The 37-square-mile island of Sint Maarten was first settled by the Arawaks prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493. Upon sighting the island on November 11th, the holy day of St. Martin of Tours. Columbus claimed the island for the Spanish crown, naming it St. Martin in honor of the holy day. For the next 150 years, the island was fought over by the Spanish, English, Dutch and French until the island was peacefully divided between the Netherlands and France on March 23rd 1648 by the Treaty of Concordia. To this day, Fort Amsterdam guards the island’s inlets and serves as a reminder of the St. Martin’s past.
350 years since the signing of the Treaty of Concordia, Sint Maarten/St. Martin is the smallest landmass in the worl to be shared peacefully by two sovereign nations. Neatly positioned in the Northeast Caribbean, Sint Maarten can be considered the crossroads of the Caribbean. Investing on Sint Maarten is an investment in one of the most historical and unique countries in the world.
Sint Maarten is a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a constitutional monarchy represented locally by the Governor. Executive powers lie within the Government, led by the Prime Minister. The Legislative powers lie within the Parliament of Sint Maarten which the Judiciary is independent of both the Executive and Legislative Branches.
With a legal system based on Dutch Civil Law, Sint Maarten’s main body of civil law is the Civil Code. Most laws and regulations related to doing business can be found in the Civil Code. In contractual agreements, the principles of reasonableness and fairness are vital factors in civil relations between parties. Contracts can be enforced in writing of by verbal agreement. The Civil Code offers protection mechanisms for relatively vulnerable parties in contractual relations, such as employees in labour law and consumers when buying goods or acquiring services from professional providers.
Contractual disputes can be taken to the Court of First Instance. Appeals can be taken to the Join Court of Justice of Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten and of Bonaire, St, Eustatius and Saba. Appeals to decisions by the Joint Court of Justice can be taken to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, the highest court within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
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The cobblestone streets of Philipsburg offer duty-free access to luxury goods from Patek Philippe, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors and a number of other high-end goods. Easy access to Sint Maarten from neighboring islands such as Anguilla, St. Barths, Saba and St. Eustatius adds thousands of new potential consumers to the existing market, offering faster returns on investments. For visitors, Sint Maarten offers pristine beaches, magnificent diving and the best nightlife in the Northeastern Caribbean. With bars, lounges and nightclubs, Sint Maarten’s nightlife includes openair bars, street side salsa dancers and rustic beach bars.
The official languages of Sint Maarten are Dutch and English. The official languages of St. Martin is French, though English is widely spoken throughout. With a multicultural population, several languages such as Spanish, Italian, Creole and German can be heard, making Sint Maarten one of the most multilingual countries in the region.
The official currency of Sint Maarten is the Netherlands Antilles florin (NAF). The official exchange rate is NAF 1.79 for each US$1.00 U.S. dollar. The United States dollar is widely used and accepted throughout the island for doing business and conducting of financial transactions.
RESTAURANTS AND DINING
As the “Gastronomical Capital of the Caribbean” Sint Maarten has a high concentration of top-notch restaurants. Ignite your palate with island specialties as crabe farci (stuffed crab) or accras (cod fritters). Wash them down with local juices such as mango, guava, papaya or less familiar flavors such as tangy tamarind. Mix with the locals for hearty and delicious helpings of barbecued ribs, lobster, chicken or fish grilled on split metal drums to summon up the gastronomy of the Caribbean.
Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) is a non-profit foundation that manages and carries out the hospital functions of Dutch Sint Maarten. The staff if a mix of European and American trained doctors, nurses and allied medical administrative personnel. The hospital is located just five minutes outside of Philipsburg.
CALLING SINT MAARTEN
Dutch Sint Maarten is part of the North American number plan which makes calling the island very easy especially from the United States. Telephone calls to Sint Maarten require the country code +1 721.
Sint Maarten’s electricity voltage is 110-volt AC, 60 cycles, as is in the United States and Canada. French St. Martin uses 220-volt AC, 60 cycles which requires the use of adapters and transformers from 110-volt.
Driving on Sint Maarten is on the right hand side, as in the United States. As stipulated by law, the legal driving age is 18. Right turns at red lights are prohibited, and traffic conditions may require careful driving. Local laws require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts and motorcyclists to wear helmets. Children under 4 years of age should be in child safety seats and children under 12 should ride in the back seat.