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Story #11: Story from a new St. Thomas Resident!
Here is the price break down for my move and what I budgeted for. (I used Managed Freight for the shipping of my car.)
|Shipping My Car: Item||Cost|
Export Power of Attorney
(needed for Tropical to handle paperwork)
USVI Vehicle Road Tax $.16 a
(2899lbs x .16)
|Personal Use Tax: (Value - $1000) x 4% $22065(Blue Book for my car) x 4%||$882.60|
|Managed Freight Handling Fee||$160.00|
Now there is a reality check for people looking to make a spur of the moment move. The company I work for is picking up a chunk of this so not as bad as it looks. Now this just gets the car there. For insurance I have been quoted $1400-1500 per year, full coverage and $350 per year for basic coverage.
The car is nice but come on.
Now I am looking to spend around $1000 per month for rent, and because many landlords require first/last/security deposit... I am looking at around $3000.00 to find a place.
I am shipping clothes only so a couple of hundred for shipping costs. Then I will have to repurchase all of the necessities once I get there so with a furnished place I figure another $1000.
Flight cost from Miami - $500
Hotel for a week while I find an apartment - $1000
Rent a car for a week while my car is in transit - $300
My stuff I condensed down to four boxes and shipped via Post Office. Coming from Key West the total was $120.00 for about 120 lbs.
Sooooooo- I figure week one St. Thomas. $10,000.
Airline: American Airlines. Make sure you change your itinerary to one-way. I was surprised in that it actually cut the price by a third. From Miami I paid $310.70. I would fly to Puerto Rico then to VI. They overbooked the flight so they asked for volunteers to take the next flight. I had free time so I volunteered. They were looking to fill only the Puerto Rico flight but they were stuck. I ended up getting a $300 voucher and they put me on a direct flight that would arrive 30 minutes later than my original itinerary.
Belongings: Four boxes via post office. Cost around $1.00 per pound from Key West. 1 box I put in the trunk of my car. The car got sent to the wrong island (St. Croix.) Tropical admitted that it was 100% their fault and they would not cover my added week of a rent a car, however, they would not charge me to ship the car from St. Croix to St. Thomas. (So generous. I feel so satisfied now.) Lee at Managed Freight is dealing with the problem for me so mentally it has not been a huge issue. Car should be available Monday. Mailed items should arrive about the same time.
Arrival and First Few Days: Okay, for the mad scramble. Arrived at the airport around 5:00pm. It took a while to figure out that my luggage had beat me there and was being held at the AA office. Picked that up and had to call Thrifty car rental to pick me up and take me to their office. It is located just outside the Airport entrance. There are all the other major airlines based in the airport. The kid who picked me up also ran the counter. Very good job handling everything. His girlfriend was with him and we talked a bit. I asked about what she thought my survival rate would be. She just laughed. Anyways, instead of the two day rental at $35.99 I took a week rate all inclusive for $196.00. It worked out perfectly so I should have my car then.
Driving. Left, left, left. At first it was a little nerve wracking until I actually got behind the wheel and started driving. By that night it was second nature. A hint is that the best time to drive is during rush hour. There are plenty of cars to follow so you won't be put into a position of having to make the wrong choice in direction. I live by the motto, "If you don't know where you are going, don't lead." I have spent approximately 70 percent of my outside the hotel time driving. This has gotten me acclimated to driving, in general, I have learned where everything is at, and I have taken the road hits on a rental car instead of my baby. I've lived in Australia for a year (lefties as well,) and spend enough time driving in South America to be very road savvy. So far so good. Some helpful hints, the major "highways" are marked with these colored starfish. They designate the road that you are on and are wishing to take. The other roads, you are on your own. On the main roads there are only a few extreme climbs, however, there was a few times that I had wished I had taken some Dramamine after a few extended drives. Your ears actually do pop as you are going over the top. One last thing, be aware of the many speed bumps.
The first day: I just got acclimated driving around. Found out where the Tutu Mall area was and searched for one of the Island Trader Magazines. Stopped at McDonalds for dinner. Went back to the hotel and asked about a place to find one of them and the clerk was nice enough to go into the office and brought me last weeks paper. She said that they receive them first thing Thursday mornings and have them available there. I took the paper and did some basic researching. There were about ten different listings that looked reasonable. In total about 40 listings. I ended up falling asleep at around 9:00 pm. I was more tired than I thought and slept in until 9 the next morning. I stayed at the Hotel Best Western Carib Beach Hotel. It is located close to the airport. I paid $99/a night, an internet special which saved me $30 a night. The hotel is not in the best spot for researching. The hotel is off the beaten path, however, it did force me to drive a lot. The hotel is basically a Super8 quality motel with a view. Kind of run down, but functional.
Day Two: After a great nights sleep, I started making some phone calls. Out of the six I called, three were already rented and three did not answer. I left messages with two, however, I have never received a call back. That got me worried, however, I would have a fresh paper the next day and would be aggressive at finding something early. I decided on not worrying about looking for a place and to see if I could accomplish something else. I decided to open a bank account. The two major banks that you see around are Banco Popular and First Bank. I thought I had seen Banco Popular in South America so I leaned towards them. What I learned later was that the First Bank had branches all over the island. I think I would have chosen them because they are so accessible. The lady said that they had about 5 banking locations on St. Thomas. I think they were all located on the major routes that I had taken since I thought I saw many more. Anyways, my first patience test. Waited for 30 minutes for a representative to even acknowledge that there was a group of us waiting. In the mean time people were coming in and bypassing the sign in sheet. I did outlast about six other people that came and left. I did finally get my turn and worked with a nice lady. She was training another person so she was pulled away a lot. They were at first not going to let me set up an account, however, she let me use the Hotel as an address and the work info for everything else. I had succeeded in accomplishing something. I brought a cashiers check from my existing bank and a paycheck to use to start the account. I spent the rest of the day driving every major road on the island. Visited all the major beaches but never got out of the car. I spent a lot of the time driving the areas in which I wanted to find a place. The north and northeast were the areas that would fit best.
After an exhausting day of driving I went back to the hotel and jumped on the internet with my laptop. The laptop has been invaluable while here in doing research. It allowed me to keep in contact with everybody as well as to back research information that I needed. I did learn however that the hotel charged .50 cents per call. It was still better than their $5.00 per half an hour on their computer. The other thing I learned was that AOL had a local dial up but they had a surcharge that cost me $4.00 for my first session. I found a listing for an Internet provider in the Island Trader so I signed up. $14.00 for unlimited usage, but the connection rate is reallllly slow. Still a large cost saving versus AOL. I will change it later if I find a better service. For food I decided to stop by one of the grocery stores and pick up some sandwich stuff and drinks. When I am focused like this I just need food for energy. I wasn't looking to try out the tourist restaurants. It saved me a lot of time and money. Ate sandwiches the last two days. I was a bit wired that night so I did some late night driving to test the dark hours. Went back to the hotel and prepped myself for the following day. Grab the paper (hopefully it would be there early enough,) try the free continental breakfast while circling my potential places and Xing out the non-matches. Finally got to sleep around 3 am.
Day Three: Got up around 8 am. Implemented my plan and started making calls around 9:30 am. Had my calls prioritized with only 6 leads. Called the first one and no answer so I left a message. Called the second one and a lady answered. I was so happy. She described the location and what the amenities were, I explained who I was and what I wanted and she became happy. I got directions and met her twenty minutes later. She showed me the place and I accepted. Total time 3 minutes. Gave her a deposit and went back to the hotel for the rest of the money. Came back, gave her the balance, signed a lease and we were done. I will move in tomorrow.
My new home: I got a two bedroom, one bath, bottom part of a house. It is located in the Wintberg area on the north side. The house is located at the end of the side street making it somewhat secluded. It has covered parking and is surrounded with avocado, mangoes, and other beautiful vegetation. The roads leading to the house are well paved and it is not an extreme climb/descend. Utilities are paid as well as water (cistern). The lady who owns the house stays in the efficiency and she has two other guys sharing the other half of the house. My area has a large walkway that overlooks the bay and the valley and then leads into a large patio area. The insides are furnished, not fu fuuey but basic island wares (wicker furniture etc.) Mainly concrete walls and tile. Very livable. Screen windows with louvers everywhere. The only negative side is no air conditioning. Depending on how cool it gets at night I might pick up a portable for the bedroom. The only other worry is mosquitoes. This is the perfect retreat for someone looking to get away from everything. I am very pleased with the layout. I do need to pick up a tv. It has cable and phone access.
Although a huge part of the move was done, I still wanted to get everything else finished. I stopped by Guardian Insurance to get car insurance. There are probably 30 different companies, but I had found them on the net earlier. The other closer was that they have their own building right in Havensight. I figure they would not be some fly by night company so I went with my gut feelings. They were fast and easy. The cost for insuring my car was either $270 bare minimum coverage, $330 for minimum with bodily injury coverage, or $1350 for full coverage. I chose the bare minimum to just get something so I can get my car from the shipping company and might change to full coverage depending on how my car is received. Next I decided to try for my last issue on my list, phone service. This was not a very good experience. It took two hours to get the paper work processed with an hour and forty five minutes waiting. It wasn't as bad since I was still on my high of finding a place so quickly.
Boom I'm done: Tomorrow, I take my two bags of luggage and move into my place. The rest of the day, I am going to hit the beach. I am still probably going to take the additional week off since I still won't have my car until Monday. So instead of wasting the week just lounging around, I am going to see if I can get off the island for a few days and hit some other exotic location. Remember, got that $300 AA voucher to use.
Follow-up on Move Into Apartment
Well, let's get into a little refining. After wrapping up my hotel stay, I went ahead and moved in. That morning it had rained and created a blemish in my move. Nothing catastrophic, but enough to make me second guess my decision to move into this location so quickly. My reception to my new home was a greeting by about 6 mosquitoes waiting to drain me as soon as I walked into the place. I guess since the prior owner had left, these guys hadn't eaten in a while. After their feeding, I was feeling a little unsure. The second thing that hit me was the hot, humid, life sucking heat. Inside, I was glowing with a light hint of perspiration. I was totally put back that I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to sleep. I could just feel how my nights were going to be, Mosquitoes buzzing, sweat building everywhere my body touched the sheets. After a bit of soul searching I figured I might as well get together a list of necessities and do a little bit of shopping. I was in need of lots of small goodies and a few large ticket items like a tv and stereo. I remember seeing in the paper a portable air conditioning unit. I decided to see what some of the stores had to offer. After checking Sears and a couple of electronics places, I determined that the only way to get air conditioning would be to install a standard wall unit. With the layout of the rooms and strictly louvered windows all around, I didn't see it happening. I figured that I would give the person a call in the newspaper to see what the unit was like and how it was set up. It was later in the afternoon so I figured it would have been gone. At least I would get some info on how it worked and if it would apply to my place. A nice English/Australian lady answered and went into detail the history of the unit and the basic hookups. It sounded perfect for me. She just wanted to sell it and not have any hassles. We clicked over the phone and she invited me over to see it right away, even though she had other people interested and who were coming over later in the day. We met at a mutual spot in Redhook and I followed her home. The set up would be perfect for my place. It is a self contained, portable unit on wheels. The only requirement is an exhaust hose that had to be run outside. It had special outlets to fit in a smaller area. The thing was perfect for what I wanted. The lady had all original receipts, a converted owner's manual from Spanish to English (the unit was purchase and shipped from Puerto Rico,) as well as notes on the care of the machine and all accessories. This thing looked brand new and it was four years old. She had it in a rental property but was never really used because it was not large enough for the unit. I took the unit home and it fit and worked properly. I ended up utilizing the smaller second bedroom because it was a three sided concrete room with the fourth wall a standard type. There was an open section above the door for wind flow and a single louvered window leading to a under house storage area. I went to Home Depot and bought an all weather floor mat. I cut it into pieces so that I could seal the open area above the door and the window. I custom fit the exhaust tube through the window. Both sealed off pretty much all air flow/mosquito entryways into the room. The air conditioner cools the room in about a minute. Even with the sun out, it is pitch black in my little cave. I have it as close to a vacuum as humanly possible with Home Depot materials. My stress level dropped 90% after building my little haven. Trust me, unless you have grown up without the use of air conditioning, make sure you get a place that has it or you have the ability to add it. I personally rank its importance up there with running water.
The next hurdle was the mosquitoes. While at the air conditioning lady's house, she schooled me about life on the islands. In regards to the mosquitoes, she showed me all her tricks. Use bug spray to clear out the rooms while saturating the screens inside and out. Keep doors closed at all times. Make sure all standing water is cleared out. Use bug zappers, and citronella candles. Raid makes a plug in that you run for an hour in a room which will clear it of any problems. Mosquito nets around the bed will also reduce the sleeping trauma. The last tool they showed me, which also was the coolest is "the swatter." It is like a miniature tennis racket that runs on batteries and creates a little electric charge through the "strings." It zaps the hell out of all the little flyers. You just wave it around and watch for the little spark as it zaps them to heaven. I picked mine up at the little grocery store in Redhook. It cost $10.00. After spending $40 on my anti-mosquito war, I am happy to say that I am currently mosquito free in my habitation. I also went and bombed the attached storage room/laundry room, and the storage area that was attached to my bedroom. We'll see how much follow up is needed.
That same day I did two other shopping trips. One was to Kmart to get sheets, pillows, kitchen accessories, toiletries, etc. After unloading the car I went to Plaza Extra in the Tutu Mall area and stocked up on food. Both shopping trips were very successful. The following day I made up a "forgot" list and it only had a couple of items. So realistically Friday was still not a beach day, but it was very productive since I got a lot of the menial things done. Saturday I made a trip to Redhook and checked out the shops. Found a little internet café that I will try since my phone is still not connected. Came home and took a nap (first one since I got here,) in my dark, cool, heavenly room. Figured I deserved a relaxful moment so I went down to Magens Bay and took a swim. Later I took a drive down to the airport to pick up my tickets for Santo Domingo. Stopped over at Tutu Shopping area to get a video rental membership (needed two picture ID's or a local drivers license.) and rented a flick for the night. I got some hunger pangs for something other than sandwiches so stopped at the grocery/warehouse place (Cost-U-Less) next to the movie theatre and picked up some steaks, mushrooms, and rice. The place is like a small Costco without needing a membership. Came home, cooked, watched a movie and wrote this report. I actually think I am done with everything. I take that back, still need a tv and stereo. I did stop by a moving house sale from the paper. They had already sold all the electronics by the time I got there but they did have a ton of other stuff.
Well that's my move. Pretty happy in the way it worked out. It really still came down to preparation and a lot to do with experience. Again, just so that people don't think that this move is a piece of cake, let me set a little history. I have bounced around to over a dozen different cities and three other islands. I know how to move and keep my belongings down to about four small boxes. (My last move I had everything I owned in a two seater convertible- Kansas to Key West.) I would rather give things away than move them. I am not married nor have kids/pets. Financially, the move was paid for by the company I work for, so no huge out of pocket expenses. I do have a decent bank roll to have back up in case anything went wrong (including getting fired or not wanting to work for a while.) Doing these last minute travel trips are how I take my vacations. I like to go to out of the way places in S. America (Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, etc.) all with less than two weeks to same day notice. Traveling is a piece of cake for me. I also have a decent paying job waiting for me. Also, I research like crazy. Read pretty much every report back to the beginning of the year and spent a lot of time e-mailing members of this site (VIMovingCenter.com). Everything I did was with help from someone. There was no way that I could have made this move so easily without some one on ones with different people. For that I am most appreciative. I guess in general, take everything with a grain of salt, because it all can be very variable.
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