Sint Maarten is the smaller, Dutch part of a beautiful and lively Caribbean island shared peacefully with France. It’s the world’s smallest island on which two separate nations, with two very different characters and sets of laws and customs, co-exist on either side of a border marked only by welcome signs.
The Dutch section of the island – only 17 square miles (44 sq km), of which five lay under the waters of lagoons and salt ponds – has become one of the Caribbean’s most popular vacation and shopping destinations.
Not only can visitors hop across the invisible border to get a taste of French Caribbean life – although the excellent cuisine in Sint Maarten is cosomopolitan – they can also enjoy the advantages of shopping in one of the world’s few completely tax-free ports.
In Philipsburg, the capital, there are more than 500 stores in pastel-coloured, clapboard Dutch-style buildings selling luxury goods at 25 to 50 per cent below normal prices.
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