UPDATE HURRICANE GONZALO
Learn more about the Caribbean's most exciting vacation destination! If you appreciate gourmet food, world class duty free shopping, vibrant nightlife, pristine beaches, year-round warm climate and a cosmopolitan atmosphere with a Caribbean twist, Sint Maarten - Saint Martin is for you!
SINT MAARTEN - SAINT MARTIN provides vacationers the opportunity to enjoy three distinct cultures on one 37 square mile island. There is the delightfulness and soberness of the Dutch on one side, the savoir-faire of the French on the other, and the blending of both with exotic native heritage.
Add dozens of beaches and lagoons, luxury hotels, elegant villas, and over 300 restaurants and you may understand why St. Martin is the most visited of all the Leewards. All the great chefs, European, American, or Asian vie to compete in this gourmet capital of the Caribbean, creating cuisines equal to the best of Paris or New York. Shopping on the island is duty free and casinos, discos and night clubs stay open till dawn. Jumbo jets from world centers land here and charters allow visits to the smaller Leewards. There is something to satisfy every taste on St.Martin ...
Tipping Rules in Restaurants
Tipping in Dutch Side Restaurants
Restaurants on St Maarten's Dutch side follows the American system for paying wait staff: very low base salary, service charge not included in prices on their menus, and the expectation that the guest is adding at least 15% to the check. There are a few establishments which try to confuse the issue; they use standard US forms for their checks, which include a line for "Tax". In many cases, a 15% charge is added to this line. This is a service charge and NOT tax, as there is no such tax on the island! To make matters worse, service staff is NOT getting this fee in many restaurants!
Don't be shy: ask your waiter or waitress if they are getting their tips paid out. In some restaurants, they are instructed not to give an honest answer. If you feel this to be the case, ask for the manager to get to the bottom of the issue.
Tipping on the Island's French Side
Even though European laws states that the service charge has to be INCLUDED in the price of a meal, most restaurant owners on French St. Martin are relying on the American way of handling this issue. Legally, the price posted on the menu includes service and there is no obligation to pay more. Most European just round up and leave a few Euro, pretty much what an American guest would pay on top of the customary 15% in the US, in order to show extra satisfaction.
The truth is: the staff of the restaurants on the French sided expects American visitors to tip well (or over-tip) and doesn't expect too much from their European countrymen.
You will keep everyone happy with an amount around 10%. Don't be shy to ask about the house policy regarding tipping.