Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (https://www.fodors.com/community/)
-   Caribbean Islands (https://www.fodors.com/community/caribbean-islands/)
-   -   4 warnings for the non-seasoned, naïve tourist about to go to St Martin. (https://www.fodors.com/community/caribbean-islands/4-warnings-for-the-non-seasoned-na-ve-tourist-about-to-go-to-st-martin-967934/)

Bart5151 Feb 22nd, 2013 11:08 PM

4 warnings for the non-seasoned, naïve tourist about to go to St Martin.
 
How many more people are going to keep going to St Martin utterly clueless about the 17% increase in Burglaries for 2012? Google CRIME IN ST MARTIN, and OMG its endless.

My belief is that allot of new naive tourist who are in the need-to-know here, do not get the need-to-know stuff due to census of forums as well as huge globs of pro-St Martin people that seem to saturate these forums with their lop-sided opinions about how everything is fine and dandy in St Martin. It`s just not the case and it`s unfortunate but St Martin is not the easy safe place it use to be decades ago.

In Nov 2012 just before leaving to St Martin, I looked up info on “another travel site I will not mention”. There, I searched to the forums only pertaining to safety and crime in St Martin and did not find anything much to set off alarms in my head about not even putting something in our trunk! Just some basic “as with everywhere, do not leave stuff in car”. Well In America, a car`s trunk is still safe 99.99% of the time. That is NOT the case in St Martin. I went there and my trunk was burglarized on our 3rd day of 12 days there on our glorious mission to blow $6000 of our hard earned money over 12 days. Thanks St Martin. The seasoned travelers know all the dangers and work around it wonderfully. But my wife and I were not seasoned. The other major Travel Forum I read through is guilty of censoring the very bad news because it was not fun & easy stuff to read about.

OK so I learned my lesson about a handful of things in St Martin. But I`m here to tell the others to take heed to my 4 tips on how not to get Burglarized on your vacation there.


Anyways:--My 4 tips on how NOT to be burglarized, for anyone who is interested:


1)
You think you are smart by locking up valuable out of site, in the trunk. Forget about it. Trunk burglaries are huge huge huge and constant in St Martin. They pop it in a second flat. Leave nothing at all, not even a towel in sight or in the trunk. All reports are consistent that they do not dig through things and just take money and valuable. No, they take everything, socks, towels, medicines, tooth brush, food. If you leave your insulin and other life support medicines in the cars, you are going to put your life in the hands of a low-life thieve to conclude you. Leave the rental car unlocked and windows down. If possible park the car where you can watch it as you eat, so you can scream if the thieves start to take off your tires. If you are rich, rent a car with an alarm system. I do not suggest renting a nice car, or any car that looks like all the other rental cars (small white car). Rent the ugliest one they have that does not look like the majority of the other ones. Also, some rental companies have an ”R” on the license plate. If that’s the case, you are “MARKED” tourist and are more likely to be watched, followed, and robbed. If going to St Martin in particular, see if you can get a ride to rent your car from the French side as they do not use the ”R” on the license plate. Don`t stay in the French side as they have next to no Police force that actually deals with crime resolution but more or less just takes your report. The only good that possibly could come from spending 2 hours with the police, describing the whole ordeal after getting robbed, is so that maybe one day, someone will count the statistics and make a change. But that`s unlikely in St Martin because there are NO TAXES, which means almost NO FUNDS for police and crime prevention.


2)
When going out for the day on whatever the excursion may be, leave EVERY POSSIBLE ITEM in your room safe except for the absolute minimum money you need to just get through the day. Just take one credit card max, and have its 1-800 number in your safe so you can have it shut down immediately if it’s lost or stolen. The second you get to your time-share or hotel, put all moneys, extra SD cards, documents, passports, and all jewelry plus wedding ring etc into the safe. Leave it there till the second you leave. As for Camera`s SD cards, have 3 or more. Split using them during the stay so if your camera is stolen, you will only lose 1/3 of your photos. Do not bring your fancy camera. Bring a small digital camera. Never bring your ipad anywhere. That is an in-the-safe item at all times unless you take it out for a bit when you are in the room only. An Ipad is an item with too much personal data, photos, letters, documents….It’s just too risky to roam a 3rd world with that.


3)
Stay with the crowds. If you are in a 3rd world, then just stay at the resort primarily. All the islands have 3rd world crime and workers galore. Sometimes it’s the workers art your resort that will rob, rape, or kill you. Sometimes the workers will tell others about you as a mark. Do not adventure to a natures reserve or other locations where you could be robbed and killed and no one would see a thing.


4)
Watch and familiar yourself with people, cars, scooters, in your surrounding as the person(s) who are potentially going to assault you, rob you. Look anyone who is close to you, watching you or not. Are they looking your way? --- are they checking you out? If so, you WATCH THEM back so they realize you are wondering about them. If you were a mark, maybe now they will take caution and look for other more unsuspecting. If you are walking with a camera or purse of back pack, you are a hot target for some kid on a bike, scooter, or car. Do you see a kid lingering on a cell; he may be calling his accomplice that you are an easy mark at “so & so” location. If someone looks suspicious, zoom in on them with your camera and take their photo as well. This also applies to taking a photo of a car that is near you during visit somewhere you might be a which is a bare looking area with little safety of having a crowd.

tarquin Feb 23rd, 2013 12:08 AM

Sounds like fun.

Odin Feb 23rd, 2013 04:04 AM

I think this is a warning for people that are naive in general, since leaving things in cars is generally a no no in most countries, tourist or not. My advice to non seasoned travellers is not to forget to take your common sense with you (if you have any in the first place).

Caribzack Feb 23rd, 2013 05:28 AM

I have not been there in over 10 years and would NEVER go back. Friends of ours were held up at gunpoint about 3 years ago...go to Turks & Caicos ! Better beaches and safer...B

suze Feb 23rd, 2013 07:05 AM

1) and 2) are just common sense, that's nothing specific to any one island or destination.

3) and 4) just sound paranoid.

Weadles Feb 23rd, 2013 10:18 AM

Unfortunately serious crimes are on the uptick just about anywhere you go. Look at Newtown, Connecticut, always considered one of the safest towns on the planet. None of these horror stories should keep you from traveling and living your life. Use plenty of common sense and hope for the best.

genio67 Feb 24th, 2013 06:20 PM

I have never had that experience on St. Martin during any of my five trips there. I am not a fan of the Dutch side, having nothing to do with crime, but we enjoy the French side very much. We recently went to San Juan and heard all sorts crime warnings there as well. While I am not doubting thieves targets tourists, we felt very safe. Perhaps it's living in NYC and we are accustomed to being aware of our surroundings. We have traveled extensively in Europe, South America and Asia and a few trips to the Caribbean. The only place we ever encountered crime was in a small town in northern England when someone stole my wife's wallet out of her purse while we were in a local pub.

BellaClaire Feb 26th, 2013 09:02 AM

I just got back from St. Maarten/St. Martin this past Sunday. After reading and participating on this forum for a few years now, we did take precautions. That said, we had zero problems, I love St. Martin and plan on returning frequently.

We rented a white Terios (sp)...it doesn't have a trunk. 99.9% of the time it was completely empty when we went places. There were 2-3 times when we did leave things in the car. One example was when we had all of our luggage in the car on the last day and parked near the Buccaneer where we stopped and had lunch before we went to the airport. Another example, we left purchases from Marigot and beach chairs in our car in the parking lot at Friars Bay when we walked to Happy Bay Beach. I'm not suggesting you leave things in the car all of the time on purpose.....we did when we "had" to and did not have any issues.

Here are other things we did.

We also locked everything in our condo safe. In addition, when we left our place, not only did we use the bar in the door wall, we also closed the shutters. We did this at night too. Overnight, we were told to insert the key into the door from the inside to further protect the lock. Our condo also had a guard with a dog. They walked around the perimeter all night long.

When we went to Karacter's for dinner - instead of walking the 10 minutes down the beach to the restaurant, we drove. There was a security guard in the parking area...actually, there appeared to be a few guards, at Karacter, Marys Boon, Coco's, etc.

We went to a piano bar and were out until 12am - one time. We parked in front of the place without issue.

When we drove back from dinner - i.e. from the french side to the dutch side, we went all the way around the lowlands - vs cut through the middle - purposely.

In Phillipsburg, we parked by the salt pond several times- without issue - one night we had dinner, the restaurant - Antoines, provides valet parking.

We also had no issues at Orient Beach (parked by Kakao's), Mullet Beach - parked in lot by golf course with everyone else, or Maho, parked by the side - across from LaRosa

I'm not discounting anyone's experience with crime - that is terrible, unfortunate, scary, and sad. I'm just sharing what we did and our personal, recent experience.

Overall, I still find the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin to be extremely friendly and welcoming and think it's a great place to spend a vacation. There are few islands in the Caribbean I have not been to, hence, I am not a naive traveler. I love what this island offers...nice beaches, easy access to beautiful surrounding islands (Saba, St. Barts, Anguilla). It has great shopping, & wonderful restaurants.

Globally, the only time I had a problem was in the early 80's, my mother's wallet was stolen in Rome by the Trevi Fountain.

bajangirl Feb 26th, 2013 11:05 AM

Crime is everywhere and common sense is the best defense. I hired a car with an alarm in Turkey some years ago not realising that the alarm was only triggered if a door was opened. Someone smashed the window with a rock and stole ALL my ID, cash, credit cars, travels documents, etc, in a country where I had no consular representation. And incidentally, it was a few days after experiencing a devastating earthquake resulting in the deaths of 17 000+ people, so much so that I've written an ebook about it "I Was There".

diann24 Mar 1st, 2013 04:47 PM

This is very interesting as we are to travel to St. Martin for our first time in July. To be honest if I have to do all of what you recommend (Bart5151)looking over my shoulder constantly taking pictures of people I think r going to attack kill or rob me this is NO KIND of vacation. It is a stressful. You know we went to Rome a few years back and had read everthing about Rome and the thieves. I over did it with hidden wallets for my husband for the calf the the waist.He said you don't expect me to stick my hands inside my pants to get my wallet do you? I said of yes you will.

You name it I bought it not to mention my pac-safe handbag that the straps could not be cut, and the strap hooked onto your chair. I was a maniac for safety "gadgets" As we were in the Vatican actually touring I would find myself wondering if anyone was watching us etc. I enjoyed myself tremendously and had a great time in Rome without incidences. Now after reading this, I am wondering if I should bring a stun gun! Or do I want to even go there. I always travel to Aruba. I never experience this type of thing in Aruba not at all. or concerns. I am seriously wondering now about going to St. Maarten for I know me!!! I will be like a spy the entire time wondering every second if someone is out to get us! Goodness.

KVR Mar 1st, 2013 08:14 PM

St. Martin never made our 'to-go' list. However, if I adhered to every rant I read about crime issues in specific destinations we would never leave the house.

When I first started traveling, the rants were about Jamaica. It took me 5 years to get to Jamaica, but we went and had a great time and then went back again. Then the rants were about Mexico. Been 12 times and will continue to return. Now it's St. Martin. Sooner or later it will be some other destination.

Take posts such as this with a grain of salt and just be cautious as you would probably do anyway. I found specific US states/towns more scary than any Caribbean destination we've been to. However, I do agree that some Islands do have more problems with crime than others. That's why throughly researching before booking is always advisable and then stick with your comfort zone. I never rent cars on vacation and never will. Doing so is outside of my comfort zone. To me, it just a chance not worth taking.

diann24 Mar 2nd, 2013 05:06 AM

Great advice but we do always rent cars--I think getting around that island will be difficult at best relying on Taxi's and where we are staying is out on a peninsula so a car will be necessary. ( Divi Resorts) What is the comfort zone you are referring to in renting a car? Someone breaking in? Well if one is at a restaurant and has to constantly keep the car in view while having dinner--this is no vacation to me. Yes I remember Jamaica was the island in threat quite a few years back I do recall that specifically--Mexico has had its issues lately in certain regions. Well I am going to think about this--I can always cancal and go elsewhere.

KVR Mar 2nd, 2013 12:06 PM

diann24, DH and I just don't like to have to depend on a rented vechicle to get around. I agree, though that some destinations a car is really needed like Turks and Cacios and Curacao for example. However, he is not comfortable driving in unfamiliar areas or "on the wrong side of the road". Then there is the issues with the car being broken into, damaged, stolen or being scammed. Plus, the added expense of the car itself, gas and insurance. Issues we just don't want to deal with, so it's not for us.

When we plan a vacation, we look at proxcemity to dining options and shopping in relation to our hotel. We like to be in the middle of things so we can walk or a cab won't be cost prohibitive. We also prefer guided tours for activities and sight seeing. Most people want to blow and go and do thier own thing and have more secluded accomendations, but we don't. It's just a personal preference.

We are looking at Puerto Rico for our trip this year and debating between a small hotel right in San Juan for convenience or a beach hotel and cabbing it for a few things, which I will build that cost into our budget. Again, we will do guided tours that have pick up and drop off. Both DH and I have some mobility and health issues so we just like being chauffered around instead of taking unecessary time finding it ourselves as a matter of convenience to us.

I think some of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean Islands are best seen by cruise ship excursions, which is why we are wanting to take a cruise out of San Juan and just 'catch' some of those Islands. We are still debating.

diann24 Mar 3rd, 2013 07:01 AM

KVR, I so understand what you mean. We have taken many cruises out of San Juan and tours on various islands. It is a good way to see many islands and get a flavor for which ones appeal to you or not. We have stayed several nights in San Juan pre-cruise and it is easy to navagate. If you stay in Condada you can walk anywhere and get around. I believe that is close to where the ships are located. (it has been awhile) I so understand about not wanting to drive here in the U.S I cannot stand anymore driving places I have never been let alone in other countries. DH doesn't seem to mind. I hate getting lost and not knowing where I am.

blamona Mar 3rd, 2013 08:17 AM

Condado area will get you the best walking to restaurants, etc, and they have a beach.

You'll need transportation to the best beaches, and if you want to see the rainforrest and explore other areas.

For example, a taxi from Old San Juan to Luquillo Beach (one of the best in PR) is around $150.

Or forget it all and go to El Conquistador, which is terrific. They are on a cliff, and have there own private little island for the beach. They used to offer food packages, don't know if they include drinks. Great resort if just hanging out in a resort, but about 45 minutes from Old San Juan.

I don't know if the Hyatt is still there, that was a great area, but again, far from San Juan.

Why not consider a car for just a couple of days. Doesn't have to be for the whole time!

And consider a day trip to either Viesques or Culebra which are really nice!

KVR Mar 3rd, 2013 11:44 AM

If we decide to do the cruise we are looking at the El Convento for 3 nights. I'm waiting to see in April if Southwest starts their PR flights out of Houston Hobby. That hotel also has beach privlegdes with their sister resort.

I absolutey refuse to ever step foot on another American Airlines plane. Even when they change over to US Air, I'm still not sure if I will chance it.

If we choose not to do the cruise, then we'll just do a land vacation for 6 or 7 nights and include the day trips. I was looking at the Intercontinenal or the Marriott. The Condado area seems like what we are looking for. I definitely don't want to be far away from San Juan or secluded. Though we love the beach it's really not a main priority to us. Being close to shopping, dining, bars and nightlife is more our priority. We can take tours to other areas for sightseeing. I actually went to PR in 1980, but I don't remember much except the El Yunque forest and a Flamenco show we saw.

If I can't get the SW flight, we might just go United and stay for a week and try the cruise next year. If we go ahead and do the week and get most out of PR then we won't have to do a pre-cruise stay. I'm noticing that the balcony cabins may be sold out before we make a decision. If that's the case we'll wait until next year.

DH doesn't mind so much driving in the US. We did have a rental car provided to us as part of or air/hotel package when we went to Maui and Oahu. He has driven all over Texas and at one point in time he was an over-the-road truck driver. He absolutely hated that and it didn't last long. The way we vacation, we just haven't found it all that necessary to rent a car in the Caribbean or Mexico.

Bixa525 Mar 4th, 2013 08:17 PM

Diann24, my husband and I traveled for the first time to St. Martin two years ago. l had heard about 4 months before we were scheduled to go about the crime on the island and I was petrified! I bought a can of policemen style pepper spray, I had portable alarms to put on the windows in our villa, and I had door jams that set off alarms if someone tried to open the doors, that's how scared I was to go on this trip. This was also the first time in my life I had ever flown. I have to tell you all the worry and planning was simply not warranted. We had absolutely no problems. Now granted we did take the precautions that some have mentioned about not leaving things in your car or your trunk, but for most of the time on the island we felt perfectly safe. We rented a car and traveled all around the island, we went to at least 5 different beaches during our week stay. We took the ferry one day and went to Anguilla. We ate out for dinner every night, and we even spent a few nights at a piano bar and the famous Sunset Beach bar with zero problems with our car or ourselves. We loved our trip so much we went back again last year. I don't discount that there is crime on the island, and I feel for anyone that has been robbed on vacation. I do believe though simple precautions like not leaving anything in your car, take only the cash you need for your outing, and lock the rest up in your room safe will help alleviate any problems. Also don't wear flashy jewelry, and we did invest in a beach safe which we felt was well worth the money. We loved St. Martin, the beaches are so beautiful and fun, and we loved having the French side and the Dutch side to explore. I would not cancel your trip, I think it is definitely a beautiful island to vacation in. I know we will go back again in the future!

SAnParis2 Mar 7th, 2013 10:46 AM

MOst of this is common sense, reagrdless of where you travel - I would also guess the majority of the crimes mentioned took place on the Dutch side, near the port & bevy of cruise shippers... So I am guessing the OP works for the St. Maarten bureau of tourism ???

Wingfoot1 Mar 21st, 2013 07:30 AM

Let me tell you about St.Martin, being an experienced Caribbean traveler for many years visiting many islands and understanding the cultural diversity also being aware of the surroundings this place is not safe.Last May we went to the French side to stay at a place on Orient Bay, It looked OK according to the reviews and seemed to be laid back, but upon arrival we noticed that the neighborhood looked tacky and run down.Our room was broken into and we were robbed of our Mac laptop, Ipad,Ipod and other electronics that were not left out in plain view.The sneaky gypsy weasels had entered the room through an 11"x 22" toilet room window in a two hour period when we went to dinner that night.Other people that we met also had cars broken into and had items stolen or were accosted by scruffy looking locals looking for money.It seems to me that St. Martin is loaded with what I call "Euro-trash" types who think tourists are ripe for the picking and the Police are useless and lazy.Please look up reviews for Palm Court Hotel and read "broken into and robbed" which I wrote and received over 4,000 views. According to the St. Martin tourist bureau rep. I contacted he said "crime has increased on both sides of the island and Police never solve the crime or find the stolen property" If you are looking for a safe vacation try St. Lucia,Grenada,Tobago or Jamaica. I am a big guy and know how to take care of myself in situations,but I don't go looking for problems on vacations.Remember this ..you can't take back a bad vacation.. cross St. Martin off your list !

SAnParis2 Mar 22nd, 2013 11:36 AM

You're on vacation correct ? what did you need your iPod, ipad, laptop, kitchen sink & vaccuum for anyway...I think I was behind you last time I flew... in the security line ? Are you the guy that rushed in front of everyone & then tried to carry all that crap on, along w/a duffel bag & a backpack ?? Your stereotypes are outstanding, BTW...Jamaica, safer than SXM ??


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 08:43 PM.