Philipsburg, the only city, sits on a strip of land separating the Great Salt Pond (Salt Marsh) from the ocean. Many buildings date from the early colonial period and Philipsburg exudes a colonial atmosphere despite the many duty-free shops. Sights include the nine churches with their shingle roofs and the jubilee monument of Queen Wilhelmina. Nearby is Fort Amsterdam from the time of the first settlers. In the wooded hills around Mount Flagstaff inland there are some ruins of old plantation houses. The Border Monument is a testament to 300 years of cooperation between the Dutch and the French. Across the border (passport not required) is the market town of Marigot.
Boats can be hired for all water sports and fishing.
Good selection in the duty-free shops in Philipsburg. Shop opening hours: Mon-Sat 08.00-12.00 and 14.00-18.00.
Many restaurants and bars offer live entertainment. There are casinos in the big hotels.
The menu shows Dutch, English and Creole influences. All kinds of seafood are among the specialties. Drinks: Alcoholic drinks are inexpensive. Most well-known brands are available.
There are over 40 hotels with almost 9000 beds. From casinos to hairdressing salons to a wide range of water sports facilities, most hotels have everything you need; even the smaller beach hotels offer i. Generally a swimming pool, restaurant and some water sports equipment. Hotel bills add 5% tax and often 10-15% service charge. Some hotels also charge 10% extra for electricity. Hotel Association information: St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association, WJA 33a Nisbeth Road, PO Box 486, Philipsburg. Tel: (05) 42 01 08. (Internet: www.shta.com)
The majority of the population is Protestant, but there are also Catholic and Jewish denominations.
Social Rules of Conduct
Dutch manners and customs, also reinforced American influences. Light, casual cotton clothing is recommended. Slightly smarter clothes in the evening. Tipping: Hotel bills always include 5% tax and sometimes 10-15% for service. Hotel porters, waiters and bar staff expect 10-15%. Taxi drivers do not expect tips.
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The high temperatures (annual average 27°C) are moderated by the cool trade winds.
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