St. Barts Money-Saving Tips
Flexible flightsBe prepared to fly at a more convenient time for the airlines if a scheduled booking doesn’t meet its fuel quota. Bags sometimes arrive on later flights, so pack a change of clothes, any required medicine, and a bathing suit in your carry-on.
FerryFerry service to and from St. Maarten is geared more toward day-trippers (though it’s a welcome alternative for nervous fliers). The largest ferry, Voyager, links Marigot (roughly a 20-minute cab ride from the airport) with Gustavia’s Quai de la République. The bumpy 75-minute crossing leaves twice daily; Wednesday and Sunday departures are from Oyster Pond (www.voyager-st-barths.com).The newer, $5 million U.K.-owned Rapid Explorer; is a technologically advanced, speedier catamaran with three daily (twice Sunday) 40-minute crossings from St. Maarten’s Chesterfield Marina in Pointe Blanche – a 15-20 minute taxi ride from the airport (www.st-barths.com/rapid-explorer). Reservations are essential.
ToursThough part of the charm of vacationing on St. Barts is discovering the island on your own, orientation tours are available. The Tourism Office has devised recommended itineraries, lasting 60-90 minutes; the taxi drivers are familiar with the routes but will also craft independent excursions. Figure about 50€ ($78) per person.
Gastronomic FestivalHôtel Guanahani’s Bartolomeo restaurant helps inaugurate the tourist season in late November, bringing in acclaimed chefs like Marc Meneau of the three-star-Michelin L'Esperance and, in 2005, Cindy Pawlcyn of Napa’s acclaimed Mustards and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. Call at least three weeks in advance for reservations: 011-590-5 90-2-66-60.
St. Barths Music FestivalThe annual two-week celebration in mid-January, showcases an international collection of virtuoso performers, ranging from rising stars of the Paris Opera Ballet to legendary jazz bands like the Monty Alexander Trio. Tickets available at the door.
CarnivalOccuring in early-mid February, this festival ushers in several days of costumed partying, culminating with a huge Mardi Gras parade in Gustavia and Mercredi des Cendres (Ash Wednesday) when a procession of revelers garbed in très chic black and white lead then burn Vaval, the spirit of French Caribbean Carnival.
Saint-Barths BucketIn late March/early April, there is a popular three-day mega-yacht regatta held by and for the owners of the leviathan boats (entry is limited primarily to those at least 100 feet long), and attracting a field of 25-30 major sailors and cheering throngs.
Getting Around St. BarthsMost hotels and villa companies offer (usually free) transfers to and from the airport and, often, the ferry dock. Be sure to ask when you’re planning your flight and ferry itineraries.
St-Barth ShuttleFour air-conditioned minibuses ply two main routes (departing from Gustavia to Flamands and Anse des Caves,) continuously from roughly 9am-1am. Fare is 10€ ($15.50); tickets are available at hotels reception desks.
TaxisTaxis are unmetered. Although, technically, there are flat rates for shorter rides, with the fare increasing by time increments, in practice, cabbies name a fixed, immoveable rate (figure 10-25€, which translates roughtly to $15-40). There are taxi stands at the St-Jean airport (011-590-590-27-75-81) and in Gustavia (011-590-590-27-66-31). Fares are 50% higher from 8pm-6am and on Sundays and holidays.
Rental carsRental cars are de rigueur, because absolutely NO one, darling, stays at the same beach. And you’ll want to explore the restaurants too. Always inspect brakes and gears before accepting a vehicle. You need a valid driver’s license, and there’s usually a three-day minimum in high season. Recognizable names include Avis (011-590-590-27-71-43), Budget (011-590-590-27-66-30), Europcar (011-590-590-27-75-32), and Hertz (011-590-590-27-71-14).
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The lowest rates for Mediterranean cruises can be found in the winter months, when temperatures hover in the 50s and ports are largely crowd-free.
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