I’m a firm believer that everyone should travel however sometimes it’s a little easier said than done. There are many women that are inspired to travel but they aren’t able to find someone to travel with them – so they never end up traveling. This is one of the reasons why solo female travel has become so popular.
If you wait until you have someone to travel with you . . . You’ll miss out every time!! There are so many safe places to visit alone. I’m going to share 5 useful tips that you will need if you are considering traveling alone.
Being that I’m a traveler at heart, I decided I would take an international trip (anywhere I haven’t been) for my birthday each year. I would normally take this trip with the love of my life (my hubby) or one of my girlfriends but no one was able to go so last minute. I thought long and hard about it and decided to take the trip by myself this time. This would be my first experience with solo female travel. I ended up in Sint Maarten (a.k.a. Saint Martin or St Maarten).
Things to Know Before Going to Saint Martin
- You need a passport however a tourist visa is not required for U.S. citizens
- The natives speak many languages however most of them speak English.
- The two official currencies on St. Martin are the Euro on the French side and the Florin (Netherlands Antillean guilder or florin) on the Dutch side. US dollars are also accepted across the island.
- St. Martin’s Dutch side is known for its nightlife, beaches, jewelry, drinks made with native rum-based
guavaberryliquor, and casinos. The island’s French side is known for its nude beaches, clothes, shopping (including outdoor markets), and French and Indian Caribbean cuisine.
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Since this was my first international trip where I traveled alone, I was a little nervous. There are many women that travel alone nowadays but it was new to me so I worried a little at first (just a little?). I didn’t let that stop me! The next morning I ended up leaving out of the Miami International Airport. ✈️
Do Your Research
Great solo female travel depends on what you are looking to do and what type of accommodations you choose will play a major part in where you travel.
Are you looking to stay a resort and hang out at the beach most of your stay??
Are you looking to be on the move and explore as much as you can?
You will need to think about this prior to deciding which destination is right for you as you’re traveling alone. Also, look into how safe that destination is. If you discover anything that you don’t like . . . Choose a different destination.
When I started to think about where I should go, I was so indecisive (as usual ?). At one point, I started doubting myself and considered not going at all. I had already decided that I wanted to go somewhere tropical with white sand beaches and turquoise water. I figured I would just lay out on the beach for a couple of days and catch a little R&R. Something I felt would be very relaxing and allow me to gather my thoughts about all the recent changes in my life.
Getting around in Saint Martin
As a female solo traveler, it was better for me to rent a car while in St. Martin. It was affordable and it allowed me to be more adventurous. I was glad to discover U.S. citizens are not required to obtain an international drivers permit/license. Be sure to take a look at “Car Rental: 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Travel” for car rental tips.
As soon as I got through Customs and Immigration (which took over an hour or so), I headed over to the rental car counter. There are so many rental car kiosks there and almost each one of the car rental reps tried to persuade me to rent from their company.
I had already read somewhere online that they would do that so that I just politely said “No, Thank you!” and continued to walk over to the counter where I had my reservation. I made an online reservation the day before my arrival. It was with Fox Rental (since they offered the lowest rate at the time I booked it). It came out to be about $25/day (included taxes and fees). The actual car rental offices are off-site – not at the airport.
✨Compare safe transportation options ✨
It’s always a good idea to verify what transportation options you have and then compare the cost and convenience. Renting a car was the best option for me on this trip but that’s not always the case.
It was an economy car (a tiny tiny car) but it did the job. ? Faced with the fact that I had to drive on an island that I’m not familiar with and not having internet access while on the road worried me a little. I ended up worrying for nothing because it actually turned out to be SUPER easy!! I asked lots of questions and made sure I got directions EVERYWHERE that I went.
After leaving Princess Juliana Int’l Airport (SXM), I was taken away with the beautiful landscape. I love the combination of mountains/hills, the different shades of the ocean water, the endless amount of sailboats in the distance and all the different colored butterflies flying around.
Driving Around by Yourself
After leaving the airport, I wanted to stop somewhere and grab something to eat. I was so tired and it was so hot . . . I just wanted to check-in, gather my thoughts and then take it from there. I’ve always had good experiences with finding good places to eat when I travel. Asking the locals for recommendations usually works great for me.
Knowing I probably would not leave the hotel after checking in so I wanted to be sure I got something to eat before I arrived at the hotel. After asking the car rental representative of any recommendations for good Caribbean food and he suggested I stop at the Reggae Pool Bar (which was on the way to my hotel). He mentioned they had really good Caribbean dishes.
He told me exactly how to get there. I followed his instructions and looked for the Movie Theater he mentioned would be next door. It was a little bar/restaurant just off to the right just pass Simpson Bay.
The women behind the bar what dishes were being served and she explained there were limited selections. . . . Ended up going with the Brown Stew Chicken – my favorite Caribbean dish.
I LOVE West Indian food!! Well, to my surprise the food was NOT good! I have had many brown stew chicken dishes and this meal was probably the worst that I’ve ever had. It didn’t have enough flavor!
Communicate with Family & Friends
It’s really important to keep in contact with your family and friends while traveling alone. Make sure they know where you’re staying and how to contact you if needed.
The main good thing that came out of my quick stop there was the free WiFi they offered to customers. Having access to free Wifi was great! It allowed me to logged into FaceBook so that I can let my family and friends know I was ok.
AT&T was my wireless provider as my cell phone provider at the time. I ended up switching to T-Mobile for the international plan they offer. AT&T’s international plans aren’t good. It’s expensive and doesn’t make sense (for the most part).
I discovered a lot of stores, restaurants, etc offer free WiFi to customers on the island. That made things a little easier for me while I was on the move. So I kept my phone in airplane mode and just used free WiFi at the hotel and other places that I stopped to.
Solo Female Travel | Where to Stay
I was so indecisive with planning this trip that I actually ended up booking my hotel while I was on my flight – just as they closed the doors. I really didn’t want to wait until I arrived in St. Maarten to book to the hotel because I knew I wouldn’t have internet access on my phone. Luckily, the hotel booking went through just before I had to switch my phone to “airplane mode”. . . My nerves were so bad! 🙂
I did a lot of research the day before I left. Instead of staying at one hotel, I wanted to do something a little different. I stayed at The Westin on Dawn beach the first night I was in town and then stay at the Simpson Bay Resort the last night. I noticed The Westin was way out the way and somewhat secluded and the Simpson Bay Resort is right in the middle of everything.
Saint-Martin vs. Sint Maarten: Which Side of the Island is Better?
Saint Martin is known as “the friendly island”. The island is divided between the French side (Saint Martin) and the Dutch side (Sint Maarten). There’s no border patrol, customs, or fences between the two independently governed territories.
I felt there were pros and cons to staying on
Where to Next . . . The Hotel
After I left the Reggae bar I headed toward my hotel. Most of the streets in Saint Martin do not have signs so you have to get good directions and to ask questions when in doubt. I made it to The Westin that evening around 6P and it was just getting dark out. I followed the directions given to me from the guy at the rental car center and the few signs that were posted.
The directions he gave me were vague. . . He said there will be 3 roundabouts, stay to the right and make a right at each roundabout. Once you get to the end of the road at Philipsburg make a left and then follow the signs to The Westin.
Well come to find out, there were 4 roundabouts (not 3) and there is a point where there were NO signs so you have to pay close attention, look at a map and/or stop and ask. I decided to stop and ask and I was told I was on the right path. I was so proud of myself that I was able to find my way around the island to the Westin. Ha! She did that!!! ?
I made the reservation with The Westin through Hotels.com. I got a really good deal! Apparently, a few of the 4-5 star hotels/resorts on the island (before Thanksgiving) were under $250/night.
I have the rewards account with Hotels.com and the option of using the $95 credit I earned from their rewards program over the last year or so. The resort view room was $189/night but after the taxes and fees were added it came to $247/night. So I only paid $152/night after I
Upon my arrival at The Westin, I told the front desk clerk that it was my birthday. I asked him if he would consider giving me an upgrade (since it was my birthday). He was so nice and asked me if I was a Starwood member. I told him that I am (even though I booked the room through a third party) and then gave him my Starwood membership number.
I’m thinking. . . Oh, boy! I hope it’s still active (since I haven’t used my Starwood membership since 2013). He placed a call to someone and asked me to have a seat in the lobby so that he can see what he can do. He called me back to the desk after about 5-10 minutes and told me that he could upgrade me to an ocean view room. I was so ecstatic! The resort itself was really nice. There’s a total of 3 floors and I was on the 2nd floor.
My room was cute. I loved the view and that I could hear the waves of the ocean thrashing against the shore. Since I have a very sensitive nose, I noticed there was a “dampness” in the room but thank goodness it wasn’t too bad. I decided I wouldn’t complain. . . This time!?
Be aware of your surroundings
Is it safe to travel to Saint Martin? . . . Absolutely!
As with anywhere, be smart and don’t put yourself in “not so good” situations
Since I had been up just about the entire night before and traveling all that day, I was ready to lay back and relax. I thought about going for a walk around the property but decided I would freshen up and then go to the near local restaurant for dinner – I mean it WAS the night of my birthday! ?
After about 15-20, I realized I was too tired to get ready and go and dine-in at the restaurant so I decided to order takeout instead. There were a few waterfront restaurants and bars within a 5-minute drive. So, I decided to take a drive to go and pick up something to eat.
After getting there and parking and saw this cute little local grocery store. I went into the grocery to mainly see what they offered and ended buying a bottle of pineapple juice (to go with my little bottles of Malibu Rum I had stashed away).
Out of the three main restaurants/bars that were in the area, I decided to place my to-go order at Canova. It is a cute little quint place to grab dinner and drinks.
While waiting on my food (which seemed like forever) I decided to have a drink at the bar. I asked the bartender what kind of daiquiri mix do they use. When she said, Island Oasis, my face lit up! I LOVE LOVE LOVE island Oasis daiquiris!!! It’s the best!! I ordered a half-n-half with Strawberry and Pina Cola daiquiri.
I explained to the bartender that I wanted half and half (like how it’s done at Red Lobster) but I guess she didn’t completely understand. She actually mixed it all together in the blender so it didn’t come out exactly how I wanted it but it was still Goooooooodd!
I’m a seafood lover so I ordered the Coconut Shrimp with mashed potatoes and veggies & the Lobster and fish cakes. The coconut sauce on the shrimp was so delicious!
Once I got back to my room and chomped down a little bit of the food I ordered, I got
My hubby called via FaceTime and woke me around 12A. Since I was now up, I considered taking a walk down by the beach so I looked outside but there was NO ONE outside. It was pitch dark out pass the pool area. I felt it would not be safe to walk around in the dark by myself so I waited until the next morning.
The next morning I woke up and took me FOREVER to get ready. . . I almost missed breakfast downstairs at the Ocean Restaurant (which ended at 11A). There were a lot of food options available.
Up until this trip, I had only been drinking water but when I asked the waitress for
Checkout is normally at 11 am but since I called the front desk earlier to request a late checkout, they allowed me to check out at 1 pm instead. It’s always a good idea to ask for a late checkout. After breakfast, I took a stroll around the pool and beach area. The view and the water was amazing. The water was FREEZING so I didn’t want to get in!
Be spontaneous . . . Explore but Be Safe
Since you are traveling alone, you can just really play it by ear. You should explore and really just take it all in! It’s really great when you socialize and meet other travelers. Just be sure you stay safe!
Just before checking out of the Westin, I decided to speak with the Concierge about possibly taken a tour of the island. She advised it would probably be more cost effective to just drive around the entire island in the rental car instead of paying $125 for a tour (especially since it was just me).
I asked a few locals if it was safe for me to drive the entire island by myself and they all were like . . . “Absolutely!”. The concierge gave me a map of the island and pointed out a few things for me. It would have been nice to do a tour so that I could learn about the island and do a little sightseeing at the same time but they didn’t have those on/off buses you would normally see in most destinations (none that I knew of anyway).
So I checked out, jumped in my tiny car and I was off. ? I followed the map, limited road signs and I asked when I was in doubt. I wasn’t in a rush so I just went with the flow (which is nice to do sometimes). I passed the butterfly farm on my way to the lookout near Orient Beach. Butterflies are all over the island and I loved it!
My next stop was Grand Case. Everyone told me this was “THE” place to eat on the French side of the island. Once I arrived, I parked and walked around a little (to browse and take pics). Initially, I figured I would have lunch here but once I arrived, I wasn’t hungry. I also didn’t see a restaurant that offered anything that I wanted to eat. Grand case is an area with a strip of restaurants and a few shops. The locals rave about it but I personally was not impressed with the food options that were offered.
As I was out taking pictures of the view, I noticed a boat at one of the piers (you can see it in the pic above). I saw people lining up to take some kind of boat tour so I immediately walked over to see how much it was. I asked this guy, that was standing on the side (talking to passengers after they exited the boat) how much the ride is. He said he couldn’t tell me and that I had to talk to the other guy (standing next to the boat).
I then asked the guy standing next to the boat and he told me to ask the Captain. I was thinking . . . WTH??? Why can’t anyone just answer my question?!?! I then asked the Captain and because I was by myself and it was last minute, he just allowed me to board. . . For free!! I asked how much and he told me to just put a tip in the tip jar after the tour. He was so sweet!
Apparently, the other people on the tour were from a Disney cruise and they all prepaid for this tour. . . How much? I’m not sure. I asked one of the families how much they pad for the tour, they said they weren’t sure because it was part of a package they purchased before the cruise. After I sat down, I realized I didn’t know how long the tour was or what it was about. . . I just knew I wanted to be on the water. ? Someone then told me it was a 45- minute tour to the nearby coral reef. Nothing too exciting but it was free and it gave me the opportunity to be out on the sea.
After the tour, I considered eating at one of the restaurants (just to give it a try) but it was getting late and I wanted to make it to Simpson Bay Resort before it got too dark. Plus, I wasn’t too sure how long it would take me to get to Simpson Bay Area. I walked passed a juice bar and noticed they offered free WiFi. . . It’s called Max’s Place. It was hot out on the boat so I thought a nice cold smoothie would hit the spot. The juice drink/smoothie was so refreshing! I chose the “Awake” smoothie . . . it made me want to buy me a juicer so that I can make smoothies myself at home.?
I got on the main one-way road that goes through Grand Case and stopped to ask
There were some roundabouts and one-way streets but I managed to stay on the right path all the way there. I ran into some traffic so it took me over an hour to get to the hotel. . . It was bumper to bumper traffic!
I arrived at the Simpon Bay Resort and Marina just at 6P. Check-in was quick and I asked for another upgrade since it was my birthday. They were REALLY nice and decided to give me an oceanfront suite on the 7th floor. The room was okay but I’m not a fan of wicker furniture. The kitchenette was great and was very useful and the view was AMAZING!!!
Decided on walkin
I was so exhausted from being out all day and then being stuck in traffic for so long, I didn’t want to drive or walk too far. I settled for a 10-inch cheese pizza. ? I normally don’t like to eat things that I normally eat in the states but there are times I have to make an exception. This was one of those times. . . . I was so hungry I ate most of it (as you can see). ?
The pizza was okay but the sauce had a sweet taste to it – which I really don’t like but I ate it anyway. ?
I video chatted with one of my besties via Facebook for awhile and then I was off to bed. For whatever reason, I ended up waking up a little bit after 12A. My hubby called me via FaceTime while I was just lying in bed seeing if I could go back to sleep.
After chatting with him, I decided I would get up and sit out on the balcony and start typing up my blog post about this trip. After I took my laptop out my backpack and hit the power button I discovered it wouldn’t turn on. I was so confused because I didn’t understand why it would turn on when I was just using it the night before (while at the Westin).
I started freaking out and decided I would look online and try to troubleshoot. Well, it didn’t work
Initially, I thought I would venture out to the beach, grab some breakfast and just relax until it was time to leave for the airport. Well, after my laptop wouldn’t turn on, I thought I would go to a local computer repair store. There was one across the street from the Reggae bar the day before so I was determined to try to get my laptop fixed.
The computer repair shop
I figured I would make good with the time I had left and so I drove around to sight-see a little more and take more pics of the island. Once I got back to the hotel and went downstairs for breakfast I found this cute little restaurant called The Stone.
I really enjoyed myself on this trip! Everyone on the island was really friendly and accommodating! The next time that I go I would like to go over to St Barth’s and possibly Angullia since they are so close by. There are over 30 beaches on this island but I only got a chance to visit a handful of them. My favorite beach so far is Little Bay Beach (near the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort).
The water was so pretty! The beaches around the island are all different shades of blue/turquoise but I love the beaches that have the clear to turquoise water. I was told Mullet beach is the BEST beach on the island but I found that to be subjective. . . I look forward to my next visit! Maybe I will actually get into the water next time. 🙂 I’m so glad that I actually went through with it! Traveling solo is not that bad!!! My first time. . . but will probably not be my last!!
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