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One of the newest “dots” to appear on the ToursByLocals wall map represents a single island, but two countries. Any guesses? A few more clues: it’s in the Caribbean; it’s only 87 square kilometres in size; and its inhabitants are just as likely to speak French or Dutch as they are to speak English.

...Did you guess? It’s Saint Martin/Sint Maarten!

Since its initial colonization by Christopher Columbus in 1493, European powers have been taking turns to rule St. Martin: the British, Spanish, Dutch and French all played a part in the island’s fortunes. By the early 1800s, the island had settled into today’s French (in the north) and Dutch (in the south) zones. Today, Sint Maarten (the Dutch side) is its own country that makes up part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while Saint Marten is an overseas collectivity of France. It’s the smallest island in the world to be split between two countries.

Our newest guide in the Caribbean is Josane, who offers “Circle Tours” all around the island, visiting both the French and Dutch capitals of Marigot and Philipsburg.

Maybe you’re wondering what we were: how easy is it to cross from one side of the island to another? Is there a border? Passport control? What happens when one of Josane’s tours crosses from Sint Maarten to Saint Martin? The answer is yes, there is a border, but it’s marked by little more than a “You are now entering…” sign and no, passport checks are rare.

It was once said that the best place to stay on the island was the Dutch side, while the best place to eat was the French. While French and Indian/Caribbean cuisine is abundant in Saint Martin, Sint Maarten has been catching up on the culinary front and now also boasts many choice local spots to enjoy the island’s tasty fusion creations. The beaches are beautiful all over the island – but the French side boasts more “clothing optional” coastline. Whether that's a lure or a deterrent is up to you!

If your ship is docking in Sint Maarten (all cruise ships dock on the Dutch side), consider getting out on an island tour with Josane and seeing the mosaic of cultures that make up this colourful Caribbean island.
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