Exploring Simpson Bay and Philipsburg by Local Bus
By Trey Kennedy, Student Experience Ambassador
One of the best things about living in St. Maarten is exploring the local culture and everything that St. Maarten has to offer. For me, as I’m sure it is with most students here at AUC School of Medicine, this is my first experience living outside of the United States. Prior to moving to St. Maarten, I had traveled a fair amount throughout the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. I’ve always found that the best way to learn about a new place is to get out and experience local food and entertainment, and the most economical way to do this is through utilizing the bus.
The local transit system in St. Maarten is not what you may be used to in the United States or abroad, and while it can be used to explore St. Maarten on a budget, it does take some getting used to. To begin, it may be called “the bus” by everyone who uses it, but in reality it is actually a van that holds around a dozen people. This is important to keep in mind, as a full bus may drive past you if they don’t have any more room. Another thing to keep in mind is that a bus may look exactly like a taxi. To be sure that you are hailing a bus, look for a license plate that says “B” followed by a number. The route that the bus is following will be on a sign in the front windshield. The bus by school typically follows the route from Maho to Philipsburg and back, and you may see some combination of Maho, Philipsburg, Mullet Bay, or Cupecoy on their sign.
From campus, you can typically catch a bus from 7 am until 4 pm. Busses do occasionally come earlier, and later, but given that the campus is somewhat off of the usual bus route, it is most consistent within this time frame. Likewise, you are more likely to catch a bus by campus in the morning when people are arriving into Cupecoy for work and in the afternoon when they are heading home. Another important point to note is that you are most likely to see a bus Monday – Saturday. It is possible for a bus to come up by school on Sunday, but they are few and far between.
While you will often see a bus driving past the security booth on these days and times, there is an official bus stop located on the main road in front of Cupecoy Beach Club and the old Starz casino. It is marked with the words “BUS” on the pavement. When you see a bus drive past, simply wave at them to stop and hop on. Be sure to say “good morning” or “good afternoon” as most everyone does and it is considered rude not to.
Once you are on the bus, simply take a seat and enjoy the ride! The bus will take you through Maho, Simpson Bay, and finally on to Philipsburg. If you see a place where you want to stop, tell the driver “bus stop please” and they will pull over to let you off. Have a few dollars ready and hand the driver your money as you get out. If there is change for you, they will provide it. The fare varies based on how far you ride.
When you are ready to return to campus after a fun-filled day in town, just reverse the process and stand by the main road where the bus dropped you off, but on the opposite side of course. If you are in Philipsburg, plan to catch a bus no later than 6 pm. For Simpson Bay, try to catch a bus no later than 8 pm.
Finally, a major caveat to keep in mind is that not every bus goes all the way to campus; many turn around at the Maho Pharmacy. This is an important point to keep in mind, as you may find yourself on a bus that leaves you in Maho. As a general rule of thumb, plan your day to arrive back in Maho after 6 pm and you can call an AUC School of Medicine security shuttle to take you the rest of the way to campus. However, you can also ask the driver if they can take you to campus or Cupecoy. The driver may indicate that it will cost extra.
As a summary:
• Use the bus stop in front of Cupecoy Beach Club / Starz Casino to catch a bus by campus.
• Be sure to greet the driver and other passengers with a good morning or good afternoon when entering the bus.
• Remember to keep several dollar bills handy for bus fare, as larger bills are frowned upon.
• Keep in mind the best times for catching a bus based on where you are and where you are going.
• Make sure that the bus is displaying a sign in their front window that corresponds to your destination. If in doubt about where the bus is going, ask the driver before sitting down.
• Have a plan to travel from Maho back to campus in case your bus does not go all the way to Cupecoy. Call an AUC School of Medicine security shuttle!