Saint Martin is a funky Caribbean destination, divided into a French and Dutch side. It is a very popular tourist destination with over two million tourists visiting both sides of the island.
There is plenty to do on both sides of the island.
The French side of Saint-Martin boasts beautiful beaches such as Grand Case beach, beautiful nature such as the turtles of Tintamarre Island, and high-end French culture including the delicious restaurants of Grand Case.
The Dutch side, called Sint Maarten, has more of an “everything goes” party atmosphere. Go plane spotting at the famous Maho Beach, the only beach in the world where you can see passenger jets landing while swimming.
Let loose at Casino Royale or Philipsburg, a town with great duty-free shopping and nightlife. If you want to check out this dream destination for yourself but are concerned about practical problems such as safety, there is no need to worry.
Our travel experts have rounded up all you need to know in this detailed travel guide to help you stay safe while you are in Saint Martin. Let us be your guide!
Is Saint Martin Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Saint Martin is a very safe place to visit, no matter which side of the island you choose to visit. The crime rate is low, and tourists are rarely affected by serious incidents.
As with anywhere in the Caribbean, you should be mindful of hurricane season. Most travel advisories for either Saint-Martin or Sint Maarten are laid-back about any potential risks to travelers.
Looking at the relaxed tone that foreign governments take when advising their citizens about any potential dangers should reassure you about any of your own concerns.
For example, just look at the travel advisory that the United States issues for traveling to Sint Maarten. It tells travelers just to exercise normal safety precautions.
The U.S. State Department puts Sint Maarten under a Level One travel advisory, the lowest possible level. Of course, there are problems on Saint Martin, just as there are anywhere in the world.
Common problems include:
- Petty theft
- Bag snatching
- Theft from vehicles, including scooters
- Hotel room break-ins
- Drug related crimes
Violent crimes occur on the island, but they are fairly rare. Almost all violent crime incidents affect locals, not tourists. Crime in general doesn’t affect tourists often, but when it does, it is usually confined to petty incidents.
Demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest sometimes occur in Saint-Martin or Sint Maarten. Saint-Martin is part of France, which means that strikes and demonstrations announced in mainland France often cause disruptions on the island as well.
In 2021, there were protests on the island that occasionally spiraled into violence as protesters blocked roads. Civil unrest is more common on the French side.
As with any other destination in the Caribbean, you need to be mindful of hurricanes when you visit Saint Martin. Saint Martin is part of the Leeward Islands, a region in the Caribbean that includes other islands such as the Virgin Islands.
Unfortunately, these islands are in the middle of the Hurricane Belt, the part of the Caribbean that receives the most hurricanes. Hurricane season on Saint Martin is often devastating.
For example, Hurricane Irma in 2017 destroyed or damaged 91% of homes on the island and killed several people. These storms are powerful, and there is nowhere on the island where you will be perfectly safe if a hurricane touches down.
The safest thing to do is to avoid trips to Saint Martin during hurricane season, which lasts from June to November but is at its peak in late August to September.
Crime in Saint Martin
It’s hard to find crime statistics all in one place for Saint Martin. Even though the island is just 35 miles long, it is divided between two governments, the French and Dutch.
It is better to look for information about the side you will be visiting, although the problems are fairly similar. According to Interpol, the island of Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin is a prime location for international crime.
Criminals take advantage of its busy ports and airport to smuggle drugs, weapons, counterfeit goods, and even people into the West, particularly the United States.
When crime incidents occur on the island, they are often drug-related or related to this organized crime. This level of organized crime rarely affects tourism or tourists, but it’s still a good idea to be a bit on your guard.
Avoid anything that could get you mixed up with crime incidents like this, such as accepting packages from strangers at the airport. Besides that, crime rates in Sint Maarten are fairly low.
According to Numbeo, the island country scores a 28.57 out of 100 on the crime index. The only crime people report a moderate concern about is theft from vehicles. All other crimes occur at a low or very low level.
For the French side, Saint-Martin, the local government offers a detailed breakdown of crime statistics (in French). Although the most recent statistical information on their site is from 2014, crime statistics have not changed meaningfully since then.
The most common type of crime in Saint-Martin is non-violent theft, which makes up 50.43% of total crime in the island country. The most common forms of theft are different forms of vehicle theft and break-ins.
The violent crime rate in Saint-Martin is fairly low. In 2014, there were only 244 robberies on the island (one of the most common forms of violent crime).
Assault makes up 9.6% of total crime incidents in the island country, making it the most common violent crime.
Crime statistics for all of Saint Martin report that the island is a safe place to visit. However, crime is still present, so make sure that you take basic precautions to keep yourself and your valuables safe.
The most common problem you will encounter in Saint Martin, no matter what side of the island you visit, is petty theft. This crime is common throughout the world, particularly in tourist destinations where crowds of tourists provide cover and targets for pickpockets.
Although street crime occurs on both sides of the island, it is slightly worse on the Dutch side. That doesn’t mean the Dutch side is more dangerous.
Sint Maarten simply attracts more crowds because it is a popular party and cruise ship destination, which creates the perfect atmosphere for crime. The UK government warns its citizens about the risks of petty theft when traveling to Saint Martin.
Basic precautions are usually enough to deter pickpockets and thieves. Most incidents occur as crimes of opportunity, and if you don’t provide people with the opportunity, they usually won’t take from you.
Just make sure that you always have a close eye on your valuables. Never leave them unattended, even in places where you think you might be safe such as a hotel lobby.
In particular, never leave your bags unattended at the beach. Thieves often rifle through people’s things at the beach since they know that if someone is in the water, they can’t get back in time.
Leave irreplaceable items, such as heirloom jewelry, at home when you travel. Place other valuables in your hotel safe and only take what you need for the day. When swimming, assign someone to watch your things.
Occasionally, thieves escalate into more violent forms of property crime. Tourists have been victims of robberies or muggings on Saint Martin before.
Avoid deserted areas at night as beaches and alleyways are popular places for robbers. If you are exploring after dark, stick to popular, well-lit streets with plenty of other visitors.
Hotel room break-ins and vehicle break-ins are becoming more and more common on Saint Martin. Tourists are often targeted for this type of crime because criminals perceive them to have valuable items and lax safety practices.
The Canadian government warns about the risk of break-ins in its travel advisory for Saint-Martin. Break-ins can happen anywhere, including in high-end resorts and hotels.
Don’t assume that because you are staying at a famous hotel that you are safe from this crime. Many resorts and hotels promise to have good security measures, but often what they list on their website and what appears in the room is not the same thing.
Always ask if features such as alarms and locks actually work and test them yourself if possible. No matter where you are staying, using a room safe is a good idea to add additional security to your valuables.
Put your valuables and extra cash in a safe, and never leave them laying out in the open. Don’t use an obvious code such as “1234” or information that someone can easily find out, such as your birthday.
If you are staying in a beach house or a guest house, the risk of a break-in is higher because hosts usually can’t afford to put the same security measures that a hotel would.
Ask your host if there have been break-ins before and about the safety of the neighborhood. Try not to stand out in the neighborhood. Always lock doors and close windows when you are not home.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Here are a few tips on places to avoid in Saint Martin that might make you feel unsafe. Philipsburg, the capital of Sint Maarten, is a busy town popular with tourists.
However, at night, the level of street crime increases. Trust your instincts and don’t walk in neighborhoods that feel sketchy or down deserted streets. Stick to well-populated areas popular with tourists.
On the French side, be careful in Marigot and Sandy Ground after dark. In general, avoid deserted areas when traveling in Saint Martin, especially after dark. Muggers take advantage of the cover that an isolated beach or dark alleyway can provide.
Things to Consider
Here are a few things to consider when traveling to Saint Martin:
- Never, ever accept packages from strangers at the airport. We already mentioned this, but it’s worth warning against twice. Drug traffickers sometimes use unsuspecting tourists as their mules. Never leave your luggage unattended either. Authorities will not be happy if they discover illicit substances in your things.
- Be careful when plane-spotting at Maho Bay. The jets really do get up close and personal to the beach, but that can be dangerous as the jet blast is very powerful! Don’t stand too close to avoid getting blasted by sand or injured by the jet.
- Wear plenty of sunscreen. The sun in Saint Martin is very strong and you don’t want to ruin your vacation with a gnarly sunburn.
- Follow the norms regarding clothing. Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten both have nude beaches. Try to avoid those if you’re traveling with kids, but don’t act like a kid yourself and point and laugh. When you are not on the beach, be respectful of locals and cover up — don’t walk around in your bathing suit (or less).
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few common questions you might want answered before traveling to Saint Martin:
Is Saint Martin safe for tourists?
Yes, Saint Martin is safe for tourists! Overall crime rates are fairly low, and violent crime does not affect tourists (or even most locals that stay away from the drug trade).
Which is safer: St. Maarten or St. Martin?
St. Maarten and St. Martin are equally safe. Both have overall low levels of crime with some petty crime (pickpocketing is more common in St. Maarten while break-ins are more common in St. Martin). There isn’t even a formal border between the two, so that shows how the safety situation is laid-back.
When should you not travel to St. Maarten?
Don’t travel to St. Maarten from July to October as this is the peak of hurricane season. Many hotels and attractions close during the low tourist season so there isn’t much to do even if you decide to risk it.
Is it worth going to St. Maarten?
Yes, a trip to St. Maarten is absolutely worth it. The island boasts beautiful beaches, a welcoming atmosphere, and plenty to see and do.
Is it safe to walk around St. Martin?
In general, it is safe to walk around St. Martin. As long as you stick to popular tourist areas, you are even safe at night.
So, Should You Travel to Saint Martin?
Saint Martin is generally safe to visit. As long as you time your trip properly and keep somewhat of an eye on your valuables, your trip should go off without a hitch.
So, with so much to see and do, and an overall safe atmosphere, what are you waiting for — book your trip and experience for yourself all that this tropical paradise has to offer. Happy travels!