Getting In & Around St. Barts (Plus, The Scariest Airport Landing)

BY WENDY HUNG

St Barts airport

For decades, St. Barts has welcomed the likes of celebrities and socialites, but getting into this laid-back yet luxurious island isn’t an easy feat. If you’ve done your research, you’ve probably already seen those crazy-scary airport runway landings and you’re left a little thrown off (no pun, intended.)

Here’s a quick and easy guide with various options of getting in and around St. Barts, so you can make the best decision for a posh yet surprisingly unpretentious vacation.

Getting there, first fly into St. Maarten: 

 

There isn’t an international airport in St. Barts, so first you’ll need to fly into nearby island of St. Maarten. Keep in mind that St. Maarten is split into the Dutch side and the French side. Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) is on the Dutch side, and it’s quite an adventure all on its own.

When Hurricane Irma struck the island in 2017, Princess Juliana International Airport was completely wiped out. Today, it’s still in recovery stage, so don’t be shocked when you land. The airport is small, crowded, and remains a bit rundown. But it’s the only way of getting into St. Barts if you’re flying from either USA or Europe. For St. Barts, this is its way to control and filter a specific type of traveler that will go through all this trouble to vacation there.

Guadeloupe is only other country which offers directly flights to St. Barts via Air Antilles Express. Flight time takes about 50 minutes.

Flying from St. Maarten to St. Barts is a thrill or a total death threat.

 

From St. Maarten, you can catch shuttle flights to Gustaf III Airport (SBH) via Winair or St. Barth Commuter. The flight lasts about 10 minutes, but it’s also one of the scariest airport runway landings in the world.

At 2179 feet long, the runway is one of the shortest in commercial aviation. In addition to different levels of turbulence, even if the flight is only 10 minutes and offers a magnificent bird’s-eye view, it’s definitely not made for anxious flyers. Not enough xanax will calm you down, that’s for sure.

To land, pilots need to make a steep and slow glide without the help of electronic landing guidance. They need to make a path over a large hill, between a pair of peaks, then dip 150 feet down while sustaining a 10-foot altitude. Balance, touch down, then hit a hard brake. Not to mention, there’s turbulence on gusty windy days.

In order to land in St. Barts, pilots have to go through two days of ground training, and 5 – 10 hours of flight training to qualify. You can ask for the co-pilot seat, and try not to pee in your pants.

You can ferry to St. Barts, but take seasickness pills.

Ferry option is great if you’re scared to fly in tiny, vintage-looking planes. But the waves are insanely bumpy and harsh, so TAKE SEASICKNESS MEDICATION!! I cannot stress this enough. Roundtrip ferry tickets cost from 50 – 75 euros, you can either reserve online or buy them on the spot.

There are two types of ferries, The Edge and The Voyager:

The Edge connects Pelican Marina (St. Maarten’s Dutch side) and Gustavia in St. Barts once a day at 9 a.m. from Tuesday – Saturday. The ride is 45 minutes long.

The Voyager connects Marigot (St. Maarten’s French side) Gustavia in St Barts twice a day at 9 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. everyday except for Wednesday and Sunday. The ride is 75 minutes. On Wednesday and Sunday, the ferry goes from Oyster Pond to Gustavia, and the ride is about 45 minutes.

On the way back, ask your hotel/villa for a different ferry schedule. Or check out stmartinbookings.com for schedules.

Charter a speedboat to St. Barts, but it’ll cost you.

A private boat is definitely the way to go for a luxurious and an exclusive experience. We loved it, but again, the seasickness was a big issue. So make sure to take medication. This option, though, runs on the expensive side. It’ll cost from €1500 to €2000. It’s fun, if you want to drink, and enjoy the scenery in style with music pumped up.

Getting around St. Barts is all about the Mini Coopers.

St. Barts isn’t a walkable island. There are tons of hills, and neighborhoods are a bit spread out. Renting a car is highly recommended, so you can reach anywhere within 20 minutes. You can arrive first, then ask your hotel to rent a car for you. Or reserve it online before the trip. It should cost around 30 euros/day. You can use any valid driver’s license to rent one.

If you’re looking to rent Ferraris and Porsche, you can but it’s not how folks roll here. St. Barts is far more relaxed than most people think. The best and common rental here is a Mini Cooper, with the top down. Naturally.

The two gas stations on the island are closed on Sunday. One is near the airport, and the other is in Lorient, both will show up on Google Maps. space

Taxis are convenient, but it’ll cost you too. 

Each ride will cost around 30 euros, so if you can, it’s better to rent a car. There are two taxi stations, one at the airport and another one in Gustavia at the dock. According to sbhonline.com, here are some numbers you can call:

  • JC Taxi: 10 passenger Van. Day and Night Service. Fluent French and English. Tel: 0690-49-02-97. Email: jctaxi
  • Karine Taxi Services St Barts (Karine Greaux): Day and Night Taxi Service. Hyundai Microbus, Air Conditioned, Can hold up to 8 people. Tel: 0690 50 91 24. Tel: 0690-45-43-53
  • Bruno Beal Taxi: Gustavia. Tel: 0690 63-04-39

 

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