Sorry for bejng this lengthy but I’m at a lost and most places in my research seem to be conflicting.. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

    • Hi, I can’t give a price for everything you listed in St Maarten since I didn’t use all the things you are asking for (spa, dance classes… I honestly wouldn’t know) but I can say from what you seem to be looking for you will need a minimum of $2000 per month to get by ok and ideally $2500.

      I don’t know anyone who leases a car in St Maarten, I always rented one for around $500 which adds up quickly so I would recommend buying one if you stay for more than a few months. Used cars are cheap (less than $2000 is possible) but then many cars are poorly maintained so do check the car well before you buy it and consider spending a bit more for a good one! It’s a small island and gas isn’t expensive so even when I drove every day I still wouldn’t spend more than $40 or so in gas per month.

      Check out my reply below as well for more information about the cost of living and quality of life in St Maarten.

  38. Hey, so I’m thinking of living on either the French or Dutch side for up to six months of the year and living in NYC for the other six.

    My question would be first, would it be an issue to live half and half?

    How much is the cost of living? (Rent, untilities, car rental, food etc.)

    How is the transition, socially? (I am pretty friendly)

    How much should I expect to spend on an average night out?

    I am a single male, how is the dating scene?

    Is it safe? Can I use my laptop outside at a park? Can I wear jewelry? Can I take walks around alone? Etc.

    Please feel free to provide any other necessary information.

    Sorry for all the questions. And please take your time.

    Thanks in advanced.


    • Hi Rey,
      To answer your questions about living in St Maarten:
      I assume you are American? As far as I know you can get a 6 month tourist visa so then, as a tourist, it would be possible to do 6 months in St Maarten and 6 months in the US. You won’t be allowed to work though but it would be such a perfect mix since after about 6 months people start to get island fever πŸ˜‰

      Cost of living largely depends on what you are looking for but this is the average: you can rent a 1 bedroom apartment for around US$ 1000 in an ok area, you can rent a car for under US$ 600 per month, utilities will probably be slightly higher than what you are used to since you are on an island but then again you never need heating which saves a lot. Eating out is comparable to eating out in most American cities with one big differences: alcohol is very cheap (you can get a beer for $2 or $3 outside of happy hour!).

      You will find a lot of foreigners, including a large number of Americans, in St Maarten who all had to start a new life (whether it is a long term or short term stay) so that makes it easy to meet people plus the Dutch side has the reputation of being a party island so people go to bars and drink a lot.

      Because alcohol is so cheap a night out can be very cheap but if you want to go to the “coolest places” and drink expensive cocktails or champagne of course you can make it as expensive as you want since it does cater for high end tourism as well.
      St Maarten is a small island. Again, it is a bit of a party island for all ages so you will meet a lot of people looking for all sorts of relationships, but after a while you will know almost everyone on the island…

      I had my laptop stolen twice and I, as a woman, do not walk around alone at night. So in all honesty, it is not the safest place in the world. But if you drive to places at night and use common sense it is not that bad. Most places are touristy and safe and yes, you can just wear jewelry.

      I hope this helps!

  39. hi my name is sanket i am from india. i got a job in st marteen with a reputed jeweler. i want to know about about the jeweler market over ther as my job is commision based and what are the best seAson to work over there.I applied for the permits in august i havent got the reply yet. how many weeks does it take for permits.

    • Hi Sanket, thanks for your message. I don’t know very much about working in the jeweler market in Sint Maarten unfortunately. I do know that competition will be really high since there are so many jewelery stores in Philipsburg and it is really mainly the cruise ship tourists who seem to enjoy the tax free offers a lot. So on days when there are no cruise ships it will be very quiet for you.
      The best month for you will definitely be December so if you are working on commission only do make sure you are on the island by then. High season runs roughly from late November until the end of March or early April. After that the number of cruise ships coming to St Maarten drops and therefore your sales will drop as well.
      Unfortunately I don’t know anything about permits for Indian natives but any type of paperwork needed in St Maarten can take a long time if you are unlucky. I hope you will receive it soon and enjoy your time in Sint Maarten!

      • Thanks sanne that was a lot of help for me.i would like to know are there any Indians on the island.how safe is that place.what worries me is if i get my permits in late December should i give this opportunity a try.

      • Yes, there is a good Indian expat population in St Maarten and they mainly work in (jewelry) stores in Philipsburg.
        Regarding safety: I had my laptop stolen twice, I know several people who had their car stolen and there are many areas I wouldn’t walk around in alone at night. So it’s definitely not the safest place on earth but I never really felt unsafe either. There is some poverty on the island (nothing like India though) so that causes crime but I would happily move back and feel comfortable living there.
        If you get your permits late December I would still go because from Christmas until early January is a very good time. If you don’t get your permits until January I might consider waiting until next season if that is possible for you.

      • Thanks a lot Sanne,
        You have been an incredible help to me.Thank you for everything.I want a few more help can you tell me more about landing permit. why it is needed and how much time does it take after getting the work permit approved.

  40. Dear People, we are emigrating to Sint Maarten next year May.
    We are a family of 4, with two little ones: 5 and 3.

    We are looking into schooling in either CIA or Learning Unlimited.
    Would be great to get some advice on that.
    Once school has been decided, we will also want to learn about best areas to rent a house with a max budget around $ 3000,00

    Please any tips, advice is welcome.
    All the best

    • Hi Sylvana,
      I checked with a friend since I don’t have kids myself. Both schools are the top schools on the island with CIA being the best out of the two.

      Traffic can get quite bad during rush hour and especially to get “over the hill” (from Simpson Bay to Philipsburg). So if you go for Learning Unlimited I would recommend Point Blanche, a very nice neighborhood with a lot of expat families.

      If you choose CIA then Cupecoy is a very nice, quiet and upmarket area or Colebay / Simpson Bay if you are looking for something a bit more lively and in general somewhat cheaper.

      I hope this helps but let me know if you want more info about St Maarten! πŸ™‚

    • Hi Sylvana.

      I am born and raised in St. Maarten, but I do not live in St. Maarten from August 2016. My daughter also went to CIA and it is true that LU and CIA are both good schools. I have a 3 bedroom two bathroom apartment including a car for rent that will be under $3000 (yes even with car). I am not there anyway. You may email me at yadira54@hotmail.com and we can exchange numbers if you are interested. This is a beautiful post.

  41. Hello Sanne,

    I am contemplating making the move to St. Maarten. I am interested in learning more about the cost of living on the Dutch side. It has been difficult to find out this information through searching online. I am trying to do my due diligence before making this decision.

    Thank you for any information you could provide. Also, if there is any additional information you think I should be aware of to assist in my decision making, please feel free to share.


    • Hi PJ,

      It’s hard to give a good answer without knowing what standards you are used to but to give you a bit of an idea:

      – Rent: houses are expensive in St Maarten and therefore rent is high compared to what you earn. Many single people share accommodation, no matter what their age is. A room you can find for roughly between US$ 600 and US$ 800 per month. If you would prefer your own place then you’d have to count on at least around US$ 1000 for a one bedroom apartment but normally more and up to much more if you want more space or a better location.
      – Bills: water and electricity are expensive on St Maarten (as on most small islands). So assuming you are not living on a small island now, add at least 25% to what you are paying now.
      – Food: to European standards supermarkets are expensive. Almost everything is imported so that makes it more expensive. Compared to American supermarkets though it doesn’t make much of a difference. Eating out can be cheap if you go to the (limited number of) local places but most of the restaurants are geared towards tourists and you’ll spend about the same as in most touristy places in the US or Northern Europe.
      – Drinks: this is what many people come to St Maarten for: alcohol is extremely cheap. During happy hour you can often get a beer for $1.50. Mixed drinks are very cheap as well, wine is a bit closer to American prices.
      – Transport: there are small buses but very few foreigners/expats use them. They don’t go everywhere but I enjoyed using them when I didn’t have a car and if I remember correctly it costs only US$ 1.50 for any distance. They don’t run in the evenings though which for most people means they will need a car anyway since St Maarten is not the best place for walking.
      You can find a lot of cheap second hand cars for sale but they will normally be in bad shape. I chose to rent a car which cost me between US$ 500 and US$ 600 a month (in high season it’s harder to get a good deal). If you want to know more about either buying or renting a car send me an email (info@spendlifetraveling.com) and I’ll look up details of where to buy or rent.

      I think these are the main things to know. I hope this helps but if there is anything else you’d like to know just ask!

  42. Thanks for your message, I’m happy to help as much as I can! I just asked a Dutch friend who owns a company on St Maarten. She believes it should be quite easy to get all your documents sorted to live and work on the island as long as you find a job.

    Have a look at the government’s website https://www.sintmaartengov.org/ for some information about living and working on the island. If you are going to St Maarten anyway it might be an idea to just visit the Government Administration building in Philipsburg or give them a call (details are on their website) to find out more.

    And I’d mainly recommend just talking to people on the island: go to a bar in Simpson Bay and to Bobby’s Marina in Philipsburg and just start talking to people. It’s a small community so you will easily meet a lot of American and European expats who can help you out with both jobs and immigration questions.

    I don’t know how experienced a sailor you are but 12 Metre https://www.12metre.com is often looking for crew and can be a really fun way to start life on St Maarten.

    Writing about it like this makes me want to move back!! πŸ™‚

    Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!

  43. Heading down in a few weeks, what would you recommend I pick up to see what the living options are there? As a US citizen how hard is it to become eligible to work and live there? By trade I am a software developer but honestly I would be happier on a boat everyday either fishing, snorkeling, or just being part of the crew in any capacity. I am seriously considering a move in the next few years and I am curious as to my options in Sint Maarten. I am all about immersing myself as a local and I have traveled the Caribbean quite a bit and found the greatest compliment I ever received was someone thought I was a local πŸ™‚ I do not scream I am American and honestly don’t wish to. Anyhow, you seem to be the expert on the topic and hope you don’t mind the request for info.

  44. Good Morning Sanne ,
    My apologies for bugging you but I have been reading quite a few forums about moving to St Martin and your name comes up a lot and you help a lot of people.
    This said, I was wondering if you could help me?
    I am a French Citizen with a French passport living in Canada and I would like to move to the French side of St. Martin. How do I go about this and where do I start, all the research I do returns me to immigration to the Dutch side.

    Would I need a Visa for the French side and who do I contact?
    Thank you so much for your help.

    • Hi Steve,
      Sorry I didn’t reply sooner, I’ve been offline for a few weeks due to dengue fever (be careful about that in St Maarten as well!).

      As a French citizen moving to the French side is much easier than moving to the Dutch side so I’d definitely recommend registering on the French side.

      It should be (almost) the same as moving within Europe: you are legally allowed to live and work on the French side since it is part of Europe. So I would just go there on a tourist visa and then inquire locally where to register. I have never lived on the French side so I can’t tell you where to go exactly but most likely it will be in Marigot and I would just ask the first French person you come across (and there are plenty of them there so you can’t miss them πŸ˜‰ )
      Holding a European passport means you won’t need a Visa.

      Registering on the Dutch side unfortunately is much harder. Unless you have a Dutch passport it is not that easy to register and work here so I would definitely register on the French side.

      If you have any more questions let me know!

  45. i will be going to Sint Maarten next week and will be working there. I am curious about the cost of living there.
    Would be great if you could give me an idea of how much is living in this wonderful island.
    like rent?
    food? etc

    thanks in advance!

    • So sorry for not getting back to you sooner! I assume you have figured all of this out by now πŸ˜‰
      I hope you are enjoying life on St Maarten? If there is anything else I can do to help do let me know! I promise I’ll reply sooner this time πŸ™‚

  46. We are trying to get information on reliable residential internet service in Colebay. Are there alternate forums for local St. Martin residents?

    Thanks in advance.


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