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St. Maarten is generally considered a safe place to visit, but as with any tourist destination there are some general safety precautions you should take. St. Martin is one of the safest warm weather climate (outside US) locations to visit. You will hear of crime here and there, and should always watch your back, walk in groups, and be aware of your surroundings, looking up at all times. This is good advise no matter where you are, at home, or in some remote caribean or other area of the world.
One of the biggest crimes here is passport theft. The perpetrators then “doctor” the passport to serve their particular purposes. Because of this St. Maarten travel experts recommend carrying your original driver’s license with you, but carrying a photocopy of your passport and keeping the original in your hotel safe. If the copy does get stolen, be sure to notify the authorities.
In addition, rental cars are often broken into. They do ask you to leave your car unlocked, and do not leave anything in the rental car as the damage caused to break in is costly. While some say rent a car that is French registered, rather than a car with “R” rental plates (often on Dutch-registered cars), which identify you as a tourist. Nevertheess, you wil find a multitude of rental car agencies on St Martin, and most are very low cost (approx $180 per week). Do not expect a very nice lux car though, and you will want a small car for parking purposes, and to be safe, you do not want to be driving the most expensive luxury car when most are driving small rather well used looking cars.
If you are driving around and visit a beach, park where there are plenty of other cars, and as always, dont leave valuables in the seat. Again, it is best to err on the safe side, no matter where you are in the world.
If you are looking for parking at a busy area, and someone offers to “help” you but doesn’t seem to be working anywhere, drive on and find your own parking space. There have been limited cases of tourists being robbed by “parking attendants” who are trying to “help” them find a parking space. You may come into contact with rather homeless looking people, in public parking areas, trying to "help" park your car, asking for $5.00. This is easy to spot as the free public parking areas on both French and Dutch side are typically well marked. You will find locals (kids, or teens) at some of the beaches (BBQ areas), that sit outside right near the parking lot. You can give them a few bucks, and ask them to watch your car (Bay Rouge).
You may want to pay the rental car agency with a credit card that offers car rental protection. Many cards do offer the same insurance for free, that the rental car companies charge $25 plus dollars per day. Your own car rental insurance in the USA may cover any loss or damage to the rental car (less deductable), so do your homework up front. Guaranteed, you will enjoy St Martin so much more with the freedom to visit every nook of this lovely island and not be restricted to one area or taxi which are very expensive.
Finally, when in St. Maarten, take the same safety precautions there as you do at home. Don’t carry a great deal of cash with you, keep jewelry to a minimum (lock up in safe at hotel/resort) be conscious of who is around you and who’s in your personal space, and try to travel with other people whenever possible.