Below you will find a list of various questions that SOS members had before they arrived on the island. If you do not see your questions here, feel free to join our Facebook group to ask, or e-mail us at email@example.com.
- How do we get to Saba?
- Where can family and friends stay when they come to visit?
- What can I expect when I arrive on Saba?
- I’m not going to live full time on Saba with my SO. How long can I stay on the island?
Life on Saba
- What is the housing situation like on Saba?
- Once we’re on Saba, how do we get from place to place?
- What are the towns on Saba?
- Will I be able to work on Saba?
- Can we bring our pets to Saba?
- How do I ship items to/from Saba?
- Where are the grocery stores? What are their hours?
- I have special dietary requirements (allergies, preferences, etc.), how easily will I find gluten-free/lactose-free/vegetarian etc. food on the island?
- I heard that water is an issue on the island. Can you please explain?
- How do I do laundry on the island?
- What is the climate on the island? How does it effect your everyday life?
- What sort of wildlife can I expect on the island?
- What sort of outdoor activities can we do on Saba?
Bringing Children to Saba
- Where will I find childcare on Saba, and how much will it cost?
- I have school-aged children. Where will they go?
- What brands of formula are on the island, and how much can I expect to pay?
- Are there paediatricians on the island?
- Can my children be vaccinated on the island?
- How expensive are diapers on the island? Disposable or cloth?
- Are there baby items for sale on Saba (teething rings, bottles, etc.)?
- What are the passport requirements for babies?
- What activities are there for my child(ren) and I to do during the day?
- What if my Significant Other or I get pregnant on the island?
To get to Saba, you must first travel to St. Martin. There are flights to St. Martin on a regular basis from most central airports (Toronto, New York, Charlotte etc. and some European flights as well – mostly through Charles de Gaulle in Paris). Once you reach St. Martin, you can travel to Saba by airplane or ferry.
Airplane – the only airline that goes to Saba is Winair. It is a 12 minute flight from St. Martin, and costs ~$75 one way, depending on the time of year. Most students choose to take the plane, as it is shorter, and you land on the shortest commercial runway in the world! If you are arriving during high traffic times (a few days before the term starts), you may experience delays. You also should be aware that you may not arrive with all of your bags, as the planes can only carry a certain amount of weight. It’s recommended that you bring important documents and things you CANNOT do without (medicine, etc.) in your carry-on, as you may not receive your bags for a few days. Taxis meet you at the airport.
Ferry – the website for the Dawn II can be found here, along with rates. The trip is around two hours, and it costs ~$50 one way. The other ferry, The Edge can be booked here. It costs ~$55 one way, and only leaves at 9am, so you may have to stay overnight in St. Martin. The ferries are occasionally down for maintenance, and will be delayed if there are weather issues. If you have a lot of luggage (more than 2 suitcases per person), it is recommended that you take the ferry. You will be charged for extra suitcases, but all of them will definitely arrive with you. Taxis meet you at the dock.
There are many places to stay on Saba for friends, family, or while you’re waiting for your home to be ready. Some inns offer discounts for families of students. Please see our ‘Resources’ section for a list of available hotels/resorts/inns etc.
Arriving on Saba can sometimes be a very confusing experience. You may or may not have power or internet hooked up at your apartment, and may wonder where you can get food.
It’s recommended that you have American dollars with you when you travel here, as the bank machines may be closed/not have enough money in them/are not found everywhere.
Taxis will be waiting at the airport, and students get a free cab voucher in their student package, so students don’t pay for the first trip. As an SO, you may have to, but it should be fairly cheap as you will be sharing a van cab with many people. It’s a good idea to tip your driver very well on this first trip, as it may save you some money later on if you call them a lot for drives.
The University has 24 hour free internet if you need to Skype or e-mail your family back home, and yours is not yet connected. You can also buy Wi-Fi cards from the phone company, Satel, in The Bottom and Big Rock Grocery in Windwardside that will work (theoretically) everywhere on the island.
Most stores and restaurants are not open on Sundays, so if you are arriving on a Sunday, make sure you bring food with you. Tropics in Windwardside is generally open at 4:00pm for Tapas, but does not serve a real dinner. Saba Snack in Windwardside might be open for dinner. During the week, most of the grocery stores are open until 7:00pm or 8:00pm.
If you are not planning on staying on Saba while your SO is at school, but do want to visit, you are able to stay for 90 days. Once these 90 days are up, you will need to leave Saba for another 90 days before you can return. You can only do this twice per year. If you find that you want to stay longer, you will need to file for temporary residency (please see our Immigration section). This has changed. Previously, non-residents were able to visit for 90 days, leave for a night in St. Martin, and then return. This is no longer acceptable.
While most first semester students stay in residence/dorm, the upper semester students must live off campus, usually in apartments. For the school’s housing guide and housing list, click here. Please also contact the housing coordinator at SUSOM. firstname.lastname@example.org
For your SOs, there is a school bus that goes to and from the school no matter where you live on the island. There are several trips to the school in the morning, and then back out to other communities in the evening, with the last one leaving SUSOM at 9:00pm.
Most people get around using the taxis, or by hitch-hiking (everyone does it here!). There is no public bus or other transportation system. Walking from town to town (and even in town!) can prove difficult if you’re not in excellent shape, as the roads and hills are VERY steep.
Many students choose to purchase a vehicle on the island, especially if you are living in Hell’s Gate, or somewhere where there is less traffic to hitch a ride on. The roads are a challenge to drive due to the cliffs and the steep and narrow roads. You can expect to pay a lot more for an automatic vehicle as opposed to a standard. Some people buy a car in St. Martin and get it shipped over, if you can afford the shipping costs, or you can buy a car from another student who is leaving the island. There is only one gas station on the island, in Fort Bay, and they are not open on Sundays.
Saba is so small that there are only four communities. The Bottom is the capital of Saba; the school, government buildings, day care, etc. are all located in the Bottom. The Bottom is a few degrees warmer than the rest of the island, as it is in a valley and gets little wind. Most first semester students live here in the dorms.
Windwardside is in the middle of the island, and is where most upper semester students end up living, due to the cooler temperature and (slightly) larger variety of stores. Rent also tends to be cheaper here.
St. John’s is a small community between The Bottom and Windwardside, and is where the island’s public schools are located. There are no grocery stores, although it is a short distance away from The Bottom.
Hell’s Gate is on the northern part of the island, and is divided into Upper Hell’s Gate and Lower Hell’s Gate. These communities are quieter and much windier than the rest of the island. If you are considering living here as an SO, it is recommended that you look into buying a car if you live in Hell’s Gate. Rent is also much cheaper here, due to the school being ‘far away’ (only 10 kms!)
There is no work guaranteed for Significant Others on Saba. Most jobs are advertised by hear-say, and are usually at restaurants, grocery stores or bars. There is occasionally work at the public school if you are a teacher. If you are able to find work, some employers will help you with a work permit, but not all.
Most landlords are adamant about not allowing pets to live in their homes. Almost no one will allow pets. Vet service is very limited, with the veterinarian coming occasionally from St. Martin. Winair will sometimes refuse to allow pets on their flights, but you can bring them in on the Dawn II. You may not be able to find the right food here for your pet if they’re on a special diet, and even so, the food is expensive. It gets very hot on Saba, and many animals do not do well with the heat. As well, if you are busy, you won’t get to spend as much time with your animal as you would like. However, some people do bring their pets, but it is best to work out your living situation first, and then decide if you will bring them. It is recommended that you leave your pet at home for the short time you are here.
There are a few ways that you can do it, but it will be expensive! Island Communication Services Saba (ICS) is a shipping agent in Windwardside. For $125/year, you can ship items to an address in Miami that will serve as your “mailbox.” Then, items will be shipped to ICS with a fee based on weight (~$2.75/pound). This usually takes 2-3 weeks, depending on how quickly your items get to Miami. ICS also accepts items sent through Caribtrans, which does not require a mailbox set up. However, you will pay a flat fee of $20 plus a fee based on size. Even if you do choose to set up a “Miami Mailbox,” Caribtrans may be cheaper for some items if they are really heavy (e.g. books), because the fee is based on size and not weight. Be sure to include an invoice/package slip with the package if possible, and email this to ICS so they know what to expect. Another option is Hassell Free Shipping, which ships items to Do It Best in Windwardside.
There are grocery stores in both The Bottom and Windwardside. They are open throughout the week, and most evenings, and are closed on Sundays. Be aware of this if you arrive on a Sunday!
The stores restock on Wednesdays when the boat comes in. Most islanders do their grocery shopping on Wednesdays, especially for perishable necessary items such as eggs, milk, and fresh fruit and veggies. As the week progresses, these items become harder to come by. The boat may be delayed for holidays or inclement weather, so it helps to be aware and stock up on canned goods! Most stores offer a delivery service if you purchase enough groceries.
The selection of products also varies from week to week. If you come expecting a certain brand name of shampoo/cereal/whatever, chances are they may not have it, and if they do one week, they may not the next.
Certain stores offer a 10% discount on Saturdays (Unique in Windwardside and My Store in The Bottom). It is recommended to purchase bottled water in reserve just in case you run out or there is inclement weather.
You should be able to find what you need on the island. If you are looking for specialty items such as gluten-free bread, you probably won’t be able to find them every week. However, there is a lot of rice on the island, including rice pasta, as well as gluten-free flour. They occasionally sell lactose-free milk in the stores, and there is almond or rice milk available. There are many vegetarian options, however you will need to shop on Wednesdays or Thursdays to ensure you get fresh produce, it usually goes pretty quickly. They also have a small selection of vegetarian alternatives, but there is no guarantee, especially not on the brand. Kosher food can be difficult to find, but Halal food is readily available.
Water is a precious commodity here on the island. Saba has no public water supply, so houses have cisterns that are filled with the rainwater. Your water needs to be boiled before you drink it (and no, solely a brita filter will not do!), as it may contain H. Pylori, a bacteria that can cause ulcers. Many people drink solely bottled water, however this can get expensive, and boiling, while at times tedious, is cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Water conservation is a way of life here, so it’s customary to soap your dishes in the sink, and then rinse. The same with yourself and the shower, turning it on only to rinse. If you run out of water during the dry seasons, desalinated water is available for a few hundred dollars to refill your cistern. The exact cost depends on the size of your cistern. Also, the plumbing systems are not equipped to deal with any materials besides human waste, so you’ll need to put toilet paper in a lidded trash can next to your toilet.
Also, plan to purchase larger bottles of water to have in reserve in case of emergency.
Some houses have a washer and/or dryer, but most don’t. If you decide to wash your clothes by hand and hang them to dry, this may not work, as the island air is very damp. There are several laundry services available on the island. You can either make the contacts yourself, or do it through one of the residences. The price will vary depending on the amount of laundry, and the distance the service people have to drive to pick it up from you, but is usually around $20 per load.
Saba is a tropical island with a rainforest climate. It is hot, and it is humid. Most houses are uninsulated wood or concrete, and most have air conditioning units. If you are in a part of the island with a breeze, many people leave their doors and windows open. However, it is very humid, and mold can grow quickly, so just make sure to clean/throw away any items as soon as you see mold.
We live on a Caribbean island, and there are certain things that come with it! For a small island, it has a fairly diverse ecosystem, with seven different eco-zones. It’s not uncommon to see critters in or around your home, including small lizards, iguanas, cockroaches, spiders and moths.
The Bottom can be quite buggy, so you may need a mosquito net if you plan to live there. If you have children, you may want to bring itch-relief, as well as Benadryl or other allergy medication. Mosquito bites can quickly become irritated. There have been a few cases of mosquito-borne diseases, but Sabans are quick to address these issues.
Saba is full of things to do! There are many hiking trails, including one to the top of beautiful Mount Scenery the highest point in the Netherlands! If you have a few extra dollars, it’s worth hiring a guide to take you on some of the more advanced trails to really show you the beautiful hidden places of the island. Be aware that these are a workout! Wear good shoes and bring water.
Saba is world famous for its scuba diving! It has some of the best diving spots in the world, due to its isolation and geography. Many people travel here for the day to go scuba diving and snorkelling with one of the three dive shops on the island (links in our ‘Resources’ page). It’s not uncommon to see turtles, rays, brightly coloured fish, and even the occasional nurse or reef shark. In the months of January to April, there are also many sightings of humpback whales.
Unfortunately if you are coming to Saba expecting beautiful sandy beaches, you will have to look somewhere else! Due to the volcanic history of the island, there are only one or two small beaches, which are sometimes sandy, but not always, depending on the weather.
There is one day care on the island and it is located in the Bottom. There is no bus service provided.
Laura Linzey Day Care
- Ages 0-4
- 7:00 am to 5:30 pm
- $140/month full days
- $84/month half days
- Lunch is provided for the children at 11:45am
There are two schools on the island, a primary and secondary school. Sacred Heart Primary goes from Kindergarten to Grade 6. Students are enrolled in elementary at 4 years old on Saba, and this is enforced by the government. The Saba Comprehensive School is a combined Middle and High School. Class sizes are approximately 5-15 students, and follow Caribbean and Dutch curriculum. Please see this website for a statement from the Dutch and BES Government about enrolling your children in school. If you are a temporary resident, your school-aged child MUST be in school, not home-schooled.
There are several different brands of formula on the island that are regularly stocked in the grocery stores. Lactogene – $17/can, Nestle Good Start (not consistently stocked) – $19/can, and Similac (buy in bulk) – $73/case of 6 cans.
Yes, there are two, Dr. Blaubauer and Dr. Boorsma, who also runs the baby clinic in The Bottom.
Yes, they can. Bring your children’s health records from home so they stay updated.
There are a few different options for buying diapers on the island, but it is recommended you bring at least a semester’s worth with you (see ‘What to Bring’). You can order them through the SOS, who order through the school, and it takes about 3 months to arrive. Another option is through Prime Distributors in St. Martin, which requires an online order, and money transferred to their bank account. They will arrive once a week with the town’s groceries on the Mutty’s Pride. They cost about $33/box, and you will need to order at least $200 worth before they will send them. There is also an extra $40-50 fee for taxes and duty upon arrival in Saba. Wipes are $12/box. A final option is to order them in bulk from the grocery stores, My Store in The Bottom, or Big Rock in Windwardside. They cost about $45/box.
Disposable or cloth is really your choice. Disposable diapers are more expensive, but more convenient. Cloth diapers are cheaper and less hassle on the purchasing end, but may be difficult to deal with if you don’t have your own laundry facilities.
Yes, these can be found at the grocery store, pharmacy, and hardware stores. If you are looking for a particular brand, however, it is recommended that you bring them with you.
You will need passports for your children.
There is a lot to do with your child on Saba. There is a park with swings and slides in Windwardside, near the Museum. The Cove is a protected beach with a shaded area in Lower Hell’s Gate, next to the airport. Some of the hotels have pools, and will let you swim if you buy lunch or a snack. Make sure to bring a lot of toys and books, as there will be many indoor days due to rain in the wet season (June – November).
If you become pregnant on the island, you will follow the same steps as you would back home. Make an appointment to see the doctor, and get a blood test. Depending on your personal preferences, you may want to go home for the birth of your baby. Most Saban babies are delivered at the hospital in St. Martin, and the moms are sent there a few weeks before their due date. If you are working here, maternity leave is twelve weeks in total: six weeks before your due date, and six weeks after. If you experience any complications with your pregnancy, you will be sent to a hospital St. Martin or to Colombia, though many SOS may choose to go home instead.