PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – Three simple words make the island of St. Maarten a shopper’s paradise – duty-free shopping – meaning that no tax is paid on any item purchased on the island, nor any duties when returning to the U.S., resulting in travelers flocking to this Caribbean paradise just for the “shop ‘till you drop” experience.
St. Maarten’s capital, Philipsburg, is the epicenter for shopping with boutique stores lining Voorstraat (Front Street), which stretches for over a mile. Shoppers will find that most prices are as much as 50% less than other countries and are quoted in U.S. dollars saving the confusion of sorting out the exchange rate.
Along Front Street, stores range from Tiffany to Tommy Hilfiger. The Sint Rose Shopping Mall on the boardwalk by Front Street features Cartier, Lalique, and Faconnable.
Old Street, situated off Front Street, is highlighted by 19th century houses which contain specialty shops. Maho Plaza (located by the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort) is another area for name-brand stores.
“Whether travelers come for our beaches and spas or our cuisine and nightlife, one thing is certain – they never return home empty handed,” said Regina Labega, Director of Tourism for the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.
St. Maarten offers great buys on jewelry, a perennial favorite among shoppers, with jewelers offering everything from loose stones to original designs.
International fashion items such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren can be found at reasonable rates as well as fine leather goods, top-of-the line cosmetics and state-of-the-art electronics.
Art enthusiasts will delight in native prints and crafts pieces as well as works from artists all over the Netherlands Antilles.
Every country has its own customs requirements on goods brought back from duty-free vacations. Following are guidelines for the United States and Canada:
• Citizens of the United States who have been out of the country for a minimum of 48 hours and have not used their respective duty-free allowance within 30 days are entitled to a $600 duty-free tax exemption. Families traveling together can pool their exemptions. The duty-free
allowance on alcohol for U.S. citizens age 21 and over is one quart, the value of which must be included within the $600 exemption.
• Canadian citizens who have been out of the country for a minimum of seven (7) days are entitled to a duty-free exemption of $750 CAD. They are also permitted a duty-free exemption of $200 CAD each time they are out of the country for more than 48 hours. This $200 exemption may not be claimed during the same period as the $750 exemption, nor can an individual’s exemption be pooled with a spouse and/or children. The duty-free alcohol allowance for Canadian citizens who meet the legal age of the province they re-enter is 40 ounces of wine or liquor or two dozen 12-ounce cans of beer, the value of which must be included within the yearly or quarterly exemption.
For more information on St. Maarten visit the official site of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau at www.VacationStMaarten.com.
St. Maarten is truly a unique island in several ways. It is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations, the Netherlands and France, creating a European-influenced vibe with a Caribbean flair.
St. Maarten is also the culinary capital of the Caribbean with an eclectic array of elegantly-perfected culinary fusion that keeps “food lovers” returning each year. And with more than 300 restaurants, the island has something for everyone.
Located at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, the island has 37 breathtaking beaches and is home to many historical and family-oriented attractions including the vastly abundant treasure of rare animal and plant species at the St. Maarten Zoological and Botanical Garden. The historically-pivotal Fort Amsterdam, the St. Maarten Museum and the picturesque and symbolic Mount Concordia, where a treaty and harmonious peace was forged between the island’s two cultures more then 350 years ago, provide other unique attractions.
The Dutch capital of Philipsburg offers duty-free shopping and a bustling city atmosphere in the heart of the Caribbean, while nightlife activities provide endless entertainment at the island’s 14 casinos and numerous nightclubs. For water enthusiasts scuba diving and snorkeling facilities are located throughout the island, which boasts a wide array of marine biodiversity and unique underwater dive sites such as the H.M.S. Proselyte, a notable British frigate which sank in St. Maarten’s waters in 1801.
Accommodations are varied with many designed to exceed the expectations of even the most discerning traveler and include elegant private villas, family oriented resorts, quaint cottages and luxury spa resorts. Air service is available to Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten from a number of U.S. and Canadian cities as well as Europe, South America and the Caribbean.
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