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how to compare the French side vs the Dutch side of St. Maartin

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How do I decide whether to stay on the French side or the Dutch side of St. Maartin? I want to do it all! How long does it take to get from one side of the island to the other? Is one have a better return for the dollar? Is one side real crowded and the other easy? Is the language different on each side? Do they both speak English fairly fluently? Is there more to do and better restaurants on one side vs. the other? Help! I'm making myself crazy.

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    We definitely preferred the French side of the island, but I know people who love the Dutch side as well. There are no casinos on the French side, no high rises, no timeshares, etc. The Dutch side is definitely busier. On the French side, there are places that take the USD, but their currency is the euro. On the Dutch side, they seem to deal in the USD exclusively. We had trouble accessing our bank account using our debit card at several ATMs on the French side so had to drive to the Dutch side to get cash. The island isn't huge and we went back and forth a few times. Lots of people do speak English on the French side, but there seem to be a lot more Europeans living there. On the Dutch side, everyone seemed to speak English.

    I guess we appreciated that the French side does seem to have a lot less development. We rented a studio in a private home and there was a beach below - someone had built a hotel down there, but never got approval so it was deserted - no road down there. On the Dutch side, there was a lot of building going on.

    If you do go, you should rent a car. It was very easy to get around and car rental was pretty inexpensive - it cost us about $200 USD to rent a car for a week. Definitely worth it.

    We were only there for a week, so I'm sure there are a lot of people who are much more familiar with the island - this is just my opinion!

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    For me for intmacy better small town vibe food

    the French Side Dutch side for more upscale resorts casinos.

    Might go to a nice hotel site like www.booking.com

    go to hotels ranked by reviews and find something

    nice with a vibe you like.

    Happy Hunting,

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    We were there in August. Stayed at la Samana (their service was excellent and many room/villa choices. We had a car (but took taxi if going to clubs or casinos). We visited most of the island and beaches. The nicest casino in my opinion was the one closest to the resort we were in (we went to most). There is also a wonderful Italian restaurant attached to that casino. Many repeat customers. Excellent food and service.

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    It all depends on what you want !

    If you are happy with high rises, casinos (15), KFC, Burger King, Time Share developments, massive (near uncontrolled) over construction, and licenced brothels, then the Dutch side is perfect for you !

    You will find NONE of the above 'attractions' on the French side of the island, and you won't see a high rise anywhere !

    In fairness however, there are some excellent restaurants on the Dutch side - though Grand Case (on the French side) is considered to be the 'cullinery capital of the Caribbean'. In all there are over 350 restaurants on the island, varying from absolute top class, to the absolute basic - the choice is vast !

    I fully admit to being seriously predjudiced, as I live on the French side of the island, which is anyway only 37 square miles in all, and - if the traffic isn't too bad, you can drive round it in roughly an hour. Nothing is far away.

    By far the best shopping for watches and jewelry is on Front Street in Philipsburg (the Dutch side capital) but it is best to get there early (around 10am) and to avoid it like the plague on days when there are large (or more than a few) criuse ships in port - it becomes VERY crowded.

    Marigot, (the French capital) has more of the up-market boutiques and, though the 'official' currency of the French side is the Euro, and all prices are - by law - shown in that currency, US Dollars are perfectly acceptable, as are credit cards (though in a lot of places not AMEX).

    If you use a credit card, your card issuer (except, I think, Capital One) will charge a 'foreign transaction fee' of around 3%, and the Euro amount of the purchase will be converted to US$ at the rate current on the day when the charge is debited to your credit card account.

    It is also a good idea to inform your card issuer(s), in advance, that you intend to use your plastic on the island. I have seen several cases where card payments have been rejected by the issuer because they appeared to be 'unusual transactions'.

    The currency on the Dutch side is (unofficially) the US Dollar, so therefore there is no conversion involved for credit card payments, and the ATMS dipense Dollars - unlike the French ATMS which (apart from only two that I know of) only dispense Euros.

    On the French side, by and large, it is best to use Dollars. Bars, restaurants and boutiques etc. are happy to accept the currency, and will use their own exchange rates - which contrary to what some people say - are usually in favor of the customer, but it never hurts to check first, and remember that these rates only apply if you pay in CASH.

    English is spoken everywhere on the Dutch side of the island, and in almost all places on the French side, so communication is not a problem even if you are not a linguist !

    There is more to do on the Dutch side of the island than on the French side where, unlike the Dutch side, there is virtually no nightlife - as the two sides, tend to attract a different sort of visitor.

    If you want a quiet, somewhat more sophisticated, atmosphere, with easy access to the Dutch side casinos and night spots etc. stay on the French side and use your rental car which is ESSENTIAL if you want to make the most of your stay.

    If you prefer the glitz, then stay on the Dutch side and visit the French side to get away for a while to a more relaxed atmosphere.

    Either way, you will enjoy your stay.

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