Practical information for St Barts Traveler
What to Wear
St. Barths is very informal. Casual sportsclothes in cotton, and other light fabrics are fine by day, as are jeans, T-shirts, etc. (Bathing suits are for the beach, pool, or yacht, but not for town.) At night, women often dress for dinner in whatever happens to be fashionable in resortwear. Ties and jackets are never required for men.
French is the official language, but the flavor spoken by local folk is a curious Norman dialect. Much of the populace speaks English, however, and there is seldom a language problem at hotels, restaurants, shops, etc.
Items for personal use (tobacco, cameras, film), if not in excessive quantity, are admitted without formalities or tax. For more controversial items, like firearms, French regulations apply.
Currency and Banks
On February 18, 2002, the French Franc has ceased to be legal tender, having been replaced by the Euro (€), the currency of the European Union, of which France is a prominent member. The official exchange rate (July 2005) was approximately .82 € for US$1.00. The rate is subject to change, though changes are rarely rapid. Dollars are accepted everywhere, and prices are often quoted in dollars.
* Banque Française Commerciale (B.F.C.), rue du Général de Gaulle, Gustavia (Tel: 05.90.27.62.62), and in St. Jean (Tel: 05.90.27.87.75)
* BDAF, accross from the Post Office in Gustavia (Tel. : 0590 29 68 30)
* B.N.P ( Banque Nationale de Paris), rue de Bord de Mer, Gustavia (Tel: 05.90.27.63.70).
* Bred, La Savane, St-Jean (Tel: 05.90.52.06.00)
* Credit Agricole, rue Jeanne d'Arc (Tel: 0 820 800 971 - 0,09€/mn)
* Change Caraïbe, exchange office in Gustavia ( Tel.: 0590 27 57 57)
Hours are generally Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to noon and 2 to 3:30 PM; banks close on weekends, holidays, and afternoons preceding holidays.
Also, American Express has an office (05 90 52 97 06 ) on the island, at La Savane Center in St Jean. They offer American Express Cardmembers the usual services, and since local ATMs do not accept American Express Cards, they fill the gap by providing emergency check cashing in Euro or USD.
Voltage is 220 AC, 60 cycles. American-made appliances often require French plug converters and transformers.
Getting married in St. Barths
While it is impossible for anyone other than St. Barths residents to have a civil marriage ceremony in St. Barths, a lot of people of many nationalities with a close connection to St. Barths do decide to have their Christian marriage or wedding blessing on the island.
St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church is willing to discuss the possibility of holding wedding services, but sufficient notice must be given in time for the necessary preparations. The Anglican Church undertakes weddings in both English and French but does not provide for wedding services outside of the Church. The priest, Revd Charles Vere Nicoll, lives on the island and can help with enquiries - Tel: (59) 05 90 29 74 63.
Other couples have chosen to have other forms of wedding celebration on the island: on the beach, in a beautiful villa, in one of the island' restaurants or on a chartered yacht.
The services of excellent photographers, florists, musicians, caterers as well as an American wedding organizer are available on the island.
Telephone and Fax
Since 1996, all phone numbers in the French world have been expanded to ten digits.
Phone numbers in Guadaloupe as well as in St Barths all starts with 05 90, and cell phone numbers all start with 06 90.
To call within the French phone system, dial the 10 digit phone number including the O
To call St Barths from abroad:
The country code for Guadeloupe and St Barths is +590, but it will have to be dialed followed by a 9 digit phone number. (the usual 0 disappears for phone calls originating in a foreign country.) So in order to call 05 90 27 52 85 from the USA, you will have to dial: 011 590 590 27 52 85.
To call the USA from St. Barths, dial 00, then dial 1, the area code and the number.
For local and international calls from public phones, the use of Telecartes is advised. The Telecartes, which look like credit cards, can be purchased at the Gustavia, St. Jean and Lorient Post Offices, and at the gas station near the airport. There are only three coin telephones in the island ( Two of them are at the Galeries du Commerce in St Jean).
If you want to bring your favorite cellular phone along and use it in St.Barths there are some steps you must take after your arrival.
If you have a GSM system phone, you may go to France Telecom's office in St. Jean, or to the electronics shop at the gas station near the airport and have the internal chip replaced. The chip costs about 295FF, and is quickly installed. After a delay of about 24 hours, the new chip will provide you with a local number, and will give you 150FF worth of outgoing phone calls. If you use that up, you can buy a card that will give you additional time. There is no charge for incoming calls. Save your old chip for re-installation when you return.
If you have a digital phone, you can dial "0", and, if you are lucky, after several attempts, someone will answer and offer service from St.Maarten antennas in return for a VISA card number. This service only works in those parts of St.Barths that can see St.Maarten, and is therefore limited.
Connecting to the Internet
* Free Access - " Maya's to Go" in St-Jean, as well as the Brasserie "Le Repaire" in Gustavia, offer their clientele free access to their WIFI network. Both are nice places to have a drink, or a meal.
* For a Fee - St Barth Telecom, a local private company, has installed a "hotspot" covering Gustavia. You need to buy a connection card to surf without limit from Gustavia. Contact St Barth Telecom to find out how to get a card.
Local Service Providers:
* France Telecom Interactive: Wanadoo (Office in St-Jean) - They will give you a free account (called "Acces Libre") with an ID and Password at to their office in St-Jean or online (www.wanadoo.fr). You will still have to pay for the phone call. It does not work with a phone line which is restricted to local use.
* PowerAntilles - tel: (590) 590 87 97 92 - offers short term local accounts to visitors ( $20/week, $65/month), which can be quickly and easily established by email before your arrival. You will also have to pay for the phone call.
Email to: email@example.com, they should get back to you right away.
Some hotels maintain an ISP account for guests, and offer the passwords on a temporary basis.
As with everything associated with the Internet, the above information is subject to sudden and unexpected change.
There is one hour difference between St. Barths and the East Coast of the USA when Standard Time is in effect in the USA and Canada. Thus, when it is seven o'clock in St. Barths, it is only six o'clock in New York or Toronto. The island tells time the French way: 1 p.m., for example, is 13 hours, and midnight is 24 hours. During daylight savings time, there is no difference in time between St. Barths and the east coast of the USA.
Medical and Pharmaceutical Facilities
Gustavia has a small hospital (Tel: 05.90.27.60.35), eight resident doctors, dentists, one gynecologist, and specialists in ophthalmology, dermatology, etc. A medical laboratories including an X-ray lab is located in Gustavia. There are pharmacies at La Savane Commercial Center (Tel: 05 90 27 66 61), in St. Jean near La Villa Creole (05 90 29 02 12) and in Gustavia (Tel: 05 90 27 61 82). It is also possible to buy short term medical evacuation insurance from Medicall and have yourself whisked, by air, to the hospital of your choice.
Post Offices and Mail
St. Barths has one Post Office with two branches. The main Post Office, on rue du Centenaire in Gustavia, opens daily 8 AM to 3 PM, and closes on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. The branch in Lorient is open from 7 to 11 AM weekdays and from 8 to 10 AM on Saturday. The branch at the St. Jean Commercial Center, near the airport, opens daily from 8 AM to 2 PM, as well as Wednesday and Saturday morning 8-11 AM. Both are closed on Sunday and holidays.
UPS, Federal Express and DHL all have agents on the Island.
There are three Roman Catholic Churches on the island - Gustavia, Lorient and Colombier. The Roman Catholic Priest, Père Numa, can be reached on (59) 05 90 27 95 38. Services are held in all three churches at various times.
The Anglican Church holds its Family Eucharist on Sunday mornings at 9:00am with a midweek mass at 12:30pm following a midweek Spirituality Group at 11:30am. The priest, Revd Charles Vere Nicoll, lives on the island and can help with enquiries - Tel: (59) 05 90 29 74 63.
The Pentecostal Church holds three meetings a week in the St. Barths Beach Hotel - they can be reached on (59) 05 90 27 61 60.