It’s often frightening to go somewhere you’ve never been before, especially to a foreign country with a different system, by yourself. Luckily, for first-time arrivers to St. Maarten, getting to AUC is rather easy. There are many options for new students coming to AUC to get to campus after arriving at the airport. Here, I will describe four.
1. School Shuttle — As of 2012, AUC has an airport shuttle service for all new incoming students coming in. They will pick you up from the airport and drop you off on campus, right in front of the dorms, for free! Just let your orientation advisor know about your flight itinerary before you come to the island. When you land at the airport, there will be an AUC welcome table by the baggage claim, with balloons. Just go to them, and they’ll take care of you.
2. Taxi — If you are arriving at a date or time that is outside of the available shuttle dates, then taking a taxi is the next easiest option. A taxi ride from the airport will take about $10-15 per person, depending on who the driver is and how many people are riding the taxi. Make sure you find out how much it cost before you board. Just walk out the front of the airport, and there will be many taxis waiting. The taxis in St. Maarten are quite different from what you’d normally think of as a taxi. They aren’t yellow and they don’t have signs on the top that light up. They aren’t even cars. They are usually vans that may be of any color, and they hang a sign that says “taxi” on their dashboard. Since they are vans, taking a taxi is a great option if you are bringing your family with you.
3. Bus — A cheap option is also to take the public bus. The buses on St. Maarten also do not look like buses you’d normally think of as a city bus. Like taxis, they are vans that may be of any color, and they hang a sign on their dashboard that tells you where they are heading. They are all privately owned, and usually charge $1 to get from the airport to AUC. To get to the bus stop, just walk straight out of the airport, cross the parking lot, and get to the main road. There, you’ll see a sign that says “Bushalte,” which is Dutch for “Bus Stop.” Be on the other side of the road from the airport. Flag down any bus that says “Mullet Bay” or “Philipsburg –> Mullet Bay.” Tell them you are going to “AUC”, or “the university” or “the medical school,” as the locals like to refer to it. I wouldn’t recommend taking the bus for first-timers to St. Maarten as the schedule is erratic and it may not have enough room for your luggage. But if you love adventure, by all means, you can try it out!
4. Rent a Car — If you intend to rent a car to do some grocery shopping during those first few days of settling into your new home on the island, why not go ahead and rent a car once you get off the plane? That’s what I did, and it was great. Perhaps you’ll meet some students at the airport who are also interested in splitting a car with you. Once you get out of customs and into the public part of the airport, you’ll see tons of car rental booths: Safari, United, Hertz, Budget, U-Save, etc. These are all very pricey, as they charge location fees and such (cheapest will probably cost you $30-35 per day during the low season). There are also many car rental companies that do not have booths but instead hold signs. You may look into these too. After deciding on which company to use, the company will usually take you on their van from the airport to their rental office, usually not too far away from the airport. From there, you proceed to rent your car. An American or Canadian driver’s license is sufficient. To return the car, just drive back to their office, and they should give you a free ride back to AUC.
The rental company that I like renting from is Empress Car Rental, and so far, they are the most affordable and student friendly car rental I have found. They give discounts to AUC students, so be sure to let them know. Their cheapest car, the Hyundai Getz will only cost $25 or so per day during the low season and they don’t charge any location fees. During busy season, it’s more expensive, but that’s true for any rental company on the island. Empress also picks you up from campus and sends you back after you return the car for free. Their local number is 545-2062.
Now you have the car… so how do you know where to go? Well, I’ll show you…
As of August 2011, much of the abandoned buildings in the golf course (as shown in the video) have been demolished!