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Essential Things To Know For Your First Trip To Saipan

Saipan is one of the most beautiful tropical destinations in the world. With a relaxing atmosphere that allows life to slow down, this is one of the places that will leave you feeling refreshed by the time you leave.

From sunset drives along Beach Road to historical landmarks and war relics to scuba diving at The Grotto, there is beauty around every corner in Saipan. The capital of the Northern Mariana Islands is a home away from home that will fascinate you.

A Bit of Saipan, CNMI History

Saipan is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. It was under several administrations: Spanish (1565-1899), German (1899-1914), and Japanese (1914-1944). Saipan became one of the battle sights of the World Wars between the U.S. and Japan in 1944 when the U.S. eventually captured the island. It then become part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and as of 1978, Saipan became a municipality of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Saipan was predominantly full of United States military personnel, but as of 1990, tourism began replacing military presence and has since then become the primary source of the island’s local economy.

The CNMI is run by the Commonwealth Government, including Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches headquartered in Saipan. Elections are held every 4 years for the various positions in the government, including the highest-ranking officers: Governor and Lt. Governor.

Saipan Travel Tips


Entry requirements for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are the same as for any U.S. destination. For further information about visa requirements, please visit Travel.State.Gov.

For the latest information on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), please visit the Office of the Governor’s website.


Saipan, the largest island in the Northern Mariana Islands, is located in the western Pacific Ocean, just east of the Philippines and north of Guam.

About 12 miles long, 5.6 miles wide, and a land area of about 115 square kilometers, Saipan is a tropical paradise lined with sandy beaches, rugged rocky cliffs, and coral reefs.


Saipan is under ChST – Chamorro Standard Time, 10 hours ahead of Universal Time Coordinated (or Greenwich Mean Time, GMT). Daylight Savings Time (DST) does not affect Saipan and the Northern Mariana Islands.


Saipan holds the world record for the most consistent climate year-round of a tropical rainforest climate with the maximum temperature being 84 °F (28.9 °C).

There are two seasons – dry and wet. Expect high temperatures to run from December to June, whereas slightly cooler temperatures can be expected from July to November.


Saipan’s population of roughly 50,000 is a mix of indigenous Chamorro, and Carolinian, as well as Filipino, Chinese, and other residents who call Saipan home.

Chamorro, Carolinian, and English are Saipan’s official languages. Tagalog and Mandarin are also commonly used.


Majority of the residents on the island practice Catholicism. Christian and Protestant churches, mosques, and a temple are practiced peacefully as well.


Saipan is free from major deadly diseases. Mosquitos and other insects are common on the islands, but there have not been any reports of diseases stemming from them. There is one main hospital located at the bottom of Navy Hill. Other small government and privately run medical, dental, and eye clinics, as well as pharmacies, are available throughout the island.

Saipan’s crime rate is fairly low. Petty theft, especially with items in vehicles, is the most common crime. It is advisable to not put any item on the dashboard or anywhere visible in the vehicle, and always keep valuables and extra cash with you or in a safe at the hotel. Also, many residents have their dogs outdoors. Please avoid walking through residential neighborhoods so as to avoid any chance of being bitten by one.


The standard voltage in the NMI is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. The power plugs and sockets are of Type A and B.

Power plug adapters are not needed if you’re coming from the United States. It is recommended to pack a 3- to 2-prong adapter in case type B sockets are not available. If a power plug adapter is needed, it is advisable to purchase one online or in your area before arriving on the island.


Saipan has dozens of hotels and resorts available. They are generally a good option, and many of them have amazing sunrise and sunset views.

If you’re considering an apartment/home-style rental, know that Airbnbs are limited in Saipan. Some residential apartments may offer short-term rentals to visitors, but do extra research on them.


IT&E and Docomo Pacific are the island’s only mobile networks available. They offer temporary cards or services to make staying connected online easy.

Free wi-fi is available in many hotels and restaurants (passwords are often posted within the vicinity).


The U.S. dollar ($) is the NMI’s currency. It is advisable to exchange cash currencies at the airport where visitors are coming from as there are little to no currency exchange machines on the island. The best chance of exchanging currency is by visiting the First Hawaiian Bank in Oleai Village. For international cardholders, call your bank and inform them of your travel to Saipan prior to arriving.

Bank of Hawaii, First Hawaiian Bank, Bank of Saipan, City Trust Bank Inc., Bank Pacific, and Bank of Guam are the available banks, with ATMs, located around the island. Banks are open 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Monday – Friday, and varying operational hours on Fridays and Saturdays for some banks.

Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, as well as JCB, and Google and Apple Pay are accepted at most hotels, restaurants, and retail shops in Saipan. However, smaller establishments may only accept cash, so it is advisable to carry some amount.


In Saipan, cars are on left-hand drives, following right-hand lanes. The maximum speed limit is 45 MPH (72 KMH) on the highway. When passing residentials and school zones, the speed limit is reduced between 5-10 MPH (8KMH-16KMH).

Parking is free and easily accessible in most businesses and sight-seeing areas on the island. The only paid parking fee is at the airport parking lot, except for the car rentals.

Renting a car is the best option if you’d like a freer rein in exploring the island. Tour and shuttle buses, and taxis are also available.


Tipping is welcomed. There is a 0% sales tax rate on most purchases in Saipan.


The island offers a variety of local and international cuisines, including local BBQ and red rice, chicken kelaguen, coco, fried rice, etc. Fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables are also available in mini stands throughout the island and every Saturday at what is called Sabalu Market at the Garapan Fishing Base. Keep in mind that many of these vendors accept cash only.

Upon arrival, it is advisable to purchase bottled water at any retail store as tap water is not clean to drink anywhere on the island.


The shopping district is located in Garapan Village, with “I Love Saipan” souvenirs being available in many of the stores in that area.

Dozens of grocery marts are accessible at almost every corner of the island. They typically open from 7 AM – 10 PM, with a few being open 24/7.

Keep being inspired and take care always,


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