You can imagine it now…warm sand, bright skies, and nothing to do but relax and enjoy everything on St. Barth’s. Before that dream becomes reality, there are a lot of small decisions and reservations that need to be made. You’ll need to confirm travel plans from Australia. You’ll need to pick how you want to arrive on St. Barth’s (air or sea?), what car you’ll need to get (if any), and where to buy essentials once you land. Fret not—use Cover-More’s Guide to planning your St. Barth’s holiday to get you through the tough decisions and help you get on track. Before you know it you’ll be arriving on the island and starting your holiday in paradise.
There truly isn’t a bad time to go to St. Barth’s. All year long the weather is warm, the sun shines, and rainfall is sparse beyond a quick 10-minute sun-shower every couple of days.
If you want to be seen and be a part of the party scene on St. Barth’s, you’ll have to pay for it—literally. The high season in St. Barth’s runs from mid-November through late January and as the crowds get bigger, so too do the prices. If you like to celebrate the good life and want to walk among the rich and famous though, this higher toll may be worth it.
If you are culture fanatic, the best time to visit St. Barth’s is from February through May. There is a film festival, a music festival, a culinary festival, Mardi Gras and more to enjoy with the locals as they share their culture and celebrations with everyone and anyone who wants to join in.
If you are looking for rest and relaxation away from the rest of the world, try heading to the island from May-August. The heat may be more intense during these months, but the crowds of high season have disappeared and it will feel like the island is your own.
There are a few ways to get onto the island—though none are direct from Australia. If you prefer flying to taking a ferry—try companies like Winair and Tradewind Aviation for your flight into St. Barth’s. They operate out of other islands like St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and San Juan, where international flights can land. While this is the more expensive option, you will be saving another important thing: time. When flying, your layover times can be as small as an hour, and because these small airlines cater to their clients specifically, you may find yourself on a private jet without any other company. Talk about arriving in style!
If you prefer the ferry to the flight, try to fly into St. Maarten. Here, you can take advantage of the ferry that offers a service to/from St. Barth’s once a day. As you are figuring out which you’d like to do, keep track of the timing for flights coming and going. Many companies keep odd hours and if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself in need of a place to stay overnight in St. Maarten or San Juan before you arrive in St. Barth’s.
If you are choosing to rent a villa independently, then you will need to rent a car. If you are travelling alone, consider a smaller vehicle like a SmartCar, as these are less expensive, easier to manoeuvre on St. Barth’s’ narrow roads, and will save you on gas.
If you are travelling with one or more friends, then opt for a car like the Daihaitsu Terios or the Suzuki Grand Vitara. These cars have more power and control to get you up and down the steep mountain roads as you navigate the island—plus more storage for bags and people!
There are a number of companies located on premises at the St. Barth’s airport, though you are unlikely to recognize any of the names beyond Budget Car Rentals. Try Gumbs Car Rental or Turbe Car Rental for a local company with great customer service. As soon as you land you can pick up your car and get going.
Book your vehicle as soon as you book your plane ticket (especially if you’re travelling during the High Season). By doing this, you won’t forget or have to scramble to find a way around the island. Remember to increase your rental car insurance excess on your international travel insurance plan to protect against any accidents that may occur as you learn the ways of the road.
If you are staying on a resort in St. Barth’s, chances are you will not need to rent a car, moped or scooter as there will be employees to give you a ride to/from the airport and around town when needed (lucky you!).
Once you’ve unpacked, and maybe gone for a swim, chances are your stomach will be grumbling. Eating out is an expensive venture on St. Barth’s, so if you are open to buying food and preparing some meals yourself, by the end of your holiday you’ll have saved a pretty penny.
Marche U is one of three or four grocery stores on island and this one tends to have the best quality food at the best prices. It is located directly across the street from the airport in St. Jean and can get crowded mid-day. If Marche U is closed when you arrive, try visiting L’Oasis in Lorient—they have much looser hours and all the essentials you will need to get through the day and night. If you are staying in Gustavia, there is another grocery store on the main stretch that is frequented by the yacht-owners and has everything you may need.
There are two gas stations on the island—one in Lorient and one across from the airport. If you are having trouble starting the pump, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Locals will be more than willing to lend a hand—especially if you (try to) ask for help in French!
Pharmacies can be found throughout the island and are marked by a large neon green sign. These stores tend to stay open through the island-wide afternoon siesta and offer beauty and health products.
Images courtesy of Hannah Bryan.