St. Barths – What to Know Before You Go!

St. Barth is an island that combines all that is good in life. Before you take your first trip to this magical Carribbean destination, make sure to brush up on the basic history and facts of island life. In our latest blog post below, we detail some of the most important tips to know before you go.

St. Barths Luxury RentalsA Brief History of St. Barth

St. Bart was first introduced into the “New World” by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on his failed expedition to find India (instead he “discovered” America). Called “Ouanalao” by the native Caribs, Christopher Columbus christened the island St. Barthélemy, for his brother Bartholomé.

The island underwent a series of French explorers, each trying to lay claim to it but were defeated by the native Caribs until 1694. In this year a convoy from Normandy arrived and prospered, establishing French as the primary language of the island. Ninety years later in 1784, the French traded the island to King Gustav III of Sweden in exchange for port rights in Göteborg, Sweden. King Gustav III dubbed the port city the capital and named it Gustavia, a name that has stuck until today. He laid down roads, built three forts, and eventually St. Barth became the prosperous free port that we know today.

After many years, and many natural disasters, the Swedes decided to sell the island back to the French. After briefly considering selling to America, the French once again took control of the island in 1877.

Today the island remains a free port and, in 2007, St. Barth became a Collectivity, a French administered overseas territory located outside of continental France. The island’s 3,000 permanent residents are descendants of the Norman settlers from three centuries ago, keeping French traditions alive in almost every aspect of the island. St. Barth’s secluded location lends itself well to the celebrity and jet set, looking for a place in the sun with some


U.S. currency is widely accepted almost everywhere but be aware that you may get a better exchange rate when paying cash in Euros or with a credit card that offers a reasonable exchange rate. You will usually come out ahead with using a credit card in Euros instead of paying with U.S. dollars. €1 hovers between $1.30-1.50 depending upon the exchange rate of the day.

To learn about some of our favorite St. Barths shopping options, read our St. Barths Shopping Guide.

LA CASE DE L'ISLE | St. Barths Luxury Rentals
La Case de L’Isle is one of St. Barths most romantic dining options

Restaurant Service:

As in France, servers in St. Barth will not present the bill to you until asked to do so. Presenting the check before being asked is considered rude and pushy in French/European culture. So sit back, relax and enjoy the complimentary vanilla rum that tends to flow after dinner at many St. Barth restaurants. Please also note that while dietary restrictions can be accommodated, you may want to learn how to ask for your preferences in French, as it seems more respectful to the chef. Additionally, a 15% service compris (service charge) is always added to restaurant checks by law. It is customary to leave the server 5%-10% in cash as well.

For more information on our favorite dining options in St. Barths, read our St. Barths Dining Guide here.

Anse de Grande Saline | St. Barths Luxury Rentals
Anse de Grande Saline is one of St. Barths two nude beaches.

Nude Beaches:

Although on paper nude sunbathing is “strictly prohibited”, there are two designated nude beaches on St. Barths: Anse de Grande Saline and Anse du Gouverneur. Topless sunbathing is common on all the beaches in St. Barth and is absolutely permitted.


English is spoken by most everyone in the hospitality and tourism industry. However, French is spoken prevalently in St. Barth. It may be helpful to learn to key phrases for your journey. See “Key French Phrases”

St. Barth Shopping | St. Barths Luxury RentalsApparel:

Island life dictates breezy, light garments. Woman are usually alright to go anywhere during the day in a bikini and cover up. Men are expected to wear shirts in shops and restaurants (as are women, by the way). For more elegant places sundresses and linen pants are suitable. Men should avoid wearing shorts to dinner unless they want to be labeled americain. People dress up for dinner, think resort casual chic.

To learn about some of our favorite St. Barths shopping options, read our St. Barths Shopping Guide.


St. Barth uses both military (24 hour) and 12 hour clocks. Be aware of this when making restaurant reservations and booking other activities. Also take note that shops and restaurants are closed from 1:00-3:00pm (13:00-15:00) daily and many shops are not open on Sunday. St. Barth is located in the Atlantic Standard Time zone, which is one hour later that Eastern Standard Time and four hours earlier than GMT. The islands do not observe daylight savings time, so when this occurs Atlantic Standard and Eastern Standard times are the same.

Cell Phone Plans:

Check with your local U.S. provider if you want to add an international plan. Verizon has a great traveler’s plan; $10 usd per day and use your phone as in the US. The Cuvée residence has a Vonage line that can be used to call the U.S. during your stay. To dial the U.S. use the country code 001. To dial St. Barth from the U.S. use the country code 590

Visa and Passports:

You will need a valid passport to gain entry into St. Barth. Please ensure that your passport is up to date and that you have it with you upon departure from the U.S. You will not need a visa unless you plan to stay on the island for more than 90 days. For more information on visas and passports in St. Barth visit: passport-information.html

Drinking Water:

Please do not drink the tap water in St. Barth. The villa is stocked with bottled water for your stay. However, the water is safe for brushing your teeth and such, just not for frequent drinking. You will always be offered bottled water in all St. Barth restaurants


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