You really need to do a visit & check out the costs for yourself. Go to a grocery store & price out milk & cereal, not to mention do food. Go look at some places to rent & see how far your dollars would go. You'd really need a pretty hefty nest egg moving with a wife & 2 kids. How old are they, by the way?
This could be a great experience or a really rotten, costly one. What happens if you love it & your wife just loathes it here? Marriages split up a lot for lesser reasons. It's all well & good to want to live simpler & not be materialistic but the cost of a simple life ain't exactly cheap here. You need to factor in hidden costs that may not have occurred to you such as deposits for phone/cable/WAPA (electricity) as well as many other things.
Do a visit. It will be cheaper in the long run than leaping into something that may or may not be for you.
Van, Trade just gave some excellent advice. I would recommend coming down to stay a few weeks only on a fact finding mission before staying permanently. Come check out the costs of everything for yourself before committing to anything.
I came down here planning on a restaurant, but quickly put on the breaks to slow down once I got into the island life routine. The advice given about being here for a year or two to make contacts etc is really good advice. Having worked for someone else for several months now, I can tell you to do the same before committing you and your family to these Virgin Islands! Go slow and methodically. This is not paradise, nor a place to get away from something. It does have tremendous opportunity if you do your research. And I now believe that you need to be on island to get a feel of the business climate before going on your own...unless you have a lot of start up money you can burn through.
I am in the process of possibly setting up the first (of hopefully many) trips down. Shooting for about 8-10 days for this one. At this point I agree with the coming down and working for a while before trying anything on my own. That is why I asked about the dealerships. I have a lot of auto experience and know that would be a quick easy fall back job but that is probably very different from how it is done up here.
My girls are 2 & 4 and I am hoping for a 2 bedroom place to start. The girls will share a room maybe with some bunk beds or something.
I would try to say a decent amount of money to be used for the transition.
Again I value everyone's input and it is nice to be able to discuss this with people with first hand knowledge.
I have considered ordering the book "The Settler's Handbook, U.S. Virgin Islands" just to do more research and get more info.
When are you thinking of coming down and which island? I'm in St. Croix and have found airfares cheaper to St. Thomas too. (trying to find a way to get my sister here from Montana in July) I'm not sure of their schedule, but there is a fast-ferry service between STX and STT both ways. I'm sure you could find it somewhere here in the forum.
Again, keep us posted, ask away...the answers here are the best!
The ferry currently runs Fri-Mon, but in July, it will be anyone's guess. They do not always keep to schedule, even in the high season. We had a short term tenant try to fly into STT and take the ferry because it saved him a few dollars. The ferry didn't run, and he had to take the seaplane. I imagine he spent more that way. I spend a lot of time researching flights and comparing rates, etc., and to tell you the truth, I always wind up just flying out of STX and back to STX. Trying to piece it together never saves more than a few dollars, and the uncertainty of the ferry or connecting airlines isn't worth the difference.
That is great insight! That is very important as for my PMV I would want to spend some time on each island. I for some reason want to lean toward St Croix but would need to give both a strong chance.
Do most families have 1 or 2 cars down there?? Is it reasonable to travel by bike or are there a lot of motorcycles on the island? I would try to live close to where I would be working but that can be hard to plan.
There are not as many motorcycles as I thought there would be. After seeing the narrow roads and with the weather, I can see why.
Bicycles are not a great idea here, there is almost never a shoulder for you to ride in and cars coming around our curvy roads cannot see you and you may not have the option of riding in the grass in an area of dense vegitation. So its not a matter of if you'll get hit but when. This is a major pet peeve of mine, I dont want to hit anyone with my car and I live near south shore where they always ride and most of the road is very curvey. I don't understand having a death wish.
A motorcycle can work, but I would not recommend driving one down here if you are not an experienced rider. Many new riders end up in the hospital. I would not recommend a scooter with a motor uner 200 cc. You will need some power for the hills and to get out of bad situations.
We get by fine with one car but my husband is given a car to drive to and from work. If he didnt have a car for work it would be a nightmare. And if you have kids you should each have a car, if something happened you dont want to wait for an ambulance here. You said you're also a mechanic, you can get an island beater for $2k to $5k (that can be about the cost of shipping one down).
A cross breed between a Travel Agent and a Realtor? I probably resemble that remark...
The auto dealerships on the island are frequently hiring, from mechanics to sales agents to management. Caribbean Auto Mart is the largest dealership and they have businesses on both STT and STX.
For a 2-BDR apartment or condo, plan on spending anywhere from $1500-$2500 per month plus utilities. With condos, some of the utilities are usually included, but you'd almost certainly still be responsible for your power bill. Most rentals come furnished, so you probably don't want to plan to bring all your current furniture down. Save the shipping $$ for other things.
With small children, you probably would want two vehicles. Partly for convenience, partly for safety, and largely for simple practical reasons, such as transporting kids to and from school and activities multiple times each day. You aren't expected to have two fancy cars. Something basic that runs reliably and with working A/C (especially with small children) is good enough and more affordable. That leaves some $$ in your pocket for those private school fees.
If you come to STX, I can give you a fairly comprehensive island tour early in your trip and that would give you an overview of places to explore further through the rest of your stay. The best way to learn the island and figure out where you fit in.... or IF you fit in... is to hang out with people who live here and let them share their island experiences. As you are interested in a restaurant/bar, you can get a LOT of info about both the industry and the island while hanging out at a beach bar for an afternoon or evening chatting with whomever is around. Sometimes you meet people who invite you to some local events that week and before you know it you already have your first island friends ready to welcome you back if you make the move.
I am so happy to get so much information and input.
Alexandra I have sent you an email. (Thank You)
Moving to this island from New York City, we are still BLOWN AWAY by the high prices. In NY we paid $100 for cable and internet. Here we will pay $100 for internet alone, plus $200 for installation. I like to get organic milk for my kids, but here is it $6 for a half gallon. I forgot how much the parmesan cheese I saw at Foodtown (medium wedge, less than a pound) was - maybe $17? In NY our electricity bill was $80 a month, or $180 on the month or two we used the air conditioner. Here I am terrified of our first electricity bill - will it be $300? More? We haven't used the A/C once, but I know WAPA is brutal. Then you may have to pay for water for your house, which isn't cheap. Plus buying different water to drink. It is a lot to get used to.
It is really expensive down here. Really really expensive. It will be hard to make it work, but we think it is worth a try! Good luck to you too. The PMV is a great idea. Make sure to wait on line at the grocery store.
Foodtown and Schooner Bay Market are good for speciality items and baked goods, but very few people can afford to use them for a weekly shopping trip. Check out Cost-U-Less and Plaza Extra. Still expensive but better.
Food Town is expensive, and Schooner Bay is ridiculous! However, I am in Food Town almost everyday because it is very close to my house. The people there are extremely nice. The ladies in the deli are a little slow and aloof, but at least not rude.
I bought organic milk (Horizon) at Plaza yesterday for $4.49, with good dating. Pueblo has it for less, but the dating is usually about up. At Food Town it is around 6-6.50. You can save on drinking water by using the refill machines. You really do have to shop at multiple stores.
My internet is only $50 per month for Choice. And yes, do sit down before you open your WAPA bill, and learn to live without a/c, if you can. Look at the bright side. No heating bills, gas is 1.00 cheaper, no more expensive winter clothes, and the beach is free!
Do people drink normal milk there?? Can you drink tap water (I see all this buying water talk)? What about having the cell phone you can use as an Internet connection? I hear all this talk about being expensive but there seems to be alot of people not spending $$$ efficiently. Not trying to offend things up here are pricey too. $110 for cable and Internet, plus $140 for cell phone, $3.70 a gallon of gas (plus I drive over 100 miles a day for work), HUGE taxes, $300 a month for gas and electric. Things would equal out pretty quick.
My neighbor uses his cell phone as his modem. I don't know if any cell phone will wok or if you need a Blackberry. I do know you need an updated phone plan.
Ok- I have to jump in here! We visit the Caribbean twice a year, and just got back from our 3rd visit to STT. We're also considering a move to the island. We live just north of Boston, and I can't see being too shocked by the cost of living. We spent a week in a condo on STT, ate our breakfast and lunch there, and spent not much more than we spend at our grocery store here. Electricity's high, gas prices through the roof, property tax is insane, Oh, and you don't want to know what we pay for cable/internet! Ok, I may be talking myself into it, but I feel a little better hearing some figures thrown around I guess. Maybe the WAPA bill would throw me for a loop... I'm just taking it all in, folks! Love and obssesed with this message board now!
Yes, we drink milk. We have all varieties available. Some people drink tap water, but you have to trust your cistern to do that.
What did you mean about not spending money efficiently? I'm not offended, just curious. I consider myself a savvy little shopper.:)
I used my phone as a modem when I arrived and occasionally when I travel. Sprint is my cell provider and I have a new Treo phone. Cost for the unlimited phone as a modem added onto your monthly minutes plan was $40. Not quite as fast as the wireless dsl I have now through Innovative. Sprint and ATT are the two major cell providers.
Did you know the vast majority get their water collected from rain off the roof? That is why we buy bottle water. You can spend the money to filter it and pass it through a UV filter to make cistern water drinkable. I personally like the desalinated water I buy from St John Ice. It has been filtered again at their place leaving no taste at all.
I was just thrown off by the $100 Internet comment plus the $200 to install? I have Sprint cell and know right now you can pay $100 and get unlimited minutes and data transfer which includes using your phone as a modem. Two birds one stone. I just wonder if everyone who says it is so expensive was being reasonable.
I have read alittle about the water and was somewhat confused. How would that work if you live in an Apt or Condo? Everyone up here buys alot of bottled water but just for conveince.
Pretty sure she said $50. I pay $50 a month and the cost an innovative modem was $100. Broadbrand VI (satellite) is usually $50 and $200 to set up(their service has faster speeds usually). Choice is in a very limited area, but I've heard its fast.
On island you really need to have a land line. Cell reception around the islands is pretty spotty and unreliable. And in a storm it can get much worse, so the land line is usually a must, especially with kids. If you have to have a land line dsl makes much more sense. Plus a laptop is almost never as good as a desktop. With innovative if you bundle three of their products like, cable, dsl and phone you get a discount.
You will find most usvi residents to be much more thrifty then statesiders, everything is ship here everything cost more (except the booze and cigs) here. You kind of get nickeled and dimed to death.
Many of the condos near town like condo row are on wapa (for backup) and usually have a cistern as well. I don't drink the water. Everyone has there own comfort level, ie, how clean is your cistern, or how well filtered is your well? How much is it going to cost to keep up a good filteration system vs buying cheap water? etc.. My brother in law ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks from drinking the water here, granted what happened to him is I believe pretty rare, but why risk it? Like someone else said if you refill your jugs its really not bad. But it is another chore, but most just do it when they go to the store. I don't know anyone that drinks their water.
In my opinion things are more expensive here on average. I think it also depends on your individual life style. What kinds of "toys" do you need. How much electricity and water do you use. My husband and I are constantly trying to find ways to conserve more.
There are several different brands of milk here. The shelf life isn't as long as stateside. Bread doesn't last long either. We have filtration for our cistern water but I prefer the taste of bottled water that I have delivered from Mario. We use our cistern water for everything else including making koolaid, coffee and tea.
My husband rides his motorcycle to run errands quite often and in his opinion it isn't anymore dangerous here than in the states. I have to agree with him on that. A great way to save on gas.
I have no experience on starting and maintaining a restaurant but know several people that have and it has been a nightmare for some of them. Also some restaurants seem to change ownership quite often. If you have a good work ethic it seems jobs in the service industry are plentiful. Also any kind of handy man services are much in demand.
We pay a lot of money for our little boy to go to Good Hope private school however there are less expensive options available even public school for elementary, or home school.
We moved to St. Croix 2 years ago and it took me about 6 months to adjust to living here. Husband and I are well traveled but it is a very different culture. Not bad. Just different from the states. Our adult daughter had the roughest time adjusting. Now all of us have a hard time leaving the island. We love it here and greatly prefer living here rather than stateside. I don't find life itself less stressful here, such as shopping, working and other things necessary to sustain life. Life is harder here. It is the attitude here that I love both from locals and statesiders who have made this their home. The attitude here in my opinion is more tolerant, caring and kind. Everyone helps everyone else. You see very different types of people socializing and maintaining friendships that I haven't seen in the states. You also don't find people talking about others here on St. Croix.
Just my 2 cents. Good Luck to you and your family.
We drink our cistern water and have for 5 years without difficulty. When our young granddaughters were here we did buy bottled water for them, more a precaution than any real concern.
We drink the cistern water in our house, and have the entire 25+ years here. No Chlorine, small particle filter, screened openings, regular gutter and roof maintenance, and an occasional testing.
No problems so far with us, tenants or visitors. Have never bought water though -- that would probably cause me to change to bottled.
With our new house we decided to filter/UV all of the water except our grey water cistern. Have 3 levels of sediment filters before the UV. It has made a significant difference in the healing time of minor skin cuts--we do construction and I garden alot so always have those cuts and scrapes. No longer have the inflamed, is it getting infected look to the breaks in skin. We think it's because all the shower water is now also clean. (And yes, we always kept a chlorine level in our cistern etc)---I also disinfected all the pipes/tanks etc. in the new house when we got the new system operative--no point in putting clean water in a dirty pipe. Glad we finally did it. So nice not to have to go to those machines, plus our veggies get washed in clean water, we cook with clean water, etc.etc. IF you figure how much the water costs to buy, the cost is amortized pretty quickly.
Just curious...how many of you regularly disinfect the bottles you refill for water? We always did, but just curious.