The best advice I can give to anyone who is about to move here is have plenty of patience.
If you will be looking for a place to rent, don’t expect to find something in one day (unless you are renting a condo and want to pay $$$$$). The Island Trader weekly paper has the best leads for rentals. Most real estate agents advertise that they handle rentals, but don’t expect them to be much help. Someone told me that the rentals they are really interested in is vacation rentals so they can make a huge profit. The local Daily News has different listings each day (Monday – Saturday – they do not publish on Sunday’s). My advice for the Daily News and the Island Trader (the Island Trader is published on Thursday’s) is to call early. I called one ad from the Trader mid-day on Thursday and it was already rented! Also many of the ads say “leave a message”. A few are good about calling back quickly, however most will call back after a day or so, or not even call back. By the way, two places I know of that you can find the Island trader are the bookstore in Havensight and Modern Music in Havensight. I have discovered that the best method of finding a rental is networking. I just found a studio apartment for short term through a co-worker. If you are about to relocate here for work, co-workers can be your best resource for adjusting. As far as which part of the island to live on… everyone you talk to has there own opinion. Don’t take anyone’s word. Visit each section and make your own opinion. Each section of the island has it’s own micro-climate (except for the past week when it has RAINED EVERYWHERE). I wouldn’t be surprised if the cisterns are overflowing by next week.
Shopping for everyday essentials is not as bad as I thought it would be. The K-Mart in Tutu Park and Cost-U-Less are similar to stores in the States. I’m still searching for the best grocery store though. From the few stores that I have visited, the prices aren’t that much higher than back in the States (actually I think it’s cheaper than DC). I have heard that the Pricesmart store is a good place to go, but I have not found it yet.
Driving on the island will take a little adjusting. You get used to driving on the left after a week or so. But you still have to think extra carefully at intersections. A lot of drivers are very courteous here and will let you go even when they have the right of way. However, beware of the taxis! They often drive down the middle of the road, also try not to let them in front of you. They make frequent stops picking up and dropping off passengers. Gas is a little higher than the mainland, but still a bargain compared to Europe. Currently the average is $2.20/a gallon. When the cruise ships are in, be prepared for traffic delays on the south side. There can be four ships in or just only one… gridlock will occur. Again, just have patience and enjoy life on Island time. One word of caution… be very careful when it is raining. The roads get very slippery, especially on the steep hills.
There are plenty of excellent restaurants on the island. Bluebeard’s Castle has two very good eateries: Room with a View and the Banana Tree. Be sure to make reservations. The Shipwreck has very tasty burger and Pizza Amore has the best pizza I’ve tasted on the island. Both are located in Al Cohen’s mall across from Havensight. For the Irish Pub fans out there, there is Molly Malones in Redhook. If you like fast food, there are McDonalds (breakfast till 11:30!!!), Wendy’s, KFC’s, Subway’s, and Pizza Hut’s located on the South and East ends of the island.
I am still in the learning process about this remarkable island. Good luck to everyone!