Questions regarding Relocating to St. Thomas
Good day everyone,
I have just migrated to the U.S. mainland for a few months and found a job available for me at STT, which requires me to settle on the island. While I am pretty much used to the new life on the mainland within the last few months (my homeland was in Asia), I still do not know what could be expected when I arrive at STT.
Specifically, I do not have any experience whatsoever in driving. I did start learning to get a driving license last month, but I still need more time to get used to controlling a car. I tried to look up for transportation options on STT, like buses, and found the Dollar Drives and Vitran buses. Still, it was still unclear to me how these systems work, like whether they have some specific bus stops.
Hence, my questions are that, for someone with a background like mine, is it advisable to move to the island at all, because I believe that without knowing how to drive, things will get much harder. My follow-up question is, how reliable is the public transportation system on STT, especially with the influcences of COVID-19, could it be reliably used to travel around to go to stores or do laundries?
I thank you very much for reading this.
Buses and $2 Safari taxis follow specific routes and times. You either walk to bus stop or stand on side of the road to flag down a safari. They do not traverse all areas of STT.
There is no bus or safari service on the north or south side of island. Only from East to West.
If you must depend upon them for transportation, you will be limited to living within walking distance of their routes and you'll be doing a lot of walking lugging laundry and groceries.
Where is your job located?
You'll have to research if within accessibility of public transportation.
Can't comment on reliability of of schedules.
No idea of covid prevention protocol on public transportation.
I'd suggest you continue your driver's education training.
Keep in mind that you'll be learning to drive on the right hand side and we drive on the left in the USVI.
It's expensive to live here so do your research and bring $$$$. Most rentals want first, last and security deposit. Then deposits necessary to get utilities, electricity, internet, TV, etc., connected if not included in rent. Electricity is expensive especially you run an AC. Nor is it reliable.
Without a car here, it'll be difficult to get around and explore, look for a suitable apt.
Maybe your job can offer you some insights, more information and help regarding this.
I still do not know what could be expected when I arrive at STT.
The best way to get an understanding of STT is to visit the island before making a decision to move. It's still America, but it's also a tropical island and primarily a resort/holiday destination, the people however are very friendly. The island is very beautiful and the weather is typically excellent, with an occasional hurricane (not so good) so a scooter could be a simple (lower cost) alternative to a car, I'm not sure if you are comfortable ridding a scooter but it might be something to consider. Another consideration to be aware of is the Asian population is fairly small so you should decide if that is an important factor in your decision. I'm just guessing about things as I don't have much information about what you are looking for in a community that you would enjoy.
No ONE who has ever lived on STT would recommend a 'scooter' to a new arrival, an inexperienced driver or really, -- anyone else -- the topography is not scooter friendly - they are notoriously underpowered - hard to grocery shop or do laundry with - and exposed to the weather while underway on very dangerous, steep, wet, slippery roads. Please believe that advice.
It is unlikely you will find any version of public transportation **Convenient !! -- It is a good suggestion to allow yourself a visit pre-move to assess the very different situation moving to STT will present to you.
The pay scale here is not commensurate with the difference in Cost of living - be aware of this ahead of your commitment.
Thank you all for your kind suggestions.
@Alana33 I will be working at UVI, I think the safari buses start from there, if I am correct? I am thinking of finding a place at Charlotte Amalie, hopefully there are more ways to get access to public transportation there. One question, do you know if the safari buses/taxis accept cards or do they just accept cash?
@jaldeborgh my main concerns for now are just means of transportation on the island, and finding a place within accessibility of them. I actually do not expect to find a Asian community there, but I could get along well with people so I think it is fine to me. Scooter seems like a very good alternative option, thank you.
Not sure if you have spent much time in Asia but scooters are used everywhere and depending on the country in numbers it's hard to imagine, in all types of weather and on roads that are often more treacherous than STT; it's not uncommon the see an entire family on a scooter or one used as a delivery van, it's can be very remarkable. I don't know the OP so I was simply positing an alternative.
I wouldn’t recommend a scooter. But they do have driving schools on St Thomas that could also teach you. My son uses a driving school on St Thomas and he took a classroom class and after a couple of weeks of hour long driving on the roads he was good to go. Generally speaking you are driving at a slower rate here than in the states. So when though the roads can be narrow and hilly and curvy you are taking them at a slower rate and it gives you better reaction time.
I too recommend a pre move visit to see what the island is like before any decisions are made.
I’m not typical in that I own 4 Vespa scooters up in MA, ranging from 50cc to 300cc, we use them as a family around town where parking and traffic are problematic. They're fun and capable in the hands of a knowledgeable rider. I agree the USVI roads are more challenging than where we use ours but I’ve spent year’s commuting on them through Boston during rush hour traffic on my way to Martha’s Vineyard. The 300cc Vespa will cruise all day long at 65mph to 70mph, it’s got plenty of power, the 150cc Vespa is good for a solid 55mph.
It’s that I don’t Recommend them for here. Our roads are not so great and they are hilly and with frequent brief rain showers they seem to come out of nowhere it makes road conditions even less favorable. But the main thing is just other drivers in cars and larger vehicles who also are trying to avoid holes or taking wide turns for steep switchbacks. There aren’t a lot of scooters on the roads because they just aren’t an ideal or very safe option on St Thomas or St John in most places.
Thank you all for your kind suggestions.
Looks like scooters do not seem to be an option to go for. From where I came from, we used motorcycles to travel around all the time, but I believe the terrains on STT are not friendly for these types of vehicle in general.
Many have suggested a pre move visit, which I totally I agree to, I will definitely put more thoughts on this matter before deciding to move to STT for the job.
@vicanuck I definitely agree, I live on STX and saw a scooter on the side of the road yesterday that was so mangled that I can only hope that person survived. The other day, a tourist or more likely a limetree worker as it wasn't a rental vehicle, turned around in front of me and started driving on the wrong side of the road and almost hit another truck head on that was coming over a small hill. I would never drive anything but a car or truck here. Playing dodge the pot hole would not be a daily game I would like to play.
Cash only for buses and safaris.
UVI is on the bus route.
This link should help.
Not sure about Safari taxis servicing there at UVI but you can ask around at UVI.
Safari taxis don't have a published schedule.
Frenchtown might be a good area to check for rentals as it's close to UVI and walkable to bus line, has small businesses, bars, restaurants and close to town. Maybe you can arrange with a colleague to do a grocery shopping trip every couple of weeks as the little convenience stores are VERY PRICY.
Easy area to catch safari taxis the main road too.
I know both buses and safaris go by Pueblo Supermarket (there are 2) as well as out to Tutu Park Mall where Plaza Extra is located.
If going to Cost U Less, buses drop off on main road and you walk to store from there and back to main road.
Can't remember if Frenchtown has a laundromat but there's one Vitraco Mall across from the Pueblo market in Sugar Estate.
Check with UVI Human Resources division as they must have info for incoming personnel available.
I wouldn't advise on a scooter for transportation for many reasons.
As St. John Julie mentioned there are driving schools on STT.
When you arrive, buy a Daily News and pick up a free copy of Island Trader to check apt. rentals.
You can also check Craigslist but beware of scams. Don't plop down any money, sight unseen.
Ask about nighttime noise, roosters crowing, barking dogs, cistern water, it's best if your stove is propane, not electric, has air conditioning in bedroom, generator back up is good.
One point of clarification that may be helpful and so that people don't misunderstand where I'm coming from, there are mopeds and there are scooters, these are very different. Mopeds don't require a license and have limits on displacement (power) and maximum speed, typically 49cc and 29mph. Scooters are, from a legal perspective, the same as a motorcycle so the driver must have a motorcycle license and the scooters themselves have engines as large as 600cc and are subject to the same safety checks as a motorcycle. I'm not a fan of moped rentals as they are typically driven by folks who have zero experience on a powered 2 wheel vehicle, as well as being poorly (cheaply) built and underpowered.
I don't recommend any 2 wheeled transportation on STT whether it be scooter or motorcycle.
Driving around stateside with well defined lanes, signage, well lit, well paved flat roads is like comparing bananas to onions.
jaldeborgh: I'm not sure if you are getting what people are saying. You can be the best driver and have a nice powerful scooter (or whatever you want to call it) and those who have lived in the VI are STILL going to recommend not driving one. There are too many issues you *cannot* control- the roads, the other drivers (!), the weather, etc.
One point of clarification that may be helpful and so that people don't misunderstand where I'm coming from, there are mopeds and there are scooters, these are very different.
They may be different to you, but, both need to be licensed and registered in the VI.
You're still going to die the same horrible death on either one in the VI.
I think we can agree to disagree about the danger of two wheeled vehicles. I’ve been riding them for roughly 50 years (all over the world - Europe, Asia and North America) and with the exception of laying one down when I was about 16, after hitting an oil patch in an intersection (no injuries and only a couple of scratches on the motorbike) I’ve been incident free. You drive known good equipment, always wear the proper safety gear, stay alert and anticipate.
Hello everyone, it is me again.
Thank you for all the helpful information you provided regarding the use of scooters on the island.
It is fortunate that I have managed to pass the driving test here at home, therefore, I should be able to drive a car on St. Thomas when I arrive there. Therefore, I would like to ask at which places/websites would you recommend me to find a used car to get, as I will not be staying on the island for too long (up to two years). I actually found some used cars on Craiglist, but I am not certain if it is a reliable source.
Furthermore, I would like to ask which car insurance services would you recommend.
Many people believe it's cheaper to buy a car on the mainland and ship it to STT. Then you can sell it when you get ready to depart the islands. I use Annaly Insurance for my home and car but I hear that Marshall and Sterling are good as well. My car insurance runs about 20% higher than on the mainland (Massachusetts).
Yes, the general consensus is you will be better off getting a good used car in the states and shipping it down vs. paying more for a car on island and it may not be in the best shape. Just note that you either need a title without any liens on it or you need permission from the lender to ship to the VI.
If you buy a car stateside an ship here be aware that any vehicle not completely made in USA will incur a Customs Duty.
Different makes incur different costs.
Shipping A Vehicle To The Virgin Islands.
If you’re a resident of the United States, you’re entitled to export $1,600 in goods to the U.S. Virgin Islands with no duty, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As for vehicles specifically, if your car was manufactured in the United States, there is no duty. (If you’re unsure, cars made in the U.S. have a VIN# that starts with a 1, 4 or 5.)
Vehicles that are not manufactured inside the U.S. are subject to a duty of 6% of the total value, typically based on the Blue Book value of the auto. There is also a road tax of 16 cents per pound for all vehicles imported to the Virgin Islands.
Required Documents For Shipping A Vehicle To The Virgin Islands.
- Certificate of title or notarized letter from lender.
- Bill of sale.
- Bill of lading.
- Local license plate.
- VIN number.
- EPA form (if necessary)
- DOT form.
- Certificate of conformity.
- Title & Registration.
Hire a service to pu car from shipper, clear car thru customs, pay road tax and register.
Check with BMV/Bureau of Motor Vehicles as with covid restrictions they may be doing things by appointment only.
If buying a car, locally, beware of Craigslist scams. Don't put money down nor buy without seeing, taking a test drive and having mechanic check it out and having lien check.
Congratulations on getting your driver's license.
You can rent a car at Budget at the airport when you arrive to get you around for first few days Make sure they give you a map.
Remember, we drive on the left.
Best of luck on your new adventure.
Buy yourself best american made Toyota SUV or pickup from stateside used car dealer. You can easily sell it here when you done and make some money. Good used cars here get handed down (sold) to acquaintances in private sale Without ever hitting open market. Craigs list cars with occasional exception are problematic. Either fraudulent or total junk. Local mechanics are not capable dealing with computerized contemporary electronic systems in the cars. They can fix mechanical problems. Electric problems...not so much.
Another option is buying lightly used rental car from Budget but expect to spend over +$20K for Jeep or similar. Buying new from local dealer carries large markup over what you would pay in US. If car dealers have a bed rep stateside on this islands they are pirates.