Monday, July 25, 2011

driving in st maarten

i just thought i'd throw together a few little things about driving and vehicles in st maarten, beyond what i've already written.

*on the dutch side (where i'm living), the roads are privately owned. meaning, a person or private company, instead of a municipality, is responsible for upkeep/patching/etc. yes, every road, even the main thoroughfares.

*as i've already mentioned, within my first 10 minutes of driving on the island, i was fording flood waters. in the rainy season (summer, which is also the OFF season here), it happens frequently.

*speed bumps. with no/few warnings. and they aren't colored, like they are back home, so they sneak up on you on a 30 to 45 kph road.

*oh, and kilometers per hour on the signs and my speedometer.

*almost all of the road signs are pictures, and i didn't take a test on them, so i have no clue what many of them mean. winging it! some are obvious, but there are a few i still can't figure out.

*i think i've seen ONE stop light the whole time i've been here, and it was more of an indicator that the bridge (which raises twice a day) crossing the water passing from ocean to lagoon is about to raise.

*roundabouts/traffic circles are prevalent. and people who know how to use them (at least, the locals do... you can tell who the tourists are!)

*if someone beeps at you, it's not a complaint. it's giving you the right of way.

*there are no known rules for passing. people do it a lot, at random times. and by random, i mean both inconvenient and dangerous times.

*parking is a free-for-all. yes, there are designated spaces. there are even a few paid parking garages. most of the time, though, people are very thoughtless about it.

*maaany of the cars are the same, or very similar. God help you if you ended up renting a white Hyundai i10... because they are EVERYWHERE.

*it's pretty impossible to get lost if you stay on the main roads, because they follow almost the entire edge of the island.

*hopping from the dutch side to the french side is easy. there's just a sign that says "welcome to france!" or "welcome to the french side!"

*despite all of this, traffic flows really well... except between 5pm and 6pm. that's when the locals are leaving work and heading back inland to their homes, and also when the two bridges raise. traffic is a horrible snarl at that point, but sometimes, there's no avoiding going out -- many shops close at 6pm.

that's all i can think of, for now! i might add more later.

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