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Passports

U.S. and Canadian citizens must have a passport or a combination of a birth certificate and photo ID, plus a return or ongoing ticket, to enter St. Maarten/St. Martin. Citizens of the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries of the Caribbean, the Republic of Ireland, and E.U. countries must also have a current passport.

All travelers coming from the Caribbean, including Americans, are now required to have a passport to enter or re-enter the United States. Those returning to Canada are also required to show passports. Cruise ship passengers must also meet the requirement. You'll certainly need identification at some point, and a passport is the best form of ID for speeding through Customs and Immigration. Driver's licenses are not acceptable as a sole form of ID.

Customs

Generally, you're permitted to bring in items intended for your personal use, including tobacco, cameras, film, and a limited supply of liquor -- usually 40 ounces.

Just before you leave home, check with the St. Maarten/St. Martin (as well as St. Barts and Anguilla) Customs or Foreign Affairs department for the latest guidelines -- including information on items that are not allowed to be brought into your home country -- because the rules are subject to change and often contain some surprising oddities.

Visitors to St. Maarten/St. Martin (as well as St. Barts and Anguilla) may not carry any form of firearm, spear guns, pole spears, illegal drugs, live plants or cuttings, and raw fruits and vegetables. Visitors over 18 may bring in -- duty-free -- items intended for personal use (generally up to 4 liters of alcohol, a carton of cigarettes or 25 cigars), as well as laptops, cellphones, and cameras.

You should collect receipts for all purchases made abroad. You must also declare on your Customs form the nature and value of all gifts received during your stay abroad.

If you use any medication that contains controlled substances or requires injection, carry an original prescription or note from your doctor.

For specifics on what U.S. citizens can bring back, download the invaluable free pamphlet Know Before You Go online at www.cbp.gov. (Click on "Travel," then go to "Travel Smart" and click on "Know Before You Go.") Or contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/287-8667), and request the pamphlet.

U.K. citizens should contact HM Customs & Excise at tel. 0845/010-9000 (tel. 020/8929-0152 from outside the U.K.), or consult its website at www.hmce.gov.uk.

For a clear summary of Canadian rules, write for the booklet I Declare, issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca).

Citizens of Australia should request a helpful brochure available from Australian consulates or Customs offices called Know Before You Go. For more information, call the Australian Customs Service at tel. 1300/363-263, or log on to www.customs.gov.au.

For New Zealand Customs information, contact New Zealand Customs at tel. 04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786, or log on to www.customs.govt.nz.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.