St Barts Vacation Planning Information
Information to help you research your St Barts vacation
Researching Your Trip
A good way to get your planning started is to get to know a bit about the island, the different locations and where you would like to stay (Villa or hotel, near town or up on the hillsides). Read a few vacation stories in the St Barts Trip Reports section, visit the SBHonline forums. Here are links to a few SBHonline pages to get you going.
- St Barts Questions & Answers
- Insiders View A First Visit To St Barts
- Choosing to Stay Villa or Hotel?
- Read Trip Reports From Visitors
- The SBHonline Forums (find out just about anything you want to know in the forums.
Making Your Transportation Travel Plans
Getting to St Barts? What airports to use? Should you take the plane, ferry, or private charter? What is the advantage of the in transit gate and are you eligible to use it, plus much more.
- How to Get to St Barts (SBH)
- Check your passport expiration. Is it due to expire soon? Make certain it does not expire before the return date of your trip.It can take several weeks to renew an expired passport and expedited renewals are expensive.
For Additional information visit Passport & Visa Requirements / Embassies & Consulates Learn what documentation you need to enter St Barts and where to get a last minute passport.
- Remember to call your credit card company before your trip and tell them you will be traveling so they do not put a hold on your card.
Choosing A Villa Rental or a Hotel
There are about 30 hotels on the island and over 300 villa rentals to choose from.If you would like a little help you can visit the vacation planning assistant page and get help from an experienced St Barts travel planner.
- Villa Options from WIMCO. A great way to find your place.
- The Big List of Villa Rentals
- Planning Assistance
Rent Your Car… Early
If your St Barts vacation will be during the high season (December through mid April) you will want to reserve a rental car early.
If your vacation will be during the holiday season (December 15 through January 6) you will want to reserve your rental car very early.
Once you get to the island it is nice to have a list of things you would like to do. You may just want to relax around your villa or hotel but having a short list of options on hand is helpful when you want to get out and explore.The activities, service providers, and specialty shops on this page are a good place for you to start building your list.
St Barts Activities
St Barts Questions & Answers
St Barthélemy does not have the traditional all-inclusive "mega resorts" that are common at many Caribbean vacation destinations. There are a few hotels on St Barts that have amenities similar to a "resort" hotel. The Guanahani Hotel & Spa is one, with 69 guest rooms, beachfront location, multiple pools, restaurants, watersports equipment, jet-skis, and on-site activities.
There are several St Barts hotels that have great high and low season special package deals that include room, activities, spa services, transportation, and on-site dining options. Check the St Barts Hotels Directory and look through the package deals... there are some decent ones available.
You can also create your own "All Inclusive St Barts Vacation ". It requires a little more pre-planning but in the end you will find that you end up actually producing a more personalized package and can actually spend less money than buying a traditional all-inclusive vacation.
Another option is to utilize WIMCO and their exceptional staff. I continue to be amazed by WIMCO and the outstanding service they provide on St Barts.
If you rent a villa through WIMCO, you can arrange concierge services that resemble / rival an all-inclusive package.
WIMCO assigns you a personal concierge contact that can handle almost any requests you have during your stay. Dining reservations, massage, private chefs, snorkel equipment rentals, activity planning, transportation... even stocking your villa with groceries.
Answers to any question or even just some good advice is a text or phone call away. Request a daily delivery to your villa of croissants, orange juice, and a news sheet. A fantastic way to get the day started.
Visit AmericanPassport.com to receive or renew your passport.
- A micro chip is mandatory (after 2011)
- The animal must be minimum 3 months old
- The animal must have received anti rabies vaccine 21 days to 1 year before travel and anti parasitic treatment must have been given by a vet before travel
- A health certificate must be produced by a vet within 5 days of travel (and this one is very important or your dog might be refused travel by the airline and/or denied access into the country, in St Maarten and St Barthélemy)
- The appropriate paperwork must accompany the animal - an "animal passport" or health record document.
- (If traveling through St Martin there are new rules that you must follow. Even if you are just changing planes at the St Martin airport, you have to adhere to their policy.)
St Martin Pet Discussion
- The flight to St Barth's from San Juan Puerto Rico takes about one hour
- The flight to St Barth's from St Martin Airport takes 15 minutes
- The ferry service from St Martin takes about 45 minutes.
- There are several ferry departures daily so this can make things a little more convenient based on your schedule.
- The ferry does not depart from the St Martin airport... it departs from the opposite side of the island. Ground transportation is available.
The airport on St Barts is famous for its steep decline and short runway... this can make some air travelers a little nervous so flying might be a concern. If you read through the SBHonline forums you will find that most visitors do fly with one of the St Barts airline services. Flying will be more expensive than taking a ferry and flights during peak season fill up so plan ahead.
Visit the SBHonline Getting To St Barts information page. We list the options and schedules of the transportation service providers.
- All local phone numbers in St Barth are 10-digit numbers.
- Land lines begin with 0590.
- Mobile numbers begin with 0690. In France, the person making the call pays for calls to a mobile number, unlike in the US where both parties may pay. As a result, your villa phone (land line) may be blocked from dialing a 0690 number.
- Local numbers used to be 6-digit numbers, generally beginning with 27. You’ll still see some numbers listed as 27 xx xx or 27x xxx. Assume that they are land lines and add 0590 to the front when dialing.
The hours are Mon - Sat 8:00AM - 12:00PM and 2:30PM - 7:00PM(the one in Lorient reopens at 1:30PM), and the station is closed all day on Sundays, all day on holidays, and possibly on Thursday afternoons.
Unleaded Gas, which most cars take, is Sans Plombe (Without Lead) in French. Diesel is the same in French and English.
Pump first, pay inside with cash or credit card afterwards. If you’re flying out on Sunday then remember to fill the tank on Saturday, and expect a line at the gas station. It helps to know where the filler cap is and how to unlock it or open the cover BEFORE you get to the gas station.
Buying Gas After Hours You will see locals buying gas 24-hours per day.
- To do so you need a credit card with an embedded chip and a PIN code.
- US credit cards that do not have an embedded chip will not work.
- US credit cards that have a chip but no PIN are rumored to sometimes work.
- US and Canadian credit cards that have a chip and a pin will work.
- Main Office Gustavia: 8 AM to 3 PM, closed on Wed and Sat afternoons.
- Lorient: 7am to 11am weekdays 8am to 10am on Saturdays.
- St. Jean Commercial Center By the airport, 8am to 2 pm Wed and Sat morning 8am - 11am.
- UPS Cosmo, Inc. Galeries du Commerce St. Jean Tel. 0590-29-35-60
- Fedex Anndex Caraibes, Les Mangliers St Jean Tel. 0590-871-455
- DHL La Pointe Gustavia Tel. 0590-27-60-33
Yes...A new regulation (October 14, 2016) allows you to bring back Cuban origin cigars or rum purchased while in a third country (St Barthélemy) for personal consumption.
(personal consumption = up to approximately $100 in value)
Here is a link to a US Treasury FAQ updated October 14, 2016: Cuba FAQs
Yes, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may purchase or acquire Cuban-origin merchandise,including alcohol and tobacco products, while in a third country for personal consumption. Such products may be consumed while in a third country, or imported into the United States as accompanied baggage for personal use only. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.585(c) and (d). "
31 CFR § 515.585(d) is the new regulation:
"(d) Individuals who are persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to import into the United States as accompanied baggage merchandise subject to the prohibitions in §515.204, including Cuban-origin goods, that is purchased or acquired in a third country, provided that the merchandise is imported for personal use only. "
Dress Code St Barts Restaurants
St Barts Restaurants Guide
This guide has photos, hours of service, and reservation policies for many of the islands restaurants.
Wine, beer, and liquor are sold in liquor and grocery stores and restaurants 7 days a week.
Try to learn a few French phrases. It's fun. A good place to start is to just learn a few very polite things to say to the people you will interact with on your trip.
Consulate General of France in New York
934 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY
Canadian Citizens Contact Canada's Embassy of France
42 Promenade St.
Sussex, Ottawa, ON
(When a holiday falls on a Thursday, many businesses will not open until the following Monday.)
- January 1 - New Year's Day
- January 3 - All Kings Day
- Easter weekend
- May 1 - Labor Day
- May 8 - Armistice Day
- July 14 - Bastille Day
- August 24 - St. Barthélemy Saint's Day
- November 1 - All Saints Day
- November 11 - Armistice Day
- December 25 - Christmas
Banks are Closed on weekends and French holidays. Banks may also Close afternoon sessions on the day before holidays.American Express Office
Phone - 0590 52 97 06
Banque Francoise Commerciale (B.F.C.)
Gustavia - 0590 27 62 62
St. Jean - 0590 27 87 75
Gustavia across from the Post Office
Phone - 0590 29 68 30
B.N.P (Banque Nationale de Paris)
Gustavia - 0590 27 63 70
Bred, La Savane
St. Jean - 0590 52 06 00
Caraibe Exchange Office
Gustavia - 0590 27 57 57
- The Horizon Many St Barts beach photos involve the horizon. I see 2 major problems in many of the photos.
1. is an angled horizon.
2. when the image is photographed using a wide angle lens, the horizon will bow.
To minimize the effect keep the horizon in the center of the image.
- Distance to Subject
Many photos could be improved if the photographer moved closer to the subject. After setting up the camera, and focusing, examine the edges of the image. More often than not moving closer... maybe only a foot, or two... this small adjustment can eliminate superfluous elements, and make the image more successful.
- Watch the Edges of the Frame For most amateur photographers it is normal to look at the subject only. Attention to the other areas, in the photo, are extremely important. We've all seen outdoor portraits where a tree appears to be growing out of the subject's head. By looking carefully, this sort of mistake can be eliminated.
- Sunrise & Sunset
The most dramatic lighting is at Sunrise and sunset. Over the years I've found that, at sunrise, I have about a 15 minute window of ?magic light?. At sunset, the window expands to 30-45 minutes.
- Successful Portraiture
It is almost always beneficial to use fill flash, when shooting portraits, in sunlight. The lighting is usually harsh, creating shadows in the face. Using fill flash will open up the shadows, creating a more pleasing portrait. I also like doing this for sunset portraits. The subject's face will be well lit, and the sunset hues will be muted. A beautiful pastel background will result. Most cameras allow you to override the auto setting, and use fill flash. Alternatively, try shooting the portrait in diffused light (under a tree canopy, for example). This will also tame the harsh contrast. For photos of children, get down to their level. It will create a more satisfying image than shooting down on them.
- Inclement Weather Many people don't shoot when the sun isn't out. For me, it's often the best time to create images. Overcast skies will lower contrast but increase color saturation. If I get an overcast day, I usually decide to shoot plant life. I also like to shoot flora after a rain. The wet leaves, and flowers, will also saturate the colors. Beads of water, on the leaves, will act like a magnifying glass, making for interesting compositional possibilities.
- Visit The Photo Tips Thread Here
Since restaurant policies are subject to frequent changes this is a good question to ask in the St Barts Forums and get the latest information.
"Service is included by law.
Tipping is discretionary -- some people tip nothing because of their reading of the service component. Most tip 5-10% (maybe more) if service is good. "
"A service fee is included in the bill, it's not a tip, it's their wages. It is polite to leave something, and offensive to leave nothing.It is not an "extra tip" it is a tip. Cheers. "
What amount is considered customary for tipping the housekeeper that comes to your villa everyday (except Sundays)?
5 to 10 Euros a day per bedroom occupied.
If it is just a couple staying in a 3 bedroom villa, only using one bedroom, good service tip would be 10 euro a day.
If two couples, using 2 of the 3 bedrooms, a good tip is 20 euros a day. Villa Tipping on St Barts Discussion
We have a section of SBHonline listing many fun and memorable activities you can do while on the island.
You can also read through the forums to see what enjoyable things other visitors do while on their vacations. St Barts Activities
La Plage on St. Jean is another good venue for live music. We've enjoyed seeing Papagayo there on a few occasions. Keep an eye on Le News for other live music acts.
Le Ti St. Barth in Pointe Milou is a popular spot later in the evening. You may choose to have a late dinner and stick around for the festivities, or dine elsewhere, have a drink or two at BAZ, and dance it all off later at Le Ti.
Le Hot Spot in Lurin is another choice for late night. "a recent visitor wrote that he was denied entry because he was not wearing long pants "
Le Yacht Club - Gustavia
A great night spot owned by the owner of Le Ti (Carole) that seems to attract an even later crowd.
You will find that getting around is a lot easier with a small sized car. Parking on a busy night in Gustavia can be tight and tricky. A big car will limit your options when looking for a parking space.Convertible
A convertible top will help make your smaller car feel roomy. A drive around the island in a convertible top car is very enjoyable but it is surely a personal preference.Automatic Transmission
Highly advise getting an automatic. A manual transmission can be a fun car to drive but you better be very very comfortable with clutch / shifting if selecting a manual transmission.4 Wheel Drive
Seems odd to think 4 wheel drive would be needed but it is not a bad idea. The island has many steep hills and when they are wet it is very slippery.Air Conditioning
Yes. The ocean air is wonderful but a nice steady stream of A/C will make your travels much more comfortable.Car Rental Companies
There are several car rental companies with booths located right inside the airport terminal.Here our the SBHonline car rental agencies on St BartsParking Disk
Request a Parking Disk from your rental agency. The disk allows you to park for two hours in the "blue zone" parking areas in Gustavia.
A recent SBHonline discussion provides some insight comparing St Barts hotels vs. St Barts villasCharacteristics of the Island
It only takes a few minutes to drive from one end of St. Barth to the other. As a result, your location on the island is not that important for access to shops, beaches, food, and all that the island offers. But the individual location of your chosen accommodations is, of course, important.For first time visitors, it is important to understand that you do not need to stay on a beach to have a great location in St. Barth. Many of the best hotels and villas are not on the beach, and several of the best beaches do not have any accommodations. There are no large resorts or high-rises on the island. What are called "hotels" are collections of small bungalows, grouped around a larger main building, which has the reception and restaurant. Because St. Barth is hilly, many villas are built into the hillside with breathtaking views of the ocean and island. The restaurants are also scattered around the island, many unconnected to a hotel.Unlike destination resorts on other islands, on St. Barth, you will miss most of what the island offers if you just go to one place (whether hotel or villa) and stay there for all your beaching, eating, and relaxing. A car is an absolute must on the island, and the best way to experience the island is to visit all its beaches, many of its diverse restaurants, and each of its unique "towns ".Our experience
Like many, I chose a hotel for the first St. Barth trip. Like many first timers, I did not feel confident in picking a villa whose location I had not experienced first hand. I found that the security of the immediate and centralized resources of a hotel (concierge staff, restaurants close at hand, room service, etc.) was the major advantage of a hotel. Most days, I would stop by the front desk for recommendations on the day's activities. The staff was very helpful in giving guidance, recommending restaurants and making reservations, arranging a vehicle when I realized it was necessary, and helping me find my way around the island.Since that first visit, however, we have stayed in a villa -- and I doubt we'll ever go back to a hotel. We love a villa because it is your own house on the island.This means more space, more privacy, more amenities, more island views, and more freedom. Even as compared to the hotels that have a kitchenette, sitting area, or private pool, a villa will always have more space, a more complete kitchen, a living room and dining room, and (if you choose) a larger pool.(I've tried to be objective in the comments that follow, but my preference for a villa will undoubtedly come through.)Privacy
A villa can give you much more privacy. There is nothing like looking out at the view from your villa and feeling like you have the whole island to yourself.The better hotels can give you privacy, but it is usually by walls or screens of plants on either side of your view. In a villa, the privacy usually comes from your seclusion on a hillside (there are, of course, exceptions). This privacy offers any number of advantages. I could tell you why we like it, but that is beside the point. The point is that you have the freedom to do anything your heart desires without worrying about bothering others or them bothering you.You can put up some music and splash in the pool, you can turn off all the lights and sip champagne under the stars, or you can rise at sunrise and sip coffee together in the quiet of the first morning light. It's all up to you.Food
Villas and hotels are about even on food. Wherever you stay, you will want to visit many restaurants spread across the island. If you stay in a hotel, you'll have at least one restaurant that is 'right there'. This is a slight advantage. The larger kitchen of a villa gives you more freedom, particularly if you choose to eat anything at home. We always get groceries for some breakfasts and light lunches. This is easier in a villa, but many hotels have some form of a kitchenette as well. Hotels have room service; you can also have a chef come and cook at your villa.Service
Both hotels and villas have staff to assist you. The hotel staff is right there; the villa staff is at the rental company's office. Both staffs can assist you in choosing restaurants, making reservations, obtaining services (e.g., massages), and providing all kinds of guidance for your stay. Both hotels and villas have daily maid service. Villas have a small advantage here -- because of the greater space, you don't need to leave. Just move off to the other end of the house.Price and Value
Villas win here. Although it is possible to spend much more on a villa (how about $25k per week?), overall, villas are less expensive than hotels of comparable quality.Setting
By necessity, hotel rooms are grouped closely together. The settings are usually excellent. You will not have a panoramic view, however, because of the other buildings. Villas, of course, vary greatly. But they typically have a view of at least 180 degrees from left to right. Villas are generally higher in the hills, offering you greater views down and across the island.Interior
Both hotels and villas have a wide variety of interiors, from sparse to opulent. Villas generally have more room. Most (all?) villas have a television, stereo, living room with sofas, a dining area with a table and chairs, and more space to spread out.Price and Value.
Hotels are generally priced in Euros, and villas are generally priced in US Dollars. Given the current exchange rate, that generally means that a villa will be more economical than most of the top tier hotels.Thanks to Sbhonline Members Brian, and KevinS For This Comparison. You can get much more St Barts advice by visiting the Sbhonline Forums.
If it is just a couple staying in a 3 bedroom villa, only using one bedroom, good service tip would be 10 euro a day.If two couples, using 2 of the 3 bedrooms, good service tip 20 euro a day. Villa Tipping on St Barts Discussion