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Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

Pennsylvania
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Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

We will be in St. Maarten for one day only as cruise passengers the first week of May- from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.

We'd love to see as much of the island as possible, but haven't had much luck finding any tour operators that will provide us the types of tour we want. In fact, we've not found many inks for websites of tour operators at all.

We would like to leave the port area as early as possible, do a tour of the island, shop in Marigot for a couple of hours, and then spend the majority of the day (3-4 hours)at Orient Beach before heading back to do some end of day shopping in Phillipsburg before heading back to the cruise dock.

Does anyone know of any tour operators who can schedule flexible tours such as this? For small groups or even maybe just the two of us?

Or would it be more time-efficient and money saving to rent a car for the day? Can your rent cars at the cruise dock? If so, does anyone know which rental companies are at the dock?

If we drive around the island, is it difficult to pull over for photo opportunities and just to soak up the sights for a bit? Is it difficult to find your way around the island? (We rented a car in Barbados and hardly ever saw a road sign!)

Also, how will we find parking to be in Marigot, Phillipsburg, and Orient Beach? Any tips on where to park in these areas would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, what is the latest time of day we can expect to show up at Orient Beach and be able to find available beach loungers/umbrellas? Or are they plentiful enough during this time of year (early May) that it shouldn't be a problem? I did check, we are the only cruise ship in port that day, but not sure how busy the island is normally that time of year.

Thanks so much for your assistance.

Massachusetts
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1. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

Hello,

I would not rent a car for one day. I would catch a taxi at the port and ask for someone to show you around. There are always a lot of taxicabs in Phillipsburg who are looking for customers. Also, I would shop in Phillispburg instead of Marigot. This is where the ships dock and there are so many places to shop there. They usually have specials when the ships are in town.

As for Orient Beach, we usually stay around the Bikini Beach Bar. We normally travel to St. Martin in May and find there are plenty of chairs and umbrellas there. You can go at any time during the day as there are people coming and going all the time. Just, please please do not bring half the ship with you. We find that you can tell when the cruise ship people are at the beach by the shoes, socks, pants, shirts, sweatshirts, bags, etc that they leave on the sand!! Quite comical. (and, we cruise also.)

St. maarten
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2. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

I agree with the reply above. Just negotiate with a taxi driver for a good rate for the day once you get off the ship. It's a common occurance.

Cupecoy Bay, St...
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3. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

Agree also. That's just exactly what I would do. We also travel in May - you will not have any problems getting chairs and umbrellas.

Pennsylvania
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4. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

Thanks so much for your help....a few other questions if I may?

1.)What kind of cost per person should we expect to pay a taxi driver to do the type of day long tour we want to try? I assume they would not be offended by a tip on top of the cost of the tour?

2.) How can you tell if you are getting a person who is informative, patient and flexible? Is there a certain taxi company that is recommended? Will the driver be willing to wait or come back for you at certain times...say after the island tour to shop in Marigot for a while..and then drop us off again at the beach and pick us up in 3-4 hours before going back to the ship?

3.)I guess my real concern is safety..not that I distrust the locals in SXM, don't get me wrong, I have been all over the Caribbean and love the friendliness of the people...but we are two young females traveling alone, and we would just be getting inside some random driver's taxi, and we've never been to the island. I don't know, I guess that is why I thought an organized tour operator or car rental would be more of an option for us. I realize things can happen if you rent a car or take a group tour, but somehow I think I would feel safer. Anyone have any information about choosing a driver that would set my mind at ease about this?

Thanks so much.

Gatineau, Canada
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5. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

I agree also if you can make a deal with a taxi cab for the day it would be nice so you don't have to find parking. But to rent a car it is 46US a day from Ucar, and there are place to stop and take pictures.

At orient beach go where the yellow umbrellas are much cheaper 8US a day where the red loungers/umbrellas are they ask 21US a day plus the beach is much nicer at the other end.

Lots of parking.

For shopping go to Phillsburg better deals for the same stuff. I found Margot very expensive. Remember french side is in Euro dutch side US.

One more thing there is one highway for the island with good directions.

If you decide to rent a car when leaving Phillsburg turn right at the lights and you on your way to orient beach about 15 to 20 minutes drive. You are also out of the traffic.

6. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

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7. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

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8. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

As a young woman myself (mid 20's), I see where you two are coming from on being concerned about the taxi driver thing. I must say, this would concern me, too. I've been to SXM a few times with my mom. We LOVE it, but have been concerned in taxis several times and felt like we were going to be scammed. They actually have buses right off the ship that take people to Orient Beach and to Marigot. I'm wondering if this is a better option for you??? For one, there will be shopping (the same shopping) on just about every place your cruise ships docks. Although I am a HUGE FAN of shopping of any kind, I would say that you would probably most enjoy a day at Orient Beach. This beach is amazing. I've been begging my husband to go to SXM with me just to show him this beach. You could just float in the warm blue water and sit on your cushioned chairs with umbrellas ALL DAY LONG and still not want to leave. There are lots of funny sights on the beach. We love the Kakao restaurant for lunch, which is right on the sand where the blue chairs are. If you do rent a car, you can pull right up to the sand practically (you'll see a barrier of trees) to park. One thing is if you do rent a car, you can head out to Marigot from Phillipsburg (the cruise port) just by following the Marigot signs and a simple map. Then, you can stop in Marigot. Easy street parking here, especially as early as you'd get there. If you disembark at 7AM however, nothing will be open until around 10. There is a great french pastry shop for a little breakfast or crepes, too at the restaurants around the lagoon. Since it will be so early, you should easily find Marigot by about 9, even if you get lost. Then, in Marigot, you'll want to ask around and try to find the best shopping street (we didn't know to look for it and never found it our first trip). This street has Hermes (perfume), Longchamp (those cool leather and nylon collapsable travel bags), L'Occitane Bath & Body at the fabulous french prices, a few french pharmacies (awesome Phytologie hair products at French Prices), Petit Bateau (those tanks & tee's that are all the rage), and some other fun accessory & shoe shops. If all you are seeing is cheapy souvenir shops and no shops at all, you are not on the right street. Then you'll want to get going to Orient Beach by about noon. You just continue on the same path you were on to get to Marigot as you head to Orient Beach. There will be signs and you should be able to follow a map easily. That way you can have lunch at a restaurant on the beach and lay out & swim for at least four hours. I would allow for at least 2 hours to return to the ship if you drive. There can be very bad traffic in Marigot around 5PM if its a weekday--you will wonder where all the people are even coming from! Plan ahead for this so you don't freak out! You would just return to Phillipsburg the same way you came. You will not really miss out if you skip the Phillipsburg shopping. There are other islands with less exciting beaches where you can get your Phillipsburg-type shopping in, trust me. The Coach Store, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren etc. that might be enticing in Phillipsburg are not offering discounts. Keep your belonging close by, don't carry all your valuables off the ship (just a beach bag with essentials--I'm sure you know this) and you'll feel relatively safe in SXM. Be sure are "covered up" while shopping, too (no bikini tops, etc.) and you'll spare yourself some oggling. I've never noticed anyone acting inappropriately at the beach, which is nice. As a young woman who drives in the city all the time, I don't think that the driving in St. Martin is a problem. Stopping to look around is not difficult, but you also see plenty while driving. Be somewhat careful just drivind down any street you see. Look for signs indicating that there is a town or something if you are going to turn in anywhere. By going to Marigot and Orient Beach, you'll see the french side mostly, of which I am so fond;)

Cupecoy Bay, St...
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9. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

The taxi's are strictly regulated on the island. I have a link somewhere to their website. Must be at work. I can post it tomorrow if you wish. You can contact them to arrange a tour. If I was in off a ship, I would not want to be bothered trying to figure out how to get where on an unknown island. Let the professionals do it so you can sit back an relax.

Have Never heard of any incidents with taxi's on the island. There are a few folks who "pretend" to be taxi's and will take advantage of you. But taxi's are clearly marked. But I would arrange in advance.

Pennsylvania
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10. Re: Should we rent a car or hire a tour guide? Also Orient...

Thanks to all who replied...the information was all very helpful. We have decided to rent a car and see the island our own way. We have a lot of experience driving around other Caribbean islands and Mexico, so we'll just let common sense prevail and be cautious and keep track of the time! (Although I wouldn't mind being left in SXM!!)

I appreciate everyone's understanding that we were a bit apprehensive in taking a taxi for the entire day on an unfamiliar island.

Since we have committed to renting a car, can anyone give us an idea of what is the best way to tour the island? I hear some folks say counterclockwise, others say clockwise. Does it matter?

We want to go to Marigot first, then to Orient Beach for the bulk of the day, then to Phillipsburg to shop if time permits - while trying to catch some beautiful vantage points along the way? What would be the best way to accomplish this - road wise?

Also, I read someplace that the view driving from Marigot to Orient Beach is spectacular. Can anyone tell me what road they are speaking of and what I should be looking out for in terms of scenic beauty and great photo-ops?

Thanks...we appreciate everyone's input.

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