The Inside Scoop On What To Expect On The Island During Your St. Barths Rental Stay
Like a little European city in the Caribbean, St. Barths has a vibe unlike any other island around. Here, the locals will welcome you with open arms and double-cheek kisses…and you will undoubtedly feel comfortable the moment you arrive. But, as with all foreign travel, it is important to get acquainted with customs, language, style, etiquette, and day-to-day “workings” ahead of time. Here is where you can find all the details to help make your St. Barths rental vacation relaxed and carefree. For more information on specific procedures and policies for villa rentals, St. Barth Exclusives’ FAQ page is the place to look. Or, just give us a call and ask—we’re here to help you with all your St. Barths travel needs.
What to Wear
In general, St. Barth is very informal. Casual sports clothes in cotton and other light fabrics are fine by day, as are jeans, T-shirts, etc. (bathing suits are suitable for the beach, pool, or yacht, but not for in town). At night, women often dress for dinner in the latest in fashionable resort wear. Ties and jackets are never required for men at most establishments.
French is the official language, but much of the population speaks English and there is seldom a language problem at hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. Many visitors return raving about the “Frenglish” that the locals tend to express.
Citizens of the U.S. and Canada do need a passport to enter St. Barth. Those traveling by air will need to present their return or ongoing ticket as well. European Union citizens only require an official photo ID, but passports are always recommended. Items for personal use (tobacco, cameras, film) are admitted without formalities or tax, as long as they are not excessive in quantity.
Banks, government offices, post offices, and many stores close for national holidays. It is important to note that if a holiday falls on a Thursday, most businesses will remain closed until the following Monday. National holidays are as follows: 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), and December 25 (Christmas).
10-15% is standard, if a service charge is not already included.
Everyone is advised to drink bottled water. If you have a sensitive stomach, we recommend using bottled water for everything (brushing your teeth, ice, washing dishes, making coffee, etc).
Many would say that St. Barth offers the ideal climate: mostly dry, with an average temperature of 72°F to 86°F (22°C to 30°C). The island does experience a hurricane season, which is typically during the months of July through November.
Around the island, most shops are open around 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. but close midday for an extended dejeuner (lunch) that typically lasts until 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. Generally, the closing time for shops is 7:00 p.m. Banks are open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to noon and again from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.
There are two main pharmacies in St. Barth: The Pharmacie de Saint-Barth, which is located on quai de la République, Gustavia (tel. 590 27 61 82), and the Pharmacie de l’Aéroport, which is adjacent to the airport (tel. 59 27 66 61). Both are open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, one or the other is open for at least part of the day.
St. Barth has more than 20 beaches, ranging from the bustling St. Jean and Grand Cul de Sac to the more private Grand Saline, Gouverner, and Flammands. If you’re after true seclusion, Anse Colombier can only be reached by boat or a half-hour hike down a path. Topless sunbathing is common, even on family friendly beaches like Shell Beach and Marechal, but public nudity is illegal.
As you might expect, St. Barths is home to plenty of upscale French and Creole restaurants, including some reservations-only eateries favored by camera-shy celebrities. However, because St. Barths villa rentals are so popular, local markets and take-out shops are also popular options for dining-whether you are cooking for yourselves or giving the groceries to your villa staff to prepare meals for you.
The legal drinking age in St. Barth is 18. You may purchase wine, beer, and liquor seven days a week, during normal business hours at grocery stores and restaurants.
There is no public transportation in St. Barth other than taxis. Taxi fares are collected in keeping with a rate sheet and both Euros and American dollars are accepted. Taxi stands are available at the airport and at the ferry terminal in Gustavia. Gustavia Taxi Stand: 05 90 27 66 31. Airport Taxi Stand: 05 90 27 75 81.
Currency and Banks
The Euro (€), is the currency of St. Barth. The official exchange rate is subject to change. However, Amercian dollars are accepted everywhere.
- Banque Française Commerciale (B.F.C.), rue du Général de Gaulle, Gustavia (Tel: 05 90 27 62 62), and in St. Jean (Tel: 05.90.27.87.75)
- BDAF, accross from the Post Office in Gustavia (Tel: 05 90 29 68 30)
- B.N.P ( Banque Nationale de Paris), rue de Bord de Mer, Gustavia (Tel: 05 90 27 63 70).
- Bred, La Savane, St-Jean (Tel: 05 90 52 06 00)
- Credit Agricole, rue Jeanne d’Arc (Tel: 0 820 800 971)
- Change Caraïbe, exchange office in Gustavia ( Tel.: 05 90 27 57 57)
Hours are generally Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to noon and 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Banks close on weekends, holidays, and afternoons preceding holidays.
American Express also has an office (05 90 52 97 06) on the island at La Savane Center in St Jean. They offer American Express card members the usual services, and since local ATMs do not accept American Express cards, they provide emergency check cashing in Euro or U.S. dollars.
Voltage is 220 AC, 60 cycles. American appliances often require French plug converters and transformers.
For police or medical emergencies, dial tel. 17. For fire emergencies, dial tel. 18.
Getting Married in St. Barths
While it is impossible for anyone other than St. Barth residents to have a civil marriage ceremony in St. Barth, many people of varying nationalities with a close connection to St. Barth do decide to have their Christian marriage or wedding blessing on the island.
St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church is willing to discuss the possibility of holding wedding services, but sufficient notice must be given in time for the necessary preparations. The Anglican Church undertakes weddings in both English and French, but does not provide for wedding services outside of the Church.
Couples can also choose to have other forms of wedding celebrations on the island: on the beach, in a beautiful St. Barths rental villa, in one of the island restaurants, or on a chartered yacht.
Telephone and Fax
Land line phone numbers in St. Barth all start with 05 90, and cell phone numbers all start with 06 90.
To call within the French phone system, dial the 10-digit phone number including the 0.
To call St. Barth from abroad:
The country code for St. Barth is +590, but it will have to be dialed followed by a nine-digit phone number. (Please note: the usual 0 disappears for phone calls originating in a foreign country). As an example, in order to call 05 90 27 52 85 from the USA, you will have to dial: 011 590 590 27 52 85.
To call the USA from St. Barth, dial 00, then dial 1, the area code and the phone number.
For local and international calls from public phones, the use of Telecartes is advised. The Telecartes, which look like credit cards, can be purchased at the Gustavia, St. Jean and Lorient post offices, and at the gas station near the airport. There are only three coin telephones in the island (two of them are at the Galeries du Commerce in St Jean).
Connecting to the Internet
- Free Access—“Maya’s to Go” in St-Jean as well as the Brasserie “Le Repaire” in Gustavia offer free access to their WIFI networks. Both are nice places to have a drink or a meal.
- For a Fee—St Barth Telecom, a local private company, has installed a “hotspot” covering Gustavia. You need to buy a connection card to surf without limit from Gustavia. Contact St Barth Telecom to find out how to get a card.
Local Service Providers:
- France Telecom Interactive: Wanadoo (Office in St-Jean)—This company will give you a free account called “Acces Libre” with an ID and password at its office in St. Jean or online (www.wanadoo.fr). You will still have to pay for the phone call. It does not work with a phone line, which is restricted to local use.
- Power Antilles—tel: (590) 590 87 97 92—offers short-term local accounts to visitors ($20/week, $65/month), which can be quickly and easily established by email before your arrival. You will also have to pay for the phone call. Note: the above information is subject to change.
There are only two gas stations on the island of St. Barth. One gas station is near the St. Jean airport. It closes at 5:00 p.m. each night and is also closed on Sunday. The second gas station is in Lorient. The hours are the same; however, this station does NOT accept credit cards.
When standard time is in effect in the United States and Canada (in winter), St. Barth is one hour ahead of the U.S. East Coast.
Gustavia has a small hospital, Hôpital de Bruyn (tel: 05 90 27 60 35). It has seven resident doctors and about twelve on-call specialists. Serious medical cases are often flown to St. Maarten, Martinique, Miami, or wherever the patient or patient’s family specifies.
St. Barth has three post office branches:
- The main office is in Gustavia, and is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., but closed on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.
- The Lorient office is open weekdays from from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.
- The other post office is located near the airport at the St. Jean Commercial Center. It is open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, as well as from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
UPS, Federal Express and DHL all have agents on the island.
There are three Roman Catholic Churches on the island—in Gustavia, Lorient and Colombier. The Roman Catholic Priest, Père Numa, can be reached on (59) 05 90 27 95 38. Services are held in all three churches at various times.
The Anglican Church holds its Family Eucharist on Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. with (59) 05 90 29 74 63.
The Pentecostal Church holds three meetings a week in the St. Barths Beach Hotel—and can be reached at (59) 05 90 27 61 60.