FAQ | Questions and Answers For St Barts Travelers

SBHonline and it’s members have been providing insider advice and information about St Barts Island for almost 10 years. We have kept many of the more frequently asked questions and answers about the island and listed them below. If you want more information you can visit the St Barts discussion forums where you can find almost anything you want to know about St Barts.

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.

A valid passport is required to enter St. Bart’s.

This policy has been in place for some time (see State Department Information Sheet – FWI. A visa is not required for US citizens unless you plan to stay for more than 90 days. No visa needed for citizens of the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Israel.

More Information: St Barts Visa & Passport Information

Need to renew your passport in a rush?
Visit AmericanPassport.com to receive or renew your passport.

You can take pets to St Barts but there is a pet policy.

  • 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

Is it better to fly or take a ferry when going to St Barts?
This decision is really personal preference but here are a few things to consider:

  • 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.

Airlines with Scheduled Flights
Private Charter Flights
St Barts Ferry Schedules

There are a number of ATMs on the island. Withdrawing money from your US bank account at an ATM is usually the cheapest way to buy Euros.

Know your ATM pass code as a number, as there are usually no letters on French ATM keypads. If your bank has a relationship with one of the on-island banks then you can sometimes save on fees, which can be costly. Some banks and credit unions waive all foreign ATM fees.

Check with your bank, as fees sometimes change over time.

  • 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.

All St Barth phone numbers, both land line and mobile, are in the 590 country code.

When dialing a St Barts number from the US you drop the leading zero on the 10-digit local number and add 590.

To call from the US dial
011 (for international,)
590 (SBH Country code),
and the 10-digit number without the leading zero.

A typical St Barts phone number might look like: 0590 27 71 83

To call this number from the US you would dial: 011 590 590 27 71 83

The cheapest way to phone the US is to use a phone card.
Buy a card (Dauphin Telecom) at the gas station.
Instructions are on the back in multiple languages.
Buy the cheapest Euro value that you can find (€5 or €10) unless you plan on making a LOT of calls.

Using a phone card:

  • To call the US or Canada
  • Enter the local access number (0809 139 139)
  • Enter 2 for prompts in English
  • Enter the 10-digit pin code under the scratch-off block on the back of your Bla Bla Card
  • Dial the number just as you would dial a long distance number at home:
    1-area code-number
    (For other countries substitute the appropriate country code for the 1.)
  • To call a local mobile number
  • Follow the first 3 steps above and dial the 0690 number as 0690 xx xx xx

There are two gas stations on St Barth, the gas station at the airport and the gas station in Lorient.

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.

How to visit the Washing Machine/Natural Pools

Drive over the mountain at Grand Fond and head down toward the sea. You will come to a dog leg turn to the left. Do not make the turn, but park your car to your right in the small carpark (4 cars). Walk past the turn and take the path on your right that goes between a stone wall and the brush.

When you come out on the stone beach, turn right and follow the sea and the path up the hill. Climb down to the natural pools when they come in site and take a dip if you’re so inclined, but watch out for the black, spiny sea urchins.

St Barts has three Post Office branches.

  • 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, Federal Express, and DHL all have offices on the Island.

  • 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
    Tel. 0590-27-60-33

When traveling to SBH from the United States, you will need to account for both a different electrical socket and a different voltage level.

Electricity on St Barts operates at 220 volts. As such, to run U.S. appliances you will need an adapter

Most villas will have adapters but it is a good idea to ask before you get there.
Adapters only cost a few dollars so if you have several electronics with you… laptop, phone chargers, hairdryers, etc. It’s a good idea to pickup an extra adapter or two to take back to the villa.
Or ask you villa agent or owner if they can supply you with extras.

Most villas now have WiFi so you will have access to the internet and email from your villa.

Almost every hotel maintains a WiFi account for guests, and offer the passwords on a temporary basis.

More Internet Connection Information

Hurricane information.
5-day Forecast for St Barts.
St Barts Weather and Storm Information

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.”

St Barts Island is in the Atlantic Time Zone and maintains Atlantic Standard Time year round. (They do not observe Daylights Savings Time)

Time difference:
St Barts is one hour ahead of New York in the winter (Standard Time) with no difference in the summer.

There is a 5 hour time difference between St Barts and Paris.

To Fly to St Barth’s you will have to first get a flight to either St Martin (SXM) airport, or San Juan Puerto Rico (SJU)

From there you will take connector flights to St Barth’s (SBH).
– The flight to St Barth’s from San Juan Puerto Rico takes about one-hour
– The flight to St Barth’s from St Martin takes about 15 minutes

Scheduled Flights leave regularly for St Barts with these providers:
St Barth Commuter
Tradewind Aviation
Air Caraibes

You can also schedule private charter flights with Tradewind Aviation.
Visit the SBHonline Getting To St Barts information page.

There are multiple daily ferry trips between St. Martin Island to/from St Barts.

The ferry ride from St Martin takes about 45 minutes.

St Barts Ferry Schedules

During the high season it is a good idea to make a reservation at any restaurant that will take them. You can review several of the restaurant reservation and dress code policies in the SBHonline St Barts Restaurants Guide or you can go to the SBHonline forums and ask some of the members.
During the off season reservations are not necessarily needed but are never a bad idea.

It is pretty casual dress on St Barts. Breakfast/ lunch short pants and sandals are fine at almost any restaurant… for dinner there are a few restaurants that you might want to step up one notch from beach attire. A very select few require long pants for men.

Here is a forum thread discussing this topic.
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.

The legal drinking age on St Barts is 18 years old.
Wine, beer, and liquor are sold in liquor and grocery stores and restaurants 7 days a week.

French is the official language of St Barts, and you will hear a lot of French spoken on your trip. You may also hear some of the locals speaking Créole.

Most of the places you will go people will also speak English (airport, restaurants, hotels, stores, etc.) so it is not a problem if you do not speak French.

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.

U.S. Citizens Contact
Consulate General of France in New York
934 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY
Tel. 212-606-3600

Canadian Citizens Contact
Canada’s Embassy of France
42 Promenade St.
Sussex, Ottawa, ON
Tel. 613-789-1795

The following holidays are observed by government offices, post offices, banks. Many stores are also closed for national holidays.

(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

St Barts uses the Euro € as it’s official currency.

Here is a link to a Dollar to Euro Currency Converter It is a good idea to know the approximate Euro to US dollar exchange rate before you leave for your vacation.

ATM’s Cash Machines On St Barts
There are quite a few ATM’s on the island. One directly across the street from the airport.

There a several in Gustavia. I can confirm that the ATM by the post office in Gustavia did not even charge a transaction fee.

Bank hours are generally open
Monday through Friday, 8am – 12p (noon)
2pm to 3:30pm

Banks are Closed on weekends and French holidays.
Banks may also Close afternoon sessions on the day before holidays.

American Express Office
St Jean
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

It is a good idea to get some Euros for your wallet before or soon after you arrive on the island.

If you want to arrive on St. Barts with euros in hand, there are ATM machines inside of the St. Maarten airport terminal.

There is also an ATM machine located directly across the street from the St Barts Airport.

It is a good idea to contact your credit card company before you leave the US and advise them of your trip dates and destination so your use of the credit card on the island does not trigger security shut down.

Visa and Master Card are widely accepted on St Barts. AMEX is accepted at some but not all places.

Discover Cards are not accepted on St Barts at this time but this is likely to change.

A post from the SBHonline forum offering some island photography tips.

  • 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

Most St Barts restaurants do accept credit cards. There are a few places on the island that do not “Le Select – no credit cards”

Many establishments do not accept AMEX or Discover so bring your Visa or Master Card.

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.

Is tipping in St Barts restaurants expected? Encouraged?
Is gratuity usually included?
A few replies from some people who operate establishments on the island.

“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.

SBHonline has several island maps published on this page
Maps of St Barts Island

Hotels Map
Beaches Map
Regions Map

What amount is considered customary for tipping
the housekeeper that comes to your villa everyday (except Sundays)?

Insiders Consensus:
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

Visit the St Barts scuba diving and snorkeling page at St Barts Scuba.

Your best resource will be to visit the forums and search forums and get insider information about where the best diving and snorkeling spots are, and the best guides to take you there.

BAZ (Bete a Zailes) bar in Gustavia is a very enjoyable evening.
The music is live and mellow, the crowd is fun, and the service is very good.

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.

A collection of Top 10 Favorites lists is maintained on this page

Top 10 favorite Things About St Barts

If this is your first trip to St Barth’s you might be a bit surprised at the roads and driving conditions on the island.
The roads are quite narrow and winding with many very steep hills.

Rent A Small Car
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.

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 Barts

Parking 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 popular question especially for first-time St Barts visitors, choosing a villa rental or hotel?

A recent SBHonline discussion provides some insight comparing St Barts hotels vs. St Barts villas

Characteristics 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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

This really depends on your personal preferences.
St Barts is not a big island so getting to the different areas is not a big deal but… you really need to drive.

So if you want to be able to walk to stores and restaurants then villas in St Jean Beach, or Gustavia might work for you.

What amount is considered customary for tipping the daily housekeeper?

Insiders Consensus:
5 to 10 Euro’s a day on bedrooms 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, good service tip 20 euro a day. Villa Tipping on St Barts Discussion

This will vary depending on the villa owner or agency you rent through.

Some villas will have some basic welcome items and many will not have anything.

If you rent a villa through WIMCO they provide a nice welcome provision package including some bread, cheese, crackers and some drinks.

You can also ask your WIMCO concierge about getting a daily provisions delivery… This is a nice service if you enjoy relaxing around your villa in the mornings.

Many hotels and companies offer rates based on high, low, and peak seasons. Below are the approximate dates for the seasons.

High Season
January 7th through April 1

Low Season
April 2nd through December 14th

Peak Sesaon
Dec 15th through Jan 7th

St Barts has a 5% tourism tax. Some villa owners include this in the price and some have the renter (You) pay.

It is a standard fee but do check to see if it is included.

Be sure to check out villas that might have more bedrooms than you need — the rates are often broken down by bedrooms required (especially in the low season).

For the bird watchers coming to St Barts we’ve gathered some information and photos that will hopefully help you get started. There are also several SBHonline forum members that have a lot of experience birding on the island…

Birding on St Barts