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Almost there! (Photo: Pierre Carreau)

We are accused of being an over-informed society, but when it comes to St. Barths travel, you really do want to bone up on travel before you come. Think of it as health insurance. Unless you are sailing in with Puff Diddy on his anthracite yacht or chartering your own private plane–many do–you’ll have to rely on public transportation, like the rest of us. That narrows your options down to air and sea. Let’s start with air. You can choose from two local airlines : Winair and St. Barth Commuter. St. Barth’s famed airstrip cannot accommodate any major airline carriers so all air travel is routed through Saint-Martin. From there, you have to book a smaller plane to get to the magical island of St. Barths. Wherever your starting point, the most important thing to keep in mind, when it comes to making it all the way to your final destination without an unplanned or unwanted evening in St. Martin, is the Cinderella curfew principle. When flying in to St. Barths on a connecting flight, you have to get into St. Martin early enough to catch an outbound flight before sunset, which is when the local and singular airport closes. Take 5:45 pm as your winter curfew, and 6:45 pm as the summer curfew, then count backwards from there. If your plane doesn’t get in at least one heaping hour prior to your St. Barths flight, chances are you will not be able to board. Prevention: Book well in advance. Planes are small, regulars have figured out the ropes and book early. When mapping out travel, be sure to give yourself enough time for unexpected delays, to the extent that it is possible. Ground delays out of Newark, Kennedy, Laguardia, Boston due to bad weather are not uncommon in the winter. If you miss your connecting flight, St. Martin airline agents will usually work with you to get you on an outbound flight later that day, (note to self: be nice, don’t yell or you have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting out) but be aware that as flights are usually full during high season, even well-intended ground crew may not be able to get you a coveted boarding pass for your St. Barths-bound plane the same day. If you haven’t been able to get in by the last plane to St. Barths, several options: 1-have a heart attack 2-make arrangements to spend a night in St. Martin (I would suggest La Samanna) 3-make a frigging mad dash to the ferry station to hop on the evening ferry, which arrives in St. Barths between 8 and 9 pm.

Here’s a tip for the ladies. In the summer months, taking the ferry ride can be just wonderful. During the winter months, however, the sea is more rambunctious and the reality of the ride in is this. The sea swells can be so raucous that it can test your mettle and your intestines. If you have a tendency to get sea sick, think about traveling with motion sickness pills, favor flats to stilettos, dress comfortably. You’d hate to mess up your Hermes scarf… During months when the sea is more clement, the ferry crossing can be a delicious Caribbean adventure, a wonderful opportunity to sit outside and pull up your favorite playlist, look at the stars and just dream your way into St. Barths.

If you are flying in from Europe, consider Paris your hub city. Daily flights leaving out of Charles de Gaulle (CDG) make it easy to connect to Paris and then travel direct to St. Martin. Many Londoners take the train to the plane. Really, a great option. If you prefer plane to plane, there is a 6:40 am departure out of Heathrow which gets you into CDG in time for the 10:30 am flight to St. Martin. From Italy, there is a 7 am departure out of Rome to CDG, a 7:30 am departure out of Geneva, and a 7 am out of Munich and a 7:15 am out of Moscow. Corsair runs three weekly flights out of Orly during high season and Air Caraibes, starting on December 12, offers 2 weekly flights, with a layover in Port-a-Prince, Haiti. (currently, not such a good idea) From the USA, the choices vary. East Coast airlines including American Airlines, US Airways, Continental, Delta, and Jet Blue fly into St. Martin daily . In high season, flights land from departure points out of New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Atlanta and Miami. If flying in from Canada, catch West Jet, Air Transat or Air Canada out of Toronto or Montreal for additional-if less frequent-options. From South America, unless you’re going private, you have to transit through Miami, where American Airlines runs a daily flight with an 11:35 am departure and an arrival into St. Martin at 3:25 pm.

The most challenging part of the trip might well be the connection from St. Maarten to St. Barths. Princess Juliana airport was recently remodeled so it now is in conformity with all international travel standards. This being said, the welcome there can be less than hospitable. Whether you’re a St. Barths resident, a long-time visitor or coming for the first time, the immigration, check-in and other airport procedures can be very taxing. My advice: don’t forget to see your therapist before coming and if you suffer from high blood pressure, be sure to take your medicine. Not everyone reacts so well to surly. Believe me, even if you think you are a very nice, polite person, sometimes, experiences at the St. Maarten airport can really severely challenge your perception. The magic alternative would be to avoid St. Martin altogether. You can do that by taking Tradewind Aviation out of Puerto Rico. Private and regular charters get you into St. Barths in 70 minutes time. If you have to go through Juliana in St. Martin, you can hire a private charter with St. Barth Commuter or Windward Island Express. You will pay more, but comparatively speaking, the service is well worth the hassle free travel. For regularly scheduled flights, the connection process is simplified if the local airline carrier you have chosen has a bilateral agreement with the major airline carrier you have chosen so that bags can be checked straight through to your final destination. If not, you are looking at picking up your bags in St. Martin and then having to register them again. Winair works with Continental, Delta, US Air and Air France. If your bags are checked straight through, you can skip immigration and baggage claim. You simply go to the correspondence gate to pick up your boarding pass, take a back passage up to security check, and then head to your departure gate. If you do have to go through immigration, baggage claim, check-in, like I said, take anger management classes.

If you don’t like small planes or miss your connecting flights, private boats or public ferries are your option. The Voyager and the Great Bay Express have daily runs at the end of the afternoon early evening with departures of of Marigot, Oyster Pond or Phillipsburg (Dutch side). There is a faster, more private and more expensive option, and that is to charter a private crossing with Master Ski Pilou, Yannis Marine, Marine Service or Ocean Must. It’s a 45- minute ride with a smile, service on a racy speed boat that brings you into Gustavia port.

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