Transportation in St. Maarten

Moped? Car? Bike? Public Transportation? Which of these would be the best deal in terms of cost, accessibility, comfort, transport, time, and safety?

1. Moped

  • Cost: $700-$1200 to buy new. Saves on gas money. No insurance or road costs necessary if tank is under 50cc.
  • Accessibility: A moped can drive anywhere and park anywhere. During traffic jams, a moped can be convenient.
  • Comfort: During rain a moped may not be ideal, but perhaps a helmet and rain coat will do.
  • Transport: I may find enough space to carry one or two bags of groceries.
  • Speed: Since St. Maarten is small and has no highways, there is no need to drive above 35 mph or so. This is the max speed of a 50cc moped on flat ground. A 50cc moped, however, is slow when traveling uphills. During traffic jams, which is common on the island, a moped has the advantage of driving ahead and around the traffic.
  • Safety: I may slip and fall off a moped. I have less visibility to a car. Mopeds may be stolen.

2. Car

  • Cost: $1500-$4000 to buy a used car. $2500 to ship a car from the U.S. to St. Maarten one-way. Gas price. $200-$250 annual auto insurance fee. $210 annual road tax. Other maintenance fees. $350-$450 per month to rent a car. American and Canadian drivers license are accepted. However, remember you could always sell your car to another student, although how much you make back will depend.
  • Accessibility: accessible on all roads
  • Comfort: comfortable in all weather
  • Transport: convenient to transport grocery and large items when moving to a new apartment.
  • Speed: 35-50mph. Not ideal during traffic jams.
  • Safety: Safest, however like with any type of ownership, there are the risks of accidents and your car getting broken into.

3. Bike

  • Cost: $200 to buy. Perhaps less than $50 for accessories. I may not have to spend money on gas, but I may have to buy more food and thirst quenchers.
  • Accessibility: Can be a pain to ride up slopes. although AUC is located on a flatter part of the island, the rest of St. Maarten is mountainous.
  • Comfort: Not ideal during bad weather. Although it may be a great opportunity to stay fit, it can be tiresome.
  • Transport: I can only transport what I can fit in my book bag.
  • Speed: 13-15mph
  • Safety: Biking is the least safe, at least on the main roads, which have no bike lanes. Biking on and around campus, however, is safe and convenient.

4. Public Transportation

  • Cost: It costs $1 for each town you pass through, so $1 to get to Maho/Airport, $2 to get to Simpson Bay, etc.
  • Accessibility: there is no set schedule or even set stops, unless you are in Marigot or Philipsburg. Just wave the bus down and hop on. The apartment I move into in the future may not be accessible to the bus route. There may be suspension of service during holidays or at late hours.
  • Comfort: on the basic level, as comfortable as a car. The buses may get crowded.
  • Transport: Whatever you can carry with you and perhaps a little more, depending on how crowded the bus is.
  • Time: It takes time to walk to the bus stop, wait for the bus, ride, and then walk to the destination point. Perhaps it may take just as long to bike, but with less joules spent.
  • Safety: As safe as any other bus. You don’t have to worry about your car getting broken into or your moped being stolen.

The concensus on valueMD seems to be that car is the most convenient, yet most costly, and public transportation to be the least convenient, but cheapest. Some people share cars with others like timeshare. Others rent it months at a time. Still others rent cars only on days when they need them from one of the many car rental companies on the island. From what I read on ValueMD, those with mopeds are happy of their choice. There is still much for me to learn about the conditions in St. Maarten. The internet seems to provide little on the public transportation, its costs and routes. If anyone has more resources on transportation in St. Maarten, I’d like to know!

**UPDATE**

Now that I’m on the island, I realize that I hardly have any need to travel far from campus, at least definitely not on a daily basis. For me, it is economical to find a few friends to rent a car for a day every month or so to stock up on grocery and do some stress-relieving traveling. Even with grocery, there’s one within walking distance that has all the basics (fresh veggies, meat, dairy products, pre-packaged foods, etc.).

I’ve taken the public transportation many times and honestly, its not bad. It’s cheap ($1 to Maho, $2 to Simpson Bay), and it gets you to all the major places. I only had to wait 10 minutes on average, of which that time I can talk with friends or study. However, the buses do not run at night or on Saturdays and Sundays.

Of course, deciding what type of transportation to use all depends on your lifestyle. If you decide to live far away from campus, you would need a car. Or if you like to travel a lot or go out to the clubs at night often, having a car is useful too. If you are coming with a spouse or family, I would suggest getting a car.

Some people decide to ship their car over from the states. This is also a viable idea, as you get the reassurance that you are driving a reliable car. Not to mention, you could load that car up with all the stuff you want to bring over to the island.

For information about how to get to AUC from the airport, please check out this post: http://www.caribbeanmedstudent.com/2010/11/getting-to-auc-from-the-airport/

12 comments to Transportation in St. Maarten

  • Samantha Goodrick

    Benji,

    Who did you rent cars from while you were on the island?

    Thanks!
    Sam

    • Benji

      Hi Sam, I usually rented from either Empress Car Rental by the airport, or from Dollar Thrifty at Wyndham Sapphire, just down the street from campus. Empress will give you a free ride to their office from campus to pick up the car as well as give you a ride back when you return the car. At either company, let them know that you are an AUC student. They usually give student discounts.
      Benji

  • Louis Sun

    Hi Benji,
    My wife is going to attend AUC in the fall, and we recently visited St. Maarten with the whole family along with the kids. I’m currently working on finding a home and a car. I like to buy a car but not sure where to begin the search. I was wondering if you can recommend were to look? Thank you.

    Louis

  • Anthony

    Where can I catch one of these buses to head out to Simpson Bay? How do I know a bus from a regular van, does it have a certain license plate? Thanks.

    • Benji

      Hey Anthony, to catch a bus from school, walk to the main road, and cross the street on the same side of Cupecoy Beach Club entrance. There, you’ll see big vans that have signs on the dashboard saying “Philipsburg” or what not. They all pass through Simpson Bay. Flag them down and they’ll stop to get you. There are no specific bus stops except within Philipsburg. Everywhere else, you just flag them down wherever you are.

  • Nelly

    Hi Benji,

    So is it possible to rent a car for a month or so until I figure out whether I want a moped/bike or buy a used car? Thank you!

    • Benji

      Hi Nelly,
      Yes, I’ve known a few friends who rented cars per month when they were on the island. I’m not sure how much it costs though or from where they rented from, but it’s always a good option to consider if you are not sure yet what you want to get. There are plenty of used cars for sale though from students who are leaving the island, and the good thing is you could always sell it at the end to another student and get your money back. Tons of cars get passed down from student to student on the island.
      Benji

  • Zsofia

    Hi Benji,

    we are in St Maarten and looking for a used car for sale till 2000$!!
    do you know some deal?
    thanks
    Zsofia
    +1 721 5566442

  • Kyle

    Benji,
    I have a new car that I financed in the US. If I move to St Martin, I will have to continue this car payment even if I leave it in the US. To me it makes sense to bring it and use it if I’m paying a monthly payment. What is your opinion on this? Is it safe to bring a new car to St Martin?

    Thanks!

    • Benji

      Hi Kyle, I know quite a few students who shipped their cars over from the states. It can be a good idea, especially since you’d know the shape of the car beforehand rather than buy a car on the island that you know nothing of. However, many students also leave their cars on the island (sell them to other students) when they go back to the states after Basic Sciences. It can be quite costly to ship your car back and forth.

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